Book Review: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

Title: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café
Author: Fannie Flagg
Genre:
Literary fiction
Date Read: 13/07/2014 – 25/07/2014
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

friedgreentomatoesThis is one of my boyfriend’s favourite books, and he’s been on at me for ages to read it, despite the fact that I’m really more of a genre fiction fan and literary fiction really isn’t my thing… well, having said that, on the rare occasion I do read this type of thing, I usually end up enjoying it, but it takes me a while to get into it and I probably won’t start it unless I have a reason (such as a pushy boyfriend). He had throughout various conversations mentioned snippets of the novel though and it sounded entertaining, so when we finally got all his books out of storage, I decided to give it a go (I say that. I wasn’t given any choice.)

Fried Green Tomatoes tells two stories: the first, of a small town called Whistle Stop, in Alabama, through two World Wars and the Depression in between, and the other of Evelyn Couch, an unhappy, middle-aged woman living in the 1980s, whose life begins to turn around when she befriends an elderly lady living in the same nursing home as her mother-in-law.

Particularly when I was first starting the book, my main problem was that not a lot was really happening. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some great characters, but I need a plot to follow as well. Whistle Stop has many endearing characters, but the plot basically served to show off different aspects of this small town, rather than a traditional A to B to C story. The major players, though, such as Idgie Threadgoode, do end up drawing you in the more you read, and Evelyn’s journey to self-acceptance was definitely a highlight of the book.

There were moments when I thought certain plots weren’t going to be resolved, but everything does come together in the end and the reader gets to hear the resolutions of stories even if Evelyn doesn’t. As all the ends were tied up, I found myself actually getting rather teary, which I think is more to do with the quality of the writing than with my actual investment in the story, but the fact that it did evoke that reaction in me is why I bumped it up to four stars; it had really only been giving me a three-star vibe up until then.

Like I said, this isn’t the type of thing I would normally read, but I can see why it has become a classic amongst those who do enjoy this type of writing.

#WIPpet Wednesday and a Mopey #ROW80 Update

Writing? Yeah… I’ve been writing.

*averts eyes*

*coughs awkwardly*

I’ve done that thing again where I determine exactly what I need to do with a story and then kind of freak out about actually going about it. That combined with the fact that I’m reading a good book,  and that everything has to be done by Thursday night because I’m going away for the weekend, and I’ve been staring at a blank page every time I try to do something.

Not to worry though, on my trip to Sydney I plan to pay a visit to the prison where David is sent in Unicorn Love, and even though his time in prison isn’t really gone into in the story, and it’s more the aftermath that’s important, I think that’ll give me some inspiration. It’s actually the home of the National Art School now, but as far as I can tell from the photos on the website, it still looks much the same as it did back in the 1820s-40s when it was built. Apparently some of the classrooms are haunted. I’m glad I’m not a visual artist. Speaking of visual artists, though, I should get onto commissioning my artist friend to draw some Unicorn Love characters for me.

I also have Monday – Wednesday off work because a few colleagues have been telling me to take a holiday, so I’m finally doing that. We’re only getting back from Sydney Monday afternoon, but I’ll have the house to myself Tuesday and Wednesday, so I plan on unplugging the modem, clearing my desk and getting some serious work done then.

With that in mind, I’ll probably return to Unicorn Love for WIPpets come next Wednesday, but for now, another excerpt from An Eventual Happily Ever After. Ginny was knocked unconscious, loaded up in a wagon, and has since come to. She has no idea what’s going on, so she’s trying to find out from the other people there. Theories are rife, but Peter, a guy a little older than Ginny, thinks they are slave-traders from the island nation of Koamwen, whisking away people from Nardowyn who won’t be missed. My WIPpet math is six paragraphs, from adding the digits of 2014 together.

“Why would they think that we wouldn’t be missed?”

“I don’t know about your case. I was an orphan. I was apprenticed to a blacksmith but there was never much love lost between the two of us. I doubt he’d bother putting in any kind of missing persons report.”

“I think my family might… The Crown Princess is my sister.”

“Princess Cait is your sister?”

“Yes.”

Peter looked at her doubtfully. “Forgive me for asking, Ginny, but if the Crown Princess is your sister, why were you sleeping under a tree in the woods in the middle of the night?”

This conversation will change slightly in later drafts because the circumstances of Ginny’s kidnapping are going to be slightly different, but Peter’s question will probably still stand. I’ve once again taken hours to compose this post (at least this time I was doing something constructive, in the form of finally reading Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It For You, Wholesale”, the short story that the Total Recall movies are [loosely] based on), so it’s time for me to start heading to bed. WIPpet Wednesday is brought to you by the wonderful K. L. Schwengel and you can link up with us here (just post an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date). Kait Nolan runs A Round of Words in 80 Days, which you can read more about here. And with that, I say goodnight!

