Jumping on the NaNoWriMo challenge

Long time, no see. It’s been a long while since I posted anything on this blog. I’ve been quite busy since January with finishing my degree and that sort of resulted in everything else being put on the sideline. After that, things have been crazy with moving countries and generally struggling with the unstable period that comes with all of that. Yes, I know…excuses, excuses. That’s not what this blog post is about and I won’t bore you more than that about what’s been going on in my life but instead, I want to write about NaNoWriMo and why I’ve finally decided to try it out this year.

If you’re reading this, chances are you already know what NaNoWriMo is. And if you don’t, it’s simply short for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a donation based organisation that is aimed at writers. Basically, every November, people sign up to write a novel during November and at the end, you’re supposed to have a 50K+ word novel in your portfolio, all this for free (well, you still have to do the work yourself)! So this year, I decided that I wanted to jump on the NaNoWriMo train. Of course, you don’t have to sign up on their site in order to do NaNoWriMo, but the way my brain works makes it more likely that I’ll be able to finish if I’ve signed up. It somehow makes it more official. And in addition to the brain hacking, the forum has many subforums for different places around the world so that you can meet up with your local NaNoWriMoers and gain a social network of writers close to you.

Since I started writing again a few years back, I’ve always admired people who can finish a novel over the course of a month. But I haven’t thought that I would ever be able to write 50K in a month myself, with my average of a few hundred words per day. So what changed? What makes me think that I’ll suddenly be able to make it this year? Well, to tell you the truth, I’m still not sure I’ll be able to complete the challenge. However, I’ve started to believe that I might be able to make it. Why?

Since sometime in August, I’ve been writing steadily every single day. The output amount varies from somewhere around a few hundred words on the worst days and I made it to just above 3K words on my best couple of days. On average, I write about 1K words a day (which is a drastic increase from my old average from only three years back). So in order to be able to push through November, I’m already half-way there. By joining the NaNoWriMo community, I hope to find likeminded people and introduce the social aspect of writing into my life. And in addition, I might learn a thing or two about my writing habits by having set such a public goal for myself, both on the forum and by posting it here on this blog. And that makes me think that I might just manage to power through the challenge and succeed, simply by being publicly accountable. Time will show, until then, best of luck to all of my fellow writers!



Top 12 Books I Read In 2016

Happy New Year everyone!

In no particular order, below are the absolute top 12 books I read last year. Only a few of them were actually published in 2016, but that didn’t make them less enjoyable!


The First Law Series (2006-2009), by Joe Abercrombie

(Click on the image to get to the Amazon page)

So, a little cheating here, since the series is actually three books (not counting all the other books in the First Law world).

A story of kings and pain, loss and gain and loss again. A story where northerners are barbaric in the eyes of the civilised and the civilised are made fun of.

This series was chosen because Abercrombie has a way of writing his characters like no other author I’ve ever encountered. Those of you who have read Abercrombie know that his villains are as human as his heroes, and the characters seem to be based on the philosophy that people do what is done to them, and don’t really change.


The Century Trilogy (2010-2014), by Ken Follett

It is inevitable that the reader knows what is going to happen when you write historical fiction. Especially historical fiction that starts with WWI continues with WWII and ends with the cold war. And yet, Follett makes it look so easy to write a gripping story that makes you turn one page after the other. One word: Characters. His characters are very different from Abercrombie’s, and yet Follett’s characters come alive and engage the reader’s empathy in such a manner that a tiny piece of my heart was torn off with every bit of pain the characters go through.


The View From the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction (2016), by Neil Gaiman

OK, so I’m cheating a little here since I’m still reading this. It is a wonderful collection of essays and speeches, ponderings and reflections all written by Neil Gaiman on the process of writing, of stories and everything to do with stories. A must read for Gaiman-fans.


Eastwind (2015), by Jim Puskas

I felt this deserved to be on the list, a fantastic collection of vignettes from a Canadian woman’s life and her difficulties growing up during the beginning of the 20th century. Full review here.


