Review: Nancy Pennick – 29

29
Nancy Pennick

Allison is settling in for a normal Junior year of high school. Little does she know that her heart will be attracted to the bad boy in her English class, and her older brother will be set on a rampaging trail to force her to betray her loved ones.

27467537Cliche, cliche, cliche. Fall for for the ‘bad boy’, get dumped, go back to the ‘safe choice’. Seriously girl, I’d be pretty worried you know what love is before you head off into the woods with someone.

I really liked the idea behind this novel, once it finally got going. Innovative, yes. Well executed? No. I was hanging out for details the whole time, and that was what kept me reading. But in fact, I basically started skimming because I no longer connected to the characters. They could all die for all I cared.

More could have been done here about the literature that was included. There should have been some importance linked to Fahrenheit 451. If there was, I missed it. With that, how did Ash possibly afford all those books she bought? Hasn’t she heard of a library? Ash is just a weak secondary character. In fact, I felt like I didn’t know much about any of the others because Allison was so absorbed in herself.

I’m giving this 2-3 stars, erring towards 2 stars. I made the mistake of starting it, and then I finished it, but it really wasn’t worth my time. It needs an update in its speed and the tell/show method.

2star

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Review: Abigail Ulman – Hot Little Hands

Hot Little Hands
Abigail Ulman

This is the debut of a ‘striking, wry, utterly fresh new voice in Australian Literature’. A collection of nine short stories cover ‘stumbling on the fringes of innocence, and the marks desire can leave’. If anything could bring me back into reading literature, I thought this novel would be it.

24681815I read at least five of the short stories (I had to say I had read half at least), and although the prose was fantastic, the characters believable, there was something about each storyline that left me grasping at anything that would give me meaning with them. I’d read each one, and feel sort of empty, not fulfilled.

For some reason I thought I would enjoy this set of short stories published by Penguin. Instead, I started them, found that I couldn’t get into them, and put it back on the shelf for a very long, and guilty time. Here I am, writing a review at least several months down the line.

I want to enjoy Australian literature, I really, really do. I feel so bad that I don’t even like my home country’s literature. Even when I studied it back in high school, and then in university, I couldn’t enjoy any of these texts (for my other reviews, see ).

Although I couldn’t finish it, I’m putting that down to the fact that I’ve stopped trying to get through novels that I can’t stand unless they belong to a specific author who has sent me a novel. I have so many novels to read that I don’t want to waste my time on something that I’m pretty sure I won’t love. I’d like to be proven wrong, but so far, this novel isn’t it.

2star

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Review: David Metzenthen – Dreaming the Enemy

Dreaming the Enemy
David Metzenthen

Although Johnny Shoebright has returned from the jungles of Vietnam, he remains haunted by the acts he was forced to carry out, and the ones he endured. He fears the living, and finds it hard to believe that anyone could possibly feel like he does.

28052051It’s the 20th anniversary after the Vietnam War. Since this novel was published and made its way into my hands I have seen a bunch of novels on the same topic. I know better than to ask for them though. I’m not even sure I asked for this one.

There’s just something about the prose and the interlacing of fact and fiction that didn’t do anything for me. The dreams of Johnny are very different to the life he finds himself in now, and I accept that it is probably a genuine choice of the author. Johnny himself is split between the person he ‘should be’ and the person he is. Brilliant execution, just not the right subject.

I think it’s just me. I’m not particularly interested in war stories (says the person who read Max, and enjoyed it), and so this perhaps never would have worked for me. I’d love to be proved wrong, but my rule of generally rejecting novels about wars seems to be the right choice for me at the moment.

I feel guilty, but I only got about half-way into this novel before I was distracted by something else shiny. I did read it solidly, paying attention to the details, but in the end, I just couldn’t bring myself back to read it. I’m giving this only 2 stars, I think that for the right audience it would be a hit – that audience is just not me.

