Thoughts on Writing

Writing Apparatus

I recently read an article about my favourite poet Robert Frost’s poem ‘The Road Not Taken’. The poem is widely regarded as a metaphor for the risks and rewards of taking the road less travelled. However, as letters between Frost and the original recipient of the poem reveal, this was not Frost’s intended meaning. Frost had written the poem to his friend, Edward Thomas, to poke fun at the fact that Thomas always expressed regret at not having taken a different path during their country walks together. To Frost’s annoyance, Thomas missed the point and instead praised Frost for having penned such a “staggering” poem.

Frost’s frustration with the misinterpretation of his work is understandable, and something I’ve experienced myself multiple times over the years.

However, in time I’ve come to realise that, just because I’ve written something, doesn’t mean my understanding of it is the only valid one. Anything that is created, be it a story, song, painting, or film, means something different depending on who is experiencing it. I may have arranged the words on the page, but who am I to tell readers where those words should take them?

That’s the wonderful thing about creative works. They are not static. They do not have a singular meaning. Once a story is released from the author’s mind and written down for others to read, the author loses their creative hold over it. They will always have a material hold by virtue of owning the copyright, however, their ability to dictate how their work should be interpreted vanishes as soon as others read it.

Earlier this year, I had a short story published in the Almond Press anthology Apocalypse Chronicles. A number of my friends and family kindly read it, and many of them kept asking me who the character of Tom was based on. I guess it was obvious that Hannah, the protagonist, was loosely based on me, but no one seemed to believe me when I claimed that Tom was not based on any particular person.

At best, he is an amalgamation of a number of the boys I went to high school with, but I had no one specific in mind when I wrote his character. Yet, those readers who know me continue to make that assumption. It’s a peculiar fascination that they seem to fixate on. Surely, this character must be based on someone from my own life, especially since I set the story in my hometown. This seems odd to me, since I wouldn’t be much of a storyteller if I couldn’t conjure up characters from my imagination.

It is a common belief that a writer reveals more about themselves in their work than they intend (the same can likely be said for artists, filmmakers and musicians), and my readers’ preoccupation with finding out who I had based Tom on made me question whether or not I had, subconsciously, based him on someone after all.  (After much thought, I maintain that I didn’t).

It used to annoy me when readers interpreted my writing in a different way than I had intended. As if I had somehow failed to express myself well, or they just didn’t “get it”. Now, I find joy in their various interpretations. If people can read what I write and find more than one meaning, then that means I’ve written something that has layers and can be appreciated in a number of different ways. That’s a compliment, not a criticism.

I write more for myself than anyone else, so my stories and poems will always have particular meaning to me, as I know what I had in mind when I wrote them. That said, it’s nice to know that they can take on a new life when read by someone else, and can have more meaning than I was able to see for myself.

The Need to Write

I love to write. I always have.

When I was a child, I would scribble endless stories on scrap pieces of paper and staple them together as little books.

Inspiration came from all sorts of places.

The animals in our garden were sentient creatures that would go on fantastical adventures among the overgrown trees and shrubs.

The lovebirds we looked after while my grandparents were on holiday were on their own vacation and would break out of their cage at night to socialise with the wild birds.

The ornaments on the shelves would come to life in my imagination and go on all kinds of adventures in the outside world, (my favourite of these was ‘The Pig That Lived in the Wild’ which I illustrated and recorded as an audiobook).

Once, I wrote a story about a squirrel that went into outer space in his squirrel-sized spacesuit. I have no idea where that one came from!

As I got older, my writing turned inward and rarely ventured beyond the boundaries of my journal pages. Severe depression and crippling OCD inspired poetry and introspective monologues that eventually helped to restore my emotional equilibrium. The mental health centre where I was treated kept some of my writings to help other patients, and ever since then I have believed in the power of creative expression to overcome emotions that would otherwise be suffocating. You can read more about those experiences in one of my previous posts.

Years have passed since then and my life is much busier now, to the point that sometimes I don’t realise that I NEED to write. The words force themselves through though, one or two lines at a time, until I have no choice but to notice them.

Sometimes, I dream about a dark room with a single spotlight shining on an easel holding a large sheet of white paper. As I watch, words appear on the page written by the invisible hand of my subconscious to form poems or extracts from stories. When I wake up, the words are still vibrant in my memory, and I make sure to write them down before they disappear again.

