review

The Magpie Tree by Katherine Sansfield

Wow, it’s been nearly a fortnight since I wrote this post but forgot to post it. :/

Synopsis from Amazon:

“Jamaica Inn, 1844: the talk is of witches. A boy has vanished in the woods of Trethevy on the North Cornish coast, and a reward is offered for his return. Shilly has had enough of such dark doings, but her new companion, the woman who calls herself Anna Drake, insists they investigate. Anna wants to open a detective agency, and the reward would fund it. They soon learn of a mysterious pair of strangers who have likely taken the boy, and of Saint Nectan who, legend has it, kept safe the people of the woods. As Shilly and Anna seek the missing child, the case takes another turn – murder. Something is stirring in the woods and old sins have come home to roost.”

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I picked this book up inspired by the mention of witches and of course the location of Cornwall and I had a lovely surprise. I’ve been reading books set in different places as I haven’t gone on holiday this year and was surprised when the setting of this book became very familiar and then there was a mention of Boscastle 🙂

I have actually visited the setting inspired and adapted into this book and it was a very unusual experience reading about somewhere I’d been. I think I’d like to read more.

My Review

This is the second book featuring the characters of Anna and Shilly but I didn’t feel lost having not read the first book.

This book has got to have one of the best opening lines: ‘The day I went to the Jamaica Inn was the day I saw a man hanged’ it definitely caught my attention and it didn’t waver. I enjoyed the story, an unusual whodunnit set in old Cornwall where people are still holding onto their superstitions. I loved the dark atmsophere of the woods and the eeriness of the mention of magics which leave you wondering if it’s a real person  who committed the crime or something else entirely.

I didn’t really like Anna, there was a moment where I started to feel a little bit of sympathy towards her but I still didn’t like her. Although I did find the characters intriguing and I’d probably read more.

The best thing about this was the location and the atmosphere at the start which was quite dark and the supernatural ideas/elements were interesting and added to the mystery. However I often felt that it was more ‘crime’ novel than the quotes on the cover liked to emphasis, I didn’t feel that it was ‘macabre’ but then I’ve read a lot of horror so maybe it would be to someone who doesn’t.  I think it’s hard to have a macabre ‘whodunnit’ as the tension of a gothic/darker novel would have slowed the pace necessary for a good mystery? Just my opinion.

I enjoyed the story and the mystery a lot it was definitely a good mix of weird and ‘whodunnit’ which I haven’t really read before. A good idea and worth a read.

review

Cornish Short Stories: A Collection

I bought this book from the National Trust Gift Shop at Tintagel Castle last year. This was a perfect summer read for me.

Cornish Short Stories: A Collection of Contemporary Cornish Writing

Synopsis from GoodReads

“Ghosts walk in the open and infidelities are conducted in plain sight. Two teenagers walk along a perfect beach in the anticipation of a first kiss. Time stops for nothing – not even for death. Sometimes time cracks, disrupting a fragile equilibrium. The stories are peopled with locals and incomers, sailors and land dwellers; a diver searches the deep for what she has lost, and forbidden lovers meet in secret places. Throughout, the writers’ words reveal a love of the incomparable Cornish landscape.

This bold and striking new anthology showcases Cornwall’s finest contemporary writers, combining established and new voices”

My Thoughts

I enjoyed this collection it really captures the essence of Cornwall. I’d love to talk about all these stories but to keep this post to a decent length I thought I’d highlight some of my favourites,  ones that stood out for me:

An Arrangement by Tom Vowler this story about a husband and wife tugs at the heart.

The Siren Of Treen by Emma Staughton I loved this story with the atsmophere of the farm and the sea, athough one part was a bit disconcerting I wanted to read more.

Too Hot Too Bright by S.Reid  A Beautiful story of loss and love.

The Haunting Of Bodmin Jail by Anastasia Gammon was one of the best ghost stories I’ve ever read. A great clever story.

There’s a beautiful poem at the start Talk Of Her by Katherine Stansfield, I had no idea when I bought the book I’m reviewing next The Magpie Tree that is was by the same author, the poem is about a lady-Dorothy Pentreath- who gained the reputation of being the last native Cornish speaker.

This really is a lovely evocative collection interspersed with wonderful woodcut illustrations by a Cornish artist Angela Annesley this is perfect for lovers of Cornwall and those who love a good short story.

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The Next Review is another Cornish inspired tale: The Magpie Tree by Katherine Stansfield…..

writing

In Progress Or A Writing Ramble

black ball point pen with brown spiral notebook
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

In my last writing post I talked about this story idea I was liking, well if you’re a writer you know how it goes, at the time of typing these words I’ve gone back to not liking it.