2star

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Review: bud smith (editor) – First Time

First Time
bud smith (editor)

This novel is a collection of essays, stories and poems about the first time the authors had sex. I only bought this ‘novel’ because one of my favourite authors had written a piece for it. Sadly, it didn’t turn out anything like I hoped, not to mention the humping bunnies on the front cover

18364966By the feel of things, I think the authors had a wide scope of what they could write. For me, I hate poetry. I especially hate random poetry where I can’t work out any of what is going on. Other examples were of not-true stories. What is the point of writing expository fiction if your reader can’t connect in any way with it?

It’s stupid of me, but for some reason I thought this would be a collection of stories about queer people’s first times. I figured this because two of the authors that I knew had works in this book were gay, and I liked their other pieces. So as such, this ‘novel’ wasn’t for me. I’m not interested in the first times of straight people, generally these seem to be boring. Queer people (and I know I am generalising here) have more interesting first times, or first meetings, because half the time they don’t know what they want or if their partner will be willing, available and accepting.

Honestly, I read about half this book, picking and skipping authors that I wasn’t interested in. There is no way I would have read it in its entirety. I will be freeing it into the wild in the hopes that other people might get something out of it. If you’re queer, I’d recommend the Letter Q instead for relatable fiction. Let’s give this one 2-3 stars and call it a day.

2star

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Review: Brandon Sanderson – Calamity

Calamity
Brandon Sanderson

David has defeated Steelheart and Regalia, but now he has to face down the worst Epic of them all – Prof., who used to lead the Reckoners into battles against the other Epics. With the tiny crew he has left, David must save the USA once again.

15704486I couldn’t put this novel down. I think I start almost every Brandon Sanderson novel in that way. I didn’t realise it was out until an ill-timed comment from my partner just as I was going to sleep. I then had trouble sleeping because I wanted it right then and there. I begged to have it the next day, but I ended up getting it the day after and polishing it off in a single sitting.

David has kept the same terrible metaphors as before. His romance with Firefight ie. Megan has blossomed. Their sort of love is one born in flames (haha, you’ll get it when you read the novel). In fact, I recognise their relationship style as one I’m familiar with – they dig at each other, irritate each other, but at the end of the day they can’t be apart.

The action in this novel starts from day dot, and just keeps moving. David and his team risk being killed if they don’t keep on their toes.

The final twist! Or at least, the bigger twist. There are always more to come. Ugh! It frustrates me that I can’t just tell you all the fabulous things about this novel that I want to – but then you’d know everything. Spoilers are not a reviewer’s best friend.

Sanderson, you’ve done it again. Another thrilling, fantastic, original novel that will have readers of all ages on the edge of their seats. Some romance, but no sex, I’m pretty sure teenagers and up would love it. I’m only sad that I never ran into Sanderson earlier in my reading career.

I have two more Sanderson novels, which the partner has been nagging me about reading. The only reason I haven’t is because I’m waiting to have time to reread the others in the series. Sanderson, I love you, but you would eat all my time if I let you.

5star

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Review: Ken Kroes – 2232 (Percipience #3)

2232, Percipience Series
Ken Kroes

Time has progressed another 10 years since the town of Percipience was discovered by two other cities. While things are going relatively smoothly, some people harbor grudges for so long that they will damage everything.

27836641Why do people lie? Seriously guys. Ugh. It seems like everyone is crossing everyone, except Percipience who I loved (having loved the set-up of it in the first place).

I really hope that genetic modification could become reality. People would argue about taking away free will and all that, but truly it wouldn’t be so sad. You would still have your mind, you’d just be more grateful for what you already had.

There were anagrams. For a while, I thought they were like Hannah, a word that works the same way back and forwards. But in fact they’re where you scramble up the letters to create new words. I managed to work out two using an online solver, but the other ones I just couldn’t work it out. Frustrating!

I really want to go back and reread the ending of this. There’s nothing I can say without giving it away, but mind-blown. Really blown. I really hope another novel comes along. There are some hints as to how it could proceed. The whole time I was reading this one I was terrified that it would be a true ‘series’ rather than what read to me as an entire satisfying trilogy.