Other times, I find myself with a pen in my hand, idly scribbling words and ideas that won’t leave me alone unless I express them. Like this one that has been with me for the last few weeks:


It’s been a stressful start to the year, and I think these words are an expression of how I respond to emotional upheaval by taking refuge in writing. Those are usually the times when the words are at their most insistent and will run riot in my mind until I write them down.

I’m not sure where this blog post came from, but recently I’ve been feeling the need to write something, and this is what appeared when I sat down at my laptop.

I feel better now.

Kate Mulgrew’s ‘Born with Teeth’ and the impact she has had on my life

Born With Teeth CoverI was going to write a regular review of Kate Mulgrew’s Born with Teeth: A Memoir, but then I read it, and a simple review is not enough to express how I feel. This will be the most personal post I’ve ever written and I’m very nervous about it, but it feels like the right thing to do.

If you know me or are a regular reader of my blog, then you know I have been a fan of Kate and her work since I was 8 years old when I saw my first episode of Star Trek: Voyager, in which she played Captain Kathryn Janeway. I’m 27 now and my admiration and appreciation for her has grown exponentially over the years. She is an exceptionally talented actress; a wonderful orator; incredibly gracious towards her fans (I speak from experience); and a true joy to watch in any role she plays.

She is also, as it turns out, a beautifully gifted writer. Her lyrical eloquence weaves a tale so vivid and engaging that I could see it all playing out in my mind as if it were a movie. Kate lays out in unapologetic honesty a life filled with adventure, grief, trauma, and, above all, a tremendous passion for her work and her family. As she shares the intimate details of the pain of giving up her daughter for adoption, surviving a rape, losing two sisters and the kind of heartbreak only true love can bring, we are also treated to riveting stories of romance, travel and the drama of stage and screen. Kate is an astute observer of human nature and she uses this skill to craft dynamic and colourful depictions of the variety of interesting people she has encountered throughout her fascinating life.

Being the massive Star Trek fan that I am, the chapters about Kate’s time on Voyager were a real treat and I’m certainly delighted that she included them, but even if they hadn’t been there I would still have absolutely loved the book. At times intensely passionate and at others desperately sad, this was a memoir that had me completely hooked from beginning to end and left me with a profound sense of gratitude towards, and a greater understanding of, a woman I have admired for most of my life.

I love and look up to Kate for all the reasons I’ve mentioned, but there is one other reason that I have never spoken of because it was too painful and I didn’t think I was strong enough to give voice to it. But then I read Kate’s memoir, and the courage and bravery of her words gave me the confidence to find my own, and reminded me that there are some things which should not be kept hidden.

I grew up with a severely autistic younger brother whose inability to speak and frequent violent outbursts made for a very frightening and isolating environment in which to grow up. In their struggle to cope my parents inadvertently placed a tremendous burden of responsibility on me at a time when I was far too young to deal with it. I operated under the misguided belief that if I told them how terrified I was of my brother, how often he attacked me and how much I wished I could just go out and play with my friends, that my family would fall apart. I’m from a rural area in Scotland where there are few resources for special needs children, and with such little support our lives became subject entirely to my brother’s needs.

Eventually, the situation became untenable and my brother was moved to a specialist residential care facility where he could have the quality of life that we could not provide. By then I had become terribly withdrawn, fearful and anxious and struggled to relate to my family and friends. I was already a huge fan of Star Trek: Voyager and Captain Janeway was my favourite character. To help with my anxiety I took a Janeway action figure to school with me. It made me feel protected and gave me courage to get through the day; a tangible reminder of the strength and fortitude of the character herself.

This figure was far from a good likeness of Kate to begin with, made worse by its many paint-scraping trips in and out of my schoolbag!

This figure was far from a good likeness of Kate to begin with, made worse by its many paint-scraping trips in and out of my schoolbag!

A few years later I started to develop health problems. It’s a long and complicated story but, in a nutshell, an undiagnosed autoimmune disease left me with permanent damage to my digestive system and significant problems with my nervous system. When it all began the physical pain only added to the emotional pain I had been feeling for years and eventually it all got too much. One night, while I was watching an episode of Voyager, as I often did to make myself feel better, I was sitting with a pile of prescription medications and my mind started to wander.

What would happen if I took them all at once? Would I have time to sneak into my parents’ drinks cabinet and knock back a few bottles as well before they found me?

