Thursday, 23 July 2015

Book Review: The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins



Hi readers, 

Please note there's going to be some possible spoilers! Sorry, it was difficult to void it.  

If you're looking for a quick and easy novel without a complicated plot or characters whilst your sat on the beach and/or traveling then this book would fit nicely. I was drawn in by the tagline and the inside blurb when I picked up this book whilst in Waterstones waiting for my boyfriend. In my head I had this idea of a woman being like a spy and knowing details about the lives of a married couple from which she could see from the train. (Which maybe might make a good story or else just wouldn't work). I added the book to my list and asked for it when my birthday came around. 

The opening chapter drew me in and I know it's bad, but it remind me of Fifty Shades Of Grey (Which I'm actually planning to go back and look at again next month). I think it was the style of writing, that boarding on older teen to twenty-some adult language, which means a simple vocabulary is used and thus making the novel easier and faster to read. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with this, but it does make for repetition and a 'dumbing down' within the story.   

I really liked the opening idea of abandoned clothes on the train track because its' something that happens and people question in real life. I thought this would be a key point in the story - you know like someone getting rid of evidence- instead though it's used very briefly to aid the main character -Rachel into remembering something about someone towards the end of the novel. Actually, before the first chapter -narrated by Rachel- the book opens with two excerpts from the novel itself, which of course you don't realise nor put into place until you're read them in their context. These two paragraphs do help to draw you in. How couldn't they? When a woman has been 'buried beneath a sliver birch tree' and magpies mock another person with they 'raucous cackling' as the person recites the nursery rhyme One for Sorrow

Rachel's life and background story seem interesting enough; she's an alcoholic who has blackouts. That has led her to the state she is in now; divorced, jobless, depressed, boarding on homeless and bankrupted. Every day she takes the train to work to trick her friend, who she's currently stays with, into believing that she still has a job. Really she spends the days hanging around in London. Also, it allows her into the lives of 'Jess and Jason'. With the train having to almost always stop right behind their house, Rachel gets this window shot of the couple and seems to have become very knowledgeable and interested in them. 

Now, here's where it all fell a part for me - Rachel has daydreamed this whole thing up. The couple who live there are really called Megan and Scott and Rachel doesn't know anything about them. Okay, I know that everyone -especially writers-do this all the time and it does work to flag up Rachel as a unreliable narrator, but I just didn't like how it was done and I do think I would have preferred if Rachel had been stalking them or something like that. The other thing that caused me to have issues was the time and dates. I get that most people won't have been effect by this, but for someone who's not very good at keeping such a vast change of time and dates in their mind it starts to grate on you. Plus, it doesn't help the flow of the story. I've big issues with how stories flow and I so don't like narrative structures that stop/start. 

This story also flicks between two other narrative voices Megan's and Anna's- who is Rachel's husband's new wife and daughter to his child. After awhile, I struggled to tell all three voices a part, there didn't seem much difference between them and at one point I wondered why the writer had decided to give us the same point of view told by two people in the same way. I think that if it had been Rachel's voice throughout everything would possibly have worked better. I think it was at this point that repetition started to get to me, I noticed how many times the characters made and drink cups of tea and coffee and alcohol drinks. Every other page they seem to do this and it's just lazy writing to give the characters an action to do.  

To be honest the only reason why I carried on reading was because I wanted to find out what had happened to Megan and then who had killed her. There was nothing else after that first chapter that made me want to read on. I didn't really care what happened to Rachel or any other the other characters because I just didn't connect with them. The characters weren't that interesting over all nor did they do much development, except at the end where everything felt rushed anyway. The ending plot twist did kinda work, because I didn't get it till close to the reveal. I guess if you're into crime/thriller stories then you'd have got it sooner. Even on reflection though, it does seem weak and I wanted the killer to be more anger and have more motive. The police characters are just terrible, they never felt realistic and they are too far in the background to physical do anything. Maybe a flip on this story with them telling it could be another option? 

Overall, I didn't much like this book. There were problems with the plot, characters and the narrative structure. I just can't be wonder if it had been told in a better way that maybe it could have been a better book? Still, I stand by what I said before at the start, so it's up to you decided to like it or hate it. For me though, I'll be passing this book on to my mum to see what she makes of it.     

Till next time. 

