Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June British Book Challenge 2011: The Demon Collector by Jon Mayhew

Title: The Demon Collector
Author: Jon Mayhew
Published: Bloomsbury, 2011

Synopsis: Edgy Taylor sees demons when nobody else can. Edgy thinks he is insane and expects to be carried off any minute. He is a prime collector, wandering the streets of London collecting dog muck for the tannery. The only thing Edgy is good at is setting and solving riddles, and evading his brutal and abusive master. One night, when his master seems genuinely intent on killing Edgy, Professor Envry Janus intervenes. Envry takes him to the Royal Society of Daemonologie where Edgy will now live. It is here, though, that Edgy discovers chance had nothing to do with their meeting, and that instead he holds the key to a deadly demon prophecy.
From Bloomsbury Website
Star parts:  The book starts right in the thick of the action with a chase, an accident and a death, just the way I like it. And I think what I really liked about Edgy is that he was a boy. OK, obviously he's a boy, but what I mean is he thinks like a boy, he acts like a boy, his personal thoughts are boyish. He's even a bit of a geeky boy, he knows the answer to all those riddles and heaven knows I have no patience for that kind of thing, so in the end Edgy comes across as a really authentic boy. Oh and Edgy has a dog called Henry and I really liked that little touch, although the bath scene did have me going: Eugh!

This book is set in an older, darker London. The Royal Society of Daemonologie is a little world within our world that Mayhew peoples with a whole host of weird and wonderful characters. Well there's Professor Janus who saves Edgy's bacon. There's Sally, the ghost, who's a little put out that Edgy has taken her room after all these years. There's Spinorix the keeper of the Exhibition Hall and then there's that slippery slithery character in the library that I won't tell you too much about. And of course, there's Salome! She is a nasty piece of work and as we follow Edgy around on his capers we wonder whether Salome will get her evil claws into him and what, what, what does she really want. Well, you'll have to read the book to find out.

Mayhew's world building carries the reader into the time and the mythology of the Demons really well, while still providing plenty of action. And it's great that the book is dark (well we're talking about devils and demons here) but really funny.

Black clouds: This isn't really a black cloud, I just have to say, because I never got around to reviewing it, that I LOVED MORTLOCK. OK, it's out now.

Do I recommend it: Of course. In fact I've already started recommending it to some of my stronger readers this year. And the front cover alone inspired a whole host of 'scary' stories .

This is the sixth book I've reviewed for the British Book Challenge, which means that I'm halfway through the challenge, although I've already read Firebrand, The Blackhope Enigma, Puddle Goblins and literally just finished The book of dead days for this challenge. Not for the challenge I read Skullduggery Pleasant, so there are some reviews to come yet!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

ABBA lit Fest

Over the weekend I started noting some strange activity on Twitter #ABBAlitfest. Mmm, I thought to myself what's this all about then? And no sooner did I ask, that Lucy Coats explained all.

So firstly I'll give a little shout out to An Awfully Big Blog Adventure (ABBA, see?) It's made up of authors from the Scattered Authors Society. Every day someone posts their little pearls of wisdom and so far I have discovered Litopia through ABBA and garnered much good advice. Now in July ABBA is planning a first: an online literary festival. Instead of having to wait a whole day for little nuggets every half hour a new writer will post something life changing and wonderful for us would be writers. And here's the really cool thing. Although this event takes place on the 9th and 10th July (that's a Saturday and Sunday by the way), the posts will be left up for your delectation for whenever suits you best.

While it would be lovely to stay glued to my computer screen all day long and participate I realise that my wee family may expect a little human interaction over the weekend. So I've had a wee shufty at the programme and these are my highlights:  

Saturday 9th July

11.30am Elen Caldecott Competition: Win 'Operation Eiffel Tower' - She's super nice on Litopia.

12.30pm Gillian Phillip Competition: Win 'Bloodstone' and 'Firebrand' - Well I've already read Firebrand, but Bloodstone ain't even out yet.

1.00pm Liz Kessler Competition: Win 'A Year Without Autumn' - has quite possibly written all the books I want to write.

4.00pm Lucy Coats Video and Competition: The Hero Dog Story - The lady who sent me the lovely badge on Monday and told me all about this.

5.30pm Miriam Halahmy & Savita Kalhan - They also blog at The Edge and I like what I read there.

Sunday 10th July

12 NOON Nicola Morgan Competition: Win 'Write to be Published' and a crabbit bag.- The lady who gave me a wonderful introduction to Twitter.

2.30pm Fiona Dunbar & Keren David Video: In Conversation - Keren also blogs at the Edge.

