Book Reviews





NaNoWriMo - The idea

The heart was dark that stood before him. Shredded and tattered, torn beyond all recognition.
Number 9 had no idea of the bonds it had escaped to be here, or of the lives it had sacrificed and left behind.
Four countries and countless chance encounters later, it was Talia, and he saw it had never forgotten that day in the snow - when its spine had been ripped from it so savagely. Only fate and true vengeance could have drawn it here. Now death could finally end the cycle - but at what cost? With Talia gone 9 could be 10 and gone forever.

That ^ is a paragraph I wrote about 3/4 years ago, and what I intend to use as my basis for NaNoWriMo 2011. I don't have a clear cut plan. All I know is my characters and how their story ends. If all I write is a 50,000 word ending I'll be happy as pie. If I just make it to week 2, I'll be even happier!

I want to be really committed to this. I want to come out of November thinking "yes, I've actually achieved something I'm proud of". It's nice to have that feeling, but I'm also aware it could go the other way. I could resent the fact I have a word limit and a deadline. I might let the self-doubt I'm so prone win, and quit. I might begin to wonder why I'm spending so much time on something that will come to nothing. (< see there's that doubt already!)

So this weekend, I'm not touching a book. I'm not writing a single blog post. I'm not even going to update twitter. I'm going to do mindless things girls do when they don't have self-imposed challenges. I'm going to have "one last hurrah" before November hits coz that's when I'm going to hit this thing head first, and by bookishness am I going to see it through to it's bitter end.

If Im quiet over the next few weeks - NaNoWriMo is the reason why. I'll try and keep you updated but I have a couple guest posters lined up incase I can't ;)

Some men grow moustashes... I write a novel. Shit just happens.

Guilty Pleasures and Life Lessons

If YA fiction is my comfort-novel, Jodi Picoult must be my dirty little secret. I have read 7 of her books in the past, and I have two more on my Kindle, waiting. Usually, I hate all that courtroom-drama lawyer faff and "bookclub books" which are written to be discussed. (Of course all books spark discussion, but you know what I mean... the ones that drop symbology as a requirement, not as an artform...) but JP has me cracked. In all honesty, I can't wait to see what she's got to say every time.

The first book of Jodi's I ever read was a gift from a friend. She was leaving to live in South Africa and she gave me Second Glance with a lovely inscription in the cover. I love recieving books as gifts. You are usually presented with something you would never pick for yourself - and that very thing can be said for Second Glance. If I had seen it on a shop's bookshelf, I wouldn't have even read the blurb.

The trouble is, as much as the old adage "never judge a book by it's cover" is true, I do judge. And the swirly writing and light blue hues would scream "your mum would read this with a tea" at me.
However, there was a reason I was given this book. There was a reason my friend went as far as to inscribe a message and recommend the story.
So I began to read...

I have to say, the friend was clever. Of all of Jodi Picoult's many novels, she had given me the least "Jodi-ish" but the one that would spark my interest the most. This one had ghosts.

Even Jodi Picoult writes in the back of Second Glance that it is the book she never imagined she would write, but man, am I glad she did. I was hooked from the word go, and I cannot thank my friend enough for introducing me. Following that, I read Keeping Faith and harrassed my other friends for any other stories of her's they owned. I ended up with My Sister's Keeper, Nineteen Minutes, Handle with Care and Vanishing Acts. I pretty much devoured them.

There's just something about an even sided account of a moral dilemma that I love, apparently. (We have already established in previous posts that I get enthralled by the stangest of things). And I think it's also the great depiction of female characters she presents that I enjoy; the the strength of them. Also the mother/daughter relationships are pretty relateable for me. God knows I caused my own mum enough grief growing up, and I wasn't always the well-adjusted lady you see before you now (ha!) Growing up, and in hindsight reading the novels now, Jodi Picoult has helped me see things from my mum's side. I saw why parents do the things they do. I learnt that they have hearts of gold and glass in equal meaure. And she told me all this without patronising me, at a time of my life when I needed it, and would have run the other way at a "serious" conversation.

Books can have the strangest effect on you. They carry worldly views and life lessons. You can make your mistakes through them and right them before they ever make it into your own life. This is what Jodi Picoult offers. This is why I will always read her books.

The Woman in Black - film

If you have read The Woman In Black by Susan Hill you will know how brilliant it is. If you have seen the play, you will know how wonderfully it adapts to a visual medium. If you have seen this trailer for the upcoming cinema release, you will be just a little bit more than excited:

What cinema does is provide the "jumpiness" the play delivers that the book can't, and the landscape that the book describes and the stage can't cope with.