1984 (1949), by George Orwell

Even if this novel was written over half a century ago, 1984 continues to stay relevant in today’s society. It’s a dystopian classic where your every move is being watched, and if you live in London, this book is a must.


Hitman Anders and the Meaning of it All (2016), by Jonas Jonasson (originally published in Sweden in 2015)

From the Swedish author who took the world by storm with his novel The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window And Disappeared, this book continues in the same humouristic, cultural critical style. Hitman Anders is a criminal who has decided that he’s going to lead a better life, something that would have been easy if he hadn’t met a crooked accountant and a priest who doesn’t believe in God.


Depraved Heart (2015), by Patricia Cornwell

This is on the list because it is, in addition to a thrilling page-turner, one of the few books in the crime genre who has a strong, realistic female character as the lead protagonist (full review here).


The Girl With All the Gifts (2014), by M.R. Carey

A zombie book with a twist. We understand quickly that there’s something odd about the school children we meet at the beginning of the story when they talk about ‘the hungries’. We, as the reader gets to see more of this post-apocalyptic world when they are forced to flee the school building which is under attack. The twist, I will, of course, leave to you to read for yourself. I absolutely loved this take on the traditional YA-trope and because of the way the author has written the characters, The Girl With All the Gifts comes off as less of a YA book and more like something a broader range of readers can enjoy.


The Book Thief (2006), by Markus Zusak

Most of you have probably heard about this book by now because of the movie (I might add that I never watched this, and hear from everywhere that the movie is terrible), and know that it follows a poor girl in Germany during the second world war. I absolutely loved the choice Zusak has done here with making Death the narrator for the story (something my partner disliked about the story, interestingly enough).


Equal Rites (1987), by Terry Pratchett

The great thing about Terry Pratchett is that you don’t have to read them in order, and in fact, you probably shouldn’t because his later stuff is better than his early stuff. It follows a little girl who inherits a wizard’s staff. This is cause for concern because everyone knows that wizards are men, and women can therefore only be witches. Pratchett had a way of writing about the real world in a way that could only be done by creating The Discworld. 


Kvinnekamp (2011), by Kristin Hatledal

Unfortunately, this title is only available in Norwegian. It made it to this list because it is a non-fiction text about the women in the Norwegian resistance during the second world war. And trust me when I say that those were some hardcore women. It’s a fantastic resource amongst second world war literature since there are so few books on this particular sub-topic.


Making Money (2007), by Terry Pratchett

This is one of the best Pratchett books I’ve read so far. It’s a harsh critique of capitalism, and I suspect there might be some links to England’s conversion to the decimal system in the way Moist von Lipwig transforms the bank system in Ankh-Morpork.

That’s it. My personal favourites of the reading year.

Book Review: Depraved Heart

(Click on the picture to get to the Amazon page)

Author: Patricia Cornwell

Genre: Crime/Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Harper

Year Published: 2015 (2016 paperback edition)

Pages: 486

Rating: 4/5

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to discover this series! First of all, this book was handed to me through the Goodreads Giveaways Program, and I am glad I won because this thriller was gripping and a page-turner from beginning to end!

For those of you who read this wondering whether or not to start reading this – it is, after all, #23 in the Kay Scarpetta series (I just saw that the next book in the series is out, so guess where I’m off to next…). I have, as I hinted at above, not encountered this series until this one, and Patricia Cornwell manages to get new readers up to speed in such a manner that it doesn’t matter if you’ve read the previous novels or not.

OK, so let’s get right down to it: This book is fantastic because it’s such a refreshing breath in the male-dominated genre of crime/mystery/thriller fiction (The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins is also a good example of interesting female characters in the genre). In Depraved Heart, Dr Kay Scarpetta receives a mysterious link from her ICE (In Case of Emergency) contact. When she clicks it, Dr Scarpetta is taken straight to a video clip of her niece’s old dorm room from the time when she was an intern for the FBI. Dr Scarpetta knows something about this isn’t right and she suspects her old nemesis Carrie of being behind this trickery. Our heroine is fed one clue after another straight into her lap, and it’s up to her to break the patterns and avoid the traps laid out for her. 

