From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Cathy Ryan

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Cathy Ryan

This week, I interviewed Cathy Ryan, a blogger living in North Wales.

Her hobbies include reading, listening to audio books, blogging, walking her dog, theatre, music and travel. “I spent most of my working life doing voluntary work at schools for children with special needs, cataloguing the library and reading with the younger ones. Now, my time is my own.”

Cathy Ryan

Cathy began blogging in late 2013, and would describe her blogging style as informative. “I wanted to catalogue the books I’d read. I kept getting caught out, buying books with different covers or changed titles, only realising after the purchase I’d already read it.” she explained.

“Initially it was intended to be private, for my own records, but I found I was restricted as to what I could do with a private site. I decided to go live, not thinking anyone would take an interest. I was very surprised when I began to get visits and it went from there.”

Cathy has many favourite genres to read, such as thrillers, mysteries, crime, drama, and historical fiction. However, she isn’t keen on romance novels. “It’s generally not exciting!” Cathy said, “It’s not tense enough to keep me engaged.”

Fantasy is also a genre Cathy avoids. “I’ve never been able to get into most fantasy novels. Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, or anything along those lines does nothing for me.”

I asked Cathy which author she’d most like to meet. “Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed, “If I can only choose one, I think it would be Emily Bronte. I love Wuthering Heights, it’s a huge favourite of mine.”

Cathy joined Rosie’s Book Review Team in 2014, and writes book reviews for the Team. She believes negative reviews have their place, but shouldn’t trash an author’s work and must be constructive. “I think a reviewer has to be honest with their opinions – about what they like, or don’t like, about a book. For me, if a book rates below 3 stars, I don’t think it’s for me, and I avoid submitting a review.” she said.

You can find Cathy Ryan on Twitter at @CathyRy and her website is betweenthelinesbookblog.com.

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Thanks for reading!

Please click ‘Like’ if you enjoyed, and  don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more blog posts.

– Judith

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From One Blogger To Another: The Handmaid’s Tale Discussion With The Blog From Another World

From One Blogger To Another: The Handmaid’s Tale Discussion With The Blog From Another World

Image via Channel 4.

With the hit television drama, The Handmaid’s Tale, currently sweeping our screens, Patrick from The Blog From Another World and I decided to discuss the book and its adaptation.

The Handmaid’s Tale is based on Margaret Atwood’s feminist dystopian novel of the same name, following the life of Offred, a Handmaid living and serving the extreme Christian totalitarian system named Gilead. She is forced to have sex with her Commander each month, in the hopes she will be impregnated with his child and thus continue the population of Gilead.

I’ve only briefly discussed The Handmaid’s Tale before. In a nutshell, my opinion of the novel is that it’s I liked the subverted use of Christianity, which made for an interesting dystopian, but the feminist overtones are overly laboured.

Patrick however, has not finished The Handmaid’s Tale yet.

“I have read part of it, but not enough to provide an honest summation. I think watching this story with very little prior knowledge gives the series a real unpredictability. I will have it finished by the time the series is over though!”

This is not the first adaptation of the novel; The Handmaid’s Tale was adapted into a film in 1990 – a film I have seen, and did not enjoy. I think the decision to move from a film adaptation to an in-depth television drama was smart.

Patrick said, “I think this TV adaptation has allowed the writers to expand upon Margaret Attwood’s ideas and the world she has created. You can dive into the backstory of many characters and give everything a very modern update. I think it was the most obvious thing to do and has paid off enormously.”

The Handmaid’s Tale is not especially a long novel, but its television adaptation has been divided into 10 episodes.

In my opinion, this helps the narrative to be divided proportionally, so that the story is covered at an appropriate depth and doesn’t feel “drawn out”. I also like the incorporation of flashbacks to Offred’s old life, as these both emphasise the pain she is currently in at being separated from her husband and daughter and tie in to the current narrative as she hears rumours her husband may be found.

Yet, despite thinking ten episodes is a good length for the drama, I struggle to keep up with watching new episodes.

In the UK, The Handmaid’s Tale is aired on Channel 4, and available to watch on catch-up on All4.   Channel 4 is notorious for its advert breaks. This is a petty complaint, and not linked to the production of The Handmaid’s Tale itself, but regularly disrupting a show that is full of gripping scenes and high-tension to advertise the latest dishwasher or car completely ruins my immersion in the drama.