It’s strange, one minute you’ll love a story and then a short time later you’ll hate it or pick at it.

Anyway, I’m made other progress recently. In fact last night! Another story I wrote ages ago- that’s why you shouldn’t throw them away-an idea I liked but couldn’t quite get there.  I struggled with this story for ages and it ended up unfinished. I’m more persistant now-I hope. One writing tip I’ve read is to change the viewpoint of a story, and for some reason this little tip came to me yesterday as ideas often do, out of thin air. And it stayed there and then around 11 o’clock last night I was going to go to sleep and that’s when I ended up picking up my pen and writing the new viewpoint version of my story.

And the bit that had stalled in the first version, the third person viewpoint, it was easier to bridge it, the character’s thoughts and family came to life in my head and I was thinking of what comes next as I wrote.

Flashforward to today:

I can’t find my file of the story but I have a hardcopy and I realised after writing that new version last night  that I think I prefer the old. Writing is strange like that always changing, you like a story you hate it. This little bit of writing has helped towards completing the story though so it wasn’t all for nothing.

I’m going to keep at it and finish it and see what I think after I’ve given it some distance.

Plan?

I have so many short stories I want to finish, it seems silly to start another one again. I keep going back and for to different ones.

In the past: I used to look for  competitions to enter. My plan now: is to finish some stories. Get a sort of bank of stories first and then find competitions or places to send them to. I’m just putting my trust in myself and my writing that it will get there. At the moment I’ve spent time trying to fix this story and it never feels like I’ve done much and there’s so much left to do but small steps I guess.

Although I want to send a story to a competition or to be published somewhere writing is it’s own reward. You get good days and bad days but the urge to write always returns it’s part of me. Tip: never stop trying. Never stop dreaming but do make steps to realise that dream.

I’m looking forward to the moment I can write here that my work has paid off and instead of talking about finishing stories I can say I’ve sent one somewhere. I get tired of hearing myself go on and on about what I want. I hope that I’m not getting on anyone else nerves.

I’ve signed to a 14 day free course in September to help with the goal setting and finding time. It’s called 14 days To A Solid Writing Habit, and it’s promising after those 14 days I’ll be writing more. I think I’ve been doing ok with writing andI think I’m alright at goals, except I’ll have an idea and end up working on a different story. But I thought it couldn’t hurt to look at my productivity again. I read a book about being a more productive writer, this course seems flexible it understands that you might not be able to write everday.

Sometimes I wonder whether it’s about finding a way of bridging the distance between the creative mind that does the stories and the practical mind ( do I have one?) that plans and organises things. I don’t know. If you want to know more about the course here’s the link  it’s starts on 2nd September.

This post has morhped and changed into something else just like my writing thoughts lately and I think now my brain needs a break, ignore errors in this post my brain is now tired  🙂 Back to finishing the hoovering feel free to share your thoughts below. 

 

review

Outrun by Amy Liptrot

I am sorry I can’t remember where I got this book from. It must’ve been a prize or something to do with the Ninja Book Box I feel so guilty. This is how out of control my books are! I was drawn to the idea of this story  it seemed an inspiring read reminiscent of Wild or The Salt Path.

 

The Outrun

Synopsis from GoodReads

When Amy Liptrot returns to Orkney after more than a decade away, she is drawn back to the Outrun on the sheep farm where she grew up. Approaching the land that was once home, memories of her childhood merge with the recent events that have set her on this journey.

Amy was shaped by the cycle of the seasons, birth and death on the farm, and her father’s mental illness, which were as much a part of her childhood as the wild, carefree existence on Orkney. But as she grew up, she longed to leave this remote life. She moved to London and found herself in a hedonistic cycle. Unable to control her drinking, alcohol gradually took over. Now thirty, she finds herself washed up back home on Orkney, standing unstable at the cliff edge, trying to come to terms with what happened to her in London.

Spending early mornings swimming in the bracingly cold sea, the days tracking Orkney’s wildlife – puffins nesting on sea stacks, arctic terns swooping close enough to feel their wings – and nights searching the sky for the Merry Dancers, Amy slowly makes the journey towards recovery from addiction.

The Outrun is a beautiful, inspiring book about living on the edge, about the pull between island and city, and about the ability of the sea, the land, the wind and the moon to restore life and renew hope.”

My Thoughts

At the beginning of the story, Amy tells us of her problem with alcohol and the mistakes she made. It’s a frank and honest account that appears to hold nothing back and she tells us how she finally got on a recovery program. I felt sympathetic towards her and I did enjoy reading this part of the book.