Depraved Heart is not perfect in its representation and diversity of characters, but it does a good job of trying to be. The main character is, as I’ve mentioned, a woman. This in itself does not make a very intriguing crime fighter, but because Patricia Cornwell mixes fiction with her own experience from her work as a computer analyst in the Chief Medical Examiner office in Virginia. In addition to the main character, this author manages to do something that I’ve seen very few authors do; she has a lesbian character, Scarpetta’s niece Lucy, whose fictional role is not to be in the story solely as a lesbian character or comic relief, but her lesbian identity is there as a part of her whole character without defining her on its own.

Alas, the book is not without its flaws. Though it is strong on both well written female characters and representation of LGBT-characters, it stands out that it lacks racial diversity, something the fictional world needs to better represent society. And need I say that post-Trump and post-Brexit, racial diversity in all types of media is more important than ever?

What are you waiting for? Go get it!   

Book Review: The Countenance Divine

(Click on the image to get to the Amazon page)

Book Review: The Countenance Divine

Author: Michael Hughes

Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction

Date Read: September 22nd – October 19th

Pages: 308

Rating: 2/5

Year Published: 2016

Publisher: John Murray (Publishers)

I received this book through the Goodreads Giveaways Program, and while my review is subjective, I have tried my best not to let this influence the review of this book and hope this come across in the reading of it. I finished this book ages ago, and here is finally a review.

First off, let me say that this book has been really well researched. It is written in small episodes which take place in four different centuries; the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth. The main characters in the different centuries are John Milton (based on the poet), Will Blake (based on the poet), a letter writer (based on Jack the Ripper), and Chris Davison (a computer programmer).

I found it a little difficult to keep my attention on the plot all the way through. The chapters jump back and forth between the centuries, and unless you are familiar with Paradise Lost, it will most likely be a difficult read. I loved the beginning of the book, even though the pacing is very slow-paced with several references to Milton’s epic poem. However, the pace stays the same for the larger percent of the book without any obvious character progression, which makes the book difficult to plough through. That is not to say it is poorly written, but that the text is not suited to my tastes. Yet again, the topic is interesting, and it leads me to wonder if perhaps the story was a little ambitious for such a short novel and might have worked better as a longer work?

Michael Hughes has clearly put a lot of research into his work, which shines through in the text. His prose is beautiful and elegant and it was thrilling to see the different styles in each chapter as Hughes utilises a different voice for each of the centuries. This choice is stylistically an interesting one and is essential for the plot, which is trying to figure out if the world is going to end in the year 2000.

The climax Hughes builds up to in the book is slightly disappointing, but I will leave it at that for avoiding spoilers. The copy I received was also an unproofed copy, so I am not sure how close to the final version it is, but the cover design on my copy is absolutely stunning and fits very well with the flowery prose.

What Hughes does with the book is very stylistically interesting. As mentioned previously, we follow four different main characters, (three of which are based on historical, literary figures) in four different centuries and ultimately heads towards the end of the twentieth century. Throughout the course of reading this novel, I found myself wondering why this novel was published now when the main issue that the main characters tackle is related to the turn of the millennia, seventeen years ago, and I still don’t think I have an answer to that.

As for reading this book, I would only recommend it to very specific people. People who have or are studying English Literature or language might find it interesting from an analytical point of view. However, you also need to enjoy reading books that need time to be read. 

There are very few female characters that are anything besides background noise in the story. However, I will leave the review off on a note about a particular female character: Lucy. Lucy is a goth who first becomes Chris’s friend, then his love interest (of course). This character seems to be slightly off the rails, which is a whole chapter on its own. However, I shall not delve into that, but my point is that choosing to present Lucy as a gothic woman who is a little crazy is problematic because goths have a bad enough reputation in popular media as it is without another novel reinforcing the stereotype.

