We have a winner for the box o' cake / random book from MFB reading bookshelves and it is:
Friday, April 30, 2010
We have a winner for the box o' cake / random book from MFB reading bookshelves and it is:
Thursday, April 29, 2010
As you can see (unless you're reading this via RSS) we got ourselves overhauled to look all purty. This is thanks to Blogger's amazing new software they are having various bloggers test. I love this look - it's neat, it's tidy. I hope you guys like it too. Also...it has books in the background.
I am a beast. A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog, but a horrible new creature who walks upright – a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.
You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll stay this way forever – ruined – unless I can break the spell.
Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and a perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly beastly.
No doubt the movie will get a lot of kudos and girls swooning at the feet of Alex Pettyfer as the Beast in Beastly but really, everyone should read the book before the time. I didn't realise it was being made into a movie so when my copy arrived from Amazon with the red sticker on the cover I thought: dammit! I'll be forced to become pedantic about this now...and I suspect I will, as I watched the trailer after reading Beastly and the differences appear to be HUGE.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
I first met MG Harris through her debut novel Invisible City which I fell in love with...because of it's cool cover. Yes, I am that fickle. Then of course, I read the rollicking adventure story contained between those covers of the first Joshua Files book and that was it. I became a fan, especially when I got to meet MG in person at the Guilermo Del Toro signing. *double the fan-girling*
The newest book (book 3) in the Joshua Files is out - Zero Moment - and I've purposefully not read it yet. *smug face* I'm holding it over as a treat to myself, as a reward - I'm looking at reading it in the next couple weeks as I'm hoping to have finished revising my own work in progress. Zero Moment would then be my treat for a job done. Because of this, I've asked MG to do something for me for MFB for those writers out there who need a bit of something.
And she's sent this excellent blog on to me and so, without further waffling:
Everything I know about ploting, I learned from Aristotle by M.G. Harris (#8 on the ZERO MOMENT blog tour)
There’s a short book that all writers should read and re-read, thousands of years old, by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle – the Poetics.
It’s only 42 pages long, you can download it for free, use a study guide or buy an adaptation of the Poetics for storytellers and screenwriters.
All of writerly wisdom is there. Quite sobering to realise that the creative writing industry is so old. Makes you wonder why a philosopher such as Aristotle, who laid many of the foundations for the natural sciences, was dabbling in the mechanics of theatre.
It’s not a coincidence that the greatest mind of several generations realised that drama had a pre-existing structure, and that you could apply a taxonomy to dramatic works, in common with all natural things. He put his students to the task of analysing the most popular plays of the past few decades.
What did the most successful ones have in common, he asked?
Aristotle’s Poetics is a two thousand year-old study of blockbusters!
In between each writing project, I tend to re-read at least sections of books on techniques of plotting. This is dense, intense knowledge; it takes many hearings before things sink in properly. Much of the knowledge, a writer might already have. It becomes a matter of judging weight, example and experience.
- How much weight do you give to a particular plotting issue?
- What is the keenest way to exemplify a plot point?
- What does your life experience tell you will work best?
To use one concrete example: Aristotle’s Reversal of Fortune. Complex plots always require one, Aristotle says. They should take place in the final act and should take the protagonist’s fortune from favourable to unfavourable. The opposite is also possible but Aristotle preferred tragedy.
The reversal of fortune should be in some way traceable to a flaw in the protagonist. In EMPIRE STRIKES BACK it is Luke’s hubris that takes him to the deadly confrontation with Darth Vader. The audience has seen Luke’s hubris for what it is, because his Mentor, Yoda warned him in the strongest terms that he shouldn’t go. Yet Luke couldn’t stop himself. A fatal flaw, but we sympathise.
Finally, the Reversal of Fortune should ideally coincide with another key element: the Recognition. The protagonist should recognise something about themselves and/or the antagonist, which makes the next action they take unbearable, poignant or downright impossible.
So it’s not enough that Vader has Luke lined up for death at light-saber-point. This is the moment in which he reveals that he is Luke’s father, who Luke believed to have died at Vader’s hands. Pure Aristotle!
Aristotle discusses the types of recognition, concludes that for the antagonist and protagonist to recognise themselves as family is the strongest. His favourite drama is Oedipus Rex, in which Oedipus kills a man at the beginning, then becomes the lover of that man’s widow. Only at the end does he realise that the woman, his lover, is his own long-lost mother and the man he killed was his own father. His grief is so maddening that Oedipus is driven to put out his own eyes.
I’ll admit it; I spend many, many hours carefully plotting the reversal/recognition moment. In the five-part story structure they are usually placed at the crisis/climax, during Act 3. It’s the event to which all others lead.
It’s said that Agatha Christie wrote her books, created the crisis/climax, and then went back and put in place all the implications leading up to the big reveal. Christie’s plots almost always have a long-lost, unrecognised friend or relative coming out of the woodwork – she was an Aristotle girl too.
Knowing HOW it’s done, doesn’t mean you can do it well. But writers like Aristotle, Robert McKee, Syd Field can teach other writers to be keenly aware of plot structure.
Then it’s time to get down and dirty and for a few weeks, look at the trees, not the wood.
Next on the Zero Moment blog tour, Numbers in the Dark by Italo Calvino - a short story collective review on www.nextread.co.uk.
Fantastic! Thanks so much for stopping by MG! It was grand having you on MFB. Now uh, get working on that topsekrit project we've heard about!
