Thursday, 29 October 2015

Book Review: Fuck This Journal

Fuck This Journal
By Dale Shaw
Published by Headline
Available in paperback and ebook

Looking for a funny book to buy your family members and friends this Christmas? Then this book is for you, and it’ll even make a great buy for your enemies.

Fuck This Journal takes the idea of using encouragement and positive energy to unleash your inner creative side and throws it out of the window. You’ll only need your bitterness to explore your ‘cre-hat-ive’ side. Any resentment and anger will definitely help you through some of these exercises to unlock your inner creative.

This is a fun book which pokes fun at the self-help industry, and I’m sure this is the type of book which will be passed round on Christmas day between the family, either laughing at the exercises or shaking their heads, saying ‘couldn’t Father Christmas buy you a more serious book like Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf?’

So add this book to your shelf and dip in each time you want to channel your broodiness into something constructive.

The Twitter account for this book has some great examples from the book, and is worth a follow if you use Twitter.

So throw away those colouring books, and ditch the self-help books because anger, bitterness and nastiness is what you need. Fuck This Journal is available from your favourite bookshop.

* I guess I should have ‘*’ the fucks but I thought we’re all grown ups here. I’m not into censoring…

I was sent a copy by Bookbridgr.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Book Review: Adult Onset by Ann-Marie MacDonald

By Ann-Marie MacDonald
Published by Sceptre
Available in paperback and ebook

I immediately wanted to read Adult Onset as soon as I read Sara’s review, earlier on in the year. You should go and read the review too, and you’ll probably find yourself heading to your nearest bookshop. Luckily I was sent a copy for review, and instead of putting it on the to-be-read pile, I bent back the spine and started immediately – I wasn’t disappointed.

Adult Onset, Ann-Marie MacDonald’s third and semi-autobiographical novel, tells the story of Mary Rose during an intense week of looking after her two children while her wife, Hilary is away with work. Mary Rose has put her writing career to bring up their adopted son, and their daughter, carried by Hilary, and the cracks of being a stay-at-home mother are starting to show.

This is a novel about push and pull of motherhood and families, and the struggles Mary Rose faces as she consciously tries to avoid the mistakes she thinks her mother made while she was growing up. She struggles to maintain an exterior of calm and normality like she sees in the playground in the other mothers. These unsettling feelings about the life she is leading are knocking her off kilter. MacDonald peels away the layers of domestic life, revealing the pain but also the humour in everyday family life.

MacDonald explores the way the past informs the present. Mary Rose’s thoughts about the root cause of the bone cysts in her arm, from her childhood go round and round on a loop, with her fear of hurting her children and a deep anger threatening to ruin her life. She fears her family are hiding a secret even though they are so very open about her mother’s miscarriages and stillborn children. They even tell Mary Rose that the baby who was born and died before her was meant to be the first Mary Rose. This Mary Rose, the one with a family, is not the original one, and this haunts her.

This raw and powerful look into family life reminded me of Dept. of Speculation and the way the characters try to maintain a veneer of perfection to the outside world but the undercurrents of a troubled past are fracturing the present. Both books are an uneasy, unsettling read but they absorb the reader completely into the lives of the characters.

Flashbacks to her childhood, and to her Mother’s past show two characters who have the full of pressure of life on their shoulders, as well as a splintered relationship between mother and daughter.

Adult Onset is definitely one of my top reads for this year. You can buy Adult Onset from your nearest bookshop.

I was sent a copy via Bookbridgr.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Natalie Goldberg Is A Babe

 I’m in a writing rut but then is it any surprise?

There’s only one thing to do when you need some comfort that you’ll write soon and that the rut isn’t permanent and the solution is to read Natalie Goldberg. I have raved about Writing Down the Boneson many occasions but this time I decided to buy a tatty second-hand copy of Wild Mind.

The first time I read Wild Mind was in the university library while I was studying for my Masters. There was a gap of four hours between two lectures, and instead of heading home (I live over 1.5 hours from uni), I would go to the library, find Wild Mind and read it, sat next to the window, occasionally glancing up to watch the traffic go slowly up Holloway Road.

There is something quite nourishing about Natalie Goldberg’s book on writing. Her zen-like approach to writing is so simple and effective. I only need to read a couple of pages before I’m grabbing my notebook. I have taken her advice of journaling. This is something I have always liked the idea but always found myself struggling but recently I am letting it all out on the page – none of it will ever be read but I have found it easier to write in either the second-person narrative or pretend I am writing to someone, and addressing this directly.

I’m looking forward to reading Thunder andLightning. I’m saving it to read after I have finished the latest Margaret Atwood.

“Writing is hard, but eventually if you are serious, you have to settle and be steady, even though your individual emotions change from day to day about it.”

Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Book Review: Sofia Khan is Not Obliged

By Ayisha Malik
Published by twenty7
Available in ebook
Forthcoming in paperback

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Sofia Khan is in need of a husband…or at least that’s what her family think. They are desperate for her to get married, her boss is demanding she writes a book on Muslim dating and her boyfriend wants her to move in with his parents.

