Tempted by….Linda’s Book Bag: Finding Myself in Puglia by Laine B Brown @Lainebbrown @Lindahill50Hill #bookbloggers #readingrecommendations #Blogtober18

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“An Italian memoir.
Laine gave up her job as a nurse, sold her home and gave away most of her belongings. She has three desires bubbling at the heart of her choice: to write a book, paint a picture and climb a mountain before she died.

A man with a van took most of her remaining belongings, along with her basset hound Basil, down to the heel of Italy over 1,500 miles away, where she would spend the next four years.

If it all seemed like a folly, then she was willing to take the risk. She moved to a house that she had only spent a week in the year before. She knew no one and yet she had surety in her resolve. She wanted to feel fully present in feeling unsafe and comfortable with the not knowing.

And so the journey began, a new language, a new life laced with humour and laughter under the warm southern Italian sun.

Come and join her…”

There was a certain contentious Twitter thread last week which questioned the efficacy of book bloggers in promoting books and generating sales for authors. As a result, I decided that now was a good time to launch my new occasional series, highlighting books that I have been enticed to buy by reading reviews by my fellow bloggers.

I know that book bloggers are effective at generating sales for authors because, since I started blogging and reading more reviews by my fabulous fellow bloggers, I have been tempted to buy more and more books, to the extent that I have had to buy two new bookcases in the last year and my Kindle is over-flowing.

First up we have Finding Myself in Puglia by Laine B Brown which I was enticed to buy by this fabulous post on Linda’s Book Bag. Linda Hill is one of the best book bloggers out there, so make sure you check out her wonderful blog if you haven’t visited it already.

The book is a non-fiction memoir of living in Italy which is just up my street as I am a travel junkie. I also thought that Laine might be someone I would enjoy reading when she nominated some of my favourite writers as people she would like to bring along on her night in with Linda.

If you like the sound of the book, you can buy a copy here. Make sure you visit Linda’s original post to read more from Laine about the book. I am looking forward to reading it soon.

Write A Novel in 30 Days by Megg Geri #BookReview (@MeggGeri) @PictPublishing #FictionCafeWriters #FictionCafeReviews

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“This book walks you step by step through planning your novel to writing your novel. This book is full of personal stories, tips, and exercises to inspire you and to help you write your novel. This book is honest and realistic with an easy to follow step-by-step approach to writing a book. This book is for the writer who wants to follow their dream of completing a book but doesn’t know where to start or where to find the time. This is more than just a book about writing, this is a book about surviving the writing process.

THE BOOK IS DIVIDED INTO FOUR MAIN SECTIONS: 01 | THIS IS YOUR DREAM This section is all about discovering yourself within the writing world. It’s about getting over your insecurities and creating your dream writing life. 02 | PLAN IT ALL OUT This section teaches you to plot and plan your book. From time scheduling to discovering ideas and writing applications and resources. 03 | WRITE IT OUT This section covers the actual writing process that happens. 04 | WHEN THINGS GET TOUGH This is a survival guide to writing. This section of the book handles everything from writers block to loss of inspiration and falling behind schedule as well as when you’re getting yourself down too.

BONUS MATERIAL This is not called an interactive book for no reason. This book comes with access to a resource library of downloads like; word trackers, worksheets, charts, and checklists. And you will get a 28-day course to get you ready for writing.”

As a new writer working on her first novel and often feeling like an imposter, floundering out of her depth in a strange and alien sea, I jumped at the chance to read and review this writing guide by Megg Geri.

This book is aimed at people trying to complete annual challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month in the joyous madness that is NaNoWriMo. For anyone not familiar with this event – the writer’s equivalent of completing a marathon – you can find details here. I attempted this for the first time last November and failed spectacularly, managing only 32,000 of my target but, of course, I did not have this book then and was under-prepared. However, this book can be used at any time of year, and by anyone intent on beginning to write, even if they do not intend to do it at a sprint.

This book is full of great practical tips on inspiration, plotting and planning, where to find story ideas, how to develop your characters, what software you might like to use, everything you would expect in a book of this type. But this book contains so much more than that. It also deals with the emotional aspects of writing, working out why you want to write, how to keep motivated, what might be stopping you for achieving your goals and how to overcome these hurdles and this, for me, is the real appeal of this book.

What stands out the most is the encouragement. The sheer belief that you CAN write a book if you really want to and, what is more, you should. The belief that you have an important story to tell and that the world needs you to tell it. This is very important as, for me and I suspect many other people, a lack of self-belief is what holds us back. We need encouragement, and this book will give you that.