5star

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Review: Ken Kroes – 2222 (Percipience #2)

2222, Percipience Series
Ken Kroes

Here we return to the world 200 years after ‘The Great Loss’ where most of the world’s population was wiped out by a deadly virus. 4 villages remain, and a lone outside village has finally come into contact with them. The only problem is that the new town is built for an old consumerist population.

27836560I want to feel sorry for Epoch, and yet at the same time I don’t. If Clyde can understand this different way of living, others can too. Or is it that in Percipience people who were like that have been wiped out? Nature vs nurture things here.

The characters are well realised and relatable. I recognised the ‘kind’ of each of them, and thought about how the Elders were just as manipulative as Jake. This novel reminds me again that I don’t understand most people. I’d love to just work in the morning, and enjoy the afternoon reading.

Wow. Deadly. Twisted! Amazing! I didn’t see things coming. Science! Chemistry! Awesomeness! Insert a very long stretch of adjectives here…

I can’t wait to read the third book, and the only reason I’m not doing it right now is so that I could write this review and not get them confused in my mind. I’m going to be pretty devastated by the end of it probably, so wait for my sobbing review soon.

This book is an incredible improvement over the first. The writing is tighter, and the editing cleaner the further you read along. I’m giving this one 5 stars. Go and buy it. It will make you think about the world in a different way.

5star

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Interview with Kathleen Jowitt

KJpicAn Interview with Kathleen Jowitt

Kathleen writes about people sorting their own heads out and learning to live with who they are. She lives in Cambridge, works in London, and writes on the train.

 

I both love and hate novels that don’t leave a discrete ending for the reader. Have you ever felt the need to write sequels?
I believe that part of effective characterisation is knowing the trajectory of the characters’ lives beyond the end of a novel, so I can see where the temptation arises to carry on. On the other hand, knowing where to stop is an essential part of plot! It’s a tricky balance to find. Speaking personally, I know exactly what would happen in a sequel to S29850310peak Its Name, but for the moment at least I have no desire to write it, and there’s no need for it to exist.

There’s always another novel in the pipeline to write… Tell me about it! Does it have even a working title?
There is, and it does! The working title is Wheels – the main characters are a wheelchair user and a former cyclist – and it’s very different from Speak Its Name. There’s less of an emphasis on the LGBT themes, and I don’t touch on religion at all this time around. I’m writing a male first-person narrator, instead of tight third-person female. But it’s still about people learning how to live within their own identities.

Some advice other writers have given is that your first novel is best sitting in a drawer for a while, because then you feel stronger about chopping up ‘your baby’. Do you still have a copy of your first novel? Whether this was published or unpublished, I need to know!
My first novel was never intended to be published, and I had a wonderful time bolting a chick-lit plot onto a sci-fi setting. I called it Love at the Galactic Zoo, and I think I lost it when my external hard drive died. It would be a decade old by now.

I’m not particularly sentimental about editing, and I’m as ruthless with my own writing as I would be with anyone else’s. I chopped huge amounts from Speak Its Name – in fact, I literally took a pair of scissors to it at one point! Then I realised that the whole thing needed to come from the point of view of a character who’d started out as a minor love interest, and so huge chunks had to be rewritten… fun times. It was worth doing, though; it’s made it a much better book.

Do you have a dedicated writing space? How does it meet your writing needs?
I do have a study, and I am very grateful to be able to shut the door and escape from interruptions. However, most of my writing actually happens outside the house – on the train to work, or in quiet corners of pubs or coffee shops when I’ve got a spare half hour.

What is your writing process? Have you ever thought about changing it? Other authors I have interviewed talk about having an outline – post-it notes in an office, or writing in paper journals. Is there something like that in your writing technique? Or is it all digital for you?
I experiment a lot with different processes. At the moment I’m writing five hundred to a thousand words in longhand at a time, and then typing them up later in the day. The outline is in my head; I may or may not transcribe it, depending on how complex the plot becomes. By contrast, the timeline for Speak Its Name ran across nine sheets of paper, all taped together, and several different coloured pens. I think different novels call for different approaches.

