Reading, Writing, Sauntering About in March

I’ve already admitted that I’ve not managed the TBR Double Dare this month of only reading from the books I already own. It doesn’t mean I won’t try again over the coming months, though!

So what else have I been up to this month?

1) Reading:

I’ve read 12 books this month, of which 6 may be classified as crime fiction, 5 are from the TBR pile (hurrah!), but only 2 translations (initially, I thought three of them were, but one turns out to have been written in English by a Polish author). Must try harder…

I did manage to read two books for Stu’s East European Reading Month Challenge:

Vladimir Lorchenkov: The Good Life Elsewhere (also qualifies for Global Reading Challenge – Moldova – Europe)

A.M. Bakalar: Madame Mephisto -this is the one that tricked me into believing it was a translation, set in Poland and England.

FataleI reviewed two books for Crime Fiction Lover, as different as they could possibly be: the start of a cosy crime series set in Wales, The Case of the Dotty Dowager by Cathy Ace, and the very dark, very despairing Fatale by Jean-Patrick Manchette.

The other crime or psychological thriller type novels I read this month were: Tom Rob Smith’s The Farm (no review yet), Belinda Bauer’s The Shut Eye, Helen Fitzgerald’s Dead Lovely and Laura Kasischke’s Mind of Winter. Of this genre, the two most memorable (and, in this case, haunting) were Fatale and Mind of Winter.

liarjonesI also read Maggie Hannan’s hugely influential debut volume of poetry Liar, Jones (1995). It’s very different from any poetry I’ve recently read: more muscular, more playful, more deliberately obfuscating and difficult. Not quite my type of poetry, but there was a lot of fun and exploration. There were no efforts to be ‘poetic’, pretty or lyrical. I particularly enjoyed the poems addressed to or about Jones and the Diary of Eleni Altamura (a real historical character, an amazing Greek woman who dressed as a man in order to study painting, but tragically lost her children and thenceforth gave up her art).

Finally, I also read two of the buzzed-about books of 2014: Matthew Thomas’s We Are Not Ourselves (moving but over-long) and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven (not reviewed yet). I wonder if the buzz did them more harm than good in my eyes, as both of them were good pieces of fiction, with passages of very beautiful and perceptive writing, yet somehow failed to wow me overall. Perhaps my expectations had been set too high or perhaps I should stop reading reviews beforehand?

2) Writing

I’ve set an ambitious goal for myself for this year: to write my second novel by September and submit it to an agent (which means it’s got to be better than first draft quality, obviously). However, considering that I only started the first page at the end of February (although I had planned most of it out in my head already, bar the ending), and given my chronic inability to find time to write, I thought I would give myself an achievable goal for the first month: one page a day (about 8000-9000 words). May sound like nothing more than  day’s writing for some of you, but to me it was a mountain to climb. I know I need to up my game, though, in terms of quality and quantity, over the months to come.

Lyon13) Flannelling around

I was going to use the term above, based on the French ‘flâneur’, someone who is walking around aimlessly on the grand boulevards, but the English word actually means something very different. Far be it from me to try and flatter or mislead you! What I mean of course is ‘sauntering’ or ‘gallivanting’ about. This means I had a great time in Lyon, at the Quais du Polar, which is the highlight of my year in crime. I’ve just written a thorough round-up of my first impressions for the Crime Fiction Lover website today, but there’ll be a few posts to follow on this blog, with further details, pictures, lessons learnt and some great quotes.

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20 thoughts on “Reading, Writing, Sauntering About in March”

  1. I like the variety of books you’ve read, Marina Sofia! I really ought to read more Eastern European crime fiction, myself. And I wish you well as you get working on your next novel. I’m keen to read it. Oh, and I really hope you’ll do some posts about your experience at the Quais du Polar.

  2. But . . . but . . . but . . . we were expecting your 25,000-word fully illustrated report on Polar!

    Hope you get a decent amount of rest before it’s back to the grind tomorrow, MS!

    1. Have just spent most of the day writing it up for CFL, so have zero energy left. So hard going through hundreds of pages of notes and trying to capture the essence!

  3. You’ve had a busy month, Marina. Best of luck with your second novel, a page a day sounds like a good goal.

    I enjoyed your tweets from the Quais du Polar – glad you managed to get another copy of Fatale for Max Cabanes to sign. (I love the idea of a graphic version of that story!)

    1. AND he drew a beautiful (very much idealised) portrait of me when he signed, which I’ll henceforth use it as my Twitter profile. So well worth buying it twice!

  4. Such an interesting list, and what an excellent jacket for Fatale. I have a copy of The Farm which is an uncharacteristic read for me so I’m glad to see you like the look of it, too. Good luck with that draft.

  5. The typo was making my eyes wide (I have a much too vivid imagination)! What a great month you had in terms of reading and writing and visiting! I wish we could meet one of these days at Lyon’s Quai du Polar, that would be terrific.

  6. I’m so tempted by The Case of the Dotty Dowager – sounds like an Enid Blyton title! I love these sort of semi-cosies that Severn House are bringing out these days – hard to resist. Good luck with the writing!

    1. It is a bit Famous Five meets Miss Marple meets Downton Abbey – now that’s the kind of book I could have read even with my horrible migraine last week!

  7. It does sound like you’ve had a super month – I think Fatale might be a bit too dark for me though you do make a compelling case for it – we’ll see – but Mind of Winter has gone onto my library holds list. I shall be curious to see what you made of The Farm – I abandoned it at about a quarter of the way through.

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