Creative Writing – Valentine’s Edition!

So I’ve challenged myself to write something every day for Lent – this is yesterday’s Valentine’s Day special! Technically I wrote this a few days ago, but it counts. I won’t be posting everything I write, but I hope to get at least a few posts written as well as creative pieces. Enjoy! ~R

‘Hello?’ She threw her keys into the tray, pulling off her scarf. Josie, the elderly mongrel she’d adopted the year before came lumbering in to greet her. She bent down and ruffled the wiry fur on Josie’s head, scratching behind her upright ears.

‘Where’s daddy, Josie?’

Josie yawned, trundling back to her bed, pushed up against the living room radiator. May shook her head and stood up straight, hearing typing coming from the office. She rolled her eyes. Working over, again. She hung her coat up and headed towards the noise, pulling her shoes off on the way.

 

‘Does it ever end?’ She smirked, leaning against the doorframe. Oscar looked up, still typing. He smiled shyly, amber eyes guilty as he shrugged.

‘I won’t be long, just finishing off some forward planning.’

‘And how far in advance is this planning?’

‘Babe, you know the more I do now the bett-‘ May came up behind him, chin pressing into his shoulder as she peered at the screen.

‘Two months?! Oscar, this can wait. You’ve done so much already this week! You need a break.’

‘I’m nearly finished.’

‘That’s not good enough Oscar, you’re exhausted. Come on, save it and turn off. I’ll run you a bath.’

‘There’s not much left to do, I really won’t be long.’

‘Nope.’

‘May, what are you-‘ She sat on his lap, saving his work and shutting the lid of his laptop.

‘I said enough, Oscar.’

‘I can’t believe you!’

‘It’s for your own good, now come on.’ She took his hand, trying to pull him out of the swivel chair. He resisted, holding on to the chair tightly with his other hand. She raised her eyebrow, trying not to smile.

‘Fine, have it your way.’ She grabbed the sides of the chair and pulled, rolling him towards the door. He couldn’t help but burst into laughter, grabbing the doorframe. She fell back as he stopped the chair. He grinned at her, a mischievous glint in his eye. He leaned forward.

‘Nice try.’ He kissed her as she picked herself up, glaring at him.

‘I’m trying to help you.’ She stood up, crossing her arms.

‘I know.’ He stood up. ‘I suppose I can call it a day.’

There it is! Let me know what you thought in the comments. 

See you soon,

Signature Jan 2018

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Review Wednesday | Book Review – The Hidden People (ARC Review)

the-hidden-people

Pretty Lizzie Higgs is gone, burned to death on her own hearth – but was she really a changeling, as her husband insists? Albie Mirralls met his cousin only once, in 1851, within the grand glass arches of the Crystal Palace, but unable to countenance the rumours that surround her murder, he leaves his young wife in London and travels to Halfoak, a village steeped in superstition.

Albie begins to look into Lizzie’s death, but in this place where the old tales hold sway and the ‘Hidden People’ supposedly roam, answers are slippery and further tragedy is just a step away . . .

 I received this book free via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The blurb sounded interesting, and didn’t quite occur to me until after I was approved to read it that it was classed by Amazon as a horror. I am not good at scary books, so I did approach it tentatively after that. I feel like my own nervousness made getting into the book difficult; however I was soon hooked despite my cowardice!

Despite my own inability to focus, this novel was very good and definitely had an interesting premise. I feel like it was very realistic as a piece set in Victorian Britain; the language was largely convincing, although I wasn’t as sold by the Yorkshire accents. The story had the feel of a Victorian novel; I often found that I’d have to remind myself that it is a contemporary piece – I’m someone who’s read an awful lot of Victorian fiction, so I’d say that’s effective writing!

I personally wouldn’t have classified this as horror. While there was a lot of suspense, and there was certainly some horrific imagery, I was never really scared by it. As a massive wimp, I’m honestly quite glad of this! It works very well as a historical suspense or even a crime novel.  While the story was mostly uneventful, with the main events occurring before the main story begins and towards the end, it was very enjoyable and certainly worth reading for the sheer amount of detail and work put into it – it is obvious from the start that Littlewood’s story is the result of huge amounts of research, and is clearly a labour of love. I love a novel that clearly has a huge amount of background work behind it, especially when it is executed as well as this.

Overall, I found that The Hidden People was an engaging and detailed read, with plenty of twists and suspense. It made for a great read, and although I imagine for many the ending could be unfulfilling, I found it satisfying and very Victorian. The story cuts through the pastoral Victorian country life, showing an incredibly dark side to the simple, peaceful existence of the people of Halfoak and by extension many rural areas in the 19th century. The version I was sent, which will presumably be the same as the eBook edition when it’s published, includes author’s notes at the end describing the very real cases and folklore the story came from – most notably the case of Bridget Cleary. As I’ve mentioned before, Alison Littlewood uses this history and information very well, and I would definitely recommend this book.

