You know you’re a book blogger when…

…you’re people watching outside a hospital whilst on patient transport and most of your thoughts revolve around the people you can see’s reading material.

Yup, I had a hospital appt yesterday.

and the patient transport took a guy from near where I live to one of the other hospitals in Oxford before taking me to the hospital ten minutes drive away and my appointment at wheelchair services (which, frankly, lets not talk about).

So I’m sat in the transport outside the hospital for I’d guess ten minutes. I sort of like to look around and see what’s what. Sometimes ideas come from that for writing.

I’m noticing they whoever designed this place obviously had a thing for bright colours. Not sure I like their choices.
The lady over is walking with the world’s largest quad stick
Oh this is where the new children’s hospital is.
Some unusual fashion choices
And such like

But most of all I’m looking at the guy slouched again a sign right across the road. He’s it an e-reader. I can’t quite figure out what sort it is though. I don’t think it’s a kindle. The thought I had was it was a kobo but then I looked again at the squared off shape and thought: old school Sony reader. You know, the ones that pre Kindle coming to the UK were all you could get.

Ok. Next most important people watching thought. He’s got his e-reader, I wonder what he’s reading. Does he look like a thriller type guy? Maybe. Not sure. He’s been there ages now, its obviously good, he hasn’t looked up.

Oh looking through the full length windows over there I can see an older woman with a book. Can’t see the title but I can see the colours of it and how thick it is. Maybe she’ll turn it…no, wrong way. Hmm those colours are a bit of an unusual combo. But, come to think of it I think the latest Sophie Kinsella paperback has that. Certainly I seem to remember the ARC I’ve got of the hardback is like that. Yeah, she’s got that reading while waiting for an appt look going on, keeps glancing up, but I could imagine her as a Sophie Kinsella fan.

Seriously no matter what else caught my eye I kept going back to those two people reading. T amused me when I realised that.

On being a writer

I know you want to sing. See. I love to sing. Nothing makes me happier.I either wanted to be a singer or the head of the Ice Capades. Hey. Do you know who the Ice Capades are? Don’t roll your eyes. They were very cool.

I went to my mother who gave me this book…called Letters To A Young Poet. Rainer Maria Rilke.

He’s a fabulous writer. A fellow used to write to him and say: “I want to be a writer. Please read my stuff.” And Rilke says to this guy: “Don’t ask me about being a writer. lf when you wake up in the morning you can think of nothing but writing…then you’re a writer.”

I’m gonna saythe same thing to you. If you wake up in the mornin’ and you can’t think of anything
but singin’ first…then you’re supposed to be a singer girl.

(from Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit)

Sometimes people ask me about writing. Advice on getting started as a blogger, or can I tell them about opportunities that are out there.

If I’m completely honest I’m probably not the best person to ask.

I love to write. Love love love it. But I don’t do it as often as I’d like to. Or even as often as I should. I’m the Queen of Procrastination.

I’ve been blogging and writing for a long time. Hell, I started doing it before blogging even existed. When I first started sharing my life online it was November 2000, they were called online diaries and everyone looked at you like you were really weird if you told them you wrote a diary and shared it for anyone to read (I’ll admit it: I was an avid DiaryLand girl. And sometimes I still miss that oh so basic but so wonderful site.)

That’s 13 years. The idea of so many years of my life being online blows my mind. If my blog was a person it would be a stroppy girl kicking and screaming and complaining that it’s not fair. And no one understands it. And if only it could be noticed and allowed to do it’s own thing it would be brilliant. A star even.

As much as the teenage metaphor started off as just a bit of fun I do think its also it’s a valid one for writing.

It’s harder then it seems. People who don’t write think it’s an easy thing. People who are just starting out don’t always understand the work involved. And there will always be times when I email a site with an idea and they turn me down, or I read an article and think “I could have done better” if only they’d let me try.

I can give advice on writing and blogging. But I’m not sure I should.

I’d probably just say its hard but it can be really worth it and you can get a lot out of it. Blogging is a great way to start in my opinion.

