Sunday, 30 December 2012

Favourite Books of the Year

2012 has been an incredible year - I got married and we went on a fantastic honeymoon to Canada and the East Coast of the USA. We went to the top of the CN tower, we went on the Maid of the Mist cruise on the Niagara Falls and we went to the top of the Empire State Building.

The best picture out of all of our honeymoon pictures...
Writing wise, I have continued to have short stories published, I have been book reviewing more and more and I have also decided to write another novel. I'm hoping this one doesn't take four years to write. There have been writing rejections too but that's all part of being a writer.

Overall this year has been a great reading year. I have read quite a few books that have been published in 2012 thanks to The View From Here Magazine and to publishers sending me copies to review on my blog.

Here are my favourite books for 2012 in no particular order:


HHhH by Laurent Binet - HHhH is about two Polish men setting out to assassinate Heydrich during WWII. Running alongside this story is a sub plot about the novelist as he tries to write a book about the assassination, trying to resist the temptation to make things up. I loved the unusual style.

Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson - I reviewed this on my blog. I loved the fact that this book doesn't let you go even when you have reached the final page. Very inspiring story.

Buddha In The Attic by Julie Otsuka - I reviewed this for The View From Here Magazine. I loved the plural viewpoint.

The Understanding Of Women by Janina Matthewson - I reviewed this on my blog after reading Janina's tweets about her front cover. I loved the simple story and the way it contained huge themes.

The Explorer by James Smythe - comes out in physical book format in 2013 but is currently available as an ebook. - I shall be reviewing this in a few weeks time.

Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson - I have been waiting to read this all year and after reading 6 books in a row, which all needed reviewing, I thought I would treat myself to this. This book is brilliant - funny, raw and unsettling all rolled into one autobiography.

What has been your favourite read of the year?

Happy New Year!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Book Review: Monkeys With Typewriters

My review of Scarlett Thomas's Monkeys with Typewriters is now up at The View From Here Magazine.

You can read it here.

Preview: This book has helped me get back into writing.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas


The best way to get us all in the festive mood is a sing-along-song to The 12 days of Christmas. So, here are my 12 days of Christmas Writer's Little Helper 2012.


12 rejections for the novel and short stories*
11 books reviewed on my blog.
10 empty notebooks, sitting on my bookshelf.
9 drafts of my novel.
8 empty fountain pen cartridges.
7 books reviewed at The View From Here Magazine.
6 stories published online and in print.
5 guest posts.
4 new printer ink cartridges.
3 stories republished.
2 book extracts.
1 story in progress, which could possibly turn into a new novel.
  
*It could be more but I have lost count


Yes, that really is Santa on a unicorn.
Merry Christmas everybody!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Book Review: Roman Tales

Roman Tales 
by Stendhal
Translated by Susan Ashe
Published by The Friday Project
Available in paperback and ebook


I thought Roman Tales would be a book that I might struggle with but it turns out I really enjoyed reading it.

Roman Tales brings together three of Stendhal's tales - The Abbess of Castro, Vittoria Accordamboni and The Cenci. This collection also includes accompanying essays by Charles Dickens and Percy Bysshe Shelley, for the first time in English. These stories were written almost 150 years ago and are historical tales about the 16th and 17th century way of life in Italy.

I thought the language would be 17th cenutry lingo and I would be sitting there flicking between the book and my dictionary but Susan Ashe has done a great job on the translation and has made the stories accessible for the modern reader. Having the tales bookended with introductions and background notes helps by giving context to the stories.

The stories were inspired by collected documents from an archive owned by Roman patricians, which Stendhal was able to access and read. From just reading these three tales, it is easy to see that Stendhal loves the Italian way of life and prefers it to his native French lifestyle. Each of these tales celebrate the Italian way of life. Roman Tales could give modern soap operas a run for their money. There are an abundance of compelling characters who are caught up with the passions of life. There are plenty of battles, bandits and blood. Each of the characters becomes entangled with the law, with families and with love.

Roman Tales is a great introduction to Stendhal's work.

You can purchase Roman Tales from your favourite online or offline retailer.

The publisher was kind enough to send me a copy. 

