>my friend Sarah commented in an e-mail today that

Other people really don’t get that ALWAYS having to ask and have help is exhausting and marginalising do they?!

and all I could do was nod as I was reading it and think she’d got it head on again. Plus, marginalising was just the word I’d been trying to think of for it and been stumped by.  The best I could come up with was it made me feel like a second class citizen. Marginalised is a much better word although both basically mean the same thing.
After a trying few weeks where things keep happening that leave me feeling like that.  And especially with people who know damn well I’m a wheelchair user and should know better, it was helpful to read that.
Thanks hon!

>If I Stay by Gayle Forman


[image description: a blue and white stripped deck chair with a copy of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol in it.  Above that the words The Summer Reading Challenge are written in an arc (split in two lines with challenge on the second).  Plain font, dark blue.  The background is white]

I was given a copy of If I Stay by Gayle Forman to review as a part of Transworld’s Dan Brown Summer Reading Challenge

Product description from Amazon:
Life can change in an instant. A cold February morning …a snowy road …and suddenly all of Mia’s choices are gone. Except one. As alone as she’ll ever be, Mia must make the most difficult choice of all. Gripping, heartrending and ultimately life-affirming, “If I Stay” will make you appreciate all that you have, all that you’ve lost – and all that might be.

My review:

If I Stay is a lovely book.  It’s very poignant but despite the subject matter not overly sad.  It’s really well written – Gayle Forman isn’t a writer I’ve come across before but she has a way with words.  With the exception of one very disappointing inappropriate term (ableist language when the term “stupid” or “idiotic” would have done), she uses each word carefully and to further her story.

The idea of being able to choose whether to stay or not after such a tragic accident is new to me and I particularly liked it.  The choice Mia needs to make is handled in a mature way that reflects both the age of the character (17) and the sort of upbringing she’s had.  The range of responses to the comatose Mia that her various friends and relatives have all ring very true to life without being twee or cloying.

A good afternoon’s read this book keeps you wondering all the way though whether she will stay.  At one point I was convinced it would go one way, then a twist had me thinking it would go another.  The book ends by answering the question but still leaves you wanting more and wondering what happened next.  The ending is sudden but it works and changing it would definitely have taken away from the feel and the power of the book.

Overall this was a very enjoyable read and a powerful book.

This review can also be seen on Amazon

I didn’t add this bit on Amazon but as I’m sure a lot of my readers will have guessed the ableist language I was talking about was the R word.  I’ve read several books with it in lately and I’m getting very disappointed and frustrated by that.

>Two Creative Writing Prompts

>We were talking about setting the scene and establishing mood at my creative writing class tonight.  As a part of that we did two exercises.

The first was to describe a place you love or hate in two sentences without saying why you love or hate it.

Ducks, geese and swans as well as a sewage works, this is the noisy home to an eclectic mix.  You usually end up getting either sunburnt, really wet, or both and laughing as you watch spectacular sunsets whilst doing something you thought impossible.

That’s Oxford Sailing Club in case you hadn’t guessed I was talking about sailing.  The first thing my tutor said when I read it out is “are you talking about sailing?”

For the second exercise we as a group came up with the description of a bar.  Who was in it, what sounds there were, what the weather was like, what was in it, what it smelt like etc.  Then we were each given a short character description at random and had to write a description of that bar as though we were that person (in first person).  We had about 15 mins for that.  My prompt was a woman in mourning for her husband who has died suddenly.  This is typed up exactly as I wrote it and without any editing.

This really isn’t the sort of bar I’d usually go to.  And I don’t think I’ll be coming back.  We always used to go to nice quiet wine bars.  Or to old country pubs.  The type you find almost by accident and collapse into after a long walk.  Jess had insisted however.  Claimed I needed to get out.  “It’s Christmas” she’d said as though that explained it all.  I didn’t go out as often as I used to, hadn’t been out in months.

Zach had died suddenly one night.  An hour after we’d got home from our favourite pub.  I’d gone to make hot chocolate.  Celebratory hot chocolate we’d laughed.  After more than a year of trying we’d finally won the pub quiz.  Five minutes later I dropped the mugs on the floor when I found him.  He was dead, just like that.  I hadn’t had a night out since.  Nor had I managed to get the chocolate stain out of the carpet.

So, three months later I found myself in this crazy pub.  It’s full of children screaming as their mums sing Christmas Carols badly on the karaoke machine and their dads roar at something on the biggest TV I’ve ever seen.  Jess had said this was a nice place.  It had a fire I could sit by and we could chat.  Shout right in each others ears? Yes. Chat? No.  And as for the fire?  Tattooed bikers sit round it along with a menacing looking dog.  I wouldn’t dare go near it.  It’s so cold in here too.  Snow is coming down by the doors are propped wide open and I don’t dare go shut them.