I could tell you about writing opportunities. If I googled them first. And I’m kinda selfish.

I put the work in. I found what was out there and made it happen. The two main other sites I write for are invitation only. I worked hard to get my slots. It makes me angry when people just expect me to get them slots on invitation only sites or let them guest post on my blog and then get annoyed with me when I say no (note for people thinking about guest blogging: do your research. I do not accept guest posts on my blog and even if I did most of what’s sent to me is a poor match. It seems they’ve just gone “disability blog” and not read any of my content).

I realise my saying no annoys you. I’ll say it again. Writing is hard work. Your expectation makes me feel you’re belittling my achievements. Your expectation pisses me off.

I could recommend articles and writers to other sites. But there’s no point in my doing so if I don’t think it’s right. My reputation is important to me and recommending or sharing the wrong stuff for the wrong site (or on my blog) could put that at risk.

I want to be helpful and support other writers. But I can’t do it for you. And I want to be a writer more than that.

The only way to be a writer is just to write.

Five Books I’ve Read Recently Which Have Disabled Characters

I complain a lot that there aren’t enough disabled characters in books. I’ve read a few lately and enjoyed them so instead of updating the long list I’ve posted before (which is on my to do list but will take ages so keeps dropping down the list) I thought I’d do a short list.

To illustrate my point I should add that I’d hoped to list thirteen books and call it a Thursday Thirteen of ones I’d read this year. I’ve read 84 books since January 1st. With the exception of
Bad Mothers United by Kate Long (which I felt was more about being a carer than disability itself so didn’t include) these 5 are the only ones with a disability element.

1. Home Front Girls by Rosie Goodwin

Whilst not one of the main characters this features a nonverbal child of 4 who has learning disabilities. She’s cared for by her older sister (who is a main character) who very obviously idolises her. It’s nice to see a book relevant to its setting (WWII) with a very valued crip character who isn’t used in a tokenistic way.

2. Kafka on The Shore by Haruki Murakami

This is told from alternating perspectives. Nakata had something unknown happen to him as a child and went from being an intelligent child to one who struggled to learn and had forgotten how to read. This disability is life long and is a key plot point. He uses the phrase “Nakata isn’t very bright” to describe himself several times. The second character is 15 year old Kafka. He could be argued as having a mental health condition if you think “The Boy Named Crow” who guides him is a hallucination.

3. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

I liked this book until the last several chapters. It’s the tale of a man with an acquired disability who isn’t sure life is worth living any more and the companion hired by his family to change his mind. As a wheelchair user a lot of it rang true. It’s a powerful book but for me the ending was wrong and it made me quite angry.

4. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.

This book is amazing. Oh it was the best book I’ve read in probably years. The story of two teens with terminal cancer, it’s been a bit controversial. It’s a book that makes you feel. And the humour it uses was perfect. It was the same as the disability humour I have. I could relate to the reactions their cancer jokes got because many react to my wheelchair user jokes in the same way. I laughed a lot.

5. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants is Jacob’s story. Some of it is told from his perspective as a 23 year old. And the rest from when he is 90 – or 93 – looking back on those same events. At 90 – or 93 – (he can’t remember exactly how old he is by then) he lives in a nursing home. His wishes are often ignored by those around him as the medical staff try to jolly him out of arguments saying to him that he doesn’t mean it. I found a lot of parallels to disability at any age in those sections.

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

I think I’ve mentioned several times before that something I really like about book blogging is the variety it can bring to my reading. I’ve been introduced to many new authors and read books I never would have thought to. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight doesn’t fall into either of those categories. I did receive a complimentary review copy but its definitely one that would have caught my eye and would have screamed “buy me” once I’d read the back. Having read it I can confirm it would have been money well spent and I’d jump at the chance to read more by the author.