*

This is my last book review for 2012. In January 2013 I have two great books lined up for review - Born Weird by Andrew Kaufman and The Explorer by James Smythe.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

An Update In Bullet Points

There hasn't been much time for writing recently, well not in epic portions. I have been trying to write 2-3 times a week, aiming for 200 words each time. Most times I have been able to make it. But for the past few weeks real life has been hectic and so I haven't had much chance to write. So here's an update in bullet points.

  • I have been working on a short story (I talked about it here) and I have realised that it's actually a much bigger idea than I first thought. It's only 1000 words long at the moment and I might be redrafting them as I think the protagonist should be a woman. I also have pages of notes in my notebook and my Mac. I think this is definitely going to be bigger than a short story. The idea came from a newspaper article that appeared a few years ago, which I printed off and kept in my drawer for a rainy day. Then I found it, read it and started to think about it more and more over the past few months.




  • I hope you have been enjoying the Q&A Imaginary Bookshop. I just love reading about writers and their ideas about bookshops. I have a great one for January from one of my favourite authors, Andrew Kaufman.  
  • There are lots of blogs and newspapers already posting their 'books of the year' but I am going to hold out until January because there's still a chance I could read a fantastic book between now and the end of the year.
  • The lovely Claire over at You, Me and the Story has tagged me for 'The Next Big Thing' but I'm not sure if I am the next big thing - I have buried my novel in the bowels of my Macbook and my next project is in bullet point form at the moment. I think I am going to wait and fill it out once my writing project grows a bit bigger...

Monday, 10 December 2012

Book Review: Beautiful Lies


Beautiful Lies
By Clare Clark 
ISBN - 9781846556050

I'll be honest the stunning cover of Beautiful Lies was the only reason why I wanted to read the book. I don't normally read historical fiction. It reminds me too much of school and being forced to read the classics. But Clare Clark's fourth novel, Beautiful Lies, has proved all of those pre-conceived ideas wrong and has convinced me to read more historical fiction in the future. 

Beautiful Lies is set in 1887 as London prepares for Queen Victoria's jubilee. Through out the book, there are stong similarities between 2012 and 1887 - riots, high levels of poverty, civil rights being compromised, recession. This book made me consider the question of 'do we ever learn from history or do we just look back at the past with rose tinted glasses?' Even the characters are left considering this question when looking back at their own lives. 

Central to the story of the Beautiful Lies are Maribel, a sometimes poet and semi-professional photographer and her socialist politician husband, Edward. On the surface they are the 'It Couple.' They have a flat in London, are acquainted with famous artists and authors, and they fight for the rights for workers. Edward at one point ends up in a riot and in prison. But under the surface they have a past that threatens to ruin them both. 

As Beautiful Lies progress, the story delves deeper into the past of Maribel and the reader learns that she is not a Spanish trophy wife for her politician husband, Edward. She was actually born in Yorkshire but ran away to become an actress but ends up as a prositutue and meets Edward in a brothel. Together they spin a story about her Spanish family. The most fascinating thing about Maribel and Edward is the fact that they are based on a real life scandal about the real-life couple, Robert Cunninghame Graham and his wife Gabriela, which didn't come out until their deaths.

Memory plays an important part within Beautiful Lies. On one hand Maribel wants to bury her past but has to face the consequences when her family suddenly appear in her life. She wants to preserve her 'present' self as much as possible. We see this with her fascination with photography and using it to capture the truths and to look beyond the veneer of society. Maribel wants to capture a genuine memory. Yet she stays behind the camera so then no one can capture her true nature. 

Beautiful Lies is an entertaining book full of secrets, lies and drama and full of vivid and sometimes indulgent descriptions. This is an ideal book to curl up with when it's freezing outside or when you want a book to read in the bath. Beautiful Lies would make an ideal Christmas present for a family member or friend who likes soap-opera style historical fiction. 

You can purchase Beautiful Lies from your favourite online or offline book retailer.

The publisher kindly sent me a copy for review. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Days Out For Writers: Library of Congress

This day out for writers and readers could involve a plane for most readers of this blog. I had the chance to go along to the Library of Congress while on my honeymoon, back in September.

