So I have finally started editing my book! I was supposed to begin two weeks ago but was waylaid by concussion (which is another story entirely, one that I won’t bother telling you here as it relates more to chopping garlic than to writing a book). Next Tuesday, my self-editing course with the Writers’ Workshop begins, and I want to get as far as possible with my initial work before that happens. I am in the process of writing a scene-by-scene summary of the events and what the reader will (hopefully!) learn from each one – I am making notes as I go along of things (e.g. character traits) that need to be drawn out more, scenes that need to be added to and anything else I notice. I will also use this summary to evaluate my plotting, pacing and ordering of the various story arcs.
I am currently on scene 25 out of 103 so I am scrawling and scrolling as fast as my lactic-acid-filled hand and unresponsive mouse pad will allow. With this in mind, I wanted to write a blog post that didn’t require too much in the way of research time.
So following on from the 10 books that have stayed with me (for better or for worse), I have compiled a list of 10 books I have read recently and particularly enjoyed (recently being anything ranging from yesterday to 11 months ago). These are not necessarily recent books (in fact, most of them aren’t) – we have a large, overcrowded bookshelf and I like to hoard books such that I always have at least 30 unread specimens from which to choose. I obtain these from my mother (a fellow book hoarder), second-hand book shops, the library, and, very occasionally, a regular, high street bookshop.
So…to the books…
10 books I read recently and enjoyed
- The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood)
- The Crimson Petal and the White (Michel Faber)
- Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell)
- A History of the World in 12 Maps (Jerry Brotton)
- Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Edgar Allan Poe)
- The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)
- The Last Asylum (Barbara Taylor)
- The Girl in the Photograph (Kate Riordan)
- The Blade Itself (Joe Abercrombie)
This won the Booker Prize in 2000 and is probably not a book for those who love high-speed car chases and back alley shoot-outs. The now-elderly narrator regales the events of her past leading up to the death of her sister decades before. Also featuring a (retro style sci-fi) story within a story. This book (almost) managed to distract me from my bladder on a 3 hour Alpine drive on a coach with no toilet.
This has apparently been dramatized for the BBC but I haven’t seen it. It is a Victorian rags-to-riches epic written from the point of view of a prostitute called Sugar, and I have read at least one review that essentially describes it as Dickens with added sex. It is explicit at times, so if that puts you off then this book is probably a no-go, but I found the story engaging and the writing style entertaining. As an added bonus, it is set in Victorian London, so technically counted as research for my book…
I’m sure most of you will have read this Booker nominee or seen the film adaptation (which, again, I haven’t). Part of me feels this book is perfect if you can’t decide which genre to read – it follows six interlinking lives and includes a sea-faring adventure log, a political thriller (complete with car chases and shoot-outs) and an account of post-apocalyptic Hawaii in some distant future. I know some people have problems with narratives that jump around from person to person or from era to era, but I happen to love them. Having said that, this book seems to be a bit of a Marmite book, but, perhaps unusually, I just liked it.
I’m a fan of maps. There, I said it. So I knew I had to own this book as soon as I saw it on a display table in Waterstones. I would be happy to look at the maps themselves for hours, but the history of the world through the lens of map-making was interesting, if a little heavy at times (definitely not a beach read!). From cuneiforms to Google Earth via the Mercator projection, this is a book for map fiends and history buffs.
I am working my way through this slowly – every time it is dark and stormy outside, I grab a glass of wine and take it to my reading room. I have read the first four tales and they certainly are atmospheric and strangely chilling. So far I have encountered ghostly tempests, extreme mental instability and sort-of live burials. The writing itself makes me feel as though I am slowly losing my mental coherence…
Finally one that I HAVE seen the adaptation of. Unusually for me, I actually saw the film before I read the book and I thoroughly enjoyed both. The American Dream examined from the inside out. Unlikeable characters (something else I’m a fan of) and the glamour of the jazz age, in the form of a sub-200 page book.
If you read my blog post on facts I discovered during the course of my book research, you might know I am fascinated by weird and wonderful historical photos. That this book is based on a set of such photos already makes it great in my opinion. Very mixed reviews, not as scary as the cover might have you believe and described as “the hipster Harry Potter” by one reader on goodreads.com. Not perfect by any means, but I did it enjoy it.
I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but I do read a lot about insanity, mental illness and the perception of such matters throughout history. This book weaves a look at the latter with a personal account of asylum incarceration in 1980s London. A thought-provoking but, at times (on the memoir side of things), frustrating read.
I read this book on the beach in Barbados and would pretty much regard it the perfect beach read – absorbing, not too taxing and just the right amount of creepy. The story centres on a British country house and the intertwining of the lives of two women who lived there, one in the 1890s and one in the 1930s. Another relatively slow paced read that gives you time to get to know the characters.
I would NEVER have thought to pick this book up in Waterstones – it is the first in a fantasy series, which isn’t usually my kind of thing. My husband told me to read it and I am so glad I did. It features the usual fantasy stalwarts of a kingdom at war, unexplained sorcery and a wide cast of characters (but, sadly for me, no map). I found the writing style quirky, and every character flawed, and, therefore, interesting. However, I haven’t braved the second of the series yet as I find fantasy epics a bit hard going at times and so tend to space them out…
Have you read any of the books above? If so, feel free to let me know what you thought of them!