Thursday, 31 August 2017

July 2017 Reviews

The Handmaid's Tale
Margaret Atwood
1985 Kindle
Amazon gift voucher

When I was given a gift voucher for my birthday and told I had to spend it on books, there was little problem choosing what I would go for. Unlike most people, I have no issue with TV or Film adaptations of novels. Although I would probably prefer to read the book first, if I see the film and then get around to the book, I don't feel the same outrage or bile about it either way. I had just finished watching all ten of the MGM studio production of The Handmaid's Tale, starring Elizabeth Moss, and was ready to see what the original ideas were on paper.

My kindle copy started with a foreword from Atwood herself after the series had aired, and while I found it really interesting to hear her musings on her own work and the adaptation, and although I had already seen the show, there were a number of spoilers in it! Anyway, I read swiftly on and was quickly immersed in the story.

It is gripping and overwhelming which is why I have put it on a list of books I would read again. I feel like I was washed with horror of the society and I need to steel myself and read it again soon with a closer reading. No wonder it is studied in schools.

The Muse
Jesse Burton
Picador 2016 Kindle
Amazon gift voucher

A vast improvement on The Miniaturist but gaining less traction than her first book, The Muse explores the history of a mysterious painting. With two timelines running alongside each other, when the painting was made in 30s Spain and the discovery in the present day 60s London the fate of the painting and its artist is slowly revealed. The best thing about The Miniaturist is that it was a well written page turner of a book and The Muse has the same quality.

Where The Miniaturist fell down was two many story lines, too many plot twists, and a hint of magical realism that ended up not being magical at all, which was very disappointing. The Muse felt a little stunted in terms of imagination in this respect, while the Miniaturist felt like an incredible story that in the end got wound up too simply, The Muse was stripped down and in the end too quite a predictable turn although there was one twist in the tale.

Although the marketing doesn't really reflect this, I think The Muse is the more readable text but it lacks the flair and imagination that The Miniaturist had. Burton could explore the wilder side of her story lines but tie them up as neatly as The Muse.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Beat Writer's Block

We all struggle with writer's block sometimes. Be it when writing job applications, an important email, or even a text to a friend, all of this writing can be difficult. I enjoy writing, but am very critical of my self, which is why sometimes I need these tricks to help me take the first step on the road to writing something, be it poetry or prose.

Here are some writing tips that I use for when I need a nudge:

Oneword - the website that gives you a single word to write on for 60 seconds. It's just the pick me up that you need to be inspired to write. I've got little paragraphs here and there that are slotted into a story that came from one word first.

Stream of consciousness writing can also be helpful, set a timer for 15 minutes and start to write. the struggle is always starting, but once you start it will come even if you start with: I don't know what to write right now. There is a website that simulates this called write or die, which is a fun way to stimulate yourself.

Find a headline and make up your own story. Local papers and red tops usually have headlines that have minimal information and a pun to work with.

Make a story board. My trouble is often when I start I just start from the middle of a scene I've had an idea from and I struggle to then piece together the plot and B characters around this idea. So I've also found that when I start to build that kind of thing first, I often get excited about one thread of the story I'm following and will end up writing that scene.

Try NaNoWriMo. If deadlines and structure are your thing, it's nearly time to join thousands of writers who use National Novel Writing Month (November) to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It's a great way to get a first draft of a book if you work well to that pressure or think you need it!

Of course, my number one recommendation to get inspired is to read something beautiful. The best thing is to revisit something you love that will remind you why you love to read and to write. Poetry works well for me, but might be a favourite novel that you pick up.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

9 Re-readable books

For the writing
Her, Harriet Lane
One of my favourite books that I've read in the past few years. The story completely blew me away and the writing was very clever. Similarly to her first book the flawed protagonist is weirdly likeable and terrible at the same time and I loved reading it.

Blackberry Wine - Joanne Harris
One of her less famous books, I don't know why blackberry wine captivates me. But this is a book that I've read several times and travels with me to every home I move to. If this one isn't on my shelf I feel like it's not my bedroom. I think it's earned a re-read for its loyalty.

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austin
Obviously. A childhood favourite for the story and a new favourite as I only read it for the first time in the last few years. I will never be able to read it as many times as I've seen the BBC TV series or the film adaptations... but I can give it a damn good try.

For the memories
Outlander - Diana Gabledon 
The book I took on my gap year and which consequently has completely come away from it's bindings and is impossible to read comfortably at the moment. I would love a new copy of the full set of Outlander books, once Diana finishes the series. Then I intend to read them all again.

Max's Millions
Amazingly, I actually couldn't even find the author of this book and it maybe that I have not remembered the title correctly. I've read this book about 9 times at least. It's a short book for young teens about a boy who builds a video game while he's off school and on bed rest. He makes a million and it's all about what he does with it. Brilliant and cosy.

The Little White Horse - Elizabeth Goudge
One of the best proposals in the history of literature. A bit weird as it happens between characters that I perceive as children, but it is gloriously sweet and genuine. This book captures the imagination with love and myth and magic and is beautiful to read and read again.

Eat Pray Love - Elizabeth Gilbert
Although one of the more recent books I've read, I read EPL at a very difficult time in my life and it was incredibly inspiring. Yup, I am one of those people! But it is true and it is definitely a book I would pick up again. I love the film and I loved reading it and I can see it helping me in the future.

For the social commentary
The Handmaids Tale - Margaret Atwood
The more this book is in people's consciousness the better to be honest. It is harrowing and well written and well thought out. I think it's important to read books like this one and see how these things start out and gradually devolve. It's a very human book and that is what is so terrifying, I can see it happening because the drives are based so clearly in the characters.

The Help - Kathryn Stockett
I would love to take another look at this. It's incredibly funny and holds a mirror up to the life styles of rich Americans and the black labouring classes. It highlighted the ingrained racism that most people don't even realise goes on and even with the best of intentions.