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, Ayisha Malik’s debut novel is a funny and witty story of Sofia as she tries to find (and even lose) love, and deal with her demanding family.  Think of the family from East is East and you’ll know what I mean. Sofia’s personal life is chaotic – her sister is getting married, her father is trying to hid the fact that he’s still smoking, and her mother is obsessed with pleasing everyone. Mixed in with her publishing job, in which she must write a dating manual, and her complicated friends. Sofia must find her own path in life but she is brave enough to make the jump and escape society’s expectations?

Sofia is a flawed character but this makes her more likable to the reader. The chatty style makes Sofia feel like you’re catching up with an old friend, and I found the characters comforting. Sometimes you need some light relief from everyday life, and I can promise you that this book will give you this escape.

On many occasions this book reminded me of Bridget Jones’s Diary. Both books are similar in tone – chatty and friendly but structurally Sofia Khan is Not Obliged fits with modern life with Sofia’s story told through blog entries, texts and extracts from Sofia’s book in progress.

Malik explores the push and pull between modern life and traditional customs with Sofia’s battle to not find love. Yet, this book isn’t all light hearted fun. Serious issues are tackled with polygamous marriages, dating outside the religion, the way Muslims are perceived by non-Muslims. This fast paced, engaging novel will entertain and educate you.

If you’re looking for a book to cheer you up on these drab and drizzly autumn evenings then this is the book for you.

I was kindly sent a paperback version of this book.

Friday, 2 October 2015

The Real Reason Why Writers Don’t Admit To Being A Writer

Quite a few writers don’t like to tell other people aka civilians, when asked their occupation, that they are a writer. It has nothing to do with how many novels you’ve had published or the fact you may prefer to be called ‘story creator’ or ‘word wrangler’ or that once the word ‘writer’ has left your lips then the magic will vanish. The real reason is that you end up getting in a conversation just like the one below, and there’s no escape.

I’m afraid this is a true story.

“So are you still writing?”

“I’m just redrafting-”

“I’m actually working on a novel, and it’s rather good if I say so myself.”

The writer-who-doesn’t-like-calling-herself-writer takes another gulp of wine.

“My epic novel will span across different fantasy worlds and will be a game changer as there is nothing out there about the power of the female in fantasy fiction.”

I should probably point out that this is a male ‘writer’ – one of those arrogant ones who stand their chest out, and for some strange reason points out their chin to maybe make himself look more ‘literary’. This ‘writer’ is the sort of person who you want to put a pin in and watch them deflate.
The writer-who-doesn’t-like-calling-herself-writer resists shakes his shoulders and saying ‘non-readers are not allowed to be fucking writers’ and just smiles politely and replies “sounds interesting.” She has a shed load of fantasy books with female protagonists in her head which have been published and turned into films so this ‘writer’ must be living in a bubble.

“Can I send it to you when I’m finished?”

“I need a wee.” The writer-who-doesn’t-like-calling-herself-writer wanders off to a quiet corner to weep. 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

My Books Are In Storage, Again

My books are in storage, again.

They seem to spend more days in boxes than on the bookshelf. This was not something I was planning on doing especially after last year’s ordeal of moving twice, and having to stay in a hotel while the builders finished the house.  I thought it would be a house where my desk would stay assembled for more than two years, and maybe the book collection would start containing some picture books. At the end of last year, I thought I knew where my life was heading, and who I was heading there with but it turns out this is not the case.  I have no words left to go into the details.

For the past six months, I have been heartbroken, angry and sad. Last week the keys were handed over to the new owners, and yet there was no final goodbye. I stood and waited but couldn’t wait any longer.

I need to remember that each time I'm upset and miss the past is that he cheated on me, he set up a dating profile to meet these women and has created an un-reality full of lies, he bullied me into removing our Valentines Day pictures from this year so he could pretend we've been split for over a year. I need to remember him laughing in August saying that what he said previously two weeks ago was wanting me back was a joke. Having to sell our house, our beautiful house. I must remember these and the cowardly actions.

Family and friends have been there, listening to me, handing over tissues, keeping me busy, making me laugh, giving me pep talks. They know who they are, and I want them all to know I appreciate all of the support and love they have thrown my way. Don’t worry this post isn’t going to become all self-helpy or start to fill up with metaphors about fog and broken hearts. I promise!

Funnily enough, knowing I had books to review has kept me blogging or I would have closed down this blog.

I have been trying to write but I don’t seem to be able to write endings to any of these stories. At least my novel needs redrafting and not writing! Redrafting I can do, and redrafting I have been doing although it is s-l-o-w but I am making progress.

Today I finished chapter eighteen, which is a relief, as this chapter had no shape when I read it a few months ago. I highly recommend reading your writing months (or even years) after the initial round of writing will definitely give you perspective.

Chapter 18 was all over the place – conversations with no location, characters appearing from no where, an ending which didn’t fit with the rest of the chapter. These have been fixed, and the chapter feels balanced.

I guess I need to open up the document for chapter 19 and see what state I left that…

The next blog post is a funny one so stay tuned…