How do you know when a novel or short story is finished? How do you know to step away and let the story speak for itself?
When there’s nothing missing, and when I can’t take anything else out. When I’ve used up the best part of a ream of paper printing it out and covering it in red pen alterations. When I’m thoroughly sick of it. When at least two people whose judgement I trust can’t think of anything else that needs doing.

Do you have a preference for ebook or paperback format? This is for both your own reading and your novels.
I don’t really have a preference either way. I make more money per copy on ebooks, but then it becomes less likely that the reader will pass the copy on. If someone finds it easier to use one format than the other (if they prefer an ebook because they can enlarge the text, for example) I wouldn’t want to get in the way of that. As a reader, I like being able to flick backwards and forwards through a physical copy, but I was given an ebook reader for Christmas and am finding that huge chunky books that wouldn’t fit in my handbag in paperback format are suddenly becoming readable.

Social media is becoming a big thing. How does managing media outlets come into marketing your brand and your books?
The internet has made the world much smaller. I think it’s great – I love making connections with people all over the globe, and it’s certainly opened up markets that I wouldn’t have had a hope of reaching if I’d been writing twenty years earlier. I try to be as honest and friendly as possible on my website and my Twitter account, and most of what I put up there doesn’t actually have much to do with my writing – I don’t want to alienate people who have already read it! And I try not to take it too seriously, because if you start worrying what people on the internet think about you then you’ll never get a moment’s peace of mind.

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Interview with Carmel Niland

Carmel Head Shot Hi resAn Interview with Carmel Niland

I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

I have written many things but never a novel. Most of them were as dull and dry as dust but the report I wrote of an inquiry I conducted into allegations of sexual harassment against a NSW Minister for Police was a bestseller for the Government Printing Office. This is hardly a personal favourite because of the distress and victimisation suffered by the women who complained but for all the reasons you can imagine it sold very well and went into three editions. The printers covered their budget for the whole year by the first edition and viewed me with awe!

I both love and hate novels that don’t leave a discrete ending for the reader. Have you ever felt the need to write sequels?DarkerMagic_front cover

My novel, A Darker Magic This Way Comes, has a discrete finish. It ends in the triple death of the murderous King Vortigern, by his impalement, drowning and beheading. Despite Merlin’s shield of light, the Pendragon princes, who are carrying out the court-ordered execution, are cursed by the dying king with bitter consequences. It will take four more books to complete the interwoven stories of love and war, birth and death, revenge and counterpunch, divine invention and comic by-play in Merlin’s love affair with Emily, a twenty first century girl from Devon and the consequences of Merlin’s enchainment of the vicious sorcerer Moloch and his humiliation of the great poisoner, Morgana.

There’s always another novel in the pipeline to write… Tell me about it! Does it have even a working title?

It is called The Curse of the Dragon Kings. Merlin returns after five years with the Roman Legions in Gaul. He’s learned to build forts, harbours, aqueducts, sewers and craft siege engines but once his sword is shattered with his agreement by the Arch Druid he will never carry a weapon again and must live by his wits and his magic. My Merlin is like Leonardo da Vinci but with a wand, he is a genius who flies. He dreams of being reunited with Emily to marry her and have children but Kronos, the father of Time, is so enraged that Merlin is manipulating time to reach her across his domain and he suspects Merlin has enchained his son, Moloch. In recompense he wants Merlin to pledge to him his second son or he will wreak havoc in his life. It takes the intervention of a very angry Michael the Archangel to save Merlin and scatter Kronos across the sky. That covers some of the first three chapters. The rest of the story is about the military prowess of Uther Pendragon and his elder brother King Aurelius in the Saxon and Jute wars and Merlin’s attempts to contravene the blight of Vortigern’s curse on their lives. The birth of Uther’s first son, Arthur, will bring hope.

Some advice other writers have given is that your first novel is best sitting in a drawer for a while, because then you feel stronger about chopping up ‘your baby’. Do you still have a copy of your first novel? Whether this was published or unpublished, I need to know!

Excellent advice! My first novel about the abduction of an Aussie girl, Kirri, into Inner Earth has rested in a drawer for fifteen years, never to be released.

Do you have a dedicated writing space? How does it meet your writing needs?

