Friday, 14 June 2013

Close My Eyes - Sophie McKenzie


Gen's life is turned upside down when a stranger arrives on her doorstep with a secret to share. Eight years ago Gen's baby was stillborn. Since then, she's been unable to fall pregnant again despite IVF treatments. The stranger on her doorstep tells her she's been deceived - her baby is alive, her husband knows all about it and Gen's whole life is a lie. At first she dismisses it as a cruel trick - but unable to leave it alone, she begins to search for information and starts to uncover other things that just don't add up...

Close My Eyes is a book about secrets, lies and deception. As you read it, you will go from one side to another and back again - who is lying and who is telling the truth? The charming, albeit slightly too perfect husband, Art? Gen's oldest friend, Hen? The strangers trying to convince Gen all she knows is false? Even through the book is told from Gen's first person point of view, you begin to wonder if what she's experiencing is true - or does she just see it that way because on some levels she desperately wants it to be true?

I found the first quarter of the book a bit hard to get into - I kept thinking get on with it then! But then when it does get going its a thrillingly pacey read - a real page turner to coin the cliché!

Friday, 7 June 2013

Date A Girl Who Reads

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent.  Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by God, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does. She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

By Rosemarie Urquico 

(In Response to You Should Date An Illiterate Girl.)

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Grahame Green School of Writing

In January, I made a new years resolution to write more - as I suppose most wannabe writes will. June, and it's going... okay... However, I have made an amendment. I found an interesting old post on author, William Landlay's blog about Grahame Greene.

Grahame Greene, (who wrote one of my favourite books, Brighton Rock, among lots of other classics) wrote 500 words a day. That's not really a lot - just under about 2 pages. And did that five days a week. Later in his life, as William Landlay noted, it dropped to only 300, and perhaps not every day.

I think this is great idea - to write 500 words a day shouldn't (in theory!) take that long to do and means that if I wrote every day (except for Christmas day, of course!) I would write 182,000 words. Enough for about 2 and a half average books. (Although, what is an average book?!) I tried it out last night - it was a struggle to get started at first (I'm a little stuck in my latest story) but then when I did get closer to the magic 500, I found it flowed a lot easier and ended up writing about 900 words instead. (I work full time - actually, more than full time - so spare time to write is a rarity). Grahame Greene was a little bit more OCD about it - he would stop dead on the 500, even in the middle of a scene (or sentence, I think). I think I will try for a minimum of 500 and hopefully more should the muse permit it! Of course, I have the advantage of a word count on my word processor - poor old Grahame Greene would have had to counted each word himself!

Monday, 3 June 2013

The Sea Sisters - Lucy Clarke


Katie's world falls apart when she learns of the death of her younger sister, Mia. Mia had been backpacking around the world with her best friend, Finn, but when the police arrive on Katie's doorstep one night, they tell her Mia was not only traveling seemingly alone, but that they suspect she committed suicide as well. Katie cannot accept that her fun loving, spontaneous sister would kill herself, so she shirks off her planned and structured life to trace Mia's footsteps around the world in an effort to understand both what happened and who her sister really was.

The Sea Sisters is told both from Katie's point of view as she struggles to deal with Mia's death and follow her travels across the world, and from the travel journal Mia kept, documenting her feelings, her self discoveries and the revelations which set her own world spinning.

 So, over the Dorothy Koomson obsession! In comes Lucy Clarke's debut novel, The Sea Sisters. This is a great, clear and concise story of the relationship between two sisters, and namely how love can be so close to hate sometimes it can crossover and blur your feelings. I liked both Mia and Katie, the two sisters of the title. They are both different, flawed people who both envy qualities in their opposing sister without vocalising it to each other, to their regret. Mia, the younger sister, is searching for who she is and where she came from, which Katie, who feels like she's had to take on too much, too young, wants to break out of her organised, structured life and do something daring or spontaneous. Both sisters do these things, but not in the way they'd perhaps planned.

My favourite character was Finn. He has been in love with Mia since he was a teenager, but Mia is unaware. He has to balance the rejection of unrequited love, with the loss of his friendship with Mia if he chooses to move on with her. In opposition to Finn is Noah, the mysterious - and all together, a bit of a selfish idiot - object of Mia's affections. His past is troubling and he doesn't know how to deal with it.

The end of the book is bittersweet - as it was always destined to be. The author was replying to comments on a website, and I commented how much I'd enjoyed the book, but what would happen to Finn and Katie once the story ended? The author replied she hoped they would grow into something beautiful, which I would hope too, but I think in 'reality' their relationship would not be able to cope with the loss of Mia. They would have to adapt to living without her, but I don't think either character would truly get over her death. 

The book is about life and how your plans can change in the blink of an eye, not always to your liking. It's about love - between men and women and the love between siblings. And it's about regret - not telling someone something that you should have, parting on bad terms, words spat out in anger and how you will regret the things you haven't done, perhaps much more than the things you did do.

Very much looking forward to Lucy Clarke's second novel, which I think is out next year.