There are two ways to get to the Library of Congress either through the front door or an underground passage from the Capitol Building. We went via the Capitol Building (you can do tours around that building too).

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world and holds over 32 million catalogued books! Thanks to the power of Wikipedia I can tell you that there are 838 miles of shelves. There's no way I would want to dust those books.

It is the most impressive library I have ever visited. For once I am going to let the pictures do the talking. It is such an amazing building and it feels more like a Greek temple than a library. Its no surprise that it has been used as a location for many films.

The Library of Congress is a great place to visit for writers and for readers as you will find some of the oldest books within the walls of the library. I think it's good for writers to know about the beginnings of publishing and reading. There are tour guides who show groups around the library, pointing out the intricate details and the history.

You are also allowed to look from the balcony into the reading room and watch people reading and doing research.

There are lots of exhibits - while we were there we learnt about maps throughout history.

If you ever get a chance to visit then you should definitely find the time to have a look around the building.

Plus the gift shop is full of writer/reader goodies!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Guest Post: Mike French's Imaginary Bookshop


Recently I reviewed Mike French’s book, Blue Friday. Mike has kindly agreed to pop over to Writer’s Little Helper and answer 9 questions on the subject of running an imaginary bookshop.

*

Hi Mike, congratulations on the publication of your second novel, Blue Friday and thank you for popping over to Writer’s Little Helper.

STOP PRESS: Mike was too busy living the glamorous life of a writer to answer the questions so he has sent Mr Brittle and Mr Stone, characters from Blue Friday to answer them.

1.     What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
Mr Brittle: Brittle & Stone Incorporated.
Mr Stone: Stone & Brittle Incorporated.
Mr Brittle: Don’t start, Mr Stone.
Mr Stone: Sorry, Mr Brittle.

2.     Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
Mr Brittle: At the back of the dry cleaners on Edgware Road. 
Mr Stone: Next to Jack.  He likes books.  He lives in the underground.   Can we have our shop in the underground?

3.     Would your bookshop have any special features? E.g. a performing stage, a cocktail bar, etc.
Mr Brittle: It would have a big clock on the wall and a rotating door.
Mr Stone: And naked girls in a sandpit.

4.     What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
Mr Brittle: At five-o-clock we would throw people out onto the street.
Mr Stone: We would oil the rotating door.

5.     What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
Mr Brittle: We would have a section called RCB.
Mr Stone: Really crap books.  We will discount them and put them in piles of three.
Mr Brittle: We can count to three.
Mr Stone:  One, two, three.  See.
Mr Brittle: I think she sees, Mr Stone.

6.     Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
Mr Brittle: You ask a lot of questions, Mrs Jessica.
Mr Stone: We would put the RCBs there.
Mr Brittle: Yes good one, Mr Stone. A table with legs five meters tall.
Mr Stone: They can’t reach them.
Mr Brittle: And rats to bite fingers, Mr Stone.
Mr Stone: Yes, bad customer should know better, Mr Brittle.
Mr Brittle: Bite, bite, scratch and claw.
Mr Stone: Shoo, bad customer. Go away. 

7.     If you could run only one author event who would you have? You can pick a living or dead writer. What sort of event would they run?
Mr Brittle: I would invite Mike French. 
Mr Stone: He is very famous.  Although sadly dead now.
Mr Brittle: He was killed taking in the milk.
Mr Stone: It was the birds.
Mr Brittle: The event would be a book burning.
Mr Stone: Yes, a good idea, Mr Brittle.
Mr Brittle: You see, Mrs Jessica, we hate his books.
Mr Stone:  Apart from the bits with naked girls.
Mr Brittle: We would humiliate him, invite all his friends then burn his books.
Mr Stone: That would teach him, Mr Brittle.
Mr Brittle: Teach him, Mr Stone.

8.     A customer comes up to your till with a copy of Blue Friday and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
Mr Brittle: Don’t - you’re wasting your money.
Mr Stone: Read page ninety- one.