The frequent advert breaks have a dramatic impact on my willingness to keep up with new episodes, and this is a real shame.

Patrick also struggles to watch new episodes, but for a different reason.

“I have hit a bit of a brick wall with this series. I cannot fault it – honestly – but it’s just so grim that I don’t know when I’ll watch the next episode.” he said, “If The Handmaid’s Tale was six, rather than ten, episodes long, then the intensity of the rape and violence might be warranted. Instead, imagining another four hours of brutality is not the most attractive prospect now – sometimes you need a bit lighter entertainment.”

However, Patrick and I have plenty of positives to discuss about The Handmaid’s Tale too.

He said, “I have really enjoyed the performances from the cast. Elizabeth Moss has made an incredible Offred, and has created so much depth and emotion. Yvonne Strahovski has also made the character of Serena Joy much more sympathetic and poignant than I first thought. I think that Serena Joy is probably the character I watch with the most interest.”

On this, I have to agree. In the novel, Serena Joy was always presented as a harsh, standoffish woman who resented Offred from the beginning. Whilst this is present in the television adaptation too, we are also presented with a  vulnerable, emotional – and quite frankly, human – side to her that helps the audience to understand her motivations and feelings, and this, I think, was lacking from the book.

Patrick continued, “I also think many of the directing choices have been strong. The complex and jumbled chronology has added variety and context when needed. The writing is fantastic, really delving into the situation with uncompromising bleakness.

In terms of casting, Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia is very impressive and I think Madeline Brewer as Janine is the most complex role. The women have the most material to work with, and the series as a whole is a really ensemble effort.”

The penultimate episode of The Handmaid’s Tale airs on Sunday the 23rd of July at 9pm.

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Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this article, please give it a ‘Like.

If you’ve been watching The Handmaid’s Tale too, what has your favourite part been?

– Judith and Patrick

Opinion Piece: Thoughts on IT (2017)

Opinion Piece: Thoughts on IT (2017)

the blog from another world

The following article was written by Judith from ReadandReview2016.

This is the second part of another collaborative series with Patrick, from The Blog From Another World, about Stephen King’s IT. With the upcoming release of a new film adaptation of the iconic horror, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to discuss the trailer. You can read our first blog post, about the book and original film, here.

I thought, as trailers go, it looks quite well-made. A number of shots are incredibly similar to the original film. Whilst some may claim this is unoriginal, to me, this suggests the film will be fairly similar in terms of plot, improved upon with a better budget, better casting, and a better utilisation of horror conventions.

Patrick said, “I thought the trailer looked decent. It had lots of mood and seems to have a big enough budget to…

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From One Blogger To Another: IT Discussion With The Blog From Another World

From One Blogger To Another: IT Discussion With The Blog From Another World

This is the first part of another collaborative series with Patrick, from The Blog From Another World. Stephen King is one of my favourite authors, and he wrote one of Patrick’s favourite novels, Carrie. With the upcoming release of a new film adaptation of the iconic horror, IT, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to discuss both the book and original film.

In case you are unaware of the plot of IT, here is a brief synopsis, courtesy of Wikipedia: ‘The story follows the exploits of seven children as they are terrorized by the eponymous being, which exploits the fears and phobias of its victims in order to disguise itself while hunting its prey. “It” primarily appears in the form of a clown in order to attract its preferred prey of young children.’

Patrick said, “What I loved about the book when I read it was the detail. King puts a lot of effort into his character development.” I also loved IT’s length – King provides brilliant detail of the characters’ lives as the plot switches from the perspectives of Bill, Ben, Bev, Richie, Ed, Mike, and Stan as both children and adults.

“The novel deals with the passage of time and the impact that traumatic childhood events have on our adulthood.” Patrick explained, “For this reason, I think the dual time period narrative is very fresh and gives the story a real weight which certain other King novels are missing.”

This style of narration submerges the reader and effectively conveys just how terrorizing It is to each character. IT cemented my positive opinions about Stephen King; he writes thrilling and / or scary material incredibly well – be it in the simple description of a child’s feelings, or about the many forms It takes. Whilst not every passage contains a ‘scare’, enough detail is always given to put the reader on edge.

Pennywise the Clown, the most common form of It, is certainly a fantastic monster. Patrick said, “As an idea, he is terrifying, and sticks in my mind even now.”

“A great horror monster often makes more of an impression that the heroes, and Pennywise is no different. Norman Bates, Michael Myers, Jason, even Darth Vader – these characters are cultural icons more beloved than the lead characters in their respective films.”

