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Last week I told you I was reading to explore feeling as an element of setting.  I didn’t get to the poetry part of my reading but I did finish the novel: The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.

If I am being completely honest, I stopped reading with purpose very early on, as I was enjoying reading the story so much, but I did pick up on a few elements.

For those who don’t know the story, it is a love story which starts in a cancer support group for kids.  Hazel is terminally ill but in limbo thanks to her drug regimen, and Augustus had bone cancer which cost him his leg.

The reason this is important is because feeling in the book was often about the impact of illness: Hazel can feel discomfort in a location based not only on the place but on her physical symptoms at that time.

We are led as readers to think about physical bodies in different ways throughout the book – the Literal Heart of Jesus, which is where the support group meets, the tickling in Hazel’s nose as she breathes in the oxygen from her tank, the crooked smile of Augustus, the elements people have lost due to treatment.  Importantly, though the characters have a high degree of charm and intelligence and a verbosity above that of most teenagers they are ‘normal’, if such a thing exists.  They are people who happen to have or have had cancer.  It is part of them but not them.

I don’t feel this book will help with the elements of setting I want to develop but I do think the thematic device of exploring the physicality of a scene is another way to approach the subject which is new to me.

It is also a great example of how to write characters who come to life for the reader.  I have never read a book with so many jokes about illness and its consequences, and the reason it works and doesn’t offend is because the characters are so genuine and you can truly imagine the slightly unnerving banter being accepted in this group.  It is very cleverly done because however risky the jokes, the characters maintain their likeability.  It’s a good example of how important the consistency of a character is for the effective telling of stories.

I may refer back to this book when I focus on characters.

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

 

 

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So it is that time of the year again, when I launch my Challenge Tuesday with a whizzbang starter and get a few under my belt to see me through the first few weeks.

Or not, as the case may be…

Firstly, I’ve got to report my final tally for 2016 being a vaguely disappointing 41 books. It’s not that bad a number, but more that I missed both my original and my revised targets that feels a little negative.

However, it has forced me to accept that I cannot do everything I might want to do – read, write, study, work, act, sew, crochet, play table tennis, go to the gym, spend time with loved ones…  There are only 24 hours in a day, and I like to spend some of them asleep.  I have to make better choices for my time.

So this year’s challenge is to read works with a view to enhancing my writing. It may be something from a relevant genre for style ideas, or a writer I admire for their strong prose or beautiful imagery, their use of themes or metaphors.  It might be research – a biography or history book, for example.  It might be poetry for the rhythm.  Who knows? There’s no set number, just a purpose.

Let’s see where that concept takes me!

In the meantime, here’s the list of books from 2016:

Book 1 – The Path of Daggers, by Robert Jordan

Book 2 – Winter’s Heart, by Robert Jordan

Book 3 – The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith

Book 4 – Tears of the Giraffe, by Alexander McCall  Smith

Book 5 – Morality for Beautiful Girls, by Alexander McCall Smith

Book 6 – The Kalahari Typing School for Men, by Alexander McCall Smith

Book 7 – The Merlin Conspiracy, by Diana Wynne Jones

Book 8 – A Little Love Song, by Michelle Magorian

Book 9 – Stone Mattress, by Margaret Atwood

Book 10 – What We Believe But Cannot Prove, edited by John Brockman

Book 11 – The Full Cupboard of Life, by Alexander McCall Smith

Book 12 – In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, by Alexander McCall Smith

Book 13 – The Mayor of Casterbridge, by Thomas Hardy

Book 14 – The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy

Book 15 – Summer, by Edith Wharton

Book 16 – The Double Clue, and other Hercule Poirot Stories, by Agatha Christie

Book 17 – The Dressmaker, by Rosalie Ham

Book 18 – The Beauties and the Furies, by Christina Stead

Book 19 – The Seance, by John Harwood

Book 20 – North of Nowhere, by Liz Kessler

Book 21 – A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin

Book 22 – The Tombs of Atuan, by Ursula Le Guin

Book 23 – The Farthest Shore, by Ursula Le Guin

Book 24 – Tehanu, by Ursula Le Guin

Book 25 – A Spot of Bother, by Mark Haddon

Book 26 – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce

Book 27 – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany

Book 28 – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling

Book 29 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling

Book 30 – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling

Book 31 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling

Book 32 – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark

Book 33 – The Last Anniversary, by Liane Moriarty

Book 34 – Pyramid, by David Gibbins

Book 35 – My Soul To Take, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Book 36 – Willow, Wine, Mirror, Moon: Women’s Poems from Tang China, translated by Jeanne Larsen 

Book 37 – The Axeman’s Jazz, by Ray Celestin

Book 38 – Chocolat, by Joanne Harris

Book 39 – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Book 40 – Lady Oracle, by Margaret Atwood

Book 41 – A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees, by Kenkō; translated by Meredith McKinney

If you have any ideas for the 2017 list, please let me know in the comments – I’d love to know what makes you sit up and take notice, as a writer!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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I am off on my Christmas break now, so instead of telling you what I am reading, I wanted to share a famous story with you: A Christmas Carol

Unfortunately, being a Dickens novel I have never got into it (see also: Great Expectations; Bleak House; Oliver Twist).  Maybe I’ll try again next year!

