I missed October, so I've squashed two months together. I know I've been a terrible blogger, and I've received a number of ...

Book Reviews - October & November '17

I missed October, so I've squashed two months together. I know I've been a terrible blogger, and I've received a number of e-mails begging for me to return, so here I am.

0 is a number.

Creating Character Arcs - K. M. Weiland

I read this book after seeing it mentioned on my favourite YouTube channel, Lessons from the Screenplay. Check out that guy's videos, they're great. I also read it on an iPad, which I wasn't a fan of. Just didn't feel right, reading on such a shiny screen.

Anyway, about this book. It's a good look at creating convincing characters who experience convincing changes in outlook as a result of the things that happen to them. It's all about the Lie your characters believe, the Truth that they need, the wound that made them like this...

I don't want to sound like a know-all, but I felt like a lot of this stuff was intuitive, like I already knew it but I just hadn't put it into words yet. That probably comes from reading a lot of good books - as any writer will tell you, if you read enough, it will become more and more easy to write well too. But still, there was also a lot of new stuff, a few "of course!" moments, and a couple of things I'd never even thought of before.

All in all, I'd say it's a very good book for anyone who calls themselves a writer. Especially if you like books that are badly edited - this one has loads of mistakes!


The story of a collapsing family told from four points of view: 33-year-old Benjamin, with the meandering mind of a 3-year-old; Quentin, the son whose Harvard education was paid for by selling some of the family's land; Jason, the piece of shit son so obsessed with money that he'd steal it from his own family; and their servants, who put up with more of the family's shit than I ever could.

More stream of consciousness from Faulkner, clouding up the story. And more of me not knowing how to feel about it. When you're in the midst of it, it's frustrating because it will go on and on and you have no idea what's going on but you keep reading because you have faith that it will become clearer at some point, even though it doesn't seem that the author wants it to become clearer.

And it does. By the end of the book you pretty much understand everything that's happened, even if you were still lost halfway through. But I just wonder if there wasn't a way this story could have been told that was a lot more friendly to the reader, and less pretentious. Was the reward so great that it was worth dragging yourself through all that punishment?

Obviously a lot of people think so. This book is constantly appearing in top 100 lists, so people love it. And apparently, it's better on the second reading. I won't be reading it again any time soon, but I didn't dislike it. I just wasn't blown away.


An anti-self-help book written by everyone's favourite mentalist. This book isn't about giving you a recipe to follow to achieve happiness, it's about all the ideas and thoughts that philosophers and writers have had over the last few millennia about how we can change our mindsets to live more happily.

So, instead of positive mental attitudes and asking the universe to give us what we want, we're advised to lower our standards and accept that sometimes things are going to go wrong, and that's ok, because we're prepared for it and we can just pick ourselves up and try again. Putting pressure on ourselves to try a load of different methods of forcing happiness is actually likely to achieve the opposite.

Just decide that everything is ok. If you do your best and things don't work out, accept that it didn't go your way and move on. Life is too short to aim for the stars and be crushed when we can't reach them. So stop worrying about things you can't control, and cherish the things that mean something to you while you have them.

I enjoyed the book overall, and the ideas inside it definitely wormed their way into my head. I feel like I can take something from it and be a bit more chilled about things now. But it was a bit too long - points were laboured and repeated until you felt like you'd been beaten into submission by them. I think it probably could have been half as long and still got its points across.

Also, the last hundred pages are about death. How to die well, how to be okay with your own death, how one might feel about becoming terminally ill... I went into those thinking it would be a bit much, and a depressing way to end a book; but it was okay in the end. Not as bad as I expected.

As with all things Derren Brown does, it's still great despite any minor flaws.


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