Sunday, 25 January 2015

Book Review: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

The Silver Linings PlaybookThe Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Meet Pat. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure a happy ending for him -- the return of his estranged wife Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent time in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat's now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he's being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he's being hunted by Kenny G!

In this enchanting novel, Matthew Quick takes us inside Pat's mind, showing us the world from his distorted yet endearing perspective. As the award-winning novelist Justin Cronin put it: "Tender, soulful, hilarious, and true, The Silver Linings Playbook is a wonderful debut."

The funny thing about this book is that I loved the movie way more. That never happens, but there you go. The book was still good enough for me to read to the end and there were parts that I enjoyed, but I just didn't get into it the way I did the movie.

I think for me one of the problems is that I just don't like football all that much and football is a huge part of the book. And the book didn't have that same humourous, up front approach to mental illness that I appreciated in the movie. Unfortunately, I just didn't care about the main character all that much -- which is too bad because I wanted to.

I feel kind of bad comparing the book to the movie so much, but it is hard not to because my expectations were raised, having seen the movie first. This just wasn't the book for me.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Book Review: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

The Girl Who Saved the King of SwedenThe Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

From the author of The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared comes a picaresque tale of how one person's actions can have far-reaching-even global-consequences On June 14, 2007, the king and the prime minister of Sweden went missing from a gala banquet at the royal castle. Later it was said that both had fallen ill, but the truth is different.

The real story starts much earlier, in 1961, with the birth of Nombeko Mayeki in a shack in Soweto. Nombeko was fated to grow up fast and die early in her poverty-stricken township, be it from drugs, alcohol, or just plain despair. But Nombeko takes a different path. She finds work as a housecleaner and eventually makes her way up to the position of chief advisor, at the helm of one of the world's most secret projects. Here is where the tale merges with then diverges from reality. South Africa developed six nuclear missiles in the 1980s, then voluntarily dismantled them in 1994.

This is the story of the seventh missile, the one that was never supposed to have existed. Nombeko Mayeki knows too much about it, and now she's on the run from both the South African justice system and the most terrifying secret service in the world. The fate of the planet now lies in Nombeko's hands. Jonasson introduces us to a cast of eccentrics: a nerve-damaged American Vietnam deserter, twin brothers who are officially only one person, three careless Chinese girls, an angry young woman, a potato-growing baroness, the Swedish king and the prime minister. Quirky and utterly unique, The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden is a charming and humorous account of one young woman's unlikely adventure.

I had so much fun reading this book -- and literally laughed out loud. I love how Jonasson tells stories, they are so unlikely and rambly, and there are different threads, but at the same time, everything comes together in the craziest of ways. He also peppers his stories with interesting observations of life and how people act and politics. He certainly doesn't shy away from big issues.

The characters are quirky and likable and the writing is engaging. I raced through this book, eager to see where all of the crazy scenarios would lead.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #1)Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

 A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

I loved this book. The whole concept was fantastic, the idea of structuring a story around interesting vintage photographs is so unique. As much as I loved the story, I think I liked the photos just as much.

This was definitely a story that captured the imagination -- it made me want to dive right into Miss Peregrine's world and get to know the children living in her home.

This is a book filled with adventure and magic and good story telling. I can hardly wait to read the next one.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Book Review: Moab is My Washpot by Stephen Fry

Moab Is My WashpotMoab Is My Washpot by Stephen Fry

A number one bestseller in Britain, Stephen Fry's astonishingly frank, funny, wise memoir is the book that his fans everywhere have been waiting for. Since his PBS television debut in the Blackadder series, the American profile of this multitalented writer, actor and comedian has grown steadily, especially in the wake of his title role in the film Wilde, which earned him a Golden Globe nomination, and his supporting role in A Civil Action.
Fry has already given readers a taste of his tumultuous adolescence in his autobiographical first novel, The Liar, and now he reveals the equally tumultuous life that inspired it. Sent to boarding school at the age of seven, he survived beatings, misery, love affairs, carnal violation, expulsion, attempted suicide, criminal conviction and imprisonment to emerge, at the age of eighteen, ready to start over in a world in which he had always felt a stranger. One of very few Cambridge University graduates to have been imprisoned prior to his freshman year, Fry is a brilliantly idiosyncratic character who continues to attract controversy, empathy and real devotion.

