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Books, crime, Journalism, Media, Writing

There's a serious lack of fiction in my diet

My bookshelf

My bookshelf fiction... or at least some of it

Over the past couple of years I’ve worked quite hard to expand my taste when it comes to reading. No longer reaching for the blood, gore and investigative mystery most crime fiction offers, I now touch on the literary, the romantic, the fairytale, the adventure and, most importantly of all, the recommended. I’ve now started to trust the recommendations of friends.

It’s not only expanded my reading list, but also my ability to talk about books, genres, styles of writing and ideas. Good writers have to be good readers too.

But with that said, for the last month I have ditched novels altogether. The start of my Masters signalled the end of my fiction feast, at least for now. I am reading more often that I ever have, at least more regularly – not only because I have to but because I’m enjoying the reading list so far. But I’m reading a different sort of book now: non fiction, educational, informative, historic, technological, eye-opening.

My favourite so far has been What Would Google Do by Jeff Jarvis, which I quote on a semi-regular basis, and I feel like my current read – Journalism Next by Mark Briggs – should be a permanent fixture in my handbag, a mini guide to my career.

But I am starting to miss fiction, immersing myself into other characters’ lives, problems and stories and taking myself off, completely, to another place; an armchair traveller. And I’m not sure when there’ll be time for fiction because I struggle to read more than one book at a time, like it’s a kind of infidelity to start one before finishing with the other. And it’s such a pleasure to get lost in another world for a few chapters and put the stresses of the day behind me.

The reading for the MA is a permanent reminder of the work I do (good and bad) and sparks a trail of ideas which pour from my brain to my hand to my notebook to my computer, an endless stream of things I want to do, follow up or achieve. And it’s a tad exhausting, an educational reading journey rather than a relaxing escapism.

But I’m not surprised, it’s what I expected really. So, when the Christmas break comes around I’m going to treat myself to a fiction novel and revel in it. Merry Christmas to me!

Anyone got any recommendations?

Books, crime, Just stuff, reviews, what I think, Writing

On expanding my literary horizons…

Until recently I’ve been pretty disappointed with some of the reading choices I’ve made. It makes me cross to invest hours only to be utterly disappointed 80,000 words. There’s some real pap out there, which makes me wonder in a competitive market how it ever made it into print. Last year I decided I needed to pull myself away from the crime fiction I love and expand my reading horizons. What else is out there that I’m missing? And I found it hard to have literary conversations with my writer buddies as my own reading list’s so restricted. And if a crime were to happen on my estate I’d be the prime suspect. Save for notes in the margins and highlighted passages of kill scenes, my bookshelves probably paint a picture of a twisted crime fanatic. Er… yeah, that’s me.

My bookshelf

My bookshelf... or at least some of it

So, not only was I going to try new genres I was also going to try new authors; it’s a habit of mine to find an author I like, read everything they’ve ever written, find another author I love and repeat. So my bookshelf is limited and my knowledge needed growing, especially if I’m to pursue my own hope of one day being a published author. And I don’t think the poem I had featured on page 187 of a poetry compendium really counts, does it?

But this year my reading choices were poor, or at least for me they were. It’s all subjective isn’t it but, for me, I like books like I like my movies; they need to have a point and be believable.

I read some bad chick lit, so bad I couldn’t bring myself to review it (research for my own novel, a genre I have a love-hate relationship with); and some ropey crime-type stuff (I couldn’t help myself  with the crime but the untried authors thing didn’t work for me. Even Patricia Cornwell’s latest, an old fave of mine from years ago, left me disappointed and a little bit angry.

But the last three books I’ve read have left me in awe. Amazing storytelling ability with an emotional depth that not only tugged at my heart strings, it pulled them tort to the brink of snapping.

And I came to realise that books, the ones that are really, really good, aren’t the ones that keep me turning pages because I want to find out whodunnit, or who the serial killer’s next victim is, or what that little bit of evidence is likely to reveal, but the ones that connect with me emotionally, striking a match in me, a warmth, a glow; something that makes me look into my soul and see my life from the inside out. Deep huh? Yeah, sorry, I don’t know what came over me, but these books move me, sometimes to tears, with their true-to-life characters and the stories that unravel around them.

The books I’m talking about – and I’m lucky to have read them back to back – are Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson, Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton and The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell.

All three were completely amazing and two of them, the latter, forced tears from my eyes which is a tad embarrassing when reading on a crowded beach. Thank God for sunglasses! The former moved me in another way, in the realisation that the things we take for granted, like our memory, make us incredibly vulnerable if we were ever to lose them. Who could we trust if we lost everything? Who’d have our back?

Anyway, reviews of the above are all in my book review section on this blog but I just felt it worthy of giving them an extra mention.

And am I pleased to be stepping away from the old forensic pathologist/detective with a ‘tude style novels? I’ll always be a crime lover and continue to try new authors and support the ones I love, but it’s been refreshing to read something different and experience new ways of writing and expression. I hope my own writing with improve because I’m better read. After all, variety is the spice of life… and I do like spicy.

Next up on my reading list is Hunter by Tom Wood, The Hating Game by Talli Roland (reading on kindle app and been meaning to get round to for an age) and this Platform Book Club choice, A Balance To Survive by Lisa W.B.

crime, Life in general, Serious stuff

On a serious note…

Domestic violence isn’t a topic I expected to be covered when I rocked up at the netball AGM this week. Umpire difficulties, fee increases, voting for a new chairman, yes. Domestic violence, no.

To hear that a member of the netballing community lost her life earlier this year to domestic violence churned my stomach and when I connected it to the local newspaper reports of past months, I just felt sad.

One in 10 people is suffering domestic violence in their life right now and one in four will experience it at some point in their life. Numbers don’t tend to mean much until it happens to someone you know, or, in my case, rubbed shoulders with on a netball court. Knowing the victim, even through sight alone, personalises it and the message hits home harder.

As a tribute to a netballer who lost her life so tragically and needlessly, a rep from MK Act came to talk to us about the help and support available to anyone suffering from violence or abuse at home. The Milton Keynes Netball Indoor League is a community of around 500 women, an ideal forum to pass on the message that there is help out there and no one need face it alone.

MK Act is a service for the victims and survivors of domestic violence and abuse, offering support, advice, emergency refuge or rehousing.

For most of us our home is our haven, where we feel safest and happiest and no matter how crappy a day we’ve had, we can return home, switch off and be ourselves. Imagine if going home is the worst part of your day, the place where you’re most vulnerable and at risk.

The speaker from MK Act asked that everyone pass on information about their services in the hope it may help someone, someday, avoid losing their life like one of our netballers did. So this is me doing my bit. To contact MK ACT call 0844 375 4307 between 9am and 5pm or to speak to a member of the Thames Valley Domestic Abuse Unit call 0845 8 505 505.