Look Who’s Back! A merciless satire indeed…

17289087

Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy.

Summer 2011. Berlin. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of ground, alive and well. Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman. People certainly recognise him, though – as a brilliant, satirical impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable, happens, and the ranting Hitler takes off, goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own TV show, becomes someone who people listen to. All while he’s still trying to convince people that yes, it really is him, and yes, he really means it.

There have already been mixed opinions on this one – basically surrounding the sense or not of writing what is basically a comedy of errors and making one of the most villified characters in history – Hitler – its main protagonist. Before I dived in, I read several online discussions, a few non-spoiler reviews and was intrigued to see just what all the fuss was about…

How did I find it? Well I laughed a lot, sometimes in a vaguely guilty way admittedly. Mainly in the portions that dealt with Hitler’s interactions with the media – where they are assuming he is an impersonator, of course, and he is solidly and absolutely himself. Add to that, especially in the early chapters, his despair at the state of the world – and his discovery of television cookery shows – and the whole thing is ironically amusing.

I can see it would be fairly easy to find a reason to be offended by this book but I see no need. The author never tries to make Hitler likeable  (or unlikeable for that matter) or offer excuses for his actions, nor does he pretend that this is anything other than exactly what it is – a darkly imaginative fantasy tale with perhaps a touch of social commentary.

The only small downside for me was perhaps that this is aimed very much at the German audience – I’m sure a lot of the satire went straight over my head, especially with regards to the pop culture of that country – there were media releases and tv shows that I was obviously expected to know about that I assume would have made certain portions of the book more humerous – but mostly I would say I tootled along fairly well.

I also think that people with a better knowledge than I possess of Hitler’s period of history would get more out of it – when he is talking about his political party and the players in the war I was often a bit lost because my education in this matter stops with the big stuff (the horrific treatment of the Jewish community) and I also knew the name of Hitler’s mistress. Apart from that I am actually quite ashamed to admit I know very little detail. A fact I should perhaps rectify…

Overall though this was an intriguing, humerous and fascinating reading experience which I enjoyed very much. Beautifully translated as well. Kudos.

About the Author

Timur Vermes was born in Nuremburg in 1967, the son of a German mother and a Hungarian father who fled the country in 1956. He studied history and politics and went on to become a journalist. He has written for teh Abendzeitung and the Cologne Express and worked for various magazines. He has ghostwritten several books since 2007. Look Who’s Back is his first novel.

About the Translator.

Jamie Bulloch is the translator of novels by Daniel Glattauer, Katharina Hagena, Paulus Hochgatterer,Birgit Vanderbeke, Daniela Krien and Alissa Walser.

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Look-Whos-Back-Timur-Vermes/dp/0857052926/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1396247623&sr=1-1

Final Note: The Hardback is a beautiful looking book. Great cover!

Happy Reading Folks!

Liz Currently Loves…After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman.

f874de83636e13c5b3d702ad4604ee95

Publication Date: April 2014 from Faber and Faber.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the beautiful advanced reading copy.

When Felix Brewer meets nineteen-year-old Bernadette ‘Bambi’ Gottschalk at a Valentine’s Dance in 1959, he charms her with wild promises, some of which he actually keeps. Thanks to his lucrative if not always legal businesses, she and their three little girls live in luxury. But on the Fourth of July, 1976, Bambi’s world implodes when Felix, newly convicted and facing prison, mysteriously vanishes.

I’ve been a bit of a fan of Laura Lippman’s novels for a while – they are quietly atmospheric and always beautifully constructed with wonderful storytelling and characters and this was no exception.

When Felix skips bail to avoid a prison sentence, he leaves behind his wife, three daughters and a mistress – when ten years later his mistress also disappears it is assumed that she has gone to be with Felix but then her body is discovered..

Told in present time as a cold case specialist tries to solve the murder, and in flashback showing how Bambi and her daughters have coped, this is compelling stuff. There is a mystery at the heart of it but this is purely about the people – Felix leaves a lot of emotion and anger in his wake, this novel explores the themes of loss, guilt, rejection and love in an evocative and heartfelt manner.

From the seemingly pragmatic Bambi who hides a maelstrom of emotion beneath her tough exterior, down to youngest child Michelle, selfish and demanding, the Brewer girls are formidable indeed and yet vulnerable in many ways. As the story twists and turns – just where did Felix go and more importantly where did his money go – you will be utterly immersed into the multi-stranded family drama. Mistress Julia is also beautifully drawn and fascinating, the mystery surrounding her disappearance and murder only deepens as time goes on. It is a page turner, addictive and real, and bang in the middle of it is a man you know very little about. Felix Brewster.

Appealing and captivating this is perhaps my favourite of Ms Lippmans novels so far.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

Author Interview – Alison Taft. Shallow Be Thy Grave.

1266875718326026AJ-Taft-photo-by-Richard-Wilcocks-150x150

I recently read two novels by Alison Taft featuring main protagonist Lily Appleyard and I thought they were terrific, so I asked Alison a few questions and here is what she had to tell me.

Tell me a little bit about how the story started for you. 

