Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Snippet

In last week's 'Sunday Snippet', I said that I wasn't sure about my latest read 'Falling' by Elizabeth Jane Howard. However, now that I have reached
the halfway point in this novel, I'm enjoying it more. I still think that the main protagonist Henry is a little creepy, but his back story is interesting.

Here's the snippet:

Page 179:'I flipped through the remaining written pages to see whether Jason had been supplanted, but there was no sign of this.'

'Falling'- Elizabeth Jane Howard.

Whatever you're doing this weekend, have a good time. Thankfully the weather here has decided to cheer up. It's still cold, but at least it's not raining.

Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Papery Presents Part 2

As well as receiving some lovely papery presents at Christmas, I received even more on my birthday!

Firstly, a friend in England sent me this bookmark:

As I have the sense of humour of a 10 year old, this really made me giggle. It says 'The Penguin of Death' and underneath it says:

'Things you need to know'

'1. He is strangely attractive because of his enigmatic smile.
2. He can kill you in any 1 of 412 different ways.'

I think this is rather a quirky little thing and very useful too.

Then, I received this fabulous notebook:

Not only is the quote on the front brilliant and in my case, very true, but also Louisa M. Alcott happens to be the author of 'Little Women', one of my favourite books (Note to self: Must review 'Little women' for the blog).

Then finally, another friend of mine stopped over to my flat, carrying a rather large parcel. Inside the parcel, was this box (excuse the poor photography):

As if the box wasn't nice enough, I thought that it was too heavy to just be empty (my friend came into the flat struggling to carry it). So I lifted up the lid. Inside, I found.......

that the box was filled with a STACK of pink writing paper and envelopes!!

Regular readers of the blog may remember, that I have ranted about the lack of decent writing paper and I also wondered whether or not people wrote letters anymore. I have searched all over in the shops here and even sent my family on a search for some in the UK, only to find children's writing sets, which will not do. So this is a great gift, because it's pink and very 'me'.

So for my 30th, I received some great papery presents. I definitely don't have an excuse not to write letters to my friend in Canada anymore!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My New Blog

I have a new blog! Don't panic,I'm not going to stop posting on this one. After all, this was the place where I found a love for blogging and discovering the blogs of others.

The new blog, 'Life As A So Called Adult' came about after having issues with turning thirty. I wanted to share my experiences and retrospectives view on the world, as a 'fully fledged' adult and show that life doesn't have to end, after you reach a certain age.

With writing a novel and now having two blogs I'm certainly going to be busy. However, I'm exciting about all of these projects.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

'Sunday Snippet'

Firstly, thank you for the lovely birthday comments on yesterday's post. I had a great day; although the weather could have been a bit warmer. The temperature here over the last few days has dropped down to 0 degrees overnight!

I know that living in Spain, that I have become a bit spoilt. Compared to places like the UK and Canada where the temperature drops much lower, the weather here is positively tropical, even in winter. However, I really don't like the cold and want it to go away soon.

One advantage to the cold weather however, is being able to sit with a good book, snuggled up in my 'Snuggie' without feeling too guilty. This conviently leads me to this week's 'Sunday Snippet'.

I only started 'Falling' by Elizabeth Jane Howard the other day. However so far, I'm not sure what to make of it. I think the problem for me at the moment, is the main character. I'm not sure if Henry is a hopeless romantic or just a bit creepy. Anyway, I'll see how it progresses. Here's the 'Snippet':

Page 31- 'She had meant to leave for London early in the afternoon but that had proved imposible.'

'Falling'- Elizabeth Jane Howard

Whatever you're doing, enjoy what's left of the weekend. This afternoon, I'm off out for a second birthday meal. I'm seriously going to have to think about going on a diet soon!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

It's My Birthday!!!

Today is my birthday! Turning 30 wasn't a prospect that I was particularly looking forward to. However now it's here, (I don't know where the time has gone!) I'm feeling very positive and excited about what the future holds.

So far I've had some lovely presents, surprises and some fab papery gifts. I'll share them with you shortly.

If it's your birthday (actual or a blogiversary), then have a wonderful day. This is for you:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

'Our Spoons Came From Woolworths' by Barbara Comyns

Publisher: Virago Modern Classics

ISBN: 0-86068-353-2

Length: 223 Pages

What the Blurb says: "Eventually we bought a mattress and were able to tuck the clothes in and the sheets were washed and didn't smell and we became proper married people."