I have heard many people refer to suicide as a selfish act. It’s not. It’s an act of pure desperation. You don’t think about the devastating impact it will have on the people who love you. All you can think about is making it stop, about silencing the storm inside you, because how can life be worth living if every day, every second, feels like this? How can you possibly be of any use to anyone? There is no hope in that moment that it will ever get better, there is only the crippling fear and pain which has brought you there.

I took the first few pills. I don’t remember what they were, little pink, innocuous looking things, and just as I was about to reach for more, I heard a powerful and authoritative voice projecting from the television:

“In command school, they taught us to always remember that manoeuvring a starship is a very delicate process, but over the years, I’ve learned that, sometimes, you just have to punch your way through.”

It was Kate Mulgrew speaking as Captain Janeway, and in that moment of sheer hopelessness that line was like a bolt of lightning illuminating a very long and dark night. In this episode, (‘Parallax’, the second episode of Season One), Voyager is trapped in the event horizon of a quantum singularity. Their only escape route is closing fast and the situation looks hopeless. As I continued to watch the scene unfold, Voyager’s struggle suddenly became a metaphor for my own. My hand remained suspended over the pills as I watched Janeway urge her helmsman to “keep it together” as the ship was rocked by turbulence and structural damage.

When Voyager burst triumphantly from the quantum singularity, a surge of hope rushed through me as I began to believe for the first time that maybe I could escape too. I spoke to my parents and within a week my doctor had diagnosed me with clinical depression and OCD and I soon began treatment at a centre specialising in adolescent mental health.

As well as supporting me through my recovery, the psychologists there helped me to realise that creativity was the means by which I could find my way back to myself. I discovered that I could write poetry, and over the months that followed I crafted a path for myself made out of words and metaphors that personified my depression into a force I could fight. When I came to the end of my treatment, the lead psychologist asked if he could keep some of my poems to help the other patients, which I very happily agreed to.

Now, 12 years later, I have a job in the industry I love (publishing), two university degrees, and, most importantly, wonderful relationships with my hugely supportive family and friends. I write as often as I can and also run an online support group for siblings of those with Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and Down’s Syndrome, in an effort to provide the kind of help I so desperately needed when I was young.

In 2012 I had the incredible experience of meeting Kate at a Star Trek convention in London. Living in Scotland and finding travel quite a challenge I had assumed that I would never get the chance to meet her, so when I did it was like a dream and I still feel so happy whenever I think about it. My mother kindly made the trip to London with me to give me support and said that she had never seen me as happy as I was after I met Kate, who was as kind, gracious and generous in person as I had always imagined her to be.

Kate and I

Whenever I find myself dealing with difficult emotions, trying to adjust to the side effects of a new medication or struggling with the physical pain and fatigue that are my constant companions, I see Kate as Janeway standing on the bridge of Voyager, telling her crew that sometimes you just have to punch your way through. And I do.

Kate now stars as Galina “Red” Reznikov on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black and she’s absolutely terrific, as is the show itself. You can read my review of the book the show is based on here.

The following are links to some great interviews and reviews of Born with Teeth. Read it. Seriously. Kate Autograph 1

The Washington Post

Publishers Weekly

LA Times

The Mary Sue

CBS interview

One last thing, a shout out to my dear friend Stefani, who very kindly sent me Kate’s book across the Atlantic from Mississippi to Scotland. She has an awesome blog over at Caught Read Handed that I would encourage you to check out if you love books and nerdy things!


I’ve been nominated for my fourth Liebster Blog Award by the lovely nostalgic musings, thank you! I did one of Award Imagethese earlier this week and I know a lot of you are familiar with the rules, so this time I’m just going to answer the questions nostalgic musings gave me.

Here we go!

1) Favourite food?

My mum’s roast beef dinner, with all the trimmings. Nobody does it better!

2) Books or movies?

BOOKS!! I like movies well enough, but I would much rather let my imagination play out a story in my mind than have it laid out for me on screen.

3) Music or writing?

Both at the same time! I have several playlists I like to have on in the background while I’m writing.

4) Favourite singer?

That’s tricky. I think I would have to say Darren Hayes, the former lead singer of Savage Garden who went on to become a pretty awesome solo artist.

5) Dream vacation destination?

The Fjords in Norway. They have spectacular scenery there and some of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls, which I love. It would definitely be a dream vacation for me.

6) Favourite colour?

I would have to say blue.

7) Favourite song?