They say your first book is always autobiographical, and that’s the case for Our Father, Who Art Out There…Somewhere. It’s based on my own experiences of trying to track down a reluctant birth father. (I promise I never kidnapped anyone though). In my mid-thirties and following the birth of my two children, I felt the need to find out more about my father and his side of the family (he left home the day I was born). I wanted to ask questions about my genetic heritage. He refused to have any contact with me.

 

I was so mad. I was at home being run ragged by the demands of two small children and all I was asking for was the opportunity to ask a couple of questions. The anger became the fuel that powered the writing process

How much did the story and characters develop over the course of the writing ?

That’s an interesting question. At the time I was struck by how my birth father could say he had no wish for contact without knowing anything about who I was, or what my circumstances were. I thought, ‘I might be in real need here, and you don’t care.’

Lily, the main character in the book, is a nineteen year old girl whose mother’s just died. I asked myself, “who is the worst person this could happen to?”

 

So, I had a character and I had a problem. Lily wants to meet her dad. He doesn’t want to meet her. I wanted to raise the issue of whether she has a right to meet the person who fathered her. However, once I sat down and started writing the story took on a life of its own. That’s the most exciting part of writing.

 

I never intended to write a series but sometime after Our Father was published I realised the anger had gone and it became more about grief. I have to grieve the fact I will never meet my father, or any members of his family. Shallow Be Thy Grave came out of that grief. Perhaps all books are attempts to answer questions. The question behind Shallow was, ‘How do you mourn someone you’ve never met?

Do you have a favourite character from the books, apart from Lily?

I’m very attached to Aunt Edie, and Bert The Perv, mainly because they both love Lily. Lily and Jo’s friendship is one of my favourite aspects of writing the books, because female friendship for me is one of the strongest bonds of all.
Will we meet Lily again in future novels?

Yes. I’ve just finished the third in the series, which is called My Time Has Come. It will be out later this year. Bert asks Lily to find his missing wife (last seen on his wedding day) and the search takes Lily to Thailand. It’s been the most enjoyable one to write so far, I think because it’s not so personal anymore. Maybe I’ve written out most of my issues. Now that would be something…

Any writing habits/processes?

No, I fly by the seat of my pants. I’m firmly of the ‘no planning’ school. Like Stephen King says in his excellent book, On Writing – the excitement of writing is the excitement of going into the unknown and allowing a story to unfurl.This can be a very frustrating process – I have two complete manuscripts that never came to life, but when it works, it’s just the best feeling ever…

Coffee, Tea or Other?

Peppermint tea or skinny hot chocolate or water. Nothing else…

Book you recommend to everyone.

Non-fiction – The Artists Way by Julia Cameron.

Fiction – Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child.

Favourite thing to do on a lazy Sunday.

Take a bath, potter in the garden, feed the ducks (the ducks are in the park, not the garden…

 

Thank you so much Alison!

 

Reviews:

Our Father Who Art Out There Somewhere.

12668757

A very clever and emotional story, here we meet Lily Appleyard for the first time. When she loses her Mother she struggles with heartache and begins to wonder about her Father, who she has never known. When she discovers he is alive but has no intention of getting involved with her, fuelled by grief and vodka she takes matters into her own hands. What follows is an emotive and compelling “coming of age” tale with some highly intriguing characters right at the heart of it, exploring some interesting outlooks on the meaning of family.

I loved Lily – impulsive and wonderfully drawn, despite her rather strange reactions, she is utterly believable. Nothing is as straightforward as it first appears, not least Lily herself and as the story twists and turns this is addictive reading. I do love a book where the characters speak to you, Ms Taft has a unique way with words that really gets you right to the heart of the matter. Without giving too much away I’m certain that you will be at turns surprised and delighted by the ongoing drama and it might give you pause for thought on how you view your own life and family.

The telling thing with this novel was the fact that when I had finished it I immediately picked up the second story featuring Lily – I did not want to wait. So do yourselves a favour and have both to hand – just in case.

Very much Recommended.

Review:

Shallow Be Thy Grave

18326026

So the second novel featuring Lily Appleyard  – This one heads far more into the “mystery” genre and solidifies some of the events of book one. Lily and her newly found half sister Fiona have a rocky relationship – but when Fiona disappears, Lily sets off on a journey to find her.

Once again I was struck by the characterisation and emotional resonance of the writing here – even though its a very different book in a lot of ways the heart of it remains the same. As Lily searches the sense of place here is also terrific – I could almost imagine myself right there in Paris and Amsterdam. Lily has a sense of obligation here, feeling responsible for Fiona’s disappearance, as she heads into the world of sex trading and the darker side of human nature, this is compelling stuff indeed.

Also again, the exploration of family, especially with relation to sibling rivalry is highly authentic even given the circumstances – Lily discovers things about herself as much as about her sister and this is engaging and fascinating reading.

I also found that I got to know Jo, Lily’s friend, a lot more in this book than the last – she’s probably one of my favourite characters here.

Overall the two novels sit extremely well together and I thought both were fantastic. I’m very pleased to hear that we will visit again with Lily – I’m interested to see what is next for her.

