There must be something in the water in Oxford. It was once the literary stomping ground of writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings) and C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia series) who formed part of a writer’s group called the Inklings and met regularly at the Eagle and Child pub to discuss their writing. And Lewis Carroll was inspired to write Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland while living in Oxford. Now Philip Pullman, who resides in Oxford, can easily be added to this rich literary heritage as an author who creates such detailed, fantastical worlds.
Philip Pullman has just released The Book of Dust Volume One: La Belle Sauvage (what a mouthful). It is set in an Oxford that’s similar in appearance to the one we know, but is quite different. Pullman’s Oxford still has students, academics, colleges and pretty countryside but there are some magical differences. Every person has an animal companion called a daemon who is an extension of themselves and can talk, think and feel. Children’s daemons can change into all sorts of animals, reflecting their moods and needs, but once maturity hits the daemons settle into a particular animal form. In this alternative world there are also witches and other mythical creatures.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a book lover in possession of a juicy book may very well be in want of a book club.
Have you ever finished a book full of twists and turns, characters you loved or loathed, or a story full of meaty conversation hooks and wished you could share your revelations with others? Then you may be in need of a book club. Perhaps you can find your way to an already existing book club, otherwise you might have to start your own from scratch.
Here are the 8 questions to ask when starting your book club:
1. Who will you invite to join your book club?
Will it be made up of friends, family, work colleagues or complete strangers from your local community? It may depend on the purpose of your book club. Do you want it to be not only about books but a chance to catch-up with friends at the same time? Or do you want to use it as a chance to meet new people?
Once you’ve decided, aim to invite a minimum of six to eight people as not everyone will be able to make it to every book club meeting. Also consider the maximum number. If your group is too large, not everyone will have a chance to have their say.
You might also like to give your book club a name.
The stories of prolific author Stephen King are popping up everywhere at the moment as many of his books are being adapted into movies and TV series. This year alone there’s been the new IT movie, The Dark Tower movie, Gerard’s Game and 1922 on Netflix, the Mr Mercedes TV series and Castle Rock is coming soon.
My husband loves reading Stephen King and is currently working his way through The Dark Tower series and we’re enjoying all the TV and movie adaptions as they come out. While I’ve read quite a few Stephen King books over the years, my husband is definitely the biggest fan in our household. My favourite Stephen King book is not one of his fiction books, it’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I read it many years ago and, searching for inspiration, have just read it again. Its advice remains useful, relevant and practical. Plus, it’s inspiring to read about Stephen King’s personal writing journey. His books may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he certainly knows how to craft a story for his audience and knows who he is as a writer.
Here are my favourite tips from On Writing by Stephen King
1. On coming up with story ideas… “There is no Idea Dump, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky…Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.” Continue reading →
If you’re reading a crime novel set in a small Australian country town you can be sure of a few things: the story will take place against a harsh, unforgiving natural landscape; there will be a bevy of local characters with secrets to hide–from hard-drinking farmers to small town gossips; everyone will know everyone in town and there will be a couple of long standing feuds; and there will be something bad that happened in the past which is somehow connected to this latest crime. That’s not to say that these books aren’t a pleasure to read, I just often see this pattern.
Perhaps that’s why it took me so long to pick up The Dry by Jane Harper. It was the book on everyone’s lips in 2016, winning rave reviews from critics and racing up the bestsellers chart. Booksellers and book lovers embraced this debut and you would have had to be living under a rock to not have heard about it. It has also been optioned for the screen by Reese Witherspoon. Even now, The Dry is still picking up accolades, the recent being Jane Harper winning the British Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger award for the best crime novel of the year. Continue reading →
Reading a Marian Keyes novel is like having a cosy chat over a bottle of wine with a girlfriend you only see every few years. There are laughs, the occasional tear, secrets shared, milestones celebrated and losses commiserated. I’ve read every one of Marian’s novels over the years. They have taken me through my twenties and into my thirties and have never disappointed.
The Break is Marian Keyes’s latest novel. Set in Dublin and London, it tells the story of Amy O’Connell, a 44 year old mother of two girls (and carer of a niece) who works in PR and is married to the dependable Hugh. She is part of a large, nosey family, has a ‘portfolio of friends’, and is on her second marriage. Suddenly Hugh decides he needs to take a break by himself in the form of a six month trip to South East Asia. But he doesn’t just want a break from Ireland. He wants a break from his marriage. What follows is the before, during and after effects of this decision on their marriage and family.