Closing Time

I’ve written posts about new beginnings, changes in direction, and fresh starts many times on this blog. This is the first time I’ve written about an ending.

I think it’s time to close the doors on Book Heaven.

I started this blog years ago, with the simple intention of  sharing my rather obsessive love of books and stories. I posted a mixture of reviews, creative writing, and literature-based arguments. I got a pleasant surprise when I realised how many people also loved books, and built up a loyal readership, and even made friends.

When I started it, it was all about children’s fiction, and then also started encompassing teenage fiction. I still think children’s fiction is one of the most important things in the world, but unfortunately I don’t have time with school and study to read both children’s fiction and adult novels, so for the moment I’ll have to let the kids’ stuff go. Also,  I think reviewing books for people not in your own age group is a little bit patronising, and unfortunately not many people see the importance and attraction of children’s fiction, so I think that area is better left to kids.

So thanks everyone for reading, I’ll be posting book reviews over on http://thefullbookcase.wordpress.com every now and then.

For the last time, I’ll see ya round,

Maeve

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Music and Books… Continued

I’ve been thinking since posting about the importance of music in stories (see the post here), and I’ve been more conscious of it when looking at books. When tidying up my bookshelves, I came across a few books that had a direct link with the topic that I hadn’t thought of when originally writing.

One was The New Policeman by Kate Thompson, which is set in Ireland and Tír na nÓg. I love this book, but haven’t read it in years. It’s one of the few books set in Ireland about Irish music and mythology that isn’t sickeningly tourist-y. What I’d completely forgotten was that every chapter begins with the manuscript of an Irish tune. I remember when I first read the book, I loved this. Some of the tunes I remembered my old fiddle teacher showing me, the names and notes bringing back memories of his whiskers, wrinkles, and sparkly eyes magnified through his thick glasses. Others I recognised, faintly remembered hearing snatches of them at different times; others, the names seemed familiar. Some were new, which I immediately played before reading the rest of the chapter. I remember I kept the book in my fiddle case for years: before I started classical violin, it was the only music book I had for the fiddle; I learned everything by ear.

This addition to the book really immersed me in the story. The tunes included at the beginning of the chapter would always end up being played or discussed in that chapter: they were really part of the story. I don’t know how valuable this would have been had I not played Irish music, or the fiddle, or if I didn’t play any music at all and couldn’t read the manuscripts.

The second book I found was Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. This book is about a troubled teen from America who is brought to Paris by her father to try and complete a project for her final exams. While this book is not so exactly fitting with the idea of having a playlist as such with each chapter, music does play a huge role in the book, and I think it is relevant to the discussion. First and foremost, I loved the style of writing, but secondly I loved how the author included so much information on music and artists, both classical and modern. Andi, the troubled girl in question, is doing a project on how Amandé Mahlerbeau, a 1700s guitarist, influenced modern music. The book is overflowing with details on Mahlerbeau’s music as well as all the modern artists he apparently influenced indirectly, including Radiohead and PJ Harvey. While not exactly giving a chapter-by-chapter soundtrack, the book is filled with music and music does play a huge part. Perhaps this is the way to successfully include the pieces of music that inspired you in your writing: interweave them with the story, make them part of it.

Also when writing the post I’m about to publish about poetry and books, I started thinking about the inclusion of quotes from songs: perhaps that would be another way of doing it, provided all your songs had lyrics. Anyway, what do you think?

Lots of Likes, New Books, Poetry… what a Thursday

It’s been a very heartening few days with all the comments and likes… thanks everybody! Anyway, just posting to say I’ve a stack of books from the library that I’ll be posting about very soon… I’ll have one up by tomorrow, and the others soon after. I’ve also a post written on poetry and it’s importance not as an art form in itself (because you’d find that discussion somewhere else, probably better written), but it’s impact on literature as a whole, most specifically novels. So keep an eye out! Anyway, here’s a random funny video, with no relevance what so ever. 🙂

Revisiting the Same Spot

Following on from my last post about setting, I was wondering, how much detail is too much detail? When I say detail, I mean ‘stolen-from-reality’ detail as in shop names as opposed to invented detail. I’m also talking about writing as opposed to reading when do you stop taking from true life and giving with your imagination? If a school is part of your story, should you invent it in your area, or should you describe one of the schools that already exists there? But then if you do this, and you need a scene that includes a maths teacher, how can you make sure it’s crystal clear that the maths teacher in your story is completely invented and not based on an actual maths teacher that teaches there (it’s harder when you’re actually still in the school, you notice their mannerisms creeping into your characters!)? You don’t want to make the gap between reality and imagination so obvious that everyone reading goes, “hold on, I believed it up until there, but what the hell?”, but instead make sure people don’t bring you to court for writing about them, because it’s clear they aren’t in your story.