Monday, April 26, 2010
2. Why write for the middle grade audience? I love the growth and experiences that happen at this age and the blending of new experiences with the innocence of a childhood that is still very much present. This was the age (when I was in fifth grade) where I really fell in love with reading as well as decided I wanted to become a writer. Life was magical and confusing, filled with so much emotions on every extreme. It’s a time where girls and boys are transitioning in so many ways, and rather than bemoan those transitions, I long to celebrate them with funny and thought-provoking stories that encourage and treasure this delicate time.
3. What do you think it is about books like Anne of Green Gables and Pride and Prejudice that make us long for a more romantic time and place? Well, in my humble opinion, I think it has a lot to do with the fact that Anne Shirley and Elizabeth Bennet are two of the most endearing, funny, confident female protagonists in literature. They embrace their situation with hope, humor, and an indomitable spirit that so engage readers that we’d follow them anywhere…even with Zombies. I also think that the longing for a more romantic time springs from the knowledge that something precious is lost and cannot be got back again. I read and re-read and re-re-read those books cause I want to experience something that I never have and never will.
4. You set Scones & Sensibility in a small seaside town – do you think it would have worked in a larger city? How much did placing it there, specifically, affect you writing S&S? I think Scones and Sensibility could’ve worked out okay in a larger city, though honestly, it never even crossed my mind to set it anywhere else than a beachside town. Polly needed to know her town and it’s inhabitants almost too-well while in search of matches to make. And her town is based around one of my very favourite places in the world to visit, Ocean City, New Jersey. I’m actually going for a week this summer with my family, and I can’t wait to smell the salt-water, eat Mack and Manco’s pizza, and stroll along the Boardwalk!
5. Polly’s voice is very unique – very sweet, slightly scatterbrained and dare I say it “feisty”, as befitting the heroines she loves so much. Was it hard work for you, keeping her voice true whilst you were writing and how did you manage it? It actually wasn’t hard at all. Polly was incredibly fun and entertaining and I remember anxiously awaiting my next writing session to see what she would do or say next. The hardest part about writing in Polly’s voice was keeping myself from talking like her after I was done writing for the day. I started many an email with the words, “My dearest So-and-So.”
6. Are we right in assuming that you enjoy pastries and delicious bakes? And if so, what is the recipe you are known for? Personally, everyone loves my cheesecake so I’ve become “Liz will do the cheesecake” invitee to parties. I do enjoy pastries and delicious yummy bakes! My best recipe is my chocolate éclair recipe, which is also wonderful because it isn’t temperamental to high altitude like a lot of baked items can be where we live. Oh, and will you do the cheesecake for my next party please? (Liz says: if you pay for my flights, I will be your resident cheesecake baker!)
7. Please tell us about your road to being published. As with all published authors, my road to publication is shorter than some and longer than others and filled with rejections, critiques, revisions, and acceptance! I started out my journey writing picture books and actually had some success. I won an honorable mention in the Writers Digest Annual Writing Competition for one of my picture book manuscripts and then won 3rd place the next year for a different manuscript. At that time the middle grade novel was something I looked at with longing to write but always thought it was something impossible. But I decided to give it a try, and instantly fell in love! I wrote a novel called You Gotta Be Kidding M,e which I began querying to agents with in the summer of 2007. I signed with my amazing agent in February 2008 and she began to submit a different manuscript that wound up receiving very wonderful rejections…though rejections all the same. In the meantime, I wrote Scones and Sensibility and gave it to my agent that summer. She pulled the first manuscript from submission and began to submit Scones and Sensibility. It was about two to three weeks later that it went to auction for a two-book deal!
8. I noticed on your blog that you are mentioning a second book and that it is not a sequel to S&S – are you allowed to share with us what it is? But of course! It’s called A Teaspoon of Rosemary and it’s a story about a shy young girl who, on her way to becoming a young chef, learns to find confidence and strength inside herself.
9. Will you consider writing anything for the older YA market or even the adult market? I would definitely consider writing for the YA market, though right now my heart is still fully into middle grade fiction. And really I have absolutely no desire to write for adults…though I think as a whole, adults are pretty okay.
10. What is your writing day like? In the mornings, if I’m not playing a rousing game of memory, attempting to beat my five-year-old in soccer, or getting beat in Monopoly, I usually spend a little bit of time answering emails, writing a blog, checking livejournal, twitter and facebook, and working on critiques for my critique groups. Once 1:00 hits, it’s down to writing and I usually stay molded to my chair for a solid two-three hour period of time...with small breaks to eat chocolate and have an iced mocha, because of course, a writer cannot live on words alone.
11. I absolutely love your website and your blog – how important do you think it is for authors to have an online presence? I think it’s important that readers find authors accessible which means authors having a web presence. I don’t think it has to be a lot though, and really the best thing writers can do for themselves and their careers and for their readers is to write another wonderful book.
12. Do you have any writing advice for aspiring young authors out there? Never stop reading, never stop writing and never stop trying. Throw darts at your rejection letters and eat chocolate until you grow nice and plump, but don’t give up…ever! It’s only when you’ve decided to stop trying that you know you’ve failed.
Please go to Books and Literature for Teens, tomorrow to see the next stop on The Scones and Sensibility Blog Tour.
50g unsalted butter, melted (microwave is best - anywhere from 20 - 35 seconds)
225g golden caster sugar
3 tablespoons corn flour
seeds of 1 vanilla pod
few drops of vanilla essence
740 full fat Philadelphia cream cheese (this is where you can opt to be good - half full fat, half low fat, mebbe?)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 x 284ml carton double cream
about 2 tablespoons of poppy seeds
You will also require a springform cake tin, or a deep pie dish of approximately 23cm in diameter and at least 6cm deep. Lightly oil it and line with parchment paper.