I was really intrigued by the sound of the wine I’d chosen.  But now I don’t know why Jess thought I’d like this bar.  I didn’t like this sort of place when I was a teenager let alone now.  I just want to go back three months.  Back to “our” pub.  Back to Zach.

>Woop Woop!!

>I’m up half a pound this week.  I’m not 100% convinced it’s real weight gain but I’m fine with it either way.  I completely forgot to weigh first thing this morning which means that I’d had a big glass of squash by the time I did.  Plus usually I weigh when I’m dressed which I did this week as well but last week I weighed naked before I got in the shower.

What else?  I continue to be off Coke and Chocolate – Saturday will be ten whole weeks without either.  I am indifferent about whether or not (or when) I will go back to having them very occasionally.  I’m definitely not going back to the way I was having loads of both daily before but I’m not 100% sure I can do occasionally without slipping back to all the bloody time again.

And I spent Saturday up at the sailing club with some friends.  Whilst one of them was taking part in some racing me and A went for two walks around the reservoir.  We went back and had lunch with N in between.  In total we walked two and a half miles.  And I pushed my wheelchair the entire time without help!  Woop Woop!!  I had forgotten how much I missed doing that.

Saw the practice nurse last Thursday about my weight as I do about every six weeks or so.  It was all very positive but she told me I need to realise more how well I’ve been doing and be more positive.  Which is probably true but isn’t very easy.

Am having blood tests tomorrow to check my hormone levels.  Periods have gone really screwy again (still) to such an extent that it lasted 16 days.  I think we might have reached the end of the see what losing weight does to it round.  But we shall see.

>Second Hand Heart by Catherine Ryan Hyde


[image description: a blue and white stripped deck chair with a copy of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol in it.  Above that the words The Summer Reading Challenge are written in an arc (split in two lines with challenge on the second).  Plain font, dark blue.  The background is white]

Second Hand Heart is the first of the books I have to review as a part of Transworld’s Summer Reading Challenge.  It’s by Catherine Ryan Hyde and is the first of her books I’ve read.

I really wanted to love Second Hand Heart based on what I read on the back of it.  I thought that I would as it’s the sort of book I love and I find the process of transplants interesting.  I did think that it was a good book.  But unfortunately there were one or two bits which I thought were unrealistic so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected. My creative writing teacher is always telling us that things don’t have to make sense or be realistic they just have to work. And the bits that I found unrealistic did work for the plot.  So overall it’s a good book.

Vida is 19 and dying if she doesn’t get a heart transplant very soon.  She’s been ill her entire life. Richard’s wife dies unexpectedly and he donates her heart to Vida.  Second Hand Heart is the story of what happens to both Richard and Vida after they meet very soon after the transplant (it was how soon after the transplant they met I felt to be unrealistic).

The plot changes and twists around as the story goes on. And the characters grow and change along with it.  I particularly enjoyed seeing how Vida grew as a person once she got healthier and discovered the world.  The perspective changes from Vida to Richard and back again repeatedly. Seeing things from the others perspective gave a different light to the book and brought it to another dimension.

Based on the subject matter you might think this would be a depressing book.  It was anything but.  Well written, it keeps you interested and has a nice feeling to it.  I’m glad I read this book.

>On Writing

>I’ve been meaning to post an update about my writing for a while so here goes.

I’ve been doing a lot of work on my novel.  I don’t have a lot to show for it in terms of words but I’ve made a lot of progress in other ways.

  1. I made a list of all the scenes I have and all the ones I need to write still
  2. I then used post its to work out what goes where and how it should work.
  3. Got a lot of feedback on the start of the novel
  4. Worked out that the end I have in mind really doesn’t work
  5. Came up with several ideas for what might work and other twists
  6. Done some necessary research
I’ve just started trying to write a new intro from the perspective of a different character because I started wondering if I’m writing from the wrong perspective.  The other thing I’ve been wondering about is using the MC I have now but turning it from a male character to a female based on all the feedback I’ve had saying it reads like a woman. I plan to write an intro like that as well and see what I like.
Regardless I think it’s very likely that I’ll be going back to the beginning and starting again. A lot of the stuff I’ve already got I’ve gone back to and thought it needs a lot of editing.  So with everything I’ve not written and everything I’ve got that needs pretty much total rewrites there’s not much left that just needs an edit.  And I’m planning to start afresh so it can be consistent.
In the last two days I’ve done two book reviews and also two guest blogs.  None of those are live online at the moment, I’ll post links when they are.
Finally, my friend Jo has started her own blog today called Not Quite Upwrite.  Just in case it wasn’t obvious, she’s a writer as well.