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Archive for the ‘Personal Musings’ Category

I suppose a “book blogger” should actually read a few books now and then. Most recently I finished James Oswald’s latest book Dead Men’s Bones (published July 2014) which I had on pre order ever since I finished The Hangman’s Song. It was a nice surprise to receive an update from Amazon to say the book had been despatched as I had forgotten the release date was July. Also July came around pretty quickly for me, I don’t know if everyone else felt the same? I’m pretty sure someone has been pilfering days out of my calendar. I enjoyed it but not as much as the previous books in the series as it seems to be more of a crime novel now than supernatural. Then again, perhaps the majority of his readers prefer crime? I will still be ordering the next book as soon as it is announced just to see what happens next!

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I also have on the go Kevin Smith’s autobiography My Boring-Ass Life which despite the title and doom-filled introduction, is anything but boring. I’m not much of a film buff but I do love his films, in particular Dogma and Clerks 2 which never fail to lift me from a bad mood. The book is an extension of his online blog silentbobspeaks.com although to call it a blog seems to devalue what is there. It’s well worth a look at even if you have not seen or like his films just to read what a scriptwriter and film direction in LA gets up to between filming. 

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In June I went to Malta with my husband (of 1 year just very recently) and the in-laws. Normally I manage to get a lot of reading in whilst I’m lazing around the pool but this year we didn’t seem to have enough time. The in-laws go to Malta year on year so naturally they had a lot to show us of the island. It is a nice place to go but it does seem to cater to the older generations. I don’t exactly crave a night life when I go away, but I do like to sit in a bar or pub and drink and chat until the early hours. In Malta, or at least where we stopped anyway, everyone seemed to be in bed by 12pm! Walking around the tourists look near to retirement age. It was a nice break from the dull routine of a 8.30-5.00pm 6.30pm job and I managed to relax as best as you can holidaying with someone else parents. So on holiday, I managed to read Tess of the d’Ubervilles which was my attempt at reading something intellectual to stimulate the braincells. A very unfortunate and frustrating read. So close and yet so far from happiness. And also I read Choke by Chuck Palahnuick. Not my usual choice of book, it was a recommendation from my husband. Palahnuick also wrote Fight Club so you can imagine the sort of story I was letting myself in for. The protagonist is an addict with an interesting method of paying for his restaurant bills. The story is graphic and twisty exploring mental health issues but not in a preachy kind of way. I would be reluctant to recommend Choke to just anybody, but it was very good. 

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I don’t have anything in line to read next. Normally I have a pile of books that I want to read but this year I just don’t seem to be organised in hunting them down. As much of a cliche as it is, I do blame work for my lack of reading. Our industry seems to be coming out of the recession (woo-hoo!) which means a work spike and lots of overtime. Most nights when I get home my brain is frazzled and more poor eyes won’t read any words that are not the TV Guide or a takeaway menu! Needless to say, I am on a sort of diet to combat my resulting and growing spare tyre!

So, in the interest of getting my mind out of the telly and onto the page (or kindle screen) has anyone got any recommendations on what to read next?

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I knew it had been a while since I last posted but I didn’t think it had been three months! It has gone by in such a blur yet it feels like ages ago that I sat and read Wuthering Heights.

Since then I’ve also read Skin by Mo Hayder – a writer who graduated from the same university as me (although she did a different course at a different time so I can hardly claim to know her…) and Natural Causes by James Oswald.

A book a month is pretty good going for me I guess, but I’ve hardly been reading non stop!

My excuse is I got married a few weeks ago and so the last couple of months leading up to the wedding were choc full of wedding planning, dress fittings and general stressing out over irrelevant details like tiny table decorations and who was going to set up the cake.

To anyone planning a wedding – don’t stress. No matter if it all goes tits up on the day (and a few things went wrong for me!) no one will really notice and have a good time anyway!

Although missing someone completely off the sit down meal was a bit of a boo-boo but the hotel managed to sort it. I adamantly claim it is not my fault.

As it has been a while since I read Wuthering Heights and Skin I probably won’t do a post on those – they were pretty good though and I would recommend them. After finishing Natural Causes I went and bought Oswald’s second book in the series straight away. It arrived Saturday and I’ve only managed a few pages in but the quality is all there.

Hoping to write a full post on the first book before I get too into it though as it deserves a write up.

Hope the hot weather is still being enjoyed by all and not marred by the storms!

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I feel like I have been reading for years. In fact, it has only been a couple of months of marathon reading. Since January I have read seven books. That  averages at what, 2.3 books a month? (I did read books in the space of four weeks which killed my brain for a while!)

When you try to quantify reading it sounds pretty unimpressive. But it does take hours to read a book, even more so if the words trip you up and you have to read back a few pages to remember which man is leading which faction! Of course I’m referring to Tolkien here … Howell’s writing was much easier and fun to follow.

