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cover94524-mediumThe Futures, by Anna Pitoniak
Publication date: 4th May 2017
Publisher: Penguin UK / Michael Joseph

Synopsis:

This is a story of a relationship that falls apart. A story of heartbreak and betrayal.

It is the story of a young couple who graduate from Yale in 2008, just as the financial crisis begins and there are no jobs for graduates. It is a story of their new start together in New York City and their tentative first steps into adulthood. It is a story of growing up and taking chances and making terrible mistakes.

This is Evan and Julia’s story.

This is a love story.

 

My thoughts: 

4 stars out of 5

‘The Futures’ follows the story of Evan and Julia, a couple in their early twenties who met in college and just graduated. The story starts in 2008 as they begin their new adult lives fresh out of university, embarking on their first jobs in New York City.

It’s a really relatable moment that will resonate with many people who’ve been through that strange no-man’s-land period of time straight out of college: Evan and Julia emerge into adulthood as a couple who’ve only known life as students together. Will real life make or break their relationship? Will they grow up together or grow out of each other and apart?

Crucially, New York during the 2008 financial crash was a city on a knife edge, and Julia and Evan’s relationship soon follows suit. Both of them get embroiled in situations that take them out of their depth: Evan in the financial world, and Julia in her emotional world. Very soon, everything unravels, they both learn more about each other and themselves, and the world around them.

‘The Futures’ is effortless to read and gripping from beginning to end, combining the financial drama of the ‘The Big Short’ with the emotional engagement of a romantic drama.

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cover106809-mediumAll the Good Things, by Claire Fisher
Publication date: 1st June 2017
Publisher: Penguin Books

Synopsis:

Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn’t deserve ever to feel good again. But her counsellor, Erika, won’t give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life.

So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby’s head. But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.

What is the truth hiding behind her crime? Does anyone – even a 100% bad person – deserve a chance to be good?

My thoughts:

4 stars out of 5

I really enjoyed this book, and read it very quickly. The narrator, Bethany, is both engaging and sympathetic while being the typical unreliable narrator. The author has carefully constructed her character, backstory and current story, weaving these strands in and out of one another in a very artful way.

The only reason I gave this book 4 instead of 5 stars is because I felt that the central conflict was a little contrived: Bethany is in prison and we don’t know what she did to get there. She knows, but she doesn’t tell the reader despite the first person confession-style narrative. I understand that this is compelling, and I kept reading to find out – but the author should be more confident in her writing style and plotting ability. The plot is great, and doesn’t necessarily need the ‘what did she do?’ question to keep the reader engaged.

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‘You can’t criticise the book unless you have read it,’ said Mum.

‘But I tried,’ I whined. ‘I couldn’t get past the first chapter, I was so bored.’

‘Well then you can’t criticise it.’

‘Alright. I would like to criticise it. I will sit down tomorrow, I will read that book, and then you will have to listen to me when I say that it is not good.’

Dear Mum,

A Small Selection Of Reasons Why

I Will Never Finish This Reading Book And No One Can Make Me Ever:

Live Reactions

Page Quote Reaction
p1 ‘I scowl at myself in the mirror.’ Starting with the biggest cliché of them all: the first-person narrator examining him/herself in the mirror, so the reader gets a physical description immediately. Then nothing happens for a million years. No inciting incident on this first page. Or the second page. Or the third… or ever.
p5 God, this is boring. Repeat for every line.
p10 (ish) OK, we get it: Gray is attractive and good looking and attractive and good looking and attractive and good looking. Oh, and good looking. And his trousers hang from his hips. Like everybody’s trousers.
p26 Gray is buying rope, cable ties and masking tape. And he has found out where she works. He sounds like a serial killer to me.
p26 Seriously. He found out where she works (how?) and drove from Seattle to Vancouver to buy some things in the hardware store she works in. This isn’t romantic, this is TERRIFYING STALKER BEHAVIOUR.
P26 Why is he here at Clayton’s? And from a very tiny, underused part of my brain – probably located at the base of my medulla oblongata near where my subconscious dwells – comes the thought: He’s here to see you. And from a very tiny, unused part of my stomach, I vomited with boredom and frustration that this book is so popular when it is so ridiculous.
P31 Okay – I like him. There, I’ve admitted it to myself. I cannot hide from my feelings anymore. I’ve never felt like this before. I find him attractive, very attractive.’ I hope he is a serial killer, and he murders this boring boring boring girl, and the book ends now.
P36 ‘No one has ever held my hand.’ Because this character spent her entire life before this moment in a box in a cupboard on a shelf in the dark.
P37 The only way I am getting through this terrible, terrible novel is by imagining on every page that Christian Grey is a serial killer and he is going to kill our narrator very soon. Hopefully.
P38 [She blushes. She nods. She shakes her head. She] ‘stares down at her knotted hands’. Her scalp prickles. I fall asleep and fall off my chair, sliding onto the floor because I am so bored.
P42 ‘I surreptitiously gaze at him from beneath my lashes.’ All the readers close their lashes and die of boredom.
P43 ‘I find you intimidating.’ I flush scarlet, and gaze at my hands again. [and again and again.]‘You should find me intimidating.’ He nods. He is definitely a serial killer.
P47 ‘Oh my.’ Lions and tigers and bears….oh my.
P50 ‘vaguely amazed.’ WTF?
P54 ‘I’ve never been drunk before.’ That’s what happens when you live in a box in a cupboard for the first part of your life.
P54 P54 – She receives an anonymous package with a terrifying note:‘Why didn’t you tell me there was danger? Why didn’t you warn me? Ladies know what to guard against because they read novels that tell them of these tricks.’ Not only does he know where she works, but now he knows where she lives and is sending creepy anonymous gifts. Serial killer.
P57-58 Ana gets drunk and calls Grey, and then he decides that she is in immediate danger because she has had a couple of cocktails and he decides he is coming to get her. From Seattle. Because she has had a drink. Because he is a serial killer.
P60 ‘Vomiting profusely is exhausting.’ I am learning SO MUCH from this book.
P62 I can’t believe we’re at page sixty-one and no one has had sex yet. This is ridiculous.
P62 ‘How did you find me?”I tracked your cell phone, Anastasia.’ Psycho stalker. Oooh, and Ana agrees:Stalker, my subconscious whispers at me through the cloud of tequila that’s still floating in my brain, but somehow, because it’s him, I don’t mind.’Oh yes, stalkers are fine if they’re good looking. And attractive. And their trousers… hang from their hips… good-lookingly.
P65 ‘He’s in grey sweatpants that hang – in that way – off his hips.’ In what way?! Why is wearing trousers around his hips, like every other human being, so special?
P68 ‘Well, if you were mine, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled yesterday.’ I stopped reading.

Alright, I tried. But this book is awful and I can’t waste my time with it any more. I can’t bear it. The narration is boring and almost entirely made up of clichés, repetition and the endless outlining of mundane unnecessary shite which does nothing to advance the plot, like the fact that orange juice is ‘thirst-quenching’ (REALLY?!).

I stand by what I said before I tried to read it: this is not a romantic outline of a relationship which embraces S&M sex as part of their sexual life. This is a novel with a main character who is domineering and controlling to a scary degree, masquerading as a ‘romance’. It is not a positive thing that swathes of readers will read this book and think that the interaction between Steele and Grey is acceptable.  A man who insists on knowing where you are and turns up uninvited when you have had a few drinks with your friends and proceeds to tell you that you deserve to be punished for having a drink too many, and who takes you away from your friends, ostensibly to ‘rescue’ you: this is domineering, stalking, and controlling behaviour, not romance.

And also the whole first seventy pages are insipid, dull dishwater SHITE and I am never going to finish reading this waste of paper. And I didn’t even get to a sex scene!

 

 

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I’ve just spent two months in a new city, where I knew no one except my lovely housemate and colleague, Julie.

My theory was as follows: that my social life in Edinburgh is an obstacle to my writing, and that if I transplant myself to another city where I know no one, I will write loads in the evenings and become uncharacteristically productive. I planned to edit the whole 60,000 diary monstrosity into a lighthearted, humourous and linear narrative worthy of submitting to agents, and I planned to do it all in six weeks in Belfast while continuing to work full-time in a bookshop.

Did that happen? No, of course not.

Here’s what actually happened: I cut down on drinking, stopped smoking, embarked on Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred, waking up at 6.30am every morning to exercise before work, and going to bed at 10.30pm every night in an attempt to sleep for eight hours. I read lots of books, watched lots of films, and did A LOT of much-needed thinking.

I’ve returned to Edinburgh feeling a little bit clearer, and a little bit like my brain has been through a washing machine: it’s a bit battered, but it’s cleaner, too.

Most importantly, I’ve realised that it’s really hard to work full-time hours and write in your free time. I know many people do it, and they manage high levels of productivity and good quality writing. Yes, it’s possible. But it’s okay that maybe I find that tough. It doesn’t make me a terrible, feckless and hopeless writer. I don’t have to feel guilty or useless, I just have to accept that I’m going to have to face some obstacles, and maybe find a way of (job) working which can allow me to write a bit easier. And that’s OK.