Once again, very much recommended. And read them in order!

Find out more here: http://www.alisontaft.co.uk/

Follow Alison on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/AlisonTaft

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/A-J-Taft/e/B008GRT0IC/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Publication Day – Emma Kavanagh and Falling…

18160223ad7d7c75bd0810a6a64d15f03a657776

Of all the wonderful advance reading I did last year, Falling by Emma Kavanagh, was one of the best and made into my Top 10 books of 2013. Today is official release day and you can all get your own copy – and I would. I really would! I asked Emma a few questions and here is what she had to tell me.

Tell us a little about how the story started to form in your mind

 

I am a documentary junkie. I watch them constantly, and will often take inspiration from real life events. Falling began to take shape after watching a documentary about an airplane crash, and the complexities that the investigators uncovered in the aftermath. From there, the characters simply began to grow and take on lives of their own. That’s my favourite thing about writing; the way you start with a very simple premise and then hand it over to your characters and let them tell you the rest.

 

It has an intriguing mix of eclectic characters, did you have a favourite?

 

Ooh, tough question! That’s like choosing your favourite child. If I’m being honest, I think that my real favourite is Freya. I like her spunk and her strength of character. And, from a purely selfish point of view, she was very easy to write – one of those characters that just takes charge and seems to write her own scenes.

 

 

Some parts are very emotional – was it tough to write in places?

 

There were some parts which I found more draining than others. Although, ironically, those intensely emotional, psychologically tough parts were also the ones that seemed to flow most easily when I was writing. I’m thinking of one chapter in particular towards the end where the character simply told me the story, from start to finish. It was a tough chapter, but took me maybe an hour and a half to write because it just flowed so organically. I love it when that happens!

 

 

Can you tell us anything about your next project?

 

I’m currently in the midst of edits on my next book. The Casualties begins with a mass shooting – a horrendous act by a mysterious gunman. It then moves back a week, and tells the story of the lead up to the shooting – from the point of view of the shooter himself, and three of the casualties, whose innocent actions have inadvertently fed into the horrors of that day. It’s a dark subject, but I have to say that I have loved writing this one. It is fairly complex in terms of plotting, but has been a joy to write.

 

 

Author you wish would write a book a week

 

Oh, so many! Can I have more than one? Kate Atkinson and Barbara Kingsolver, both geniuses, whose writing I just cannot get enough of. And Justin Cronin. I devoured The Passage and The Twelve and am chomping at the bit to get hold of his next. Write, man, write!

 

 

Favourite thing to do on a lazy Sunday.

 

There’s nothing like snuggling on the sofa with my husband and toddler, a hot cup of coffee and a good book. My idea of heaven.

 

3 people living or dead you would like to invite to dinner.

 

Jane Austen one of the greatest authors of all time, and anyone who can write a character like Elizabeth Bennett must be fun to have around. Nelson Mandela – I don’t really need a reason for this one, do I? And Neil Armstrong, because in my next life I’m going to be an astronaut, so I would like to get tips

Thank you so much Emma!

 

Review:

First of all thank you kindly to Random House, Emma Kavanagh and Netgalley for the review copy.

A plane falls out of the sky. A woman is murdered. Four people all have something to hide.

Right I could probably write a whole book myself about how much I loved this one but I will try to keep to the salient points..and avoid spoiling what is a  wonderful, multi-layered character driven story that needs to come with a sleep deprivation warning….in the best possible way.

It has been tagged as a psychological thriller and it is that yes, but I hope that this will not put people off who don’t tend to read that type of novel – because when I say this is multi layered I mean exactly that. Yes there is a murder – and yes you will want to know who and why and all the usual things you want to know when reading a crime or thriller tale, but as you head into the novel you will discover that at its heart are people. Humans. Fallible, emotional, occasionally annoying people..who make right decisions, wrong decisions, get caught up in life events beyond their control and deal with it in oh so many different ways. Just like the rest of us..

Told from various points of view, chapter by chapter, we follow the aftermath of a plane crash alongside the aftermath of a murder. Falling is a perfect title and a theme throughout the story – in the literal sense of falling from the sky and the more metaphorical sense of falling through life. Poetic prose and a compelling flow to the narrative makes this hard to put down and leave for a while…I managed but only just.

Usually I might give a run down of some of the characters at this point of a review but in this case discovery is key to the reading experience – therefore I give you one. The one that touched my reading heart. Cecilia, wife, mother, torn between wanting and needing things she cannot clarify resonated with me for very personal reasons. And surrounding her are many others with just as much heart and soul…you will find someone there for you without a doubt.

The various strands of the story are brought together in an adept and fascinating way to give us the ultimate conclusion – and this is one of those books where you will wonder for a long time afterwards what may have happened to these characters next. I imagine them out there…somewhere…

The last time I felt this way about a debut novel was when I read Elizabeth Haynes “Into the Darkest Corner” – that feeling that tells you another author has come to the fore that is going to ultimately offer you many long and happy hours living another life in another story…

You can follow Emma on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/EmmaLK

And getting your very own copy is as easy as clickety click: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Falling-Emma-Kavanagh/dp/1780892020/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_har?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395907457&sr=1-1&keywords=falling+emma+kavanagh OR a visit to your local Bookstore!