Friday, 29 May 2015

May's Update



Hi, it feels like awhile since I was last on this blog, even though its been a little over a month. I've not been as busy as I should have been this passed month. I've been writing a story a day for my other blog and working on my novella as well as another short story I've been kinda thinking about making longer. I've been doing what feels like a lot of reading, but isn't really! I've also been following Britain's Got Talent -thank God for the fast forward button though!- and going to work.

My main contraction has been on my driving lessons. I had my driving examine today and though I only got 5 small faults, I got a serious one and thus failed. I'm really frustrated by it and I think the examiner was being a bit unfair. I was carrying out the reversing around a corner move and just as I was about to straighten up and reverse just a bit more back, a Land Rover came behind me. I stopped, believing the driver was going to overtake me and I did give him/she the chance too. However, the road was narrow and I think they believed/knew there wasn't enough room. I then decided to carry on reversing backwards and as my car came straight, the Land Rover rushed passed me. I did stop again, but it seems that I wasn't being observant enough -though I genuine thought I was being!- for me to pass.

I've known for a little while that I need to be a bit more observant and not concentrating too long on looking in one direction. But I just didn't feel the need to do a double shoulder check when I knew there was a car beside me and all I would have been able to see is the side and back of the Land Rover. I was careful not to be moving when they overtook me and I did check again -or at least I think I did- before finishing the move.

Knowing I was so close, does make me feel bad. Perhaps, there's a reason why things turned out this way. It's one I'll probably never know and yet continue to wonder about. The driving exam is so tough. I get why it has to be and I think sometimes if some of the people I see driving unsuitably on the roads were to take the examine they'd fail. It kinda reminds me of a maths test. You spend an age learning a ton of stuff then only some of that appears on the test and afterwards, you use hardly any of it and then forget the bulk of it. Of course, you really shouldn't forget anything whilst driving. But what I'm trying to say is that somethings are just done for the test and then there's no need afterwards.

Right now, I could easily give up. I could easily say that I don't want to drive any more, that it feels pointless and that I just don't want it. But I know I only feel like that because I'm upset and frustrated by one mistake. Everyone says I should be happy that I only got 5 faults and I did really well, better than expected etc. But giving me all the praise in the world doesn't make the failure feel any less. Truthfully, I don't want to give up. Yeah, I know I'm going to end up in a bit of a situation when I do pass my test (I can't really offered the up keep of a car, nor at this moment have any real reason why I do need a car, plus a few other things. But they are for future me to figure out), present me wants it though. Just to say I can do this and here's the prove. It's sort of like another stage of being an adult and more freedom.

I'm not looking forward to paying out more money. I've just had to though as I've now re-booked my test. My driving instructor made me. He said if I didn't then it'd be harder to come back from this and I'd feel less like trying again. I feel oddly determined though, but he is probably right and I would have maybe talked myself out of re-booking it. I got to pay him for more lessons too. Though I don't really need them, I got to keep practicing and improving. At least I know what I've really got to do now and that does help. I'll just keep going and next time give it an even better shot!

    

Thursday, 23 April 2015

April's Update

Don't worry about how slowly you feel you're heading to your dreams, or how many roadblocks you find, or detours you need to take, you're still cruising far ahead of everyone who's too afraid to even try ☼  Karen Salmansohn


Hi readers,

So much for keeping up with my plan! Life has gotten in the way basically and writing stories, going to work, doing things for work, reading books and having a social life has all taken up most of my time. Plus, I've had days were I've just not wanted to write or days when I feeling down or stressed about things. I know everyone has those days, but sometimes I know its my depression still lingering. I know I should be happier and not worrying so much about things, but I can't help it. I've always been quick to worry and known to panic.

So what's been happening? Well, I've now finished my teaching course and will soon get my results back. Which equals one less problem and a new qualification! At the minute, I'm really struggling with my driving lessons. Though I did better today. I'm due to take my test at the end of the month, but right now I'm not sure if I will be taking it or even passing it. I just seem to have a great problem judging the distance of things, parallel parking and unmarked lined roundabouts. I hope it'll come together in the next few weeks. I've been having lessons a year now and though I've made a lot of progress, its this final part that seems to be taken awhile. Of course, I knew it was going to take awhile, but it just seems I've reached a stage where I just can't get pass it. I guess it'll come with more practice, Though learning how to stay calm would also benefit me. 

