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Posts Tagged ‘reading’

There’s not a lot more to say since Thursday’s post, really.  The advert for the open mic night (I have gone for the more common spelling now!) has been submitted to the venue and the local newsletter. I will be posting it on facebook and locally in the village too but probably a little closer to the time so people don’t forget about it!  Writing is as it was, with a side order of dark nights and horse races to add to the poetic pot.

I am still not reading enough, and have to focus on that tomorrow evening if I am going to give you the promised post on Tuesday.

There’s not always a lot to say during the writing process but maybe next time I can give you a rundown of the poems I intend to share on the evening.  I will almost certainly share my village walking one, as people will recognise the scene, but beyond that I really am open to persuasion on anything.

Between now and then I have a family wedding so I am sure I will get a few upbeat ideas there too.  If I can get a mix of nature, political, fun, supernatural and – possibly – funny, I’ll have covered all my current interests and all poetic bases.

That’s the plan, for now.  Let’s see where the month takes me!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I haven’t finished the book yet.  I am taking a really long time over it and I don’t really know why.  It’s a good read, and when I start reading I can lose myself in it, but I don’t automatically reach for it.

I think after this one I will have a little reading break!

I promise, though, that I will give you a review next week!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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I utterly failed to write a post on Tuesday, sorry.  I am enjoying my book but have been writing and seeking out writing inspiration more than reading in the last couple of weeks so the book is a little neglected.  It has been left behind, which is the first part of this week’s title!

So what is the right, I hear you ask (humour me here!)?

It’s writing.  Writing is going right.

This week, as a bit of an experiment, I wrote song lyrics.  I was pleased how well they turned out, because I wasn’t expecting much!

I helped one of my writing buddies when they were stuck and couldn’t get their idea to form the verses they wanted.

I got the ad for the open mike night sorted out.

I had a really great writing session today.

I can feel the positivity in me.  That is definitely something going right.

It’s made a difference to have a new writing zone, even if I sometimes run the risk of being sidetracked…

So yes, I am a little slow at reading at the moment, but it’s good to have positive writing outcomes. It’s not a bad compromise, really!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I didn’t know what to read next, when I was choosing my new book.  I have piles upon piles waiting for me, including some I have borrowed and need to return.  But it’s too hot to think too much, so I finally decided on another Margaret Atwood.  It’s not a dystopian future so that’s a change, at least!

What I wanted was a holiday read: a book I knew I would enjoy reading, that I could read fairly quickly but was a bit more complex than an airport book, if you know what I mean.  This is a pick for the reader me, more than the writer me.

I will let you know how it’s worked when I finish!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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This week I finished Margaret Atwood’s trilogy, with MaddAddam.  I will try to be concise, but I could write about this one for a while!

MaddAddam, like Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, tells the story of how people existed before and after the plague which wipes out most humans.  At its heart are love stories – Toby and Zeb, survivors of the God’s Gardeners; Zeb and his brother Adam, and Toby and Blackbeard, Craker and student.

I really enjoyed reading this book.  It filled in some of the blanks left earlier in the series – such as the reason Zeb was involved with the God’s Gardeners and his relationship with the Adams and Eves, how Crake got the original plague data, what happened to his parents and so on.

More importantly though, it took the story onward.  The disparate group of surviving humans started to develop a new society, with the Crakers as part of it.  People started to hope and plan again.  Toby’s friendship with the curious Craker child Blackbeard showed that however Crake had engineered the humanoids, he couldn’t remove their curiosity and desire to know and understand.

From this friendship, Toby started to believe in a future for humans, and Crakers, that would have been impossible at the start of the series.

I think that is the theme of the book: we can’t foresee the outcome of our actions.  The Crakers were specifically created not to have religious tendencies, for example, but Oryx and Crake were their deities, and the reason for their faith in the world around them.  Zeb chose how to extricate himself from his corrupt father without realising his choice would lead him to bioterrorism and into the path of the world-ending Crake.

Another important concept through the book is that of loyalty.  In a world where people have to be wary of everything, trusting someone is both extremely difficult and essential. That is juxtaposed with the Craker stance of trust by default.

The final thing I will say is that I found the ending of the book, and indeed the series, satisfying.  It wasn’t neatly tied in a bow but the story lived on and that was important to me, having invested in the world Atwood created. I also liked the lack of concrete resolution on the plague itself: we know who, and how, but we can never entirely know why – which is absolutely the way of the world.

I could say so much more but it’ll ruin the reading experience if I go any further!

Tying this back to writing, I am in awe of the complexity and breadth of the world Atwood has created. This is a world she both built up, and then destroyed, and she had to get the details right in both states.

I don’t think this is a standalone book, because even if you could read it alone you wouldn’t get the context.  However, for me, it was a great end to the trilogy.

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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I gave you the background to this novel on Tuesday, but I wanted to spend a bit more time looking at it than I had available then.

As with book 1 of the series, The Year of the Flood sweeps backwards and forwards through time.  There are key differences though: whereas in book 1 we see the world from a point of knowledge about what has occurred, this book shows how people removed from the science and power are able to survive.

The God’s Gardeners religion which was mentioned in book one is a large element of book 2.  It sounds like an eco-cult, with strange saints and a hierarchy where the most senior members are all called Adam or Eve.  There are odd songs and it is made to sound both fantastical and (in light of the world they live in) a compelling kind of fringe society, taking in the waifs and strays left behind by modernity.

