Writers’ BLOCKbusters… compost

Let this FlashPic from Writers’ BLOCKbusters get you started writing today. compost bin 14-9-13Study the photograph, then use the sentence below as the beginning of a new short story.

“She didn’t stop to wonder how she got this low, she just grabbed the tomato cores and salad onion stalks and crammed them into her mouth.”

© ‘Writers’ BLOCKbusters’ by Sandra Danby

Book review: The Queen of the Tearling

the queen of the tearling by erika johansen 17-7-14 (2)Neither when I chose this book to review, nor when I started reading it, did I know that this was the next best thing. That David Heyman [producer of the Harry Potter films] and Emma Watson [Hermione] are already in pre-production with the film for Warner Brothers. That the author signed a gazillion dollar deal for the seven-book series. I didn’t know. And I loved it.

It’s a ripping adventure story which feels like a medieval tale except for the occasional references to plastic surgery, Harry Potter and mascara. For a debut, it is skilfully handled. This is a dystopian society, post-something [an un-named event] which caused people to feel their homeland [an un-named country] in The Crossing [across an ocean, as a boat was lost] to their new land of the Tearling [on an unspecified continent]. Behind them they left science, books, medicine, education, art, television, you name it they left it behind. They fight with knives and swords.

Into this context is thrown a 19-year old girl, raised in secrecy by an elderly couple in rural seclusion. She must become queen of her mother’s nation or it will be lost to the evil ruler of the neighbouring state. Kelsea Glynn had a studious childhood, learning history, mathematics, languages, and how to trap and skin a rabbit. She reads a book a day [including The Lord of the Rings], not something your usual heroine does. Add treachery, slavery, corruption, prostitution, child exploitation, and all sorts of other dastardly deeds, and you will see why this is a page turner. Kelsea, the girl-turned-Queen is thrown into the middle of this and expected to fail.

But she doesn’t.

[photo: Cultura/Corbis]

[photo: Cultura/Corbis]

There is more to this than just a thriller, the world of the Tearling has been meticulously constructed by Erika Johansen [above] with its own history, myths and customs. It has the makings of a classic fantasy series. I just want to know when book two will be published.

To watch the official book trailer for The Queen of the Tearling, click here.
‘I wrote Kelsea for women who wanted a heroine like themselves’ says Erika Johansen. To watch the interview on You Tube, click here.
To read more about plans for the film, read this report from The Guardian.

‘The Queen of the Tearling’ by Erika Johansen [pub in the UK by Bantam Press]

Book review: The Ways of the World

the ways of the world by robert goddard 8-7-14I was a fan as soon as I read Robert Goddard’s first novel, Past Caring, published in 1986. He is a hard-working author, producing regular novels, and I admit I got out of the habit of buying them. Until The Corners of the Globe. I started reading, realised it was part two of a series, and promptly ordered book one on Kindle, the quickest way of getting it. The Ways of the World didn’t let me down, not for nothing is Robert Goddard called ‘the king of the triple-cross’.

In buying the book, I inadvertently read the reviews on Amazon, something I always try to avoid if I plan to review a book on my blog. I’d rather make up my own mind. Some of the reviews were mixed but I have to say I didn’t find this slow-going at all, perhaps it can be explained by the fact that this is the first of a series and therefore the plotting is intricate. The first book in a series must always include a fair amount of ‘setting-up’, what Christopher Vogler calls ‘The Ordinary World’. Perhaps the reviewer who thought the book slow-going didn’t get beyond that Ordinary World. Goddard, though, is a master-storyteller and I trusted him.

The setting is post-Great War. Max, aka James Maxted, goes to Paris to investigate the strange circumstances of his father’s death. He stumbles into a melee of Government secrets, inter-war political wrangling, love affairs and assassinations. I warmed to Max straight away and just as quickly disliked his brother.

Suffice to say, that by the end of book one, various ends are left untied, new questions posed, and I was left wanting to read more. So after finishing this, I quickly started reading The Corners of the Globe again.

Click here to visit Robert Goddard’s website. past caring by robert goddard 10-7-14For more information about Past Caring, the book which got me hooked on Robert Goddard, click here.

My review of the second book in the series, The Corners of the Globe, will follow shortly.

‘The Ways of the World’ by Robert Goddard [The Wide World – James Maxted #1]

My favourite book blogs – part 2

Part of the pleasure of reading a good book, is identifying the next one. That’s why I love book blogs. A month ago I gave you the names of a few of my favourite book blogs, here’s part 2 of that list. It is a list changing every day as I stumble upon blogs for the first time. If you have a favourite book blog, please let me know. I am always on the lookout for a reason to buy more books! Sunday - feet on sofa 19-5-13Cleopatra Loves Books was one of the first book bloggers to follow my writing blog in its early days. Cleo Bannister’s blog remains a firm favourite. I ALWAYS discover new books I want to read here. Cleo costs me a lot of money!

Since Corri van de Stege retired from a career in education consultancy, all she has done is read and write. The result is her blog 51 Stories, no listing here but a conversational style which draws you in. And she doesn’t ignore the classics or older books, she reviews as a reader reads, choosing the next book she fancies from the pile. No blog tours or cover reveals here, just a gentle meander through the bookshelves. in bed 20-5-13Follow the Thread is all about books by fellow ‘Yorkshireman down South’ David Hebblethwaite. From mainstream novels to award winners, they are all here.

