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<a href="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1013383.The_Gruffalo&quot; style="float:left;padding-right:20px;">The Gruffalo The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a children’s classic and we have been reading this to our daughter since she was around 10 months old. She loved the beautiful illustrations by the talented Axel Scheffler, that are so vidid and lifelike yet still imbued with a child’s view of the world. The story of a little vulnerable mouse outwitting various hungry predators in the woods and nearly coming undone by his own tall tales is very simple to read to children and for them to learn language with but it is also extremely smart and sharp from an adult’s perspective.Many children’s books rely on the surreal or stretching what adults consider logical into completely fantastical tales that make little sense in any world and serve no purpose other than to try too hard to impress. The Gruffalo does not do this. It uses myth to make it’s point but it is grounded in very down to earth ideas and narrative.The deliciously worded descriptions of The Gruffalo were fun for our daughter to read yet simple enough for her to remember and aid the development of her language skills. the illustrations play a big part in this as ideas such as knobbly Knees mean nothing to a toddler unless they can see them!When meal times became an endless chore of trying to convince our little one to eat her dinner we always had this book as a back up to distract her. It always worked and she always jumped straight into the wonderful world of the woods with the Mouse strolling through to meet the “imaginary” Gruffalo!A must for all parents.

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Short Update

Keep it short.

That is the lesson I have learnt from all my dizzying array of experiences over the last few heady months. Ill health, family traumas, financial problems, career decisions and marital tensions have all forced me to reassess my life and choices, and the way that I deal with everyday that comes my way.

I always feel the need to express myself, and I usually suppress that need. I have been moulded over the years to tell people what they want to hear. I live behind an array of masks to please those around me. The journey to the centre of the real me is a painful and long one, but has borne some fruit. One of these pearls of wisdom is that I need to focus more diligently on expressing myself in a concise manner. I also need more discipline. Maybe the fact my life, and my head, is in such a mess, is the reason behind my long winded rambling diatribes. If so, it is time to clean up the mess and clear my head.

I have been inspired by Anton Chekhov short stories. Chekhov can transmit an entire philosophy or complex character in just one sentence. He is a true literary genius. His stories “The Woman in the Case” and “History of a Business Enterprise” left an indelible mark on me. They were short, sharp, succinct and yet very profound, thought provoking and highly enjoyable to read.

My own forays into short story wiring have not been as successful. I have started 11 different ideas. One was composed in a fit of late night frenetic inspiration, but when I went back to it I ended up doubling its size. I am now back to working on the novel. I need some focus and some structure to my writing endeavours. Lack of creativity and ideas is never the problem, Lack of focus and discipline is my problem.

Anyway I better do as I said and keep this short. Chekhov short stories and staying focussed when writing. Those are the key lessons of the day.

http://tinyurl.com/mkcnfp

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anton_Chekhov


I have come to a final decision.

Having spent over 10 years, excluding the formative years before where the ideas were swirling within my confused mind as nothing but random, unconnected ideas, I have got nowhere with my first novel. That is not entirely accurate. I have managed to mould it into a coherent narrative spread over 2 books with solid characters that live and breathe within me on a daily basis, and if I had the time I would be able to compose the chapters that I have typed up summaries for in the nearly completed story summary. The skeleton is there, the backbone, the themes and aims and the arcs, but I just don’t have the time or energy, and it seems the money, to justify devoting any more of my precious time and dwindling resources to working on my first novel, let alone the other 2 novels that have been steadily brewing within my psyche for the last few years.

I have therefore decided to take the advice of my friends and focus on short stories. I will distil the very core of the ideas from my novels and pillage the characters for traits and dialogue as I endeavour to shape a few coherent, exciting, stimulating and interesting short stories. I always fial to compose a short story because all the ideas that begin as a few characters in one scene end up taking a life of their own and creating the basis of a novel. I need to find the strength and focus to keep them suppressed and within the framework of a tight, minimalist plot line. That is much harder for me to do than it seems.

As I take the first real steps on my journey into the world of short stories it makes sense to me to abandon the idea of continuing to read novels on my ever expanding reading list and to instead focus on reading short stories. I have not actually read many short stories and when I come to think of it, given the lack of time and resources at my disposal, it makes perfect sense not only to compose short stories but also to read them, instead of lengthy novels that require you to lose yourself for hours in their intricately woven worlds.