9.     What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
Mr Brittle: Chocolate mice.
Mr Stone: We haven’t got a book, Mr Brittle.
Mr Brittle: I think she means Blue Friday, Mr Stone.
Mr Stone: We don’t like that book, Mrs Jessica. My Mother is not pleased.
Mr Brittle: Not pleased, Mrs Jessica.
Mr Stone: It is after five, Mr Brittle.
Mr Brittle We are going to throw you out now, Mrs Jessica.
Mr Stone: We will enjoy throwing you out, Mrs Jessica.


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Book Review: Buddhaland Brooklyn

My review of Richard C. Morais's Buddhaland Brooklyn is now live on The View From Here Magazine website.

You can read it here > Buddhaland Brooklyn

Mike French, The Senior Editor of The View From Here Magazine will be here tomorrow. Or his characters from his novel Blue Friday will be here answering the Imaginary Bookshop Q&A.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Guest Post: Janina Matthewson’s Imaginary Bookshop


Recently I reviewed Janina Matthewson’s great book, TheUnderstanding of Women. Janina has kindly agreed to pop over to Writer’s Little Helper and answer 9 questions on the subject of running an imaginary bookshop..
*
Hi Janina, congratulations on the publication of The Understanding of Women and thank you for popping over to Writer’s Little Helper.

1.      What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
I really want to be clever about this, but I'm not sure I'll manage it. I have a bit of a thing for well-named shops; there's a hairdresser in Christchurch called Shylock's which I've always thought was great. Maybe it'd just be “Where The Hell Is My Book” because that's a sentence I often say. Known to its friends as Helly.

2.      Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
London is so full of unexpected tiny streets. I love turning off a main, claustrophobic street and suddenly feeling like the city's disappeared, so somewhere like that. Somewhere you hear rumours of and have to seek out, or discover by accident when you're trying to avoid the crowds.

3.      Would your bookshop have any special features? E.g. a performing stage, a cocktail bar, etc.
Ooh, I like both of those ideas. I'd like it to be a place you can sit for a little while, or a long one, without feeling like you're just there to buy things. So tables and chairs and space around for people to read or work. Not a separate cafe section, but just as part of the shop.

4.      What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
It'd have a fully stocked kitchen behind the till so when I got bored of customers I could bake cookies. Which would then make everyone love me.

5.      What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
Since this is a fantasy and I can ignore sensible business practice, I would arrange books by my own personal associations. I like visiting bookshops to find books I haven't heard of, so I'd want to encourage that. For example, I read The Meaning of Night by Michael cox and A Girl's Guide to Kissing Frogs by Victoria Clayton on the same holiday, so they're connected for me, even though they're completely dissimilar. So maybe I'd arrange the shop autobiographically. Annoying for everyone but me. I'd also have sections of reading requirements like “Books For The Tube” and “Hefty But Worth It.”

6.      Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
The display table would be my own personal book diary, with books I'm reading or have recently read. This is clearly a very egocentric shop. Also, if I woke up and happened to remember how much I used to love A Girl of the Limberlost, I'd put it on the table.

7.      If you could run only one author event who would you have? You can pick a living or dead writer. What sort of event would they run?
Roald Dahl. No contest. I'd like to have a poker tournament with Roald Dahl.

8.      A customer comes up to your till with a copy of The Understanding of Women and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
I like to think that my writing is a bit like comfort food, but hearty comfort food. Not donuts and chips, but homemade seafood chowder with crusty bread, or apple crumble with custard. So hopefully I can say that if you'd like to be in a good mood with the world, if you're low and you don't want to be, The Understanding of Women is a good choice for you.

9.      What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
Just to completely blow my own for a second, I make an amazing chocolate zucchini cake, so it'd have to be that. I'd do it all layered and fancy, with cream cheese icing dripping all over it.

Bio: Janina is from a tiny country at the bottom of the world and now she lives in a big city near the top. She writes novels and plays and is rife with opinions. She likes sharing food but not kitchens. 
You can find Janina either at her website or hanging out on Twitter


You can buy The Understanding of Women from here

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Book Review: The Evolution of Inanimate Objects

The Evolution of Inanimate Objects: The Life and Collected Works of Thomas Darwin (1857-1879)
A Novel by Harry Karlinsky 
Published by The Friday Project

The Evolution of Inanimate Objects is a curious and compelling little book that will make you think about it weeks after reading the last page.