I'm still working at the youth center, though its only one day a week. I'm not sure if I will get more hours, but I stay hopeful. I do keep thinking that I should look for another part time job, but right now I'm still happy about taking a break from that. Job hunting can still be hard even when you already have one. 

I've been doing lots of writing, but not been achieving much with it, though my blog is still gaining followers and likes. I want to try and put together an anthology of some of the stories to be published on kindle. Not sure if anyone will buy it, but at least I'm still trying. I've also seen a few publishers where I can submit stuff too and I really need to be getting on with doing that. I also need to be getting back into working on a novel either writing or editing it, because I've not done that in a few months. I think I'll have a go at working on my latest one tonight and try to get another chapter sorted. It's the one I've been publishing on my blog, but stopped after I felt that people weren't that interested in it. I need to keep trying though. 

Finally, I do want to write some book reviews about the last few novels I've read. I really want to share my thoughts on The Handmaid's Tale, Sand and The Book Thief. I will set sometime aside to that. I also want to keep doing this 'updates' on this blog because at least I can try to keep it alive and because it does give me a place to reflected on things without having to be too deep or boring. 

That's it for now. Feel free to check out some of the other posts on here or my other blog for my short stories which is linked below.        


You can also follow on me on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thestoryfiles 
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Blogger: http://hailscrazyblog.blogspot.co.uk/

Wordpress: http://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/

Monday, 2 February 2015

Monthly Update January


Hi readers, 

This is my first end of the month update post! And yes, I know its a bit over due now, but for some reason I thought it was the 31st January on Sunday and thus had another day to write, when actually it was on a Saturday! So, I did gather my photos and half start writing and then I just got thrown into doing other tasks and have now only just be able to come back to try and finish/post this up. Anyway, I decided the easiest way to do this would be to divided things up into different sections and just write a paragraph or so about them. So, here it is.
Books


I'm currently reading all the above books; Little Women, Cloud Of Sparrows, The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Volume 22 and The Kick-Ass Writer. Which I know is bad because I'd probably have more chance at finishing at finishing just one then all of them! However, I started reading Little Women on my Kindle and because I read mainly before I go to sleep, having to read off another screen when I've spent all day starting at one or more, is just getting to me. That's why I started on Cloud Of Sparrows, which has surprisingly turned out to be a very interesting book. I started the New Horror book some time last year and having been dipping in and out of the collection of short stories ever since. It's good way to get me in the mood for writing my own, when I need it. The last book was one I got for Christmas and I've been attempting to read it for further inspiration, it sits on my desk along the Horror one. I'll be reviewing all of these in the future, though I'm not stating any dates right now.    

Writing 

As well as writing a daily short story every day for my sister blog The Story Files on Wordpress, I've been working on my novella Church and chapter 3. I had some difficulty writing a fighting scene and have had to ask a number of different people for advice. Which is not like me, but I knew it wasn't right, but I didn't know what to change. They offered me just what I needed and I was able to go back and edit the chapter. It's now ready to be published in a few weeks time. For those of you that don't know about it, Church is the story of Blaze, a warrior angel who has become trapped on Earth, though he doesn't understand why. I've included the link below if you want to check it out. The image is one I used for chapter 2, by the way. I've not been doing anything else right now, though I am currently trying to get ahead in writing short stories to free up some more time for when I'm away and also for writing chapter 4. Feel free to check out my short stories. https://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/category/church-novella/



Work

I've a paid job now! I work as an activity supporter at my local youth center, where I've been volunteering for the last two years. I only do one day a week right now, but hopefully that'll increase soon enough. So, I help to run and I run my own arts and crafts sessions and I work with 8-12 year olds. We make things like the pen holders below, felt toys and scent pouches. As well as drawings and other paper things. I'm currently leading a recycling project right now and plan to make other things out of cardboard boxes and tubes. I really am enjoying my job because its something that allows me to have a good level of freedom and to be myself. It also meets my creative needs and allows me time to write as well. I'm also mega happy to have finally found a job!   




