#Book Reviews: Three Awesome Novels I’ve Read This Year

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
by Gail Honeyman

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I finished reading this novel weeks ago and still can’t think of a way to praise it highly enough.

The main character, Eleanor, has her routine — work, home, a limited wardrobe, a functional diet, and two bottles of vodka to get through each weekend. Often her social and communication skills aren’t in accord with other people, but I loved her bluntness and lack of awareness that her honesty might not go down well at times, plus her nerdiness; she’s a veritable mine of information. In both these respects, she reminded me a bit of Saga in the Nordic crime series The Bridge and, as with Saga, many of her comments caused me to laugh out loud, more so for being justified more often than not.

This is a story where the main protagonist starts out lonely, damaged, and with serious trust issues, but who slowly learns to believe in herself with the help of a few people who show her a huge amount of kindness and the meaning of true friendship, especially her work colleague Raymond from the IT department upstairs.

Gail Honeyman’s writing style is accessible, fluent, and pleasing, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that this, her first novel, won the Costa Book Award last year and has been in The Sunday Times Top ten Paperback for many months.

This book is an absolute must read…

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How to Stop Time
by Matt Haig

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I’m glad to have discovered that this well-known, prize-winning children’s author also writes fiction for adults. How to Stop Time isn’t a standard time-travel novel, although it jumps backwards and forwards between various points in history. It’s about a man who has a syndrome that prevents him from aging. At first, he thinks his condition is unique to him, until he discovers there are others like him.

The story explores how it feels to be different, and how people at various times in history have treated people who don’t fit the norm; the dangers, the loneliness, and, in the case of this novel’s main protagonist, the problems with forming a longterm attachment with another human who has a comparably short lifespan.

The novel is easy to read, gently humorous, sad in places, but seeks to find the best in humanity. I liked it well enough to buy another novel by the same author and read it straight after this one.

A recommended read, if only that it won’t leave you exhausted and the author has a writing voice that fills you with warmth.

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The Humans
by Matt Haig

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Humans by Matt Haig is an absolute delight. It’s about an alien who’s sent on a mission to replace/pose as a university professor of mathematics and suppress the prof’s cracking of a formula that would advance humanity in a way which could prove dangerous to extra-terrestrial civilisations across the galaxy.

Although this sounds like the makings of a science fiction novel, I would not class it as such. It’s more about people and their relationships with one another in their daily lives and how, despite all their flaws, they’re worthy of a place in the universe.

The alien looks exactly like the uni prof and knows his mathematics, but that’s where the similarity ends. As he learns to be human, his adoptive “wife” and “teenage son” can’t believe the positive change that has come over the once cold and arrogant husband and father.

I don’t want to say anything further about the story, to avoid any spoilers, but I read this at a time when I was feeling extremely negative, if not depressed about the human race, and Matt Haig helped me look for and rediscover the good in people once more.

A highly recommended read, that’s quirky, funny, moving, and possibly good for your mental health!

Points to Consider Before Posting Your Work Online: by Children’s Author, Kate Kelly

Sarah has kindly invited me over to this blog and has asked me to say a few words about posting your work online.

It’s very tempting for a new writer who has just started their first blog or website to want to showcase their work. I see it often – a synopsis – the first few chapters – or a complete short story posted for anyone to read.

Sometimes the person is asking for feedback. Sometimes they are trying to promote their self published book, but often these sample chapters are part of a Work in Progress – or something that is currently doing the rounds of agents’ desks.

If you have self published and are posting extracts as part of your book promotion then that is one thing. However, if it is something that you are hoping to sell then you should think twice about posting online.

Here are some of the reasons why:

1. If you post something on your blog you are effectively publishing it. In the case of a short story you will have relinquished first rights to that story. You will no longer be able to sell it to a magazine or anthology as technically it is already published.
2. You will also have made the story ineligible for most competitions.
3. There is no copyright on ideas so do you really want the entire world to share in yours?
4. If what you are posting is a WIP then it probably still needs work. Do you really want the world to see your mistakes?
5. Agents do not trawl round writers’ blogs looking for new clients. They have enough in their slushpile to keep them busy. (I’m sure someone will chime in with an exception to this but in general it is true).
6. If an agent or publisher is interested then the first thing they will do will be to visit your blog. If they see a large portion of the work you have submitted to them that could very likely be a deal breaker.
7. If you are looking for good quality critique on your work then a blog is not the best place. Join a good online writers’ community instead.

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“Thank you, Kate, for your words of wisdom that I’m sure will have many novice writers rushing to their blogs to remove material they’ve unwittingly ‘published’. And, yes, I do have some of my short stories on my blog, but not ones that I intend to publish elsewhere! I also have posted some one or two sentence teasers from my work-in-progress, but that is acceptable.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKate Kelly is a children’s author based in the UK. Her début novel Red Rock, published by Curious Fox, is a Cli-fi thriller for the 10+ age group. 

I look forward Kate returning to this blog in the near future for an interview about her novel and how she achieved publication. Meanwhile, perhaps you would like to check out her blog at  http://scribblingseaserpent.blogspot.com

If you live in the UK, you can buy Red Rock as a paperback or Kindle edition here

If you live outside the UK, you can buy the book as Kindle edition (only) here

Novel Writing Winter (NWW) 2013 — What’s Next?

daffodil03

Novel Writing Winter (NWW) 2013 ended today with the advent of the Vernal Equinox (just couldn’t resist replacing the word Spring, with its posh relative Vernal). I’m not sure whether all the people who registered an interest in NWW are still on board, but I know of some who’ve stayed the course. From the feedback I’ve had, nobody has yet finished their project, which is why I’ve decided to start a new page titled “Novel Writing Spring, 2013 ( Forum)” — link below. On the NWS page, you’ll also find a new image to paste in your sidebar, to replace the NWW one.

