Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Poetry

I'm not an expert on poetry. I'd like to be more educated in the genre, but in the back of my mind, there's always this feeling that poetry is something slightly elitist and almost too complicated for an average person like myself, to understand. Also, I think that having to recite poems such as 'Charge of the Light Brigade' by Alfred Lord Tennyson and the colossal 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in my school days, just put me off the genre.

However, there is a poetry book which I love.



I bought me copy of 'The Nation's Favourite Poems', in about 2004, after I watched the television series presented by Griff Rhys Jones. I love this book, because there is so much variety in it.

The book has all kinds of different poetry, from the stuff I was forced to learn at school, plus silly poetry and more contemporary works. Also what I like about this book, is that you don't have to read it from cover to cover. It's possible to open a page at random and discover a completely new poem each time.

I dug this book out today and it has awakened my interest in poetry, so if you have any poetry recommendations, I'd be interested to hear them. In the meantime,I'll leave you with one of my favourite poems, which could describe me as I'm now, not just when I get older!


'Warning' by Jenny Joseph


'When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me,
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've got no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay or rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.'


Other poems I love from this book are:

'Toilet'- Hugo Williams

'This be the Verse'
- Philip Larkin

'Remember'- Christina Rossetti

'Chocolate Cake'
- Michael Rosen

'The Raven'- Edgar Allan Poe

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Off Topic Post!

This isn't going to be a long post today I'm afraid and it's nothing to do with books either. Last night, I stayed out until way past my bedtime and so today, I'm too tired to write anything deep and meaningful.

So, I thought that I would share some photos from the Motorbike Show that is on this weekend. Each year, motorbike clubs throughout the region, (and possibly further away) congregate in my town, to show off their Motor Bikes.














Then they have a mass convey to the beach and stop for drinks, a barbecue and probably a lot of bike talk.













It's definitely a noisy event (especially as it's held on a Sunday) but I love seeing the Harley Davidson's and other vehicles that turn up.






They also have a few stalls, so you can buy motorbike merchandise. I saw these really sweet baby sized Harley Davidson T-Shirts on sale:



I also saw a little boy, riding around on a motorised miniature replica of a Harley. They like to start the obsession with scooters and motorbikes early around here!

The fiesta season is hotting up now, it's a shame the weather isn't doing the same. Shortly after taking these photos, the heavens opened and we had a large (but brief) thunder storm. I hope it didn't dampen the biker's spirits!

Anyway, have a good Sunday and I promise that I'll have a book related post, next time.

Friday, June 25, 2010

'We Are All Made of Glue'- Review











Publisher:
Penguin


ISBN:
978-1-905-49022-6


Length:
418 pages


Opening Line:
'The first time I met Wonder Boy, he pissed on me.'


Review:


Georgie Sinclair's life is in turmoil. Her husband has walked out due to an argument over a toothbrush holder, her daughter is away at uni and her teenage son Ben has developed an unhealthy interest, researching websites on the coming of the apocalypse, on the Internet. Also, Georgie has a deadline due, editing for an online magazine called 'Adhesives in the Modern World' but she chooses to spend most of time, writing her trashy novel 'The Splattered Heart.'

Then, Georgie meets Mrs Shapiro, an elderly lady with eccentric dress, a filthy house and a multitude of cats, at the supermarket jostling for bargains. When Mrs Shapiro is admitted into hospital, Georgie is named as her next of kin and is lead into ensuring that Mrs Shapiro's house isn't taken from her by the Social Services. Along the way, Georgie embarks on a journey to discover what breaks and bonds society, religion, community and family.

Unlike her previous successful and (in my opinion) slightly overrated novel 'A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian', 'We Are All Made of Glue' is better written and is extremely funny. Marina Lewycka is able to sensitively bring in a political element within the humour, to highlight the on going struggles in the Middle East and show how, since wartime, this has affected so many innocent people. This makes for heart wrenching reading.

