Posted in Books

Currently Reading – January 2019

The Mandibles: A Family 2029 – 2047

This book was killing me.

From the way it opened, and continued so much of the narrative by describing events; telling us how the world changed, informing us how life now differed, and a smattering of dialogue to show the characters having serious, in-depth economics and survivalist discussions, it rang alarm-bells for me. I’m confused more than anything, I was reading this as a backdrop to my creative writing course and yet it seemed this book broke many of the cardinal rules: telling instead of showing; skipping chunks of action in a summary paragraph (which we’ve been led to believe is lazy writing).

There was a couple of massive time jumps, which as a reader I always find awkward, and for a writer it seems like they are avoiding writing a section they may not enjoy writing… I don’t know, it’s how I perceived it.

I checked out the reviews on goodreads and elsewhere, and thankfully, it’s not just me. Others felt bored by the constant, dense discussions on economics and the collapse of the American dollar. I’m not taking an exam for an econ class, I don’t need this much backstory. Even halfway through the book, not much seems to have happened, except that cauliflower has become too expensive, even when it’s possible to get fresh produce because the American governments have snatched all farmland from the remaining farmers to export the goods to rake in a little money.

The family members all resent each other, but they make stupid decisions which bring them to a stupid end: all end up in Florence’s home but she answers the door and they get house-jacked (is that a word?). They spend a night or two in the shanty town that’s taken over Prospect Park, and acquire a gun, then they decide to head north to the Uncle’s farm to help out… No spoilers but there’s suddenly a massive time jump.

Hit the 73% mark and as well as the jump, another weird twist… If anyone’s read it, let me know if I missed what happened or if it was a metaphor. Alas, there was a bit more actual story that was finally interesting, then another time jump, then a fairly flat ending.

It is interesting, maybe if you know what you’re heading into (an essay with dialogue) and it creates a strange feeling, will the apocalypse really be so dull? Even if the economy crashes (again) and to such an extent that electricity, water, and food are rationed, I’d still like to think that the basic nature of human beings would be to find some hope or light in the situation and survive humanely, not exist blandly until a paper-cut kills us.

e x

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Posted in Books, Education, Writing

Currently Reading – August 2018

I’m slowly trying to work my way through the reading list for my MA course. I’ve never been a fast reader – unless I’m completely absorbed by what I’m reading (see Harry Potter) so when it comes to reading technical books or deep literature then it’s going to be a bit of a slog.

Pictured above is two of my newest additions to my rampant collection. The Self-Editing for Fiction Writers book, by Brown and King, I already know will be an invaluable resource so I’m trying to take notes and read it carefully enough to get as much out of it as possible (and so I don’t struggle to reread it before assessments). It was highly recommended by someone on our course and I promptly picked up a copy on amazon, reasonably cheaply.

The second book Searches and Seizures by Stanley Elkin was a bit of a challenge to locate a copy of! I managed to find an old second-hand copy on amazon again but it was sent from Better World Books in Mishawaka, Indiana! The book has travelled further than me. Also, I’m certain I ordered another book off them before. Alas, this book was recommended through another book on my reading list: Reading like a writer by Francine Prose. The Elkin book is three novellas, but the Making of Ashenden is the one Prose suggested to read… about a man who falls in love with a bear. Odd, but interesting. I’ve only glanced at the first page but Elkin has a unique style of writing and description.

I finished reading Brief Cases by Jim Butcher, the newest collection of short stories from the Dresden Files world. It’s helped a little to ease the pain from waiting so long for Peace Talks to come out, but I understand the author has had major personal happenings in the last few years, so I won’t add to the complaints. I’m likely to do a more in depth review of Brief Cases, as I want to start doing for more books I read – simply because I have a terrible memory after I’ve read something, reviews would be a good way to keep track. The short version is Brief Cases was amazing – especially the original novella Zoo Day – brought Maggie into much sharper focus, not just as a character (finally) but what may come of her in the future.

I’m still reading On Writing by A.L. Kennedy from the reading list last year. It’s a very interesting insight into one of Scotland’s cult (?) writers. I like how she describes her own process as lasting years but a constant slog, even while travelling and ill. Most of the book is blog posts lifted straight from her site, so I enjoy just reading a post or two at a time, hence why it’s taking me so long to get through it.

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White must be top-of-the-list for all writing students whether English Lit, Composition, or Creative Writing, like me. But it really ought to be top-of-the-list for everyone who ever uses English. Ever. It’s a short volume, but concise and definitely something I’ll refer back to time and again.

Other than these, I’ve been working through my new Italian books for my course starting mid-September. They are A1 beginners books and while I do already know all of this stuff, it doesn’t hurt to revise the basics. Language learning is more of a wander than rushing straight to the final destination. Plus, it’s been 3 years since I did my C1 classes in Spain -_-

e x

Posted in Books

Currently Reading – Flawed

So at the time of writing this I’m currently reading Flawed by Cecelia Ahern. I love her writing and her style. To be fair I haven’t read all of her stuff, but of what I have read, I’ve loved. The wit, the whimsy, the unbelievable – she makes it real, she makes you care. Now this is a slight departure from her usual stuff, it’s YA for starters and it’s the first in a series. I should warn you before you read any further, if you are sick to the back teeth of YA dystopian novels, then stop reading and await my next blog, if not then keep reading – but you have been warned!

I won’t give away spoilers but to say that at just over halfway through, I can already see the familiar triangle forming, the reluctant teen forced into a situation in which she must give up her desire to flee and instead learn to fight. Everything she took for granted is now gone, those she trusted are no longer trustworthy etc. But, I don’t even care! There is another different edge to this story, it’s not Hunger Games targeting the kids, it’s targeting everyone – a bit more Minority Report in its brand of justice. Effectively, there are a list of things a member of ordinary society must abide by, lest they be tried and condemned as Flawed, at which point they are branded with a perfect F… the irony isn’t lost on the narrator. Celestine is seventeen, and as annoying as most studious seventeen-year-olds are, more concerned with following the rules to a tee and her future life at uni than whether her world is fair and just for all. As she is annoying, this will allow for the greatest character development, she is falling fast and when she hits bottom, then I can feel sorry for her. Too many main characters start off as noble, likeable, honorable, selfless, etc, whereas Celestine is a proper teenager; bitchy, moody, out of her depth, and rightfully pissed off at her treatment.

I’m still trying to decipher the landscape, perhaps like most Ahern books it is set in Ireland or at least a fictional version, thus it already has a different taste than the deluge of American world dystopias. This book has been on my TBR pile for a while but I’m glad I’m cracking on with it, it’s fun and enjoyable! Who decided that there can only be one bestseller of each genre? Who decided that after Hunger Games, Maze Runner, and Divergent that the world had tired of YA dystopians? Because according to the sheer volume of such books that are being sold in print and on Kindle, it’s not coming from the readers!

luego,

e x