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This week I finished two rather different books…

Book 17 – King Solomon’s Mines, by H Rider Haggard.  I’ve had this book on my shelf for years but am 99% sure I never read it; I have read She two or three times instead!  This book is full of adventure, riches, violence, and is a ‘rollicking good yarn’ or some such!

It follows the trek of a group of men into an unexplored area of Africa in search of a missing man – and fabled diamond mines.  Along the way there is elephant hunting, freezing mountains, near-starvation, death, revolution and entombment. There are also some funny moments and some odd notions!

As a product of its time it is far from PC; however there are heroes in the story who are black, white, male and female, which was a more modern approach than I’d expected from a writer of that era.  There are some very pertinent comments on the actions of humans along the way, with no race, or gender, being seen as wholly good or bad: there is a balance that must have reflected Haggard’s own perceptions following his experiences in Africa.

I enjoyed this, for what it is: a Victorian era book, when hunting elephants was a career choice and there was much of the world that was unseen and unknown.  Africa is portrayed as an exotic realm, full of danger, mystery and lost history – and you can see why it would have seemed so to the audience of the time.

Although there were flashes of religion in the characters there was more discussion of their arsenals than their God, and after Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Little Women I appreciated that :-).  It’s a book I could easily read again, because it is in effect a Victorian Indiana Jones affair – completely escapist.  Plus it did have that sense that the good triumphed over evil, even though the cost was vast.

Book 18 – The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty  This was a set book for reading group and is not my usual style; I will try not to use spoilers because this book is still in the paperback chart in the UK!

The book is contemporary, and is about how life can change when a secret is revealed.  Actually, more than one husband has a secret and for each one revealed, another one bursts into life.

It was hard to keep track of some of the characters’ relationships at the start but as the story unfolded it all became clearer.  I enjoyed the unreliability of some viewpoint characters – this trait meant we grew to appreciate some secondary characters as the story progressed.  One family in particular, once we saw their reality, seemed very sympathetic to me.

The big reveal was signposted from early on – I was hoping it was a twist –  and the subsequent event related to it was also signposted before it happened.  The interesting thing both times was the reactions of the different people involved, especially with the second related event.

There are some flashbacks which I personally don’t think added anything to the story, and an epilogue which did clarify one point but again didn’t really add anything to the story itself in my opinion.  However they did show another way that secrets – known and unknown – can impact on the way people’s lives unfold.

Overall it was easy to read and quite engaging but I wish there had been a little more mystery surrounding the secret itself.

Until next time, happy reading!

EJ

🙂

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I tried being clever and read two books at once this week, which nearly ended with me not getting through either – which would have made for a very short post!

However, I did finally finish one:

Book 16 – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  You may remember that I wasn’t going to read this, but it came up again last week and I decided I would…  As I read it on an e-reader I’m not sure how long it was but it felt really long and took me a fair while to get through.

I really enjoyed the characters of the girls as they grew, even Beth who was a bit too good for me was written in such a way that I could believe her. In fact, I think the characterisation throughout the story is its strength because (with a few exceptions) people stayed true to who they were at the start, were sympathetically depicted and were well-rounded.  For example, Mrs March could have appeared too good, but then we saw her efforts to control her temper; Mr March was good, but short-sighted and thoughtless of the impact of ‘doing the right thing’ on his family.

The big let-down for me was Laurie, from the point he decided he loved Amy – after years of loving Jo he switched neatly to the girl who was her total opposite and that seemed unlikely and contrived.  Amy also became uninteresting at that point.  It all just felt as though he had to marry a sister and any sister would do.

There were some long passages that added no real depth or value to the story (for me) – mostly these were about bonnets or material, or the P.C. notes and assorted letters.  I could have happily gone without the chapter on the twins too.

Inevitably Jo was my favourite sister; we seemed to spend more ‘quality’ time with her and she had the most spirit and energy. She wasn’t constantly preaching, wasn’t obsessed with clothes and appearances, and seemed to genuinely seek out life.  I think she’s the most modern of the sisters and therefore the one that translated best into the 21st century which also has a big impact on how I responded to her.

It’s not a book I’ll re-read but I am glad I got through it because the sense of familial love and respect is something I enjoy in books and have written about myself.

So there you go – week 11 and I’ve read up to book 16.  I’m getting a little head start for holidays and so on!  The next books will be the book club book I should have read this week and the half I stopped reading so I could finish Little Women

Happy reading

EJ

🙂

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I am pleased to report I am currently on 45,627 words with 2 days to go, and am inching closer and closer to the target.  My absolute minimum this year was 45,000 so to have passed that feels very good!

My problem now is one of storyline.  As I’ve said before, random things have appeared in my story, and been quickly incorporated.  However, I have noticed that there are several little wiggly sub-plot strands that are popping up and trying to escape as I get toward the last day of NaNoWriMo.  So today I spent much of my time trying to wrestle the rogue strands into order.

I knew the shape I wanted this story to take when I started, and I had a plan that, although not overly structured, explored the main things that would happen in each chapter.  But I keep adding bits.  A sketch of a future event here, a vision there; I have no problem with the new bits longer term, but I don’t want to worry about them now!  It all flows when I’m writing it but it’s not in the plan and therefore not part of the story arc.

I said right at the start of NaNo that word count doesn’t equal quality, and it’s true.  I have tried to get back to the plan but I’m sure I’ll have to correct some sections in December when – if I’m being honest – I’d rather be preparing for Christmas and munching my way through family sized boxes of chocolates!

The worst thing is that I’m only on chapter 5 of 8 – so I probably have another 30,000 words to go before I can even start re-reading.  And, before I do all this, I have to do my next edit on the first novel and finish the wedding poem.

I am looking forward to 1 December because honestly, I don’t think this way of working is necessarily the best way for me (I’d rather fix things as I go than in the editing which as you know I dislike.  Intensely!) but I’m glad I’ve given it another go to prove to myself I can write this much in a month, and I can make up for lost time.

And of course getting to 50,000 words means I can have my party!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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