The Hidden People is set to be published on the 6th of October. Pre-order here (UK).

See you soon,

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This shouldn’t make me laugh as much as it does. [x]


Review Wednesday | Book Review- The Blind Assassin

The Blind Assassin

‘“Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.”

More than fifty years on, Iris Chase is remembering Laura’s death. And so begins an extraordinary and compelling story of two sisters and their secrets. Set against a panoramic backdrop of twentieth century history, The Blind Assassin is an epic tale of memory, intrigue and betrayal.’

The Blind Assassin is the first Margaret Atwood novel I’ve read. I’d heard rave reviews for The Handmaid’s Tale and The Heart Goes Last, but nothing of The Blind Assassin. It had been sat on the bookshelf in my conservatory for a long time, but I’d thought nothing of it until recently – what a mistake that was.

The Blind Assassin had me hooked from very early on in the story. While Dune, a novel of similar length, had me struggling to get even half way through in weeks (and I’ve still not picked it up again), I finished this book in five days.

The book is split into several view points and narratives. There are often newspaper clippings, invitations and other forms of literature among the text, placing the part of the story in a time and showing a more general perspective before Iris discusses details. The central narrative is that of Iris writing a sort of memoir-cum-letter to her descendents. There is also another narrative, showing extracts of ‘The Blind Assassin’, the revered novel by Laura Chase, which was posthumously published. The novel in the novel is about a couple meeting in secret, and sharing a story about an alien planet – a story in a story in a story.

The main narrative reminds me of The House I Loved in many ways – Iris is an elderly woman writing her life story, much like Rose Bazelet, and often the writing feels similar, despite being set in completely different eras. Both stories lead up to end of life revelations, of similar natures. They differ, however, in what they’re centred around. Iris is mostly focused on Laura’s death, while Rose’s letter to her husband is largely about their home. Iris’ viewpoint, therefore, is often a lot broader –she explores the entire world around her and her sister, rather than centring her story on her own house and street.

The brief explanations I offer here may sound vague and confusing, but this is far from the effect that Atwood’s own words achieve. Atwood manages to write clearly and steer the story incredibly well, even in the most hectic and confusing aspects. While the climax is fast paced and information-heavy, it somehow remains enjoyable. Iris and Atwood both remain calm and clearly know what they’re doing with the text. The result of this is a remarkable novel, full of twists, humour, sadness and mystery. My first foray into the world of Margaret Atwood certainly won’t be my last.

See you soon,

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AVPS, I believe. Credit to StarKid Productions & whoever created the gif (I forgot to save the link, sorry!)



Review Wednesday – The Book of Other People

 

‘The Book of Other People’ is about character. Twenty-five or so outstanding writers have been asked by Zadie Smith to make up a fictional character. By any measure, creating character is at the heart of the fictional enterprise, and this book concentrates on writers who share a talent for making something recognizably human out of words (and, in the case of the graphic novelists, pictures).

As the description says, The Book of Other People is a collection of short stories. Compiled by Zadie Smith, the collection is tied together by her simple challenge to the writers; write a character. Sounds easy, right? Believe me, it’s not. The vaguer the brief, the more difficult it can be to write. It’s no surprise, looking at the list of authors, that the characters in this collection are all brilliantly thought out and well rounded. Smith has enlisted some of the best contemporary writers around, including David Mitchell, Nick Hornby, Miranda July, ZZ Packer and Colm Toibin.

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Book Review – The House I Loved

‘Rose Bazelet is determined to fight against the destruction of her family home until the very end; as others flee, she stakes her claim in the basement of the house on rue Childebert, ignoring the sounds of change that come closer and closer each day. Attempting to overcome the loneliness of her daily life, she begins to write letters to Armand, her late husband. As Rose delves into her memories, she reveals the secrets held within the walls of her beloved house.’

The House I Loved is set in Paris, 1869, towards the end of Napoleon III’s reign and the height of Georges-Eugene Haussmann’s ‘Renovation of Paris’.  The renovations saw whole neighbourhoods in central Paris demolished and rebuilt in line with Haussmann’s designs. Tatiana de Rosnay’s novel centres around one particular road, the rue Childebert – now part of the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Her protagonist, Rose Bazelet, lives on rue Childebert, in her late husband’s family home.

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Taken from the front of the book.

The novel is written in the form of an extensive letter, written by Rose to her late husband Armand. Rose is an elderly woman who is set in her ways and is incredibly attached to her home. She sees it as the last link she has to her late husband and beloved mother in law. She often reminisces about happier times, but ends up delving into dark, repressed memories of the house and her life.