Single mother and lawyer Kate Baron is in the meeting of her career when she is interrupted by a telephone call. Her daughter Amelia has just been suspended from her exclusive prep school. When Kate eventually arrives at Grace Hall an hour later, she is greeted by the news that no mother ever wants to hear. A grieving Kate can’t accept that her daughter would kill herself. But she soon discovers she didn’t know Amelia quite as well as she thought. Who are the friends she kept, what are the secrets she hid? And so begins an investigation which takes her deep into Amelia’s private world – and into the mind of a troubled young girl. Then Kate receives an anonymous text: AMELIA DIDN’T JUMP. Is someone toying with her or has she been right all along? To find the truth about her daughter, Kate must now face a darker reality than she could ever have imagined.

This book is at least the third I’ve read in the last couple of months based roughly around questions of how well you really know someone. The other two were Close My Eyes by Sophie McKenzie and Someday I’ll Find You by Richard Madeley. Three very different books and I’m not sure comparable ones. But I did find it interesting and I’m beginning to wonder if its a sort of trend. The fact all three are published by Simon and Schuster could play into this. Maybe. This was probably my favourite of the three.

I think the fact I liked this a lot is obvious already. Looking on goodreads it seems to be one people either really like or really hate. I could see the more negative points made in the reviews once they were pointed out but for the most part hadn’t really noticed it. My major criticism would be that whilst the “big reveal” at the end worked and made a lot of sense it seemed rushed and a bit flat. I’d have liked it bit more explanation and resolution there. This is a strong book and I felt like more energy was needed there to keep it up. The lack of doesn’t ruin it though and that’s the main thing. And I never guessed any of the twists in the book. A couple of then struck me as a little sick, not in a bad way. I could well imagine that people could be desperate enough to do them and that many others would be sickened but get it too. So sick and extreme but realistic and in that way, good, twists.

My positives would be that the occasional blog entries really worked for me and I thought helped really capture the angst and difficulties Amelia faced as a teenage girl. The same with the occasional Facebook statuses, Amelia was a big fan of Virginia Woolf and the quotes from her work made me think I should read it myself.

As a disabled person I bemoan a lot the lack of realistic disabled characters who add to the plot in books. So I did wonder briefly whether this would work had Amelia been left with something like a TBI instead of killed. It probably could have but it wouldn’t have been this book. And I really enjoyed this book. So sadly I must conclude that Amelia did have to die.

(I’ve now got the niggle in the back of my mind that that book may have already been written. Possibly by Jodi Picoult or Diane Chamberlain?)

The other thing that seems to be a big part of the buzz is very positive comparisons to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I must confess that’s a book I’ve had my eye on but not read. If I eventually do get around to reading it and I think “this is very similar and as good as Reconstructing Amelia.” I’ll be very pleased.

I feel like…

I feel like I have a lot going on right now. But I’m not sure that’s strictly true anymore. Lots of stuff has finished and a lot of what’s happening in the next two or so weeks is a one off.

I feel like there is too much disability related crap in my life at the moment. But at the same time one of the major issues is done with and I have a date when another should be. That’s not to say I’ll get a break from that sort of thing. The life of a disabled person doesn’t work like that. Particularly not one who refuses to take crap and has been known by the title of activist.

I feel like that’s something I should write more about. But then I worry that it’s giving people the wrong impression of me. And I get bored of feeling that’s all I ever write about.

I feel like the mini tower fan I bought earlier this week is the best money I’ve spent in a long time. But I’m still too hot the minute I move away from it. Putting it on my stander so I can sit next to it and have it blow on my face is awesome.

I feel like I’ve made progress this week. But there’s still a long way to go.

I feel like a three month course of antibiotics is more than likely in my very near future. But the only medic who agrees with me is the practice nurse. Who can prescribe but can’t prescribe that. In the meantime I’ve had five UTIs this year,

I feel like I’ve been under a black cloud of depression for ages. And that the Internet (in particular social media) really isn’t helping that. So I’m trying to cut down my online time and cut down my facebook and twitter time more than that. I’m using heavily filtered versions when I do go on.