For me, January 1st heralded a change in direction for my writing — different style, more literary than before, and speculative. At first, my head could only deal with writing 250-500 words per session, or I would end up with one of my “school algebra” headaches, which is my name for anything that taxes my head to exploding point. Once I’d written the first 10,000 words and sketched out a complicated family tree for my incestuous cast of characters, things started taking off for real, and it was time to throw away the paracetomol. This week, I’ve reached the point when I’m breathless with excitement, so it’s on to the tranquillizers (only joking!).

Yesterday, in anticipation of the Vernal happening, I wrote an explosive and passionate chapter that’s pivotal to my whole novel.  Approximately 20,000 words in, here’s a small tease of a paragraph. Publication of anything else from the chapter would require me to slap an adult rating on to this post, so anyone interested to read on will have to hope, with me, that the novel ends up published.

  • But there she is, standing there in the middle of the room, tears rolling down her speckled cheeks, her tawny irises swimming in a sea of pink. Alone. Adrift. And it’s my duty to rescue her before she runs aground, splinters, and drowns in her own desolation.

Does anyone else want to celebrate the start of spring, by sharing a paragraph of their Work in Progress?

https://sarahpotterwrites.wordpress.com/novel-writing-spring-2013-forum/

Novel Writing Winter — weird clothes for weird work!

The French have shown us in S.E. England great generosity, by sending their snow and icy winds our way. Just to look on the positive side of things, this is better than one of the reactors in their nuclear power stations going into meltdown and dosing us with radiation.

This is not the time to think about looking fashionable, unless you have enough money at your disposal to jack up the central heating or to buy all your gear from a designer ski shop and wear it indoors. Poor, environmentally conscious, not-yet-famous writers (note the positive thinking here) must make do with what some snoots might regard as anti-fashion statements. I like to see it as setting a trend, just as I hope to set a trend with my weird novel.

Writer's Cold Weather GearWinter Survival Gear for Writers 

cotton vest top

T-shirt

double-knit three-quarter length, long-sleeved jumper

shorter double-knit tank top

leggings

jeans

plus essential footwear to set off the outfit (omitted from photo at the photographer’s discretion)

brown Birkenstock unisex sandals worn with black socks

With two weeks to go of Novel Writing Winter (NWW) 2013, there is no way I’m going to have finished my project. I will probably reach the 20K mark — words, not earnings. This is not a problem, as I think in the past I’ve slammed out novels too fast for their own good. Also, having removed my genre-shackles and ventured down the route of speculative fiction, its taking time to acclimatize to my newfound liberty.

To describe my novel in one sentence: Eulogy To The Last Man is a minimalist yet epic paradox about a family tree littered with anomalies spanning the 31st century.

It’s a useful exercise to think of a one or two-sentence to describe your work, as it will come in useful as a hook when pitching it to publishers or agents, or in writing your own blurb for self-publishing.

Does anyone else feel like writing a pitch for their novel and posting it as a comment here?

Also, who’s willing to describe an outfit they enjoy wearing for writing, even if it’s their birthday suit?

Lucky Seven Time!

I’ve been tagged by Naomi Baltuck of Writing Between the Lines. For those who don’t know Naomi, she’s a most talented storyteller and photographer, and I just love her blog. Do check out her lucky seven post, as well as some of her other awesome words and pictures.  http://naomibaltuck.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/lucky-seven-time/ 

So what’ s lucky seven you ask?  A chance to show off your writing, with a twist. You have to post it as is at the time of the tagging, warts and all.  Well, I’m posting three weeks after the tagging, but without cheating, as I’ve not edited a word of my work in progress.

Here’s how it works.

  • Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript
  • Go to line 7
  • Post on your blog the next 7 lines or sentences – as they are!!
  • Tag 7 other people to do the same

I’ve only written 52 pages of my novel begun on January 1st for Novel Writing Winter (NWW) 2013, so will post from page 7.

futureworld

Eulogy To The Last Man, set in the 31st century, is speculative fiction. The extract (primarily dialogue) is written from the second-person viewpoint of Morag, who’s one of the three main characters. It’s a flashforward (rather than flashback), but voiced in the present tense. She is talking to Anna, the central character, who, despite the misleading name, is a teenage boy.

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“You’ve gone insane.”

“No, it’s you who’s insane for bringing me fish?”

You scowl up at the sky, as if there’s a cruel memory pinned to the stars. I look up. There are no stars. Only the face of a mother—the last mother on earth to have given birth. Your mother.

“She’s dead,” I remind you.

“She lied to me.”

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These are the seven lucky bloggers I’ve tagged (all of them participants in NWW!)

Rescuing Little L

Crowing Crone Joss

Graphite Bunny

Tea with a Pirate

jaycee68

Peaceful Partings

This is Me..For All Its Worth..Journal Blog

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To read more about Novel Writing Winter, go to https://sarahpotterwrites.wordpress.com/novel-writing-winter-nww-2013/