Sunday, 30 December 2012

Favourite Books of the Year

2012 has been an incredible year - I got married and we went on a fantastic honeymoon to Canada and the East Coast of the USA. We went to the top of the CN tower, we went on the Maid of the Mist cruise on the Niagara Falls and we went to the top of the Empire State Building.

The best picture out of all of our honeymoon pictures...
Writing wise, I have continued to have short stories published, I have been book reviewing more and more and I have also decided to write another novel. I'm hoping this one doesn't take four years to write. There have been writing rejections too but that's all part of being a writer.

Overall this year has been a great reading year. I have read quite a few books that have been published in 2012 thanks to The View From Here Magazine and to publishers sending me copies to review on my blog.

Here are my favourite books for 2012 in no particular order:

HHhH by Laurent Binet - HHhH is about two Polish men setting out to assassinate Heydrich during WWII. Running alongside this story is a sub plot about the novelist as he tries to write a book about the assassination, trying to resist the temptation to make things up. I loved the unusual style.

Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson - I reviewed this on my blog. I loved the fact that this book doesn't let you go even when you have reached the final page. Very inspiring story.

Buddha In The Attic by Julie Otsuka - I reviewed this for The View From Here Magazine. I loved the plural viewpoint.

The Understanding Of Women by Janina Matthewson - I reviewed this on my blog after reading Janina's tweets about her front cover. I loved the simple story and the way it contained huge themes.

The Explorer by James Smythe - comes out in physical book format in 2013 but is currently available as an ebook. - I shall be reviewing this in a few weeks time.

Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson - I have been waiting to read this all year and after reading 6 books in a row, which all needed reviewing, I thought I would treat myself to this. This book is brilliant - funny, raw and unsettling all rolled into one autobiography.

What has been your favourite read of the year?

Happy New Year!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Book Review: Monkeys With Typewriters

My review of Scarlett Thomas's Monkeys with Typewriters is now up at The View From Here Magazine.

You can read it here.

Preview: This book has helped me get back into writing.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas

The best way to get us all in the festive mood is a sing-along-song to The 12 days of Christmas. So, here are my 12 days of Christmas Writer's Little Helper 2012.

12 rejections for the novel and short stories*
11 books reviewed on my blog.
10 empty notebooks, sitting on my bookshelf.
9 drafts of my novel.
8 empty fountain pen cartridges.
7 books reviewed at The View From Here Magazine.
6 stories published online and in print.
5 guest posts.
4 new printer ink cartridges.
3 stories republished.
2 book extracts.
1 story in progress, which could possibly turn into a new novel.
*It could be more but I have lost count

Yes, that really is Santa on a unicorn.
Merry Christmas everybody!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Book Review: Roman Tales

Roman Tales 
by Stendhal
Translated by Susan Ashe
Published by The Friday Project
Available in paperback and ebook

I thought Roman Tales would be a book that I might struggle with but it turns out I really enjoyed reading it.

Roman Tales brings together three of Stendhal's tales - The Abbess of Castro, Vittoria Accordamboni and The Cenci. This collection also includes accompanying essays by Charles Dickens and Percy Bysshe Shelley, for the first time in English. These stories were written almost 150 years ago and are historical tales about the 16th and 17th century way of life in Italy.

I thought the language would be 17th cenutry lingo and I would be sitting there flicking between the book and my dictionary but Susan Ashe has done a great job on the translation and has made the stories accessible for the modern reader. Having the tales bookended with introductions and background notes helps by giving context to the stories.

The stories were inspired by collected documents from an archive owned by Roman patricians, which Stendhal was able to access and read. From just reading these three tales, it is easy to see that Stendhal loves the Italian way of life and prefers it to his native French lifestyle. Each of these tales celebrate the Italian way of life. Roman Tales could give modern soap operas a run for their money. There are an abundance of compelling characters who are caught up with the passions of life. There are plenty of battles, bandits and blood. Each of the characters becomes entangled with the law, with families and with love.

Roman Tales is a great introduction to Stendhal's work.

You can purchase Roman Tales from your favourite online or offline retailer.

The publisher was kind enough to send me a copy. 


This is my last book review for 2012. In January 2013 I have two great books lined up for review - Born Weird by Andrew Kaufman and The Explorer by James Smythe.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

An Update In Bullet Points

There hasn't been much time for writing recently, well not in epic portions. I have been trying to write 2-3 times a week, aiming for 200 words each time. Most times I have been able to make it. But for the past few weeks real life has been hectic and so I haven't had much chance to write. So here's an update in bullet points.