Preheat your oven to 200 degree Celsius, 180 degree Celsius for fan or 6 for gas. Combine the crushed biscuits and melted butter in a bowl and mix till it forms a sticky mass. Press evenly over the base of the lined cake tin and put it to one side whilst you mix the scrummy insides.
Dump the sugar, sifted cornflour, vanilla seeds and essence into a bowl (if you have an electric mixer, even better because you can turn it on slow/lowest setting) then gradually add the cream cheese and meld it in, be careful not to add air here, as you don't want the cake to rise - honestly! - then add the cream and the egg and beat till smooth and smelling divine.
Put your cake tin on a heavy baking tray (for support and to catch any spillages over the side) and pour the mixture in, making sure it sits evenly in the tin. Pop that into the oven for around 45 mins (don't peak until you must) then crank it up for 5 minutes to brown the top of the cheesecake (or not, if it is already browned). Remove from the oven and leave it to cool in the tin before refrigerating it.
Serve it with quite a tangy and sharp fruit compote, as it will enhance the flavour of the cheese.
Friday, April 23, 2010
But alas, she was not.
Here we go:
ANDERSON, LAURIE HALSE CHAINS
Bloomsbury (Age range 11+)
GAIMAN, NEIL THE GRAVEYARD BOOK
Bloomsbury (Age range 9+)
GRANT, HELEN THE VANISHING OF KATHARINA LINDEN
Penguin (Age range 14+)
HEARN, JULIE ROWAN THE STRANGE
Oxford University Press (Age range 12+)
NESS, PATRICK THE ASK AND THE ANSWER
Walker (Age range 14+)
PRATCHETT, TERRY NATION
Doubleday (Age range 11+)
REEVE, PHILIP FEVER CRUMB
Scholastic (Age range 9+)
SEDGWICK, MARCUS REVOLVER
Orion (Age range 12+)
I have copies of most of these at home to read...so I'll do my best to work through them and review them, even if they are shorter than the usual reviews.
Oh, the winner will be announced on 24th June here in London. I'm definitely going to try and predict the winner myself, that's for sure!
Thursday, April 22, 2010
The year is 1868, and Sherlock Holmes is fourteen. His life is that of a perfectly ordinary army officer's son: boarding school, good manners, a classical education - the backbone of the British Empire. But all that is about to change. With his father suddenly posted to India and his mother mysteriously "unwell", Sherlock is sent to stay with his eccentric uncle and aunt in their vast house in Hampshire. So begins the summer that leads Sherlock to uncover his first murder, a kidnap, corruption with a brilliantly sinister villain of exquisitely malign intent...
The Death Cloud is the first in a series of novels in which the iconic detective is reimagined as a brilliant, troubled and engaging teenager - creating unputdownable detective adventures that remain true to the spirit of the original books.
It's been a while since I've read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories and I'm embarrassed to say I've read very few. However, Holmes is no less than a legend and a book based on his early life hasn't been done before. It's a brilliant idea though and I was keen to see what Death Cloud was like.
Well, it's a thrilling read. If you like Victoriana (I do) then this is a treat. It's stuffed full of period details and very authentic. In the early chapters of this book I felt so sorry for Sherlock; a bit of a loner, distant parents and a brother who's much older. The school he attends sounds awful and poor Sherlock is looking forward to going home for the summer. When all this is whipped out from under him and his is deposited in Hampshire, Sherlock finds his inner resilience and the reader starts to see hints of the man he'll become. He meets an orphan called Matty who lives on a barge. Matty has witnessed an awful cloud which drifted into an open window causing the occupant to let out an awful scream and die. Sherlock and Matty team up to investigate the phenomenom and soon find themselves getting into trouble.
The plot itself is a thrilling ride with barely a lull between adventures. It was also darker than I thought it would be which was an unexpected extra. It's full of evil housekeepers that emerge from dark corners, mysterious notes, bodies and evil henchmen. I can't spoil the ending but the villian is truly fantastic. I want to say so much more about this villain but can't! Arghhh! You'll just have to read it to find out and then let me know. All I can say is that at times when I get to the denouement I'm left feeling that there could have been more meat. Not in the case of Death Cloud which has a truly satisfying conclusion.
In fact I only have one criticism of Death Cloud - I really wanted to see more of was Mrs Eglantine. Possibly she may turn up in future books but her character is gloriously hateful. Another great character is Amyus Crowe, Sherlock's tutor for the summer. Rather than being a stereotypical dull teacher, Crowe is full of interesting insights and information. He walks Sherlock around outside and shows him edible mushrooms and how to spot little things that other people miss. Again, Crowe is shown to be someone who influences Sherlock and helps form his character.
The part I was looking forward to most was looking out for all of those idiosyncracies which make Holmes so, well, Holmes. Sherlock's detached relationship with women is hinted at through his remote and ill mother who's barely mentioned. He meets a girl called Ginnie through the course of the story who befriends him. He's initially very awkward with Ginnie, which is to be expected at fourteen but the beginnings of the man he becomes is beautifully shown. We even see Sherlock having his first contact with opiates through laudanum which I wasn't expecting but it shows that this series has the potential to be quite surprising.
In the author's afterword it states that there are to be more books following Sherlock at school and then at university. I look forward to these but especially the ones at university as this suggest a more YA feel which I think would bridge the gap well between the fourteen-year-old that Andrew Lane has created and the thirty-three-year-old Sherlock that Arthur Conan Doyle introduced us to.
Roll on the sequel - Red Leech.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
In the late 17th century, famed pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with the dust of 100 dogs, dooming her to one hundred lives as a dog before returning to a human body—with her memories intact. Now she's a contemporary American teenager, and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica.