However, no book is perfect. Patrick commented, “IT has an overabundance of the clichés which feature heavily in most King novels.” Examples of this include one-dimensional bullies, an alcoholic writer, and a disappointing resolution.

Despite my love of King, the more of his novels I read, the more I see these tropes reappearing – in particularly the English teacher / author who struggles with alcohol. Another significant example of this character type is Jack Nicholson from The Shining. Whilst this is drawn from King’s own experiences (and we are so often encouraged to write about what we know), I can understand why a repetitive reuse of these tropes would come to grate on readers.

IT was adapted into at TV miniseries in 1990, starring Tim Currey as Pennywise the Clown. It was made, at the height of, as dubbed by Patrick, “the Stephen King adaptation craze”.

I thought the film was alright. Visually, the appearance of Curry’s Pennywise was exactly what I had envisaged as I read the book, and I liked the fact there was an adaptation of such a good novel available.

However, for me, Curry’s actual performance often flip-flopped between mildly scary and pantomimic.

IT suffers from a lot of the problems which plagues the miniseries – too much time to fill, and not enough money to make it really frightening.” Patrick explained, “A lot of the performances are very goofy, especially Tim Curry as Pennywise. He’s just so flamboyant and crazy that he doesn’t really scare me.” He continued, “IT hasn’t aged well and some of it is unwittingly hilarious – I’m looking at you Talking Head!”

Finally, Patrick summarised his thoughts on the book and film with a phrase that every book lover longs to hear: “If you want the unadulterated IT experience, read the book.”

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Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this article, please give it a ‘Like.

You can read the second blog post in this collaborative series with The Blog from Another World tomorrow, in which we discuss the trailer of the new film adaptation.

– Judith and Patrick

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Florence Bell

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Florence Bell

This week, I “interviewed” Florence Bell, a theatre blogger and theatre kid.

I say interviewed; it was more of a chat. Florence is a good friend of mine, and a fellow English student at the University of Nottingham. She wrote her first blog post in December 2016.

Florence Screenshot 2

The first play Florence ever saw was an amateur pantomime production of A Christmas Carol. “I was around three years old, and I remember the guy who played Scrooge putting pyjamas on top of his clothes. Of course, the audience was meant to suspend their disbelief, but three-year-old me was blown away that someone could wear clothes under their pyjamas.”

Since grappling with the discovery of costume in theatre, Florence has moved on to grapple with plays at an advanced critical level.

“I had been tweeting about theatre for a while and people kept encouraging me to start a blog, or asking me if I had a blog. I had been thinking about it for a while, but a few people suggesting it was all it took.” she said.

“I had already booked to see Mary Stuart at the Almeida Theatre and I knew that I’d be able to write an in-depth and interesting review of it. I probably spent more time on that review than on anything else I’ve ever written. I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted to grab people’s attention. I wanted to make a splash.”

‘I wanted to grab people’s attention.’

Florence certainly did make a splash; prominent theatre critics including Andrew Haydon and Matt Trueman both praised and retweeted her first blog post.

Florence Screenshot 3

She is upfront about writing, as well as reading, honest reviews.

“I like reviews that say what they mean, because that’s what they are meant to do. Reviews that mock awful shows can be fun to read, but they’re rarely the best reviews. My favourite reviews to read are assertive, thoughtfully considered, and beautifully worded.”

“I stopped writing negative reviews because all I was doing was annoying people who might employ me when I graduate, and there’s no point in being cruel. It’s fine to be critical – sometimes even mean – but constructive criticism is always best. It’s rude to both the theatre makers and your readers to take the piss out of a show and not give a careful and considered approach to what went wrong.

‘It’s fine to be critical – sometimes even mean – but constructive criticism is always best.’

If I’m going to be really negative about a show, instead of just slating it, I’d rather engage with it on a political level. That way, I can explain why the show had issues.Florence Screenshot 1 Sometimes I am too finicky though. I went to the theatre with a friend recently and I think I weirded her out by asking: Do you think this is problematic?’ during the interval!”

However, although she’s been blogging for a few months, Florence is adamant that writing is not her end-goal.

“I don’t want to be a critic and I don’t want to be a journalist. I don’t think I have a ‘writing style’ either –  other than an overuse of parentheses and a reliance on long paragraphs.”