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#MirthMusicMon Post on a Tuesday

It’s 6:25am on Tuesday here, but that means it’s still Monday in most of the world. I was home late last night so while I picked out the clips for MMM, I didn’t actually put the post together. Here it is now. On another bit of an Australia theme again today, first with the Happy Little Vegemites song which every Australian learns when they’re about four years old, and then a parody of our children’s TV show, Playschool. Playschool is actually probably one of the least condescending and best educational shows we have, but as Edy pointed out, if you’re going to do an over-the-top parody, this is how you do it. (It does go on a bit long, but it is amusing).

Join us here for Mirth and Music Monday. I’m off to get ready for work now.

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#ROW80 and #WIPpet Wednesday

Click the picture to go the ROW80 blog

Click the picture to go the ROW80 blog

[please insert your own witty subject line in the header above]

It’s nearly half-past nine here and it’s been kind of a long day, so I’ll try to keep this brief. On the writing front, there hasn’t been too much obvious action this past week, but I have been thinking about my WIPs. It occurred to me that since I pulled out of Camp NaNo, I might as well bring my August goals forward, so the other night I started re-reading what I wrote on the AMCF sequel, An Eventual Happily Ever After, during NaNo last November.

Shan mentioned in a comment on my WIPpet post last week a book called Rock Your Plot, which I decided to make the $3 investment in, and it’s given me a fair bit to think about in terms of both my WIPs (AEHEA and Unicorn Love). I think the thing that really stuck out to me is that I need to really up the stakes in the middle third and into the last third of both stories. So that’s what I’m trying to work out with both of them at the moment. I could probably have made more progress with this if I hadn’t been so lazy (and/or distracted by reading) the last couple of days (actually, last night, I was just plain exhausted; I fell asleep at 7:30, and apart from a couple of short periods of wakefulness, pretty much slept through the night).

To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure when I’ll really be able to properly sit down with it again. Choir starts back tomorrow (it’s been a long two months since The Crucible finished; I’m really looking forward to working towards a performance again, even if I don’t have any kind of speaking role in this one) and on Friday I’ll be making my own birthday cake and organising other things for my birthday party, which is on Saturday. Yay birthday! I’ll be celebrating the end of my first quarter of a century. Anyway, so maybe with the new week will come some more steady writing time.
wednesdaybannerAnyways, in the interests of moving this post along, onto WIPpet Wednesday. For those not in the know, WIPpet Wednesday is when a bunch of us share an excerpt from our WIPs that somehow relate to the date and link up here. Our ranks are beginning to swell to the point where I can no longer really get around to everyone and feel a bit bad about it, but I think between us all we manage to give everyone lots of support.

Since I haven’t actually written anything this week, I’msharing 45 words from AEHEA today. My math is 45/2 =… almost 23? Basically I re-read this line the other day and liked it and so I’m sharing it so ner. You may remember a couple of months ago, I posted an excerpt in which Ginny was bemoaning the fact that everyone’s expecting her to get married and that the Royal Family had picked out an ideal guy for her. This it is from the opening scene when she’s whining to Sir Aidan, the Captain of Prince Felipe’s Guard, and also one of her good friends.

Sir Aidan sat down on the bench next to Ginny and gave her shoulder a friendly nudge with his own. “Meet with him tonight. I promise to be here to commiserate in the morning if he turns out to be as awful as you fear.”

And with that, I am off to bed. I’ll try to get around to your posts on the weekend, but as I said, it’s a bit hectic, so we’ll see! Cheers!

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Book Review: Bound by Kate Sparkes

Title: Bound
Author: Kate Sparkes
Genre:
YA/Fantasy
Format: ebook. For a full list of links to the book, visit this post on Kate’s blog
Date Read: 25/06/2014 – 02/07/2014
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

bound_promoDisclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Now that that’s out of the way, I want to say upfront, the reason that this book doesn’t get five stars from me is not necessarily that I don’t think it deserves it, but simply because there are certain aspects of it that are quite popular in this genre and no doubt appeal to a lot of people, but just never quite work for me. I’ll go more into that as this review goes on.

Bound is set in the kingdom of Darmid, where magic is banned, and magic hunters will kill anyone who exhibits magical ability without a second thought. Their neighbours over the mountains use magic quite happily, and are at home with the company of other species such as dragons, griffons and merfolk, and that just makes those from Darmid more suspicious of them. When Rowan, a young woman from Darmid with a love of fairytales and a life-long plague of awful headaches, unintentionally saves the life of Aren, one of her country’s biggest enemies, everything she’s ever known is called into question and she begins to learn that there’s much more to her than she realises.

