Sunday, 2 August 2015

Bee's Mini Book Reviews Part Two feat. a ton of graphic novels, Kazuo Ishiguro & J. California Cooper | Books with Bee

I am well and truly back in my little reading bubble and I couldn't be happier. 

I am also currently on a self-imposed book buying ban, well...I say 'self-imposed'. Is it still 'self-imposed' when it's basically my bank balance telling me that I physically can't buy books rather than me taking some sort of high ground and telling myself to chill out a bit?! Anyway. I'm really enjoying picking out unread books from my shelves to read at my leisure, which is a good thing because according to my Goodreads there are over 100 books for me to get through. Eek! I haven't bought books for a couple of months now but due to my birthday last month and a bounty of bookish blogger mail I'll have a belated June / July book haul up for you when I can be arsed to take all the photographs for it so look out for that!  #problogger 

Now that  I've caught up with all of my book reviews for the year so far, I'm hoping to return to posting them monthly again so you can get some more frequent bookish inspiration and that way we can all discuss books even more often! How does that sound? Read part one of my 2015 miniature book reviews if you haven't already done so and be sure to start a conversation in the comments because I'm still in recovery and I talk to the same four people within the same four walls day in day out. Hai, family! 

saga volume three

FINISHED: 08/04/15 | ISBN: 1607069318 PAGES: 144

Things got a lot more intense with this volume but in the best way. 

I enjoyed this volume just as much as the two previous ones, if not moreso. There's something incredibly empowering in reading about women and girls who are strong willed and powerful and protective, particularly after years of having to read women on the sidelines! 

I love how unafraid this series is of covering big topics such as race and sexuality and how it does so in what I consider to be such honest and authentic ways. It's funny, fast paced and full of incredible world building. Give Saga a go, guys!  

RATING: ★★★★★ 

saga volume four

FINISHED: 08/04/15 | ISBN:1632150778  PAGES: 152

Saga is brave, bold and ridiculously addictive, and its fourth volume exemplifies all of these qualities. I find it astounding, really, that I have so far given every volume five stars. That doesn't happen often. It's just that good. 

I loved how unpredictable this volume was, with stories seamlessly interweaving before colliding in the most catastrophic of ways. It felt less comfortable than the other volumes, like we are building up to real tension and conflict in the installments to come, and I loved that. The writing is ballsy, fast paced but never complacent, and the art work is some of the best that I have seen in the vast graphic novel universe. 

I have no idea where Vaughan and Staples will take this story, but I cannot wait to find out. Roll on September so I can get my paws on volume five, please! 

RATING: ★★★★ 

the divingbell and the butterfly book review

FINISHED: 11/05/15 | ISBN: 0375701214 PAGES: 132
Bauby was the editor-in-chief of French Elle [...] By the end of the year he was also the victim of a rare kind of stroke to the brainstem [...] Bauby awoke into a body which had all but stopped working: only his left eye functioned, allowing him to see [...] he was soon able to express himself in the richest detail: dictating a word at a time [...] In the same way, he was able eventually to compose this book. 

Beautifully written memoir that left me in awe of the power and strength of the human spirit, and the worlds that we can create for ourselves in times of hardship. 

I doubt Bauby and I would've got on but it was a fascinating memoir nonetheless and worth the 75p that I paid for it.  


rat queens uk lifestyle book blog

FINISHED: 30/05/15 | ISBN: 1607069458 PAGES: 128 
Who are the Rat Queens? A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they're in the business of killing all god's creatures for profit. 

Rat Queens took Booktube by storm this year so I was pleasantly surprised when Luke gifted it to me out of the blue. 

This graphic novel offers lots of fun fantastical adventure with kickass women at the helm. It was, again, awesome to see women, really funny and diverse and often reckless women, at the forefront of a mainstream comic. They drink, they love all things recreational, they curse and they quest. It was just brilliant fun and even though the story kind of lulled in parts the characters and the art style pulled it through. 

There was a panel in a party scene that I particularly enjoyed and related to so I shall share it with you now. Dee, sat in the corner reading a book visibly uncomfortable at the whole party ~situation~, is approached by a man. She tells him to go away and when he doesn't understand why she might not necessarily want his company she says the following: 'This is my party. This book. The book is good. It asks no questions. The book lets me engage it on my terms'. I read that panel and laughed aloud, a lot. Anything that calls out male entitlement is a winner in my book.  

It was a ridiculously fun read and I'm glad I got to pick up the next volume later in the month. 


chew vivatramp book blog

13. chew volume 1 by john layman and rob guillory 
FINISHED: 07/07/15 | ISBN: 1607061597 PAGES: 128
Tony Chu is a detective with a secret. A weird secret. Tony Chu is Cibopathic, which means he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. It also means he's a hell of a detective, as long as he doesn't mind nibbling on the corpse of a murder victim to figure out whodunit, and why. He's been brought on by the Special Crimes Division of the FDA, the most powerful law enforcement agency on the planet, to investigate their strangest, sickest, and most bizarre cases. 