While researching on the history of Canadian Asylums in the Victorian age, Harry Karlinsky, professor of Psychiatry, who is the author of this book and also a character (which one is real?), comes across the name 'Thomas Darwin.' Could this Thomas Darwin be related to Charles Darwin?

What follows is a fictional biography about Thomas Darwin, the 11th fictitious son of Charles Darwin and the curious tale of how Thomas went from being a scholar with eccentric tendencies to being held in an asylum in Canada. Thomas takes his father's theory on evolution and applies it to inanimate objects. His specialism is kitchen cutlery. All seems plausible until he insists that the objects evolve without human intervention.

I love the barcode!
The Evolution of Inanimate Objects is full of letters, scientific reports, photographs, diary entries and meeting notes. This documentary-style structure makes it feel like you are really reading a factual biography. At times I was so immersed with the story that I needed to go away and google-check to remind myself that The Evolution of Inanimate Objects is fictional.

If you like novels that leave you puzzled (in a good way) and you fancy something more than the usual beginning-middle-end type of novel then you should definitely give this novel a try. Trust me, it's enjoyable, original and fantastic.

The Evolution of Inanimate Objects is available as an ebook and physical book from your preferred book retailer.

Thank you to the publisher who kindly sent me a copy.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Guest Post: Jonathan Pinnock's Imaginary Bookshop



Today’s blog post is part of Jonathan Pinnock’s blog tour for this new short story collection, Dot Dash. Last year I read and enjoyed his novel, Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens and so I jumped at the chance to have Jonathan come over and visit Writer’s Little Helper.

So here is Jonathan’s response when I asked him 10 questions on the subject of running an imaginary bookshop.

*

Hi Jonathan, congratulations on the publication of your short story collection, Dot Dash and thank you for popping over to Writer’s Little Helper. I thought I would give you some questions that you may not have already answered on your blog tour. 



 1.     What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?

Paige and Turner. Or maybe Reedham and Weape.

2.     Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
Every single high street. In every single community with a population over 300.

3.     Would your bookshop have any special features? E.g. a performing stage, a cocktail bar, etc.
The construction of the building would be a Faraday cage in order to block mobile phone signals. The in-house wi-fi would also intercept all traffic to online bookstores and divert requests to a virus-ridden site that dumped a load of incriminating photos onto the hard-drive before contacting the local police. I know this will be controversial, but it will at least level the playing field a bit.

4.     What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
It will only sell good quality books. Obviously. Also, the sales assistants will be encouraged to loiter around the outside of the shop, humiliating any passers-by who happen to have a copy of Pippa Middleton’s book in their shopping bag.

5.     What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
No celebrity bio section (again, obviously). No misery lit. And no books with a sparkly rainbow on the cover.

6.     Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
The complete works of Stanislaw Lem, because they’re awesome – especially “A Perfect Vacuum”. Every single title published by Salt, because not only are they awesome, they look gorgeous too. And probably everything ever written by Jon Ronson, as a concession to non-fiction.

7.     If you could run only one author event who would you have? You can pick a living or dead writer. What sort of event would they run?
Boris Vian, author of “Froth on the Daydream”. I would expect him to read a bit and then conclude the evening by singing a few songs. With any luck he might also bring along some of his surrealist chums. There might be some cleaning up to do afterwards, but I think it’d be worth it.

8.     A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your short story collection, Dot Dash and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry and it’ll make you think. But most of all, it will entertain you.

9.     Which story from Dot Dash would you recommend?
I’d probably suggest starting with “Canine Mathematics”, as it’s quite short and it’ll give you a fair idea of where I’m coming from.

10.  What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
Coffee and salted caramel cake (recipe here from my daughter’s blog)



Details on where you can purchase Dot Dash can be found here > Buying Dot Dash

Bio: Jonathan Pinnock was born in Bedford, England and studied Mathematics at Cambridge University. He subsequently stumbled into a career in software development and has been there ever since. Somewhere along the way he wrote one book on software development and co-wrote a further twelve. His preference, however, is for fiction and his first novel Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens was published by Proxima in 2011. His short stories have won numerous prizes and have been widely published. He is married with two slightly grown-up children, several cats and a 1961 Ami Continental Jukebox. He blogs at www.jonathanpinnock.com.