  • I have been working on a short story (I talked about it here) and I have realised that it's actually a much bigger idea than I first thought. It's only 1000 words long at the moment and I might be redrafting them as I think the protagonist should be a woman. I also have pages of notes in my notebook and my Mac. I think this is definitely going to be bigger than a short story. The idea came from a newspaper article that appeared a few years ago, which I printed off and kept in my drawer for a rainy day. Then I found it, read it and started to think about it more and more over the past few months.

  • I hope you have been enjoying the Q&A Imaginary Bookshop. I just love reading about writers and their ideas about bookshops. I have a great one for January from one of my favourite authors, Andrew Kaufman.  
  • There are lots of blogs and newspapers already posting their 'books of the year' but I am going to hold out until January because there's still a chance I could read a fantastic book between now and the end of the year.
  • The lovely Claire over at You, Me and the Story has tagged me for 'The Next Big Thing' but I'm not sure if I am the next big thing - I have buried my novel in the bowels of my Macbook and my next project is in bullet point form at the moment. I think I am going to wait and fill it out once my writing project grows a bit bigger...

Monday, 10 December 2012

Book Review: Beautiful Lies

Beautiful Lies
By Clare Clark 
ISBN - 9781846556050

I'll be honest the stunning cover of Beautiful Lies was the only reason why I wanted to read the book. I don't normally read historical fiction. It reminds me too much of school and being forced to read the classics. But Clare Clark's fourth novel, Beautiful Lies, has proved all of those pre-conceived ideas wrong and has convinced me to read more historical fiction in the future. 

Beautiful Lies is set in 1887 as London prepares for Queen Victoria's jubilee. Through out the book, there are stong similarities between 2012 and 1887 - riots, high levels of poverty, civil rights being compromised, recession. This book made me consider the question of 'do we ever learn from history or do we just look back at the past with rose tinted glasses?' Even the characters are left considering this question when looking back at their own lives. 

Central to the story of the Beautiful Lies are Maribel, a sometimes poet and semi-professional photographer and her socialist politician husband, Edward. On the surface they are the 'It Couple.' They have a flat in London, are acquainted with famous artists and authors, and they fight for the rights for workers. Edward at one point ends up in a riot and in prison. But under the surface they have a past that threatens to ruin them both. 

As Beautiful Lies progress, the story delves deeper into the past of Maribel and the reader learns that she is not a Spanish trophy wife for her politician husband, Edward. She was actually born in Yorkshire but ran away to become an actress but ends up as a prositutue and meets Edward in a brothel. Together they spin a story about her Spanish family. The most fascinating thing about Maribel and Edward is the fact that they are based on a real life scandal about the real-life couple, Robert Cunninghame Graham and his wife Gabriela, which didn't come out until their deaths.

Memory plays an important part within Beautiful Lies. On one hand Maribel wants to bury her past but has to face the consequences when her family suddenly appear in her life. She wants to preserve her 'present' self as much as possible. We see this with her fascination with photography and using it to capture the truths and to look beyond the veneer of society. Maribel wants to capture a genuine memory. Yet she stays behind the camera so then no one can capture her true nature. 

Beautiful Lies is an entertaining book full of secrets, lies and drama and full of vivid and sometimes indulgent descriptions. This is an ideal book to curl up with when it's freezing outside or when you want a book to read in the bath. Beautiful Lies would make an ideal Christmas present for a family member or friend who likes soap-opera style historical fiction. 

You can purchase Beautiful Lies from your favourite online or offline book retailer.

The publisher kindly sent me a copy for review. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Days Out For Writers: Library of Congress

This day out for writers and readers could involve a plane for most readers of this blog. I had the chance to go along to the Library of Congress while on my honeymoon, back in September.

There are two ways to get to the Library of Congress either through the front door or an underground passage from the Capitol Building. We went via the Capitol Building (you can do tours around that building too).

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world and holds over 32 million catalogued books! Thanks to the power of Wikipedia I can tell you that there are 838 miles of shelves. There's no way I would want to dust those books.

It is the most impressive library I have ever visited. For once I am going to let the pictures do the talking. It is such an amazing building and it feels more like a Greek temple than a library. Its no surprise that it has been used as a location for many films.

The Library of Congress is a great place to visit for writers and for readers as you will find some of the oldest books within the walls of the library. I think it's good for writers to know about the beginnings of publishing and reading. There are tour guides who show groups around the library, pointing out the intricate details and the history.

You are also allowed to look from the balcony into the reading room and watch people reading and doing research.

There are lots of exhibits - while we were there we learnt about maps throughout history.

If you ever get a chance to visit then you should definitely find the time to have a look around the building.

Plus the gift shop is full of writer/reader goodies!