I cannot urge you enough to go out and buy this book - online or at Foyles in London, Charing Cross Road. Published in the States by the small but perfectly shaped publisher Flux, I don't think The Dust of 100 Dogs have come to the UK as yet. Which is a realy pity as it has to be one of my best reads of the year thus far.
I mean, really - look at the bit of blurb above. How insanely cool and random is that? And you know what, AS King makes it work. As I said to someone on Twitter earlier this morning: pirates, treasure, high seas adventure, action, adventure, Cromwell, capes, pirate flags, curses ... how utterly I've-got-to-read-that!
And before you think it's some kind of rip-of of Pirates of the Caribbean, stop right there. This is unlike anything you've ever, ever, read and the better for it.
The Dust of 100 Dogs is told by Saffron in the 1980's, alternating with chapters with Emer in the 1600's. There are also chapters from Emer / Saffron as a dog, during her long life as the cursed pirate. Emer's story is one of hardship, growing up an orphan after her parents are killed during an attack by Cromwell's army in Ireland. Living with her uncle and his family she becomes mute, refusing to talk. Whatever she does, her uncle beats her. She lives her life quietly, caged, waiting for something, anything to happen. Then she meets Sean, a boy the same age as her, who is a mute. They form a bond, a deep lasting friendship in their quiet solitude. And it turns out, like her, Sean's not to keen a talker. They fall in love, but it's not destined to be. Her uncle sells her off to a rich man and sends her to Paris. Sean is devastated but follows. Their lives are split apart and Emer finds herself destitute in Paris, and Sean's lured onto a boat that's going elsewhere, and not Paris.
It's insane - a sad story, told with great empathy. It's matter of factness is what makes these scenes with Emer very vivid and heartstoppingly sad.
Saffron's life in "modern" times is no better - too clever for her own good, after living one hundred lives as a dog, she quickly draws attention to herself. Her parents rely on her to be some kind of genius, to study, to get good grades, to go to college, maybe become a doctor. All that Saffron wants to do is go to Jamaica and dig up the treasure she buried there and to get away, for real, from these people who are supposed to be her parents, away from a younger brother who is a drug addict and away from the life they want her to live.
I was blown away by how much I believed Emer and Saffron's voices. Both characters were the same, yet different. Driven, determined, enigmatic - these are two girls who life has knocked around so badly - manage to stand up again and again and follow their dreams - wow. Just wow. How bad can positive rolemodels be for a person, right? Oh fair enough, Emer through Saffron in modern day dreams of killing and gouging out people's eyes for angering her. But more than anything, it's a coping mechanism, for Saffron to deal with a life that is less than ideal.
It's very well written. I love coming across an author with such a strong voice who can write really well, who you can read and appreciate for her sheer storytelling prowess. You can sense the hard work that's gone into making The Dust of 100 Dogs. The research and the rewrites and the general quirkiness of the author coming up with this truly unique idea. It's clever and fun and I wish I had money to make sure copies of this goes out to all my subscribers here at MFB.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
From the planet of Solo-Baston, there come reports of an uprising. It seems indigenous forces are rebelling against Imperial rule, and a mysterious figure known as ‘Dos Pares’ is at the centre of the conflict. Into this chaos, the 31st Riverine Imperial Guard are dispatched to neutralise a vital battery of siege guns, and find themselves surrounded by hostile local forces. But what the regiment first dismiss as simple tribal warfare soons turns out to be something much more sinister and dangerous.
Ah, the imperial guard. Cornerstone of the Imperium. While the Space Marines might be the icons and embodiment of the 41st millennium, the men and women of the Imperial Guard are the glue that holds it together. Their lot is stand against the myriad of enemies that threaten mankind armed with only bravery and the strength of the man next to him, each as mortal and vulnerable as you or me. So when it comes to their stories, they’re an entirely different animal to those of the Space Marines; these men experience fear and terror, despair and weakness. And with that comes an obligation for the author to provide a story that strikes a balance between these factors, the ferocity of combat in the 41st millennium and the heroism that lifts and binds it all, and keeps the fans coming back for more.
With this in mind, Henry Zou has given us Colonel Baeder and his 88th Battalion of the 31st Riverine, a regiment hailing from a homeworld characterised by swamps and bayous, brought to Solo-Baston to capitalise on their experience with amphibious assaults. They’re selected to undertake an essential but dangerous mission into the heart of enemy held territory, and it’s from there that Henry really turns up the heat.
The oppressive environment of Solo-Baston is well described, and the difficulties of waging a war in that kind of setting carefully considered. There aren’t any glorious charges or massive pitched battles, only a series of brutal clashes and ambushes, the frustration of the guardsmen palpable as they inch towards their target and the fantastically claustrophobic, close quarters battle that awaits them.
What I appreciated most though was that the characterisation of Colonel Baeder and his leading men weren’t sacrificed in the desire to deliver on the action. They grew on me, and when they were betrayed,it struck a real chord, and frankly left me fuming on their behalf- and that's quite something to achieve, no matter what you're writing.
If I had any reservations, it would be that the after effects of the betrayal and Baeder's ultimate fate felt slightly rushed; however, the depth of the betrayal is such that you can understand the vulnerability it would expose, particularly after what they'd been through.
It didn't detract from my enjoyment of Flesh & Iron though- it's a fast, clever and brutally entertaining delivery for anyone who's a fan of military sci fi, whether of the 40K variety or not.
Friday, April 16, 2010
/playj riz/ (also plagiarise)
• verb take (the work or idea of someone else) and pass it off as one’s own.
