Thursday, 26 February 2009

Binge-reading health warning!

I've been reminded lately of why, and it pains me to write this, it's bad for your health to binge-read. I'm talking about the times when you have a free house to yourself, you're lying in bed with flu or you're stuck on public transport. The kind of day that allows you to read for an unlimited amount of time- away from distractions, away from pesky interruptions, just you and your book. A lazy Sunday morning that spills into a lazy Sunday afternoon, and dammit evening too. You've begun reading a book with a juicy plot and it's impossible to put down. (A sign of a true addict is when you've slightly tired of the book pick up another one, and get hooked all over again - co-dependence, I'll term it).

This is the prime time of the year for literary loving football/rugby widows, like myself (any mothers out there will be relieved to hear that my days like these are numbered - my partner is a devout irish catholic intent on creating his own 5 a side team). 

I'm flying through my to-read list and have been enjoying it until something hit me. I was exhausted. Emotionally exhausted. I've been described by my friends as an emotional sponge, because I'm sensitive enough to really feel empathy - even if they are fictional characters! The bonus is that I can also feel their triumphs, but these have been few and far between in the kind of novels I've been dabbling with recently. Affairs, heartbreak, illnesses, deceit - you name it, I've felt the side effects of all of these in the past week!
It's true, the protagonists often end up stronger and wiser by the end. Not all novels end on a high though and we certainly can't expect sunshine throughout the plot. 

My health warning would be to read little and often. Binges of any description are rarely good for you, so why should reading be any exception when it comes to your emotional health?

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Who is Tess Stimson?

I've discovered a fantastic new chick lit author in Tess Stimson. I received a copy of the Cradle Snatcher for my birthday last month and perhaps sometimes you really should judge a book by its cover. i.e. fucsia metallic cover, gratuitous patterning = great read. After a weekend away in Catherine Cookson county, I've had no choice but to recover in bed reading this gem. 
Each chapter ends with a one-liner "hook" - the plot is fast moving and punchy, which explains how I read 108 pages in one sitting. One sitting without any interruptions, such as refilling my popcorn bowl, answering text messages or making a cup of early grey. I also love the way that each chapter is written from a different character viewpoint, with some of the scenes repeated through the eyes of another character. 
That said, the characters are fab - from the sloaney clueless new mum Clare, the toyboy cad of a husband, the shady and elusive nanny with a variety of injuries and gorgeous baby twins. The most curious character is Lady Davina - Clare's "mother", who's favoured the hands-off approach to parenting and appears to have raised two emotional-wrecks in the process.
The format of this book is fairly unique, compared to other recent chicklit offerings. I enjoyed the constant twists and turns of the plot (none of which I'll give away here, as I'd encourage you to curl up with a copy and find out); there's plenty of suspense and multiple story lines. If you're looking for an example of something that has the page turning-factor, this would be your textbook.
The author interview also gives tips to fellow writers - Tessa favours using strong characters to drive the book. She also mentions that while writing a novel, she always has a clear idea of how the book will end, although she's not always sure how the characters will get there. Phew! It was a relief to hear that.
And the other good news? Tessa has two other novels published for me to get hold of - hurrah!

Friday, 20 February 2009

I *heart* poetry

I love poems to tie me over in emotional times. My elderly cat went to the kennel in the sky today. I think it takes a fellow pet owner to understand. 

Here's a poem I've had published in our local weekly paper: - 


All is calm, all is still;
I drink you in, so that I can survive.
Tranquility, peace and everlasting stillness,
So refreshing to sit in comforting solace.

Colours, fragrance, petals, 
leaves, nectar and pollen.
Bird song, butterflies and bees.

A garden to last all eras, as a part of nature's gift.
Protected by loyal human determination to never go unkempt.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Yesterday was a write-off. Bags of tiredness (literally under my eyes) and large Nero's lattes do not mix; the net result is a cramping stomach and jaw ache from excess yawning. I blame the stress of having my beloved streetka under investigation at the garage for draining what little reserves of energy I had left. £209 for repairs to the thermostat and water tank thingy. Instead of thinking of all the cool shoes I could buy with that, I'm trying to comfort myself with the knowledge that the ka-keys are back in my possession and I can drive her whenever I want rather than some anonymous hire car, that's a stranger to me.

Skipped the gym for a few hours to write my debut novel. I have a chapter plan drawn out for the entire novel (I think!), but I also sometimes love indulging in a little edge-of-your-pants writing, to see where things go. Last night was definitely one of those nights where I needed to be wreckless and write whatever the hell I felt like. We met the main characters mum and we learnt a lot more about her background and why she behaves the way she does. My chapter plan is mainly events. Character richness and background seems to flow more naturally when I'm typing away, with the chapter plan flung out of the window and my other half bringing me endless cups of tea between Sky Sports News breaks.
In sum, I was able to bash out ten pages and I got to know my main character a little better - success!