 

This also applies to local events that take place… should you actually name bands that placed at a big concert, or should you throw in a few random bands, or should you completely invent them? Someone just get elected president, and you need them for your story: should you use their name or invent it? For me, as a reader, I know it would sort of ruin the realism of a story if the author put Philip J Keohane (just a random name, first I thought of) as the president of Ireland in a story set in the present or past.

 

Also, as a reader, I love the warm, “Oh! I know this place!” feeling you get when you recognise a setting in a book (the whole way through Jasper Winn’s Paddle, I was fuzzy feeling from knowing it all, even though it doesn’t really count in this discussion as it wasn’t fiction).

 

The whole, “write what you know” mantra comes to mind: if you plan on really saturating your story in the setting, you’re probably off really knowing that setting well first. Though it is a little limiting, it opens up the necessity to travel to research you book – a good excuse! Honestly though, I know how annoying it is to have someone write about a place you know well when it’s obvious they don’t know what it’s really like: the number of books that are set in Ireland that are written from what tourists experience without any notion of what life here is really like isn’t even funny. I mean, half the world now believes we still all whitewash our houses.

 

So, what’s your opinion on the depth of local detail you can include in your story?

Putting Plot in its Place

So in my post on cultural context, I discussed on the importance of social setting in a text, and of course how social context is affected by geographical setting. In this post, I’d like to delve a little deeper into the impact of geographical setting on a reader, as opposed to its impact on the plot.

Where is your favourite novel set? Is it in an imaginary land of fantastical beasts, such as the medieval town of The Castle (and the surrounding lands) where the Septimus Heap books are set? Is it set in a place that is closely tied to reality and geographical locations, but is slightly askew and cannot be found on an actual map, such as Hogsmeade? Or is it seeped in realism, based in a certain place, for example the West of Ireland, but isn’t actually a geographical location (but no one but people from the area would actually know this) such as the small rural town JB Kean’s Field is based in? Is it set in an actual, real location that you could find on a map and go to visit, if you so wished, such as the books in The Twilight Saga?

Setting plays a huge part in setting the tone of the books, but what impact does it have directly on the reader? I think it depends on what type of reader you are: whether you like to be completely immersed in the world of the book, or if you like to appreciate the story from a bit of a distance. This reading experience is closely linked with the way your favourite books are written: immersive readers tend to prefer first-person narrative, while observationalists may choose third-person.

I stand up willing to be proven wrong, but I think immersive, first-person-loving readers settings saturated in realism, such as those Stephenie Meyer writes (both in The Host and in The Twilight Saga), that exist in the actual world and are true to life down to minute detail, such as the names of the nearby roads, forests, and beaches. Observationalist readers tend to prefer imaginative settings, often not based in our world, where books such as Angie Sage’s Magyk are set. Preferring third person, they do not feel the same need to be part of the story that immersive readers do: they do not need to feel that the plot could happen to them, in this world, right now.

Then there is the middle ground, where most books that are mainly about the dramas of daily life lie. They are based in an area (East Coast, USA; rural France; a village in Norway, ect.) but the place names do not actually exist. The setting can be quite specific, down to a state or province, but still be made up. People who aren’t from the area or who don’t have local knowledge probably wouldn’t know the difference, but these books can sometimes lack a highly detailed description of the setting (which may work with the book just fine), as they don’t have the physical place to describe nor the compulsion to imagine every last detail of a fantastical land.

Where does that leave people who love books about dystopian societies set in the future? I’m open to suggestions! Where is your favourite book set? How do you think the setting affects you as a reader?

(also, apologies again to the subscribers who got a few typos first time round!)