— DERIVATIVES plagiarism noun plagiarist noun plagiarizer noun.
— ORIGIN from Latin plagiarius ‘kidnapper’, from Greek plagion ‘a kidnapping’.
Isn’t it a horrendously ugly word? In any way you look at it – take the work of someone else and pass it off as one’s own...kidnapping – kidnapping another person’s work. That’s stealing. And stealing is wrong and can’t be justified, ever.
I never use MFB to grandstand about matters but something dire has recently happened to several bloggers whom I know and respect greatly.
That something is that their reviews, their hard work, their voices, have been stolen by another blogger, who by changing a word here and there, is passing off entire reviews as her own. That is reprehensible.
Not only is it bad news for my blogging chum who has been ripped off, but it is also a slap in the face of the publishers who had been sending review copies out to the cheating little scoundrel who has been doing it. They are being taken for a ride – their trust has been thrown back in their face, and the reviewer in question, gets to brag how many books she gets, how much she is trusted in the industry, when to be honest, she’s no better than a thief. And you know what, you're giving me and my fellow bloggers who work our butts off because we love what we do a very bad name.
And what makes matters worse is that although this girl has been confronted by various bloggers about this, she’s explained it away by saying: oh, I read your reviews on the book and probably, inadvertently, “borrowed” some terms from your review / or I studied your review as part of a thesis I’m writing. Let me say: what complete and utter shitty rubbish. Unless you are someone who has photographic memory / or you are a trained actor in memorising monologues, you cannot, no matter how hard you try, remember phrases that well, unless you are sitting there, copy-typing it, with a thesaurus to hand, to change one or two words to make it appear your own.
No one will believe it. Especially if your reviews go from pretty superficial to incredibly in-depth and verbose seemingly overnight. And how your reviews don’t actually correspond in tone, depth and voice.
Plagiarism is something everyone is worried about. Authors, students and professors, in fact, most professionals across a variety of industries are deeply concerned by this. Having your hard work ripped off, in any shape or form, is a violation. It undermines your integrity, you start doubting yourself – can it be, perhaps they didn’t mean to, should I be flattered that someone thought I wrote that well that it could be ripped off? No, it’s a crime. And someone, probably several someones have been getting away with it.
This is the link to my friend Adele from Persnickety Snark’s website - http://www.persnicketysnark.com/2010/04/plagiarism-personal-account.html - where she raises the question of plagiarism. She’s the blogger who has been wronged by this. There are other bloggers who will be participating in this discussion about the silent crime of plagiarism in the next few days. Several of them are in the same boat as Adele. They have recognised their reviews lifted almost word for word and used elsewhere. What a cop-out, hey? What a slap in the face. What a disgustingly pointless and sneaky thing to do! Why lie? If you can’t cope with the review load, fess up, tell the publishers and take the time to read and review the books you have got teetering next to the computer. Where is your pride in your own work? Your morals and your ethics? Don’t steal – you’ll be caught out and your name will be mud. In fact, you have been caught out and your name is mud. Steps are being taken and legal counsel will be sought.
It may not seem much to you guys. I mean, a review is a review. How bad can it be? We bloggers don’t have much we can call our own – no matter how much I kid about “owning” my authors I review, they really don’t belong to me. All I own on this blog, and all my friends who review with me on here, is our voice and our love for reading and reviewing. If someone in our community – who although big, is actually quite small – can take our hard work and put it out there as their own, where do we stand? If we say nothing, we condone the theft. If we kick up a fuss, hopefully a larger audience will realise it is taking place and start paying closer attention to what they are reading online and reconsider where they are placing their trust.
Plagiarism is theft. It sucks. It sucks for me as a blogger. I can only imagine how awful it must be for writers who have gone through this in the past, where their work has been lifted and others have profited. But fortunately there are people out there, fans and friends, who pick up on these things and they are quick to point it out. Please, pop along to some of the other blogs I’m linking to below, and support this drive we’re initiating, the whole book bloggers against plagiarism thing – it’s worthwhile.
Steph Su http://stephsureads.blogspot.com/
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Allie can't seem to get it together. Ever since her mum ran away to Rio with Rio - her tennis instructor - stealing Allie's trust fund and her comfortable way of life, Allie has been floundering. She works in Sally's Diner, and lives above it. And one night in the basement, she and her friends chant a ridiculous spell - for money, for luck, for love...and open a Doorway to Hell. Ryan thinks he's got it all figured out. When the Door opened he appeared out of nowhere, a Stetson-wearing demon hunter. He's assigned to the Door, and hangs out at the diner, and when the Door disappears he is certain that Allie had something to do with it. But something strange is happening in Brooklyn; something bigger than Allie, and Ryan, and the Door in the diner basement. And when a meeting of demon hunters gives birth to a dangerous idea, Allie and Ryan are left to wonder if the fragile feelings growing between them can survive a trip to Hell...or if they themselves will survive at all.
I've seen Salt & Silver kicking around my Amazon recommends for a little while now and eventually succumbed to buying it. (Please note, the current jacket on Amazon looks weirdly different to the cover I've received, I'm not sure why.) And I read it in a few big gulps.
Alie's voice carries the novel the entire way and it's an excellent voice that grows on you the more you read it. She tough, but sweet and on occasion a bit ditzy, but fiercely loyal and protective of her friends and of the diner.
Six years ago, Allie, her two best friends Amanda (spoilt, rich and a bit of a diva) and Stan (once upon a time a skateboarder gay kid, now a gay club kid) in a drunken fit of stupidity thought to try a summoning spell in the basement of Sally's Diner. Amanda instigated the whole mess, remembering how the girls in the cult movie "The Craft" did it all those years ago.