Music of the month 


I've been listening to a lot of music this month, though most of it is the normal things I listen to whilst writing such as 12 Stones and Five Finger Death Punch. There's something about their music that just inspires me and helps to to write. I also like listening to a lot of different natural sounds like the fall of rain, burning fire and wind sounds. It helps to relax me and allows me to focus more on what I'm working on because it blocks everything else out and the noise is a constant thing. I've been listening to a lot of Bon Jovi too recently. Not sure why, but it's phrase I'm going though. I'm also branching out into some new music, so i might give this section a more closer look next month.  

General/home

I'm currently doing a teaching course, which is the PTLLS one. It'll mean I can teach choice subjects in anywhere but a school/college. I'm not sure what I'm going to use it for right now, but its a good step on the teaching ladder, plus some of the skills I'm getting are useful in my job right now as some aspects of that does involve teaching. I've got some essays to get writing though and they are proving hard to do. Sure I'll get there soon enough though.

I've been making a teddy bear out of an old pair of denim jeans, but he so didn't turn out like the pattern and I've not finished him yet. I'm not too keen on him actually and I've made better things. Though it seems I'm good with felt but not much else! I guess I'm still a novice at all this sewing and creating though and its going to take more time to learn the skills and remember what I've to do. I'll try and carry on, but finding any spare time at the minute is getting harder.   

Lastly, I've been looking forward to it snowing, but so far we've not had a lot and its not stuck around! I do love the snow, but I don't like going out in it because of all the difficulties. I'm still hoping it'll snow more soon though. Maybe next time I write, it will have snowed some more? Anyway that's the end of this month's update. Here's one of my dogs, Sindy, enjoying the snow in my back garden to end things on.  


Images from: 

January poster, http://www.dreamstime.com/illustration/january.html
Book covers, author's own
Abandoned St Etienne Church, France, http://imgur.com/owSErIU
Tin can pen holders, http://diyandcraftsideas.com/diy-crafts/how-to-design-and-make-diy-pen-holder/
Album covers, author's own
Jean Bear,  author's own 
Sindy dog in the snow, author's own 

Friday, 23 January 2015

Book Review: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

249747

Hi readers, 

Today, I've chosen to look at another book I've read a number of times and really enjoyed. Artemis Fowl is aimed at older children and young teenagers, but I read this book as an adult and feel that adults would enjoy it just as much. It is the first in a series of eight- of which I've read all but the last one- and I did like all of them. It was published in 2001 and is set in Ireland, the home of the author Eoin Colfer, who is known for his children's books. It has won a number of awards and is currently being made into a movie.    

The plot  is that Artemis, a twelve year old genius boy, sets up a trap and kidnaps a fairy called Holly. As it turns out, these fairies are not the average kind and they also work with other creatures like centaurs and dwarfs. Holly is a member of the fairy police force and though she has a caring nature is also very determined and tricky. Whilst her friends try to rescue her, she plots her own escape and Artemis demands a ransom and also questions her about her people. The ending is really good and the whole plot feels really thought out and realistic, even though it has fantasy elements.

The characters are easy to connect with and likable. Mulch the dwarf has to be my favorite character because he is funny and lovable rouge of a character. All the characters seem to have goals and do develop over the course of the novel. I think young people would find them ease to relate too as well. All their dialogue is well written and each has a distinctive 'voice' created by accents, but this hasn't been over done. Some of the other background characters do appear in the other books too and some even get more development. 

The themes that appear deeply connect with the characters and plot as the main ones are; greed, family/friends, conflict, nature, technology/science. I'm sure that a young audience could connect with these as well as an adult one could. Also, I like that Artemis first appears as the villain, but later is shown to have done things to try and help his family and that he didn't really mean any harm to the fairies. 

Overall, I would recommend everyone giving this book a go. It has a really interesting story, the characters are enjoyable and it doesn't just feel like another children's book, it does reach out to try and include all ages. Even if you're not big on fairies/fantasy, there could be something else you like about it. 


Next week: another random book review and my monthly update! 

  
Image from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/249747.Artemis_Fowl

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Book Review: Lost Souls by Poppy Z Brite

Lost Souls

Hi readers,

Today we are going to look at one of my all time favorite books and authors. I'm not sure how I first heard about Brite, but I do know that Exquisite Corpse was the first novel I read by her/him -though I did just look it up and Brite does now prefer to be known as a him, so little confusing there, but anyway- Lost Souls was the second book I read. What drew me were the vampires, because they feel far from the main stream ones, which in my mind are the ones before Twilight, but you get what I mean. Also, the way the story is written, because the writing really had its own 'voice' as it were.