Happy Reading Folks!

Cover your eyes…Bird Box is coming…Interview with Josh Malerman.

18498558__xnGExb

So thanks to Kate and Bob of Killer Reads fame I was one of the lucky few to read this early – tomorrow will see it being released on the general population and it really is a most amazing read, one of the best Post Apocalyptic books I have read and I highly recommend that you get yourself a copy as soon as you can hit the bookstore. I asked Josh some questions about the book and other stuff and here is what he had to tell me.

Tell us a little about how the story started to come together for you?

Essentially, Bird Box is about facing infinity. You know how they say a man will go mad if he meets himself, sees the face of God, stands where space ends, goes back to the moment when time began? Well, that infinty is outside the house Malorie and the others are stuck in. It makes the decision to go outside a big to-do. The thing outside the house is beyond the ceiling of the housemates’ minds.

It’s difficult to say where the story came from or how it came about. I write a lot and I feel tremendously guilty when I don’t. So when I’d finished the novel previous to Bird Box, I waited a few weeks and got started on another. At first, all I had was an image of a woman, traveling down a river blindfolded. I loved that idea. And the story, encountering infinity, quickly ballooned from there.
I love that the main protagonist is a strong female lead – was it hard to write from that perspective?

Yeah. I think it was hard! But at the same time, because she was pregnant, I think I related to her more than if she wasn’t. Not because I’ve been pregnant (not yet!) but because it put her in a patient place in this new world. I liked standing there with her. It kind of forced her and I to observe the scenes a little longer, take a little longer getting up a flight of stairs, a little longer to walk down the hall. There was definitely a difference between experiencing Malorie while she was pregnant (in the house) and when she wasn’t (on the river.) She felt lighter, freer, on the river, but at the same time, she was blindfolded and stuck in a rowboat the whole time. Come to think of it, she really went through a lot! But as goes the man/woman thing, writing the part of a woman, she came pretty naturally to me. I think her and I would’ve made very good friends. In fact, I’d even say we did.

 

Are there any particular Post Apocalyptic tales that inspired it and are you a fan of such stories generally?

I don’t think of Bird Box as an apocalyptic yarn. For me, it falls squarely in horror. When I think apocalypse, I see an ashen sky, ruins, dying trees, poisoned water, disease. Bird Box takes place in a regular old suburb. The world is certainly in trouble, but I don’t think it’s “end times.” It’s too small a story for me to call it “apocalyptic.” It’s all a matter of not opening the front door, not facing infinity, which has more to do with what a man or woman can comprehend, rather than the world crumbling because of something someone in a position of power unleashed.
Can you tell us if there will be more tales from this world?

Ooh. That’s a hard one. I’m interested. Why not? I’d like to know what happened in some other houses. And sometimes, at random points in the day, I’ll find myself wondering how Malorie is doing, how are the kids, do they need me? If they do, maybe I’ll come.
  “Guilty Pleasure” read?

I have been on a strict horror diet for so long I’m surprised I don’t look like Freddy Kreuger. One thing I can’t stop reading are the numerous books about the history of horror cinema. Even when they tell the same stories, book to book, over and over. I’m like, “Ooh, I can’t wait to see who gets to direct Rosemary’s Baby” even though I know damn well who directed it!
E-reader or Physical book?

100% physical. I love to hold ’em. And the curves of the pages are sexy.
Favourite thing to do when procrastinating.

I pace. Or I tell myself I need to go buy the newspaper. Or I check sports scores. But mostly I just feel guilty for putting anything off, so either I’m working or feeling guilty for not.
Coffee or Tea? Or other…

Whiskey. And Coke. Haven’t graduated to straight whiskey yet. That’s probably best.

Thank you so much for taking the time!

 

Review:

Most people ignored the outrageous reports on the news. But they became too frequent, they became too real. And soon, they began happening down the street.  Then the Internet died. The television and radio went silent.The phones stopped ringing. And we couldn’t look outside anymore.

So thanks to Kate and Bob (known to her friends as Katie) this novel arrived on my doorstep on Friday – all I knew about it was what I have put for you above. Anyway, loving post apocalyptic fiction as I do, I added it to my next reading batch and on Saturday off I went. And then I didnt stop. Literally – the book held me in its thrall for the entire day. Various attempts to put it down and do something else for a while ended in failure. Yes, its that good.

Now I strongly advise that this is all you attempt to find out before you begin reading, basic plot is all you will get from me, and that is the absolute best way to come at this one.

We follow Malorie, responsible for her two children, who have been born into a dangerous world, as she attempts to bring them up and keep them safe. Food, water, sleep, none of this comes easy. And she is on her own…

Its hard to describe the atmosphere if you like of this one. It sucks you into the vortex of a completely different way of living – one that is barely imagineable as I sit here typing away in a world full of light and people and hey, internet access. And yet somehow the author, with no effort it seems, makes it all too real. Malorie is a compelling character, and as we learn a little more about the events leading up to where she is now, you will feel what she feels and will travel along the way with her.