For once, a film could be exactly what a book needs.

Will be interesting to see Daniel Radcliffe in this role too.

Forgotten - REVIEW

Say this with me now: "hall - e - lull - jah" - I have found the one book on all the shelves that takes YA fiction and doesn't patronise the fluff out of you.

I would like to personally thank Cat Patrick for writing a novel that not only includes "supernatural elements" and romance that doesnt make me want to hurl, but that also completely understands the language, emotions and instability of being a teenager.

Forgotten is exactly the kind of YA fiction I want to read. It's the Ben Stiller Effect (as mentioned in this post) and it's also clever, endearing and fun.
London Lane is a girl who can't remember yesterday or anything before it, but sees her future as "memories"; it's interesting, well thought-out and it's not labouriously explained every chapter unlike some books I could mention. While coping with this "broken brain", London see flashes of a future that causes her to think both her boyfriend and her mother are lying to her, and seeks to find out what they're keeping in the dark.

I really enjoyed reading Forgotten. For the first time in a long time, I actually cared for the characters. London is the most human character I've read lately and very relatable to teenage girls. I like that, for once, a YA heroine isn't melodramatic or letting her life be pulled apart by instant, unfounded love for a dangerous boy. London cares for her friends, she does her homework and she actually wants a relationship with her parents (who aren't just there to provide her somewhere legitimate to sleep!)
Through London, Cat Patrick really captures the excitement of a crush, and even though London experiences this for the first time every day, she manages to make it new each time and not once did I find myself thinking "here we go again..." She also has the art of teenage conversation to a "T".
As for the obligatory "hot boyfriend", the old favourites of "gorgeous" and "god-lilke" are in there, but they aren't over-used. And, actually - this dude's a half decent guy! *high fives*

Aside from the great charaters, the story line walks the divide between fun and serious like an old pro. There are some quite heavy themes in the book (teacher/student romance, death, absent parents, kidnap) but Cat Patrick manages to keep a great balance that never lets the book fall into a dark shadow.

All in all, Forgotten is a great read and I would definately recommend it to you if you like a bit of romance and mystery. It's solid teen fiction, and a whole heap better than anything else I've encountered in the genre lately. It was also refreshing to read a book that didn't lean entirely upon the paranormal elements of it's story to carry it and instead created characters you wanted to believe in.

If you've read Forgotten, I'd love to hear what you thought of it too!


Books to make time for - Part 5

Part 5 of the Books to make time for series is here! And this time I'm championing The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (a.k.a Genius... to me, anyways...)

I have been a massive fan of Carlos Ruiz Zafon for years (Starting immediately the moment I opened the first page of his most renowned book "The Shadow Of The Wind") - I find his writing style beautiful and his stories completely immersing. It's horrible to have to wait so long for his books to be translated from his native Spanish in order to be able to read them though!

What is it about?

In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man - David Martin - makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books, and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city's underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner. Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love. Then David receives the offer of a lifetime: he is to write a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realises that there is a connection between this haunting book and the shadows that surround his home...

Why should you make time for it?

The way Carlos Ruiz Zafon writes his characters is just amazing. Every book I've read of his has such believable, fully rounded characters so well written it's like you know them personally. They have habits, idioms, flaws, talents and humanity. He also introduces you to a very different, gothic Barcelona - where darkness, mystery and romance prevail. The Angel's Game is a book about writers for writers, by a writer's writer. It's flippin' ace.

You might like this if you like...

Gothic horror, paranormal/supernatural elements, psychological thrillers, Spain, Stephen King

This book is similar to:

Shadow of the Wind, The Dark Half

Where can you get it?

Find it at Amazon or on Kindle



November is National Novel Writing Month (endearingly termed by it's participants as NaNoWriMo) and I have tentatively decided to take part. The aim is to write 50,000 words in a month... just for the hell of it. (Well, maybe not "the hell of it" - probably more because you just darn love to write!)

I say tentatively because I know what I'm like. I'll dive head first into it, writing for 3 hours a night, every night... for about a week. And then I'll forget... Or I'll not have time... Or I'll just find myself watching season 1 million of America's Next Top Model instead.

It's not because I don't love to write, though. Because I do. Very much. It's that I have never in my life been able to see an idea through more than about 50 pages. Even if I had the next Lord of the Rings scale epic in my head, all characterised and beginning-middle-and-ended, I'd still only reach Tom Bombadil before I gave it up.