Friday, 9 November 2012

Ingredients For A Short Story

A few months ago Suzanne Joinson blogged about her ingredients for a novel and it has inspired me to look at the ingredients for a short story that I am currently writing.


The sea
Brighton, April 2012

A fisherman

You can't tell it from this 'sketch' but I have an As Level in art.

A list of sentences


What are the ingredients for your current writing project?

Friday, 2 November 2012

Literary Rejections

Yesterday saw the launch of a new website for writers and it is about a writing taboo that writers don't like to talk about much - rejections.

Literary Rejections has been set up James Hughes to help and encourage writers who have faced rejections to persevere. There are some great interviews and articles with Literary Agents, Publishers and Writers who have came head to head with rejection.

I have a small piece on the Literary Rejections website called the The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Side of Rejections.


Sunday, 28 October 2012

Book Review: The Understanding of Women


Don't you just hate it when you are reading a great book on your lunch break and you're only twenty pages left until the end but it's time to head back to the mountain of emails?

It's even worse when you then leave the book at work because your newly repaired watch is slow and it's time to leave before you get locked in for the night.

That happened to me on Wednesday.

I needed a stop gap.

So I decided to pick something from my Kindle.

The book I picked was The Understanding of Women by Janina Matthewson.

I had downloaded it the other week because it had a great front cover (do we still call it front cover even though it's an ebook?).

I read it all in one sitting. It was fabulous. Possible my book of the year.

The Understanding of Women is an quirky story about James, who wakes up on the floor of a private library. All he knows is that he is still in love with this ex-girlfriend, Imogen. But he doesn't know where she is. With the help of an imaginary ex-girlfriend named Maybe-Meg, he sets off on a quest across London, trying to find Imogen.

Even though it's quite short, The Understanding of Women shakes you in questioning reality, as well as tackling lost love and regret. This novella is thought provoking and stays with you for days. I know I will definitely be re-reading this sooner rather than later.

I also loved the fantastic line drawings between the chapters.

Matthewson's confident voice held me captive and didn't let me go until the ending. Fans of Andrew Kaufman and the recent film Ruby Sparks will love The Understanding of Women.

And it's less than one pound to buy. So you have no excuses! Go and buy it. 

You can follow Janina on Twitter. Her website is over here.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Published: Clawing Back the Glory

Back in January, I entered Reader's Digest's 100 word competition. I didn't hear anything for a while but a few days before I jetted off on my honeymoon, I had an email telling me that I had not win (boo) but then they asked if they could publish my story on their 'New story every day' page (yipee).

My story is called Clawing Back the Glory and it's about unwanted superheroes in a therapy session.

You can read it here > Clawing Back the Glory.

You will need to scroll down (or even read the stories above me) to find my story and mini interview.




Sunday, 14 October 2012

Book Review: Blue Friday

Blue Friday
Mike French
Published by Elsewhen Press

Mike French's dystopian novel, Blue Friday, is a great mix of humour and sinister 'what if's'. French successfully takes the 'work-life balance' that most of people worry about on a daily basis and takes it to the extreme.

In 2034 society has gone as far as possible with protecting family values. You must be married by the time you are 25 or a marriage will be arranged, you are not allowed to work over time and must finish work at five or they will send agents from the Family Protection Agency to drag you from your desk, which will end in violence. Even the television schedule is family-friendly with repeats of the Generation Game, Bewitched and cheerful sitcoms.

"He probably didn't even watch Bewitched, the little shit."

But Leviticus, Covenant the controlling computer and the Overtime Underground Network help overtime-starved workers to dodge the system and carry on working at their desks. They hack their way through security so workers can avoid heading home to another re-run of The Generation Game. They even hand out drugs to workers who want to work into the long hours of the night. If you have a look at the linked article then you can see that it is already starting to happen over in New York. The future that Mike French has predicted is already starting to happen. The Overtime Underground Network think working 250 hours per week is still not commitment for their organisation!