It is written in a very friendly, personal and approachable voice and in a very easy to read layout with very practical exercises to do at the end of each segment and useful checklists as the end of each part. It is a real, useful, practical book that would be great to refer to, not just for your first book, but again and again at the start of each new novel. I think even experienced writers will find a lot of useful reminders in here.

Interspersed with the tips and exercises are motivational quotes to spur you along which is a nice touch.

I found myself bookmarking a lot of sections as I went through this book which really resonated with me and that I want to be able to refer back to easily which is always a sign that a book has offered me something useful. (My favourite tip in the book was the ‘character’s handbag section). The part that resonated with me most on a personal level was this:

“Hiding behind perfection can also be an excuse not to do the work, or because you’re simply too scared to put your work out there.”

This is a person who understands me!

This book is not too long, not too verbose, not too elitist but full of handy guides, tips, information and encouragement. I loved it so much that I have ordered a paperback copy to keep on my shelf for future reference and I have no doubt it will become dog-eared with use. I think this is a must-have for any aspiring writer out there who needs a friend.

Write A Novel in 30 Days is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

megg-geri

Author of Write a Novel in 30 Days also writes fiction and owns Megg & Co Editing Boutique.

She specialises in novel editing and coaching by day and by night she reads, a lot. She also runs an online international book club for women who love to read.

Megg loves interacting with writers on Twitter and Instagram (where she shares her favourite writing tips).

Connect with Megg:

Website: https://megg.me
Goodreads: Megg_Geri

Facebook – TheMeggGeri
Instagram – @megggeri

Twitter: @MeggGeri

The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club by Maeve Binchy #BookReview @penguinrandom

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“The most important thing to realize is that everyone is capable of telling a story.” –Maeve Binchy
 
If you scribble story ideas on the backs of receipts…
If you file away bits of overheard conversation from the coffee shop…
If you’ve already chosen the perfect pen name…
Well, then the journey has begun!
 
In this warm and inspiring guide, beloved author Maeve Binchy shares her unique insight to how a best selling author writes: from finding a subject and creating good writing habits to sustaining progress and seeking a publisher.
 
Whether you want to write stories or plays, humor or mysteries, Binchy prescribes advice for every step with her signature humor and generous spirit. She has called upon other writers, editors, and publishers to add their voices to this treasury of assistance for budding writers and a refreshing dose of encouragement for longtime scribes. And once you are ready, an appendix offers of writing awards and competitions and a selection of websites and literary journals.

I picked up this book as part of my quest to focus on my writing this year and get that novel completed and off to the RNA for critique. Maeve Binchy is one of my favourite authors, she really knows how to write honestly about genuine people and ordinary lives in an interesting way that pinpoints the fears, desires, and emotions that drive our behaviour. If I could write 20% as well as she did, I would be completely satisfied.

This book is a collection of letters written by Maeve to the reader, each on a different aspect of the writing process, together with some pieces of advice from other contributing writers such as Marian Keyes. The book came about based on a writing course that Maeve delivered in person to aspiring writers in Dublin.

I have mixed feelings about this book. In some ways, it is really interesting to hear Maeve’s take on the writing process and she speaks with the same warmth and friendliness that you see in her novels. She is encouraging and evidently believes that if she can have the success she has had, anyone can do it. There are some really useful nuggets of advice in the book about writing, and about the nuts and bolts of the publishing process in general.

On the negative side, the book is very short and, therefore, sparse in detail. It also tries to cover a lot of topics within its covers, including writing plays, comedy, for the radio, for children and I think it tries to cram too much diverse information into too few pages, so there is little detail on any topic.

Overall, it is a interesting little introduction to writing, particularly for fans of Maeve Binchy and her writing style and voice and who miss her now she is gone. It is not an in-depth guide to writing and anyone who wants a detailed creative writing book should look elsewhere.

You can buy a copy of the book here.

About the Author

Maeve Binchy was born in County Dublin and educated at the Holy Child convent in Killiney and at University College, Dublin. After a spell as a teacher she joined The Irish Times. Her first novel, Light a Penny Candle, was published in 1982, and she went on to write more than 20 books, all of them bestsellers. Several have been adapted for film and television, most notably Circle of Friends and Tara Road, which was an Oprah’s Book Club selection. She was married to the writer and broadcaster Gordon Snell for 35 years, and died in 2012 at the age of 72.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt #BookReview (@John_Berendt) @HodderBooks

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“Genteel society ladies who compare notes on their husbands’ suicides. A hilariously foul-mouthed black drag queen. A voodoo priestess who works her roots in the graveyard at midnight. A morose inventor who owns a bottle of poison powerful enough to kill everyone in town. A prominent antiques dealer who hangs a Nazi flag from his window to disrupt the shooting of a movie. And a redneck gigolo whose conquests describe him as a ‘walking streak of sex’.