Somewhere along the line, someone listened and before you could say: "sorceror's apprentice" a door to hell appeared in the basement of the diner and scary man with big weapons in a leather coat came striding in, stopping them in their rubbish ritual and saving their backsides.
Since then, Ryan has been living in the basement, making sure that none of the critters from Hell used the door. He's even gone as far as training Allie to hold her own against various minions. There is a simmering attraction between Allie and Ryan that for all its sexual tension is actually very sweet.
The authors have spent a lot of time doing research and coming up with believable sigils, spells and different types of hells as Allie and Ryan and a group of other Hunters go on a quest to figure out why Allie's door in the basement had disappeared. The dialogue between Allie and Ryan is fast and snappy. The world can tell that Allie fancies the pants of old Ryan but he plays by the rules and keeps Allie at arm's length.
The fact that there are different types of hunters was touched on just enough to give us a glimpse of the fact that more about them may arise in the upcoming novels. I hope so, at least, as it would be a crying shame to have created a coolfactor like these guys and not play it for all its worth. What made it also interesting is that the hunters are in different factions and it was through Allie that they combined forces to enter hell on a quest.
Parts of their quest through the various hells and travelling was dull - but then, this the big thing about a travelling by foot / animal, story - it does become monotonous and feel dull after a while. Because really, you're travelling. Nothing exciting about that. I felt that some of the set-ups were a bit too much Dungeons and Dragons where the DM feels "now I throw these giant spiders at you, what do you do?" "now this wondrous dragon with swirling eyes flies at you, what do you do?".
What the authors (Anna and Katherine) manage to convey though is their research and geeky love for theology, myths and legends. So, in that respect, I can't wrong these two ladies, at all.
Allie's voice is very strong, amusing and sarcastic. It's as if there is no guard between her thoughts and what appears on the page - like in Meg Rosoff's How I live now - it's a bit stream of consciousness and although it's not a bad thing, it becomes a bit over the top in some instances and you want to shake her to just I don't know, quieten her down a bit, to get her to act less me-me-me and realise the true predicament they are in. Having said that, I liked Allie as a character. I soon "got" her voice and was happy to go with it, but I suspect some readers may not enjoy it that much.
I'll make no bones about it: Salt and Silver is puply Saturday afternoon fiction, to be digested with a bowl of popcorn and maybe some Doritos. It's fast paced and fun and sweet and it makes you wish the best for the characters in the book. Allie's character goes through the bigger story arc but nothing is rammed down your throat - and this I liked - because her development is gradual and real, so that when the big-bang comes and you realise that she is in fact a bit more than just a normal, you don't doubt her capabilities at all.
Find the authors website here .
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
I chuckled so much watching this - it's such a good chat they are having and Sarwat so doesn't look nervous at all.
I am reliably informed that MFB will be part of a blog tour for the sequel to Devil's Kiss in June - yes, you can imagine my squeeling of joy. Aren't I good to you?
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
And on that note, just a reminder not to forget about this coming Friday's signing at Forbidden Planet with Peter V Brett. He of Warded Man fame will be showing off his new novel and signing copies of The Desert Spear.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Zara and her friends thought they'd solved the pixie problem. And they had - sort of. They're locked away, deep in the woods. But the king's needs grow stronger each day that he's in captivity, while his control over his people weakens. Who will fill the power vacuum? Astley. He claims he's different. He claims that it doesn't have to be violence and nastiness all the time. Zara wants to believe him ... until Astley also claims that she's fated to be his queen.
There's no way Zara would ever turn pixie. And she's got good friends who'll make sure of that. Besides, she and Nick are so in love they're practically inseparable. But when the very thing Zara most wants to protect is exactly what's at risk, she's forced to make choices she never imagined.
I loved Need, so when I got the opportunity to review Captivate I was excited and nervous. Would I like it as much as Need? Would the second book in the series live up to my expectations? Well, I started it yesterday and was up at six this morning to continue. I enjoyed it more than Need, I loved it.
It was obvious at the end of Need that capturing the pixies was only a quick fix - there would be repercussions. Captivate finds Zara, Nick, Devyn and Issie doing patrols and throwing rogue pixies into the house with the others. Zara's dad, the king, is still there growing weaker while his followers become more restless and needy for flesh. Soon, a new king arrives in the shape of Astley. He appears to be different to Zara's dad but can he be trusted? Astley isn't the only king on the scene either. It's obvious that the status quo can't hold.
I loved the dark underside of Need and in Captivate this becomes more apparent and is stronger in this respect. I could sense the undercurrent of danger which leaks out as you read finally bursting out as the book progresses. Spring feels like a long way off in Maine and in a way I was reminded of the winter of Narnia; I could almost smell the pine trees and hear the crunch of snow. Captivate takes the feeling of threat that runs through Need and spins it into a whole new dimension of terror. This book is far from fluffy and light. However, Captivate keeps some humour. My favourite funny line, "The other king was last spotted in Wal-Mart."
The characters all develop well; Zara still worries about her Amensty International cases but also shows a parallel between her concern for these people and her complex feelings about her own captives. Issie is still crushing on Devyn, but Devyn is getting more independent. Who is Cassidy and why is Devyn drawn to her? Nick is still Zara's protector but can he control his feelings when she acts upon her own impulses despite the fact that he sometimes breaks the rules of the gang? In this book Nick and Zara grow closer. Incidentally, I hated Cassidy throughout most of this book. How dare she muscle in on Issie and Devyn!
