I’m Writing Faster!

Besides ranting about books, another point to this blog was to improve my writing. I’ve always enjoyed the hobby and for the first time I can use it creatively and at my leisure instead of essays and assignments.

When I first started this blog, it’d take me hours to cobble a review or an essay together. And that doesn’t include the reviews and the edits to bring it up to a standard I was happy with. I also couldn’t write very much, anything about the 500 word mark was very long for me.

But now I can smash out 500 words quite quickly, at a quality that makes me quite proud.

I’m actually a little giddy with this progress. I thought I’d be measuring progress with likes and followers and comments, not noticeable writing speed.

So my new goal is this: I want to be able to crack out about 1000 words with the same ease as I write 500 words now.

Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie

One day I will run out of Poirot novels to review but today is not that day! Because I’ve reviewed a thousand of them at this point, I will make this quick and sharp.

It’s a psychological drama and a behavioural study in people, rather than an evidence-based story. Poirot is asked by Carla to investigate her mother’s murder trial sixteen years ago to determine who was truly responsible for her father’s murder. But because it was sixteen years ago, Poirot can’t possibly rely on uncovering physical evidence himself so he interviews all the suspects to determine who was the real culprit.

Only Christie can write like this, only Christie can make ten recounts of the same murder sound exciting and fresh each time. Poirot basically tracks down each suspect and makes them recount their experience to him and to write it down in a letter. Yet upon each review of the same scenario, Christie is able to produce new evidence from a new angle. And we have Poirot, who is at the top of his game. The full force of his intellect is on show and as is his uncanny ability to draw out information from even the most unwilling suspects.

It’s still typical Christie. The crime is contained to a few possible suspects who all have a plausible motive and the criminal is someone who, once banished, will restore order to the situation. It is set in a secluded English countryside and at no point does Christie try to pretend to us that the Butler did it.

And I still love it when the fourth wall is being leant on, I’m such a sucker for those kinds of tropes. I did internally giggle when Carla voices her opinions on who she thinks the killer could be, based on clichéd crime fiction stereotypes so we know that A) Christie is self-aware of the expectations, and B) we know that something totally different is coming.

One of my favourite things about reading books from a different era is realizing that no matter how things change, they will always stay the same. It just reassures me that no matter how people feel that society is changing and how morals are going down the drain (a common complaint from older generations), humans remain the same. To hear people lament the decline of marriage values and how everyone seems to have such an easy access to divorce gives me déjà vu.

And I’ve said this time and time again, but Christie must really enjoy people watching. Her pin-point accurate descriptions of people must mean she regularly examines the heart and souls of people surrounding her. She captures the features that make people interesting and expresses them candidly in her characters.

I read this years ago when I was in high school, back when I was still borrowing books from libraries but I occasionally think about this story from time to time so I’m glad to have come across this in a second hand sale. Of all the Poirot novels I have read so far, this is my favourite and it should have the same reputation as ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ and ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’.

Tasmania And The Bookstores

I had a fantastic time in Tasmania!

I went to Russell Falls, Port Arthur, and just wondered the streets of Hobart (including MONA). I crammed my face with fresh salmon and scallops and sweet Tasmanian fruit (why is it so sweet?!)

And of course I made some obligatory visits to some bookstores (but they weren’t my main focus). I am delighted to report that there were a mixture of retail, independent and second hand bookstores in the Hobart city centre, which is more than I can say for Sydney.

I’ve still got an insane number of books to read so I didn’t feel comfortable buying too much and I am loathe to go over my luggage weight limit. But I didn’t want to come home empty handed because at some point I want to pick up a book and fondly reminisce about a memory.

So now here are my visits!

The Hobart Book Shop: It had a mix of second hand and new books but the second hand were pretty obscure and mostly non-fiction. I purchased the ‘Bad Feminist’ by Roxanne Gay for $27. It originally RRP for $30 but there was the tiniest smudge on the spine and the seller offered me a 10% discount which is so unheard of Sydney I forgot to thank her. Overall, it wasn’t so expensive but they weren’t bargain sales. I found some Penguins sold for $13 (which I can buy for $10 in Sydney) but most of the books went from $15 to $30.

Downunder Bookshop: I can’t recommend this bookstore enough, everyone needs to go here. Not only is there an impressive range, I love the whole concept of it. For every book you buy, you get one free book. And if you return the book back to him, he’ll buy it for half the price he sold it to you and you still get a free book. The owner is also ridiculously helpful and really provides the personal touch to his service. I bought ‘The Rosie Effect’ by Graeme Simsion and ‘Dollhouse: The Play’ by Henrik Ibsen for $16.80. I was given another book as a complimentary item but it was so thick (and I was worried it wouldn’t fit in my luggage) he allowed me to exchange it for another so I picked ‘The Dressmaker’ by Rosalie Ham.

Cracked and Spineless New and Used Bookshop: I wished I could have spent longer in here, they have an amazing variety. They’ve mixed their new and old stock together on the same shelf so it can get a bit confusing with pricing (second hand items have price written on the inside cover in pencil, but new books have a sticker on the back). I purchased ‘The Real Inspector Hound’ by Tom Stoppard, ‘Equus’ by Peter Shaffer, ‘Urn Burial’ by Kerry Greenwood, and ‘Raisins and Almonds’ by Kerry Greenwood, all for $22.50

Fullers Bookshop: A brightly lit and airy bookstore, a standard and reasonably priced Independent Bookstore. I saw a teenage skater contemplating which Voltaire to purchase so it clearly provides for everyone. I did not purchase anything, by this stage, I had seven books so I was worried about going over the limit.

