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Posts Tagged ‘reading’

My holiday starts today, so I thought I’d write the posts for the week now…

On Tuesday I will be reflecting on the book, ‘The Tiger’s Wife‘, by Téa Obreht. It won the Orange prize for fiction a few years ago so I will probably be comparing my reaction to that of the judges!

On Thursday I will be pleased with myself for writing down my experiences over the course of the break, and be finding the beauty of the setting a huge inspiration.

On Sunday I will be sad about reaching the last night already. I will be drinking Sangria. These two things do not make for a complex, interesting or coherent post, so I will simply share a song that makes me happy 🙂

Now you know what you’ll be missing you can rest assured you aren’t missing anything…

Have a great, productive and inspirational week and I will be back soon.

Oh, and I am not going to Italy, but I like using the word ciao!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

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I read for fun this week.  Only Dull People Are Brilliant at Breakfast is a collection of Oscar Wilde quotes, one of Penguin’s Little Black Classics series.

It’s more like reading poetry than reading a novel because you can skip about, read out of order, pick and choose the lines that interest you. In this particular case there’s about 50 pages of quotes covering life, art, Englishness and intelligence, amongst other things.

When you read quotes in a block, you start to notice patterns, repetition, typical language.  You start to notice why one phrase is amusing and one is not, and why some ideas resonate. I enjoy the chance to analyse and reflect; I don’t really stop and think about what I am reading in the same way when I am reading a novel.

I personally prefer the more comedic comments.  They take the words away from lecturing and towards the feeling of a shared joke.  That’s one thing I have noticed over and over: these quotes feel like a friend talking to me.

This isn’t the most standard read, and I fully appreciate that not everyone enjoys reading books of quotations, but from a writing point of view it’s great.  There’s wonderful use of language, witticism that can be reviewed and analysed, and clever ideas worth exploring.

And it’s fun to read. Which is my primary focus when choosing a book for a Tuesday!

Happy reading

EJ

🙂

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Sorry this post is late, I lost track of the weekend because it’s a bank holiday today!

As the writing is much as it was last week I decided to talk about other news in the writing world today.

First off – apparently, e-book sales are falling and physical book sales are rising in the UK as we suffer from too much time spent on too many devices.  I have to acknowledge I have not read a book online for months now – although as I only ever downloaded freebies I didn’t help the sales figures much anyway!

Secondly, we readers are more attractive to potential partners!  Recent research shows that if reading is listed as a hobby on a dating website, there are more responses. Reading is a joy in its own right, but it’s interesting to think about the social and psychology benefits of it.  I often wonder why some people adore reading and some don’t even think about picking up a book, so that is the next answer I want to find!

Lastly, a few words of wisdom from JK Rowling helped me out this week.  Just keep writing, guys. Finish the book/play/poem/whatever you are producing.  Keep going.  Get to the end.  You might not get picked up, but you have a much better chance if you have a finished product!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I have been reading about matters relating to my paid employment this week – working on projects as I do, there’s a lot of research because my focus can change pretty regularly.  I even dug out an old project management techniques book to do a little revision 🙂

Yep, this week has been more text books and guidance notes than lost hours travelling through new worlds.

I don’t mind though; I appreciate it’s not the kind of thing I will share here but I do love learning, and having to focus on the core of a topic is definitely filling that need in me.

So for the week, at least, I am going to proudly concentrate on text books and developing my understanding of new areas.

Spoiler alert: I will enjoy myself throughout!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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This week I read a Poirot story with a difference.  The Monogram Murders is a modern return to Hercule Poirot, written by Sophie Hannah and approved by Agatha Christie’s estate.

Having heard it discussed at last year’s crime writing convention by the editor of the Estate (who was really interesting and of course a great salesperson when it came to this story) I decided to buy it when I saw it in a charity shop.

I am fascinated by the idea of continuing a set of stories created by another person, and how well – or otherwise – a voice may be captured.  In this book, I didn’t feel that Hannah was trying to recreate Christie’s voice as such; I have not read all of her work but it didn’t feel the same as the stories I have read.  However, she was trying to make Poirot live again.

I feel a little unsure about this one.  In terms of the story, I enjoyed it and it was an easy, quick read despite being nearly 400 pages long.  It was engaging and I was wrong about who I thought had done it, and why – there are twists and these worked for me.