The plot of 'We Are All Made of Glue' isn't a million miles away from 'A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian'; (chaos breaks out within a normal family, usually due to the escapades of an elderly person and it's up to a younger person, usually a woman, to rectify the situation) however in this novel, Lewycka has created better character structure and I thought that the characters were more believable. I particularly liked Mrs Shapiro, because she is feisty and eccentric.

The plot is well paced and engaging, however I would say, that even though I like books with several strands running through them (Kate Atkinson is particularly good at this), I found that maybe this novel had just a bit too much going on in it. The strands within the novel did all fit together, but for me, it just felt a little cluttered.

I'm also not too keen at the ending. It all felt a bit too cheesy and .....nice. It was a bit like the ending of the TV series 'Lost', but I won't say any more, in the risk of giving out any unnecessary spoilers!. However both endings served their purpose and I suppose in that sense, the ending of 'We all made of Glue', is ok.

Overall, I found 'We are All Made of Glue' entertaining, heartwarming and fun to read. I definitely recommend giving this novel a try.

Similar titles you may enjoy:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Scribbles in the Sun

Now that my art classes have finished for the summer, my friend Ann and I have found a lovely cafe at the beach, in which to have coffee once a week.

Ann is my only writer friend, so it's great when we meet because we can discuss how progress is going with both of our books (mine is far from finished and Ann is already on the third novel, of her 'Violet Jelly' trilogy of children's books), bounce ideas off each other and also to discuss the books we are reading and generally gossip.


I like the cafe, because they sell freshly baked croissants and drinks in funky glasses. Plus it's an ideal place to sit, as the over head cover makes it feel like you're outside, when actually you're inside. The cool, fresh wind circulating through, also makes even the hottest day, comfortable.

Today, when we were sitting and chatting, we discussed what we use to write our ideas on. Whilst I've previously blogged about my vast notebook collection, at the moment, I'm using this notebook to scribble on:


That doesn't mean however, that I always stick to the notebook. I try, but sometimes when I have no space to make amendments to the things that I have written, I write on anything that comes to hand. Today, it was one of the coasters on the table.

It's amazing how many notes we make every day. Whether you're a writer or not, everyone makes a note of their shopping list, blog ideas, write thoughts in a journal or record important dates on a calendar hanging in the kitchen.

Recently I read an article which was featured on 'Notebook Stories', that talked about how, with the introduction of technology, we are erasing the fact that we ever existed. By writing even something as mundane as a shopping list, we are making our mark, a sort of graffiti message that says 'I woz ere' and it would be a shame if the act of writing with pen and paper, went into extinction.

So whether you are a writer or not, what do you write on? Do you write in a diary or a notebook? The back of receipts or anything that you can lay your hands on?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rested and Revived

Well I've had the weekend to rest and my back is feeling a lot better. Although I didn't completely neglect my reading.

At the moment, I'm up to page 92 of 'We Are All Made of Glue' by Marina Lewycka and I'm halfway through listening to an audiobook version of 'Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West' by Gregory Maguire. So expect reviews of both of these very soon.

On other matters, I recently posted about books with weird titles and whilst doing some research on the net, I discovered that every year, books battle it out to be awarded the 'Diagram Prize for the Oddest Title of the Year.' Some of the contenders are really odd and you can see a breakdown of this year's winner and the runner's up here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Warning: Reading can damage your health

Well reading can be damaging to your health, only if you're me. However, I will get to that later!

This week, I've been busy with the blog. In one day, I wrote a review on Siobhan Dowd's novel 'A Swift Pure Cry' and then I decided that it would be interesting to include the first line of each novel.

You can tell a lot from reading the first line of a novel. The first line can have impact, excitement, humour and more often than not, give an indication as to whether or not you are going to enjoy a novel. The front cover of a novel may have the seduction factor, but in my opinion, the first line reels you in to wanting more.

Of all of the novels that I have reviewed for the blog, so far my favourite first line, is from Graham Greene's novel 'Brighton Rock':

'Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.'