All I need now is to procure as many fascinating and stimulating short stories as I can, without spending a single penny, as I am financially broke.

The first task is to create a reading list of short stories that will not only be fun to read but also a useful guide in my own journey as an aspiring author. The internet, friends and the local library should be good starting points. That also means i need to find time to visit my local library and actually become a member. I just hope they have a decent selection of short stories by the likes of Philip K Dick, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jorge Luis Borges. If not I will have to hope my sister has copies or that some of my friends will be kind enough to share their collections of short stories with me as I dive head on into the world of condensed prose.

I have always struggled to express myself and my ideas in a concise and succinct manner and I hope this new journey will teach me some valuable lessons, not just in authoring short stories, but in how to communicate more efficiently in the wider world, be it real or virtual.

Now I must set sail and start on that reading list. www.librarything.com here I come!

As my general blog will tell you, I should be balancing the heavily reddened books of our personal family finances and updating the bank account balances and setting the budget which shows just how dire my current financial situation is. As this is not only very depressing but also very dull I have decided to escape back to the world of blogging and share the few interesting articles I have come across.

Here are the literature related links/ articles I found interesting:

Guardian article on slow death of Blogging:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/jun/24/charles-arthur-blogging-twitter

Libraries Tap Into Twitter:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jun/24/libraries-twitter

JG Ballard Obituary from the Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/apr/19/jg-ballard-obituary

Link to the Guardian Book Blogs:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog

What will the literary archives of today’s authors look like?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2009/jun/22/literary-archives

Top 10 Literary Menages a Trois

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jun/23/ewan-morrison-menage-trois

I finally got around to reading the leading article in last Saturday’s edition of Review in the Guardian. It was a piece by William Boyd about the use of Parks, specifically park sin London, in literature. The article can be read using the link below.

William Boyd takes a literary tour of urban oases:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jun/20/william-boyd-park-stories

I was also impressed by the interview in the Guardian’s Guide with writer George Pelecanos who was one of the main writers on my favourite TV Show, The Wire, and has written 16 novels of his own. His new novel is called The Way Home and was released in May. It was George who wrote the amazing scene in series 3 of The Wire where Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale reminisce about their youth and how far they have come so poignantly on the balcony of Avon’s luxury apartment.

Here is the link to the article from Guide:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/jun/20/george-pelecanos-the-wire-interview

I have also been convinced by fellow Twitter obsessives that I should distill the essence of my first novel into a short story and therefore actually produce a coherent piece of creative literature that may actually get read by someone other than the gremlins in my frazzled head. I started working on it today amongst all the doctor’s appointments, cooking, babysitting and watching a fascinating documentary on Virtual Worlds.

Check out the link for the Documentary Another perfect World, In Search of a Virtual Paradise:

http://anotherperfectworld.submarine.nl/

I am also still searching for a decent reading list application for my iPhone, as the one I am currently using does not link to any database of books so I have to manually type in all the details. Keeping an electronic reading list that I can update with book recommendations from friends will hopefully make my reading more focused and productive and ensure I don’t forget to read that “amazing book” that “you just must read!” Any suggestions are most welcome.

I also came across this interesting piece on a rising Sci-Fi author:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jun/23/alastair-reynolds-1m-contract-science-fiction

The positive power of web 2.0 social networking overload was that I noticed, on Twitter, that a friend of mine was reading “The Diamond as Big as The Ritz” by F. Scott Fitzgerald and since I have not read this novella by the author of The Great Gatsby I added it to my reading list (the one in my head).

There are many more thoughts colliding with each other in my head but it is past midnight and I better focus and leave the world of blogging for tonight!

Should I go for a walk in the park with my wife and daughter, even though it looks like rain, I have a really bad cold, and I already walked 40 minutes this morning?

Should I give in to the sudden attack of fatigue, which suddenly came from nowhere even though I have had 4 coffees, 1 tea and 1 can of diet cola to try and stay alert, and just go to sleep for an afternoon nap? I feel like an old man trapped inside the body of a wrecked 30 year old. Life is too short for afternoon naps and siestas, much as like the idea. My head is stuffy, my eyelids heavy and I may start drooling on the PC keyboard. It is lucky this is not a video blog.

