On Book Hangovers & Reading Recommendations

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It’s that time of year again, folks, when I look to the nethercorners of the Internet for reading suggestions and general bookish counsel from fellow book worms.

Last year I suffered through a rather lengthy, severe, and most objectionable case of Readers Block, which conveniently coincided with my lengthy, severe and objectionable case of Writer’s Block. Being a book worm for as long as I can remember, it was a surprising and unwelcome shock to my inner literary nerd to find that no book would satisfy and none could hold my attention. In fact, I could probably count on two hands how many books I read last year, which is most unusual for someone used to getting through a book a week. That said, there were a few stand outs that succeeded in breaking through my relentless book drought. Robin Hobb’s Rainwild Chronicles, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, and Joseph Delaney’s Spook’s Apprentice, to name a few.

You’ll be pleased to know I have since overcome that troublesome period in my young life, and have returned to the far more familiar world of books, books, BOOKS!

To commemorate my return, I thought it only appropriate to set myself an assignment to finish a series I had long ago started. A series that somehow always seemed to necessitate lengthy intervals between volumes. C.S. Lewis once said,

It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.

ADWD UKOtherwise known as a book hangover. And such I found was definitely the case with George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, of which I have just finished the latest in the series, A Dance with Dragons. There is some serious world building happening in that man’s head. Seriously. The series is well and truly alive and three dimensional, helped along considerably by the success of the HBO series adaptation, which is widely considered one of the best things on TV screens right now. And while I genuinely stand in awe of all the characters, places and stories Martin has created, I can’t help but feel for the editors who have the mammoth task of making sense of it all. It’s a great read, but I wouldn’t say a smooth sailing one. It sinks deep in details, is often messy, and lacks the feeling of continuity that made the third in the series, A Storm of Swords, an absolute killer read (pun intended). Even so, I can’t help but feel a certain sense of satisfaction at having conquered the biblical volumes whose spines seem to expand with each new publication.

In between the dragons, murder and intrigue that is the world of Westeros, I have indulged in a few olden goldies that never fail to bring me joy, no matter how many times I read them. Pride and Prejudice being one of them. Apart from it bringing intense literary delight and wordy wit, this is one of the only books that gets me actually laughing out loud in the reading of it.

name-of-the-wind-coverOther books I have reread in the last six months include Patrick Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind and Tolkien’s The Hobbit, between them covering the classic and modern fantasy with divine prowess. I also had my first proper delve into the world of historical fiction with The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir, which got a bit too Mills & Boony for me from the middle onwards, but carried me through to the end thanks to my massive fangirl crush on anything Tudor related.

So, on to what to read next. The list is ever growing and presents itself as an unattainable challenge of the most delightful nature. Of recommendations old and new, from blog readers and beyond, I have the following at the top of my list:

Player of Games by Iain Banks

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

Harpy’s Flight by Megan Lindholm

Shaman’s Crossing by Robin Hobb

The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb

The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (another series requiring serious dedication to return to)

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But the list is incomplete.

Are there any new release rock-your-socks-off reads you’d recommend I add to the list? Or old classics that deserve my attention? As you can see, apart from the exception of the lonely Dickens singing out for my attention, it’s all speculative fiction. Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Classics may be my weakness, but I’m never shy to branch out beyond the speculative genre. Hit me up peeps!

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A writer’s mind

icebergstory copyI think a writer of any genre gets accustomed to a certain degree of lunacy taking place in their brain at any particular moment. Whether it be coming up with plausible ways to kill off a character to meticulously establishing the detailed properties of dragon snot; the brain of a writer is a mysterious instrument of imaginative innovation, the clogs always ticking.

Though my aforementioned hiatus in writing has taken a toll on my creative output, what’s been going on in the mystery-that-is-my-head has remained consistently reliable in its “creative vision”, otherwise known as:

les crazy thoughts. 

The other day I was taking one of my favourite walks through a local piece of glorious countryside. I had a river to my right, pastures to my left, the sun on my face. In a rare moment of total tranquility I found myself not thinking about anything other than how great life was in that moment.

And then I saw them.

Just ahead of me were two sheep on the bank of the river. Beside them in the river were two wading ducks. All four of them were looking at me.

It was as if I had caught them in the middle of some secret convention. A conference on the decreasing quality of bulk bill manure, the latest polls in insect activity, the next Miss Quacker 2014.

As is to corroborate my speculation, they looked to each other once more and through the bleats and quacks I could almost hear the words,

“We’ll continue this later.”

In a moment of absolute synchronicity, a reverse Avengers assemble, they dispersed. The ducks turned their tail feathers on me and waded together across the river, the sheep wandered off as a pair into the pastures, heads down. Nothing to see here, folks.

Whatever the blank page in front of me might have to say about it, inside my head stories are happening in unlikely places. I’m talking Titanic iceberg proportions here, guys.

Granted, most people might express some concern at the thought that the local wildlife were having an actual conversation. Me however? I take comfort in knowing that the writing wheels are still turning.

And that’s okay. Because despite recent evidence to the contrary, a writer doesn’t ever stop being a writer. Whether you’re writing stories, telling stories, or simply thinking stories, you’re creating new ideas throughout even the most mundane moments in life. Some will make it to print, others will just carry on building on the foundations of creativity inside your head, nurturing the characters and places that do find their way onto paper.

It’s a mysterious place, the mind of a writer, but for my part, there’s no place I’d rather be.

Scene of animal encounter. Animals refused to comment.

Scene of encounter. Animals in question refused to comment.