Friday 31 August 2012

According to P.G. Wodehouse, saga writing has always been addictive!

It's fair to say that authors have been creating some mesmerising worlds – so mesmerising that they find themselves unable to pull away and end up writing several novels about the same characters and/or settings.

But this isn't anything new. Just ask the comedic master himself, P.G. Wodehouse. I recently purchased a copy of Blandings Castle, and had to share the beginning of the preface – there will be many authors that will chuckle at these words of truth!

Monday 27 August 2012

A little on Paris

Ah, Paris in August. Good, because the weather is lovely if you like it to be hot and sunny. Bad, if you don't like to be overwhelmed by tourists and want to experience the city's truth.

I visited because, as mentioned in my previous blog post, I wanted to become inspired. While I do believe that happened, it probably didn't to the extent that could've been. It was just the wrong time of year (most Parisians leave the city in the summer, and tourists choose this time to flock). Although, knowing that I wasn't the only stranger had made me feel more secure.

I've also learned that if you really want to see Paris, and blend in as much as possible, you must not only visit out of tourist season but speak conversational French at least. And since I hate being identified as a tourist, when I go back I need to ensure that my vocabulary goes beyond "je ne parle pas Français", "Pouvez-vous parler Anglais", and "À bientôt"!

But, even so, I managed to really enjoy myself and become more aquainted with the city, which is something that I now know I needed to do, because I intend to visit every year or two from now on.

Anyway, stay tuned! A larger recap of my trip will follow soon.

Saturday 18 August 2012

See you later, England. Bonjour, Paris!

After six years, I'm finally visiting Paris again! My last visit wasn't great, but that had nothing to do with the city and everything to do with some of the company. So, as I'm going by myself, I'm looking forward to doing it my way this time.

I'll be there for four days in total – from Monday afternoon until Thursday night – travelling by Eurostar from London. Usually I like to stay in hostels when I'm travelling, but this time I've opted for a hotel.

I have long admired Starry Night Over the Rhone
by Vincent Van Gogh and can't wait to finally visit it.
I've already seen most of the sights, so I won't be focusing much on them. Of course, I'll definitely be going to the Eiffel Tower (no trip to Paris is complete without setting eyes on that icon), and visiting the Musée d'Orsay (a must for fans of impressionist and post-impressionist art, like me) but other than that my main objective is to just wander the streets, soak up the atmosphere, and become inspired.

I've travelled to many cities around the globe in my lifetime, but I can honestly say that Paris is definitely the most beautiful. To many, Paris is the cultural centre of the world, which would make sense as it's inspired all kinds of artists, and I'm hoping that it'll help me develop the intestinal fortitude to become more creative myself. For ages now I've been meaning to start writing my own fiction, but outside of classes I haven't been able to bring myself to do anything. And, seeing as I blame it on the monotony of everyday life for taking the cojones out of me, I'm praying Paris puts it back.

So, I'm expecting to take hundreds of photos, sit in a lot of cafés, maybe read a book, make some notes, and perhaps start building a story.

But I must make sure I experience Paris for real.

You know, even though it's tourist season and apparently most Parisians are in the south of France but, hey, I'm sure I'll manage.

À bientôt!

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Review: Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

Nick and her cousin, Helena, have grown up sharing sultry summer heat, sunbleached boat docks, and midnight gin parties on Martha's Vineyard in a glorious old family estate known as Tiger House. In the days following the end of the Second World War, the world seems to offer itself up, and the two women are on the cusp of their 'real lives': Helena is off to Hollywood and a new marriage, while Nick is heading for a reunion with her own young husband, Hughes, about to return from the war.

Soon the gilt begins to crack. Helena's husband is not the man he seemed to be, and Hughes has returned from the war distant, his inner light curtained over. On the brink of the 1960s, back at Tiger House, Nick and Helena--with their children, Daisy and Ed--try to recapture that sense of possibility. But when Daisy and Ed discover the victim of a brutal murder, the intrusion of violence causes everything to unravel. The members of the family spin out of their prescribed orbits, secrets come to light, and nothing about their lives will ever be the same.

Brilliantly told from five points of view, with a magical elegance and suspenseful dark longing, Tigers in Red Weather is an unforgettable debut novel from a writer of extraordinary insight and accomplishment. (via Goodreads)

It's rare to find a novel that is so complex yet so easy to follow, but Tigers in Red Weather is definitely one of them.

It documents the lives of a family over three decades during the mid-twentieth century, focusing on six individual members. Five of them have a section of the book dedicated to their own point of view, so you get to witness how significant events are seen through one person's eyes as opposed to another.

Although the jumps from character to character are well choreographed, it can still be a little confusing at the beginning. There are also jumps in time – one chapter you can be in 1967, the next in 1945, and then perhaps in 1958. But once you get your bearings, it becomes very easy to enjoy. It also helps that the narrator makes pop culture references that are relevant to each iconic decade, which is marvellous because you get a real feel for the time periods.