Instead, and because most of us have seen at least one film or tv version of the story, I give you a brief synopsis by Chris Pirillo:

Enjoy!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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I guess it’s hardly surprising, when I barely have time to write anything, that my reading time is very limited right now.

I miss writing and feel the absence of it in the weeks I don’t put pen to paper, and I feel the lack of a good book in much the same way. We all need to be transported sometimes, and that’s exactly what reading does for me.

Hopefully I’ll have a little time over Christmas to read something but in the more-than-likely reality that I don’t I’ve still managed to read a fair number of books through 2016, and that was the purpose of the challenge in the first place.

So onward I go to discover some new writers, and new writing, and new worlds in which I can lose myself – even if at a slightly reduced rate!

Happy reading,
EJ
🙂

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I managed to do some reading this week but as with last week, it was all script…
…Oh no it wasn’t
…Oh yes it was!

Yes, I am preparing for Panto once more. It’s a big time requirement (I am the Principal Boy again) but a lot of fun and I do enjoy the general bonkersness of it all.

Sadly my reading time was sucked into rehearsal time, but never mind – books were there before panto and will be there after!

Happy reading,
EJ
🙂

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This week has been entirely reading free, with the exclusion of a script for my drama group, which isn’t exactly reviewable!

However after last week’s book I am accepting the reality of now… 😉

I do have a story in my sights for next week though, so watch this space!

Happy reading,
EJ
🙂

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First, a little story. This weekend I spent part of my time looking at universities. We have two fairly local to us and I have a close relative who is hoping to start a degree next year, so I offered to take her to them. However, I didn’t want to influence her too much with my opinions so let her do the tours with a friend as I entertained myself.

Well, for me, entertainment was a student bookshop, where they sold the Penguin Little Black Classics – a collection of books that have probably been out of print for a very long time, mostly short and really cheap. In this particular example it was 80p (with a 10% discount on top of that!). To put that in context for overseas readers, last week’s read would cost £8.99 new, so it’s very cheap indeed.

Naturally, I bought a few.  I limited myself to four, which I am extremely proud of, and started reading one straight away.  2 pages in it was saying that at a certain age people shouldn’t go out in public, and I knew I was onto a winner!

Book 41 – A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees, by Kenkō; translated by Meredith McKinney. This isn’t a novel, so much as a set of thoughts about the world, so a review in the normal sense doesn’t really work here.

a-cup-of-sake

Kenkō was a Japanese monk who was born in the late 13th century.  His thoughts obviously reflect a different time and place to that in which I live and a lot of what he says is humourous only for being so unbelievable in our day and age – although it’s tinged with the understanding that some people live in environments where his views have traction.

However, for every outmoded concept there is a more timeless idea, a thought that reflects back at me through the centuries.

These thoughts cover how people should perceive life, their approach to the world, thoughts on what holds humanity back: in many respects this is a philosophical book. What makes it stand out to me is the sense that every moment in life is special and that we should stop focussing on having more, but instead focus on each moment.

I thought it would be a good opportunity to share a few quotes with you, which is really the best way to demonstrate some of the thinking…

It is the ephemeral nature of things that makes them wonderful.

 

All things in this phenomenal world are mere illusion.

Does mortality wait on our choosing?  Death comes upon us more swiftly than fire or flood.

… there can be no doubt that it would benefit those below if people in high positions were to cease their luxurious and wasteful ways and instead were kind and tender to the people, and encouraged agriculture.

There are many more examples but these are just a few which grabbed my attention.

Yes, there is a lot in the book that wouldn’t go down very well at an equalities convention!  Nevertheless it reminds me a lot of mindfulness books I have read because of the focus on experiencing the ‘now’, and valuing the world for what it is, not what it could be or has been; not dismissing the imperfect, because it is still of value.

In fact, now I’ve written that I think I understand its attractiveness to me: it is a very early version of a mindfulness text, and I am very glad I invested in it!

Oh and one final thought – sorry the photo is a bit blurry, I think there’s a fingerprint on the camera lens!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

 

 

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