22:49

It’s late
22:36 says my ipad clock
I’m sat
Just outside
My back door
The flat is dark
Trains squeal
Something I never
Notice in the day.
The sky is
Inky
Blue
Yet
At the same
Time
It’s almost
Black
With a
Somewhat
Harsh
Orange
Streetlight glow
A dog barks
Car door
Slams
And
Occasionally
But only
Occasionally
Cars go past
On the
Main road
Unseen from
Here
But their
Presence
Is
Known

22:41
Now
And the
Gentle breeze
Caresses my skin
I’ve cooled
Down
Way down
Much more
Than I
Thought
I would
Wish I
Could
Stay here
All night

No one
Is around
One of my
Upstairs
Neighbours has
The TV
On low
The
Other just
Shut a window
Or something
The clunk thump
Of something
Shutting
Closing in
People
And
Closing out
The world
At 22:45
The end of
The day

But still
I
Sit
Here
In an
Unexpected
Haven
Strange how
Peaceful it
Feels
When I
Can hear so
Much.

Upstairs
Cutlery clinks
I think of
My Gran
Laying the
Breakfast table
Right before
Bed

My thoughts
Once
Racing
Slow down
And I make
Myself move

22:49
Time
For
Bed

The Rose Garden by Marita Conlon-McKenna

Thanks to the wonder that is Net Galley and the lovely people at Transworld I requested and received a free copy of The Rose Garden by Marita Conlon-McKenna. It’s a lovely feel good book and I read it all in one sunny day last week, mostly sat outside. It’d also be a good book to cheer up a grey dreary day. Win win, basically.

Molly’s perfect life comes crashing down following the unexpected death of her husband David. She is left alone with a big old house to maintain, finances in disarray and her hopes for happiness in a heap. But Molly is a survivor. Despite objections from her two daughters, Molly fears that the only solution will be to sell their beloved home. But as she finds herself drawn to the old neglected and overgrown walled rose garden and the dilapidated gardener’s cottage attached, she suddenly sees a future as she decides to restore them.

As the rose garden takes on a new life and starts to bloom again,Molly finds that she can look to the future with new confidence and hope.

Reading that synopsis you might be wondering why I described it as feel good. It certainly sounded like it might be a bit of a tear jerker but I never found that. It just had a really nice, positive feeling to it.

It was about finding yourself and about the fact that sometimes what we think we want isn’t what we need. And it was set in Ireland. There’s just something about Irish fiction. I can’t explain it but its a good thing…

I think we were all a bit sad when Maeve Binchy died. The Rose Garden reminded me of some of her books and whilst I don’t think Marita Conlon-McKenna will be inheriting her queen of fiction crown anytime soon (I think more time is needed before it’s passed on) she may well be one of the contenders.

Whilst I liked the end of this book I was a but sad to reach it. And for the first time in a good while on finishing it I hoped there’d be a sequel because I’d really like to spend more time with Molly and her friends and family. I’m really glad I read this 🙂

Someday I’ll Find You by Richard Madeley

I feel the need to start this review with something of a confession: I’ve been feeling a bit like my book reviews must be boring because I always seem to say the same sort of thing.

And when I got an email asking if I wanted to review Someday I’ll Find You by Richard Madeley I thought it couldn’t
be as good as it sounded but it was worth taking the risk because if it was bad like I expected I’d at least have something different to say in the review!

James Blackwood is sexy and handsome and a fighter pilot – every girl’s dream partner. At least that is what Diana Arnold thinks when her brother first introduces them. Before long they are in love and marry hastily just as war is declared. Then fate delivers what is the first of its cruel twists: James, the day of their wedding, is shot down over Northern France and killed. Diana is left not only a widow but pregnant with their child.

Ten years later, contentedly remarried, Diana finds herself in the south of France, sitting one morning in a sunny village square. A taxi draws up and she hears the voice of a man speaking English – the unmistakable voice of someone who will set out to torment her and blackmail her and from whom there can be only one means of escape…

Reading the synopsis it really sounded like my sort of book (I think I’ve written before about the fact that the Second World War and the time immediately after interests me).