Zara starts to turn blue when the new king is in the vicinity and a new paranormal entity arrives and starts carrying away possibly warriors. I'm bubbling over here to spill the rest of the plot but wouldn't spoil it. I didn't expect the book to take the turn that it did, I was flipping over the pages thinking, "No! Surely not!" The ending cliff-hanger is all the worse for the fact that the next book isn't due until 2011.
I donated my copy of Need to the library. Uncharitably, I now wish I hadn't as this series is a keeper - and no, you can't have my copy of Captivate.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Saturday, April 10, 2010
The three books are:
'Guardian of the Dead' by Karen Healey
'Hex Hall' by Rachel Hawkins
'London Eye Mystery' by Siobhan Dowd
random.org has decided that commenter number 3, Erotic Horizon, is the winner! Followed by Cindy and Jessey.
Erotic Horizon, you mentioned you would like 'Guardian of the Dead', so please email me at tina(dot)everitt(at)googlemail(dot)com with your mailing address.
Cindy and Jessey, please email with you mailing address as well and Cindy tell me if you would like Hex Hall or LEM. Jessey, I will send you the third book.
Thanks again for participating!
Friday, April 09, 2010
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
In the wake of a love spell gone horribly wrong, Sophie Mercer, a sixteen-year-old witch, is shipped of to Hectate "Hex" Hall, a boarding school for witches, shapeshifters and faeries. The traumas of mortal high school are nothing compared to the goings on at "Freak High." It's bad enough that she has to deal with a trio of mean girls led by the glamorous Elodie, but it's even worse when she begins to fall for Elodie's gorgeous boyfriend, Arches Cross, and frankly terrifying that the trio are an extremely powerful coven of dark witches.
But when Sophie begins to learn the disturbing truth about her father, she is forced to face demons both metaphorical and real, and come to terms with her growing power as a witch.
I came to this book a little unsure but not sure why. I loved the cover, it's got great blurb but I felt it may be a little too Harry Potter. However, I soon fell in love with the main character, Sophie, from the point where she tries to stop a werewolf attack by yelling, "BAD DOG!" at the top of her voice - priceless. We meet Sophie as she tries to help a fellow outcast at school by performing a love spell to help her attract one of the coolest boys in school. It works - too well; he crashes into the hall by car and screams his undying love. This leads to her banishment to Hectate Hall which helps kids control their powers and ultimately blend in without drawing attention to themselves. Fae are there for flying to catch their bus, shapeshifters for turning into lions in public and so on.
Once there, Sophie meets three powerful witches who seem overly keen for her to join their coven and a vampire whose last roommate died, drained of blood. I loved Sophie's voice, it's strong and sarcastic; she has no problems resisting the coven trio and is happy to befriend Jenna who's the only vampire at Hectate. Added to this is a character called Archer Cross who provides a love interest with a difference. The relationships between all the main characters are intriguing - nothing is as it seems. The importance of blending in is highlighted early in the book, pupils are treated to a life-like slide show of what has happened to supernatural beings through history. We're introduced to an organisation called L'Occhio di Dio who have committed their lives to ridding the world of witches, fae and the such.
I whipped through this book, keen to know who was responsible for the killings, what (if anything) was going to happen with Archer and how was Sophie was going to deal with the coven? Added to this is the additional interest of Sophie's dad and how her family background affects her present. Ex-teacher Rachel Hawkins has a way of writing perfect teenage dialogue, I believed everything the characters said. Sophie's emotional journey is well done too and very touching. Once I'd finished I felt a pang of regret that I'd finished it so quickly - the wait for the second book begins.
Sunday, April 04, 2010
Friday, April 02, 2010
1. How / what made you decide to start writing?
I didn’t have a choice really; it’s always been something I was compelled to do. I wrote my first book when I was 10. It was about a stuffed soft-toy rabbit called Bunjy and I even sent it off to Puffin. It was rubbish though and they rejected it. Ha! Bet they regret that now, huh??
2. Tell us about Demon Strike, your offering from Chicken House?
Essentially, it’s a ghost story. The main character, Alannah Malarra, is a psychic ghost-hunter who tracks down ghosts to steal their treasure. She has incredible powers and can fire astral bolts and grenades from her fingertips and palms. Ghosts are terrified of her, but she bites off a bit more than she can chew when she stumbles into the middle of a war between Gargoyles and A.N.G.E.Ls.
3. What was your first reaction when you saw that utterly cool cover?
I thought, WOW!! And I adored the lenticular cover. Children absolutely love it: I was at a school event last week and one of the boys couldn’t take his eyes off the cover. He kept nudging his mates and pointing at the demon’s tongue as it flicked in and out. Chicken House do the most amazing covers.
4. Your two human characters, Alannah and Wortley are a very unique pair as problem solvers go, which is clearly a good thing. What came first, the story or the characters and dude, those names! Where did they spring from?
The characters came first, or at least Alannah did. She popped into my head and refused to go away. We even tried to change her into a boy, but that didn’t work. I wanted to create names that children would remember and I think Alannah Malarra has a nice ring to it. Wortley is named after a village in Leeds, my old home town, and I try to include the name of a Leeds village in every story I write. Coming soon, Farnley Sour!!!
5. Then of course we need to talk about Flhi. Tell us about ex-Trooper Flhi and A.N.G.E.L. What was your inspiration here and how much fun did you have messing around with words and meanings?