Every time I researched graphic novels, Chew popped up. It sounded gross, a little bit vile actually, so naturally it ended up on my birthday wishlist!

Set in a world that I have more questions than answers about just yet, and where chicken is highly illegal, Chew is a graphic novel that I am quite taken by. The art style is pleasing and wonderfully gruesome. The characters are endearing and really quite funny. As I've said, I feel like this introductory volume did well to introduce ideas but now I need to find out more in order to help build the world further and get some clearer idea as to where this is all going. Marketing. Luckily there are a billion volumes of this series out so I've got lots to catch up on! I'm sure things will seem a little clearer once I've read the second volume.  

If cannibalism isn't your thing, this probably won't be for you. However, I'd recommend it otherwise!  


alex and ada book review blog uk

14. alex + ada volume 1 by jonathan luna and sarah vaughan 
FINISHED: 07/07/15 | ISBN:1632150069 PAGES: 128
The last thing in the world Alex wanted was an x5, the latest in realistic androids. But after Ada is dropped into his life, he discovers she is more than just a robot. 

I must admit I approached this series with trepidation because it sounded very Her-esque and I wasn't sure whether or not it was going to bring new ideas to the table. Thankfully, it did! 

Alex + Ada asks a lot of love and technology and how we as humans like to define and categorise things that perhaps need to be free of such constraints. The art style and the dialogue were both quite simple but it works well here. This volume, much like Chew, has left me with a billion unanswered questions but luckily I'm invested enough to want to pick up the next volume.  If you liked Her, or like reading things that look at love and relationships more complexly, then pick this up. 


a coney island of the mind by lawrence ferlinghetti book review

FINISHED: 11/07/15 | ISBN: 0811200418 PAGES: 96
The title of this book is taken from Henry Miller's 'Into the Night Life' and expresses the way Lawrence Ferlinghetti felt about these poems when he wrote them during a short period in the 1950's - as if they were, taken together, a kind of Coney Island of the mind, a kind of circus of the soul. 

A strong collection from an influential writer very much concerned with identity, the periphery and the role of the poet.

There's a dark humour to Ferlinghetti's work that I really enjoyed and this shone through particularly well in his 'oral messages'; However, whilst I liked his style in parts in others it felt too steeped in social commentary and excessive description to be clear enough for me as a reader. I am, however, really glad that I read this collection aloud and got to experience the works of a new-to-me poet. 

Check this collection out if you like your modernist poets.  


uk lifestyle book blog reviews
FINISHED: 13/07/15 | ISBN: 0983247188 PAGES: 192 
How To Get Into The Twin Palms is the story of Anya, a young woman living in a Russian neighbourhood in LA, who struggles between retaining her parents' Polish culture and trying to assimilate into her adopted community. She lusts after Lev, a Russian man who frequents the Twin Palms nightclub down the block from Anya's apartment. It is Anya's wish to gain entrance to this seemingly exclusive club. 

Moment of silence for the beautiful production of this book. Those deckled edges. Those illustrations. Hngh!

Waclawiak explored a world and an experience so far from my own and yet the core thematic idea of a woman finding an identity and a safe space for herself to live authentically felt so familiar. It's clichéd, sure, but you experience this book rather than read it. You smell the heady mix of sweat and cheap cologne from Lev's armpits and the sour strench of pickled food. You sit in the quiet loneliness of Anya's bedroom watching the sliding doors and you observe as the ash coats the swimming pool under the looming darkness. There were so many quiet moments in which Waclawiak revealed the loudest of things and it made me stop and realise just how talented a writer she is. I was seriously surprised at how much I enjoyed the reading experience. 

This novel offered an intimate character study that stifled me with its honesty and fragility, and I'm probably be going to be thinking about this for a while yet. 


FINISHED: 15/07/15 | ISBN: 1632150409  PAGES: 128

I think my favourite thing about this graphic novel series is, as I have said, the experience of reading about women being really bloody powerful. Not because they're on some sort of romantic quest. Not because they're given the strength by men. Because women are powerful. However, for me, the story again felt a little weak in this volume. There were a lot of action scenes, sure, but I just kind of came away from it feeling like I expected more from it?! The artwork changed half way through, which was a little off putting, but I enjoyed both art styles nonetheless. I'm definitely going to carry on with this series because I do enjoy the premise but I'm hoping the next volume will be stronger in terms of plot. 