It took me a while to get into those elements, especially the songs, because the structure was quite different to book one.

However what worked really well for me was to show the key characters – Toby and Ren – as their situations change over time.  In marked opposition to Oryx and Crake and the pampered lives in the Compounds, Toby and Ren exist in the insecurity and danger of the Pleeblands.  They are at risk, as women, in the world they inhabit, and the risk doesn’t end when the plague comes.

I enjoyed this book, and as part of a series it added intricacy to the world being created.  I wasn’t sure about the God’s Gardeners sermons and saints days but looked at collectively they show how much of the world we know now has been lost to the future, and how mankind has damaged the world in order to keep the Corporations powerful.

I am not sure how well it would stand up on its own but for me that wouldn’t be the best way to approach the middle book of a series anyway!

I will tell you about the final book of the series next time.

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Book two of my not really holiday reading was Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood.  I first read this about eight years ago (and when I realised that I was a bit shocked!) but it’s one of a series so I got all three to read back to back.

The story is about a man called Jimmy, or Snowman, and is set in a future where science has overwhelmed nature: people, plants and animals are genetically modified.  Society is split into people in the Compounds – the areas of Corporations managing the scientific activities for profit – and the pleeblands, where everyone else lives.

When a global pandemic wipes out virtually all humanity, Jimmy has to save not only himself but the Crakers, a group of bioengineered humanoids created by Jimmy’s best friend, and find a way to survive the new world, with its newly released science experiment animals.

I won’t say more than that because I will be giving away too much of the story!

I chose this book because I enjoy reading Atwood’s work, because I knew I wanted to revisit the book, and because I love a dystopian future.  I didn’t read it for writing purposes.

Having said that, it’s always interesting to read Atwood – the concepts in this book are intriguing and disturbing, and I found myself wondering at what point I would think genetic manipulation had gone too far.  At what point do we as a society move from horrified to accepting?

There is also moral consideration about the behaviour of both Jimmy and Crake in relation to each other, to Oryx who is loved by both men, and to humanity as a whole.

It’s a hard future and much like other dystopian novel, there are elements already creeping into reality which make it particularly unnerving in places.

Reading it on a sun lounger wasn’t really the right environment… Still, I found it moving, thought-provoking and engrossing. It stood up well on second reading, although the gap may have helped 🙂

I have read the next book in the trilogy and am onto the third, so more on the future of humanity will follow!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

 

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I said yesterday that I had three books to discuss, but over the course of today I decided to split them into different posts.  That way, each one gets a bit more space to be discussed!

So the first book to talk about is The Tiger’s Wife, by Téa Obreht.  I am going to be totally honest and say I was first drawn to it by the name, and once I saw the cover I was hooked.

This book is a mixture of fact, fantasy, and folktale; from a writing point of view I was interested in how the elements were fused.  This book had a richness to it, a sense of the world being deeper and wider than imagined.   I particularly liked the ‘Deathless Man’ stories, which were like something from Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

The downside of richness is that you can have too much of something.  By the end of the book I did feel that there were so many stories, so many characters, so many details that I didn’t hold on to them all.  That isn’t always a negative but in this case, it’s difficult to write about the content of the book because I can’t remember it all.

So I will focus on the key elements that remain with me.  Firstly, the names of places are made up, but there is a clear sense that the tales take place in the former Yugoslavia – not only because of Obreht’s personal history, but because of the nature of the conflicts within the story.

Secondly, the tale of the Tiger’s Wife herself is of a woman finding freedom and finding her own path, and that being destroyed by people who are scared of the power that gives her.  In effect, it is the personalisation of the story of war.

Thirdly, this is the story of tragedy.  It feels as though whatever happens, violence recurs. It is not a book that leaves you feeling uplifted but it does make you think about how terrible things can happen, and the ramifications of them.

It wasn’t really holiday reading, and it was a bit too heavy going for a sun lounger, but it was an interesting book.

GoingTigers Wife back to the writing perspective, I have to be honest and say that the fusion of different folk tales didn’t always work form me, but I loved the Deathless Man idea, and how it twined in and out of reality.  I often lost track of where I was in time – Obreht did shift forward and backward in time on a number of occasions and it wasn’t alway immediately clear.  As someone who has used the time shift tool themselves I think it’s better to signpost the shift but it’s a narrative choice to make it blurry.

Overall this book was unusual, and poignant, and focussed on loss in a way I hadn’t anticipated.  It was not what I expected to be reading.  As a writer, I think that’s a brave strategy but as a reader I wasn’t prepared for the content!

I am not sure I will re-read this book but I am not willing to pass it on yet either – mind you, that might just be because I love the cover drawing…

This is one I just can’t quite make up my mind about.  Which I see as a writing positive, because at least I am thinking about it!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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I have been away from the blog for a week more than intended, for a variety of reasons. Some were positive and joyful and for now I will think only about them.

We are always hearing that we should live life to its fullest – but the possibility for each of us to do so is massively different depending on circumstances. For me, on those days when perhaps I haven’t grabbed every opportunity (and instead sat watching tv and eating biscuits), it’s good to reflect on the more enriching experiences of the week.

So last week I went to a music night for my friend’s birthday, had a family party and separate meal with friends for my own, went shopping, spent time with my husband, and had writing group.  All positives!

I do have quite a bit to share with you and I will start with three books, tomorrow.  I will plan from there!

So hi, and bye, for now.  See you tomorrow,

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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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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