Category Archives: Reading

I queued for nearly two hours in the rain to get a book signed by Neil Gaiman

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Signed booksThree weeks ago I met my favourite writer, Neil Gaiman at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. (It’s taken this long to write it because I’ve been struck dumb by the excitement of the experience!….Or I’ve been struck down by a series of viruses.)

When I say ‘met’ I mean to say that I attended a talk and book signing, but, it’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to actually meeting him!

I don’t really think of myself as much of a ‘fan’ of anyone really, I don’t feel like I can justify the term. I’ve rarely read everything, listened to everything, followed obsessively and I’m almost always late to the ‘party’.

On the other hand, I queued for nearly two hours, half of that in the rain for the chance to get my books signed by Mr Gaiman. So I guess I can claim at least some fan-tastic tendencies…

My first encounter with Gaiman (though I didn’t know it then) was through the TV mini-series ‘Neverwhere’. I went on to read some of the early Sandman graphic novels. Later I read the novel adaptation of Neverwhere, and finally I put the pieces together. Read the rest of this entry

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Book Review of Princess Grace – Don’t judge a book by its cover

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Princess Grace Front CoverMy daughter is now five and three quarters (those three quarters count a lot for her!) and, as I mentioned in the last post, we visit the library regularly to feed her (thankfully) insatiable appetite for new reading material.

My background in sociology and my move into feminism means that I’m more aware than ever of the cultural brainwashing that goes on through books, especially when it comes to gender and especially in those aimed at children.

So, you can imagine my reaction when my daughter presented me with Princess Grace by Mary Hoffman (2007).

All that pink!

That dress!

That pose!

That jewellery! Read the rest of this entry

Why I will fight tooth and claw for my local library

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The HiveAt the weekend, Children’s laureate, Malorie Blackman pointed out that 105 libraries have been closed or privatised over the past seventeen months, bringing the total to 347 under the care of the current UK Coalition Government. The continued influence of austerity measures are putting an estimated 400 more libraries at risk.

When I was about 15 or 16 my friend and I would spend hours perusing the shelves of the local library. Usually searching for ‘factual’ books about the occult and supernatural (we were into Ouija boards and horror movies in a big way then).

I loved the library. You could walk in, find a book on a seemingly endless array of subjects, get it stamped by a friendly librarian (avoiding the concerned gaze) and off you went. It was entirely free and you had reading material a plenty! Read the rest of this entry

Eeek! Infomania?

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Arrgghhhhh! I’m chirruping on Twitter at the moment and I’m feeling it a little more, perhaps I could get into it. But it’s having an unexpected side effect…information overload!

There is so much to read out there and there was more than enough before.

Lets start with the news. Obviously I have to read a few different sites, just to make sure I’m getting a rounded view. Then to catch up on my Facebook friends, follow some of their shares…a music video, a feature, a comic strip. Then there’ emails and personal messages to action or reply to. Don’t forget those little chores; looking up recipes, researching a future purchase, job opportunities?

A few minutes to spare? I should do some background reading for a blog post I had an idea about. Which reminds me, I have a mountain of blogs to catch up on, just reading them isn’t enough, I should be commenting…I claim to be a writer right? Oh and I really really must look into some stuff for that story idea.

Add Twitter into the mix and suddenly I’m bombarded by a whole new set of features to read, people to look up, stuff to see and do….

I feel I’m in danger of disappearing under a mountain of information, and yet I’m hungry….no starving for more, more, more!

Infomania is the debilitating state of information overload, caused by the combination of a backlog of information to process (usually in e-mail), and continuous interruptions from technologies like phones, instant messaging, and e-mail. It is also understood as distraction caused by the urge to check e-mail, text messaging and other sources of information, which causes the person to show symptoms to neglect other, often more important things—duties, family, etc. (For instance, a typical symptom of infomania is that of checking e-mail frequently during vacation.)” According to the great info source in the web…wikipedia

Pace

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Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill is really fast paced”. That was a tick in the box for me. I like books that flow well and it’s most definitely true in this case. Within just a few pages you’re already experiencing spooky goings on and beginning to bond with the characters.

Today I was musing over what makes a story fast paced so I thought I might try to break it down into “pace” components using this novel as a case study.

1) Timeframe – The story follows two characters and switches almost every chapter. Following two threads makes it feel like more is happening in any given time period when in reality, the story is unfolding quite slowly over the course of multiple days.

2) Sentence Length – A (very) rough average sentence length in this book is around 12.44 words. In the few pages I checked, the longest sentence was 39 words, the shortest 1. Twelve-word sentences are considered short in the fiction world (or so my research tells me). However, Asimov, for example, kept his fiction sentences short, an average of 10.6 words per sentence based on 12 of his books.

Asimov’s choice to use short sentences helps him in both explaining his idea as well as making the reading easy and enjoyable.   Long sentences by comparison leave the risk of losing the reader, especially if the concept or idea is foreign as in his science fiction works.”(quoted from the Asimov Vault)

My feel is that a good balance between long and short sentences is what keeps the pace high. Keeping up a visual and verbal pace that draws the reader in.

3) Paragraphs and chapters – Apartment 16 uses short succinct paragraphs and begins a new chapter at the end of almost every notable event. This combined with the change in character at the same time forces the reader to keep up!

4) Simplicity – Keeping the story simple and clear keeps the pace fast for the reader, they’re not encouraged to pause and consider the latest paragraph they read, instead they’re urged ever onwards, keeping up with the story. This doesn’t mean the images and impressions of a story won’t stay with the reader after the lights are out of course!

5) Scene changes – The story, so far, is set in just a few static locations.  The fictional ‘world’ is relatively small, descriptions are kept to a minimum, outlining the basics and allowing the reader to fill in the gaps.

6) Action – The characters spend more time acting than thinking. Long internal monologues slow the pace of a story down. Although Nevill’s characters think, they spend much more time doing. Even when they’re thinking it’s normally as they are doing something or something is being done to them, which keeps the pace high.

Writing this has been quite interesting as I’ve gone from wondering what creates pace to having something I would use as a checklist in my own writing.