East of Eden – John Steinbeck

I don’t usually review books, well okay maybe just one or two when I’ve found them really readable. This book is so good I can’t understand why I haven’t already read it. Now I have, I think it’s one of the great works and the best of Steinbeck.
I read ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ last year and although I enjoyed it, it was a bit depressing. The setting and the era we’re pretty depressing also. The Grapes is generally known as the authors best work but for me, E of E is far superior. It also has its sad moments and its fun times too but it so well intermingles the lives of three families who come together in the Salinas Valley just after the turn of the 20th century.
Life is hard for them but there is an underlying feeling of optimism throughout the book. It’s not exactly a ‘feel good’ story but is quite uplifting at times. Maybe I was feeling particularly cheerful when I read it but it was a really interesting read. I like the way Steinbeck builds visible characters that stay with you throughout. From the military father who treats his two sons totally differently to the Irish decent father who sees the faults and the promise of each of his children.
For me, it was a very satisfying read.

 

 

 

 

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Rube

via Daily Prompt: Rube

A dictionary definition of rube is:

an unsophisticated person from a rural area; hick.
I suppose that this definition could apply to a huge part of the population of any country in the world. Although, Stephen King, in his follow-up to his seminal novel The Shining, calls anyone who isn’t a member of the True Knot.
It’s not a word in common useage where I live and having just finished reading Doctor Sleep, the aformentioned book, it seems funny to see it as a daily prompt. Funny how life and time have a way of presenting coincidences daily.  As an aside, I found the book interesting and an excellent sequel. It tells us what happened to young Danny Torrance after the Overlook Hotel burnt to the ground and his father (Here’s Jonny – Jack Nicholson in the film) was killed.
Well worth a read for SK fans

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

What a gem of a book this is. It’s funny, scary, sad and happy and really well written. I was surprised to find that the author is a woman as the chief protagonist is male. We follow his hap hazard childhood with his gang of friends through to adulthood. With all the stresses and tensions of life thrown into a small Southern English town. Well paced and written and a pretty original storyline which keeps the reader, well this reader, interested and wanting more right up until the last page. It was one of those books I couldn’t put down but feel a bit lost because it’s ended.

To say this is a first book from this author I would suspect there are many more to come. I, for one, will eagerly await the next one.

How do you follow that?

mm

 

I have just finished reading this book, Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. It’s a book which took him nearly thirty years to write and finish it and then have it published. There are many books written about war and many of them about the Vietnam war but there are few that can depict such a real insight into the conditions which were endured by a young generation of boys. Sent to a strange country to fight an enemy, young boys, much like themselves. Who they were taught to hate but never met. Spending days and nights in wet, humid jungle. Often without water and proper food and every minute scared of every shadow. It is funny but often gruesome and it is a true story based on Marlantes own experience of the war. Where seventeen-year-olds commanded ten to fifteen men and a twenty-three-year-old officer was responsible for every waking and sleeping hour of the lives of over two hundred. It’s a tale of bravery, sacrifice and of how quickly they grew up when facing death, leeches, near starvation and even tigers every day.

It’s actually the second time I’ve read this book in two years. The first time I devoured every page and felt loss when I finished it. Having finished reading it again, albeit a little slower this time, I once again feel that loss. I’ve tried starting two books since but can’t really get going on either. I seem to find that when I have read a book I particularly like, so what’s the answer?

How do you get started on another book after a really good read? I know I’ll just persevere until a book clicks but I just wondered what the secret is.

 

2016 Reading List

Goodreads: Book reviews, recommendations, and discussion

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
Ray Bradbury

I’ve just signed up to the Goodreads book challenge 2016. It’s where you decide how many books you wish to read during the year. It’s not really a challenge, as such, but I’ve never actually counted how many I read on average. I had already decided that this year I would keep a tally but the challenge means I don’t have to bother. When I start a new book or end one I merely go onto the website and enter the details and they keep track  for me. It is also a good place to discover what other readers think about the next book you are considering. Others can rate and comment on any book they have read and likewise you can do the same once you either complete the book or give it up.

