Sunday, 29 December 2013

Year End

I'm going to be kind of sad to say goodbye to 2013 as overall it's been a good year - highlights being a spontaneous trip to New York, and getting to go to the launch of an anthology my story is in at Foyle's in London. It's going to be hard to top that in 2014, but I'll give it a good go!

Following the tradition of my 'Year End' posts here's some of my favourite films/TV shows and books of 2013: (These are getting harder to remember - I think I need to start keeping a film and book journal!)

Books: (Actually once I got into writing this I could have gone on forever, so I've had to be very selective...)

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
This YA book is part of the Chemical Garden Trilogy. I have to admit I was initially drawn to this book because of the beautiful cover (it really is a gorgeous cover!!) My cover judgement paid off as it turned out to be one of the best YA books I've ever read. Loved the writing, the plot and the characters. It's set in a creepy genetically advanced world where males only live to tweny five, and females to twenty. Sixteen year old Rhine is kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriage in order to keep the population ticking over. It brought up really interesting questions about freedom and genetics and love. Like many trilogies I think it would have been stronger if the author had tried to contain the story to one book.

Poison Study by Maria V Snyder
This is one of my sister in law's favourite books and I'm glad she passed it my way as it's probably one I wouldn't have picked out in a crowd. It's a historical fantasy book, set in a fictional land where Yelena escapes execution in exhange for becoming the 'Commander's' food taster (which means she has to be trained in being able to detect multiple poisons). I loved Yelena's character - a really strong female protagonist and Valek is the perfect hero; understated, kind of moody, strong and the right kind of sensitive.

Slated by Teri Terry
I was first alerted to this YA book through my facebook feed when a friend posted a link to the cover and blurb, as she knows the author (So, people, take note: facebook does work to promote your friends' books!) This is a kind of sci-fi thriller romance, where 16 year old Kyla has been 'Slated'. Her memory and personality have been wiped clean and she has been placed with a family she doesn't know to start a new life after claims she was a terrorist. It's a great idea and full of enough intrigue and mystery to keep you turning the pages (this is another trilogy so unfortunately the first one only scrapes the surface with answers). Looking forward to reading the next one!

Midwinter Masquerade by Romy Gemmell
Have to mention this one as it's one of my Mum's (many) books published this year, and it's also dedicated to me (which was a lovely surprise when I started to read it!). Set in Midwinter in the Scottish countryside it makes a perfect wintery read. I enjoyed the contrast between the widowed Lenora's romantic turmoil for a past love, and the more whimsical escapades of the younger Annabelle. Some great escapist romance! (and for more escapist romance you should also check out The Aphrodite Touch)

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I'm only half way through this (because it was a Christmas present), and unless it goes dramatically downhill for the last half, (which I'm sure it won't!) this has to go on my favourites list for this year. The subject should be really depressing: a blossoming romance between a girl with terminal cancer, and a boy she meets at cancer support group, but the humour and honesty is so spot on that it's a weirdly uplifting story (though I'm getting my hankies ready for the end...)

Take this Waltz 
An indie romance starring Michelle Williams (who does the indie stuff so well), Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby. It got some bad reviews (it's a 2011 film) but I thought it was great.  The writer/director (Sarah Polley) turned what could have been another will they/won't they story into something much more, and effectively captured the restlessness we all experience; that feeling that there's something missing, something more out there...and when Michelle Williams' character gets the 'more' you can see the dawning that maybe it's not another person that will truly make you happy. The fairground scene (played out twice in different ways) is just perfect.

The Place Beyond The Pines
Ryan Golsing doing what he does best: understated broody emotion (with a bit of sexy thrown in). He plays a motorcyle racer and when he discovers he has a son, is so desperate to provide for him, becomes involved in bank robberies. This brings a cop, played by Bradley Cooper, into his life and the focus of the second half of the film then shifts to him. The story is unsettling and big on the emotional punches. I just sat staring at the screen for few moments afer it ended, and cried at several bits throughout (it doesn't really take much to make me cry at films though!)

Catching Fire (the second of the Hunger Games films)
Loved the Hunger Games books and love the Hunger Games films. I'm so glad they cast Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss as she portrays her understated strength so well. (If you ask me, it's this role she deserves the oscar for as I really did not see the big deal about Silver Linings Playbook). They've captured the colourful world of 'The Capital' and the horror of the games in perfect detail. And Donald Sutherland is amazing as President Snow.