Before I read it, I wasn’t sure about this book. While the time period and location seemed interesting, a closed setting such as the basement and the style of writing the book as a letter/series of letters is restricting and been done a lot. I found myself fortunately mistaken in many ways, but I did find it predictable in many ways. It is the kind of novel that you predict the ending of from the start of the novel. Although the story does go off into many tangents, these can also be easily predicted. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in small doses, but I managed to predict large portions of the novel, when I’d much rather be surprised in at least some small way.

Despite this, it was an enjoyable and emotional read. For historical fiction, it was easy to read but informative. If I could go back, I’d have read up on the context a bit beforehand – I knew nothing about it, and while the novel does explain it well I find that when reading historical fiction I prefer to know at least a small amount about the context in order to fully understand it. Tatiana de Rosnay does provide a good level of context and the text was easy to understand without knowing anything else about the time period.

See you soon,

Ro x


Ten Minutes.

Ten minutes left. The man sighed, putting his book down. He’d been checking the clock every thirty seconds anyway; whatever he’d actually read had already been forgotten. The ticking seemed to get louder and louder, a harsh reminder of how long he’d been waiting and how slowly time seemed to be moving.

He got up and went to the kitchen – there was no clock in there. The silence was a welcome break, but he was still itching to check the time. He flicked the kettle on and sat at the small table, simultaneously trying to remember when he’d last sat there and wondering when he’d sit there again. He pulled the crumpled kit list out of his trouser pocket and went through it, picturing each item in his bag.

Seven minutes left. He sat back in his armchair with his tea and opened his book again, determined to forget about the time and focus on the story.

Reader, have you ever had to wait for something? Have you ever felt like time slowed down, just so you’d have to wait longer?

Yes, he thought. Spooky.

Janice Willow is the type of person this happens to a lot. Purely by chance, I suppose – it’s just her luck. Janice is our protagonist, you see – hence my asking. It helps for the reader to relate to a protagonist; or so they tell me.

He put the book down. Five minutes. He’d tried, at least. Never could get on board with this meta-fiction lark; it always just seemed pretentious and complicated to him. He sipped his tea and, upon realising that it was the perfect temperature, subsequently drank the whole thing in a few large gulps.

Three minutes. He read the blurb of the book, rolling his eyes and tossing it onto the coffee table. His daughter had recommended it, said he should get back into reading more literary texts. Personally, he was quite happy with his detective novels; and who said Agatha Christie wasn’t literary, anyway?

He got up again and went to the toilet, picking up his shoes from by the front door on his way back to the armchair. Somehow only a minute had passed. He rolled his eyes, tying his shoelaces up slowly.

One minute left. He washed his mug up and left it on the draining board – future him would probably be annoyed, but that wasn’t his problem.

He hoped his companion would be on time. He didn’t like lateness as it was, but this was especially important. He’d been waiting for this moment for years; ever since Esther died, or so he told himself. In reality, he’d wanted to escape long before that day. She’d been so ill, and he’d worked so hard to give her everything. He’d never want her to think she was a burden; the day she passed was the first break he’d had in two years, but he’d have given anything to have her back. Thirty seconds.

There was a knock at the door and his heart leaped – time to go.


She

A/N: So I actually wrote this a while ago for an assignment but as I’ve been really busy this weekend (I’m sure you’ll hear all about it!). It’s really dark (again), so I apologise -we’ll have something happy soon, I promise!

See you soon,

Ro x 

TW: Self-Harm 

I take a deep breath and open the box. There she is, staring at me. She’s always been there, watching. I never thought the day would come that I would need her touch again; I thought I could live without her, but she knew better. She has waited patiently in the darkness, knowing that I’d take comfort in her vigilance. She’s addictive, and she knows I can’t stay away.

I pick her up, the cold stinging my skin. It’s seductive, sensual even. I almost manage a smile for my old friend. She’s as smooth as she was the last time we met, and still as sharp. The light dances off her as I move her around, inspecting her carefully. She’s mocking me, daring me to just try it once more, just one tiny touch. I hesitate. I know that if I do this, I can’t turn back. I won’t be able to let go, and I’ll fall once again. I wipe my eyes, and let her stroke my arm. Fuck the consequences.

It’s just a gentle touch, at first. She glides along, teasing me with her kisses. A tiny drop of blood appears and I sigh – she’s won.  She nuzzles deeper into my skin, running faster with every stroke. I throw my head back, the pain taking over. My thoughts and feelings leak out with every streamer of red. There’s nothing now; nothing but me, and her, and the pain. I run the tap and watch the red swim faster. The water fades to a pale pink and eventually runs clear as the bleeding stops. I turn off the tap, let the last of the water drain, and drop her in the sink, wrapping a towel around my arm. She glints in the light; one last flirty wink. Red is her colour, and she knows it. I try and ignore that nagging feeling of regret, and enjoy the brief sense of relief she’s given me.