My biggest flaw as a writer is my conviction - in myself and in my ideas. I tend to write an idea, only to get a month or so into it and think "noone else would read this" and stop because I feel it's self-indulgent pap.

That's why blogging suits me. It's short and no-one pays anything to read it so I don't have to feel guilty if you don't lilke what I'm spewwing. I don't have to approach anyone to be judged and approved, and I don't have to hit a word count.

However... that makes me a coward. I don't want to be that. And, actually, I'd quite like to one day have a complete story to my name, I might even want to publish it... I want to challenge and push myself. So, NaNoWriMo it is.

I've been putting a few ideas together and different avenues I could go down.

There's the Teen Fantasy Romance - tempting because its ridiculously easy to write, off-putting because I bloody hate the genre at the moment thanks to certain vampires and their rip-offs.

There's the Introverted Musing/Memoir - possibly the one with the most longevity because I could write it like a journal, making nightly writing for a month a bit more plausible - but man, this story could would be boring!

Then there's the "just write and see what happens" option. This has the most potential for failure because I'm attacking with no plan and nothing to aim for the following night... but could be the better end result.

So, there you have it! Stage one of my NaNoWriMo journey well and truly muddled and confused.

I'll probably be tweeting my trials and tribulations so if you want to witness disaster at work, follow me @mabismab. I can't say it will be pretty, but wonders never cease. I could do with the encouragement to be honest!

See ya!


Starcrossed - REVIEW

I feel that recently YA fiction has lost it's way a bit. I'm sure that there have been books published in the last 6 months that don't follow the "My life was just so damned normal until [insert goregeous, arrestingly beautiful, adonis-like creature of a guy] came into my life and made it dangerous and exciting coz he, like, had powers!" formula, but I'm also sure there's very few.

Starcrossed, unfortunately for me, is not one of them. Recently, it has been attracting many complimentary reviews, and "best YA book of 2010" status. And in fact the blurb sounded interesting when I read it, so I downloaded it to Kindle and jumped in.

Let me just tell you right now, if you are considering reading this book based upon the blurb - it is very misleading. Misleading in the "I could almost report you to OFCOM for false advertising" sense of the word. Here it is, by the way:

When shy, awkward Helen Hamilton sees Lucas Delos for the first time she thinks two things: the first, that he is the most ridiculously beautiful boy she has seen in her life; the second, that she wants to kill him with her bare hands.
With an ancient curse making them loathe one another, Lucas and Helen have to keep their distance. But sometimes love is stronger than hate, and not even the gods themselves can't prevent what will happen . . . 

The whole loathing/murderous thing? It's about 3-4 pages of the book. It quickly makes way for sappy, all-engulfing, ridiculous love. The book's 528 pages long - that's an awful lot of non-loathing the blurb conveniently breezed over...

Also, apart from the weird allusion to Gods, is there anything that would have you think this book, and its entire plot, is based on the Iliad and Greek mythology? Forgive me for thinking this might actually be a bit dark and gothic at the mention of ancient curses... and did anyone else think plot segments might take a bit of inspiration from Shakespeare due to the title? Maybe it's just me...

Oh, and the thing the Gods cant prevent? IT NEVER HAPPENS! So I guess the Gods did prevent it, huh?

So, blurb-bashing over... Onto the content. It's actually not too badly written. The first and last few chapters are quite enjoyable. But Starcrossed is about 300 pages too long. There's waaaay too many characters that are non-essential to the plot and there are a lot of scenes that don't really move anything along, and seem only to serve as a plateau for "hand holding" between Helen and Lucas. There was also a background storyline going on about Helen's father dating/not dating his co-worker that didn't really need to be there...
As a result I found Starcrossed hard to read for any length of time. I'd pick it up for five minutes, read a bit, get bored, and forget about it until the next time I had nothing better to do.

As for the Greek mythology, at first it seemed shoe-horned in and a little bit laughable... then I came to just accept it, as it obviously wasn't going to go away any time soon... and then it got so contrived and confusing I couldn't be bothered any more and wished it would all just end already.

Annoyingly, as with every YA book in the world these days, it seems to be the first of a series. I don't think Ill be buying the next one.

I found this really strange video promoting the book on Amazon. Please tell me this isn't making it onto a screen of any kind and publishers are just trying a creepy new way of advertising literature?