The cover version of Phil Collins’ ‘In the Air Tonight’ by Full Blown Rose. The band never released it as a single and all the versions I could find on YouTube cut off the first 20 seconds of the piano sequence, which sucks, but here it is anyway.

8) Who is your celebrity crush?

I was asked this by Hideaway Girl and I said David Boreanaz. I’m trying to think of who else to say, but I’ve had a crush on David for 12 years so I think he eclipses everyone else, haha!

9) Are you a nerd or popular?

I’m a nerd and proud, but I don’t think you have to be one or the other. I always had my nose in a book or a homework assignment in high school and at university but I still made great friends and had a lot of fun. There are plenty of popular nerds out there and it’s not something you should ever be ashamed of. Real friends will love you for who are and that’s all that matters.

10) Do you like blogging?

Of course, otherwise I wouldn’t do it!

Thanks again for the nomination, nostalgic musings!

Create Your Own Story

PostcardI came across this postcard in a stack I had bought months ago. While I was writing it to send to a friend I found myself thinking about the meaning behind the words CREATE YOUR OWN STORY. You could take them in the literal sense. They could serve as inspiration for finally writing that novel or short story you’ve been nurturing the idea for, but have kept hidden away for months, maybe even years (I have a whole file on my computer for those). Or you could take them another way. Maybe something like this.

Sometimes, you’re not sure of yourself. You wonder where your life is going and where you’ll be a month from now, a year from now, a decade from now. You worry you’ll still be exactly where you are right now: stuck, like an insect caught in amber, unable to move while you watch the world revolve around you. You doubt the choices you have made and the roads you have walked down. You wonder if you are doing enough each day to reach your goals and take yourself closer to your own idea of what happiness is.

Worst of all, you compare the story of your life to others. You look at their characters, plot twists and happy endings and wonder, “Hey, why can’t I have that? Why does my story seem so dull and uninspiring while theirs seem like thrilling page-turners full of romance and adventure? What am I doing wrong?”

In the world we live in now it is easy to forget that life is not a literature class. You are not required to compare your story to others and analyse themes, images and metaphors to draw a conclusion of which one is more effective or more meaningful.

You have always been told never to judge a book by its cover, yet you do it every time you judge yourself and others by appearances alone. You shouldn’t, you know. As you get older, your cover will get worn. The colours will fade and creases will appear. When you look back on that life and approach its epilogue, I promise that you will care more about the pages you took the time to write and live in than the futile efforts you made to make that cover look perfect. Besides, covers rarely tell us what a story is really about.

Walking into a bookshop or a library you will find that no one story is the same as another. Many are similar, but none are identical. The same is true of you and those you compare yourself to. Your life has its own story arc with different chapters in a different order. It has its own cover, its own format, its own style. Embrace it. Accept it. Stop comparing your story to others and just focus on writing it in the way that makes sense to you. You will be far happier that way; I guarantee it.

One more thing. Don’t forget to share your story with others from time to time, even if you think they won’t be interested. You never know, to them, you might be a Classic or a bestseller. A story they will never tire of reading.

I’m not sure if this will mean anything to anyone or if it even makes sense. It doesn’t really matter. I wrote it for myself and the people I care about* who I know feel this way and I wanted to share it. Thank you for reading this small part of my story.

*To the friends of mine who read this, please know that to me you are Classics and bestsellers and I will never get tired of hearing your stories or sharing mine with you.

Book Review – When She Woke

Cover ImageTitle: When She Woke

Author: Hillary Jordan

Publisher: HarperCollins

Date: 2011

Format: Paperback (341 pages)

Synopsis: Hannah Payne is a Red. Her crime: murder. And her victim, says the state of Texas, was her unborn child.

Lying on a table in a bare room, covered only by a paper gown, Hannah awakens into a nightmare. Cameras broadcast her every move to millions at home, for whom observing new Chromes – criminals whose skin has been genetically altered to match the class of their crime – is a sinister form of entertainment.

Hannah refuses to reveal the identity of the father. But cast back into to the world that has marked her for life, how far will she go to protect the man she loves?

A powerful reimagining of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, When She Woke is a timely fable about a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of the not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated. In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a journey of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith and love.

This book was fantastic, wonderful, beautiful … you get the idea.