4.00pm Candy Gourlay Video: Creating a Legend  - Winner of the SCBWI Crystal Kite award for TALL STORY

6.00pm Michelle Lovric Competition: Win 'The Undrowned World' - I have reasons for checking this lady out.

Mmm... it does seem like everything I've chosen is a competition, but that's definitely not what I intended. So you go and look at the programme. And what are you looking forward to?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice Scrawl Crawl

The summer solstice scrawl crawl is up and running. There are lots of beautiful pieces of art, photos of meet ups, photos of things, and lots of other things. You may even find me over there! Although I should be over here doing some revisions.

June Brtitish Book Challenge 2011: Stoneheart by Charlie Fletcher

Title: Stoneheart
Author: Charlie Fletcher
Published: Hodder Children's Books, 2007

Synopsis: Deep in the City something had been woken, so old that people had been walking past it for centuries without giving it a second look...'

When George breaks the dragon's head outside the Natural History Museum he awakes an ancient power. This prehistoric beast, sentry-still for centuries, hunts him down with a terrifying wrath. And this is just the beginning... The taints and spits - statues with opposing natures - are warring forces; wreaking deadly havoc on the city landscape. The World War One gunner offers protection of sorts; and the wisdom of the Sphinx is legendary. But George and his companion Edie are trapped in a world of danger. And worse - they are quite alone. The rest of London is oblivious to their plight.

This epic adventure exposes forces long-layered in the fabric of London. After entering its richly original and breathtaking world, the city streets and skyline will never again seem the same!

From Amazon
Star parts:  Right, it's been a long time since I read this, but the one thing that sticks with me is the characters. George is a completely believeable character, his motivation and actions are so on target for a boy his age, that I never once doubted why he would act the way he did*. Edie was also a fascinating character and I liked her for her sheer determination and balls. She comes across as completely unbreakable at the beginning and throughout this rip-roaring romp through London while she doesn't become less feisty, she opens up a little and lets George and the Gunner in. There are a whole host of characters in this book, so I can't mention them all, so I'll just list my favourites. The Gunner is great. I actually want to go and look for him when I'm next in London and there is a scene where he is rushing to get back to his plinth before midnight/sunup (eek) which just grabs hold of your heart and twists. The Black Friar is another great character, all the more intriguing because we never know if we can trust him or not. The Walker is a great invention, but I think perhaps, I preferred the Raven. While he is completely evil, the parts that are from his point of view are also quite humorous. 

The world building is amazing. While it takes place in a location that is very close to me, my next visit to London will more than likely take on a slightly different tint as I hunt for the Gunner, Black Friar and the Sphinxes as I stroll along the embankments of the Thames. The whole idea of Spits and Taints is great. The descriptions transport the reader right into the scene that Fletcher imagines.

Black clouds: Neither of these were huge dark clouds, but I can imagine that it would bother some readers. Firstly, the pace of the book was break neck. Maybe it's age catching up with me, but there's one point when George is retching he's run so much and, well, I was out of breath too! Secondly it's the ending. It was quick and my reaction was: you what? We've had a little inkling into George's 'real world' enough to know that all isn't rosy and that in Edie and the Gunner he has two people who really care about him, but still I would have liked a little more build up to George's final decision.

Do I recommend it: Totally! In my edition I even got a taster of the first chapter of Ironhand and I want to know what the Walker is doing to the Taints. I do, I do 

This is the fifth book I've reviewed for the British Book Challenge
Oh and finally as this is about books and writers and what not, pop over to ABBA and find out what the first ever ABBAlitfest is all about. More news about that soon. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A quick return of the Sunday Roast?

No, not really, it's just what with having found two new yummy recipes on BBC Good food and tappety tapping away to the background music of the bread machine, I could easily forget that I'm writing a post about writing and to share a link. 

I'll get the link over and done with first. On Tuesday it's Fete de la Musique. This is an event that has been going on in France for as long as I've lived here. On the longest day of the year everyone is encouraged to pull out their instruments and tune up their singing voices and go out in public and sing and make music. I on the other hand have signed up to do the Summer Solstice Scrawl Crawl. It's a kind of Europe wide thing SCBWI event. The idea is to COMMIT yourself to doing something CREATIVE and then posting it up on the Scrawl Crawl blog. At first I said I would revise a chapter of my WIP, but that seems kind of boring compared to a road trip, or sketching in Madrid, London or Paris (all cities I've lived in BTW!) Anyway, we'll see what I come up with on Tuesday. Whatever it is, I may be getting a little help from the Boobalooba.