The first time I tried to read Lord of the Rings I was about fourteen. I had watched the first film knowing nothing else about it except that Elijah Wood was in it – one look at those hairy feet cured me of my young obsession I might add. I was most disappointed to get to the end of the first film and realise he was nowhere near the mountain. I had absolutely no clue it was a trilogy and that I had another two films to sit through to find out if he managed to destroy the ring or not.

Unable to wait until the next instalment I went out and bought the trilogy, as one complete paperback. A huge mistake! The book was far too heavy to read comfortably and I always painfully aware of how far I had to go. I ploughed through the first book and got stuck midway around the second. I tried vainly over the years to pick up and restart but never could I get anywhere. I think I managed to get to Shelob’s Lair after watching the second film but that was the extent of it.

Then last year I talked myself into trying again. I finally had all three books on my kindle which gives a handy % to spur you on reading and the book was never too heavy to read in bed.

Again I struggled around the Entish part of the second book and the names started to get a little muddled but I powered on through, supported by simultaneous watching of the films in order to keep the names in my head. Then I got a little distracted with a side reading project and by the time I returned to the third book I had pretty much forgotten all of the names.

However I kept reading and most of it was about war anyway so the names were not paramount to understanding the action. I did eventually pick up who was who and who fathered who else. Then I was relieved to realised that the last 40% of book three were appendices!! I’m hoping no one expects me to read all these in order to claim I have finished reading Lord of the Rings as I will most likely break down into tears, pummel my fists against the floor and vow never to read again.

Although I do like the story of and the never ending ending, the book is simply too hard for me. There is too much detail and too many names for me to remember. But I did enjoy reading and feel fully satisfied with myself for sitting there to the very end. Of the book. Not the Appendices!

Now … what do I read next? The Fractal Prince or another unknown ebook from the wonders of Amazon’s free kindle book list … ?

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Long Time No Post

It has been a long time since I’ve posted anything even remotely to do with reading. Between wedding plans, Christmas and general home improvements I haven’t found much spare time to be reading at all.

I have picked up the kindle again and am proud to say I have finished reading Tolkien’s The Two Towers. I even managed to read it quick enough that I still retained most of the side characters names and know the gist of the plot. I did put it down for a while around the Entish part and I think that was about the point that I got stuck last time ten years ago!

I am onto the final book now and it would be great to say I’ve finally read lord of the rings but I won’t hold my breath just yet.

As a side book to lighten the mood of the archaic sounding narrative of Tolkien I decided to try out some of the free self published books available on Amazon. The first one I tried was particularly amateur. I won’t list the title as I didn’t give it a fair reading, probably no more than a few paragraphs.

The second one, Adrian Howell’s Psionic Book Four: The Quest was far more entertaining. I hadn’t read any of the prior books but this didn’t seem to matter as the narrative was clear and easy to follow. Any important preceding events were mentioned when they had an impact on the current plot and the technical aspects of the characters abilities were fairly simple to follow.

The action started from the first page and do far, 10%, it hadn’t let up yet. I will post a full review when I get to the end and I already have the previous three books downloaded so I can get the full picture of what happened Adrian and his sister.

The quality of this eBook is not just in the writing but in the editorial care the author has taken over their work. I try not to get too caught up in the technical aspects but it is far more enjoyable to read a book that has been cared about.

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I think I have read as much as about writing as I have fiction itself. And reading other people’s advice doesn’t seem to help me develop my own style. Yet I buy into their advice, trawl the internet for how to construct a plot, and generally tie myself up in knots thinking this is far too complicated for me. I just want to write but I don’t know how.

The thing is, I can write. I know how to hold a pen. I know how to type on a keyboard (I don’t even have to look – go me!) So what is it about crafting a novel that I find so damn hard?

It was never difficult when I was a child. Looking back on what I wrote then, yeah there’s a few flaws and no I don’t think anyone else would read it. But I did it. I finished the stories I started and even sent a few off to some publishing houses. Their letters were firm no’s in every case but I did it and kept trying. Where did that all change? Surely it should be the other way around. Why am I so reluctant to finish anything and send it off to be rejected? Am I afraid now I no longer have the excuse of being a child for my failings. Will I have to admit to myself, no you are never going to be a writer?

All the books I buy and blogs I read tell me I can be a writer, no matter what. Just keep going. Is this a marketing ploy for me to keep buying their books to find out what I should do next?

[Written on a Saturday morning instead of working on a plot outline for my next book / avoiding editing my previous book …]

 

 

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Before I even start writing this I’m shooting down my own argument. There is a lot of criticism being brandied about already on this and previous books. But I can’t let this slide by without even acknowledging it’s going to happen.

I’m being unfair … perhaps. JK Rowling, to me, will struggle to shake off the Harry Potter saga. But in this article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-17693206 Rowling announces the title of her new ADULT book. The article gives a brief idea of what it is all about and as usual Rowling is a master at witholding details. The only thing you can glean from this article is that there is someone named Barry Fairweather and there is a village called Pagford.

Now is it just me or do those three words seem like they belong in the same region of bookshop as the Harry Potter books did … YA or younger?

