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Monday, 1 December 2014
Abraham Rogers has an unusual psychotherapy practice: monsters. This first installment is a session with Rhys, the IT vampire who can’t quite connect with the modern world the way he would like.
A short story jam-packed with ironic humour. For a couple of sentences I wondered why I'd myself in for another stock-vampire story, then I realised this was something quite different.
If 'Abe' was an interesting character, Rhys was even more so. I actually ended up feeling a little sorry for him. I would have loved to know more about how his case turned out.
As a short-story this was a perfect read. Now I just need another book full of these 'appointments'.
Saturday, 22 November 2014
Here are animated crows, a criminal monkey, an ice man, as well as the dreams that shape us and the things we wish for. Whether during a chance reunion in Italy, a romantic exile in Greece, a holiday in Hawaii or in the grip of everyday life, Murakami's characters confront loss, or sexuality, or the glow of a firefly, or the impossible distance between those who ought to be closest of all.
I picked up this book, thinking how many good things I'd heard about Murakami's other books. What I got was a fantastical, and weird, series of short stories.
Welcome to the unexpected! A few of the stories struck me as quite profound. but I'm afraid to admit that I found most of them quite baffling. None of them were rounded off in the style of western-sensibilities.
The narratives were well-written and in several cases I became quite interested in the characters. Unfortunately there wasn't enough time to let these stories develop and I often found the endings unsatisfactory.
I kept feeling that I should enjoy this book, but it just didn't do it for me. If you want something different then try this book, if not don't bother.
Saturday, 15 November 2014
A Discworld picture book.
At six o'clock every day, without fail, with no excuses, Sam Vimes must go home to read 'The World of Poo', with all the appropriate noises, to his little boy.
A picturebook that picks up a story from 'Snuff!'
I was a little wary of this from the title, but it turned out to be a lovely child-like read.
The character of Geoffrey reminds me of many a young person, with his grandma reminiscent of The Professor in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The use of real-world people here and there was particularly humorous.
I loved the fact that we got to know a world similar to our own through the eyes of someone from a flat world riding the back of a turtle.
A good companion to Snuff. It's a charming read, which I'd particularly recommend to fans of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.
Saturday, 8 November 2014
In the beginning they were a group of nine. Nine aliens who left their home planet of Lorien when it fell under attack by the evil Mogadorian. Nine aliens who scattered on Earth. Nine aliens who look like ordinary teenagers living ordinary lives, but who have extraordinary, paranormal skills. Nine aliens who might be sitting next to you now. The Nine had to separate and go into hiding.
The Mogadorian caught Number One in Malaysia, Number Two in England, and Number Three in Kenya. All of them were killed. John Smith, of Paradise, Ohio, is Number Four. He knows that he is next.
I love the fact that this author doesn't really exist. Well, obviously he does, but not under his published name. This reflects the mystery in this book, which is a classic stranded on earth sci-fi, but also a coming of age fiction.
Exploring growing up with 'John Smith' makes light but interesting reading. His character is relatable to, despite his unusual situation. Late entry characters are harder to relate to, but still make good reading.
Good teenage fiction, or an easy-read science fiction.
Saturday, 1 November 2014
A terrorist threat for Easter Sunday in Jerusalem sets off a chain of events that weave together the lives of an American journalist, Israeli war hero, Palestinian farmer, and Arab-Christian grocer." It is a character-driven piece that moves very quickly, and would be classified as literary fiction or literary thriller.
A Vision of Angels takes you to another place, familiar to us from the news yet remote from our daily lives. I felt that it was a particularly topical time for me to read this, and it certainly gave me an insight into what was going on in the Middle East at the moment of reading.
This book felt as if it was written by someone who truly understood what as going in. Despite this, it was mostly easy to follow what was going on. Only occasionally did I feel some more background information would have been useful.
The characters were realistic and well rounded. I found it easy to understand each person's viewpoint and what brought them to the situation they were now in. I didn't feel that any of the people were stereotyped or over-filled with meaning.
I recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand more about the conflicts of Israel-Palestine.
