Update Oct 2021

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:
Went to a local market for the first time in… it’s got to be 20 months at least. Still keeping ourselves as safe as we can (too many seem to have forgotten you can still catch the virus whether you’re vaccinated), but trying to have something of a life. Sounds a simple thing, but it delighted us to buy pasties, sausage rolls (fabulous sausage, cheese, and red onion marmalade flavour!), fresh bread, and a lovely bunch of roses. Time out definitely makes you appreciate the simple things in life.

FILM/TV:
Watching Squid Game on Netflix along with what seems most of the population — a rather brutal live or die dark fiction drama, but Episode 6 was so sad and a real pull on the heartstrings. Episode 7 had to potential to give me vertigo. Only two episodes to go.

Catching up with BBC’s Ghosts, which I watch mostly because it’s so close to something I wrote as a child, it’s almost like seeing my idea come to fruition. Of course, I was too young to pull it off, but the basic idea was the same. Proves timing is everything, and that authors share ideas all the time.
We finally got around to watching No One Get Out Alive. Alas, as I expected, it’s nowhere near as good an experience as reading the book, in part because it’s rewritten and reset for an American audience. Still, the film version had some concepts I liked, but whatever one thinks of the film, I’d recommend the book.

READING:
I have now started listening to audiobooks, a thing I’ve done in the past, but gave up because I often found my concentration wandering. I would need to rewind too often. Fortunately, I’ve discovered I can listen when cycling, when drawing, and when preparing dinner, so I’ve added audiobooks to my ‘reading’ experience again. There are also a lot of dramatisations worth paying attention to. I’ll include and mark any books which I’ve enjoyed audibly.

Night Shift, Charlaine Harris
The last book in the Midnight series, this ties up the loose ends nicely, although I felt the big showdown falls back somewhat on a tired cliche. I felt Manfred was a little under-used, seeing as he’s been the main character from the start. Here, all the characters get their screen time, and it’s the characters that make the books entertaining. Now I’ve finished them, the series almost feels too short. Of course, Mr Snuggly (a talking cat) had to have the last word.

The Ruins, Scott Smith
A book with a slightly misleading title, in that it led me to expect adventurers finding something terrible buried beneath the earth or in some old tomb. If I say it’s about a strange vine, no doubt many will want to move on, but this book’s saving grace and what lifts it above B-Movie status is it’s so well written. There’s no letup, and no doubt left in the reader’s mind. The narrative draws you into the characters’ plight, makes you root for them regardless of their personalities. Makes the reader plead for a rescue. The narrative, sadness, predicament, and dread are simply relentless. This completes for a read of the year.

Imaginary Friend, Stephen Chbosky
This is a tough book to rate. The writing is too basic for many adults, yet age appropriate for the protagonist who is a child. Note: The golden rule used to be if the main character was a child, then it was a book for children because publishers believed adults wouldn’t be interested in what happened to children. We’re somewhat past this now, following on from the success of the Harry Potter books which gained an adult audience. However, there’s not enough to differentiate between the characters in… well, character, or age. And I imagined the children as far older than purported to be. What drives this book — the purpose of the book, if you like — is subtext. I didn’t find the horror in the book all that horrific because of the child-like narrative. The author uses far too many fragmented sentences for every paragraph to be enjoyable. Though I don’t know what I’d cut, this is a HUGE book. Far too long. The subtext covers many things… seems sometimes to talk about how we treat each other, how people operate in society and behave towards their neighbours, our family and friends, as much as it includes religion — a criticism I’ve seen, though I’m left uncertain whether the author is for or against. It touches on the personal note and a bigger picture. The story has stayed with me, but I’m uncertain if I care about that the book offered, and though there was no way I was going to stop reading and I’m an avid and determined reader, the book was too long even for me because it became repetitive in the last quarter. The book has something to say, but the question is whether you’ll want to hear any of it. There are several deliciously creepy parts. There are characters you want to know more about and become invested in, but I’m not sure that for such a long book there was a big enough pay off for the characters I cared about. For every plus, I found a negative. I’m honestly torn. Though the scope is impressive, it left me with a feeling of dissatisfaction. I neither like nor dislike the book.

Get a F*cking Grip, Matthew Kimberley (audio book)
A five and a half hour giggle with the only self-help book anyone truly needs. May also be the only proverbial kick anyone needs. We all know these things — the book tells us nothing new — but it states more than a few home truths many people won’t enjoy hearing and won’t let themselves pay attention to. Yes, there’s some silliness too, but the author puts all the advice you ever knew and didn’t want to listen to together entertainingly, and has the perfect voice to present it.

Ask an Astronaut, Tim Peake
I’ve taken several weeks to read this book, dipping in an out, but having loved, ‘Hello, is this planet Earth?’, Tim’s pictorial look at travelling to space reading this was a simple decision. Tim has put together a fascinating and informative book that answers every question most of us would ever want to ask and answers them in a way most anyone can understand. From training, to launch, to working in space, what a spacewalk is like, and how it feels to return to Earth, as well as what’s coming in the future. A fun narrative and must-read book for anyone who has ever looked up at the stars and wondered what’s out there.

Pine, Francine Toon
I found this story interesting, and the book is an easy read. It’s certainly atmospheric, even mystical, but I found small sections felt choppy. Some conversations likewise, perhaps to lead the reader astray. At first, I thought I was reading a ghost story. Ultimately, as much as some of the book is lovely, other parts feel flat, and the reveal happens too fast. The supernatural elements never reach a satisfactory pay off. As a debut novel, it’s good, but I have to wonder what the editorial staff were thinking; they’re there to work with authors to make sure the book meets its potential, and this book leaves too many threads blowing in the wind. Even down to Lauren’s apparent bullying at school, and her questionable ability to weave some kind of spell to put a stop to it — is this real? Or the desperation of a tormented child? I can only think the author intended to leave such questions unanswered, which would be fine if there weren’t so many of them. Despite this, I enjoyed the read, though the book is going into the charity pile.

WRITING
I’ve sorted out my work in progress and hope to have a finished book by the end of the month. Publication wise, next February might be good timing owing to the subject… providing I’m happy with the finished result. Anything I’m dissatisfied with gets trunked these days. One thing I would like to do is to write some more short stories.

Stay happy and healthy!
Sharon x