Book Review: Eastwind by Jim Puskas

(click the image to get to the Amazon page for the book)

Book Review: Eastwind

Author: Jim Puskas

Genre: Memoir/Vignette/Real Life

Date read: November 25th – November 28th

Pages: 211

Rating: 5/5 

Year Published: 2015

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Warning: Contains Spoilers

When I finished reading this book earlier this week, I was reluctant to give it five stars. I sat down and thought about why I didn’t want to give Eastwind five stars. Is it because it doesn’t deal with questions of race? Because it is written by a man? In the end, I came up with…nothing. So I decided to give it five stars straight away, rather than giving it four.

The novel is Jim Puskas’ first published book. It’s about an elderly woman ‘Louise’ and, as the blurb describes her “collection of remembrances”. Jim Puskas manages to portray a stubborn elderly woman in a perfectly three-dimensional way that is rare to see in novels, of course, the fact that this story is based on real life persons is probably a large contributor to this.

Already on the first page, I see my scribbled notes: “I really like the narrative voice”. And it’s just the beginning. Eastwind deals with several issues that are close to my heart. The first being the education system. Louise is an exceptionally intelligent person, something that stands out clearly already when she describes her boredom at school and willingness to learn from the older children’s lessons. Unfortunately, she was born at the wrong time in the wrong place (I’m guessing sometime in the beginning of the 20th century) and this leads to the other children (and adults) alienating her, completely misunderstanding that she only needs to be allowed an outlet for her intelligence. Boredom in the classroom due to under-stimulation is still quite common in classrooms today, Louise’s problem (not to mention her feelings as an outcast that reminds me a lot of bullying) makes the book so relevant to the problems we see in education today.

The other primary societal concern that the book raises are women who don’t want the traditional family life. This has, to me, clear parallels to women who are ostracised by society today for not wanting children (and to some extent a spouse). The problem for Louise is again the time and place she grew up. The women today who chooses to not have children and get married (and here I include lesbians as well, because of the political marriage debate even within queer communities) are still expected to defend this resolution while the men who make the same choices are more or less ignored. In the beginning of the 20th century making this decision was more or less unheard of. Louise is, in my opinion, forced into a marriage which, despite her efforts, leads to her pregnancy.

I’ve seen two other reviews on Goodreads which were short and to the point (unlike mine) and communicate clearly what Eastwind is about. However, their description of Louise’s relationship to her family, and particularly her husband and son stood out to me: “Perhaps the most memorable aspect of Louise’s generally very bad behaviour was her heartless treatment of her family, her husband, and even worse, her complete rejection of her son” (Linda: 2016) and “The protagonist Louise is a very tough-minded individual who earns your reluctant admiration, while horrifying you with her attitude to her own child” (Ruth Smith: 2016).

I want to try and offer a different viewpoint to these reviews because I don’t see how Louise’s behaviour is any different from women today who choose not to have children. However, because she didn’t have the same options as those women (or, at least she didn’t think she had that option), she had to find a different solution to the problem. I want to raise some questions surrounding this decision. If we see Louise’s body as a vessel for a child, a child she never wanted and was forced to have (which is what the book points to), this decision makes sense to me. Louise never had a connection with the child, and she describes her experience as: “An alien creature was starting to grow inside me, taking over my existence, sucking out my life from within.” (Puskas 2015: 72). Popular media tells us that mother instincts are “natural” and there is no bond like the one between mother and child, yet there are instances in nature, both human and elsewhere in the animal kingdom, where biological parents reject their offspring. Louise’s choice was, as the other reviews pointed out, to never acknowledge that she even had a son. And for her, that was also the case. While I don’t doubt that this child grew up wondering many times in his life why his biological mother never acknowledged him, I have to believe that surely his life turned out much better by being raised by relatives who actually wanted him? Imagine if Louise had been forced to raise this child. Surely that would’ve been an even worse option for the child?

