Tag Archives: Novel

Bookish wrap-up and review

This month I have an addition of a short book review, so I’ll try to keep the rest of the blog short!

Big Telly Theatre project

First up, May saw the first professional read-through of my story for Big Telly Theatre (see previous couple of posts for more details on that). Essentially, this means that some local actors gathered together with myself, the Big Telly team and the other writers involved with the project to read through our work ahead of the audio recordings which will follow later on this year. It was great to hear the other stories for the first time, as well as listening to people reading my own work aloud.

We brainstormed feedback on each piece of writing and discussed some other things relating to the overall project too. I’m really looking forward to seeing how everything comes together in the end, so more details as I have them!

Riverside Readings at Ulster UniversityMD

One of the writers involved with the Big Telly project is poet Moyra Donaldson, and she’s also just launched her latest poetry collection, Carnivorous, performing readings across NI with fellow Doire Press poet, Glen Wilson.

While Moyra was unable to make the reading at Ulster University in May, we were still able to enjoy hearing her poetry, which was kindly read by poets Stephanie Conn and Kathleen McCracken. We also heard Glen reading work from his debut collection, An Experience on the Tongue.GlenW

It’s always great getting out to meet and hear from other writers and especially good when it’s so close to home, so this was a lovely afternoon.

Giant’s Causeway Book Club

Our book clubbers met last night to discuss our May read, which was The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland. This medieval thriller scored a fairly respectable 6/10 – I think most of the group felt that it was missing ‘something’ but our discussion revolved around lots of things we liked about it, so I think it went down better than the scoring reflects! Personally, I found it a page-turner and I enjoyed the story and the multiple narratives, which allowed the reader to see from various viewpoints and gave an insight into each of the main characters.June FB cover

Our June reads are the play, Peter and Alice, by John Logan (performed in 2013 by Dame Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw), along with Jeanette Winterson’s memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Everyone was keen to read this after our April book choice of Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit so we decided to read this as well. They’re short books, so will be easily read in a month!

Pan’s Labyrinth book review* (*contains spoilers)Pan

And so, to the book review! I’m a big fan of the film, Pan’s Labyrinth, by Guillermo del Toro so when I discovered there was a novel of this due out in the summer, I just had to ask for an ARC. Thankfully, the lovely publicity people at Bloomsbury Publishing sent me out a review copy and I subsequently devoured it over a couple of days…

First up, the book is being published on July 2 and you can pre-order a copy at the link below if you so wish (or click if you just want to find out more about it): https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/pans-labyrinth-9781526609557/

And so, to the review.

For those who, like myself, enjoyed the Pan’s Labyrinth film, no introduction is needed as to what the story is about. However, if you haven’t seen the film then, essentially, it’s a deliciously dark fairy tale (for adults) set in Spain after the civil war. The year is 1944 and the Resistance has fled to the forests. Our main character, a young girl called Ofelia, moves to an old mill beside one such forest, as her widowed mother has married an army captain who wants her with him when she gives birth to their son (and no, not because he loves her…) When they arrive, Ofelia quickly discovers there’s more to the place than meets the eye, including fairies, a faun and a whole hidden world to which she’s told she belongs and can return to – an underground kingdom where she’s a princess…

There’s more, but we’ll discuss that as we go. I really like the story and on the whole, I enjoyed the novel, which is written by both Guillermo del Toro and children’s author, Cornelia Funke (of Inkheart fame). Each section is preceded by a myth which weaves in the story of the underground princess, Moana, along with other tales which tie in with what’s happening with Ofelia in the present-day. The fairies lead her to a faun who explains that she must complete three tasks to prove she is truly Princess Moana and so return to the underground realm. This involves facing a giant toad who lives in the roots of a huge tree, as well as the terrifying child-eater, or Pale Man, and finally, sacrificing an innocent.

The myths fill in the background to these tasks, explaining their significance to the reader and I think they work well in the book. There are also beautiful illustrations at the beginning of each section, which are always nice to have!

Although I haven’t watched the film for a few years, I could easily picture the scenes from that as I read the book and to my mind, I didn’t come across any material which was truly ‘new’. I had understood that the book would contain a more fleshed-out narrative but in my opinion, it was all as expected. This is completely fine, of course, except that the promo says the book has ‘expansive original material’. On reflection, this may simply refer to the fact that as a novel and not a script, the material is freshly written, but for some reason I thought there might be added layers to the story which I just didn’t find.Pan2

I haven’t read many books by multiple authors and I think that on this occasion, it may have affected the flow of the writing. Personally (and of course, this entire review is made up of my own personal opinions, so make of them as you wish), I found the overuse of the words ‘for sure’ fairly irritating and in every instance (my inner editor says), they could have been cut. I found that they disrupted the flow of the writing and it may seem a minor thing, but for this reader, it irked.

That being said, there was lots of the writing that I liked, for example:

‘Her mother said fairy tales didn’t have anything to do with the world, but Ofelia knew better. They had taught her everything about it.’

I thing fairy tales help us to understand the world and our place in it and I like how fantasy is used here to reflect the world back at us and Ofelia.

‘But men don’t hear what the trees say. They have forgotten how to listen to the wild things…’

On occasion, there are pieces of writing which I felt could have been reworked to keep in with the old ‘show, don’t tell’ aspect of writing. For example, when Capitan Vidal is listening to playful music, do we need to be told in black and white that ‘It gave away that cruelty and death were a dance for him.’ ?? To me, it’s unnecessary, as the simple juxtaposition of the cruel Vidal shaving himself while listening to the light-hearted music shows us this without the need to spell it out. Sometimes, subtlety is lacking.