'Sophia is twenty-one years old, she carries a newt around in her pocket and marries- in haste- a young artist called Charles. Swept into bohemian London of the thirties, Sophia is ill-equipped to cope: poverty, babies (however much loved)- and her husband- conspire to torment her. Hoping to add some spice to her life, Sophia takes up with the dismal, ageing art critic, Peregrine and learns to repent her marriage- and affair- at leisure. Repentance brings an abrupt end to a life of unpaid bill, unsold pictures and unwashed crockery, plus the hope of joys in store: this novel has a very happy ending...'

Opening Line: 'I told Helen my story and she went home and cried.'

What's good about this novel?

In my opinion, there are a lot of good things about this novel. Firstly, the characters within this novel are brilliant. I loved Sophia, the central character. She is funny and has a naivety about her, which I couldn't help but like.

She reminds me of a less exaggerated version of Alice Tinker, a character in the BBC sitcom 'The Vicar of Dibley'. Like Alice, Sophia isn't stupid, but it's as if she is a child pretending to be a 'grown up'.

Despite her lack of knowledge of the real world, Sophia is a very determined person. Despite all of the trouble she has with the 'waster' men in her life and everyone blaming her for everything, she tries hard. Throughout the novel, I longed for her to do well.

What Barbara Comyns succeeds in doing with her characterisation, is the ability to create quirky characters and write about them so well, that they are still believable. You can tell that Comyns really knows her characters and for me that thorough knowledge, helps to create wonderfully complex characters. The only other author that I feel that has been able to achieve this, is Kate Atkinson.

As well as establishing a base of well rounded characters, I think another element that I felt was effective, as a reader, was the fact that I could connect to the story due to Comyns' use of the first person. Throughout the story, Sophia is telling you the story of her life. I find that using the first person perspective in novels extremely effective. It adds authenticity to the characters and makes you feel a involved in the story.

Moving from the characters, the writing in this novel is just brilliant. Comyns is able to subtly combine tragedy with a wicked sense of humour. Some of the turns of phrase the character Sophia uses, made me laugh out loud. What I also found in this and another of Comyn's novels, 'The Vet's Daughter', was the atmosphere that she creates. It may be not as dark and macabre as 'The Vet's Daughter', but I still felt the sense of poverty and hardship through the surroundings she was describing.

The plot never flagged at any point and I felt that it was balanced, with a satisfactory end.

What's wrong with this novel?

Very little. If I had to be picky, I would say that at times her attitude, particularly with her affair, was a little flippant. When I was reading this part, I was thinking that surely she would understand the consequences of her actions, no matter hot naive she was? However, it didn't stop me liking her.

Is this worth a read?

Absolutely. If you like a quirky novel with great characters, then I would say you should read this. I LOVED this book and can't wait to read more of Barbara Comyn's work. She has made it to my 'Favourite Authors' list.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

'Sunday Snippet'

It has been a slow reading week. In fact, I've managed to do no reading at all. The reason is because that I have spent a lot of this week, writing some more of my short story. This is good, but I really need to learn to manage my time better!

So this week's 'Sunday Snippet', is from only a few pages further into Barbara Comyn's novel 'Our Spoons Came From Woolworths', than last week:

Page 26-'Sophia Fairclough was my new name and quite soon I became used to it and to being called "Mrs." and wearing a wedding-ring'

'Our Spoons Came From Woolworths'- Barbara Comyns.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend and if you have posted your own 'Sunday Snippet', don't forget to send me a link to your post!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What makes a good poem?

Previously on the blog, I have posted about my desire to read poetry. Well now, I'd quite like to try writing poetry. In the past I have dabbled with poetry, but then ran out of steam. This Christmas I received a beautiful notebook and it crys out to have poetic words written in it. So, I'm going to have another go at it.

As I'm one of those people who can never launches into anything without doing research before hand, I have searched around the Internet for some inspiration. By doing this, I have discovered some wonderful poetry blogs.

However I'm still wondering, what makes a good poem?

Does it have to rhyme? Are classic poems better than modern ones? Or are certain subjects more effective for poetry?

If you have any suggestions as to what makes a poem or have any favourite poems, I'd love to hear about them.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday Snippet + Blogiversary

I'm having a double celebrate today, because not only have I (finally!) finished the seemingly never ending novel 'The Bones of Avalon' by Phil Rickman, but also the blog is celebrating its first anniversary!

Technically the blog was born on the 5th January, but today sees the anniversary of the first review that appeared on the blog, so that's good enough for me!

I want to take this opportunity to thank all new and long standing readers of the blog, for reading my ramblings and also for all of the lovely comments that you have posted, over the last year.

It has been the longest that I have kept a blog going and I hope to be able to reach the blog's 2nd blogiversary and beyond!