Yes Josh Malerman has managed to do something a bit  new with the genre – no easy task. And the perfection of the writing means you feel slightly off balance while reading this – its creepy. It really is. And so addictive – I simply had to know. From beginning to end completely and utterly fascinating, obsessive and sublime. Loved it. Can you tell?

Follow Josh Malerman on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/JoshMalerman

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bird-Box-Josh-Malerman/dp/0007529872/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_har?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395817665&sr=1-1&keywords=bird+box+josh+malerman

(Incidentally I am SO buying myself the HardBack version of this one)

Happy Reading Folks!

 

How Not To Be Starstruck – Portia Macintosh Blog Tour – Guest Post.

1473010_1424828194401502_241778992_n1656327_1455578707993117_2073553891_n

 

 

portia maybe 1

Portia – Why I like a little truth in my fiction

 

Fiction is great, and I love to read and watch all kinds, but I think it’s great when a story has realistic elements. There’s two ways I appreciate this most.

The first is when a tale is told by someone in the know. One of my favourite books of all time is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Originally published under a pseudonym, The Bell Jar was semi-autobiographical and it shows. The main character’s struggle feels real, and you can learn a lot from it.

Another thing I love is brutally honest fiction. I doesn’t have to be based on a true story, just true to life.  Patrick Marber’s play (and the movie that followed) Closer is a brilliant example of this, because it shows love, relationships and the way people behave in the ugliest way. They hurt each other, they cheat and the lie, and all because they are selfish. It’s a bleak view of the world, but these things do happen. Life isn’t always a fairy tale.

When I started writing books about the music industry, I wanted to give people an insight into the world. I wasn’t telling true stories, but I was heavily influenced by real events.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love a completely fictional tale that goes above and beyond my imagination, but a look into other people’s real lives can be nice sometimes too.

 Find out more here:

http://portiamacintosh.tumblr.com/

https://twitter.com/PortiaMacIntosh

Bio:

When she was fifteen-years-old, Portia MacIntosh fell in with a bad crowd… rockstars.
After disappearing on tour and living the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle for a few years, Portia landed a job in the music industry – but only so that she didn’t have to join the real world just yet.
Now in her twenties, Portia is ready to spill the beans on the things she has witnessed over the years. Well, kind of. If her famous friends knew that she was borrowing their lives to inspire her fiction, they would stop inviting her on tour and banish her from the inner circle. Then she really would have to rejoin the real world, and she’s still not ready.
Portia only started writing novels to share her secrets, but then she realised she actually quite liked writing – maybe even more than she likes living on a bus with a bunch of smelly boys – and has since tried her hand at writing about other things.

Purchase Link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Not-Starstruck-Portia-MacIntosh-ebook/dp/B00IECEZ2U/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395732361&sr=1-1&keywords=how+not+to+be+starstruck

Featured: Post Apocalyptic Fiction – Guest Post by James E Parsons.

So today its the turn of James E Parsons to talk Post Apocalyptic Fiction. Thank you so much for getting involved.

 

orb-kinP1000332(1)

 

The genre (or possibly sub-genre some might argue) can often be very fascinating as it can explore and ask serious questions about our society, which we might see as almost perfect culturally, morally, and what if things were to suddenly or dramatically go terribly wrong, extremely bad and all that we know, all we rely on or take for granted might be taken from us. Also, now that we are internationally much more globally connected via the internet and technological advances as a large global community, we are more aware of extreme different cultures and ways of living that are not our own ‘civilized’ Western and capitalist or industrial ways, there can be parallels and fear even of slipping back to more desperate ways. We might fear losing our culture, our technology, and devolving to more basic, savage, primitive ways.  That is just one view of the genre, and sometimes it can feel more dramatic, exciting or essential reading or viewing than more slow, regular ‘safe’ horror or science fiction in general.

My own first science fiction novel Orbital Kin (published last year), has a strong apocalyptic atmosphere, and the last third of the book is in some way post-apocalyptic. After a mysterious epidemic spreads over the UK, towns and cities breakdown, communication and daily life is lost, and people have to soon adapt to desperate, dangerous ways of surviving day by day. This is the last part of a larger story, but it is in some ways my own reaction to the huge continued stream of post-apocalyptic fiction and films over the last few years. It is set in the UK, not in America as most tales are, and with my set of different characters, already on their own journey. I tried to look at some of the areas and themes or issues usually ignored or rarely focused upon. I do not just have one  strong macho Alpha-male lead character, a quiet or needy female. The whole state of the ruined UK streets and towns are focused upon as are issues of power-politically, socially, control, morality, democracy, hope and more.

 

79de96db7bf20731f10ee8e8e1ca2780

Some books and films that may have inspired my writing in this genre include the classic novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, the manga/anime AKIRA, the Mad Max films, the pivotal 28 Days Later and sequel 28 Weeks Later, George Romero’s zombie movie series, recent British thriller film Perfect Sense, and most definately many books and tales from J.G.Ballard such as High Rise, Kingdom Come, Millenium People.