This series has potential and it's still in its infancy, therefore, I'm willing to carry on with it. 


the remains of the day kazuo ishiguro book review

FINISHED: 21/07/15 | ISBN: 0679731725  PAGES: 245
In 1956, Stevens, a long-serving butler at Darlington Hall, decides to take a motoring trip through the West Country. The six-day excursion becomes a journey into the past of Stevens and England, a past that takes in fascism, two world wars, and an unrealised love between the butler and his housekeeper. 

This book had sat unread on my shelf for far too long so I picked it up and gave it the attention that the billions of amazing reviews would suggest it deserved. And, do you know what, I think it deserved the majority of its hype...and I'm not just being biased because it's set in my homeland. 

I feel like this novel would seriously divide people because the plot is incredibly slight and there are lengthy passages about butler politics, performing witticisms and polishing silverware. Ishiguro, in spite of this, manages to create a novel that to me  feels instantly recognisable because the ideas at its heart are universal ones. Those ideas being love, loyalty and requirement amongst others. I think my favourite thing about this novel was the character of Stevens...even though he can be a complete arsehole at times. Stevens' memories drive the novel and, whilst they're subjective, they allude to a consciousness that he can't fully engage with for the majority of the novel and it makes for quite a devastatingly emotional read towards the end. 

Whilst this novel was different to Never Let Me Go, a book I also enjoyed, it shared the same pit-of-your-stomach fragility that for me has come to define Ishiguro's works. The Remains of the Day was a quietly emotional read that somehow left me feeling strangely comforted. Pick it up.


homemade love j california cooper book review

19. homemade love by j. california cooper   
FINISHED: 29/07/15 | ISBN: 0704340399 PAGES: 175
In one of the best-loved volumes of her work, J. California Cooper tells exuberant tales full of wonder at the mystery of life and the hardness of fate. Awed, bedeviled, bemused, all of Cooper's characters are borne up by the sheer power of life itself. 

trigger warning: whorephobia 

J. California Cooper, everybody! As soon as I heard Didi (go subscribe to her!) singing her praises I knew I had to read some of her short stories and luckily I found this collection in my local secondhand book shop for £1. I feel so incredibly lucky to have found another writer that I instinctively love with all my being. 

This was a wonderful collection with stories, both wickedly funny and desperately sad, covering love in all its guises. Cooper writes characters that are often striving to better themselves, often learning, but also sometimes stubbornly ignoring, simple truths through the medium of homemade love. I feel like I came away from this collection having thought about love in much greater detail than I have ever done, and it was a strangely cathartic experience because of that. It deserves a re-read, for sure.

I now need to read everything else she has ever written. Yep. 


Have you read any of these books? Did you read part one of my 2015 miniature book reviews? 

This post contains affiliate links. If you buy the books through the links I've so lovingly provided, I'll earn a tiny amount to put towards future books to review. 


Friday, 31 July 2015

14 Tips for Studying a Creative Writing Degree | Creativity with Bee

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As a soon-to-be graduate of a creative writing degree, I feel as if I should end my time as a student by passing on all of my worldly knowledge on the subject of surviving a creative degree to any prospective students that wish to follow in my footsteps. Whilst this advice is somewhat jumbled, thanks brain, I'm hoping that you can all take something away from it! If you'd like to ask me any further questions regarding creative writing at degree level, leave a comment below or an email and I shall endeavor to answer all of your queries!

14 tips for studying a creative writing degree

Read as much as you can! Read from your reading list. Read from your own personal library. The worlds that you will temporarily reside in, and the characters that you will meet, will make your writing stronger and they may also go on to be featured within your future critical commentaries. Prospective students: your degree will involve a lot of reading so it's good to get into a healthy routine prior to your studies but don't worry about reading every classic or high brow book ever written! 

freewrite as often as you can
Freewriting, the art of picking up a writing utensil and putting words on the paper without too much thought at all, will encourage you to exercise your imagination and that'll help you immensely when it comes to assignment time. It's best to try and make writing part of your daily routine so keep a notebook with you for when you have a spare ten minutes or so throughout the day. You don't have to write anything too enlightening - it can be as ridiculously mundane as you'd like - so don't put too much pressure on yourself! 

University can be a pretty daunting experience but, in my experience, the fear is lessened when you learn to communicate with others. Establish conversations with your classmates where you can and hey, who knows, those conversations could lead to everlasting friendships! I was lucky that I found best friends in two of my coursemates and could therefore pick their brains about novels and criticism and other riveting things. Don't be afraid to wrack your lecturers brains too if you're struggling at all! Lastly, engage in class discussions. It may seem scary to raise your voice at first but those sessions are a breeding ground for ideas that will hopefully go on to form the backbone of your papers. 

don't be afraid of workshopping
Workshops are terrifying. There's no doubt about it. Handing a piece of your beloved creative work to your peers for review will probably make you feel a bit sick. However, workshops can also be incredibly useful and are therefore well worth attending. Give your peers honest yet respectful pointers and they shall do the same for you. Even if you disagree with them, you can discuss their feedback in your critical commentary and elaborate on how the process affected your work. 