Anyway, now that I have got that out of the way, here's to this week's 'Sunday Snippet'.

Seeing as I only finished 'The Bones of Avalon' yesterday, I haven't had a chance to read any of my latest book 'Our Spoons Came from Woolworths' by Barbara Comyns. So I'll leave you with the opening line of novel:

Page 9:'I told Helen my story and she went home and cried.'

'Our Spoons Came from Woolworths'- Barbara Comyns

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review: 'The Bones of Avalon' by Phil Rickman

Publisher: Corvus

ISBN: 978-1-84887-272-1

527 Pages

Opening Line: 'Mortlake, February, 1560: My mother's only servant disappeared on the night we needed it least.'

What the blurb says:
England, 1560: A country divided. Rivern by religious strife and dynastic ambition.
Elizabeth Tudor:
The newly crowned queen.
Twenty-six years old, superstitious and desperately vulnerable.

Dr John Dee:
The queen's astrologer.
Scholar, suspected sorcerer and now investigator, sent to Glastonbury to unearth the missing bones of King Arthur.
The Bones of Avalon
Centuries-old secrets, unexpected violence, the breathless stirring of first love...and the cold heart of a complex plot against Queen Elizabeth I.

What's right about this novel?

It's difficult for me to find many good things to say about this novel. However, one of the main things that I enjoyed, was the main character John Dee. He is a like able character and what I found particularly interesting about him, was that as a person, he lived a very dangerous life. This was because he was studying Science at a time, where anything that went against reliogion and fell into the realms of the unknown and supernatural, were instantly perceived as evil or witchcraft. This sort of behaviour, lead to risk of death. Also I could relate to him, as he is a bookworm like myself and I share his thirst for learning.

Another element I liked within this novel, was the relationship between Dee and Eleanor.

What wrong about this novel?

In my opinion, there's quite a lot wrong with this novel. It has an unnecessarily complicated plot. At one point during the novel, the story had deviated so far from the character's initial journey, that I was confused as to what was going on. I felt that the plot had an unsatisfactory ending and a lot of the strands of story within the novel, were not tied up.

The writing was sloppy; it had a half finished sentence structure and I felt that the writer could have conveyed the story, using half the words that he actually used.The vocabulary used within this novel didn't help things. The author felt that it was acceptable to used modern British English, Americanisms and, in an attempt at authenticity, to throw the odd 'betwixt' in, at inappropriate places. This last point, really annoyed me.

I usually like it when an author puts an origin spin on previously written stories or events within history and I'm a big fan of Philippa Gregory. However, I felt that by Rickman combining a crime story with historical events surrounding John Dee, I didn't feel that this added anything more to the story, than if this were a traditional fiction novel. Unlike the historical novels of Philippa Gregory, I also feel that Rickman wasn't capable of making the reader feel like they were being transported back in time. So really this novel could have been set anywhere and at any time.

Is this worth a read?

In a word, no. If anything, this novel makes me want to go out and find out more about the historical character John Dee. However, if this novel were more clearly thought out and better written, then maybe 'The Bones of Avalon' could have had the potential to be a good read. However, because of it's sloppy writing and ill conceived plot, this novel is just a laboured and at times, boring read.

Have you read this novel? Also, what do you think of the new review format?

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Twelfth Night...

Now that we have reached Twelfth Night, it's time for the Christmas festivities to end and for us to take the Christmas tree and decorations down. Being in Spain, we have an excuse to hang on to the holidays for one extra day as today it's 'Kings Day', a time in which the three kings come and bring presents to good children and coal to the bad.

Every year, I'm left with a stack of Christmas cards which I hate to get rid of. I always say that I'm going to do something with them. However I stuff them in a drawer and let them accumulate until I have no choice, but to throw them away.

Living in an age in which we are all encouraged to recycle, I also like the idea that my Christmas cards will go on to fulfill a completely different use. So, what do I do with them?

I appreciate that this is meant to be a book blog, but I'm sure some of you out there have some creativity. So any suggestions, both serious or silly are welcome!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sunday Snippet

Again, this week's 'Sunday Snippet' comes from Phil Rickman's novel 'The Bones of Avalon'. I have about 200 pages left to read from this novel and to be honest, I'll be glad to finish it!

Here's the snippet:

Page 325: 'The sky was brightening, near cloudless, as I moved fast and hard away from the abbey, splashing through streets still pooled and roiled with red mud from the storm.'

'The Bones of Avalon'- Phil Rickman

Until next week, enjoy what is left of the first weekend of 2011!