I've always loved Stephen Fry's writing and acting and thoroughly enjoyed reading this account of his early life. It gives a real glimpse into the whole British school boy boarding school experience.

Fry uses words so well and knows how to tell a story. This autobiography is linear in that it goes through the events of his school life, but then he also goes off on tangents that reveal more about who Stephen Fry is and the kind of world that he grew up in. I love this kind of meandery story telling.

This is a well written memoir that I raced through because I could hardly put it down. I can hardly wait to read the next one.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Book Review: The Peculiar

The Peculiar (The Peculiar, #1)The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann

 Don't get yourself noticed and you won't get yourself hanged.

In the faery slums of Bath, Bartholomew Kettle and his sister Hettie live by these words. Bartholomew and Hettie are changelings--Peculiars--and neither faeries nor humans want anything to do with them.

One day a mysterious lady in a plum-colored dress comes gliding down Old Crow Alley. Bartholomew watches her through his window. Who is she? What does she want? And when Bartholomew witnesses the lady whisking away, in a whirling ring of feathers, the boy who lives across the alley--Bartholomew forgets the rules and gets himself noticed.

First he's noticed by the lady in plum herself, then by something darkly magical and mysterious, by Jack Box and the Raggedy Man, by the powerful Mr. Lickerish . . . and by Arthur Jelliby, a young man trying to slip through the world unnoticed, too, and who, against all odds, offers Bartholomew friendship and a way to belong.

Part murder mystery, part gothic fantasy, part steampunk adventure, The Peculiar is Stefan Bachmann's riveting, inventive, and unforgettable debut novel.


I loved the world created by Bachmann, it is so rich, vivid, and imaginative. You could really feel how the faery and Victorian worlds came together in a clockworky, steampunky way. I also enjoyed the characters and the mystery surrounding them. Mr Jelliby was so much fun, and Bartholomew was so passionate.

However, I found the book dragged a bit and was slow to get into some of the action. There also seemed to be a lot of running around sometimes. There was enough intrigue and peril, though to keep the ready happy. There was a nice set up for book 2, which promises to be exciting.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Anyone Else Doing Nano?

Mid-October. Time to start getting nervous about what to write for Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) this year.

This will be my sixth year. In fact, Prophecy, the novel I am currently editing in order to publish in next few months, originally started as a Nano novel several years ago.

My whole family now loves and participates in Nano. My husband is teaching high school creative writing and his whole class does Nano. I have several friends who also participate. It is a fun, supportive, inner editor squashing month for us.

But, this year, I don't have any idea of what to write. Nothing. Not even a character or a setting or a genre. I am hoping for inspiration to hit me in the next two weeks. Anytime now, I keep thinking, I'm open to ideas and suggestions. Maybe I'll dream up something good, overhear a conversation, or simply be struck by some great idea.

How about you guys? Anyone else doing Nano this year? Do you know what you're writing about you're writing? Have you got it all planned out? I'd love to connect with other Wrimos.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Book Review: Gone Girl

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife's head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media--as well as Amy's fiercely doting parents--the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter--but is he really a killer?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn't do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

I could hardly put this book down. I loved all of the twists and turns, along with how warped and flawed the characters are. Flynn's writing is engaging and fast paced -- she did an amazing job of making the reader simultaneously love and hate the totally dysfunctional characters. Their psychoses were brought to life in an engaging and realistic way. And the ending, it was great. As I got closer to the end, I started to worry that it would spoil the book, but it didn't, it perfectly topped off a great mystery.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Cover Reveal of Prophesy

I'm so excited to share the cover of my upcoming novel, Prophecy, Book 1 in the Antigone, The True Story series.
Prophecy is a young adult mythological fantasy with a bit of romance that tells the story of Antigone's life (daughter of the infamous Oedipus from Greek mythology) from her point of view. It's a novel where honour and scandal collide and the truth of history is definitely strange than the fiction of myth.

My plan was, originally, to publish Prophecy this fall, but due to health issues, it will not be quite ready. My goal now is now to have the book out this winter or early next year at the latest.