5183WT7JSVL

There are expected traits, familiar imagery and sequences, such as barren land, a near future usually a few decades away or less, familiar towns, cities, countries ruined or neglected, ravaged by disease, violence, unrest or something more mysterious but unstoppable. Characters have to adapt without our modern western luxuries, a lowering or questioning of morals and social ethics in the most desperate situations for the most basic needs-survival, food, shelter, freedom, existence.

 

Thank you James!

 

Find out more here: http://www.jameseparsons.co.uk/home.php?page=home

Follow James on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/ParsonsFiction

Happy Reading Folks!

Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn…Well I am now…

20528130i0_YZKwH

So I jumped on board the Tilly Tennant Blog  Tour Bus and got to read a pretty darn good book. And as its my job today to tell you WHY its pretty darn good, thats exactly what I’m going to do….

Review:

There’s only one man for Bonnie, and that’s Holden Finn.

The problem is that Holden Finn is a twenty-three-year-old pop megastar with his boy band, Every Which Way, and has no idea she exists. Not only that, but half the women in the world want to be Mrs Finn, including Bonnie’s teenage daughter, Paige. The real men in Bonnie’s life do nothing but let her down, but a man you can’t possibly have can never do that… right? She’s safe inside her fantasy bubble.

Then Paige wins a radio competition to meet Holden and the band, and Bonnie’s carefully-constructed world starts to unravel. She is about to find out that you should be very, very careful what you wish for …

So my usual way of going about things when it comes to Romantic Comedies or “chick lit”  is my fairly loose rule that I’m not that fond of reading them and if they don’t involve Hugh Grant or Richard Curtis I’m not that fond of watching them either…but  every so often fate (or one of those lovely Gosling Girls) tells me to get over myself and says – You are missing out. You will love this. LOVE this – and did I? Well yes I kind of did.

Celebrity crushes – we all have them (my current one VERY much involving a rather lovely young Sherlock actor) and the idea that sometimes fantasy can overtake reality and make us act rather obsessively is one that Ms Tennant has taken here and run with – with hilarious and heartwarming results. Thats not all this is about though – within the pages is a terrific look at relationships, especially that between mother and teenage daughter (and trust me I KNOW how that goes) along with some wry and ironic life outlook using some tremendously well drawn characters to push the story along.

I laughed a lot. Because of course imagining something and planning something hardly ever bears resemblance to what actually occurs when you think a dream might be coming true. I loved Bonnie and the best part of this story for me was her love for, and relationship with, Paige – a rather typical teenager when it comes to the word “selfish” – both extremely loveable characters who you will fall for. Hopelessly.

Throw into the mix one Superstar, the man you KNOW should actually be “the one” and a supporting cast of varied and extraordinarily likely characters and you have a fabulous, fun and tremendously addictive read that you will devour as if it were cake. Chocolate cake at that.

Recommended for fans of living life. Truly.

Happy Reading Folks!

Find out more here: http://tillytennant.com/

Follow Tilly on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/TillyTenWriter

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hopelessly-Devoted-Holden-Tilly-Tennant-ebook/dp/B00HYC45SK/ref=cm_pdp_rev_itm_img_1

If you would like a Gosling Girls tour for your book then look no further! http://goslinggirlsbooktours.weebly.com/

 

Why We Read – Guest Post from A Little Faith.

129386759

Today is the first of hopefully many guest posts from my reading friends on the joy of reading. Why we Read. Today I welcome one of my BookLikes Buddies – A Little Faith.

You can find out more about what and why she reads by visiting here: http://alittlefaith.booklikes.com/

 

Why we read – a little faith

 

As a child I believed that the written word was intended exclusively for adults.  I was alienated from it because I didn’t understand it nor did I like it.  It was all too flowery for my tastes, full of circumlocution and elitism.  So I spend my leisure time with comics not books, not realizing that I was in fact still technically ‘reading.’  I read everything from action heroes to Garfield, the dark to just plain silly.  However as I entered my double digits, I stumbled across Calvin and Hobbes. It was a revelation.  It spoke to my soul.  It was as though I had spent my life thus far without ever encountering wit. Of course I had but I never before appreciated its cleverness and brilliance.  I was in awe.

77727

I have this wide pedantic streak that runs through my core.  Confessions of bringing me the moon and stars will only result in scorn from me.  I’d rather something more honest and thereby inherently more humble.  You can’t guarantee to keep me always happy but you can promise to hold my hand through it all.  So Bill Watterson’s words were pure genius to me.  I’ve never seen irony done better; that exquisite juxtaposition of the literal and the figurative creating a pleasing kind of absurdity.  I love the playful conversations between Calvin and his constant companion Hobbes filled with the mocking tone of barbs yet also profundity and love.

 

I didn’t always understand them but I knew that if I sought answers I would be rewarded.  Every strip left me wiser and always with a smile on my face.  (Don’t ask me about the raccoon…) I always imagined that when he grew up he would follow in the footsteps of Ferris Bueller – that same style of life-affirming impulsive stupidity. Questioning everything – apart from his father – a contrarian by nature because being an outcast, misunderstood or social pariah was nothing if you were true to yourself.  Calvin remains a wondrous creation – a character with personality that never ceases to amaze or endear him to you.

