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Weekly update 12-18 December

With only one week to go until Christmas I decided it was probably best to start my shopping. So, on Saturday, Chris and I spent the afternoon and evening hunting for presents in Meadowhall, also known as Meadowhell, or Murderhall, depending on how you feel.

Waterstone’s was the first stop. I love buying books for my friends and family. I’m not sure if they like receiving them year after year, for Christmas and birthdays and Mother’s Day and any other celebration, but they should.

Time wasn’t on our side, so instead of spending ages browsing the shelves, I was in and out in about 20 minutes. It was a record. My basket was full of books for other people (good choices too), but I couldn’t Continue reading

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The week in books

Hope you’re having a good start to the week. Normally, on a Monday evening I would be out running, but seeing as though I have a race this week, I’m having a day off! In fact, we both are. I’m updating my book blog, and Chris is reading the paper. Then we are both going to spend the evening reading!

So, here’s a quick update about last week.

What I’ve been reading

I’m still in the nineteenth century. Last week my focus was on The Woman in White, Madame Bovary and Heart of Darkness.

What I’ve been writing

Essays, essays and more essays. They are taking over my life. However, I am managing to work on my book. I’ve set myself a target of 500 words a day. I’ve also been blogging here, and on my running and wedding blogs.

What I’ve been watching

I’ll admit that I’ve not quite given up TV. We’ve been enjoying Undercover, Line of Duty, and the OJ Simpson programme that’s now finished. On Saturday night we also watched a Liam Neeson film, but not the one where he has a particular set of skills, another one, where he didn’t so much want the skills he had – being an assassin! Chris has just informed me it was called Unknown. We fell asleep before the ending, but that’s not a reflection on Liam!

What I’ve been buying (book shopping)

the loney et al2

I couldn’t resist some book buying when my Mum and I went shopping. I bought The Loney, which I’ve already told you about, The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma, The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas, and Louis de Bernieres The Dust that Falls from Dreams.

The Fishermen is set in a small town in Western Nigeria. I may have mentioned before that I love African literature. I seem to be drawn to it. Anyway, four young brothers use their strict father’s absence from home to go fishing at a forbidden local river. They encounter a dangerous local madman who predicts that the older brother will be killed by another. This prophecy breaks their strong bond and unleashes a tragic chain of events of almost mythic proportions. I can’t wait to get started.

I bought The Seed Collectors because I’m a fan of Scarlett Thomas’s writing. I absolutely loved The End of Mr Y.

This coming week I will be reading The Awakening. I’ve also just had an email from my Comma Press short story tutor who’s told the group to go mad this month and read as many short stories as possible. I will certainly do my best.

What are you reading this week?

Happy reading

Liz

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Friday read

I’m very excited about this week’s Friday read. It’s a Costa Book Awards winner and Waterstones Book Club recommendation.

I’ve heard very good things about it.

On Wednesday, my Mum and I had an afternoon together, which involved drinking tea, eating scones and book shopping (of course). When I asked the bookseller to recommend a book, she didn’t hesitate in taking this one from the shelf. Continue reading

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Reading and writing round-up (13-26 July)

Reading update

The book buying has been getting out of control again. I popped into Waterstones Wakefield to buy a copy of Go Set a Watchman and ended up buying books for Mum, Olivia and me.

waterstones shopping

And here they are…

I’m not going on holiday this year, but I decided I’d buy some beach reads anyway. They were: Cecelia Ahern’s The Year I Met You, Millie Johnson’s The Teashop on the Corner, and Nick Hornby’s Funny Girl. I will just have to pretend I’m going on holiday.

Mslexia magazine are advertising their novel competition. Rosie Garland won last year’s competition and received a lot of praise. I decided to buy The Palace of Curiosities to find out why it was a winner, and hopefully to pick up some tips for my own novel.

My next university module is short story and life writing – some sort of combination – so that is very much on my mind and influencing my book choices. I bought Love Nina: Despatches from Family Life by Nina Stibbe.

Books given

As it was my birthday my friend bought me a copy of Lizzy Hawker’s Runner, a short story about a long run which at 264 pages is not a short story at all. It fits in perfectly with my life writing module, as I’m writing about running too!

Chris bought me bookshop vouchers for my birthday.

Another friend from running club loaned me Raymond Briggs’ Ethel & Ernest – a true story. This is the story of Raymond Briggs’ parents from their first chance encounter to their deaths, told in Briggs’ unique strip-cartoon format.

