Sunday, 11 March 2012

I've moved

My blog is now at Please come and see me there.

I've been getting increasingly disillusioned with the ubiquity of google and what the company plans to do with that ubiquity. I don't think they can claim 'don't be evil' as their motto any more. I'm not especially worried about privacy but I do care about my searches being tracked so google can give me results based on what I've previously looked at. I like serendipity in my life and I like finding things I haven't looked at before. Go away google and stop interfering.

I'm not going to de-google completely, but my google+ account is going and I'm moving my blog. Oh, and I'm using a different search engine.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Way We Live Now

Free kindle books! Yay. There are books now out of copyright that are available free for the kindle and I have availed myself of a few. One of them is The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope which I wanted to read as it was mentioned in an article on The Business Case for Reading Novels.

Mr Melmotte arrives in London amidst rumours of vast wealth, shady deals and a lack of breeding. It is set in London in 1870 and there are several lordlets in search of an heiress. Melmotte's wealth is reckoned to be so great it overrides any considerations that he might be a commoner.

One of the lordlets is Felix Carbury whose mother has decided that she will make a living (she has to because her son gambles away her money) writing books. She surmises that it is more important to persuade influential critics to say her books are good than it is to actually write good books. Felix's sister, Hetta, has an offer of marriage from her cousin, Roger Carbury, who is a model of virtue. But she is in love with Paul Montague, a hapless young man who is manipulated into investing his entire wealth in a transamerican railway and finds it hard to disentangle himself from a previous engagement.

Melmotte is brought in on the railway scam and the share price rises. Melmotte's wealth is reckoned to be incalculable and his ego is flattered to the point that he is persuaded to stand for parliament. Then everything starts to unravel.

This was originally published as a serial and occasionally there is a bit of recapping. Obviously this is a very old book so there's not much to say about style - it is of its time. However, I found it highly readable and was completely absorbed. None of the characters really come out well and yet it is hard to say who is really bad.

It was funny in places and is very relevant to the current economic climate. I was a little disppointed by the ending and would have preferred a less fairytale resolution, but that's a minor point. Overall it was an excellent read and I recommend it.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Writing is a funny thing

I had a bit of break at Christmas and I took the opportunity to think about how the elements of my life fit together and where I'm spending my time. I decided I was going to work out how to reduce the amount of time I spend commuting and that I would put writing on the back burner while I sorted that out.

Ever since then I've been writing loads. Opportunities to reduce my commute are few and far between so that hasn't been taking up as much time as I thought. My novel is very much on the shelf, but I have a collection of short stories underway. I'm writing fiction based on my roleplaying games and am chronicling our current campaign at the London Storytelling Carrion Crown Campaign blog.

I haven't written this much in ages and I think it's because I'm supposed to be doing other things.

Monday, 20 February 2012

What I think I do

I love a meme. Have I mentioned that?

The latest meme I have particularly liked is the 'What I think I do' poster. Here are two that apply to me. And yes, this is what I think I do.

These were sent to me so I can't link to the originator. I would give credit if I could. 

Friday, 17 February 2012

Genres and sub-genres

Ever wondered precisely what genre you like to read and write? H/T to My First Book for linking to this fabulous genre map.

The original genre map is from Book Country. If you follow the link, the squares on the map have a short synopsis of the sub-genres and some examples of books that fall in them.

Monday, 13 February 2012

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

The first thing to say about The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender is that it has a great title. It's evocative and intriguing, the rhythm is good and is the sort of title that makes me wish I had a talent for titling things.

At the age of nine Rose discovers she can taste emotions in the food she eats. If it is manufactured food she can tell all the layers that contributed to creating it. If it is homemade she can taste how the person who made it was feeling. She finds that people around her feel things that they don't display on the surface and she struggles to work out a way to manage it.

Rose's brother Joseph is quiet and reclusive. As he reaches his late teens he starts to disappear in mysterious ways. Their mother is frantic and their father is distant. Eventually Joseph disappears and doesn't come back. Rose feels she can't move out now, but gradually she finds a way to use her gift and have a life of her own.

It's an easy read but the title really is the best thing about it. The powers that Rose and her brother have are not explained until the end when their father reveals that his father had a similar power. I found this element of the book unsatisfying. I could have accepted any number of causes had an effort been made to provide one.

The description of the emotions in the food could have been richer and more detailed. I thought that they were flat and I found them disappointing. What I did like was the concept; it's an interesting idea. The execution didn't do it justice and didn't live up to the title.

I wasn't keen on the writing style, even acknowledging that anything read after Babel Tower would suffer by comparison, and I found it difficult to engage with the characters. It was not so bad that I couldn't finish it but I would certainly avoid anything else by this author.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Babel Tower

One of my top ten books is Possession by A. S. Byatt and so it stands to reason that I would like other books by the same author. I read Angels and Insects and wasn't blown away. I bought Babel Tower and it has sat on my bookshelf for ten years. Part of the reason I haven't read it is that it is a hardback and is 615 pages. The other part is that I was worried I wouldn't like it. Oh, how wrong I was.

On the surface it is the story of Frederica Potter, a woman who was a Cambridge graduate in the early 1960s, then her sister died and while she was grieving she married an inappropriate man. At the start of Babel Tower Frederica has a two year old and is realising that she made a mistake in her marriage. When she runs into an old friend it accelerates this realisation. The cracks in her marriage widen and her husband becomes extremely jealous and violent. After he hits her with an axe, she leaves and begins a life in London.

There Frederica renews old friendships and makes new ones, including one with the author of a book which is tried under the Obscenity Act. At the same time, Frederica starts divorce proceedings. What the book is really about is the terrible position and treatment of women in the 1960s and it is very feminist. It is also about the nature of art and about obscenity, morality and freedom of expression.

The quality of the writing is astonishing. It was so rich and complex without ever becoming florid. I wish I could write like this. On every page I was in awe. It is the third in a series of four and, of course, I haven't read any of the others but it easily stands on its own. Byatt is a literary writer who is gripping, tense and utterly absorbing. This was amazing and I could barely put it down. You should definitely read it.