Kevin Loh’s blog I Heart Chick Lit is so easy to find your way around, which is important to me. No matter how great the review is, if I can’t find what I’m looking for quickly I will go elsewhere. Although the title suggests it is 100% chick lit, there is also women’s and general fiction. Saturday - feet on sofa 18-5-13The Fussy Librarian is a new discovery of mine, readers register to receive a daily e-mail about e-books in their chosen areas of interest. Books listed are suitable for Kindle, Smashwords, Nook, iPad and Android platforms. The magic is that you can list sexy crime or gentle crime, spooky horror or gory horror. Choose by genre + content. Very clever.

Kate Loveton is a writer who loves reading, like me. So her blog Odyssey of Novice Writer is a pot-pourri of memoir, writing, book reviews and thoughts on the writing life. She reviews new books, including mine [thanks Kate!], but also old and forgotten favourites. in the bath 20-5-13To read part 1 of ‘My Favourite Book Blogs’, click here.
To find the right book blog for you, try the Independent Book Blogger Awards list at Goodreads, here. There are 780 listed!

The angel statue, again

There’s a scene in Ignoring Gravity where Rose has an important letter to open. Prevaricating, she sits on a bench beside a memorial to contemplating life. the angel2 24-3-14aThe memorial, a statue of an angel, is based on a real statue near Sadler’s Wells opera house in Islington, London [above], in a small garden called Spa Green. pigeon1 24-3-14Spa Green - the sign 24-3-14Rose sits and watches the pigeons. I revisited Spa Green recently, and it hasn’t changed. The pigeons are still there, the statue, and the primary school next door, children running around the tarmac. The buildings do look rather different, the road is gentrified and the beaten-up shops I remember are now replaced by a trendy wine bar. pigeon2 24-3-14pigeons1 24-3-14the angel1 24-3-14apigeons2 24-3-14

To read what book bloggers are saying about Ignoring Gravity, click here.

Book review: One False Move

One False Move by Harlan Coben 3-6-14A strapline across the top of the front cover says ‘A Myron Bolitar novel’. It meant nothing to me. I have never heard of Myron Bolitar. I have heard of Harlan Coben though, but know nothing about him except that he writes crime books and is extremely popular. His name sounds Scandinavian, but this is US crime not Scandi-crime. The book’s been sitting on my bookshelf for ages, a charity shop purchase, waiting for the battery of my Kindle to flicker and die. It died, so I picked up One False Move and read it in two days.

Mr Coben sure knows how to make you turn the pages.

He nails a character description in a few sparse lines: “Norm Zuckerman was approaching seventy and as CEO of Zoom, a megasize sports manufacturing conglomerate, he had more money than Trump. He looked, however, like a beatnik trapped in a bad acid trip… Che Guevara lives and gets a perm.” So we have Norm’s name, job, professional standing, age, physical description, financial worth and personal style – in three sentences.

Bolivar is a sports agent. There seemed to be all sorts of back story going on which meant nothing to me and didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story. Next time my Kindle flickers and dies, I will pick up another book by Harlan Coben. Bolivar’s new client runs into trouble – it reminded me of my father who used to watch the opening titles of The Rockford Files, the one where Jim’s answerphone clicks on a leaves a message saying there’d been a murder or someone had disappeared. Dad used to say, “It is dangerous being a friend of Rockford, everyone he knows gets murdered.” It seems that everyone Myron Bolitar knows runs into trouble too.

The fact that the context of the story is basketball wasn’t what drew me to the book, but the sport didn’t matter. I wanted to know what happened to the characters.

This is a roundabout way of saying, I enjoyed One False Move.

To visit Harlan Coben’s website, click here.
To listen to the answerphone messages as part of the opening titles to The Rockford Files, click here.

‘One False Move’ by Harlan Coben

I agree with… Chris Cleave

[photo: chriscleave.com]

[photo: chriscleave.com]

I was the last generation of writers given one chance; the generation before had two chances; the generation now doesn’t have a chance… More writers need to celebrate new writers: This is my protege, I want you to read their books. In music, artists feature less well-known artists on their album, to bring people on – they need help. I’ve never seen an author pick up a major prize and say, Now you are listening to me, you should read X, Y and Z.”
Chris Cleave, in an interview with ‘The Bookseller ‘magazine [July 7, 2014]

Cleave spoke to The Bookseller as chairman of the judging panel for the 2014 Desmond Elliott Prize, awarded this week to Eimear McBride. Publishers’ margins today make it difficult for them to take risks, Cleave said, and that the nine years it took the multi-award winning McBride to get published is a wake-up call for the book publishing industry.

He called on established authors to support each other, particularly newcomers, and to turn away from the selfishness he sees in the business now. “Established authors are starting to develop a real career mentality. There’s a lot of selfishness, a lot of people have lost sight of the fact that writing should be a vocation, not a career. You have to leave it [the world of books] better than you found it.

“The best thing we can do if we love the novel is to nurture it and accept there are people who will write it better than us. Everywhere else, one accepts that we stand on the shoulders of others.”

This is controversial stuff from Cleave as publisher Hachette continues its dispute with Amazon about terms, with authors splitting into pro- and anti-Amazon groups. So far the focus has been on publisher v retailer. Good for him, for sticking his head above the parapet and looking at the bigger picture. gold by chris cleave 8-7-14Cleave has written three novels, the most recent is Gold published in 2012. Little Bee, his second, was published in 2008. His debut novel was the award-winning Incendiary. To visit Chris Cleave’s website, click here.

For more about the Desmond Elliott Prize, click here.

Click here to read an article from The Independent about Eimear McBride winning the 2014 Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction with her debut novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing.