Sunday, 18 February 2018

Writing festival 2018 - Come join us!

Thanks to everyone who has shown interest so far for the Writing Fest 2018 in April. Articles have begun to trickle in, but there's still plenty of time to take part.

If you're interested but haven't let me know yet, please drop me a note using the contact form on the left (this might not be visible on a phone).

I'm still looking for writers and book reviewers who are interested in any of the following:

1) An article related to writing or publishing fiction
2) A giveaway of your book (I'll be using rafflecopter to randomise a winner)
3) Author interview
4) Chapter one of your manuscript for an open review
5) Adding your manuscript to the beta-reader yellow pages

Deadlines:
Show your interest - 28th of February
Article complete - 25th of March
After a round of editing, your post will be scheduled to go live in April!

Don't forget to also send me a list of social media links so that readers can connect to you, view your blog, or purchase your book after reading your post.

Cheers for reading!

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Book Review: The Gender Game

THE GENDER GAME by Bella Forrest
4 Stars
Verdict: Improves along the way.


Two sides of the river, each ruled by a different gender, both on the cusp of war. When Violet accidentally commits womanslaughter, she's given one last chance at life - to cross the river to the male dominated state where woman's rights are suppressed, and steal back a mysterious egg that contains her country's secrets.

I almost wrote this off early as another not-as-good-as-the-Hunger-Games dystopian book. The writing style is quite flat and sometimes overly explanatory. Some of the main characters, like Lee, lack personality, and there was a lot of Q&A dolled out by a dull character in said flat tone. The concept also seemed reliant on the reader not caring too much about why a delinquent who has killed two women by accident is the only one right for a secret mission. However, the pace and world building seemed reasonable though, so I was set to offer it three stars.

But it got better.

Unlike Lee, Viggo is an interesting character. He's complex and sometimes even perplexing, and the way he tries to suss out Violet had me reading on eagerly. The story started to take a different turn than I had expected, and I started to really enjoy the way the story unfolded. The writing was still flat, but that didn't matter. It wasn't confusing or too hinderous, and it's not the beauty of this story. The beauty is in the story itself.

Violet is an okay narrator. Sometimes I found she lacked emotion, especially in the beginning, but she's a strong fighter with a good moral compass. She has a tendency to act first and worry later which makes her terrible for the mission at hand but excellent for action scenes.

I have to admit, I felt uncomfortable at first reading someone's fiction of woman's rights being suppressed when this is a reality for some countries, but I don't think the author intends the story to be a political statement. It doesn't consider the LBGT community, or tackle any big issues. It's just a story of learning to love against society's prejudices. I can't get angry at what it's not, but if you're expecting it to be these things then perhaps this isn't the book for you.

It ends on a high, with book two ready to start right away. I think I'll probably continue with this series when I need a light and fast read.

Source: Kindle lending library.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Book Review: Number The Stars

NUMBER THE STARS by Lois Lowry
2 Stars
Verdict: Holocaust story suitable for children.


This is a young children's book set in Denmark during the second world war. It's purpose is to educate the young about the holocaust, and tells the story of a young girl's family helping to save another young girl and their family.

I'll be honest. I only read this because I was waaay behind on my reading challenge, and I knew it was a short book. I needed a speedy read, and that's what I got. Besides, it was by the author of The Giver and has won awards so it sounded like a good choice to broaden my reading horizons with.

I knew it would be simple, but I hoped it would still be entertaining like Coraline, or unexpected like The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, or relevant to all ages like A Monster Calls. Unfortunately, I didn't think it was entertaining or unexpected. The tone was very young, and it's not written in a way that can be appreciated when you're older - no quirks, no suspense, no added sugar.

It was okay because it was short. If I'm really honest, it was dull and dry. It had a purpose, which it fulfils very well, but it's not a read I'd recommend, especially if you're over the age of 10.

Source: Bought it to complete my 2017 reading challenge.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Book Review: Paris Adrift

PARIS ADRIFT by E. J. Swift
3 Stars
Verdict: Fantastically French, but I lost the plot.


Hallie defers her last year at uni to escaped to France, and now works in a bar in Paris. Portals begin opening up around her...and she experiences France's past and present...Mini adventures ensue.

Okay, that's a bad summary. It's hard to write an honest blurb about this book, because Hallie wasn't an active character. Things happened to her, and she dealt with them as best as possible, but she had no plans or hopes or goals or needs. It gave a sense that the story wasn't going anywhere, and often it didn't.

I'd call this a strange book, and one of the reasons is its unique writing style. It's sharp and direct, blunt in places, but somehow vague overall. It's never really clear what's going on - the bigger picture, the goal, the reasons behind the happenings, the motives - and I couldn't decide whether it was done in a mysterious way or a confusing way. Probably a mix of both.

Near the middle, things started to get political, and in the last 15%, we finally get introduced to the event which must be stopped. But after waiting for long for the point of the book, I wasn't very invested.