I just wondered how you choose what books you buy and read? Is it by author, genre, number of pages or perhaps even a bright book cover? Sometimes a thousand pages can be a little daunting and maybe even half that number can seem like an uphill struggle. Or perhaps there is the perfect novel hidden behind a plain and boring cover. I  tend to follow an author I’ve already read, although that can sometimes be disappointing, but more recently I’ve gone by recommendations. Sometimes those come from friends or from blog posts or suggestions via email. I have, for many years, subscribed to the Everyday Ebooks website. From here they send out a daily recommendation with a comment from a reader. I have discovered some great books on here, notably ‘Matterhorn’ by Karl Marlantes. Someone I’d never heard of before but it turned out to be one of the best and memorable stories of the Vietnam war I’ve ever read. Based on true events and real people it is not for the faint hearted but exciting and impossible to put down.

So how do you decide what book to read next?

Finished

‘Read a lot, write a lot, always’

 Stephen King

Today I hit the 50,000 words plus barrier at NaNoWriMo. In fact, I finished today on 52,105 words with nine days to spare. Big sighs of relief all round. This year, however, I intend to continue with my novel as I feel it needs completing. The characters  are still growing and telling me the story so I’ve settled on trying to pound out an achievable 2,000 words a day, as there is so much still to be said.

In previous years I’ve stopped once I’d finished writing in November, thinking that was my achievement done for the year. What I actually discovered was that walking away from the story allowed it to die, as I went on to other projects. Flitting about like a butterfly. I then found it impossible to get back into the story and into the heads of the protagonists and my muse left me, staring at a jumble of words. So this time I plan to keep going and to keep the characters alive. At 52,000 words I don’t feel  I am even half way towards my novel’s first draft and I have set my goal at completing that.

I don’t know what will happen but I am resolved to write something every day, and continue to build it into a completed first draft. It’s a good feeling to complete the November challenge but this year I shall keep it going.

Good luck to all others out there, still writing and heading to 50,000. I’m  with you and will continue updating my word count until the end. Keep it up you’re doing great.

Books on Writing

downloadOver the years, too many to count, that I’ve been writing I must have read dozens of books purporting to teach me how to write; to explain how my writing might improve.  I suppose I’ve probably picked up hints and tips here and there but I’m pretty well self taught. Which may be very evident to anyone reading my stories and ramblings. I’ve never studied a creative writing course but have often wondered if I would benefit from the wisdom of another unpublished writer. One who has possibly read the same books as me but relates it to students as though it’s the gospel of writing. Perhaps I’m being unkind to creative writing tutors, I probably am.

I spent over ten years as a management trainer, extolling the virtues of how they could apply various theories and models to their management style. Assuring them that it would improve their teams performance. Well I got away with it for ten years so I must have done something right. But the models and theories I taught them were invented by someone else, sometimes from works hundreds of years old and adapted to fit a modern environment. So do all management trainers make great managers themselves? I doubt it.

This leads me to wonder then, are all creative writing tutors great writers? If they are great at writing, why are they teaching others? Why are they not writing and making a living doing what they excel at?

Perhaps you can understand my cynicism or maybe not. Maybe some great teacher of letters on the page inspired you and shared, with you, their own unique knowledge. It’s never quite happened for me.

I’m just re-reading the only book on writing that I have ever got any real inspiration from. ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King is a witty part autobiography and part writing advice. This I can take from a man who has written and published over fifty books which have been further developed into films, and TV series. A prolific writer who is a master of words and probably the foremost writer of my generation, in my opinion. King, himself says that most books about how to write are full of bullshit and I agree with him. He calls ‘On Writing’  a short book so as to limit the bullshit. At three hundred and fifty pages, for him, it is. In his book he praises The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr and E.B. Wright. It’s only eighty pages long so has little room for bullshit. Rule 17 in the book says ‘Omit needless words’. Simple instructions which are easy to follow but more difficult achieve.

If you haven’t read either of these books then they are a must.