A Different Path – first draft completed

Last Sunday I completed the first draft of A Different Path, which I have been calling my semi-autobiographical work in progress. The short video above is me reading an extract from the final chapter.

This is the first novel I have written in a long time, and I’m very excited about it. It’s not finished yet, as it still needs to go through the editing process, but I made it through the first draft, which is a small achievement in itself.

When I say a long time, I mean a long time. It’s been twenty two years since my last novel.

If you enjoy the extract above, you can visit my Facebook page, where you’ll find lots of other video extracts from the novel.

Book Review: Friend Request

Friend Request by Laura Marshall.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Friend Request is the story of a woman who receives a Facebook friend request from a girl she used to know at school. A girl who died twenty-five years ago.

As soon as I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. I loved the premise, and the sample I read through the Kindle app hooked me in within a few pages. Laura Marshall has a charming writing style that is easy to read but engaging and suspenseful at the same time.

I have tried to think of something I didn’t like about the novel, but I honestly can’t think of anything. Friend Request has the lot – a great premise, engaging prose, well-rounded characters, good scene-setting description, and a twisting, turning plot that was difficult to guess.

An accomplished debut novel that has made me eager to read more of Laura Marshall’s work. Recommended!

View all my reviews.

Book Review: Last Orders

Last Orders by Graham Swift
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Last Orders is the story of a group of men who take a short road trip from London to Margate to dispose of the ashes of their lifelong friend, Jack Dodds, stopping off at various places on the way.

The book makes extensive use of London dialect for the entire narrative, which I liked. I really felt the narrator, Ray, was speaking to me. The book leaps about from character to character, place to place, and time to time, which I enjoyed, but I will confess I had to resort to an online character list in order to keep track of who all the characters were initially.

Some scenes are beautifully descriptive, and moving, but rendered in that London dialect which gives them a unique charm and a deceptive simplicity. I can understand why this novel won the Booker Prize.

Highly recommended, but be prepared to refer to a character list. It will bring the book to life.

View all my reviews.

A Different Path – First Draft

Stocks Reservoir, in the Forest of Bowland AONB.

If you follow my Facebook page, you’ll already know I’m working on a novel, which I’m calling A Different Path. I’ve been making excellent progress, and am on track to finish the first draft in three weeks, a little ahead of the target date I set for myself.

Since I started writing the novel at the end of May, I’ve envisaged it as a semi-autobiographical, nostalgic, coming-of-age story set in Lancashire, England.

Does that original vision still hold water?

Semi-autobiographical

I’ve been saying the work is semi-autobiographical, and that’s true for some of the scenes and events I’ve written about. However, my life hasn’t been quite as interesting as the protagonist’s. In some ways I wish it had been, but in other ways, I’m very glad it wasn’t!

In truth there’s now so much stuff in there that’s made up, I’m thinking of dropping the ‘semi-autobiographical’ label altogether.

Nostalgic

Maybe wallowing in nostalgia is a symptom of getting older, but I love it. Some of my favourite fiction works are deeply nostalgic, including Stephen King’s The Body, which was made into a film, Stand by Me, and has to be top of my list. Another is Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, which comes a close second.

Writing about the area in which I spent my most formative years has brought memories flooding back to me with such clarity, they could have happened yesterday. On that basis, I’d say the novel is very nostalgic.

Coming-of-age

The phrase coming-of-age means different things to different people. It’s classic definition refers to the point at which a person transitions from childhood to adulthood.

I agree with that, but I don’t believe it’s a legal milestone like the age of consent or the legal drinking age. For me, coming-of-age is more about an emotional maturing process that happens over a period of time. Mine happened when I was around twenty, and some of the scenes in the novel are real recollections from those days of youth.

Set in Lancashire

The beginning of the book is set in Lancashire, around some of the towns and villages of the Ribble Valley and Forest of Bowland AONB. I revisit them throughout, right up to the final scene at the end of the story.

Even though I moved away a long time ago, writing about these places reminded me how much love I still hold for the area. At times, I became so emotional I could barely see my computer screen through the tears.

Next steps

After the first draft I’ll be working on the edits, which will take me some time, but a good novel is made during the editing process, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to take a step back and look at the work with different eyes, identifying areas in which it can be improved.

I’ll post further updates here, and on my Facebook page.

Book Review: The Brotherhood

The Brotherhood by Jerry B. Jenkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Brotherhood is the story of Boone Drake, an ambitious rookie cop who wants to take on the Chicago underworld, facing some tough personal challenges along the way.

The first few lines of this novel grabbed me straight away. I knew it wasn’t my usual reading genre, but the opening was so slick and tight I had to keep reading. After a couple of chapters I was fully invested in the main characters and wanted to see it through.

Here in the UK, Jerry Jenkins isn’t as well-known as he is in the US, so the Christian subtext took me by surprise. I didn’t object to it, and felt it was important in the development of Boone’s character, but personally I felt there was a just a teeny bit too much. Some people might be put off by this.

Overall, I thought this was a great read, and I’m considering trying The Last Operative as my next Jenkins novel.

View all my reviews.

Book Review: My Legendary Girlfriend

My Legendary Girlfriend by Mike Gayle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Legendary Girlfriend is the story of Will, a hopeless romantic who is still trying to get over being dumped by the love of his life three years before. The book is set over the course of a single weekend, and is a hilarious glimpse into the life of a man who is bitter about pretty much everything.

Most of the book is set in the protagonist’s one-bedroom flat in North London where he has telephone calls with the various people in his life. There is a great mix of happy, sad and funny moments, and Gayle keeps the plot flowing well, even though much of the narrative is internal dialogue.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book is the use of adverbs. I noticed on average one per page, and I found them distracting. There’s something about them that leaps annoyingly off the page, and even when I try to focus intently, they won’t go away, instead continuing to doggedly claw at my attention. This is just my own personal preference though, so don’t be put off.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable book, and Gayle has created an loveable character in Will. I look forward to reading more of Mike’s books.

View all my reviews.

Book Review – Who Moved My BlackBerry?

Who Moved My Blackberry? by Lucy Kellaway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Who Moved My BlackBerry is the hilarious story of Martin Lukes and his struggle to reach the top of the corporate ladder and become “22.5 percent better than his bestest”.

The book is written entirely as a series of emails from Martin to his coach, his wife, and colleagues at work. The writing is tight, with very little description, apart from what someone would write in an email, which makes the story fast paced, especially if you are used to reading countless emails every day.

What I liked about the book was the amusing but uncomfortable reminder that I myself often slip into using many of the corporate phrases used by Martin, the protagonist. Reading it has made me hyper-aware of the awful business clichés used in our daily lives.

Initially I felt the story would be complex and hard to follow due to the email-based narration. However, the complete opposite is true. I really enjoyed this book, and recommend it to anyone who works in an office and wants to be a better person!

View all my reviews.