“I like to think that my writing isn’t dissimilar to Meg Vaughan’s, but I’m kidding myself.”

“I write blog posts for fun.” she continued, “This is something I’m doing while at university, and I’ve met lots of cool people doing it, but being a critic is just not what I want to do with my life.”

Instead, Florence wants to be a director, and theatre has always been a big part of her life.

She has seen a variety of productions, but for her, it all started with a production of Oresteia. “It’s still my favourite play. I know half of it off by heart. Most theatre fans hum along to their favourite showstoppers in the shower. I recite bits of Oresteia in the shower.”

‘I recite bits of Oresteia in the shower.’

As someone who is not so much of a theatre kid, I steered the conversation towards a common interest of ours – Shakespeare.

As part of the BA English course at the University of Nottingham, both Florence and I chose a module title Shakespeare’s Histories: Critical Approaches. The texts we looked at were Richard II, Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2, and Henry V.  Eagle-eyed followers may note this is why some of my blog posts focused on these last year.

Shakespeare’s Histories has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of studying English at Nottingham so far.” Florence said, “The plays we studied will always have a fond place in my heart; the module really got me into the degree. I think it helped me settle in. And I met you through Shakespeare’s Histories, so that’s always a plus.”

I blush.

When asked about her favourite Shakespeare productions, Florence said, “In terms of a director’s vision, Ivo van Hove’s Kings of War and Roman Tragedies, Thomas Ostermeier’s Richard III, and Icke’s Hamlet. Cheek by Jowl’s The Winter’s Tale and Deborah Warner’s King Lear were also gems.” she said.

‘There’s no such thing as a hard and fast rule to as what makes theatre good, and I’m definitely not the person to ask.’

“I find original practices productions, like Dromgoole’s production at Shakespeare’s Globe, quite hard to engage with. I’m interested in directors who are capable of cutting the text and finely tuning their stagecraft to engineer a tone and an atmosphere based on the events in the play, and actors capable of making Shakespeare’s words sound like they were written yesterday.”


Quick-fire Questions:

Favourite theatre actor?

Andrew Scott or Hans Kesting.

Favourite theatre actress?

Lia Williams, duh.

If you could be any female character in any play who would you be and why?

Most of the plays I see are far too depressing to actually want to be any of the women in them. None. Literally none.

What about a male character?

Nope.


At any rate, it’s clear Florence is a confident theatre blogger and theatre kid but, crucially, she is not a theatre critic. She has other plans for when she grows up.

‘What do you wanna like be when you grow up?’

‘I am grown up.’

(Annie Baker, The Flick at The National Theatre)
(Florence Bell, Top Ten Plays of 2016)

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Thank you for reading! I had so much fun talking to Florence and writing this interview. Please click ‘Like’ if you enjoyed, and share it around.

You can find her blog at: bellflorence.wordpress.com

You can follow both of us on Twitter as well:

– Judith

 

 

 

 

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Terry Tyler

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Terry Tyler

This week, I interviewed Terry Tyler, a writer and blogger who currently lives in the North East of England. She has published 13 books to date, her most recent novel being The Devil You Know, a psychological thriller released in October last year.

Terry is a huge fan of history and therefore loves historical novels. “Philippa Gregory’s historical novel The Other Boleyn Girl is a masterpiece!” she said.

The Other Boleyn Girl is loosely based on the life of Mary Boleyn, the sister of the infamous Anne Boleyn.

Terry explained, “The book was brilliant; I like the Plantagenets, the Tudors and the 17th Century most of all, although I will read about other periods too. I prefer serious historical fiction, not romances, and it needs to be extremely well researched, so that it can teach me about the period. The film adaptation of The Other Boleyn Girl, however, was garbage!”

History also inspires many of Terry’s novels.

I read one of these novels, The House of York, a historical fiction inspired by the Tudors and Plantagenets, which I reviewed here:

However, Terry is not only interested in the past, but the (possible) future.

“I’ve watched every season of The Walking Dead three times over!”

She explained, “I love stories about life after pandemics and zombie apocalypses, but they must be really well-written and thought out. It’s how people survive on the breakdown of society, when the world as we know it has gone, that fascinates me.”

Yet being a keen reader writer, it took Terry a while to begin blogging. “Although my first book was published in 2011, I didn’t start a blog for another six months.” She said, “Everyone kept telling me writers have to have blogs, so reluctantly, I started one.”