 

Eventually at school we began studying Shakespeare’s plays, though I didn’t give it due attention because school was a difficult environment for me, for many reasons and mostly I dreamed of another life whilst in class.  However self-study of his plays brought proper appreciation of his art. I found it incredible that something written centuries before could still be relevant to me.  I realized that the universal language was not only love but hate, envy, loyalty and in fact the whole gamut of human emotions.

 

The hard truth in King Lear scrapping down the blackboard of enlightenment wasn’t just astute it was an accurate description of the motives and desires of the people around me including all their hitherto ‘secret’ justifications for their actions.  What is reprehensible to some is only too easily natural for others.  All expounded through intricate verse and epic stories though let’s not forget those sumptuous insults! “You are not worth the dust which the rude wind blows in your face.”

9717

However it was the nuanced description of the human experience in Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being that presented emotions not in the broad black and white strokes of Shakespeare but in the grey void in which we all live our lives.   The title is beautiful, philosophical and even spiritual.  In amongst the rebellion of the all the characters against themselves, people and the world, Milan Kundera weaves in weighty questions about the meaning or meaningless of life.  I love that he doesn’t necessarily propagate one answer or message but explores all the possibilities just as I infer he must have thought over, just as the characters do and just as the readers will inevitably.

 

It is his wondrous metaphors that are profound yet simple placing the rebellion of the characters’ action against the question of commitment to each other and fundamentally this life.  It is a plot centred on the characterizations so that the mystery lies in the soul and not the thrills of who dunnits.  It is about the journey more than the end and I found myself lingering over his elegant choice of words and sophisticated reasoning complete with original analogies.  I did not wish to rush to the end to find out the conclusion because I was enjoying the present too much; almost mirroring the message in some respects.

 

Then four years ago I came across the writings of David Foster Wallace and decided to pick up what I wrongly perceived to be the ‘mammoth’ task of reading Infinite Jest.  Again, what a wonderful title inspiring wit and immediate interest.  His writing is superb combining all the traits beloved to me: wit, semantics, irony with a pinch of playful pedantic attitude.  His mastery over his craft is intimidating but his comprehension of the human spirit is magnanimous.   It is about the struggle that we all grapple with but above all is about empathy.  As Herman Melville said, “Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.”  None of us are qualified to serve out justice in just decrees.   Furthermore everything we do is tainted by ethnocentrism and the lament of existentialists everywhere!

 

I get why people find his books difficult to read and as Dave Eggers noted though extremists argue over the need for contemporary fiction to be easy to read vs. challenging the many who live in the middle “don’t mind a little of both.”  Wallace gets difficult right though, it isn’t pretentious or self-righteous.  It is quirky placing detailed next to popular.  As he himself says, “At root, vulgar just means popular on a mass scale. It is the semantic opposite of pretentious or snobby. It is humility with a comb-over. It is Nielsen ratings and Barnum’s axiom and the real bottom line. It is big, big business.”

 

That’s why I now read everything inclusively.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Featured: Dystopian Fiction. Guest Post by Lola Stinson.

So a little while back I compared The Hunger Games and Divergent in a post and recently I asked Twitter Friend Lola to do the same as part of the ongoing features on different genres that you may have seen popping up. Below are her thoughts: Warning. If you have not yet read either of these trilogies there are spoilers. So over to Lola..

 

133350372767052

 

The Hunger Games is a very well written and developed coming of age story that brings the dystopian genre to a whole new level. It has the main elements of a dystopian novel:

–          the protagonist who usually questions the society, often feeling that something is terribly wrong

–          a society ruled by an elite

–          all the programs of the society and its educational system are made in a way to convince society into thinking that life under the regime is good and just

–          fear and disgust of the world outside the state

–          constant surveillance by the state’s police officers

–          the condition of living among the lower and middle class of this society is generally poorer than in contemporary society

Katniss is the classic dystopian hero who puts the well being of future generations above her own, and who cares more about saving the life of the ones she cares about than her own life. Katniss also knows that there is something really wrong with the way things are handled concerning the games. What may be seen by anyone who lives in one of the districts. Suzanne also brings to life one of the most realistic and sometimes ignored reality we live, the manipulation of a society that thinks this is the way things should be, people who live in the Capitol think the games are nothing but a pastime or harmless games. Because they were raised and “programmed” to believe that. Surely, this is an exaggeration of our current situation, but that is what dystopia means (dys–: bad and –topia: place). A dystopian novel is supposed to bring out the worst case scenario of the writer’s reality. And, Suzanne herself has talked about this; the author brought our society’s obsession with reality shows to an extreme. Another dystopian trait that pops out in the story is the condition of living among the poorer districts, especially 12, when Gale and Katniss have to put their names again and again in the reaping so that they can receive extra food from Panem.