These are some of the real residents of Savannah, Georgia, a city whose eccentric mores are unerringly observed – and whose dirty linen is gleefully aired – in this utterly irresistible book. At once a true-crime murder story and a hugely entertaining and deliciously perverse travelogue, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is as bracing and intoxicating as half-a-dozen mint juleps.”

 

It has taken me a long time to get round to writing a review of this book that I read back in February, having been meaning to read it for a good few years, because I have just been unable to put into words how I really feel about it. I don’t think this is necessarily a negative, more a reflection of how this book has pushed me outside of my normal comfort zone in the types of book I usually choose. This book is very different to almost anything else you will read – a blurred line between fiction and non-fiction, between novel and travel writing, almost impossible to categorise.

This is based on real-life events that took place in the 1980s, although some of the ‘facts’ have been called into question and the author admits that the time line has been altered to make for a better narrative. However, it is a great example of the cliche that ‘facts are stranger than fiction’ and, if we weren’t made aware that the basis of the story was true, you would believe that it came entirely from the over-active imagination of the author.

This is a book of two distinct halves and, to me, felt slightly disjointed because of this. The first half is quite slow and a little heavy-going in places. It is made up entirely of a series of vignettes and character studies of Savannah, Georgia and its colourful residents, when the author is spending part of his time living there. Whilst these are interesting and beautiful in their own right, some of them bear little or no relevance when we get to the meat of the story in the second half of the book. This first half of the book reads mostly as a kind of travelogue – a love letter to this city by a man who was obviously and understandably very drawn to the place, its gothic atmosphere, its eccentric inhabitants and its unique customs and, in this regard, he does an amazing job of bringing the place and the people to vivid life. I defy anyone to read this book and not want to visit Savannah immediately, it is clearly a place like no other.

The second half of the book is totally different. This is where we get to the details of the true crime; the murder of a male prostitute by an eminent, but somewhat unconventional, Savannah socialite and the subsequent FOUR trials it took to decide his guilt or innocence one way or the other. This section of the book is totally riveting, more so because it is fact, not fiction, and it moves a lot quicker than the first half. The writer does a fine job of keeping us in suspense on the issue of the accused’s guilt and the book is an excellent read for any fans of true crime books. This is a cut above the usual salacious approach to true crime writing – this book has real elegance in the portrayal of the murder and the laboured, legal aftermath.

John Berendt is first and foremost a journalist and this really evident in his writing style in this book. He has a very keen eye for detail and a great talent for drawing an attractive and evocative picture of the setting and its inhabitants. I had a very clear image in my head of Savannah and the characters he is describing throughout my reading of the book. However, the downside of his style for me is that the book lacked the flow you would usually expect of a full-length novel and it felt a little more like a series of loosely connected reportage pieces, particularly the first half.

So, I am still undecided as to how I really feel about this book. Am I glad I read it? Yes, definitely, it is 100% worthy of the reader’s time. Did I absolutely love it? No, but I think that is maybe because it was so different to the style of writing I normally choose to read and it defies categorisation and pushed me out of my comfort zone. Would I recommend it to my friends? Yes, I would. I think it was an interesting book that anyone would get something from and any book that challenges our norms is to be encouraged. It does have some flaws, but that doesn’t detract from its value. And its cover is just the PERFECT representation of the book.

Now please excuse me, I’m off to book a flight to Savannah and a ticket to see Lady Chablis at Club One. If you want to know more about her, you’ll need to read the book. You can buy a copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil here.

About the Author

The son of two writers, John Berendt grew up in Syracuse, New York. He earned a B.A. in English from Harvard University, where he worked on the staff of The Harvard Lampoon. After graduating in 1961, he moved to New York City to pursue a career in publishing. Berendt has written for David Frost and Dick Cavett, was editor of New York magazine from 1977 to 1979, and wrote a monthly column for Esquire from 1982 to 1994.

Berendt first traveled to Savannah in the early 1980s. Over the ensuing eight years his visits became more frequent and extended, until he was spending more time in Savannah than in New York.

Part of the appeal, Berendt says, lay in the city’s penchant for morbid gossip.

Since the publication and unprecedented success of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Berendt has become a Savannah celebrity and was even presented with the key to the city.