I completed last weeks read: Who's that Girl, By Alexandra Potter. My other half bought me this as a birthday pressie and I have been impressed with his choice of novel from the best sellers display. The catchy premise is: - Charlotte meets a 10 year younger version of herself, she relishes the opportunity to try and correct some of the mistakes she made when she was younger, but since she's now become a highly strung out 32 year old stresshead, things aren't that simple...

The book got me thinking that if I could visit my 18 year old self, I'd firmly tell her: - 
  • It's ok not to have a boyfriend! Really, it's not that essential and being young and single is a laugh. 
  • Hold onto good friends - situations change, but keep in touch, that's not a rejection
  • Sun-in is a huge mistake, unless you want tarnished ginger hair
  • Wonderbras look terrible under t-shirts. Squeezing into a smaller size in order to create a better cleavage doesn't work either. It just looks as though you have four boobs.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Monday Morning - Weekend Hangover

Is it possible to be hungover, not from alcohol, but tiredness alone? If it is, then that's me.

I woke up this morning and for the first time ever, spotted a bloodshot left eye. Tried pointing it out to HisLordship for inspection, but still in Valentine's charm mode, he denied its existence - Liar! A quick analysis of the weekend would suggest that I'm tired from oversleeping - and yes, that is entirely possible, according to sleep researchers and consultants. Friday 13th (no less) was spent in a Tapas restaurant in a flurry of Rose wine - delicious! My four-glass indulgence wrecked my sleep and I finally admitted defeat to my body's desire to toss and turn when HisLordship woke me up with a gentle shake and an offer to make me breakfast. The breakfast offer was nothing but a ploy to ensure he had company for the morning. Two six nations games and a bowl of chips later, I'm fast asleep again. I can't remember the last time I passed out at 8pm from exhaustion alone, but I am acutely aware it has happened before.

Sunday was the perfect excuse for some light shopping - another pair of suede boots (totally impractical for this side of winter), a chunky belt (which I hope is supposed to snugly fit the waist, and not the hips) and best of all, a copy of The Secret Shopper's Revenge by Kate Harrison. This book is perfect for Sunday coffee shop post-shopping reading. I'm 167 pages in and hooked - I've even started ignoring conversations with HisLordship, so that I can cram a few more pages in! It's exactly the kind of book I'd like to write - from the gorgeously kitsch cover, to the sharp but dowdy wit of Emily that you immediately bond with, which is a massive contrast (put this choice of phrase down to the tiredness hangover) to Sandie, who seems guarded and vague - I know she has a good side in there and I'm reading on trying to uncover it! It's real comfort food for the brain and it's fab knowing that I will be pulling out the book again tonight on the train.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Will write for shoes, chocolate or anything else really...

At the moment, I'm reading "Will write for shoes" by Cathy Yardley. This guide to writing chick lit (or any genre, for that matter) is enteraining and breezy to read and stuffed full of helpful hints on writing.
As well as addressing how to avoid some of the biggest cliches, Cathy takes us on a whirlwind tour of chicklit history, hailing Marian Keyes' watermelon and Bridget Jones' Diary as the founding material.
Most importantly, she advises on how to pamper yourself after nailing that first draft! I'm currently halfway through this book, which has swiftly become a comfort blanket for my writing endeavors. I know I'll be re-reading and re-reading this book again as she delivers excellent advice in a human way - she admits to being an organization-obsessive and hates the re-draft stage, which I can certainly empahise with!

well worth a read...

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Welcome to Chick Lit sanctuary - your dose of fiction for females

After waking up for the third day in a row and finding a delivery from amazon stuffed in my letterbox, I'm finally willing to admit that I have a problem. My poison of choice is not chocolate, alcohol or shopping (I'm curiously managing those habits in moderation..), it's an addiction to Chick Lit. There, now I've finally written it down, I feel mildly relieved.

My ambition with this blog is basically a community service for my addiction. I'm getting through roughly one novel a week. Why not post my reviews on a blog site, I thought, having trawled my way through the author interviews via and realising that they all have wonderfully entertaining blogs. I've decided I'd like a piece of the action myself.

Cut to the chase - like any true addict, I multi-read. This diagnosis means that I'm currently reading: - 

  • Good behavior by Molly Keane
  • The Secret by Rhona Byrne (not strictly CL fodder, but entertainment all the same)
  • Husbands by Adele Parks (Queen of CL)
  • Who's that girl by Alexandra Potter
Til the next time!

take care!