I read The Scarlet Letter a few years back and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, so when I came across this contemporary version set in a dystopian world I really wanted to read it. It’s actually been one of my most anticipated reads of the past year and it exceeded my expectations. You don’t have to have read The Scarlet Letter to enjoy this story, but for me being able to compare the two was an added bonus.

Hannah lives in a world suffering from the aftermath of a pandemic which left many women across the world infertile. In response America has outlawed abortions and devout Christianity has become the de facto law of the land. Revealing the father of her child, a highly respected religious leader, would destroy the faith of millions, including her own family, so Hannah undergoes an illegal abortion. When she is caught her punishment is to be “chromed” by a genetic virus which turns her skin red and will kill her if she does not submit to further injections for the rest of her life.

Unable to return to her family or survive for long in a world where Chromes are targets for violence and hatred, Hannah’s journey leads her to the doorsteps of a variety of individuals and organisations, only some of whom she can trust and all of whom have their own agenda. There was a thriller element to the plot as Hannah is often in danger and I didn’t want to put it down. I actually found myself thinking about it on the drive home from work and getting excited about getting back to it. That’s definitely the mark of a great book! It was the characters that really made the story meaningful for me though, and the two who struck me the most were Kayla and Simone.

Kayla is a fellow Red who Hannah meets shortly after being released from the Chrome Ward. Unlike Hannah, Kayla did not have a religious upbringing, and her cynical yet hilarious attitude to life and all the hell it throws at her was really refreshing and a great counterpoint to Hannah’s more serious nature. I’ve always loved characters who laugh in the face of danger or death, and Kayla was a perfect example of that.

Simone was a different kind of person entirely, and at first, like Hannah, I was very wary of her. Simone is involved in one of the secret organisations who operate under the radar in this society and at first her motivations are unclear and suspect. I didn’t expect the depth and layers of personality which unfolded as I got to know her, and she became a character I came to really care about and admire.

As for Hannah herself, I can honestly say that I haven’t felt this connected to a fictional character in a long time. It was so enjoyable and liberating to watch her free herself from the chains of her upbringing and discover for the first time who she really was without shame or fear. She cannot go back to her old life and must leave everything – and everyone – behind. This, of course, is sad and frightening, but it also gives her the courage to remake herself and discover what is truly valuable in life. For me, the conclusion to this journey was perfect. Everything from the setting to the dialogue to the descriptions just felt right. I loved it. It felt … fresh, somehow. Like Hannah was being reborn, which in a sense, she was.

I’m currently a bit obsessed with Hozier’s Take Me To Church and the soul and lyrics of the song really connect with this novel in a lot of ways. It’s made me love the song even more and it’s rare that I’ve ever found a connection like this between a book and a song, so that’s really awesome.

I can’t really say any more about how this book made me feel because I’m not sure how to articulate it. It just really meant a lot to me. To borrow a meaningful phrase from the book – “It’s personal.”

You can check out Take Me To Church below:

Overall Rating: Book Rating PictureBook Rating PictureBook Rating PictureBook Rating PictureBook Rating Picture  My bookworm rating system is explained here.

Other Works by this Author: Hillary Jordan has also written another novel called Mudbound and a novella called Aftermirth. I’ve put them both on my TBR list.

Friday Finds – 11 December 2014 (11)

Image1Friday Finds is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading which encourages you to share the books you have discovered over the past 7 days with your fellow bloggers. Whether you found them in a bookshop, online, in the library or just heard about them from a friend, Friday Finds is a great way to spread the love with other readers. All books are linked to their Goodreads pages so you can discover them too.

I’m having another one of those weeks where time seems to evaporate like rain drops on lava, so this post will be shorter than normal. I haven’t made as many finds this week as I’ve been too busy with my head stuck in the ones I already found (my review for Falling into Place will be up asap and I already posted the one for Things Grak Hates) but I really like the sound of the ones I did find. I usually try and put my own spin on the synopsis for each one and tell you why I want to read it, but unfortunately I don’t have time tonight, so I’ll just share the ones from Goodreads, which sound pretty awesome anyway.

* I just realised that I posted this yesterday because I actually thought it was Friday not Thursday. I really am having a crazy week! Oh well, you got my finds a day early! 🙂

1) Brown Skin Blue by Belinda Jeffrey:

My mum’s skin is white, my skin is brown and I have a blue birthmark.

Two secrets rule my life. One is something I need to know and the other is something I need to forget. They won’t let me go.