But it didn’t feel like it needed to be a Poirot story – marketing-wise I’m sure that was helpful! but it felt more like a story that happened to have Poirot in it than a story in which he was integral.  This is an important point because I have actually felt that about another Poirot story I read, called The Hollow; and maybe this treatment of the character is more reflective than I appreciate.

I didn’t read this with a particular learning point in mind but I did want to successfully read something after my last efforts were wasted!  However, from a reading point of view I can say that the style of the ‘golden age’ of crime writing really appeals to me.  I do not like violent, graphic crime and the slick cleverness of this one was much more entertaining to me than a lot of modern crime writing.

I don’t know if I’d choose to read Sophie Hannah’s other books – she writes psychological thrillers usually, which aren’t really my preference – but I’d read her other Poirot to see how it compared.

I would want to compare it to an original Christie though!

Until next time,

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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I have just started a new book, which I chose because I thought it would give me a standard to aim for in my writing.  The blurb calls the writer ‘strikingly elegant’ (I assume in her prose not her person!) and the subject matter is domestic reality, which is really where all my stories are centred.

These made it seem like a good read for learning and improving my own work.

However, I am a little concerned by the start.  It is not to my taste, I kept losing focus and having to re-read lines, and after only a short space of time I am left with limited memory of the section except it being vaguely irritating.  I will carry on but I wasn’t really engaged.

Saying that, I do remember noticing some interesting descriptions and an unusual choice of words here and there which I did appreciate. Maybe it will all make more sense when I get a bit further…

It’s not a huge book so I hope to finish by next week – if I haven’t, I have probably given up!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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I finished!

Over the last couple of weeks I have been reading Gillespie and I, by Jane Harris.  Now I have got to the end of it, I am confused…

The story is narrated by Harriet Baxter, a woman in her 70’s, and is split between her current life in 1930’s London, and her life in Glasgow in the 1880’s.  We learn about her relationship with Ned Gillespie and his family, his struggle to get the recognition deserved for his art, and her role as friend and confidante to all, until tragedy hits the family. We also, in her current life, learn about her vague, but growing, fears for her safety.  I won’t say more here because anything else is likely to be a massive spoiler!

I started the book thinking it was some sort of mystery, which it is, but it’s also a story about mental health issues, murder, loneliness, loss and betrayal, and I still don’t know exactly what role the protagonist played in the deeply painful events described.  Harriet’s story is very much her own.

As a writer, I have often come across examples of the unreliable narrator in exercises, but this particular one has worked very well for multiple reasons.

Firstly, it’s not explicit that she really is an unreliable narrator: it could just be my imagination.  That ambivalence about her honesty or otherwise is really powerful and such a great way of muddying the waters.

Secondly, it is not clear how much of what she says is factually true.  Many points are debated and obviously we see her point of view, but there is no gauge to show whether she is lying or just putting her perception of events forward. There is always an explanation because she only tells the story she can explain.

Thirdly, the story she tells is allegedly about her time with the Gillespie family, and yet much of what she reports is through the prism of how Ned Gillespie might have viewed it (albeit from her point of view).  That makes Ned unreliable too.  His characteristics are a contradictory mishmash of blunt politeness, of honest self-censorship, that leave me questioning their interactions.

I started the book expecting a more genre-specific mystery and it took quite a while for me to realise I didn’t feel certain about Harriet, either in her behaviour or her reports of her behaviour.  I can’t say more than that here, except it does explain why I thought it was so slow to get going!

From a writing point of view this was fascinating to unpick.  The imagery, the style, the narrative technique, the characterisation and the setting were all very cleverly interwoven and this was a very tightly packed book, stylistically speaking.

From a reading point of view I was hoping for more of a payoff at the end, although the foreshadowing of what comes after the book is shut was another technique I have to consider further in my own work.

I can see this being a great reading group book or intensive study book, because it has so many facets to it that I probably missed quite a few, but for me personally, it is a real education in the power of the right narrative decision, and the right narrator.

It’s not a book I would naturally choose for a second read, but I wonder how I would view the story, knowing what I know now.  It has definitely piqued my interest, that’s for sure!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

 

 

 

 

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