Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Secret Letters of the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari By Robin Sharma

Just as I promised, this fortnight I'm reviewing Robin Sharma's The Secret Letters of the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.

Beginning with the title - I really wasn't sure what to expect, and frankly I was a little apprehensive. But a change is always good, no matter how small. So I dove into it with an open mind and found myself enjoying this unusual book. It's not unusual in a sense of originality compared with anything else on the market - it's that it has an unusual premise. The Secret Letters of a Monk Who Sold His Ferrari is essentially a spiritual self-help book in a fictional format. You follow the journey of Jonathan Landry as he collects talismans for his cousin, the monk, who needs them for someone whose life is in danger. It follows a typical hero/quest story line - at first reluctant, he decides to go for it and the journey inevitably changes him. But the content makes the journey a lot deeper than that.

Making the book even more unusual is it's place in the series. The other books follow in the spiritual self-help strain: Discover Your Destiny with the Monk ho Sold His Ferrari: The Seven Stages of Awakening and Leadership Wisdom with the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: The 8 Ritual of the Best Leaders. Following on from the fictional book, these are non-fiction guides, much like Sharma's other self-help books. It seems the fiction is like a stepping stone into the world of spiritual self-help.

However, this doesn't mean that the book can't be enjoyed for its own sake. For myself, I think I would prefer to leave it at the fictional stage - I didn't feel drawn in by the guide, more by the fable that was presented, the anti-hero turned hero, coming to terms with his past and present and looking forward to a bright new future. Definitely a feel good book!

Overall, I can't say I'm absolutely raving about it, but it was enjoyable enough. If it sounds like your kind of thing, find a copy and see what you think.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Double Dexter

A new experience today – writing this on the train home to see my family. Currently passing lovely, bright green, rolling hills covered in tress and the occasional little farm house. 

Right – to the blog post:

Another book from the wonderful people at Doubleday. This is one of the more popular books I’ve reviewed as it is the latest in the Dexter series, Double Dexter. Let’s start with the cover, shall we? It promises to be “an all-new Dexter case you won’t see on TV” – surely a thrill for fans of the series and a sure-fire motive for them to grab a copy. It was released on 18th October, with little hype, but a strong fan-base nonetheless. I had high hopes, having heard so much about the series (some of you will be horrified to find that the first Dexter book I have read is the latest one, and I haven’t even caught an episode on TV) so as soon as I could I delved in to find out what the fuss was all about. 

It was an easy read, I probably read the 322 pages that my proof-copy offered in about six hours. I generally enjoyed the plot, too. However, as I read, the niggles piled up and I wished I hadn’t set my expectations quite so high. I was expected something complex, that would leave me wondering after each chapter, what was going to happen next? Who was the Shadow? It was, unfortunately, rather predictable, and I prefer more of a puzzle in my crime fiction, a few unexpected twists and turns. On top of its predictability was a hefty dose of repetition, which certainly wasn’t a helpful factor when it was quite obvious what was going to happen. It occasionally made the reading experience quite dull and I found myself skipping over whole paragraphs in search of something new. Even the simplest narrative techniques were exaggerated to make it obvious what was going to happen. Lindsay’s use of foreshadowing, for example, leaves a lot to be desired – rather than hinting at future events, it more shoves it in your face so that you cannot pretend you don’t know what’s coming. 

This said, I still sat for several hours straight and finished the book, and I had enjoyed what I’d read. If you want an easy crime fiction read, this would certainly be the kind of thing you were looking for. It is entertaining, the lovable rogue that is Dexter is a brilliant narrator, and Lindsay’s descriptions are fantastic. I have a feeling I might be tracking down the first book – maybe now that my expectations have been set straight, I might not find it so niggly.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

National Novel Writing Month

I thought I take this fortnight's blog and write about a crazy little thing I'm doing called national Novel Writing Month. Of course, many of you have heard of it, but there are a surprising amount of people who don't know anything about it. I believe it is my duty as a NaNoWriMo participant to inform you all about this wonderful event.