Modern science-fiction has played a major part in inspiring French. The two agents, Mr Stone and Mr Brittle, who sling out workers who insist at staying at their desk after five, reminded me of the agents from the Matrix. Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy seems to have been a big influence on French's humour and style, combining light-hearted comedy with the big questions we face in life. There are even a few virtual whales and a bowl of petunias floating around in Blue Friday.

"The Generation Game was on in an hour's time; if she was quick she could make it. She watched it religiously..."

French cleverly weaves Biblical references through Blue Friday. We have a set of characters called Adam and Eve who seem to enjoy living in the virtual world, created by the obsessive computer, Covenant. Reality becomes blurred and sometimes it is hard for the characters to work out if they are in a fantasy or reality. The struggle between humans and computers is quite chilling. The reader sees this with Covenant manipulating Leviticus and eventually manifesting in his psyche. It makes you wonder if the new world that the Overtime Underground Network wants to create would really be paradise? I doubt it.

Blue Friday is currently available as an ebook from Amazon and is published as a paperback during November.

Disclaimer: I know Mike French as he is the Chief for  The View From Here Magazine and sends me books to review for his website. I'm glad he has written a great book and I could write a positive review.

Thank you to the publisher for sending me an electronic version of Blue Friday.

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Arrival Lounge

Books, Books, Books

This is my current 'to-read-for-review' pile on my desk.

On the Kindle, I have Mike French's Blue Friday, which I finished reading at the weekend and will write a review as soon as I stop looking at new quirky floor lamps on ebay.

The lovely folk at The Friday Project sent me The Evolution of Inanimate Objects by Harry Karlinsky. The hardback version is the perfect size as it fits into my handbag. If only they started making all hardbacks in friendly-handbag sizes then I think people would definitely start buying hardbacks again!

James Smythe's The Explorer was an unexpected surprise and was waiting for me when I got back from my honeymoon.

I will be reviewing Buddhaland Brooklyn by Richard C. Morais for The View From Here Magazine.

And Beautiful Lies by Clare Clark, which has a gorgeous front cover.

BUT

I need to finish J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy. Yes, I followed the hype. My first impression - does J.K. have her own brand of paper? The Casual Vacancy smells just like a Harry Potter book. mmmm book glue. The smell also reminds me of bookselling and those midnight openings for the new Harry Potter.


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Book Review: Happiness is Possible

My review of Oleg Zaionchkovsky's Happiness is Possible is now up at The View From Here Magazine

'Happiness is Possible' may sound like a self-help book but it is Zaionchkovsky’s love letter to the biggest love of his life - Moscow. 

You can read the review here > Happiness is Possible

Friday, 21 September 2012

Best of the Net 2012

The lovely editors over at Referential Magazine have nominated my story, The Department of Extinct Objects: Case 1985, for the Best of the Net 2012 anthology. Every year the best fiction, non fiction and poetry are collated and published on the interest are put together in one lovely anthology. 

You can read Referential's announcement here > Best of the Net.

I feel very honoured and grateful for the nomination. Thank you! Good luck to all of the other nominees. 

The Department of Extinct Objects: Case 1985 was published on the Referential Magazine last November. Since writing the story, I have been considering writing other 'cases' or even trying to make it into a longer piece. This could be the motivation I need to get me writing a sequel....

You can read my story over here > The Department of Extinct Objects: Case 1985

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Kerouac's Dog: Doggy Paddle

Publication News!

My copy of Kerouac's Dog has finally arrived!


I'll be honest, I had given up on seeing a physical copy because it has been a while since acceptance and the original publication date but it's here now and looking very good. Issue 3: Truth is packed full of stories, poetry and photography. My story Doggy Paddle starts on page 71. I am also on their contributor page.





Here's a taster of Doggy Paddle:

"It was the summer when the Spice Girls were top of their game, Power Rangers was essential watching in the morning and top of the reading pile were Goosebumps and Saddle Back Club books."

I don't know if there are physical copies still available but if you do fancy a read then let me know and I can send you a PDF copy.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Guess Who's Back!


Our wedding and honeymoon were incredible!

photo taken by Garry Malyon

A lot of people said the wedding day would be a blur but I did remember a few details...