So I lost the plot, but I loved the context. There's a mix of English and French dialogue, and atmospheric descriptions of France through different eras. That's what made the book stand out from other time travelling stories, and what gave it an enjoyable edge.

Gabriela is also an interesting character. She fears she cannot leave Clichy, and it's not entirely clear what's holding her back: her psychological issues, or something spookier? She's intense at times, and felt very real to me. Millie is another interesting in her own right, and has her stories to tell. Hallie's family also felt like a good change from the usual 'sickly perfect' or 'orphan' cut outs that characters normally stem from. Those aside, I never really understood the other characters, and there were a lot of them. As I've said earlier, they didn't seem to want anything or it wasn't clear what they needed or why, so it was hard to get a good sense of them.

All in all, I enjoyed this book, but couldn't see how it was supposed to fit together and my interest waned. It's taught me how to swear in French, too.

Source: With thanks to the publishers via NetGalley.com.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Book Review: The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

THE HEN WHO DREAMED SHE COULD FLY by Sun-Mi Hwang
4 Stars
Verdict: It's a harsh life for a hen.


This is a Korean folk tale of a hen who, unlike the title suggests, dreams of being able to keep the egg she lays and raise it as her own. She dreams of freedom. When she is culled with the other old hens, she turns her hardship into an opportunity to seek her dreams.

Sprout goes through some rough stuff, let me tell you. Unable to produce any more eggs, Sprout begins her journey by being tossed in a grave and buried by a load of other dead. Immediately after, she's hunted by a weasel who enjoys killing any survivors of the culling.

Chilling stuff. If you think about this in terms of people, this is a horrifying book. And her poor life doesn't get easier from there.

For the whole story, Sprout has to fight to survive. She puts up with specism, the murderous weasel, and the harsh reality of her eggless body to make her dreams come true.

Again, I needed a short book to pass my reading challenge, and this was an interesting find. If you're looking for something short and different, with fable-like qualities, then it's definitely worth a try.

Source: Bought it to complete my 2017 reading challenge.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Book Review: The Girl In The Tower

THE GIRL IN THE TOWER by Katherine Arden
2 Stars
Verdict:
Again, not for me.


After Vasya leaves her village to dispel rumours of her being a witch, she ventures through the woods, facing demons, bandits, and death itself. To survive as a lone traveller, she disguises herself as a man and unintentionally gains the attention of the Grand Prince. She must keep her true gender a secret to protect herself and her family.

I'll be honest with you all: I received this title without knowing it was book two of a series. When I realised, I read book one, my heart sinking with every page. I didn’t like it one bit, and I don’t enjoy writing low reviews either. I would never have requested the book to review if it had been clearly labelled as book two of a trilogy I had not yet started. But I agreed to review it in exchange for a copy, and I am grateful to receive it, so here is my review.

It actually started out a lot better than I expected. The narrative flits between Vasya facing the harsh wilderness, barely surviving, and her brother Sasha, the monk, who rides alongside the Grand Prince as he faces the bandits threatening his villages. The story is spread across the years so it feels like every moment matters, and the overarching plot comes together much clearer. It pulled me into Vasya’s world in a way that book one never could.

I liked how Vasya got to express herself a bit more, venturing through the woods, saving people, challenging badies – yet at the same time, I couldn’t understand why she wasn’t trying to keep a low profile. I suppose if she had played it smart, we wouldn’t have a story, but it certainly had predictable and frustrating qualities to it. I think that’s why towards the middle I felt restless, wanting the story to just get on with it already. I felt like I already knew how it would play out, and there wasn't anything particularity surprising in the end.

At some point, I lost all interest despite feeling the build-up of Vasya’s bold moves and knowing the trouble she was stirring up. The writing style just isn’t my thing, and I can’t force myself to like it, though I’ve tried. To me, the writing felt long-winded in every sense. I felt like the story wasn’t moving along as quickly as my brain was piecing it together to the point that most of the narrative between the dialogue felt useless and I probably could have skipped a couple of chapters and just reading the ending.

I think here is where me and this series part ways.

Source: With thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley.com.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Book Review: A Monster Calls

A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness
4 Stars
Verdict: Where real nightmares meet imaginary ones


Every night at 12:07 a monster visits Connor, but he's not afraid. Because this isn't the monster from his terrifying dreams. It's not the monster he's afraid of.

Connor's mother is very sick, and everyone at school already knows. No one will talk to him anymore. At home, him and his mother are fine on their own - he can take care of both of them - except now his grandmother is coming to stay, and everyone is trying to have 'the talk'. Except the monster, who visit him to tell him stories. After the third, Connor must tell his story, his truth, but he doesn't understand what it means.

It took me a while to warm to this book, but in the end it's a heart-filled story of dealing with loss. I felt for Connor on every page, and sought the monster's visits as much as he did. The monster's stories explain to you what this story is about, hinting to why he visits, and by the end, I needed to hear Connor's truth as much as he needed to say it.

It's a good, short children's book that can be appreciated by adults too.

Source: Bought it to complete my 2017 reading challenge.