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...

Friday, 12 February 2010


This year has been rather strange so far. There have been some big changes, and some small ones, which add up to massive changes when combined, so my focus has been somewhat blurry. Things are starting to feel a bit more normal now, and my optimism is gradually returning.

I haven't forgotten about writing exactly, but other things have sort of taken over the time I would normally use to write and to plan, but it has all been ticking away in the back of my mind. I've had a few minor epiphanies along the way, and I'm really hoping that this month I'm going to get the ball rolling on my second draft. Now, I just need to remember what it's all about...

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Read in 2009

  1. A Florentine Death - Michele Giuttari (trans Howard Curtis)
  2. A Most Wanted Man - John le Carré
  3. A Secret Alchemy - Emma Darwin
  4. A Wedding in December - Anita Shreve
  5. American Gods - Neil Gaiman
  6. American Wife - Curtis Sittenfeld
  7. Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman
  8. Black Boxes - Caroline Smailes
  9. Breaking Dawn - Stephenie Meyer
  10. Daphne - Justine Picardie
  11. Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris
  12. Devil Bones - Kathy Reichs
  13. Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer
  14. Ethel and Ernest - Raymond Briggs
  15. Falling Angels - Tracy Chevalier
  16. Fast Women - Jennifer Crusie
  17. Guernica - Dave Boling
  18. Heaven Can Wait - Cally Taylor
  19. Hold Tight - Harlan Coben
  20. I, Claudius - Robert Graves
  21. Key of Knowledge - Nora Roberts
  22. Key of Light - Nora Roberts
  23. Key of Valor - Nora Roberts
  24. Library of the Dead - Glenn Cooper
  25. Light of the Moon - Elizabeth Buchan
  26. Lords and Ladies - Terry Pratchett
  27. Lyra's Oxford - Philip Pullman
  28. Man in the Dark - Paul Auster
  29. Midnight Sun - Stephenie Meyer
  30. Mistress of the Art of Death - Ariana Franklin
  31. Nation - Terry Pratchett
  32. New Moon - Stephenie Meyer
  33. Northern Lights - Philip Pullman
  34. Once Upon a Time in the North - Philip Pullman
  35. Past Imperfect - Julian Fellowes
  36. Pigeon Pie - Nancy Mitford
  37. PopCo - Scarlett Thomas
  38. Revelation - CJ Sansom
  39. Romanitas - Sophia McDougall
  40. Rome Burning - Sophia McDougall
  41. Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay
  42. Small World - Matt Beaumont
  43. Stephen Fry in America - Stephen Fry
  44. Temptation - Douglas Kennedy
  45. Testament - Alis Hawkins
  46. Testimony - Anita Shreve
  47. The 19th Wife - David Ebershoff
  48. The Amber Spyglass - Philip Pullman
  49. The Book of Unholy Mischief - Elle Newmark
  50. The Chalk Circle Man - Fred Vargas
  51. The Crocodile on the Sandbank - Elizabeth Peters
  52. The Dogs and the Wolves - Irene Nemirovsky
  53. The Fire - Katherine Neville
  54. The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton
  55. The Ghost - Robert Harris
  56. The Girl Who Played with Fire - Steig Larsson (trans Reg Keeland)
  57. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson (trans Reg Keeland)
  58. The Grass is Singing - Doris Lessing
  59. The Great Lover - Jill Dawson
  60. The Information Officer - Mark Mills
  61. The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce - Paul Torday
  62. The Island - Victoria Hislop
  63. The Last Samurai - Helen De Witt
  64. The Library of Shadows - Mikkel Birkegaard (trans Tiina Nunnally)
  65. The Lost Book of Salem - Katherine Howe
  66. The Magic Scales - Sam Wilding
  67. The Maze of Death - Ariana Franklin
  68. The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins
  69. The Mummy Case - Elizabeth Peters
  70. The New York Trilogy - Paul Auster
  71. The Other Half Lives - Sophie Hannah
  72. The Other Hand - Chris Cleave
  73. The Other Queen - Philippa Gregory
  74. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
  75. The Secret Scripture - Sebastian Barry
  76. The Separation - Christopher Priest
  77. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  78. The Sorrows of an American - Siri Hustvedt
  79. The Subtle Knife - Philip Pullman
  80. The Sunflower Forest - Torey Haydn
  81. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher - Kate Summerscale
  82. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
  83. The Well-Tempered Clavier - William Coles
  84. The Welsh Girl - Peter Ho Davis
  85. Twilight - Stephenie Meyer
  86. Volevo i pantaloni - Lara Cardello
  87. We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver
  88. When Will There Be Good News? - Kate Atkinson

Considering I also managed to finish the first draft of my WIP, do my Italian A level and work considerably more than my contracted hours, I think 88 is a pretty decent total. I'd be surprised if I manage as many this year, but I'm hoping more of them will be in Italian!

Read in 2007
Read in 2008

Who links to me?