Eventually, Terry began to appreciate the use of having a blog. “It was a useful tool for me when I wanted to write things other than my current novel-in-progress. Now, I’m a part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I write about all sorts – writing advice, publishing advice, book reviews and other random things that pop into my head!”

Terry’s newest novel, The Devil You Know, was the culmination of half a year’s hard work.

My Photo [The Devil You Know]

“It takes me about six months to go from having an idea for book to finishing it” Terry said, “I write very intensively once I get going – it’s what I do – and I fit the rest of my life around it. Although all my novels have different storylines, they always tend to be character driven and have a good plot twist or two!”

I asked Terry if she had any tips for any other writers. She said, “Show what you’ve written to someone who you can trust to give you an honest opinion, to make sure you can actually write.”

Whilst on the subject of honest opinions, Terry shared her thoughts on positive and negative reviews. “Negative reviews are just as valid as positive reviews because everyone reads a book differently.” she explained, “Even if a book is so badly written that it makes your Kindle cringe, they have the right to tell you so, just like when someone enjoys it, they have the right to express that.”

However, despite the risk of negative reviews, this shouldn’t be scare away a budding writer, Terry says.

“Don’t give yourself any grief; write because you want to write.” Terry said, “Even if you can only manage 500 words a day, you’ll have a first draft ready in six months or less.”

The Devil You Know is available as an e-book on Amazon UK and Amazon.com.

You can find Terry Tyler on Twitter @TerryTyler4 at and her website is terrytyler59.blogspot.co.uk.

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Thanks for reading!

Please click ‘Like’ if you enjoyed, and  don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more blog posts.

– Judith

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Christina Philippou

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Christina Philippou

This week, I interviewed Christina Philippou, a writer and university lecturer from the UK. She enjoys playing and coaching sport, spending time with her family, and reading.

Chris used to be a fussy reader, and read only contemporary or crime novels. She has since learned to develop her appreciation for a wider range of genres. “Now that I’m less picky, I’ve discovered books that I love, in genres I never would have considered in the past.” she explained, “I will read pretty much anything, except pure horror or incredibly upsetting stories. I’m quite new to the romance genre, although I think erotica novels are still a step too far for me!”

Chris began her own blog about a year and a half ago, although it feels like much longer. “Blogging is ingrained in my routine now; I have been doing it all my life!” she said.

 “I realised that I was reading and reviewing so many books that it would nice to be able to share my reviews on my own platform. I also like to document thoughts on my own writing journey.”

Chris is also a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team. Although RBRT’s policy is to only publish book reviews with 3* or more, Chris believes negative reviews have their place.

“This may sound controversial, but I think negative, constructive reviews are useful to both writers and readers. As a reader, I always look out for negative reviews, as I feel they tell me far more than the positive ones.” Chris said.

Yet despite her stance on negative reviews, Chris has had bad experiences in the past with authors who demanded she removed 3* reviews from her blog which were deemed ‘unfavourable’.

 “Nowadays, there are so many books available in the marketplace, that you simply can’t rely on the number of reviews to judge a book by.” she said, “I find looking at 1* and 2* reviews enlightening, and I can take away important lessons about how it was written, how well the plot developed, and so on.”

“Providing they are non-malicious, negative reviews are important, and that is why I give them.”

Chris is also the second writer I’ve spoken to who has a love of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. “The BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is my favourite book-to-film adaptation, but there’s also a brilliant adaptation of Persuasion too!”

However, not only is Chris a blogger and book reviewer, she is a debut author. Her first novel, Lost in Static, was published in September last year. “I’ve always enjoyed writing; my book began as a simple creative writing project whilst I was on maternity leave, but now it’s developed into a novel!”

Lost in Static is the same story, told from four different perspectives. “I would describe the writing style as short and sharp, which is most likely a by-product of my previous job as a forensic accountant, where succinctness is key.” Chris revealed. “I’m a ‘no-frills’ kind of person, and I think my writing definitely reflects that aspect of my personality.”

Chris uses her blog to promote her book, as well as posting book reviews, interviews and suggestions for other writers. I asked her for her most important piece of advice for any aspiring writer reading this interview. She told me, “Write for yourself. It’s the best and most enjoyable way.”

You can find Christina Philippou on Twitter at @CPhilippou123 and her website is cphilippou123.com.

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Thanks for reading!

Please click ‘Like’ if you enjoyed, and  don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more blog posts.

– Judith