Some people say you can’t death roll with a beast that has already survived a million years and live to tell the story.

Or can you?

2) The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan:

Every night, 12-year-old Gwenni Morgan flies in her sleep. She leaves the bed she shares with her sister and soars into the night sky, listening to the nighttime sounds of her small Welsh village below. Irrepressible Gwenni — a dreamer full of unanswerable questions and unbounded curiosity — is childlike yet touchingly adult. Reluctantly facing a modern world, she prefers her nightly flights to school and her chores. Blessed with the uncommon insight of a young girl, Gwenni’s view of the world is unparalleled.

Quaint, odd, touched, funny in the head: Gwenni is all too familiar with the taunts of her peers and fields them with equanimity beyond her years. She knows she can no more change her nature than stop the sun from rising. And when a neighbour goes missing, Gwenni turns amateur sleuth, determined to solve the mystery of his disappearance. Little does she realize that the trail she’s pursuing will bring her uncomfortably close to home, and a dark secret.

3) Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan:

First there is a Before, and then there is an After. . . .

The lives of three teens—Claire, Jasper, and Peter—are altered forever on September 11, 2001. Claire, a high school junior, has to get to her younger brother in his classroom. Jasper, a college sophomore from Brooklyn, wakes to his parents’ frantic calls from Korea, wondering if he’s okay. Peter, a classmate of Claire’s, has to make his way back to school as everything happens around him.

Here are three teens whose intertwining lives are reshaped by this catastrophic event. As each gets to know the other, their moments become wound around each other’s in a way that leads to new understandings, new friendships, and new levels of awareness for the world around them and the people close by.

So what books have you discovered this week? Have you read any of the ones I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments!

Emily Dickinson and the Power of Books

Emily Dickinson Image

I was looking through my wonderful Norton Anthologies collection from my American Studies degree yesterday and I came across Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘There is no Frigate like a Book’. I think it perfectly sums up the power books have to give us a break from reality and transport us to countless new worlds and situations, even if we don’t have a penny to our name.

Page break 1

There is no Frigate like a Book

To take us Lands away,

Nor any Coursers like a Page

Of prancing Poetry –

This Traverse may the poorest take

Without oppress of Toll –

How frugal is the Chariot

That bears a Human soul.

Page break 2

Books give us so much yet ask so little in return. Even if we buy rather than borrow them, the cost of purchase will be repaid countless times over every time we return to their stories. They withhold nothing from us. Their essence – the words on their pages – does not change, even as they run us through the gamut of emotions and challenge our ways of thinking and how we see ourselves in this tumultuous world. They will remain by our side as faithful companions until the end of the story, where they will leave us all the better for having given them our time.

I just love this poem. And books. Always the books.

Are any of you Dickinson fans too? Do you have a favourite poem of hers? If you do, I’d love for you to share it in the comments!

Friday Finds (5) – 24 October 2014


Friday Finds is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading which encourages you to share the books you have discovered over the past 7 days with your fellow bloggers. Whether you found them in a bookshop, online, in the library or just heard about them from a friend, Friday Finds is a great way to spread the love with other readers. All books are linked to their Goodreads pages so you can discover them too.

I surprised myself with my finds this week, as the first two on the list are not normally the kinds of books I would read. Not because I don’t think they’re worth my time, but simply because they’re not my taste. I believe in broadening my horizons, however, especially when it comes to literature, so I’m happy to have them on my TBR list. I would be delighted if I enjoy them as that would encourage me to explore these genres further.

The first is a crime novel and the second is a psychological thriller: two very popular and perfectly respectable genres, but ones I rarely, if ever, choose to read. I’ll try to explain why. For whatever reason, I have always been VERY sensitive to depictions of graphic violence and torture (both physical and psychological). I understand why these things can be important elements of storytelling, but my vivid imagination runs wild and these images take root in my mind and remain there for years. There is a scene I once read in a Karin Slaughter novel that my friend left lying around 10 years ago which STILL makes me nauseous. Don’t even get me started on things like the Saw film franchise, which I once forced myself to watch the first of in a misguided attempt to immunise myself against the horror (needless to say, it didn’t work AT ALL). So, basically, I’m a giant wuss, but I’m trying to address that (again) with my first two finds this week.