However, we always dwell on the negatives, don’t we, and while there are a few things which snagged me while reading, I did read the book very quickly (always a good sign!) and enjoyed doing so. It’s always difficult reading a book after having seen the film and in this rather unusual case, the film preceded the writing of the book. However, if you enjoyed the film then you’ll most certainly enjoy the novel and as I was reading a proof copy, who knows, perhaps those pesky ‘for sure’s will have vanished by the time of publication… 🙂

All in all, Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun does exactly what you would hope it to do, delivering a dark fairy tale which is packed full of myth, magic and murderous men… NB I definitely found it easier to read about the Capitan’s violence than I did watching these more gory aspects of the story on film (but that’s just me!) and I would point out, for those unfamiliar with the story, that this is not a book for kids.

If I was to give it a star rating out of five then I think for me, it’s a solid four. It has all the ingredients of a great fairy tale and is a compelling story which is always moving swiftly onwards, with everything from magical creatures to rebel fighters and of course, a young girl trying to find her way home.

 

 

 

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Writerly bits and pieces …

When it comes to writing, you just have to do it when you can snatch the time and keep at it, for life will surely get in the way otherwise and before you know it, weeks will have passed and not a word will have been written! Having now passed the halfway mark for NN2 (novel number 2) I’ve found myself engrossed with a few other writing projects recently which have demanded a lot of focus and which are up against tight deadlines, so my attention has been split.

However, in theory I now have less left to write of my next book than what’s already written, so I see myself as being on the downward slope, heading towards the finishing line. The pace may have slowed, as was expected once work recommenced mid-January, but I’m happy with how things are progressing.bible-2989427_1920

Irish Writers’ Centre member and mentor

In other news, I’m very pleased to say that I’m now a member of the Irish Writers’ Centre, having been accepted as such as part of its Professional Member Support Scheme for Northern Irish writers, which also includes a stipend to use towards courses and events throughout the year. So, that was great news last week and I look forward to getting along to some of those events!

I’m also going to be listed as a mentor (for children’s fiction, fantasy fiction and feature writing/journalism), so that should be on the website soon too.

Story

I’ve also just submitted a short story to a journal, one I wrote a little while back, as I really like said journal and it’s been such a long time since I sent any stories out, what with the book taking centre stage last year.

And … I’m still planning more Book Tube videos – in fact, there’s one that I’ve been meaning to record for the past month but I’m having to prioritise other things and it just hasn’t happened yet! Soon, though.

Anyway, more as I have it … 🙂

 

 

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Readings and launches…

With Magical Masquerade having flown the nest once again and returned to the editor for copy-editing, this week has been peppered with all sorts of other book-related things, including making plans for its official launch.

While I can’t release details of this just yet, I’m very happy to say that I’ve had a meeting to discuss it and the particulars are being ironed out as we speak! I find it quite surreal to actually be talking about my book launch at all, but am thrilled to be getting the opportunity to (a) have one and (b) to have support in hosting it. Stay tuned and … consider yourselves all invited. 🙂women-aloud-2017

In other news, International Women’s Day looms on the horizon and March 8 looks set to be another great day for women writers in Northern Ireland, as Women Aloud NI is organising a whole host of events again this year. These will include readings up north on the 8th, as well as something else very special in Dublin – both of which I’m looking forward to taking part in. Full details will be released about these in February, so look out for those!

What else?

Well, I’ve confirmed my first school visit to chat about Magical Masquerade – in February – so that will be my first public reading of it (!), followed by the Women Aloud events, by which time I hope to have my proofs ready, so I can read from a physical book (as opposed to a manuscript). AND … I have also received two very wonderful reviews from a couple of authors that I greatly admire, which I’m going to be putting on my book cover. I’m over the moon that they agreed to read Magical Masquerade and then gave me such lovely comments about it. I’m itching to share these with you, but … all in good time. 🙂

Meanwhile, I’m going through my to-do list of other bits and bobs that need to be done with regards marketing etc., as time slips by rather quickly while great plans are being laid and all that. I.e. I need to be on the ball.

So, that’s what’s been happening in my writing world this week. I also enjoyed a catch-up with two fellow writing friends (I hope I didn’t go on TOO much about MM!), so it was great to hear what they’ve been up to as well.

More as I have it …

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Poetry and plotting

Image

First things first – I missed posting yesterday’s NaPoWriMo poem but… I did write it at home so see below! Also, I may have been a little hasty in speaking of my visit to the BBC’s Blackstaff House, which was meant to be yesterday, but I’m afraid I actually didn’t go in the end, as it would have been a heck of a lot of traveling for a fairly brief talk on writing for children for theatre and TV, which isn’t really what I’m meant to be focusing on at the moment.

So…. I decided to invest the time in printing off the remainder of my manuscript (see pic of ‘The Draft’ above!) and keep on with the editing, which has fallen a little by the wayside recently. I may not have made Belfast but I will however, definitely be heading to the City of Culture next week for some more events, so on these I will report back!

Meanwhile, my poetry class with El Gruer was cancelled this week, but all should resume on that front for the final two sessions from next Tuesday night. Onto the poem then and for day ten we were asked to, joy of joys, write an ‘unlove poem’ – a poem of sarcastic delight. My favourite kind…

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All About You

You are the shining sun

in my eyes when I walk,

You are the constant chatter

when I long to banish talk,

You are hot black coffee

as it scalds and burns my tongue,

You are the end of a film

when it’s only just begun,

You are the static force

of synthetics I abhor,

You are the spindly spider

that I quickly show the door,

You are the sticky honey

that I will never buy,

You are the strong disinfectant

I can’t bring myself to try,

You are the nursing home

where I never want to be,

You are the hidden quiet

of animal cruelty.

(Hope that wasn’t too harsh!)

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