Review: Wonderbook: An Illustrated Guide To Creating Imaginative Fiction

July 3, 2018 in Book Reviews, Non-Fiction

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Wonderbook: An Illustrated Guide To Creating Imaginative FictionWonderbook: An Illustrated Guide To Creating Imaginative Fiction Published by Abrams on 3rd July 2018 (revised edition)
Genres: Non-Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Since its release in 2013, Wonderbook has become the definitive guide to writing imaginative fiction by offering an accessible, example-rich approach that emphasises the importance of playfulness as well as pragmatism. It also exploits the visual nature of genre culture and employs bold, full-colour drawings, maps, renderings and visualisations by Jeremy Zerfoss to stimulate creative thinking. On top of that, the book features sidebars and essays from some of the biggest names working in the field today, including George R. R. Martin, Lev Grossman, Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock and Karen Joy Fowler.

Writers such as the wonderful V.E. Schwab have ignited in me an interest in the craft of writing (Schwab’s YouTube and Instagram accounts are definitely worth watching).

With this new flame of interest, I came across the revised and expanded, 5th-anniversary edition of Wonderbook: An Illustrated Guide To Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer that is published today by Abrams.

It truly is a Wonderbook – packed full of advice, stunning illustrations and easy to digest chapters.

Let me first say that I haven’t read many books about writing, so I can’t compare Wonderbook to other books on the market. However, I can share my thoughts and experience with the book.

Content

Jeff VanderMeer has incorporated so much into the pages of this book (including an additional 50 pages of diagrams, illustrations and writing exercises in this anniversary edition), with chapters on:

  • Inspiration and the Creative Life
  • The Ecosystem of Story
  • Beginnings and Endings
  • Narrative Design
  • Characterisation
  • World Building
  • Revision

Wonderbook has an interactive feel with ‘guides’ Myster Odd, the Little Aliens, the Devil’s Advocate, the All-Seeing Pen-Eye and the Webinator popping up throughout its pages. These guides expand upon the text, highlight important sections, suggesting counterpoint views, challenging you to a writing exercise, or referring you to the Wonderbook website for further information.

For me, I loved this quirky, informal style. I’m all about having fun while learning so this was right up my street.

A book describing how to create imaginative fiction may seem intimidating, but VanderMeer breaks everything down for us. It’s a book that is possible to dip into for fifteen minutes a day, or lose yourself in for several hours.

Illustrations

The illustrations in this book are stunning as well as thought-provoking. For me, they helped to reaffirm that which I’d read in the text. I’m quite a visual person so the colourful diagrams and illustrations are a much-appreciated addition.

I can’t tell you how much this book has taught me. As a reader, I find myself paying far more attention to writers’ styles, choices, and structures now. Wonderbook has provided me with the tools to identify these aspects of craft and start to analyse why and how they have been used.

Contributions & Appendices

I must mention the sidebar essays that have been contributed by such authors as Neil Gaiman, Ursula K. Le Guin, and George R. R. Martin (his interview on the craft of writing is very interesting). These are fascinating interludes offering different perspectives and some insight into the writing of such accomplished authors.

Finally, I must mention the Workshop Appendix, which has a plethora of resources and challenges.

It just so happened that I have been reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie while simultaneously working my way through Wonderbook. So, the appendix analysing Americanah and Adichie’s creative decisions such as Point of View switched in the novel has been fascinating to me. I’m still working through this appendix, but this is just an example of the gems that are included within Wonderbook.

Conclusions

This book is not only educational and enlightening, but it’s entertaining too. VanderMeer has packed SO much into this book. He’s evidently spent considerable time and thought on not only the content itself, but its delivery and structure. It’s a beautifully produced book.

This is an incredibly useful and insightful book that you don’t need to be a writer to enjoy. As a reader, I’ve learned so much and will take it with me into every piece of fiction that I read.

four-half-stars

Review: How To Be A Grown-Up

June 26, 2018 in Book Reviews, Non-Fiction

I received this book for free from bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: How To Be A Grown-UpHow To Be A Grown-Up by Daisy Buchanan
Published by Headline on 28th June 2018
Genres: Non-Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: bookbridgr
Goodreads
four-stars

Have you ever felt lost, anxious, panicky about adulthood?

Have you ever spent a hungover Sunday crying into a bowl of cereal?

Have you ever scrolled through Instagram and felt nothing but green-eyed jealousy and evil thoughts?

Award-winning journalist, Grazia agony aunt and real-life big sister to five smart, stylish, stunning twenty-something young women, Daisy Buchanan has been there, done that and got the vajazzle.