So as we are halfway through the year and I'm feeling kind of pleased with myself I thought I'd have a little reflection time and pat myself on the back.

On the first of January I set myself some goals. In my definitely category I said:
  • I will finish the revision of A twist in the Tail.
With the critique group we decided that come the September crit meeting mine and my fellow writing buddy Jan Williams will have finished our revisions.
  • I will find, beg, ask someone to read the whole draft and critique it (any offers will be gratefully received and obviously I would love to critique an MS in return.)
At the last crit group meeting we discussed 'workshopping' the WIP. I also have a new Kiwi critter, so that's all working out fine and dandy. Plus I should just get over my jitters and send my first 5,000 words of to the Litopia buddies for assessment. The worse that can happen is that I'll be turned down. 
  • I will endeavour to go to all the critique group meetings, even if it means organising babysitting. 
I missed one! I had a doctor's note because I had a bad limp, which turned out to be tendonitis of my gluteous maximus! Does that count? But I still critted everybody's work. Oh! And then there was the other meeting where Uncle Pat Pat babysat, because my mother was having tea with my MIL; I still wonder what they talked about.
  • I will start work on something new, either The Sands of Time or The Trelawney Funerals
In fact I discovered Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake method. I went through steps 1-9 of it and can't bear to do the scene breakdown of the last three scenes because then it will be finished, well apart from the all important bit of writing the first draft! So, this one I feel I have done in spades, although what I chose to work on was neither THE SANDS OF TIME or THE TRELAWNEY FUNERALS.
  • I will not abandon the blog, even if at some point in 2011, I won't strictly be living in Paris any more, and I haven't done any exciting wandering for a few years. 
I set up the scheduled once a week photo and when I scroll down and see that there is no text between those pictures I do feel a little guilty. But you're not abandoned blog, honest.

Finally happy Father's day to all you dads out there and with that I will go see how my bread is doing. 

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Mulching it over

I've been racking my brain over what I should post about. Shall I do a follow up on the post I did about critiques? I've been neglecting The Bookette's British Book Challenge despite having read: Stoneheart by Charlie Fletcher, The Demon Collector by Jon Mayhew and Firebrand by Gillian Phillip, but I'm not in the mood to write a book review (sorry) and besides the whole Greek Seaman affair has had me rethinking my book review format. At the moment I seem to be spending all my time thinking about my WIP, which is also woefully neglected and my balcony.

Unlike my blog, WIP and the BBC, the balcony has not been neglected and it's been a bit of a reawakening for me. I don't think that it ever actually dawned on me that I 'missed' having a balcony. When I was at university I began growing this little colony of fern, spider plants, money plants and a fiscus called Matilda who by the time I left England was this enormous, well, tree. All my plants had names and I used to talk to them while I was clickety clacking away on my little portable green typewriter. They were all moved lovingly from flat to flat and then carefully distributed to loving homes when I left the country. I've never quite replicated my little indoor garden again.

Mexico was always temporary so plants didn't feature. Spain had that same kind of temporary feel, so we resuscitated some geraniums, but didn't really lovingly grow anything. Paris always felt a bit more permanent so out came the window boxes again and for a while there I dallied with growing vegetables and grew the world's smallest beetroots. It could have gone into the Guinness book of records if I had contacted them. Apart from 'Grateful' a palm we found abandoned at the end of the road one night, plants sort of petered out of my life for a while there and 'Grateful' even gave up the ghost when my first cat arrived.

Grateful was replaced by another palm and a baby and yet again plants didn't feature too much in  my life, but as soon as we put an offer on this apartment I started planning the balcony (not getting a mortgage or anything like that). While the Frog pulled out some ancient architecture software he had and planned where every last bit of furniture was going to go, I planned greenery and geraniums and what not.

We've now got some herbs, lots of cherry tomatoes (I didn't choose those, what with being ALLERGIC to them), some mint (for the mojitos), some cactuses (I figured the bubba couldn't kill them), some roses, geraniums, jasmine and some purple plants beginning with c. I got a fork, trowel and gloves too, but you know, last Sunday  I opened a new bag of soil and the smell hit me. My hands sank into the soil and it just felt so warm and cosy and... That was the moment, that was when I thought: mmm, I've missed this. I've missed soil under my fingernails, the smell, the peace of watering and although I didn't have a bubba before it was kind of cool watching her sow her seeds. She had a certain method that I wasn't too sure about, but what do you know? We've got some parsley sprouts that have survived the cats helpful sowing. Cool.


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