Area 52: A pop culture nerd’s fantasy, it’s well stocked and fairly priced. There’s American comics, books, manga, and a lot of merchandise. I still can’t help wandering around even though I read all my manga online and don’t particularly care for fantasy or sci-fi, because that type of hobby represented such a huge part of my teenage years so I like to indulge now and again. I did not purchase anything.

And here is the obligatory photo of my spoils!

I Quite Enjoy Bookstores At Airports

It’s like a highlight reel of all the popular sellers and new releases of the last six months, from fiction to non-fiction. There’s nothing obscure, only trendy, so it’s easy to sell. It’s a great time for me to update my TBR list.

When I gave it some further thought, it made sense. You’ll be stuck in a giant metal tube for a very long time and this is the one mode of transportation where fussing about on your phone is not an option, so people obviously want something reliable that can be enjoyed without technology and reading fits that bill.

Stephen Hawking also joked about selling books at airports. When asked why he wrote the physics non-fiction ‘The History of Time and Space’, he confessed:

I want my books sold on airport bookstalls.

So there you have it.

Books And Travel

When you go on holidays, do you take any books with you?

Despite being an avid reader and being used to reading everyday. I rarely bring a book and if I do, it’s only one and it has to be light.

I do this for a few reasons:

  1. I like to focus on the place I’m visiting. I consider travel to be one of the few luxuries I indulge and I want to make it worth my while. And I can’t do that if I’m itching to race back to my hotel room
  2. If I go to an English speaking country and I am not part of a tour, I like to research beforehand any independent or secondhand bookstores I can visit. That way I can add to my book collection, save money, and can now say that I’ve been to some of the local haunts. That means, if I’ve already brought a few books in my suitcase, I’m just wasting precious luggage space (and weight).
  3. I like buying books from the city that I’ve visited as a memento of my holiday. I bought some old library books when I was in New Zealand with the name of the city stamped on it and I consider it one of the best souvenirs I’ve purchased.

I feel as if I’m in the minority here though given the plethora of memes about difficulties in choosing one book but what is your stance on it?

I’m about to pop over to Tasmania and am currently doing some packing. I don’t think Hobart is particularly big so I should be able to adequately explore the city. I’ve also got my list of bookstores that I want to visit but Hobart is no Melbourne though so I’ve adjusted my expectations accordingly.

I’ll be back at the end of this week but in the mean time I’ve scheduled some posts (since I like updating every 1 to 3 days).

Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy by Helen Fielding

I love the Bridget Jones series. I have a fondess for British humour and I love epistolary fiction so it was inevitable. You wouldn’t think with my pretentious rants about literature and non-fiction that I’d be into this kind of thing, yet here we are.

And I’ve been tossing and turning over the best ways to write this review without spoiling it, but there’s one big reveal that happens early on which forms the whole crux of the story. So spoiler warning ahead.

Here it is: although Bridget Jones had her happily ever after with Mark Darcy and popped out two of his children, we start the story by learning that Mark Darcy has been killed off.

Which is pretty convenient for readers for several reasons. Bridget Jones can now be thrust back into the dating life but now she balances motherhood, being a widower and technological advances. It’s all a ploy to capitalize off of the Bridget Jones series since the original readers of Bridget Jones are no longer in their thirties but in their fifties and possibly sixties.

But Bridget to her fans will always be someone who is struggling with her weight, career and relationship prospects; a Bridget that navigates the ups and downs of marriage without some kind of break up is not the Bridget we know and to go through the whole ‘will she still end up with Darcy’ is too tedious an exercise after all this time (like the Ross and Rachel saga). So it was inevitable she would be thrown back into the dating world again not via another breakup with Darcy.

I thought the plot structure was a bit weaker than ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’. There were some subplots that weren’t filled out in a sufficient manner so that when it was resolved, I didn’t get the same satisfaction for Bridget as I should have, for example, Bridget’s testy relationship with Perfect Mother, Nicolette.

I also kind of skimmed over the subplot involving Roxster. One of the real drawing points of Bridget Jones is her ability to relate to the modern female so her younger Singleton days appealed to me immensely, but her venture into being a Cougar wasn’t as interesting to me.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still just as funny and witty. Fielding is such a hilarious and honest writer and I love that sort of dry British humor so it’s right up my alley. And Fielding does what she does best in this book, which is make insightful observations about the people around her. I love any writer who appreciates the idiosyncrasies of people around them and Fielding is one of them.

I loved watching Bridget navigate teacher’s conferences and parenting her children. I loved watching her try to get back into the dating field. Some of the old gang from Bridget’s heyday makes an appearance too and I loved watching their fire-forged friendships. There’s Tom, Jude and Magda. Shazzer has disappeared which just goes to show you that not all friendships will follow you for life as everyone has their own path to pursue. Daniel Cleaver still makes a show and as much of an asshole he is, he’s still one of the funniest characters in the book (but only in small doses).

I laughed out loud when one of Bridget’s goals was to stop doing “V-signs at people during the school run” (apparently the V-sign is the British equivalent of giving people the finger. On a side note, one of the English managers does this at work because he thinks people don’t know what he’s doing (we do) and he can vent off a bit of frustration at the same time).

And there are some very heart-wrenching moments when Bridget reminisces on the times she had with Mark Darcy and what she dreams their life would be had it not been for his sudden death. I thought her grief was handled realistically and with respect.

Whatever its weaknesses and strengths, this installment still captures the element that made Fielding so successful as a writer: the sharp social insights of being a modern woman, written in a hilariously self-deprecating fashion that only the English can do. If Jane Austen had to write something in modern times, she’d spit something out like this too.