You can click on the tab up top to read the first chapter.

I can't forget to mention that the cover was designed by the wonderfully talented, creative, and patient people at Deranged Doctor Design.

If you would like to be the first to hear about updates, you can subscribe to my newsletter here.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Book Review: Smashwords Book Marketing Guide

Smashwords Book Marketing GuideSmashwords Book Marketing Guide by Mark Coker

This free marketing primer provides authors actionable advice on how to market their books on Smashwords. It starts with an overview of how Smashwords helps promote your book, and then provides a series simple do-it-yourself marketing tips. The book is useful to all authors, even those who don't yet publish on Smashwords. Updated October 23, 2009.

My Thoughts:
This is a great free and easy to read book about marketing your book written by Smashwords founder, Mark Coker. I have yet to publish my book, but am doing so soon, so am doing research to help with the marketing. Coker's book has lots of great tips, all of them free, about how to market your book.

The first half of the book gives a bit of a history of self publishing and outlines what Smashwords does, how books are distributed. I have seen a lot of complaints that this book is just a big advertizement for Smashwords, but I enjoyed learning more about what they do -- and it is a free book put out by Smashwords. Also, don't read that part of the book if you don't like it.

Next, Coker explains about book marketing and social media, how hyperlinks work, building a platform, and how authors can help each other. This was a useful overview, especially for someone like me who is diving right in and trying to understand how it all works.

Finally, there are 41 free marketing tips. You can pick and choose what to do and what will work for you. Some are easy, like updating your email signature, and some are more involved like, publish more than one book. This is a great check list of things to do, compiled in an easy list with clear instructions on how to do them and why they are a good idea.

Overall, I got a lot out of this book -- and it gets the juices going for how to market, something I'm not familiar with at all. I appreciate Coker putting this book out and especially that it is free. I didn't always agree with his advice, but it gave me a place to start and lots to think about.

If you are interested in downloading a copy of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, click on the link.

For those of you who have self published or are in the process, what books and resources have been helpful for you? Which would you recommend?

Monday, 22 September 2014

I'm Getting There...

In the spring, I was so determined to blog regularly again, to finish editing my book, and to get it published by the middle of October. Well, here we are, the middle of September, and I am struggling with all of those things.

There has been a lot going on. Stress levels have been high because my husband is a school teacher and he went on strike in June and only went back on Friday, which amounts to over 5 weeks of being on the picket line (if you don't count the summer). The kids, of course, have also been off school this whole time. It has certainly changed the dynamics around the house -- everyone off for 3 1/2 months. Then there are the financial worries that come with being on strike.

I am grateful that the strike is over now. However, there was a lot of stress during this time and it has triggered some nasty mental health issue for me. I have been in full fledged self sabotage mode. I have done some editing, but it has been difficult. I have done some research on self publishing, but not as much as I wanted. I have hired someone to design my book cover, but we have hit some snags.
One of the things that makes reading forums, blogs, and other people's stories is that they are both inspiring and frustrating. I see so many people who are able, successfully, to put out a book every 3 to 4 months. Wow. I've been working on my Antigone series for 3 to 4 years. I love to read about people making a living publishing their books and are having a great time doing it. However, I am also intimidated by them and their productivity.

I find I need to stand back and look at the bigger picture and give myself some credit. I have, for the most part, written what will become a young adult trilogy and just need to finish editing it. Over the last few months, under very stressful circumstances and with mental health problems, I have done some editing, researching, and have taken concrete steps to get my book published.

I need to realize that the way I write is the best way for me. It would seem that sometimes I need these lulls in productivity. I like to call them time to percolate. I am one of those people who needs time to take things in and sort them out in my head, and that's okay. I need to realize that the speed at which I publish my book is perfect for me, to learn from other people's experiences, but to stop comparing myself to them.

And I need to remember that baby steps rock. They really do. Doing something every day (or most days, or some days), no matter how small, towards finishing my book is a step in the right direction. Doing anything with 3 kids at home, a husband on strike, and while dealing with major health issues is amazing. It's important to remember the value of those teeny, tiny baby steps.