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I’ve been tagged – twice – in a strange Internet meme for writers, which reminded me I have a blog, so I decided to visit this derelict, abandoned excuse for a blog and see if I can remember my login details for wordpress. It turned out my clever laptop had stored the login details, but it took me quite a while to remember how to create a new post.

I have noticed that, through not using the internet or television very often, I’ve actually regressed in my knowledge of computers, popular culture and the internet. Instead of merely pausing in my understanding of technology, I’ve actually (almost willfully) moved backwards, finding myself saying “I’ve been tagged in a… meme thing” and “What’s The Wire about? Is it good?”

I’m being contrary, because I think it’s ‘cool’ to step back slightly from these parts of life. By asking these silly questions, I’m showing I’m too ‘cool’ to go on the world wide web, tweet at minor celebrities and watch University Challenge on iPlayer (I still love you, Jeremy).

Seriously, though, when I do spend an hour or so on the internet, I rarely gain anything, but I do waste a lot of time. If I spend that time reading a book, or writing (ha! One day), then I will have made progress, learnt something, or felt that I have achieved something.

So, I have a neglected blog, and a GoogleReader bristling with unread blog posts from some great blogs. And I have a LOT of emails and Facebook messages which have been ‘marked as unread’ for the day when I do eventually sit down in front of my laptop. And many, many missed story submission deadlines and incomplete job applications… there are disadvantages to this. But I feel like I have a richer life, lived mainly in the real world with face-to-face encounters, instead of one-dimensional interactions in the virtual one.

Having said all that, I’ll be back soon to complete this chain-letter/meme thing about writing, because it actually sounds quite good. Expect a little more information about my current project, coming up!

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Dear Diary…

02.12.01 (Age 15)

            Dear Diary,

There are so many sexy blokes in this world, how come I don’t know any of them? And when I do, how come they don’t know I exist? I go for older men. They are so much funnier and easy to talk to then younger men. I just can’t wait till I get older + they can look upon me as an equal. But even then I won’t be attractive. I’ll still be flabby and unfit, with a sticky-out chin, hooked nose and gappy teeth. I don’t understand how some people manage to be so pretty + have a personality, while some people manage neither.

              I admit, I may have more personality than many bimbos, but is it their good looks and being told how gorge they are that has made them slow in the first place? I suppose (and hope) that everything is evened out in some way or another, but I wish it were more obvious. Cosmetic surgery. Hmmm. Boobs. And a normal nose and chin. Need money. Hmmm.

            Going to get ready for bed + school now. Night night.

Love, Rosie

 

Before I knew I wanted to write, I wrote. From the age of eight until eighteen, without even realising I was doing it, I shared my thoughts with a diary on a semi-regular basis. It’s painfully embarrassing, occasionally cruel, frequently self-indulgent, arrogant, self-pitying, and ABSOLUTELY hilarious.

I’m typing up these diaries with a view to editing them for publication, if I still feel like they’ve got potential once they’re done.

It’s a very entertaining process, and occasionally worrying: sometimes I’m reading the words of a selfish brat who has no concept of the wider world or even the feelings of the people closest to her; other times I stumble across the same thoughts and feelings which haunt me now, only when I was fifteen apparently I was able to express them with more clarity than I can at twenty-six. And if the same issues still crop up with alarming regularity, what progress have I made in the past eleven years?

The above consideration is secondary to the process, of course, but it’s certainly interesting to me. Meanwhile, is it possible to distance oneself from a diary, even if it was written by a ‘different’ you, enough to edit, cut and improve a piece to its full potential? I don’t know yet, but I think I might be about to find out. Wish me luck!

Current word count: 38,000 words.

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Do Something

It’s been a very long time since I read a story in public.

It’s been a very long time since I wrote something new.

Both of these things bother me. But I’ve been having a lot of fun: going out, making new friends, working full-time, learning new things… And that’s important, too.

Two years ago, I gave up a well-paid job in a University, with future career prospects and more earning potential, to move to Edinburgh and study creative writing. I’m now working in a bookshop for minimum wage, and I’ve never been happier.

I have, however, been richer.

I need to write more, because otherwise giving up that well-paid job would have been all for nothing.

I need to write more, because that is what I want to do.

It’s all very well, talking about writing all the time… but if I don’t actually do anything then it’s a waste of breath.

Come on, Rosie. Do something.

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