In How to be a Grown-Up, she dispenses all the emotional and practical advice you need to negotiate a difficult decade. Covering everything from how to become more successful and confident at work, how to feel pride in yourself without needing validation from others, how to turn rivals into mentors, and how to *really* enjoy spending time on your own, this is a warm, kind, funny voice in the dark saying "Honestly don't worry, you're doing your best and you're amazing!"

Sometimes it’s just nice to read a book that you can relate to. I might be in my thirties and been through a lot in my three and a bit decades on the planet, but I think How To Be A Grown-Up is a phrase I’ll forever ponder (won’t we all) and so Daisy Buchanan’s book called to me.

Ok, full disclosure, I didn’t actually know who Daisy Buchanan was before I picked up this book (if you’re wondering she is an award-winning journalist and Grazia agony aunt), but I now feel like she’s my pal.

Buchanan shares her life with such honesty; the lessons shes’s learned, mistakes she’s made, emotions she has tackled, such that by the end of this book I felt I knew her.  From Instagram jealousy to fear of the financial, panic attacks to body image, Daisy writes with honesty, humour, and wit. Her anecdotes are relatable, and I can’t tell you the number of times I felt less alone reading this.

Going through major changes at this stage in my life isn’t something that I ever expected or wanted, but although Daisy’s story is very different to mine, her kindness and advice on being kind to yourself shine through. It has helped me.

Sometimes I fear a book like this can come across a bit ‘preachy’ but that isn’t the case here. Daisy lifts the lid on her life with seemingly nothing off limits – sharing her more difficult times with us as well as the happier times.

I enjoyed Daisy’s writing, her way with words and turn of phrase often appealing to my sense of humour.

Perhaps I related to a lot of this book as I was raised in the same era as Daisy. However, I do feel that those in their 20s will get a lot from this book, maybe a bit like an older sister sharing advice.

20s, 30s or 40s – do we ever really know how to be a grown-up? If this is a question that you often ponder then Daisy’s book is one for you. A perfect easy-to-read book for your Summer TBR.

P.S. I just noticed that the Kindle edition is only 99p on Amazon right now! (Not an affiliate link)

four-stars

Refugee Week & The Displaced Review

June 18, 2018 in Biography, Memoir, Book Reviews, Non-Fiction, Other Books

This week is the 20th anniversary of Refugee Week. With World Refugee Day occurring on Wednesday 20th June 2018, it feels that this week is the perfect time to share with you one of my most recent reads, The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives.

The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Refugee Week & The Displaced ReviewThe Displaced: Refugee Writers On Refugee Lives by Various
Published by Abrams on 10th April 2018
Genres: Essays, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Anthology
Format: Hardback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

In January 2017, Donald Trump signed an executive order stopping entry to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries and dramatically cutting the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the United States each year. The American people spoke up, with protests, marches, donations, and lawsuits that quickly overturned the order. But the refugee caps remained.

In The Displaced, Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Viet Thanh Nguyen, himself a refugee, brings together a host of prominent refugee writers to explore and illuminate the refugee experience. Featuring original essays by a collection of writers from around the world, The Displaced is an indictment of closing our doors, and a powerful look at what it means to be forced to leave home and find a place of refuge.

Abrams published this anthology of essays back in April and were kind enough to send me a copy. With contributions from 19 prominent refugee writers from around the world, each with their own stories to tell, this is a timely, thought-provoking book that everyone should be reading.

These stories are insightful and emotional. The writers share their lives and experiences – from leaving family behind, to being reunited with parents that they don’t recognise. From finding their identity to carving out a new life in an unknown country.

As one would expect, these essays are all beautifully written. Edited by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Viet Thanh Nguyen, himself a refugee, all of these pieces pack a punch, in many different ways.

This book is a sadly all-too-needed reminder of the humans who are at the heart of the hideous, fear-inciting stories we see in the mass media.

These stories need to be read. As the world faces an enormous refugee crisis, I have no doubt that these essays will raise awareness of the real-life experiences of refugees and their families. If only we could get copies of this book into the hands of those who need educating most!

For every purchase of this book, Abrams will donate 10% of the cover price (a minimum of $25000 annually) to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) who are a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing humanitarian aid, relief and resettlement to refugees and other victims of oppression and violent conduct.

This is a collection that will stay with you long after you close the back page – and well it should!

Refugee Week 2018

 

 

As part of the 20th anniversary of Refugee Week, we are being invited to partake in at least one of 20 simple acts.

 

You can find the full list of Simple Acts here. Might I encourage you to participate in number 9, read a book about exile.