Having those things in mind, this is how I perceive The Hunger Games Trilogy, it is very well written, aside from the fact that there are too many characters and I really did not feel the development of some of those characters, although they have a purpose on the story like the tributes from other districts. What fascinates me about dystopian novels is that no one is entirely bad nor entirely good, even Peeta has selfish reasons to go back to the arena, he wants to be sure that Katniss will be safe. Back to how I feel the novel, it is very well written and developed; Suzanne Collins is a great writer. But it is sort of too mechanical; I cannot feel Suzanne’s voice throughout the book so much.

Now Divergent. I also has many of the main traits of a dystopian novel:

–          the protagonist who usually questions the society, often feeling that something is terribly wrong

–          a society ruled by an elite

–          all the programs of the society and its educational system are made in a way to convince society into thinking that life under the regime is good and just

–          fear and disgust of the world outside the state

–          constant surveillance by the state’s police officers

–          the condition of living among the lower and middle class of this society is generally poorer than in contemporary society

Tris is also a classic dystopian hero, extremely selfless and who fights for a better future and to protect the people she loves. Tris also comes to question the system in which she lives, however that comes after a while for her while for Katniss, it is something that she already does – question the system. Veronica also brings a worst case scenario of something we’ve been living for decades; society gives you a choice within a limited quantity of options. For instance, you can be a democrat or a republican or go to college or work at a burger shop for the rest of your life. And there are people who manage to create and follow new options; they would be the divergent. Also the need to belong and that is a human condition. And last but not least, the need to label is also there. And the poorer classes would be represented by the factionless and the Abnegation; Amity, Candor and Dauntless would be the middle class and the Erudite, the upper class and Elite. Veronica also shows that nobody is 100% good, not even the leaders of the revolution against the oppressive system.

How I perceive the story is that it is an amazing idea and, different from all dystopian novels I’ve ever read, the world of Divergent makes me want to live there. Which is not a common dystopian trait. But, as I said, amazing idea that was not very well developed. I don’t mean to say Veronica isn’t a good and talented writer, she is. But the novel lacks management of pacing sometimes and reasons for a few deaths. But it kept glued to it until the beginning of the last book. I feel as though the writer got a bit lost in the last book, even though I loved it. In my opinion, she should’ve stuck to Tris’s POV only seeing as she did not balance both POV’s as well as she could have and the book deserved. Also, I felt that the writer tried so desperately and rushed so much into explaining everything that some things got really messy.

117359836148028

Comparing both works:

1)      Scenario:  The Hunger Games has a better detailed scenario, which makes our lives easier. Divergent ‘s scenario is not like that, but the scenario isn’t important to the story most of the time. Why the scenario is important to THG? Because of the arena, the obstacles and position of the characters, it’s important to know that they’re in a forest and that Rue is near Katniss but not so close. When it comes to Divergent, a few scenarios would really matter, like the chasm that could and should have been better described, the aptitude test scenario also very important and it’s sort of blurred, etc.

2)      Characters:  That’s when I think Divergent tops THG by far. Because Suzanne brings a lot of characters into the story, makes them important (if they’re tributes, they’re important) but we know nothing about them, I hate poor character development. And that is where, in my opinion, Suzanne gets lost – developing characters. Tris knows a lot about the other initiates, which gives us a lot to work with and she grows as a person – which doesn’t happen to Katniss and it should.

3)      Pace: THG trilogy, Divergent and Insurgent have awesome paces and I couldn’t stop reading, even at work. But Allegiant really got me bored and not at all excited to finish it any time soon.

4)      System: President Snow is an awful person who manipulates people to get where he wants. However Jeannine thinks that what she is doing is actually right and, as Tris said many times,  she is not evil. Jeannine believes in the system and that knowledge is the most important thing, above all. And that’s how this system should work in a dystopian novel.

Now to non dystopian traits:

1)      Friendships: Katniss does not have friends, her only friend is actually in love with her. Haymitch is not her friend, he’s someone very special and dear to her but not her friend. Tris has friends and what really gets me in this amazing novel is how Veronica was able to work relationship conflicts very deeply. She develops conflicts in Tris’s family, among her friends, her initiate class, the system and her boyfriend. Which isn’t neither easy nor relevant to a dystopia, but it is important in a story. Especially an Young Adult novel.

2)      Romance: I like the way Suzanne shows that what really matters in the story and for Katniss is being safe and helping her people, not which guy she’s gonna end up with. And that’s what makes THG more special and better to me than Divergent. Sometimes I just wanna vomit with all the importance that the novel gives the romances happening. This is not relevant.

 

177367957710333

Endings:

Mockingjay is my favorite book of the trilogy and it is an amazing, brilliant work of art. It is Mockingjay that shows what power does to someone and how not everyone who fights the system wants to change it. Coin didn’t want to change the system, she wanted kids from the Capitol to fight to the death – she didn’t want changes, she wanted revenge and being the head of everything. Allegiant was a disaster, I started hating Tris at some point and her death had no effect on me. But I liked the way it ended, it was a different ending for a dystopian novel, where people move on with their lives carrying scars that are not as deep as it is most of the time.

 

Thank you Lola!

You can follow her on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/lolpondwilliams

Happy Reading Folks!