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Weekly update: 20th August, 2017

What I’ve been reading

This week I’ve been reading A Monster by Violet by Laura Wake. I couldn’t put it down. It is so good. The review on the front says, ‘I actually held my breath,’ which is exactly what I found myself doing.

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When I’d finished reading, I didn’t want to go straight into another novel, so I started Gary Duncan’s short story collection You’re Not Supposed To Cry. My plan was to read a couple of stories and then move on to a novel, but once you’ve read one story in this collection, you have to read more. I was hooked.

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What I’ve been watching

The BBC programmes on India, Pakistan and partition have been incredibly moving. I ended up in tears most nights. One of my friends also shared her family’s experience of partition with me. I felt ignorant that I didn’t know much about it, and wanted to learn more, so obviously turned to books. I added three to my to read pile: Where the River Parts by Radhika Swarup; A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry; and, of course, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. 

What I’ve been blogging

Not a lot this week, or for a while, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Cosy Corner Books and where I’d like to take it. For a long time, I’ve had to juggle the blog alongside my English literature degree, so haven’t had enough time to blog or read anything other than the set texts. Now the degree is over, I have more time to read and to blog. We’ll see how it goes.

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Friday read

Today’s Friday read is Susan Elliot Wright’s What She Lost.

What she lost

The blurb

Eleanor and her mother Marjorie have always had a difficult relationship and although they’ve tried, they have somehow just failed to connect.

Now Marjorie has Alzheimer’s, and as her memory fades, her grip on what she has kept hidden begins to loosen. When she calls her daughter to say, ‘There’s something I have to tell you’, Eleanor hopes this will be the moment she learns the truth about the terrible secret that has cast a shadow over both their lives.

But Marjorie’s memory is failing fast and she can’t recall what she wanted to say. Eleanor knows time is running out, and as she tries to gently uncover the truth before it becomes lost inside her mother’s mind forever, she begins to discover what really happened when she was a child – and why…

 

 

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Free reading

Every August for the past six years I have received a reading list for the next module of my English Literature degree. Every year for six years I have eagerly ordered the books and started the reading to get ahead before the start of the academic year.

This year is different. There is no reading list because I have completed my Open University studies. I am free to read whatever I want. After so long of having my reading dictated by set texts, this is amazing. I am free to pick up any book I like the look of, without having the guilty feeling that I should be reading something on my nineteenth or twentieth century reading list.

For the blog, this means I can start to write regular reviews, which has always been my intention but with all the set text reading, it never quite came to fruition. Hopefully now it will.

For a long time I have been buying books to read when the degree finished. This pile has been getting bigger and bigger, becoming two piles, then three, and now it has its own room. I have a lot of reading to catch up on. I am hoping to combine new releases with the older ones, the ones I missed because I had my head in Jane Eyre or Middlemarch.

In a way it’s like rediscovering reading, finding out what authors and books I love, and finding out what influences my own writing. I’m looking forward to discovering new authors, reading the books nominated for prizes, and reading more short stories.

I enjoyed every minute of my English Literature degree. I read some amazing books and achieved my dream of a first class degree, but it was difficult. Most weekends and many evenings after work were spent studying. There were times when it was incredibly stressful, but I always enjoyed it.

I’m going to miss it.

Of course, I still have my master’s degree in writing to complete, so I’m still studying, still trying to learn and better myself. But while the English Literature degree dictated my reading, the master’s doesn’t. Here I have the freedom to widen my reading.

So, this August, instead of going into my local bookshop with a list as long as my arm, I went in empty-handed. I spent ages, wandering around, browsing the shelves, before finally selecting books for no other reason than I liked the look of them.

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The Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist 2017

The Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist 2017 has been announced, and there are some amazing books and authors listed.

We were promised 12 books but have been given 16, which just goes to show how good the past 12 months have been for women writers.

Making the list is Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, which has to be one of the most popular books of last year; it seems to have been everywhere. Great that it gets recognition here too.