Should I blog? If so which blog? My general Blog? My weight loss Blog? My books & literature Blog? Should I compose a new blog on today’s thoughts, reading or culinary adventures? Should I instead go back and edit, correct the spelling and cut down the previous blog entries queued up to be posted?

Should I finish reading The Gambler by Dostoevsky? Should I finish reading “What is History” by E.H. Carr instead? Should I read the review section of today’s Guardian or finish reading the short story in the last issue of review I never finished reading? I should really finish reading the Teach Yourself, How to Write a Novel book I am also reading.

Should I phone all the people I need to phone but have no energy or desire to phone?

Should I finish the cashflow, our personal finances summary in excel that is the most important thing to do as we are broke, getting more broke every day and may lose our house unless I can start bringing in £2k a month from somewhere?

Should I book my next Career Coach appointment, do the Career Coach exercises or look for jobs I am too ill and fatigued to actually apply for, let alone even contemplate doing?

Should I look for all my notes and print outs on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and try and work out why I have started losing all my energy over the last few weeks and had more frequent attacks of sudden fatigue and lethargy? This is a point in my life where I need all the energy I can muster, not to be drained of what little energy I already have.

Should I start reading my copy of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for dummies to get some useful pointers?

Should I actually muster the will power and create the food plan for the next 2 weeks so that I don’t end up eating lots of frozen birds eye food or one too many weight watchers chocolate caramel bars and instead plan our healthy, nutritious dinners to coincide with my dieting, food tracking and efforts to eat less beef and red meat to try and combat the chronic fatigue and my worsening IBS?

How do I prioritise which books to read next? Every day I discover a new book that looks so interesting I make a mental note to put it on the reading list I have lost and wish there was a decent iPhone application to record. Today I saw that my friend James is reading “The Diamond as Big as The Ritz” a novella by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I skimmed the story outline in Wikipedia and it looks fascinating. It may also help me get an insight into how to shorten my own stories. Yet it is another great read I have no time to incorporate into my life and will make me feel worse for never getting round to reading it.

I have found a great website that has book recommendation lists based a variety of interesting subjects. Check it out:

http://www.flashlightworthybooks.com/

Digression into the world of reading lists aside, the real question burning in my frazzled mind is this: What is more important? My health? Feeling energised? Getting restorative sleep? Understanding our finances? Staying out of debt? Getting as much writing done as I can before i lose all my spare time if I have to go back to a lifeblood sucking job? Reading as many great works of fiction as I can before I lose the precious time I have know? Curing my IBS and Fatigue through alternative therapies that may or may not work? Changing my career even though I have no money or energy? Doing household chores versus writing blogs and feeling fulfilled? Finishing my first novel or ripping it apart and making a short story out of its best ideas? Plot driven to make it sell well, or character driven because that is infinitely more interesting?

I have too many questions, too many dilemmas.

My wife looks unimpressed as she takes our screaming daughter out for a walk in the park and see’s my fatigued, heavy eyed body slumped over the computer desk trying to desperately compose a blog entry that will actually get posted up.

I am stressed, drained, burnt out and need to post the picture of my 7 weightwatchers point fish finger sandwich up onto my weight loss blog. I also need to re link my old blog about Chronic Fatigue to my current series of blogs.

I just want to sleep.

Then I want to wake up and just read.

This is my new blog where I share the wonderful journeys I take into the word of books.

I love nothing more than to escape the trials and tumultuous tribulations of my currently overwhelming life by immersing myself in the plotlines, narrative arcs and wonderfully rich characters of a good book. I hope to share my love of books and all things literary, including links to other book blogs, web sites, resources and literary events. I am also an aspiring fiction author working on a modern morality tale novel, in addition to a Sci-Fi political revolutionary thriller and Historical Fantasy epic about the birth of civilisations. I have 2 other blogs in addition to this one, and I will be creating even more, to manage the different facets of my diverse personality in a more efficient manner! I hope it works, even though it probably won’t, but it will be fun nonetheless.

My Other Blogs:

Escape to Blog Land – My General Blog with random thoughts, stories and experiences

http://razakam.blogspot.com

Escape to Weight Loss Land – My Blog with tips and tricks to successful, sustainable weight loss and healthy eating and living.

http://escapetoweightloss.wordpress.com