As always, this has turned into a political rant, but I can’t apologise for that. Rest in peace Louise, I’m glad I got to know you through Eastwind.

Societal values reflected in the production of ‘Nell Gwynn’ (The Globe Theatre)

Venue: The Globe Theatre, London

Date seen: 24/9-2015


Michael Mangan describes cultural materialism as a critical research method used to analyse a production in its political and historical context. He explains that the method seeks to prove that culture is aligned equally with economy and social structure in its impact on society (Mangan, 2013: 104). In addition to this, Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield (1994: viii) state that “It [cultural materialism] knows that no cultural practice is ever without political significance.”. It is therefore suggested that all choices made in a production are political. This raises the question of whether the production of ‘Nell Gwynn’ effectively challenges the status quo.

Early in the play, we meet several characters, one of which is Edward Kynaston, one of the last boy actors who portrayed women in the theatre in the 17th century. He starts talking about the new trend amongst other theatre troupes who puts women on stage and finishes the rant with “What does a woman have that I don’t!”. The modern audience immediately registers the link as a pair of bags filled with sand is revealed to be situated on the man’s chest and breaks out in laughter. There are two things in particular that this scene does. One is to invite the audience to see this feminine character as ridiculous. The other is to create an opposition between two oppressed groups, women and transgendered persons, which I will get back to later in the text.

In another scene, Edward Kynaston talks to Nell Gwynn about the language of the handheld fan. He claims that he knows better than her how to operate the fan because he has studied it. The fan here becomes a symbol of the relationship between man and woman when Edward demonstrates how, by adjusting the fan a little, it signifies a wish for a kiss to a male suitor and how another position signifies a desire for marriage. As suggested earlier the production creates opposition between two oppressed groups. As Jen Harvie points out in ’Theatre & the city’ “Cultural materialism can […] help us understand the political and social consequences of our cultural practices, however benign – or, for that matter, malign – they may at first appear.” (Harvie, 2009: 24). The two oppressed groups, can therefore not be ignored. Of course, the term trans did not exist in 1660, and it would be difficult to go beyond speculations as to whether any boy actors could be considered the equivalent of today’s transgendered persons. It is not my intention to suggest that the character in the play is a transgendered person. However, with the transgendered debate currently portrayed in media, it is impossible to dismiss the implications of interpretation when a contemporary actor dresses up in drag on stage for the audience’s entertainment and have that character despise and work against the lead woman of the play.

In an interview with the glass magazine from September 2015, Jessica Swale, the author of ’Nell Gwynn’ describes herself as “a fully fledged feminist” (Swale: 2015). She continues to explain that it is challenging to label any play or other artwork as feminist because it holds strong political insinuations and that she rather call her works ‘human plays’ and ‘human stories’. What Jessica Swale is referring to here, is that feminist theatre has historically a particular political agenda which is usually not considered mainstream.

The modern audience recognises that the play is set in the 17th century, but unlike the characters who are trapped there, they have a contemporary cultural understanding of the world. The production thus invites the audience to recognises drag as something to laugh at and, like in the 1600’s, this play too provides them with a reassurance that the actor will resume his normal life after the show is over. Any socio-political or feminist statement that the play might have had, thus fails to be recognised in the production and consequently fails to challenge mainstream values.




Dollimore, Jonathan and Sinfield, Alan (1994) Political Shakespeare: Essays in Cultural Materialism Manchester: Manchester University Press

Harvie, Jen (2009) theatre & the city Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan

Mangan, M (2013) the drama, theatre & performance companion Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan


World wild web page:


Wheeler, T (2015) A woman Centre Stage, [online],

Available: http://www.theglassmagazine.com/interview-with-playwright-and-director-jessica-swale/ [accessed Nov. 1st 2015]

John Waters on abortion in “The New Ireland” at Battle of Ideas

When I was offered a weekend ticket for the Battle of Ideas in London this weekend by my University, I eagerly accepted.