All the ribbons and bows blew off the car while driving to the venue, Mum zipping me into my dress, stuttering over my vows, beautiful guests, twirling with my niece, both our rings sparkling in the sun, standing on a bridge smiling for pictures, seeing Kieran Berkery dancing for one-night only.
photo taken by Garry Malyon


Our honeymoon was action packed from the start. I flew on a plane for the first time ever. I made sure I had a first aid kit in my suitcase and I clung to my British-Airways blanket just in case there was a Lost-style landing on an island. At least I would have had out of date plasters and insect-bite cream.

We spent 14 days on a coach and several hotels, exploring the East coast of the US and also Canada. We started off in New York and did a quick tour of the Manhattan island plus our first taste of a food court, then we headed to Boston for a couple of days.

I tried looking out for any Fringe characters but there were none and there were no Fringe events happening either. Which was a shame as I wanted to see a vortex open or see someone get stuck in some amber. We climbed the tallest building, Kieran ate a lobster (the lobster's creepy eyes stared at me through out dinner) and we went on a cruise around the harbour too.

We crossed over into Canada and our first stop was Quebec. My GCSE French did not help but at least every one spoke English. We bought Kieran a T-shirt with 'BatMoose' written across it. I expect him to wear it EVERY day! There is a beautiful chateau, which we went inside and had a drink in the bar.

Montreal was great too - we saw a ground hog and a raccoon - don't worry I didn't touch it! Plus we explored their underground city and we had a cheeky McDonalds.

Ottawa was probably the prettiest city we went to on the whole of the trip. I can't believe the canal freezes over in the winter and they can skate on it! We watched a light show being performed on the face of the Parliament building in the evening. Very magical and romantic!

Toronto was another amazing city - we had dinner at the top of the CN tower, we celebrated Kieran's birthday and we did a tour of the islands around Toronto. I went into a swimming pool (a rooftop one so it was really posh!) for the first time in at least 15 years and I remembered that no, I can't swim. So that's me done for another 15 years.

Niagara Falls was amazing. We went on the Maid of the Mist boat, which goes right up against the falls. Our camera broke on that day too! Plus our trainers were wet for days as the tail end of Hurricane Isaac finally reached us - so much rain! I tried using the hotel blow-dryer to dry my shoes but it blew a fuse.... The streets are really tacky around Niagara Falls - it's like being at the seaside - lots of amusement arcades, fast food and casinos. We ate at the top of the Skylon tower.

Photos taken by me. Several locations.
We visited an Amish-style home and farm and then we met an Amish family. Their crafts are amazing. Shame the quilts were alot of money and there wasn't enough space in my suitcase.

Washington DC was incredible - my feet hurt after the two days we spent exploring the city. We went to alot of monuments - we even found someone with the same surname as Kieran (and me!), which was incredible because it is quite a rare surname. We visited the White House (well, we looked through the gates) and we didn't see anyone from the West Wing - really, really upset! Apparently President Bartlet isn't real and the President is Obama. I thought TV was always right!

We did a lunchtime stop at Philly - we saw the Liberty Bell and the Independence Hall too. We ate in a food court for the last time on our trip too.

Our final stop was New York, again! This time we went to the top of the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock, a walk around Central Park and we went to the Museum of Modern Art. All were amazing!

The flight back was more bumpy but I made it through. I could hardly keep my eyes open on Wednesday, when I went back to work. I now need another holiday to recover from the honeymoon.


My blogging mojo is back too - watch out for posts on acceptances, books for reviewing here and also at The View From Here, and general writing posts.

UPDATE: Unfortunately things don't last forever, especially when you find out the person you married is not the person who you thought they were.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Intermission

Reader, I going to marry him.*

So I won't be blogging for a few weeks. Here are some of my favourite reading and writing quotes to to keep you entertained (all two readers).


There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them. 
Joseph Brodsky



What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren't long enough for the reading she wanted to do. 
Alan Bennett



A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading. 
William Styron


I read like a wolf eats. 
I read myself to sleep every night. 

Gary Paulsen




Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self. 
Franz Kafka


*Sorry Charlotte Bronte for ruining your sentence.