I take a quick peek at my arm. Harsh, burgundy claw marks tear through the porcelain white skin – glaringly ugly, damning evidence. It looks as though something, someone, is stuck under there, implanted in my body, trying to escape. I suppose, in a way, that’s the truth.


Book Review: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Spoiler Free!)

 

‘Rosemary doesn’t talk very much, and about certain things she’s silent. She had a sister, Fern, her whirlwind other half, who vanished from her life in circumstances she wishes she could forget. And it’s been ten years since she last saw her beloved older brother Lowell.

Now at college, Rosemary starts to see that she can’t go forward without going back, back to the time when, aged five, she was sent away from her home to her grandparents and returned to find Fern gone.’

This novel was recommended to me by my boyfriend. I was sat next to him on a tube over Easter when he reached ‘the twist’ – the infamous page 77. He told me almost immediately that I needed to read this book. As soon as I reached page 77 myself, I knew where he was coming from. As soon as I finished the book, I recommended it to my mum (and now I’m recommending it to you).

The start of the novel is good, but largely unremarkable to me – as a fan of John Green, Stephen Chbosky and Winona Ryder, the start (or, middle, which is where Fowler decides to start) of Rosemary’s story is pretty familiar; unassuming young adult with traumatic childhood event meets wild, rebellious young adult and does something reckless. I like those kinds of stories, and I still wanted to read on, but I’ve seen a lot of them.

I’ve mentioned page 77 twice already, but this is the ultimate turning point. A twist that is both shocking and blindingly obvious is so hard to achieve, but Fowler pulls it off perfectly; you’re left both astounded by the revelation and your own stupidity at not seeing it coming. Fowler hints at it from the start, and yet I at least never fully picked up on it.  I went from feeling like I’d seen this story before to submerging myself in the narrative completely; while before I’d been able to pick it up for a few pages here and there and happily leave it when I needed to do work or wanted to read something else, I binge-read the rest of it in two days. It only took that long because there were other things that unfortunately pulled me away from it.

The problem with ‘the twist’ is that it adds so many extra layers to the text – I could go on and on about various other topics, but that would spoil it completely. Maybe I’ll write a spoiler-filled piece on it some other time instead, because it’s such an interesting text to discuss in contexts that I just can’t talk about without ruining it.

This book is so deep. The characters are realistic and well-rounded, if frustrating at times, and the story is fantastic. The structure of it works surprisingly well and has hints of meta-fiction that as a reader I kind of love and as a writer I admire. Fowler writes beautifully and has created something incredibly powerful that I could only dream of achieving myself.

Last words on the matter: if you’re not sold at the start, wait until page 77. It’s worth it.

Ro x


The Nostalgia Trip

A/N: This got a lot darker than I intended, hope you enjoy all the same. -Ro x

 

Tap, tap, tap, tap. She walks slowly, becoming increasingly aware of the sound of her shoes against the terracotta tiles. Her breathing is laboured; she’s walked these halls so many times, yet everything has changed now. It’s almost pitch black, she’s never seen the place this dark before. If she shut her eyes she’d be able to picture exactly where she is, but that’s not an option – closed eyes would open her up to weakness. She keeps close to the wall on her right, and as she imagines the peeling blue paint her shoulder brushes up against one of the many posters they’d tacked over the scruffiest parts of the walls. She puts her hand on it, and knows exactly which one it is. It’s advertising a cake sale, the last one they’d ever had – she felt the roughness of glitter under her fingertips. She’s not far.
She keeps on, passing a set of double doors to her left. She ducks, crossing over to the left hand side of the corridor as she passes a large window – she’s too close to risk putting herself in any danger. Finally, she gets to the second set of double doors. She slips through them quietly, finding herself in the hallway she knows all too well. She can’t see it, but she can picture it vividly – the looming cast iron staircase to her right, the battered radiator to her left. It was always getting repainted before, but it probably hadn’t been touched in years. She smiles as she remembers the alcove under the stairs, and can’t help herself.
Instead of going directly up the stairs to her destination, she creeps towards the alcove. She leans against the cool wall, as she had done so many times before. She breathes deeply, letting herself relax for just a moment – but even that is too long. She feels the cold metal barrel of a gun against the left side of her head. The bearer of the gun steps close to her, and she’s not surprised that she knows who it is instantly. The body heat that used to be such a comfort burns her as his familiar smell makes her gag.
‘I’m glad I’m not the only one who remembers our first kiss. You always were nostalgic, Callie.’ She hears a short release of breath as he smirks. ‘Silly little girl.’ He pulls the trigger.