I love Flhi Swift. She’s everything I think a hero should be – cool under pressure, brave, tough, smart and feisty. Again, she popped into my head in the same way Alannah did and I liked her from the first time we met. Flhi Swift is a lot like me – or at least the ‘me’ I’d really like to be J – which probably sounds really strange, because I’m a guy. (Crikey, it sounds like the book is full of female characters, but it isn’t. There’s Wortley, A.N.G.E.L Commander Rage, Mayor Cheer and Troopers Yell & Gloom. And the Gargoyles are all male too.)
Why A.N.G.E.Ls? Well, I just wanted to use something we all know or think about and spin it on its head, in a funny way. I mean, what’s funnier than imagining A.N.G.E.Ls with guns and gadgets? Of course, when you read the story you quickly realise that Flhi and her Troopers aren’t angels in the conventional sense at all; they’re part of the A.N.G.E.L Patrol Force (stands for Attack-ready Network of Global Evanescent Law-enforcers.) They’re a new kind of ‘good guy’ – heroes for the twenty-first century! Or is that a little too ambitious?
6. You keep up a lively dialogue between Alannah and Wortley. They are continuously worrying at one another. Did you find it difficult to keep up the pace with them?
Not at all. Now this is going to sound strange, but I don’t feel like I wrote it at all. The characters were always bickering away inside my head so I just scribbled down the things they said. They are really close friends – like brother and sister – and they know each other so well. I think the pace of their banter is a result of this.
7. The critters and monsters you throw at your three characters – researched or hunted by yourself?
I’d love to say I hunted them myself. I do visit quite a number of old houses and always hope to see a ghost but so far, no luck. Krot the Gnarl is something completely different. I wanted to create a new beast to fear and make it really evil and sinister. Hopefully I’ve done the job; I certainly wouldn’t like to meet a Gnarl, even if I was tooled up and ready to fight like Flhi. You should have met some of the creatures which my editor cut from the book. I might try to sneak them into book two.
8. Tell us about your journey to becoming a published author.
It’s been a real struggle over the years, but mostly against myself! Although I’d always dreamed of becoming an author, I’d never had the discipline to do much about it. I’d start at least one book each year, but always without planning it. Unsurprisingly, I’d run out of ideas and momentum after a few chapters and the story would die.
But with Demon Strike it was different. Once Alannah had arrived inside my head, I sat down and listened to her story. Mapping it out helped – it certainly made writing the story a lot easier - and soon I had a manuscript I was proud of.
I decided to approach agents, rather than publishers direct, and after sending out eleven letters, I received two offers of interest. I chose Lucy, my agent, because she rang my mobile phone and her enthusiasm for the story fizzed down the line. We polished the story together and then Lucy found Chicken House. They loved it too, and now it’s published. Yippee!!!
9. Do you have playlists for when you write?
Yes I do. It’s all the songs I loved when I was a teenager; mostly eighties stuff like Brian Adams’ ‘Run to you’, ‘Boys of Summer’ by Don Henley, and (don’t laugh) tracks from Rocky 4. They’re cheesy as heck, but I love ‘em and they really drive me on.
10. Demon Strike is only the first of the A.N.G.E.L. Patrol books in the series you have planned. As I’m nosy I’d love to know: will each book be standalone or have you incorporated an overall story arc that will span the other books? In other words, what do you have up your sleeve?
There’s definitely a continuing story arc and I’m currently working on book 2, which picks up the story around two weeks after book one ends. I’m also working through the planning stage for an entirely new series, which might be for slightly younger children, or not. As you can tell, it’s in the early stages of development.
11. Almost at the final question but this one I have to ask: pirates or ninjas?
Ninjas! No contest. (But I would say that; I used to be a trainee Ninja!!)
12. Any advice for aspiring writers?
There’s the usual advice, which every writer trots out, about reading as much as you can. It really does help, but only if you can analyse what you’ve read and then work out why it’s good and why the publisher liked it. Then compare it to your own writing and see what you can improve.
Also, plan your work. Invest time in creating and getting to know your characters. Don’t put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) until you know the journey your characters are about to embark upon. Then, rewrite everything until it’s as good as you can make it. Oh, and get as much feedback as you can and listen to it; it’s the only way you’ll learn and improve.
Thursday, April 01, 2010
Into this chaos stumble 12-year-old ghost-busting psychic Alannah Malarra and burglar Wortley Flint. Up until now they’ve only ever faced tame treasure-hoarding ghosts, but this is something else. Their only hope is a plucky angel police patrol on a routine earth-monitoring mission. Enter Inspectre Flhi Swift and officers Yell and Gloom.
The book also features a fabulous lenticular cover: see the demon strike for yourself!
Demon Strike is filled with fabulous comic characters, including psychic ghost-busting 12-year-old adventurers Allanah Mallara and Wortley Flint, together with rookie A.N.G.E.L police-officers, Flhi Swift and troopers, Yell and Gloom – and some unspeakably villainous demons from the dark-side.
As an aspiring children's author, I genuinely don't need the type of competition that Andy Newbound has levelled at the younger age range of readers! How will I ever become famous?
Oh, wait, I'm supposed to review this one, not complain! Right. Gotit.
And I say cleverly, because the story has so much going on, that you really do need the multiple perspectives. Flhi obviously has to stop the bad things from coming through into our world so her motivations are pretty straight forward. Alannah on the other hand is the one I started out feeling worried about. I found her rude, a bit brash and unpleasant. Also, she seemed very focussed on destroying ghosts, but only after finding out where their treasure was hidden...this worried me as I thought it would be the sole reason for her being in here but I am relieved to say Mr. Newbound managed to turn Alannah into someone much more likeable after a few chapters in because you come to understand her motivation and it's not necessarily what you think it may be. Wortley the thief is just vastly sweet and his constant bickering with Alannah leads to a variety of giggle moments.