 

Obviously, The Displaced fits this description perfectly and I urge you all to read it.

If you are interested in further books on this subject, check out the links provided on the Refugee Week website. Of course, please also feel free to share any title suggestions below.

Remember to share your read online using the hashtag #SimpleActs.

 

four-half-stars

Review: Eat. Sweat. Play.

June 16, 2016 in Book Reviews, Non-Fiction, Other Books, Sport

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Eat. Sweat. Play.EAT. SWEAT. PLAY. by Anna Kessel
Published by Pan Macmillan on 16th June 2016
Genres: Non-Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

What does it mean to be a sporty woman in the 21st century? From the launch of Net-A-Sporter, serving up sports clothing for fashionistas, to the introduction of #plankie as the new Instagram selfie for yoga bunnies; exercise for women has finally gone mainstream.

But if sweating has never been so hot for female celebrities, then why are there still so many obstacles for girls and women when it comes to sport? Why do girls still hate school sports lessons? Why is sport consistently defined as male territory, with TV cameras replicating the male gaze as they search out the most beautiful women in the crowd? Will women ever flock to watch football, rugby and boxing in their millions? Or turn up to the park with friends for a Sunday morning kickabout? How long do we have to wait to see the first multi-millionaire female footballer or basketball player?

MY STORY

Many of you know how much I love watching sport – football, F1, athletics – basically I’ll watch any sport with the exception of cricket.

These days I’m stuck in a situation where I can’t exercise; my illness confines me massively. I do those wee exercises that I can, the ones that the physio has given me. Putting my health to one side though, I’ve never been a very sporty person. I once convinced my maths teacher to give me a test I missed rather than run the cross-country! In fairness, she was pretty happy about it, as it meant she didn’t have to marshall in the rain! I was also an expert in getting out of P.E.

Outside of school though, while I might not classify myself as sporty, I was active. I cycled, I attempted to play football (I was never very good but I loved it) and I spent a significant amount of time as a sheepdog, rounding up sheep on the croft! Looking back, I was definitely active even although I hated P.E.

I’ve always been self-conscious though. I’ve never been to a gym – just the thought of it makes me feel ill!

THE BOOK

Anyway, why am I sharing this with you? Well, I recently received an email about a book “written for anyone who has given up on sport, or perhaps were made to feel that they would never be ‘sporty’ in the first place”, and I was immediately interested. It sounded fascinating and I can tell you that it really is!

Eat. Sweat. Play. is written by sport’s journalist Anna Kessel. I’ve actually sat here for a while now wondering how best to summarise this book because it encompasses so much that it’s hard to narrow it down! Ok, so, basically, it’s a look at women in sport. Not just the professionals, but you and me too.

Anna looks at the reasons many girls dislike P.E., the reason why as teenagers we may have lost interest in sport and why that is still affecting us as adults today.

She encourages us not to worry about how we look or what others might think, and to MOVE. To enjoy that movement, to embrace it.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

Something I’ve always wondered but never voiced is how professional female athletes cope with periods. Kessel discusses this, openly and honestly. She talks to athletes and even doctors with regards to how periods could affect performance. She answers all those questions I’ve often wondered about but never been brave enough to ask.

FEMALE BODY

Kessel continues a look at the female body while discussing exercise throughout pregnancy. She shares her own experiences and draws upon the expertise of others.

But what happens after you’ve had your baby? How do you exercise then? She explores this in detail with suggestions as well as input from other Mums.

ROLE MODELS

One of the areas I found most interesting was her discussion of being a role model as a parent. If your kids see you being ‘active’, they’ll see it as normal and do the same. This made me think of a friend of ours who keeps fit, plays sports and is a Mum. Her three-year-old daughter plays in the house, pretending that she’s going to Metafit class like her Mummy. It truly does have an impact, but until now it’s not something I’d ever really thought about.

HONESTY

Kessel is encouraging and honest. She includes not only her own experiences, including her own heartache, but those of others to motivate us to move.

WOMEN IN SPORT

A further area of great interest to me was her discussions on women’s sport as well as women working within sport. Sport itself is still largely very male dominated, and Kessel shares her own experiences of working in the industry – something I personally found fascinating, given my engineering background.

She also looks at the way top sportswomen are perceived, why they are judged differently from men and how the world of women’s sport is different from men’s in a multitude of ways – finance, medical knowledge, the media, support.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I found this to be a thoroughly eye-opening read. I can’t tell you how much I learned. This is a book you will want to talk about. I genuinely ended up discussing many of the issues in this book with my husband.  It’s also a book that will encourage you to have a better relationship with sport and fitness as a whole.

four-half-stars