I admit I own one or more preconceived ideas when it comes to Rowling’s writing. I read every HP book, the earlier ones several times. However as each book came out I re-read it less (I’ve still yet to re-read Deathly Hallows). And whilst this may appear to be the actions of a fangirl I’d never list HP as one of my favourite books. Individually, perhaps the first one for the magic it promised, but as a series not at all. This may have something to do with my age as I read the first book at age 11/12 and the last one when I was 20 – so most likely I outgrew the books. From the style of writing, particularly in the later books, I don’t think Rowling can make the shift to an adult market.

Thinking back, I almost didn’t read the HP books because I thought ‘Harry Potter’ sounded like the name for a character I would have read about in primary school so perhaps I’m making the same mistake again?

On a side note my own creative writing is going fantastically well … not. It’s probably all just jealousy on my behalf! Ha!

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I’ve been putting everything off lately; writing, reading, paying bills … eek! Thing is I have nothing to show for it. No book review, no spangly new draft or short story entry.

I have managed some small feats such as attempting to use a sewing machine, getting to grips with a new phone and taking the day off work to watch the Superbowl.

I didn’t understand it until the final quarter. I do understand that the winning quarterback got a shiny new corvette, how do his teammates not hate him? Certainly makes English football (or soccer) look poor in comparison! Nor do we make such a spectacle of the key matches – except perhaps of the world cup although we are seldom participants of the final matches and so interest tends to die down early. Only diehard fans of the sport follow it through to the end.

So all in all, bar one review of a book I read at the end of january my creative hobbies have been unproductive so far. Is everyone else this slow so far or am I the only procrastinator?

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Sick Leave

So I managed a whole 2 and a half days back at work before I got sent home ill again. I’ve been ill all over xmas with tonsilitus and then as soon as I get back to work I pick up a nasty cold straight away! How I love winter … All the romanticism of cuddling up on the sofa in a thick jumper with a hot drink with either a book or my ps3 controller shoots out the window in a flash. I don’t make a very good patient; I just sit there seething wishing I had a healthy immune system like everybody else. Still, it could be a lot worse than a cold so I will stop complaining and use this extra free time to do a bit of reading, or writing.

I finished my first novel about twelve months ago now, maybe even longer, and I just wasn’t happy with it. Reading it back the narrative voice sounded amateur, the characters were flat and the whole thing just seemed, well … unlikely. Is that a common reaction to finishing your first novel? An overwhelming sense of inadequacy swamps me every time I go to open the folder containing that book. The whole job of redrafting seems immense and I just don’t feel like I have the stamina to do it.

But then, do I want to be a writer or not? There are plenty of cliches about the importance of redrafting. So I know, if I want to write, then it must be done. Does anyone have any tips on getting over a Redrafting Block?

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An unintended break from blogging went from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Who knew moving house could prove to be so time consuming!

Moving into your first home seems to be an excuse for everyone else who is well established to rid themselves of the junk that it too good to throw away but they can’t be bothered to ebay. We have had all sorts including: two microwaves, a rag rug, two dining tables, three hoovers and lots more smaller objects we are likely never to use. The upside is, we haven’t had to buy anything. Well, nothing big anyway!

Reading has lasped into a sideward distraction. Now that I have a house to clean, clothes to iron, and a boyfriend to tidy up after spare time seems somewhat diminished. Still there are plenty of working moms who deal with all that and children and still manage to maintain a blog about books so I have no excuse really.

I’ve read only Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry since I moved out but it was a very good read. For those looking for a different thread of the horror genre than vampires and the paranormal, this may provide a tasty thrill. Told with the military brilliance of Robert Ludlum, Maberry presents himself as the next genius of the zombie genre. I have more detailed thoughts about this book to follow.

My aim to read twenty books in a year pretty much failed, I didn’t really read any more than I would normally. Resolutions and promises are fairly empty this time of year. I am not deciding to do anything, and just hope that I manage to achieve something anyway!

Happy new year all, hope this is a good one.

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Following a spate of two book reviews both my reading and writing has suffered considerably the past four weeks.

My excuse is house hunting. But it’s a poor excuse at that. I still have spare time I just spend most of it planning what to put in my potential new home and how my ‘writing space’ will be constructed.

In reality it will be a long time before I feel as fully settled into a new space that I do on my bedroom desk. But it is a little cramped in here, not to mention messy. Lack of storage space being my excuse for that. Nothing is ever my fault, is it?!

The creation of a writing space is important to the process, and a sufficient procrastination tool that does help one to feel that they have actually achieved something towards their goal. A reading space is equally important. Each space is personal to the self. I prefer big open desks with minimal wiring and distraction for writing whereas for reading I like to sit in a big, comfortable chair surrounded by lots of objects. However if the telly is on then my reading cacpacity is reduced to about 2% to what it normally is. Unless the volume is turned way down. I only have a quiet voice and the voice in my head is even quieter!

Will my moving budget stretch to a solid oak 3 foot desk? I doubt it somehow. Up the motorway to IKEA it is …

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