take proper breaks 
I touched on giving yourself a break back in March but the idea still stands. Try and work effectively. If you're flagging, take a break. If you've been writing for a long period of time, take a break. Remove yourself entirely from the workspace and do something else. During my first couple of years, I would make the mistake of trying to push through a malaise and it actually made me more unproductive. Allowing myself to go out and about and take time away from my projects helped me to re-focus my ideas and, interestingly, my grades were much higher when I implemented these ideas. 

write terribly  
One of the things that often affects my creativity is the fact that I want to put pen to paper and for it to be perfect and publishable and good to go without the need for scribbling out. Unfortunately, unless you're some sort of genius, that rarely happens. Allow yourself to write 'shitty first drafts'. Write terribly and then edit thoroughly. Even if you're just writing gibberish, it'll get you writing and your scribbled ideas will hopefully be something that you can build upon. 

don't over-edit
That said, don't over-edit. Told you this advice would be muddled. Don't make things hard for yourself. Finish your piece, proofread it a few times, maybe get someone else to cast their gaze at it too but then hand it in. Try not to over-edit your work because you may end up re-writing parts that deserved to stay in. 

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designate workspaces 
Create a workspace at home that is spacious, comfortable and airy. In my third year, I bought a £5 table from Ikea and set it up by a bay window that offered lots of light and encouraged me to work efficiently. It gave me enough space to spread my notes and books out without being too overwhelming and I could clear it all away at the end of the day. It's also really useful to designate a workspace at the university, whether that's a corner of the library or the fourth computer in on the first floor of the arts building. I found that routine spaces really helped me to get into the zone and added an extra bit of structure to my day. Try not to get too territorial when some random sits in your seat though...

always make at least a little bit of effort
I'm not about to pretend that I was an A* student that always read all of the books in time for classes because I most certainly wasn't. To be honest, very few people are. If you don't think you have enough time to finish a book before class, read as much of it as you can, engage with criticism relating to the book and if all else fails watch an adaptation or browse quotes & summaries online. I know that my lecturers would kill me for offering that advice but sometimes the work load is ridiculous and you're only one person! Similarly, try and go to as many classes as possible. If you can't get there, email your lecturer an apology and unearth notes on what you missed from fellow students. 

try & work ahead 
Sometimes it's impossible to work ahead, but if you've got some free time and a list of weekly exercises at your disposal why not start brainstorming some ideas? If you've seen your assignment requirements, start making notes and working out where you wish to go with those particular projects. At the very least, be mindful of your deadlines and start projects a few weeks in advance. It'll give you more time to plan and work on your piece at sentence level. 

You don't exactly have to be taking tea with Margaret Atwood of a weekend but it's helpful to keep up with the literary world in some shape or form. Add lots of publishers and notable literary figures on Twitter and check out articles on books. Another great way to involve yourself is to keep up with the online bookish community via booktube and blogs such as this glorious one. That's right kids, reading Vivatramp will get you a degree. 

Weekly assignments are usually really diverse and, even though I'd have never admit it at the time, they're actually quite fun! They're determined by your modules, of course, but mine concerned anything from writing a speechless screenplay to penning an ekphrastic poem about a piece of art. Some of the pieces born out of these assignments will eventually make their way into your final portfolio so keep up with them and you'll thank yourself when it comes to hand in time! 

Notes and recordings saved my weirdly flat arse more times than I can remember during my studies! If you struggle to remember things in detail like myself, it's a good idea to record class time and meetings to listen back to at a later date. And, of course, try and make your notes as thorough as possible. There's nothing worse than flipping through pages of nonsensical words when you've got a looming deadline. Whilst I'm talking about paper trails, purchase a diary and a weekly desk planner. They will save you when you can't remember what  room you're meant to be in despite living the same routine for weeks and weeks on end. 

Use the three or so years to really hone your writing style and work out where your creative interest lies. Over the course of my degree, I realised that I quite liked writing experimental fiction and this is something that I worked particularly hard on during my last year. In my experience, it's important to be confident and stay true to your style. With a creative degree, it's always tempting to manipulate your style to suit particular lecturers but I decided to really go for it during my last few months and create work that I both enjoyed and was incredibly proud of. Some of my lecturers loved it and my experimental dissertation got me a first. One of my lecturers, however, didn't particularly like my style and suggested that I was 'way too surreal' for most. In retrospect, I'm really proud of myself for working on my craft and working out what sort of writing I'm passionate about and put it this way...I haven't lost any sleep over that particular lecturer's comments. 

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Is there anything else you would add or is there anything else you would like me to cover r:e university and studying a creative degree? Check out my tips for how to survive university with a long term illness before you go. 

i've been updating my pinterest so take a peek!