Of course, London weekend traveling being what it is, combined with being ill for the past two days, I didn’t manage to be at the Barbican until 11.

It was quite difficult to figure out where to pick up the tickets, mainly because the ticket office had changed its location and everyone sending us off in different directions like a duet of confused meerkats. Eventually, my friend and I managed to get hold of our tickets and sat down to discuss which debate to attend. We quickly agreed to go to Feminism: In Conversation With Camille Paglia and turned up for the talk 10 minutes before it was supposed to begin…and the debating space was already full. By mere chance, we jumped on an opportunity to attend the debate The New Ireland: New Moral State instead, which was right next to the Feminism-talk. Going to that talk is not a decision I regret.

What I got from this talk, was anger and frustration. Let me explain:

The panel was introduced by Rossa Minogue who brilliantly led the debate through the hour, doing his best to keep to the time limits; and first on the panel was Angela Nagle, cultural critic and co-editor of Ireland Under Austerity. After her intellectual introduction to the recent changes and current debates in Ireland, (such as gay marriage legislation (which, for those of you who’ve been hiding under a rock, was legalised only November last year), abortion, Brexit’s affection of Ireland, and the role of Catholicism, I was rather shocked by the next speaker’s presentation of his contrasting ideas and opinions. Not because of his opinions, but of how he phrased them. Yes, of course, I’m talking about the Irish Independent columnist John Waters.

Mr Waters stated straight away that he disagreed with Nagle, which, of course, is all well and good. I can’t blame him for disagreeing with someone’s ideas, but I can blame him for the way in which he presented his arguments, which were honed for entertainment in much the same fashion that so many other conservative speakers do (just an observation). Waters was quite disrespectful with his statements, and they were said as though they could be the only truth (repeating the phrase “this is the problem with society today” with every other argument he threw out – more on exactly what he said further down). He quickly attacked the morality of abortion issues, and it was evident what was his opinion as he dispatched one phrase after another (the irony of my opinions shining through, does not slip by me as I type this).

To give you some examples of his arguments, John Waters stated that our job as a society is to “protect the child in the womb” and that “it’s about human rights”. These are both arguments that I have heard before, and, it is also an argument that makes sense, but it is also precisely the human rights-argument that makes the moral question such a big one from both sides of the issue that makes it a difficult one. However, for John Walters, the “human rights” contradictory to the life of the child quickly turned into: “because this is about the rights of fathers, of me!” Wait what? Excuse me? I am all for men at least be allowed to get to express their opinion in regards to their unborn child (in most circumstances), don’t get me wrong…But it is a very interesting claim right there, that Waters, who has a reasonably good job, is white and middle-aged, states that abortion is about the right of the fathers without even mentioning women in his argument.

And what of the women who are raped or in the instances where the father is absent? For these women who get pregnant, don’t they have as much legal right to choose whether or not to become mothers as men have to choose to be fathers? Or, in fact, don’t they have more reason to choose, seeing as they are the ones who need to go through all nine months of hell and blood and gore and pain? And what of the women who don’t want children? If the argument is that abortion denial is about human rights, is it better to let these children into a world where their parents do not want them?

The last thing that stood out among Waters many comments was after the word was turned over to the audience a few times and one of the questions to the panel was if there would be possible for an “Irish Trump”. So as if to finish off this whole manly way of throwing his words around like a penis erupting in our mouths, leaving a bad aftertaste, John Waters answered this question by stating that “An Irish Trump would be a good idea, but there’s no one with the balls or the money.”

Now, I realise that this blog post might be exactly what Waters is after: an angry rant about how people phrase themselves, because that seems, from my brief research of the man, to be what his politics is about: To defend the freedom of speech. And I’m totally with you on that, John, after all, without freedom of speech, I couldn’t write this as a response to your comments.

But what do I know…I’m just a stupid blogger…