4 out of 5 stars
Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Today I'm pleased to welcome Author Deborah Valentine to 'The Story Factory Reading Zone'
About Deborah ValentineDeborah Valentine's latest book is The Knightmare and is available on Kindle. Her first series of novels, Unothodox Methods, A Collector of Photographs and Fine Distinctions, were published by Victor Gollancz in the UK and were also published in the US. A Collector of Photographs was short-listed for an Edgar Allen Poe, Macavity, Anthony Boucher and Shamus Award. Fine Distinctions was also short-listed for an Edgar. They follow the turbulent relationship of ex-policeman Kevin Bryce and his sculptress partner, Katharine Craig, against a backdrop of mystery and mayhem. They will be available in Autumn 2013 as part of Orion's digital imprint The Murder Room.
She edited a number of niche-market magazines and has a special interest in history, particularly medieval history. She has worked with a number of distinguished academics on historical articles, some of which are now part of the catalogue of the Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents, Oxford.
With the publication of The Knightmare, she is working on a new series of novels that are a blend of fact and fantasy, history and the present with a bit of thwarted romance on the side, combining all the ingredients she loves best in a story.
My review of The Knightmare
Plus Ca Change from Deborah Valentine
The more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s an old adage and deceptively complex. Things do change, sometimes quite radically, while others remain an underlying constant. This struck me as I recently attended the Matisse, The Cut-Outs, exhibition at the Tate Modern.
Matisse was an old man when he started doing his ‘cut-outs’. A new art form born out of a stroke, of being wheel-chair bound; his limited mobility left him unable to paint as he once did. But he could still see, he could wield a pair of scissors and, with the aid of a bevy of lovely young assistants, was able to create beautifully flowing works of art. At first, the work seemed child-like, almost primitive, but evolved into ever more sophisticated compositions. Things had changed, changed radically, yet his feel for expression, his artistic eye, remained a constant.
So what has this to do with writing? With the notable exception of Neil Gaiman, who constantly urges writers to ‘make good art’, few writers are comfortable calling themselves artists and instead speak of ‘craft’. But if Art is an expression of the inner life, of caring and purpose, then however poncy it may sound writers are artists. And we all change.
When I first started writing, with that child-like joy of play, I wrote a series of crime fiction, The Bryce Series. In the happy ignorance of youth, I didn’t even know I was writing crime fiction—it took my agent to point it out to me (writers couldn’t get by with that today—we’re all expected to be so savvy, or at least know what we’re writing!). Unorthodox Methods, A Collector of Photographs and Fine Distinctions were well received and are bound up in my mind with that first thrill of creation, that realisation of purpose in life: ‘oh, this is what I do—I write’. I love those books and the people within them. But… Plus ça change.
With The Knightmare—a book with a touch of the supernatural, the historical epic and the romantic—make no mistake I’ve changed genres, despite reasonable plaudits in a life of crime (so to speak). So why the change? Aren’t we supposed to stick with a formula—or at least a genre—so we don’t, heaven forbid, disappoint or confuse our audiences? I don’t think audiences are given enough credit.
Life can throw a lot of things at you—death, disability, poverty, something as simple as a change of path or as unexpected as happiness. Certainly I had my fair share of rocks on the road. I spent a number of years writing The Knightmare. Like Matisse (somewhat) I started all over again, getting my scissors out from time to time. Yet it was exciting following a new path, with new experiences both comfortable and uncomfortable behind me. It took me somewhere fresh, allowed the imagination to flow in other directions. As life goes on, you discover more things about yourself and the world around you. Perspectives change. There is a shift in the light, throwing up shadows or illuminating the dark.
But of course, some things remain the same—as it is with us all. There is still an emphasis on relationships of one sort or another—familial, romantic or friendly. And however it has evolved through life, there is still a point of view or use of language that is unique to every writer. And a sense of humour (or lack thereof). When I, and when audiences, pick up this book, they still know it’s me. And I still love my characters.
I’ve a new book in the offing, Who is Huggermugger Jones? It will mark a change for the hero and heroine of The Knightmare, as well as for their friends, introducing new characters who will instigate another era in their adventures. If there is one thing that stays the same is that I like a series. Because like the people around you—family, friends, workmates—characters grow too and have a life of their own. Not to mention a sense of humour uniquely theirs.
The important thing is not to be afraid of change—it gives a new lease of life to everything. Matisse could have dried up and blown away after his stroke. Instead he worked on his cut-outs for the last 17 years of his life. As a result of working with them, Matisse took the work another step forward, designing stained glass windows for the Dominican Chapel of the Rosary in Vence on the French Riviera. Hugely satisfied with the work he pronounced it ‘the result of all my active life’.
So is every book.