There is so much drama and impact in this one line, that it made me want to continue to read the novel. By including the first line of every novel that I read, it's also interesting to compare and contrast them, from each other. So far, I have found that the first lines of every novel, have varied differently and I hope that you find it interesting too. What are your favourite first lines?

Anyway, due to the fact that I have been busy typing at the computer, plus lugging books back and forth, I have hurt my back. It's my own fault, I shouldn't have tried to do too much in one go and now I'm paying the price. I should be fine, but I'm keeping away from the computer if I can. Although I love looking at the latest blog posts and so it's going to be difficult!

I'm hoping to rest over the weekend and hopefully I will be well enough to blog on Monday. So I'll see you then!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

'A Swift Pure Cry'- Review












Publisher: Definitions

ISBN: 978-0099488163

Length: 310 Pages

Opening Line:
'The place brought to mind a sinking ship.'

Review:

'A Swift Pure Cry' is the debut novel of author Siobhan Dowd. Born in London to Irish Parents, she went on to pen several novels and was the founder of a organization which encourages people within socially deprived areas (such as prisons, schools and institutions), to develop their writing. Siobhan was heavily involved with reading schemes and she set up 'The Siobhan Dowd Trust' for disadvantaged children, shortly before her death from breast cancer, in 2007.

Set in Ireland, in a small village called Coolbar, 'A Swift Pure Cry' centres around Michelle (Shell) Talent, a 15 year old girl struggling to look after her siblings and alcoholic father, following her mother's death.

When Shell becomes pregnant to Declan, the local altar boy, not only does the scandal shake the foundations of the village, but also threatens to break up Shell's family. Shell gives birth to a stillborn baby girl, but on the discovery of a baby boy in a coastal cave, the police accuse both Shell and her father of the deaths of both babies.

Through the help of the local priest, her faith and her dead mother, Shell finds the strength to live through the painful investigation of her dead babies and help her father through his addiction.

'A Swift Pure Cry' is a beautifully written novel. Dowd crafts the words so evocatively, that I could hear the sounds and the smells of the world that she is trying to create. Also I was impressed how, even though this novel is aimed at young adults, this novel is still intelligently and sensitively written. It was in no way patronising and Dowd doesn't try to 'dumb down' any of the issues, that she was trying to put across. I think that any adult would enjoy reading this novel, as much as its target audience.

Dowd's character structure is brilliant.The characters were convincing, realistic and I felt a real empathy for the character Shell, throughout the book. The relationship between Shell and her father was both heart wrenching and touching. I also really liked the part in which Father Rose played with the novel, he reawakened Shell's faith in both God and the people around her. The only criticism I have, is that I would have liked to have seen more of a thorough development, between the situation between Shell and her friend Bridie.

'A Swift, Pure Cry' is both a sad and uplifting novel. It has religious undertones, but mainly focuses on finding the strength, to over come difficulties and the importance of family. I thoroughly recommend this novel to readers of any age.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Foreign Language Novels

Every Monday afternoon, my mum and I have our Spanish lesson. At the moment, we are attempting to translate a version of 'El Cid' a classic epic tale which was written in the 12th century, by an unknown author.

Also, when I can find time between reading novels for the blog and writing my book, I'm trying to understand a novel called 'Golpe de Reyes' by David Serafin, which is so far, like a Dan Brown political thriller.

For me, reading Spanish novels is not only helpful for improving my Spanish vocabulary, but it's a lot more fun than writing out and trying to remember endless verb tables (don't get me wrong this needs to be done, but it's so boring!). The process of reading a book in another language is a lot slower and maybe not quite as enjoyable as reading an English one, but I feel a sense of achievement when I have read to the end of a chapter or finished the whole thing.

Do you read any foreign language novels (either translated or in the original language)? If so, what are your favourite authors?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

50th Post!


It's a rather exciting time for the blog. Not only has it undergone a makeover, but it has finally hit its 50th post!

This is the longest that I've kept a blog going to be honest. With previous blogs, I lacked the inspiration to write blog posts and was generally quite lazy! However, I've really enjoyed updating the blog, it's both interesting and great discipline for my writing.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my little blog, it's still early days, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it progresses.

The other day, I was lent a copy of 'A Swift Pure Cry', a novel set in Ireland by Siobhan Dowd. So far, I'm really enjoying it. So watch out for my review on that, plus a lot more.

So here's to the next 50 posts!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Face Lift

As you can see, I've been playing around with the new Blogger template designer and the blog has gone through a few changes. What do you think?

It still needs a bit of tweaking, but the blog is a lot more colourful than it used to be. I'm hoping that the posts are as easy to read as they were before, but let me know if you have any problems reading them. Also if you have any suggestions as to what would make the blog better, I'd love to hear what you think.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

'Three Girls and their Brother'- Review











Publisher: HarperCollins

Length:
248 Pages

Opening Line:
'Now that it's all over, everybody is saying it was the picture, that stupid picture was the primal cause of every disaster that would eventually befall my redheaded sisters.'

Review:

Firstly, apologises if this review is littered with mistakes. My dog decided that she wanted to join me at the computer and is currently laying across one arm. I could push her off, but how could you say 'no' to this face:



So, I'll carry on regardless!

I was sent 'Three Girls and Their Brother' by Theresa Rebeck, by a friend in England. It came free with a magazine and she thought that I would enjoy reading it.

It tells the story of Philip Heller and his three sisters Amelia, Polly and Daria, the grand children of a famous author and literary critic, Leo Heller. When their celebrity status catapults the siblings into the glitz and glam of celebrity life, everything is fabulous.

However, after an altercation between Amelia, the youngest of the group and a famous actor, the siblings are taken on a roller coaster ride of parties, paparazzi and the darker side of fame.

The story is told from the four perspective of Philip and his sisters. From Philip being cast out of the family by their mother, purely because he gets in the way of her plans of stardom for the more beautiful members of her offspring, to the manipulation and quest for fame, experienced by the three sisters. I liked this approach to the novel, but I felt that the writer didn't quite pull this off, as I felt like each person didn't have their own distinctive 'voice'. In fact at times, I had to go back to the beginning of the section that I was reading, to clarify which person was actually talking. One thing I did like, was the way in which the characters were talking to the reader directly. I generally think that this approach of writing draws the reader in.

I'm not a prude when it comes to swearing in novels, but I did find that there was a little overuse of swear words. I do understand that the writer included swearing, to show how the world of fame was dropping the standards of the sister's behaviour. However I did find, that the writer over did it where the swearing was concerned.

The pace of the novel was good, I felt like everything was adequately explained, but what I think was lacking in the novel, was a thorough development on the issue of the dangers of fame. For example, 'The Devil wears Prada' by Lauren Weisberger, in my opinion, is not only a fun, girlie novel, but it also highlights how the illusion of the fashion industry, distances those within from the real world. I think that 'Three Girls and their Brother' was trying to follow suit, but didn't quite succeed.

The novel was at one point, doing a good job; it talked about Philip's neglect by his family and Amelia's dangerous situation being a 14 year old, surrounded by older men. However, I felt disappointed that instead of seeing this issue as seriously as it should have been, Rebeck gives a silly spin on it and therefore taking away any serious message.

'Three Girls and their Brother' had the potential to make a real statement about the fashion/celebrity industry, however it wasn't quite able to fulfill that potential. However, this is a fun (if a bit silly) read.

Similar novels you may enjoy:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Fundamentals of a Good Book

Having read a lot of books in my time, I have recently been thinking about what it is that makes a good book. There are so many factors that come into play, that a writer has to concoct the perfect mixture between great characterisation, a convincing, interesting plot and a pace that will explain everything, but keep things moving a long, so that the reader doesn't get bored.

In my opinion, character structure is a vital ingredient for a good book. If a character isn't convincing or if I can't connect with them in any way, then I don't bother reading the novel. After all, if you can't believe in the characters, then who cares what happens to them?

I have been trying to write my 1st novel for about 4-5 years now (and I'm still not finished!) and I hadn't realised just how difficult it was, to get the combination right. Previously, I had written short stories and poems, but I had never really embarked on writing a 'proper' full length novel and I must say, that it's hard work.

You have to be very focused, self disciplined and have the belief that you can finish your novel, even if at times, it doesn't feel like it. All of these things, I've started to get into a groove with, in the effort of getting the words down on the page. Also I'm trying to combine all of the things I have mentioned before in my novel, but it is a lot harder than it seems.

What do you think makes a good novel? Is it strong character structure? Great plot? Balanced pace? Or all of these things?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

'A Picture Paints a Thousand Books'

As well as taking part in the reader's questionnaire on the 'Stuck in a Book' blog, I thought that it would be interesting to participate in the other challenge 'A Picture Paints a Thousand Books' . This is where reader's have to define their taste in books, by using a single image.

It took me a long time to find an image which illustrates my taste in literature, however I settled on this one by Salvador Dali:


The reason I chose Dali, is because his style is quirky, fun and when you see one of his paintings, you will see something different every time. I think that this reflects my taste in books, as I like literature with humour, I read books with completely different subject matters and my taste in books is hard to pinpoint, just like Dali's art.

What about you? What image would you choose (which does not feature any literary characters), to reflect your taste in literature? Post the image on your blog and send me a comment with the link, or just let me know which image you have chosen and why.

Happy Sunday!

Friday, June 4, 2010

My Favourite Book Covers



This week, I was lent a copy of Marina Lewycka's 'We are all made of Glue' and this gave me inspiration, for a 'Favourite Book Cover.'

I haven't really chosen 'A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian' (also by Marina Lewycka) for the design as such, although I do like the old fashioned style. I have chosen this, because the title is so quirky.

I like books which have a quirky or strange title, I particularly like 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' by Mark Haddon. By choosing such a quirky title, I think it's a clever way to make you want to buy the novel, just to find out whether or not the plot bears any relation to it.

What strange or quirky book titles have you come across and did it have any relation to the plot inside?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Getting to know Spangle.....

I don't usually take part in challenges or anything similar, like on other book blogs. However, I was reading the 'Stuck in a Book' blog and there was an interesting set of questions, which I thought I would answer. Any other book bloggers feel free to copy and paste the questions on your blog and give your own answers!

What is your favourite drink while reading?

I don't have a particular favourite drink while reading. However if I'm reading on the balcony on a hot day, then I have something like a cooling orange squash or Coke.

Do you tend to mark your books while you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

The idea horrifies me. If I want to write any notes about a book (which is rarely, but I think I might have to for the sake of the blog), then I write in one of my many notebooks.

How do you keep your place? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book open flat?

I have a small collection of book-marks. At the moment, I'm using a beautiful silver one with a butterfly on the top, which was a Christmas present last year. Bending pages back should be made illegal!

Fiction, non-fiction or both?

Mostly fiction. However, I'm not adverse to non-fiction either.

Do you tend to read to the end of a chapter or can you stop anywhere?

I try to read until the end of the chapter, but if that's not possible, then I stop where there is a natural break, for example at the end of a paragraph. I can't just stop in the middle of sentence.

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?

No, throwing books is just wrong.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?

Sometimes, but if the word doesn't stop me understanding a sentence, then I don't bother.

What are you currently reading?

'Three Girls and their Brother' by Theresa Rebeck

What is the last book you bought?

'The Road' by Cormac McCarthy

Do you have a favourite time/place to read?

Probably the balcony. However I can block out the noise of the television and read on the sofa.

Do you prefer series books or stand-alones?

Stand-alones. However, I do read the occasional series.


Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?


Kate Atkinson or the novel 'Memoirs of Geisha' by Arthur Golden

How do you organise your books (by genre, title, author's last name, etc.)?

I did try and sort my books by title and author. However as I bought more books, I had to put them where I could find space.

background noise or silence?

I prefer silence, but usually end up reading with the television blaring in the background.