Regular fans of my blog will notice I haven't been updating too often this year. That's because I've been spending most of my free time working on my third novel, which is about a catering company who take on a contract to run a prison.
Most of 2018 has been spent with my head down, writing, occasionally despairing, complaining to anybody who will listen. I deactivated my Facebook account so I could get more done. I didn't really publish or write a lot of short fiction, because I was trying to get my novel finished, so this end of year blog post is necessarily going to be less eventful than last year's.
That said, I have produced this handy pie chart to let you know how I've been spending my time:
|Fig 1: my 2018 in pie chart form. by SJ Bradley|
In amongst the writing, I also managed to read and see and do a few things. Here follows a list of some of my favourite things that I read or saw or did.
Favourite films of 2018
In no way can I pretend to be any sort of 'comic book' aficionado. I don't care much for films with super heroes and I don't even know the difference between Marvel and DC. However, this film was brilliant: it was funny, it had a terrific story, even the villain's motivation made sense (a rarity in superhero and/ or fantasy films in my opinion) and the action sequences were A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. It is by far the best superhero film I've ever watched, and definitely is not just for kids. See it!
Saw this film at Leeds International Film Festival. Viola Davis (also seen in How To Get Away With Murder) was superb as a grieving wife in this remake of the Linda la Plante drama, who finds her professional criminal husband's notebook, and gathers together his colleague's widows to carry out one final job. I damn near broke my fingers gripping the edge of my seat during this one. It really is superb. Go and see it!
A Simple Favour
Ended up going to watch this when we couldn't find The Sisters Brothers showing anywhere, and crikey was I glad we did. Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick play two schoolgate Mum friends with very different parenting styles: you've got the 'cocktail Mum', and the 'smug craft blogging Mum'. When Cocktail Mum asks Smug Mum to pick her kids up from school one day, then doesn't turn up to pick her children up later... things turn very dark... and strange. For one thing, it's great to see a film with two kick-ass female leads, and for another, there were so many twists in this film I came out having watched a very different film from the one I'd expected. I definitely recommend this one.
Fave books of 2019
Milkman (Anna Burns)
This has been described as a 'difficult book', a description I could not agree with less. In this novel, Burns' skilful use of voice draws you completely into the claustrophobic world of Troubles-era Northern Ireland, yet despite its difficult subject matter parts of this novel are surprisingly funny. This has been one of my favourite Booker books ever, and in my opinion a worthy winner.
The Study Circle (Haroun Khan)
This brilliant novel, set on a housing estate in South London, follows three young men, friends who all attend the same Islamic study circle in one of the estate's flats. We get to know Ishaq, Shams, and Marwane, their families, their motivations, holding our breath for them as they negotiate an unfriendly world which offers them few opportunities. It's a complex and intriguing novel and was one of my favourites of the year.
What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky (Lesley Nneka Arimah)
My favourite short story collection. It didn't come out this year, but I only got around to reading it this year. These stories skate effortlessly from realism to magic realism, from world to world. Full of convincing characters, unique situations and wry humour, this is a varied and skilful collection from an author of immense talent.
The Devils' Dance (Hamid Ismailov)
I had the privilege of meeting Hamid Ismailov at a Northern Fiction Alliance event at York St John University, at which he described this novel as being "three novels for the price of one", and he was not wrong: beautiful, richly detailed, and full of poetry (figuratively and literally) this is a novel not to be missed. Ismailov painstakingly recreates the political imprisonment of Abdulla Qodiriy, who was the first Uzbek novelist, re-imagining his plans for a second novel as he struggles through his time in prison. It was not an easy read: there's a lot going on, it jumps back and forth between several time periods, but it is so rewarding. I liked this one a lot.
Favourite other things
Leeds International Film Festival. Bought tickets for 17 films, only managed to see 12. Left my cardigan in a cinema at one showing. Still enjoyed the festival. If you find my cardigan please text me. Film highlights: The Raft, Killing God, The Punk Voyage, Failsafe, Widows.
The Northern Short Story Festival. Naturally, I can't not mention this.
Small presses: Dead Ink (of course), Comma Press (of course), Influx Press, The Eden Book Project, Parthian Press, Peirene Press, Valley Press.
War of the Worlds HG Wells