I just thoroughly enjoyed this book. Though I knew there was a murder involved, it was still much darker and more diverse than I expected it to be. I loved the mystery, the suspense, and the undeniable glamour. The characters are complex and intriguing, and you end up caring for a lot of them. It's fantastic to see their personalities and relationships evolve as the years move on, as well.

Tigers in Red Weather is a novel that is going to stick in my mind for a long time. If you're looking for a well-written, glamorous summer read with a vintage feel, wonderful characters, and a plot to die for (pun intended!), I wholeheartedly recommend this.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Guest post: Writing Crashing Eden, by Michael Sussman

It's a pleasure to welcome author Michael Sussman, who's here to share how he wrote his young adult fantasy novel, Crashing Eden.

My first novel, Crashing Eden, tells the story of Joss Kazdan, a 17-year-old juvenile delinquent who is depressed and guilt-ridden following the loss of his younger brother. After suffering a concussion, he awakens to a beautiful sound that no one else can hear. He becomes convinced that it’s the primordial vibration of the universe, and by attuning himself to it he experiences ecstasy and feels at one with the cosmos. Things get even stranger when friends of his are able to construct a device that produces this same Edenic consciousness. I don’t want to spoil the story, so I’ll just say that what starts out so promising, soon leads to generational conflict and cataclysmic destruction that threatens the very survival of humanity!

You may wonder: How did I come to write such a strange novel? I believe the story emerged from the convergence of the following three strands of my life.

1. Adolescence was a painful and confusing time for me, when my struggles with depression first began. I experienced mood swings, became increasingly introverted, socially isolated, and had to contend with deep feelings of guilt, self-hatred, and suppressed rage. These experiences were influential in my later becoming a psychologist, helping others to cope with the ravages of depression.

2. During my later teens, I developed a passionate interest in Eastern mysticism. I read books by mystics and gurus, started to meditate, and even joined a cult called Divine Light Mission. In my quest to transcend mundane existence, I also lived for a while in a commune located—I kid you not—in Paradise, Nova Scotia.

One night, I suffered a concussion in a car crash in which I was a passenger and was lucky to survive. Like my protagonist in Crashing Eden, I spent the days following the concussion in what I can only call a state of grace, filled with deep feelings of gratitude and joy.

3. Throughout my life I’ve been interested in world mythology. I’m especially intrigued by the widespread myths suggesting that humans have degenerated from an ancient state of grace, symbolized by Paradise or the Golden Age.

To sum up, I believe that my history of depression and experience as a psychotherapist allowed me to get inside the head of my adolescent protagonist and find his voice. My fascination with mysticism and my personal experience of grace led me to conceive of a transcendent state to which my protagonist aspires. And my familiarity with the Golden Age myths provided a framework for the story.

From there, I used my imagination to envision how the God of the Old Testament might react to an impudent gang of teenagers who discover a way to crash the Gates of Eden. That’s when the story gets really interesting!

To purchase a copy of Crashing Eden, you can visit:
Barnes & Noble:

Keep up-to-date with Michael:

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Review: Switched by Amanda Hocking

Wendy Everly knew she was different the day her mother tried to kill her and accused her of having been switched at birth. Although certain she’s not the monster her mother claimed she is she does feel that she doesn’t quite fit in

The new girl in High School, she’s bored and frustrated by her small town life and then there’s the secret that she can’t tell anyone. Her mysterious ability she can influence people’s decisions, without knowing how, or why…

When the intense and darkly handsome newcomer Finn suddenly turns up at her bedroom window one night her world is turned upside down. He holds the key to her past, the answers to her strange powers and is the doorway to a place she never imagined could exist.

Förening, the home of the Trylle. Everything begins to make sense to Wendy. Among the Trylle, she is not just different, but special. But what marks her out as chosen for greatness in this world also places her in grave danger. 

With everything around her changing, Finn is the only person she can trust. But dark forces are conspiring not only to separate them, but to see the downfall everything that Wendy cares about. The fate of Förening rests in Wendy’s hands, and the decisions she and Finn make could change all their lives forever… (via Goodreads)

After reading The Hunger Games, I had such an intense good-read-hangover that I couldn't start another book for a while! And when I did, all I wanted to read was another young adult trilogy, which is why I decided to download Switched. Once just a self-published novel, Switched grew in popularity and is now distributed by a major publishing house. They've even gone so far as to make two different versions – one cover for young people, and one for adults.

Unfortunately, though, I fail to see why this has become such a popular book. I expected something spectacular and well written, but it isn't either one.

Wendy, the main character, has very little personality. She's dull and robotic, which is a very big problem considering she is not only the protagonist, but also the narrator. I felt no romantic connection between her and her apparent love interest, Finn, who just seemed more like an advisor and a babysitter. Wendy's people are also some weird version of a troll, which the author has renamed Trylle, and made them into baby stealing, money hungry supernatural beings.

Switched was just an all-around disappointing read for me. I would definitely recommend looking at other self-published or titles published by smaller publishing houses first, before considering this (Pyxis by KC Neal and Shelby and Shauna Kitt by PHC Marchesi get honourable mentions).

Rating: 2 / 5