Margaret Atwood, Eimear McBride, Annie Proulx, and Linda Grant are also on the longlist, as is Naomi Alderman, for her novel The Power.

Here’s the list in full:

  • Stay With Me, Ayobami Adebayo
  • The Power, Naomi Alderman
  • Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood
  • Little Deaths, Emma Flint
  • The Mare, Mary Gaitskill
  • The Dark Circle, Linda Grant
  • The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride
  • Midwinter, Fiona Melrose
  • The Sport of Kings, C.E. Morgan
  • The Woman Next Door, Yewande Omotoso
  • The Lonely Hearts Hotel, Heather O’Neill
  • The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry
  • Barkskins, Annie Proulx
  • First Love, Gwendoline Riley
  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien
  • The Gustav Sonata, Rose Tremain

As the Bailey’s Prize for Fiction celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women from throughout the world, it’s great that today’s announcement coincides with International Women’s Day 2017.

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Friday read: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca is a book I seem to know a lot about without having actually read it.

Like many people, I know the opening line, ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’ I know about some of the characters. Mrs Danvers springs to mind. I’m aware of its popularity and focus on the gothic, but I’ve never actually read it.

That’s about to change. Rebecca is one of the set texts on my twentieth century literature module. I’ve made a start reading it today.

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Weekly update: 15th January 2017

Finishing my assignment on 1930s poetry took most of the past week. I managed to fit studying in between work and running training, and really enjoyed writing the essay, even though I found it hard.

It’s always a great feeling to hand an assignment in. That’s three down and four to go before I finally finish my degree in English Literature. After six years, the end is in sight – almost.

I started reading Fell by Jenn Ashworth. I’ve only read a few chapters but know this is going to be a great book. I’m hooked.

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I also started reading Unfuck your habitat by Rachel Hoffman.

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Chris found it hilarious that I’ve bought a book about tidying up. But he’ll not be laughing for long. I’ve only read the prologue and already I’ve taken something on board. Cleaning, so the book says, should not be done marathon style. It should be done little and often. I’ve always been in the marathon camp, but since reading the first few pages, I’ve changed my habits. I’ve been doing little things daily, and I’m hopeful that these little changes will have a BIG impact. I will keep you posted.

The books I ordered arrived, so I’m looking forward to reading them. They will be featured on the Mumsnet book club during 2017, which is where I discovered them.

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In my own writing, I’ve done very little this week because of the assignment. I continued working on a short story during my lunch break at work, but apart from that, there wasn’t time. This does frustrate me, especially when I have deadlines coming up, but it couldn’t be helped. I’ll make up for it next week.

We’ve been watching Silent Witness and Sherlock. Every time I watch Silent Witness I’m fascinated with the script and how it is written. I’d love to get into scriptwriting. I have no idea how to do this, and probably don’t have time, but when have I ever let that stop me!

In other news, I took part in a local 5,000m track race, finishing first female, and wrote a blog about it on http://www.championrunning.co.uk. I also had a makeup and hair trial for my wedding, so that was exciting.

This week, I have three long days at work, including a coaching and mentoring two-day training course. I have, however, booked a day’s annual leave on Friday, so will be setting time aside for reading and writing then.

Have a good week.

Liz x

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Weekly update: 8th January, 2017

Hope you’ve had a good start to the new year.

I’ve been working on an assignment for my Open University course on twentieth century literature. The focus of the essay is 1930s poetry, so I have been reading Poetry of the Thirties from Auden to Spender, edited by Robin Skelton. I’ve also been reading the relevant chapters in the course book, which asks the question What is literature for?

The debate is around aestheticism and instrumentalism. Aestheticism being the art for art’s sake argument, whereas instrumentalism is literature with a social, political or moral purpose. It’s a fascinating module, and my head is now full of ideas to develop for an essay.

The only problem is that I have to narrow the choice down to only four poems, and decide what my main argument will be. That is tonight’s difficult job.

In the evenings, I’ve been reading Happiness Like Water short stories by Chinelo Okparanta.

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I’ve also been catching up Continue reading