But this was a novel written by a famous person. I’ve read those before – ones where it’ll most likely sell on the authors name alone – and found the bad or at least in need of a decent edit (A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French is one such example). So my expectations for this weren’t good.

The book however was. I’m tempted in fact to say it was brilliant. I was very pleasantly surprised and if Richard Madeley wrote another book I’d want to read it.

I found it really drew me in and I read it quite quickly. In 40 minutes waiting at the doctors with half an ear listening for my name to be called I flew through the first 60 pages. Every time I picked it up I read a big chunk of it. Often bigger chunks than I’d intended too. And as much as I liked how it ended (and was very intrigued by one line towards the end) part of me was disappointed to reach the end.

I could identify a lot with aspects of Diana’s character and in a way wished I could be a bit more like her. It also made me really wanted to visit France again because it captured the colour and feel of it so well. Both signs of a very good book.

There’s a lot more I could say about this if I had the time but I don’t so I’ll just end with this. it’s surprisingly good and I’m really pleased I took a chance and read it.

The Second Last Woman in England by Maggie Joel

This is the first of several book reviews I plan to post this week. As always I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. I receive no other compensation for this apart from the hours of reading which I usually enjoy with the books I review.

The book in question is The Second Last Woman in England by Maggie Joel

1953: Mrs Harriet Wallis is convicted of the murder of her husband, Cecil, and is sentenced to death by hanging.

1952: The Wallises appear to be a conventional household. When the police turn up at the front door on the day a new nanny arrives, so begins a chain of events that will culminate in Cecil’s murder.

An employee at Cecil’s firm has embezzled money and Cecil is implicated. Meanwhile his wife, Harriet, is dismayed by the reappearance of a man she did not expect to see again…

Set in post-war London, we follow a well-to-do family – both inside and outside the house – ruled by strict conventions.

On the whole I liked this book. However right from the first time I heard about this book I somehow had the impression that this was a fictionalised account of a real person (similar to Fever by Mary Beth Keane which I loved) and that there really had been a Harriet Wallis who murdered her husband on Coronation Day. I wondered a lot as I was reading it how much was conjecture and how much was based on true facts. I planned to look it up online because I wanted to know more. And then I got to the end of the book and read the afterword. I was disappointed to discover that it was completely fictionalised and the actual second last woman put to death in the UK was someone else. I’m not sure why but disappointed I was.

This book had characters that were you were obviously supposed to hate and ones you were obviously supposed to like and/or feel sorry for. And that worked. It also had a couple of characters I didn’t really understand – part of me wonders what they brought to the story but then I can also vaguely see what they were trying to do with them. I think.

I would have loved to have had more of the Nanny’s story in this book – she had a very interesting tale and the conclusion of it wasn’t something I’d seen coming. I’d not even twigged that there was something there. I do like books that surprise me. It occurs to me writing this that actually more of the Nanny’s story might have ruined that and probably it was just the right amount.

Overall I have to say that as much as I liked this book it’s probably not going to stand out in the future as one of my favourites. What it did make me think however is that my decision to take my first tentative steps in reading historical fiction was definitely the right one. I don’t think it’ll ever become one of my favourite genres but it’ll definitely be something I read.

Random Bullet Points of Book Blogger Life

♥ I have three book reviews to write and I’m part way through a fourth review book.

♥ Sometimes I think I read too quickly.

♥ I’ve read 81 books so far this year. That totally blows my mind.

♥ I’m rereading a lot of my old favourite books this year. For the most part I’m enjoying them. Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone was a bit disappointing this time round.

♥ Sequels to two of my favourite books are on one of my bookcases. I want to read them but I also don’t because what if they ruin the books I loved? For the same reason I’ve also not reread the two books

♥ I love my kindle but I also love the smell and feel of a physical book. Particularly the smell. I’m not a big fan of iBooks.

♥ Remember this list of 13 books I was looking forward to reading? I’ve read way more then 13 books since then but only 2 off the list.