Saturday, 1 May 2010

Pearl of China - Anchee Min

With only peripheral knowledge of Pearl S Buck, I came to this book not knowing what to expect. Min’s prose, simple and understated, gives this epic story space to build itself in your mind’s eye, making the unfamiliar terrain and times come to life through her engaging cast of characters.

The story covers the life of Pearl S Buck’s fictional Chinese best friend, Willow, a character created by Min but based on a number of key figures from Buck’s life. Covering 70 years or so means that we dip in and out of Willow’s life, following her through pre-revolutionary China to Mao’s heyday and beyond. These dramatic episodes carry the story forward, but I found myself wanting to know more about everyday life for China’s ordinary people through these interesting times, so now I’m going to read ‘The Good Earth’ by Pearl S Buck herself, Min’s inspiration for writing this remarkable work.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The magic of a 3-day weekend

The last few months have been hectic, with a work trip away, an overnight walking marathon and two 30th birthday parties at opposite ends of the country (plus all the usual knitting, reading, cooking and, oh, working etc...). I can't WAIT until this weekend - 3 days with nothing to do unless I really want to do it. Knitting buddy Kathryn has invited me to potter around with her on her new allotment, and other knitting buddy Charlotte is having a 'first night in a new flat open house with takeaway' on Friday, but other than that, I am free and I have the flat to myself...

I have already stocked up on yummy treats (Waitrose fish-finger sandwich, anyone?), and am planning what I'm going to read. There are several things that I've started over the last month, but haven't finished, so some quality time with a book and a pot of coffee on the balcony will help me polish them off. I am also really excited about the writing I'm going to do. Some of the massive tangly plot disasters from the first draft have resolved themselves in my head over the last few weeks, and it's going to be very interesting going back and seeing how much I need to change. And I may even squeeze in a blog or some tweeting!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Reading habits

I was away with work for most of last week, and realised that when I'm at a conference or something, I HAVE to read crime fiction. It's a weird compulsion, and I don't really understand it. I quite like reading whodunnits, but in general I've got several books on the go, and swap between genres according to my mood (I'm currently reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Scoop, Harry Potter e la camera dei segreti, The Greatest Show on Earth and The Little Book with a few dabblings in Italian history and culture on the side for when I'm feeling virtuous). What is it about being away with colleagues and tackling the constant threat of having to be nice to clients that makes me want to read about solving murders? Hmm.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Bullets bitten

So I'm back from Milan (although my case is not. It should be arriving at my office at around 9am tomorrow. Nice.), and while there I did a lot of things. Read, shopped, ate, drank, talked (sometimes in Italian!), and.... WROTE! Not much, but it's a start. Draft 2 is now underway, with one whole chapter done. I've got a bit of a plan, and also some ideas for other stories, one I could start writing soon, and another which will take a lot of research. But research means BOOKS, so I'm all for that!

Here's to finally getting on with the damned thing.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Harry Potter e la Pietra Filosofale - J.K. Rowling

I started this for the first time in April 2007, while on holiday in Sardinia with S and a few chums. It didn't go very well. My GCSE Italian was not really up to the challenge, and I'd forgotten my little dictionary, so I quickly gave up. I started again last summer, hoping for a bit of light relief following my A level, and a fun way to build up my fluency and stamina. I think it worked - when I began, I was looking up dozens of words on each page, and really puzzling over quite a lot of grammar. Last night I didn't look up a single word, despite having my dictionary beside me, and my app on my iPhone, ready and waiting just in case.

I'm also reading set books for my degree course, and finding that they're tougher than Harry Potter, but a little easier because of him. I know that I can read now 7 or 8 pages in Italian in one sitting, without being tied to a dictionary, and while it's harder to guess what unknown words mean when you don't know the story, that doesn't mean it's impossible.

I'm off to Milan for a week on Saturday, and I think I'm going to be picking up 'Harry Potter e la Camera dei Segreti', and possibly one or two others. That way, no matter how confused I get by my set texts, I'll know that I've always got something manageable I can read - just what I need to make sure I actually do some Italian every day.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010


I've only gone and done it... Wednesday afternoon was never a good time for productivity, so follow me, @eleanor_steele, and help me pass the time!


I've just come out of a digital training session at work. It's given me lots of ideas for projects I'm working on with my clients, but it also made me think about what I'm doing online just for me, like this blog and being part of the Novel Racers. I read the BubbleCow blog, and have been quietly absorbing what they say about Twitter and other online tools for raising one's profile, but haven't quite taken the plunge yet. Part of me is worried that it'll take too much time (something I really don't have a lot of). I mean, I barely update my blog once a week, I never get through the backlog of blogs I read, so when would I have time to tweet and follow other people?

But now I have an iPhone, and things just look a little easier to manage - I can read my blogs in bed without my laptop, I can blog from the tram, so maybe I'm ready to dip my toe into the waters of Twitter...

Who links to me?