In the second part of the book she goes home to the Orkneys to find her way again and continue to beat her addiction. I loved the setting and atmosphere but it was here that the book started to get dull. And it pretty much ended up swaying my opinion of the book. There were a lot of facts which can be interesting but it changed the tone of the story. It started to feel more like a guide book or a report, I wondered if she’d copied and pasted from a text book sometimes but I doubt she did. It was just too much and the narrative timeline became confusing.

In the start of the book she mentions working on an oil rig and feeling so bad that she knew she had to leave, the story goes back to explain her alcohol addiction but never returns to that moment. And in the second part of the book when she’s back in Scotland she is still telling old anecdotes from the times she was in the recovery program or from her days when she was still drinking, which made the timeline very confusing and repetitive.

The style started off very lyrical in the beginning but became very report like in the second part,  with sentences starting with “one morning” “one Sunday” or “on a Monday morning” and “On a windy day” it felt like the narrative wasn’t going anywhere and this was just filler.

I was disappointed.  It wasn’t the book I expected. It was interesting at times but it felt like it could’ve been shorter and I’m wondering if the facts and info were just padding. These are just my opinions and maybe some one who can relate to her situation might get more from this book? But I don’t feel that it was inspirational to me. We can’t all go live on an island and what happened next? You never find out what happened next, the story just ends.  I wanted to know if the feeling she had was just a holiday feeling and how she managed later, when she went back to her normal life.
The critical reviews on the cover say  how good the book is and but it is repetitive and dull. You expect a memoir to be all about her but it got very repetitive and self indulgent. Nothing really happens. I got nothing from this book. I mention The Salt Path and Wild, I loved those books, I couldn’t relate exactly to the situations those people were in but I felt every moment and enjoyed their journey. This book isn’t so much a journey but a memoir about alcoholism and mostly a report. Very disapointing, especially because the other reviews on GoodReads were great.

Have you read this book?

 

Uncategorized

Summer

Yesterday we took a short trip to Porthcawl, just for a walk along the beach. The tide was out, further than it usually is on our other visits and tidal pools were uncovered at the water’s edge. I love rock pools, I used to spend most of my childhood holidays hunting for shrimp when I wasn’t playing in the sea. It was great to see these pools uncovered and we spotted a lot of wildlife, some I’ve never seen.

We could see a lot of starfish caught on the beach and we weren’t sure if they were alive or not. The little fish I think is a sand eel, it was jumping about on the beach and I picked it up to put back into the sea but it was dead, the seagulls were waiting for us to leave to have their dinner.

In this first picture you can see this crab, it’s alive but it’s covered itself with wet sand, there were other crabs hiding beneath the sand too you can see my video on my twitter, I’ve pinned it to my profile for now as I can’t figure out how to link it here.

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If you look closely here you can see to the left of the sunlight a small shell, this rockpool was full of hermit crabs. I’ve never seen them before, well only in an aquarium. I could’ve sat there for hours watching them. The picture to the right (taken by my boyfriend) is another hermit crab that we found on the beach, and the one below.

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Walking along the beach is lovely by itself but when you get to see all the wildlife it’s even better. It was a boiling day and it was lovely to smell the gorgerous sea air and the scent of the sand for a short time.

Summer Reading Challenge

I have finished 8 out of a possible 20 of my Summer Reading challenge. I’m reading two which count to the challenge at the moment. I started reading too many books so I may stop reading one until the challenge is over.

I’ve still got to catch-up on my Netgalley reads and I’m hoping to read some books on writing in September and maybe rereads. That’s if I’m happy with how much I’ve read from my tbr.

I want to gues-estimate that I’ll read around 13 books for this challenge, it is meant to carry over into September and I didn’t start it until late June. I won’t be quick enough to read 20 but 15 I’d be happy with.

I’m reading The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield at the moment and Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Sims.

What are you reading? Have you been to Porthcawl?

 

 

Netgalley, review

Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo Del Toro & Cornelia Funke

I had a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for a review. I couldn’t resist, it’d been a while since I’d seen the film which I loved so I couldn’t remember the entire plot. With the names: Guillermo Del Toro and Cornelia Funke on the cover, it’s a promise of something wonderful. (Inkheart books by Cornelia Funke are wonderful and of course Guillermo Del Toro is an amazing director, one of my favourites).

Synopsis from Netgalley:

“You shouldn’t come in here. You could get lost. It has happened before. I’ll tell you the story one day, if you want to hear it.

In fairy tales, there are men and there are wolves, there are beasts and dead parents, there are girls and forests.

Ofelia knows all this, like any young woman with a head full of stories. And she sees right away what the Capitán is, in his immaculate uniform, boots and gloves, smiling: a wolf.

But nothing can prepare her for the fevered reality of the Capitán’s eerie house, in the midst of a dense forest which conceals many things: half-remembered stories of lost babies; renegade resistance fighters hiding from the army; a labyrinth; beasts and fairies.