Writing update

I entered a competition to write a 250 word monologue in the voice of a window cleaner. I only found out about the competition on the closing date, so I didn’t have much time to work on this. But it was fun. I enjoyed the process, and it’s something else I’ve completed for my portfolio. I’m trying to print out all my writing. I tend to save work on the computer but that means I’m forever editing and changing things. The result is that I never think anything is finished. Having a printed portfolio is good for creating a positive mindset. Just seeing the quantity of work makes me appreciate how far I’ve come.

I’m entering one of my short stories in a competition. The deadline is the end of July so I have been busy getting the story into shape. Having a deadline to work to definitely helps. I’ve decided to keep targeting short story competitions because if nothing else, it makes me finish a story. I’ve also been developing an idea for a novel. I really should be finishing the ideas I’ve already had, but this idea popped into my head and I couldn’t get rid of it.

I think that’s everything. I would love to know what you are reading or writing.

Liz x

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Books, cake and chocolate – a perfect birthday

It was my birthday yesterday. A birthday for me usually involves three things – books, cake and chocolate!

This year there was certainly a lot of cake. A huge chocolate cake actually (and it tasted great). There was also a lot, and I mean a lot, of chocolate. It should last me until the end of the week. But books? Well, there was only one. 36th birthday cake

Chris always buys books for my birthday or Christmas or Valentine’s Day. I’ve discovered some wonderful books because he picks things that I wouldn’t normally read. But this year he didn’t buy any. Instead I was given a bookshop voucher, which is great and I’m very happy with this. The thing is I missed opening my book presents. I missed the excitement of finding out what Chris had selected for me.

The reason that Chris opted for the vouchers is because my book-buying has got so out of control in recent years that he’d struggle to find a book that I haven’t already bought.

‘It’s impossible,’ he said. ‘I don’t know what you’ve got or haven’t got.’

It was a good point, because quite frankly, neither do I. To solve the problem I’m going to read more, much more. I’m going to prioritise my reading. I always feel guilty sitting down to read when there are so many things that need doing, but actually that’s silly. I’m studying English literature and writing, so it should be my priority.

Maybe once I’ve cleared my to be read pile, Chris will be able to resume the book buying.

It wasn’t a completely book-less birthday though. My friend from running club bought me a book about running. Lizzy Hawker’s Runner – a short story about a long run looks great and I can’t wait to get started. And there’s also the book vouchers to look forward to spending!

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The week in books

The Bees by Laline Paull is the first book I’m reading this week.

It’s been shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, and a friend of mine recommended it.

The Bees

amazon.co.uk

Flora 717 is a survivor. Born into the lowest class of the totalitarian hive society she is prepared to sacrifice everything for the Queen, surviving internal massacres, religious purges and terrifying invasions by vicious wasps. With each act of bravery her status grows, revealing both the enemies within and the sinister secrets that rule the hive. But when her instinct to serve is overwhelmed by a fierce and deeply forbidden maternal love, she breaks the most sacred law of all…

As well as sounding fantastic the book also has a wonderful cover and it smells divine (yes, I am one of those people who sniff books). Apart from The Bees I’m not sure what else I will be reading this week. We’ve just returned from a holiday in Northumberland which means one thing – Barter Books, my favourite second-hand bookshop. I filled the car with books. I bought lots of short story collections, and have set myself the challenge of reading at least one short story every day. My university module on the short story starts in September so it’s very useful preparation. I love sitting down to read a short story with a cup of tea and maybe a chocolate treat!

My mum is reading Marian Keyes’ latest novel, The Woman Who Stole My Life. After the death of my grandfather, my mum has been struggling to enjoy her reading. However, Marian Keyes always makes her laugh. Mum is already a good way through the book so it looks like her reading mojo is back.

the woman who stole my life

It’s the first day of summer and I’m very much looking forward to a summer of reading and writing. Although as I write this it’s raining and blowing a gale outside, so summer seems far away. Nevertheless the weather folk are adamant that things will improve this week. I can’t wait to sit out in the garden and read, read, read.

And finally, I’ve also got a literary event with my friend Lucy this week. We are heading to Leeds to a Joanne Harris talk at Waterstones. I’m very much looking forward to that. Lucy and I have also launched our own June writing challenge. We are both aiming to write 50,000 words of our novels. Look out for updates!