Remember my first blog post on Erin Morgernstern's The Night Circus? The bestselling debut hit started life as a NaNoWriMo novel in 2005 (Read Erin's pep-talk on the writing of The Night Circus) and so did around ninety other novels! Amazing, right?

So I can see you wondering: what is NaNoWriMo exactly? Well, NaNoWriMo is an exciting opportunity to kick start your novel with the support of millions of other NaNo participants the world over! Writing is a solitary business, made a lot easier with the support of others in the same boat - in November there are a heck of a lot of people in that boat with you, so much so that the boat has probably become the size of the world's biggest cruiser-liner. But on the cruise-liner, there's not much time for lounging by the pool or playing games or watching the crew's entertainment evenings (dodgy cabarets and wanna-be musicians), but there are paper and pens everywhere and plug sockets so that your laptops and netbooks don't run out of juice, and a stash of USB sticks and a wireless internet connection so that once every seven days you can back up your precious words. There are also challenges and games to get your wordcount higher, enabling social interaction while still novelling! Did I mention the target is 50,000 words? Come back! Don't run away! It's fun!

At the moment, Day 10, we are a third of the way through - but it's no too late to join in! Numerous NaNo participants are joining as the days go on. In fact, there are many and various ways to catch up with those of us who have been writing since day one. My favourite so far is in memory of our heroes of WWII: The 11-11-11 11th Hour Challenge. Within the same forum, you will also find invitations to word wars and other fun word-count-boosting social activities. And speaking of social activities! You will also find that the majority of areas around the world have their own NaNo Regions. These are run by wonderful people who take on the role of Municipal Liaison. Both in real life and in the virtual world, these people offer advice, encouragement and social activities such as the Kick-Offs, Write-Ins (both IRL and virtual) and the Thank-God-It's-Over parties. They also run regional chatrooms for word wars and sprints; often regions war against each other for the highest collective word count! So if you're feeling competitive, it's a great place to be. And finally, there's the wonderful world of Twitter. Throughout November, there are numerous challenges run on @NaNoWordSprints by MLs all over the world which give you timed challenges to write as much as you can, alongside little prompts and challenges such as words or situations to get into your writing. If all else fails, trawl through the forums for interesting threads and be inspired! As you can see, you are not left on your own to complete this month-long challenge, help is around every corner!

What I'm saying is... I'd like to invite you all on a whirl-wind adventure into the land of novel-writing for the next twenty days. What do you say?

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Bruce Duffy's Disaster Was My God

I have never read a semi-fictional biography before, nor have I read any poetry by the French poet Arthur Rimbaud. Bruce Duffy's Disaster Was My God has introduced them both to me. He states in his 'Note to the Reader' that while the book may be true to the character of Monsieur Rimbaud, the account is a fictional one; Duffy describes it as "more allegorical than historical, as befits a legend". Nevertheless, it is a compelling story and will certainly stir your interest in the man and his poetry.

The title of the book is derived from Rimbaud's poem, A Season In Hell, and his poetry is often quoted throughout the novel - the descriptive and dark language used by Duffy often seems a mimicry of the poet. His account of "the outlaw life of Arthur Rimbaud" draws you in from the beginning. Anachronistically, the prologue serves as an insight into the life of Rimbaud's mother after his death, revealing the contrasting views of Rimbaud's mother and the town of Charleville. Arthur is the bane of her life; Arthur is their hero and claim to fame.

The anachronistic treatment of the story does not mean you lose your way through the maze of Arthur Rimbaud's life; Duffy's skillfully crafted story merely keeps you on your toes. The past seems to serve as an explanation for the current actions of the characters, which suits the novel's prologue: In some ways the later chapters exist as a teleological explanation of Madame Rimbaud's attitude towards her son. Really, an excellent narrative hook. Why does this woman despise her son so much? Read on, dear Monsieur et Madame, read on...