The plot of Lost Souls can kinda be divided into two, as firstly there is the story of five vampires and their friendship/relationship. Secondly is the story of Steve, Ghost and Ann, who become tangled up in the vampires due to a few different events. The main setting is New Orleans, though we get to see some of the humans and vampires travelling about early on in the novel. The narrative spends a good amount of time with both sets of characters, who also have developing time and do really start to feel like real people.

I think the real story focus on the character Nothing, who sets out to find his real parents and discovers himself. He meets the vampires who turn him and they help him to achieve is goal. I won't go into too much detail, but there's no dramatic twist about this plot because it is the prologue of the novel. My favorite character happens to be Ghost. For some reason I can really connect with him, because though like all the other characters he has major problems - he can see ghosts and is haunted by visions, which often come true-he is very loyal and kind. He creates brotherly like relationships with his best friend Steve- they are in a band together called Lost Souls? -and some of the other characters.

It isn't just the vampires that makes me love this book so much, its the fact that it feels really gritty and gives a much darker, Gothic, view to New Orleans and life in America. I like how Brite isn't scared to write about topics that people might see as controversial, like homosexual relationships and incest. There is a great level of detail too and it does have that horror genre feel and not the supernatural as most vampire novels are now falling into.

Overall, I would recommend that anyone give Brite ago, even if you don't like vampires or horror, just to experience the refreshing way he writes and goes about controversial topics. I really do wish he had more books out there, because I do love his work.  
            

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Book Review: Prince Lestat by Anne Rice


Hi readers, 

I'm opening my new book reviewing with probably one of the most anticipated novels for horror, supernatural and vampire fans from last year. Being the massive Anne Rice and Vampire Chronicles fan that I am, I couldn't wait to read this and finally in the small hours of last night I finished it, almost two months after having started it. It be honest, I was a little disappointed. To make matters worse, it wasn't just one thing that I had issues with and right now I'm not going to be able to explain all the whys and hows, so, lets look at the key points. 

The first thing, was the segmentation of the novel. I understand that Rice's writing technique has improved over the many years she has been working and this was her first vampire story after fifteen years. However, unlike the plot and narrative structure of her other novels this one didn't have a linear feel to it, even though it was meant to be and I think this is because of the way the novel is divided up. 

Secondly, there is no real focus on one or a few characters, instead you get a lot of characters telling you different parts of the narrative, which sometimes shows their lives and other times gives you the bigger picture. There is also the switch between first person and third person narrative. For me this didn't actually work and maybe its because I'm a bit of an old fashioned reader, but I like my novels not to switch the narrative voice around and not to focus on such a large number of characters telling the story. The flow of things ends up becoming a bit lost and I felt distracted by this.    

Thirdly, the problem with there being so many characters, that you can become lost and start to forget who's who. Normally, I have good mind for that kind of thing, but towards the end of the novel, I was questioning if all the characters had really been necessary. I get part of the plot was to draw all these ancient vampires together to form a council and royal court, but many just seemed to faded into the background. Clearly, they all have their stories to tell and maybe Rice's next books will focus on them, but for me it was a case of character over-saturation.

Fourthly, I felt that parts of the story dragged on or weren't necessary. I know that Rice's writing can often be over descriptive and in the early Vampire Chronicles books I did enjoy this, but this time round, things felt repetitive and for me the last few chapters felt a bit useless. At other points the characters went over things the reader already knew and things the characters should have already known and I felt that maybe this was a bit of bad writing. 

Overall, my first impressions of Prince Lestat are mixed. The characters are well written and they still feel like themselves from the past books. The plot is interesting and does keep your attention, it feels 'new' too and it does tie in nicely with the series. However, it really is let down by the narrative structure and too many characters. If you are an Rice fan and have read the other books, than I'd recommend you give it a try, for anyone else and specially if you are new to Rice's books, you will need to have read some of the others before attempted this one because I don't think some of the characters and themes will be understandable. 

Hopefully, you've found that useful and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this novel. I'm not sure what I'm going to be looking at next week as I've got a few books lined up. Over on my other blog right now I'm looking for short story submissions, so please check that out at; http://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/submission-guidelines/  
     

Links and images: 
 http://bookriot.com/2014/11/10/excited-prince-lestat/