I really enjoyed the way Kate Sparkes turned some well-used fantasy tropes on their heads, particularly regarding her female characters. They were not required to be pure, medieval maidens (even strong ones), and the fact that Rowan had not yet slept with the man she was betrothed to was considered even a little odd.

Aren was a a rather typical YA hero, and to be honest, I was far more interested in Rowan’s chapters than his (the novel is written in first person split narrative). However, this is one of the aspects I mentioned earlier that I know is really popular in YA fiction, and I know the YA crowd will probably really love him. He’s just not my type. I felt his change of heart and subsequent feelings for Rowan developed a little quickly, but it’s a bit of a catch-22, since without that, there would be no plot. I did, however, enjoy learning about Aren’s magic, and how magic works in his kingdom. Kate has clearly done a lot of work on her world-building.

Bound ends with a nice set-up for Book 2. There is still plenty that Rowan needs to learn, plenty of danger still lurking, and some interesting new characters we don’t know too much about. Kate is certainly a talented writer and I look forward to reading more! :D

#WIPpet Wednesday –

row80-2So I did a thing on Sunday night. I deleted my July 2014 Camp NaNoWriMo story from the site (obviously I kept the words). There is so much about the story that I need to figure out before I can continue with it, and I would rather not write waffle for three weeks and then fix it. I would prefer to research it and plan it properly, and then sit down to write it, knowing exactly what I am doing.

With that in mind, I’m returning to my old ROW80 goal of working on WIPs in theory for one hour, two nights a week. Sometimes it ends up being more than that on several nights a week, sometimes it’s four half-hour periods over the week, sometimes it’s something else… I don’t really mind as long as I feel I’m doing some solid work each week.

I was on the info desk at work yesterday morning, but everyone seemed to pretty much know what they were doing, so I brainstormed a few things that need considering for Unicorn Love (the title of which is likely to change now that the story has, but I’ll keep referring to it as that until I come up with a replacement) and I actually ended up with something resembling a plan. Well, the first part of a plan. There are still some aspects I need to work out. But yay, plan!

In other writing-related news, I’ve finally got Edy proofreading A More Complicated Fairytale for me! Okay, so he’s only done three pages so far, but he’s being very ruthless (I was a little horrified at first by the amount of red on page 2), so I’m rolling with that. I shall continue to be a naggy girlfriend of the “Oh, you’re beading? You could read some more. Oh, you’re knitting a beanie? Why don’t you read another chapter?” variety [yes, he does both these things], until it’s finished, but at least a start has been made. He tells me that as he is not working Friday, he will do a blitz then.

wednesdaybannerI think that’s about it for a ROW80 check-in, so onto WIPpet Wednesday. You may remember the square-jawed lad mentioned in last week’s excerpt. He and Lexie, my MC, well, neither of them will admit any feelings for the other, so there’s that, but they are also the two oldest in a group of street urchins living on Sydney’s streets in the 1890s. When David is arrested after an alleged robbery, Lexie lies to save herself from also getting in trouble, and David ends up with a prison sentence. (This will probably change slightly, as in my new plan, she’s not actually at the trial and he’s pissed at her for other reasons, but this is what I have written for now).

In this scene, she’s sneaked into the police station where he’s being held overnight (the desk sergeant is old and drunk and thus asleep) to apologise for not being there for him.

Her eyes were beginning to adjust to the dim light but she still grasped the handrail and took her time on the stairs. There was no use ending up with broken bones from a nasty fall. That would help no one.

She reached the cells, and cast the lamp light over the nearest couple. They were empty.

“Who’s there?” David’s voice came to Lexie from the third cell down.

“It’s me,” she said, walking the rest of the way.

David was standing up in the middle of the cell, about a foot away from the door.

“Oh,” he said, and Lexie stopped when she heard the disappointment in his voice. “Come to get your knife back, then?”

“My what?”

“The one you stabbed in my back.”

“What was I supposed to say? ‘Oh, yes, your Honour, I was there, I was his accomplice?

“You could have thought of something that helped me as well as you!”

Poor Davey… If it makes you feel better, she’s going to attempt to change the course of history so you don’t end up in prison for six months…? Aphrodite is still hanging about in the new version of the story, though I’ve switched to calling her Venus, because for some reason in my head, Aphrodite = vain and vacuous but Venus = glamorous and elegant, and that’s what I need now.

Anyways, this post has taken me way too long to type. I’m going to head off now, finish my glass of Baileys and try to have an early night. If you would like to join in on WIPpet Wednesday, post an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date (today mine was 16 sentences for the 16th) and then link up with us here. Thanks to K. L. Schwengel for hosting. ROW80 (the writing challenge that knows you have a life) is the brainchild of Kait Nolan and you can read more about, and link up with fellow paricipants, here.

Goodnight!

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