The novel is to be released on the 17th November 2011 - and I'm very grateful to DoubleDay to be able to have this early viewing.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Back to normality, starting with the Monster

Hello, my fellow book-lovers. Everything has become more settled now I'm in my third week of my MA; back into the swing of things as it were. So I'm back to writing reviews biweekly, as promised. Also as promised, I'm reviewing A Monster Calls.

Patrick Ness's book is aimed at a younger audience, young adults and older children, than the books I have previously reviewed. However, I will argue most heartily that it is a book for all ages, so long as you have a decent-sized box of tissues nearby. This is a devastating story of a young boy coming to terms with the fact that his mother is dying of cancer. Adding to the distressing layers of the novel, the idea for the story was begun by Siobhan Dowd, who lost her own battle against cancer before she could write the book. Ness bravely takes on Dowd's final novel and produces something crushing and brilliant.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

The White Devil

I'm sorry that this is late again. It's been an odd and busy week full of illnesses - my poor fiance is very poorly.

This week's novel is The White Devil  by Justin Evans.

Welcome to Harrow School. A private school for the elite of England. When he was younger, and not quite mad, bad and dangerous to know, it was the school of Lord Byron. Centuries later, some of his best kept secrets come to light... starting with a murder on the school grounds.

Well put together, with interesting twists. Best read in a well lit room, preferably during day-light.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

So you want to be a reveur?

The Night Circus - Online Game

Above is a link to a small game based on the lovely novel. You choose cards, you collect mementoes and your story progresses... where will the circus take you?

Friday, 26 August 2011

Consequences, and the Growth of Love

This lovely little tome dropped through my letter box this morning. An adult fable, eighty-eight pages in total - I devoured it in an hour - it's even beautifully illustrated with Victorianesque silhouettes. What more could you ask for? And Mr Kaufman does have a wonderful sense of humour, at times as liquorice-black as the novella's end-pages.

Dark, beautiful, sentimental.

If you hadn't already guessed, I really enjoyed this novella.

The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman

Other books by Andrew Kaufman: All My Friends Are Superheroes and The Waterproof Bible

The Tiny Wife

I am writing to apologise for the delay of this review! However, a lovely copy of Andrew Kaufman's The Tiny Wife has dropped through my door this morning, so I'll be reviewing that today to make up for it - I'm kind of glad I waited, aren't you?

Thursday, 11 August 2011

An Opportunity and The Circus

On 6th August 2011, I awoke to a package I was not expecting. Curious, I pried open the stiff cardboard packaging and spilled the contents onto my duvet. The cover of the debut novel from Erin Morgenstern caught my eye instantly, the quote from Audrey Niffenegger wafted at the sparks of curiosity, and at the first line, there was fire.

So begins my blog. Cliched, I know. A beautiful and magical novel and a letter wishing me well with my reading and hoping to hear from me soon. My aim in this blog is to review one book every two weeks, starting with all the of the proof copies of books I have received from Waterstone's since I began signing up for them in July 2010 (there's quite a pile by now). All of the books have their own special qualities and backgrounds, and I want to share what I love (or dislike) about them. Starting with the book that inspired the project: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Ms Morgenstern's novel is due to be released in thirty-five days, and I heartily recommend you go out and buy it as soon as it hits the shelves. In fact, do one better and pre-order it, you won't regret it, I assure you. I don't push aside research and tea for nothing, and that is precisely what I have been doing for the past three days whilst in pursuit of the conclusion to The Night Circus. Though, if I'm honest, I wish I'd read a little slower because, in the end, the sun always rises too early on the circus...

Pre-order Ms Morgenstern's book

Related articles: An article from The Wall Street Journal on The Night Circus, NaNoWriMo Writer Lands 6-Figure Deal After 30 Rejections, Indigo Blog: The Night Circus.