1) Quite Ugly One Morning (Jack Parlabane #1) by Christopher Brookmyre: This is a crime novel and there were a few elements in the synopsis which made me want to set aside my aversion to this genre and click the “Want to Read” button. Firstly, it’s set in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, which is only about an hour north of where I live. Secondly, it won the First Blood Award for the best debut crime novel in the UK, so it’s obviously a good quality example of crime fiction for me to start with. Thirdly, and this is what really swayed me, it’s described as being “laced with acerbic wit and cracking dialogue” with a protagonist “who is not afraid to bend the laws of the land (or even the laws of gravity) to get to the truth.” The laws of gravity part has me curious, and the promised humour should (hopefully) take the edge off any gruesome descriptions. Fingers crossed!

2) Shift by Em Bailey: The words “chilling psychological thriller” in a synopsis would usually be enough to make me move on to a different book, however this one sounds really interesting and I want to give it a shot. Olive has a troubled past and only wants to take her meds, lay low at school, and try to forget about “the incident”. When manipulative new girl Miranda arrives and gets her “parasitic” claws into queen bee Katie, she causes Olive to question her own sanity and wonder if she’s right about Miranda … or just plain crazy. I’m pretty sure that this is on the tame end of the psychological thriller spectrum, but that’s probably a good thing for me!

3) Being Here by Barry Jonsberg: Now this book is more my style! “Sixteen-year-old Carly is interviewing Leah Cartwright for her local history project. But Leah resists, determined instead to tell her own story: that of a lonely child on an isolated farm, a girl whose only escape is into the world of books. And when Adam appears in the orchard Leah discovers a friend … an unlikely boy who changes everything.” Like a lot of us, I can definitely relate to a protagonist who escapes her real life by delving into books, and I’m interested to learn more about Leah’s story which weaves together her past, her present – and her secrets.

4) Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories by Alisa Krasnostein: “What do a disabled superhero, a time-traveling Chinese-American figure skater, and a transgendered animal shifter have in common?” I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out! As the title suggests, this is a collection of sci-fi and fantasy stories (my favourite genres) geared towards YA readers, and it sounds awesome. I don’t read a lot of short stories, but these sound really interesting and I look forward to delving into a collection of “fun, edgy, meditative, and hopeful” stories.

So what books have you discovered this week? Have you read any of the ones I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments!

Future Library Project

Forest Image

“A forest in Norway is growing. In 100 years it will become an anthology of books.”

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but I’m only now getting around to it. I love interesting and unique projects involving how the public interacts with and experiences books, and I think this one is absolutely wonderful.

The Future Library Project comes from the mind of Scottish artist Katie Paterson and is based in Norway. During the summer 1,000 trees were planted in Nordmarka, just outside of Oslo. Over the next 100 years one author per year will be asked to contribute an unpublished, unread manuscript to a collection which will be held in trust by the New Public Deichmanske Library in Oslo. In 2114, the trees planted this year will be cut down and turned into paper on which the complete collection of 100 manuscripts will be published and released to the public. They are a message in a bottle to future generations.

Man Booker prize-winning author Margaret Atwood has been given the honour of contributing the first manuscript. It will never be read in her lifetime, and it is unlikely that any of her current fans will live long enough to read it either, but that’s kind of the point. Atwood herself has said that she finds it “delicious” that she has the freedom to write whatever she wants without the worry of what her publisher, readers or critics will think about it. She is bound by contract not to reveal a word of what she has written to anyone. Only those alive in 2114 will ever know what story she has left to the world.

Paterson described her feelings about Atwood’s contribution beautifully: “I imagine her words growing through the trees, an unseen energy, activated and materialised, the tree rings becoming chapters in a book.” As the trees grow, so will the medium by which Atwood’s words, and those of 99 other authors, will eventually be revealed to readers of the future. Paterson has some more wonderful things to say about the project, which you can read here.

Tree Rings Image

With the unrelenting march of technology and the proliferation of e-books already in full swing, who can really say for certain that we will still have printed books 100 years from now? I sincerely hope we will, as the thought of my great-grandchildren never having the pleasure of holding a book in their hands, or being forced to squint at them through glass in a museum exhibit, makes me desperately sad. I have a feeling the printed page will still be with us, though. It’s too well loved to die out completely. Whatever happens in the future, at least we know one thing; the readers of 2114 will have 100 new stories to read, and they will come to them on paper.

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a beautiful thing.

If you want to find out more about the project, which I really hope you do, then you can check out the links below.

Project Website

Project Video



Katie Paterson’s Website