I have two: one near the salt of the sea, It is perfect for the buzz of battles, the dangers of poisons and the intrigues of the Dark Arts and another hidden space in the mountain mists perfect for magic and the Otherworld.

What is your writing process? Have you ever thought about changing it? Other authors I have interviewed talk about having an outline – post-it notes in an office, or writing in paper journals. Is there something like that in your writing technique? Or is it all digital for you?

I walk and talk to Merlin and implore him to inspire me with his secrets. And sometimes he does!

How do you know when a novel or short story is finished? How do you know to step away and let the story speak for itself?

The characters are exhausted and implore me to let them rest.

Do you have a preference for e book or paperback format? This is for both your own reading and your novels.

I love the feel and smell of paper and the whiff of ink. They evoke the memories of past reading where I enjoyed amazing flights of imagination. But if I am on a plane to a faraway place, I load up the e books for holiday reading. And crime fiction, like revenge, should always be savoured cold from the plate of a Kindle.

Social media is becoming a big thing. How does managing media outlets come into marketing your brand and your books?

I have very little expertise in this area and I employ very young experts to help and advise me on everything.

You have answered other sets of interview questions, is there something you wish someone would have asked you? Or conversely, something you wish they hadn’t asked?

Bollyspice asked me to choose a favourite Bollywood actor to play Merlin. Nothing had really prepared me for that question. Nor to answer a question on what style of dancing did he follow. But Merlin being a trickster I soon had an answer and you can read it on my website.

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Interview with Charles Wright

Press Photo 3-1An Interview with Charles Wright

I both love and hate books that don’t leave a discrete ending for the reader. Have you ever felt the need to write sequels?
I am in the process of finishing the sequel of my book “Up From Where We’ve Come.” I realized early on that it would be impossible to cram my whole life into one volume, so I decided to break it up into multiple books.

There’s always another book in the pipeline to write… Tell me about it! Does it have a working title?
I am still early in the process, working on the first draft of the next installment, so I am not interested in divulging my next title, at least not yet.

Some advice other writers have given is that your first book is best sitting in a drawer for a while, because then you feel stronger about chopping up ‘your baby’. Do you still have a copy of your first draft? How different is this from the final published version of “Up From Where We’ve Come”?UPcover
I do still have a copy of the first draft. The difference is that the first draft has many more words, because once I get everything written down I have to make sure my writing is as concise as possible. The chopping up and process of elimination is very important to the final book.

Do you have a dedicated writing space? How does it meet your writing needs?
I write when and wherever the spirit hits me, but more often than not at my personal computer. Sometimes I will also write on the couch or in bed. The most important thing, though, is that I am comfortable, no matter where I am writing that day.

What is your writing process? Have you ever thought about changing it? Other authors I have interviewed talk about having an outline – post-it notes in an office, or writing in paper journals. Is there something like that in your writing technique? Or is it all digital for you?
I wrote my first draft of “Up From Where We’ve Come” on a typewriter, since I started writing the book before I owned my first computer. It was only later that I started typing it into a digital format. Because I am not a trained author and am writing my life story, it is straight from my memory bank instead of using outlines.

How do you know when a book or short story is finished? How do you know to step away and let the story speak for itself?
I am not a trained author so I simply go by rote. I simply follow my inner emotions. Like I said before, I knew I would have a difficult time putting my entire life in one book, so the move from Mississippi to California was a great place to pause for the first volume.

Do you have a preference for e-book or paperback format? This is for both your own reading and your writing.
Since I’ve never read an e-book, I guess that answer would be quite obvious. I can’t speak for an experience I’ve never had. I have however, read many paper books so, I guess you could call me ‘old- school’!

Social media is becoming a big thing. How does managing media outlets come into marketing your brand and your books?
I have a Twitter, and Instagram, and a Facebook, but I am so busy and do not usually have time to look after my social media profiles. I’m afraid I have to leave that up to the experts.

You have answered other sets of interview questions, is there something you wish someone would have asked you? Or conversely, something you wish they hadn’t asked?
No not really. Thanks for your time Rosemarie!

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