There is no one to keep Ofelia safe as the labyrinth beckons her into her own story, where the monstrous and the human are inextricable, where myths pulse with living blood …”

My thoughts

When I started reading this book reality fell away, I was right there with Orfelia standing at the beginning of the labyrinth. I could see her world so clearly and found myself following her. She had to perform tasks reminicent of myths but far creepier.

There’s dark fairy tales throughout the novel, explaining backstory and adding depth and atmosphere to the story. But this is no Disney story with a happily ever after, this is more like a Grimm fairy tale or some sort of creepy fable. Reading these fairy stories was a surreal experience for me, I could hear a voice in my head telling me these weird but wonderful stories.

The character of Vidal is a horrific psychopath and one of the many well wrought terrifying characters in this book, though not the scariest!

I can’t fault this amazing, wonderfully dark and perfect book.It’s an engaging fantastical story and the words of the ending recall childhood memories of reading lovely fantasy books. Nostalgic but also beautifully dark. If you like horror and dark tales you’ll love this.

If you’ve seen the film: the plot is the same but there is more depth to the book and after watching the film again I think both are perfect!

 

writing

In Progress

I had an idea a while ago which turned into a short piece of fiction. It was only an idea and it was very short. Just a free write really. A few times I’ve thought that maybe it’s flash fiction and that it could be submitted somewhere, I kept telling myself that it wasn’t a complete story and it wasn’t good enough.

But recently I’ve been reading it again and that’s what I’ve been working on. I’ve been rereading it and tweaking it, setting it aside and rereading it again. I’ve struggled to think of a title and have changed it. I think it’s almost there, I hope it is as I’ll finally be able to submit a piece which has been my goal for a very long time.

My problem is always the edit, when I write something I never know where it’s going so when I’m rewriting I’m really unearthing the story and trying to piece it together. I’m deciding then what the story is about. Sometimes I might have an idea and a story but mostly I’m just pantsing. That’s just how my brain works.

Also sometimes when I’m editing I struggle and can lose interest in the story, I guess I lose faith. But I’ve learnt something working on this story. I’ve kept chipping away at it  and it’s come to the point where I’m enjoying the story. It’s evolved into something beyond the original idea and I like it!

Being such a short story it has been less daunting. But getting this far has given me confidence, I’m thinking: hey if I can get to this point in this story where I’m enjoying it, where I want to send it out, maybe I can with my other stories. It’s just working on them and getting to that point. 🙂 I can be slow on the uptake.

I’ve read so many how-to books and articles, blog posts and watch videos but I really learn more from sitting down and getting the work done! Here’s somethings I’ve learnt:

Tips

  • Know your process. There’s so many how-to guides and advice out there and I’ve read them but I feel that I’ve learnt a lot from just figuring out my process. Figure out how you work and don’t let any ‘advice’ steer you in the wrong direction. By all means take it on board but know what will help you, try it out, and know what won’t.
  • Print it out.  When you look at your story in a different format you notice errors etc that you wouldn’t otherwise. When I read over a hard copy of my story I noticed that I’d repeated words and I hadn’t spotted this when I was reading the story on my laptop.
  • Record yourself reading your story aloud. I think I got this advice from Editing The RedPen way by Anne Rainbow. It’s common advice and great advice to read your story aloud, it helps you to see errors. I read mine aloud and I can hear if the story is flowing or stalling.
  • Something I need to remember to do: Check the submission guidelines to make sure that your story is set in the right format and is the right word count.
  • They say that you could get someone else to read over your work. I was tempted to do this before I submit it but when I get critiques it  stalls me. I keep seeing all the negative but often helpful thoughts and I can’t see how to fix it. When I wrote Georges’ Bridge- my short story that won a competition- I didn’t have anyone else read it, I just worked on it and worked on it until I felt I’d done enough for it to be sent. It worked so maybe, just maybe it will work again.

 

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Coming to a finish line with this story has given me the confidence boast to stick with my other stories and that’s exactly what I’m going to do now. This is one of those moments where I feel great about my writing and I know this is what I want to do with my life.

Anyway, share your tips and writing progress in the comments. I’ll leave you with two more tips:

Never throw anything away. You never know what might turn out to be gold dust later on, whether it’s something you rework until it’s a complete story. Or maybe you might use it for another story or project.

Never give up! Writing takes work and it can be a hard. It’s just you trying to write the amazing scenes in your head onto paper. If you keep trying, keep learning and practicing then you’ll get there. Even when you’re having a bad writing day or you’re not in the right mindset, think of what you have achieved (no matter how small: you sat down and tried to work on a story. You wrote a paragraph) and let that fuel you to keep going.

Happy Writing 🙂