Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic by Nick Joaquin

Finally finished another book for the SEA Reading Challenge and this is probably my favourite book so far!

The Woman With Two Navels and tales of the tropical Gothic is a collection of short stories by Nick Joaquin, who is apparently very famous in Philippines but sadly unknown almost anywhere else (at least that's what I got from the introduction before I skipped it because I do not want to read literary analysis before I read the text).

These are stories that you experience rather than read. I've never been to the Philippines so I can't tell if this is an accurate picture of the country, but the stories gave me the impression of heat, of humidity that might choke you, of the chaos of life and everything I've said so far sounds universal (at least to SEA) but it also feels so specific. I would, for example, never mistake these stories for being set in Singapore or Malaysia.

Each story is a snapshot of an aspect of life, and if I'm honest I don't quite get what they're about, but they make me feel. It's intense and amazing. Even the last story, 'A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino', which is actually a play in three acts and which I was unsure if I could pay enough attention managed to pull me in and make me experience a squabbling family with a treasure that functions more like a threat.

Warning: the sentences here are really long and you will need to come up for air every now and then, but I find that the language is beautiful without being distracting. I admire it when I've closed the book but when I'm reading, it feels really immersive.

I really, really love this book. I do not understand it, probably because that requires work and I haven't analysed anything since IB (I think?) but it was such a fantastic reading experience. It's available from the NLB's ebook lending service too so as long as you have a phone you can get this too.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Death on the Air and Other Stories by Ngaio Marsh

Finally read this! Chose it because it was the only non-audiobook Book from Ngaio Marsh that the NLB had.

I skipped over the introduction (stopped when they mentioned she writes better than Agatha Christie because I do not need to have inflated expectations) and dove straight into the stories.

The first two 'stories' are Ngaio Marsh discussing two of her recurring characters - Alleyn and Troy. It was interesting but I don't know them so I wasn't emotionally engaged.

And then it was time for the short stories. On the whole, I enjoyed them, although the shorter short stories were a bit confusing. Perhaps it's because of the constraints of length (or lack of), but with the short stories, I had trouble understanding how a deduction was reached. A lot of the time, it felt like a hunch or a natural series of events rather than a deduction. But they were still enjoyable.

Two stories that I particularly liked were:

Chapter and Verse: concerning an old family Bible that hints at murders having been committed. The only problem is that the victims never existed!

The Cupid Mirror: great twist at the end, won't say anymore so I won't spoil it.

The last story is a screenplay which was actually more exciting than I thought. I'm not very fond of screenplays, but this one held my attention. It's about the trial of the murder of the dog and both the plaintiff and the defendant are unpleasant characters and the case was very ambiguous, which made for a head-scratcher.

The last entry is her advice to a young person who wants to be a writer. The parts concerning publishing companies are out of date, but the rest of the letter was really good (especially her reply to the offer to write a book together).

On the whole, I don't think that starting with a collection of short stories was a good idea, but I enjoyed the book and I definitely would read a full-length novel starring Alleyn if I had the chance.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Five Day Novel by Scott King

I heard about this book from the Rocking Self Publishing podcast (available on iTunes, Overcast and other apps, so definitely go listen to this episode/subscribe) when the author was interviewed about how he wrote Ameriguns in 5 days. This is from pre-writing (prepping for the story) to line editing.

While the podcast has the basics of the book, I decided to grab a copy because I was interested in learning more about the process.

Personally, I think first time writers/aspiring writers will benefit the most from this book. Scott King takes the reader through the entire writing process, from the preparation to the rewriting in an easy to understand and non-intimidating style. He has a list of 'assignments' for each day (each stage of writing) which can be used as stepping stones/checklists.

I found lots of gems throughout this book. From the pitch to the three act structure and how to 'fix' characters, I'm pretty sure that I'll be going back to this book as each stage of writing ends. Sure, it's not the most detailed of books, but it provides a good overview and a good starting point for authors.

And if you're wondering how useful his advice is, I checked out his book on Amazon and it has more reviews (and a good average) and a better sales rank than me so he's definitely doing something right (although to be honest it'd be pretty easy to do better than me so you have no excuse not to write and publish/submit to agents).

While I'm not going to be writing a novel in a month, it might be a fun challenge to try and squeeze his process into NaNoWriMo. It does mean that I would have to be more of a planner than I currently am, but I would have a lot of time to prepare.

If you need an encouraging, practical book to get you to start writing, I highly recommend this book. The price is reasonable too - I got it for 299 yen, which is much lower than many other writing books that I've seen. If you're unsure whether you want to get it, give the episode where he's on a listen first.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Teaser Tuesday - The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic by Nick Joaquin

Hey everyone!

I'm reading a book of short stories now which is awesome because:

- I only have short bursts of reading time (during lunch break, a few minutes before I leave for work, etc) so this is perfect for reading but not being late, and
- It's by a Filipino author and I've been wanting to read more South East Asian fiction so this is perfect!

I'm really, really enjoying it, although enjoying may be a bad word because these tales are very dark. But they are very intense and make me feel a lot more than I expected from short stories.

My teaser:
"The bells continue pealing throughout the enchanted hour and break into a really glorious uproar as St. Sylvestre rises to bestow the final benediction. But when the clocks strike one o'clock, the bells instantly fall mute, the thundering music breaks off, the heavenly companies vanish - and in the cathedral, so lately glorious with lights and banners and solemn ceremonies, there is suddenly only the silence, only the chilly darkness of the empty naves; and at the alter, the single light burning before the Body of God."
What about you? What are you reading?
How to participate in Teaser Tuesday:  
•Grab your current read 
• Open to a random page 
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page 
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) 
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!