I just watched this over Christmas and it deserves a mention as I nearly bit all my nails off in the tense closing scenes. What made this more amazing was the fact it was based on a true story. Ben Affleck was impressive as the CIA agent attempting to rescue 6 Americans from Tehran, under the guise of a Hollywood film production team. He gave such an understated performance (are you seeing the trend that I am all for the 'understated' powerful actors?) and displayed some top notch directing.

The Paradise Lost documentaries 
A friend alerted me to the distrurbing true case of 'The West Memphis Three'; a tragic story of miscarriage of justice. The documentaries cover the1993 West Memphis trials in which three teenagers were accused of murdering three eight-year-old boys. All three teenagers were found guilty with Echols being sentenced to death. The documentaries and later investigations throw up all sorts of inconsistencies, fabrications and inconclusive 'evidence' which will have you really worrying about the so called 'justice' system. The documentaries caught the eye of really high profile stars such as Johnny Depp and Eddie Vedder who joined the relentless campaigning for the boys' release. I started with the most recent documentary 'West of Memphis' and started to work my way back through the older ones. Compelling and disturbing viewing!


I had to wait for the box sets of this TV series due to not having Sky Atlantic. In a way I'm glad I got the box sets as once you start watching, you want to keep watching. Written and directed by Lena Dunham, the series was in all the papers when it first came out, being touted as the new 'Sex and the City'. This is a total inaccuracy. What they should have billed it as, was the REAL Sex and the City as it's the most honest piece of TV I've ever seen. Lena Dunham is refreshingly normal looking, and isn't ashamed to show off her less than perfect body in numerous nude scenes. There are no flattering lighting/camera angles in this show and the females are kind of crazy and neurotic but ultimately endearing. The men are depressingly real too, so really you should show this to your teenage daughters so a) They become more comfortable with their perfectly imperfect bodies and b) They don't build up too high romantic expectations about men/relationships/sex/initial life after graduation. This series really deserves a whole blog post of its own.

Eerie Indiana 
Had to include this! I was lucky enough to recieve the box set for my Christmas (thanks Lorna) and I am loving re-visiting this totally off the wall tv series from my childhood. Not yet reached the episodes featuring the weird grey haired kid (who I had a massive crush on). If you've never seen this, your life will forever remain incomplete.

Okay, I think that's about me done for now. Wishing you all much happiness and great things for 2014. And wishing myself a multi million bestseller. The more times I say/write it the more likely it is to become truth...

*Footnote - meant to include the Mortal Instruments film in my list. An amazing adaptation (better than the book as the actors were so good in their parts)

Monday, 2 December 2013


Paris ~ streets of inspiration

November, where did you go? That's my excuse for not posting last month - it simply disappeared too quickly. I know a few writers read this and I'm curious to know; where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?

I read a good article in the November issue of Writing magazine titled 'Ten inspiring ideas to try instead of NaNoWriMo'. In this, the author Ben Hatch suggested keeping a diary for a month, writing about something that's happened to you, or recording real events and conversations. He suggested writing for 45 minutes every day. I've not managed quite that extent of writing in my 'diary' but I've found it a really useful tool to record thoughts, ideas, and unusual conversations or things I've seen. Ideas for stories have sometimes formed half way through recording thoughts and observations from my day, and I'm sure many more will appear when I read back through the diary. I'm not going to stick to just a month, but will keep going with it until I fill the notebook. It's also a good use for one of the many lovely notebooks I've been given as gifts from friends/family!

Something else which I find is bringing inspiration is Pinterest, not necessarily for writing - some boards I've come across are sparking lots of art ideas. It was thanks to my Mum that I joined up to this and have had fun creating my own 'boards', though I could easily spend way too much time on it so have to limit myself! It's amazing the quirky images and products you can find when you search under certain subjects. When I was putting together my 'All Things Alice in Wonderland' board I came across one titled 'Worn any good books lately' which features hundreds of clothes and jewellery inspired by famous literature. Love it!
Click to see my boards

Last month I went to the Lighthouse in Glasgow to check out their current exhibitions and came across one titled '365 drawings later' by an artist called Anna Gibb. She recorded her whole year in sketches and it featured lots of images from her travels across Europe and America. I love this idea as her sketches pulled out little details that would be difficult to capture on camera, and think it would make a really interesting sketchbook diary. I've come across a few blogs lately where people have captured weekends or days in photos and I also like that idea! Maybe some projects to experiment with next year...