Monday, August 04, 2008

Book Review: Lazy Eye, by Donna Daley-Clarke

I went on a writing course last year and this author was one of the instructors, and I decided that I must read her book, and eventually I did last month.

This story is told in three sections, the first and third from the point of view of Geoffhurst, nineteen year old owner of the lazy eye of the title, whose understanding of devastating events in the family life eight years ago is very different from that of the second narrator, his aunt Harriet, his mother's twin. They are both sympathetic characters with distinct voices and the story builds up really well, giving you more and more information as well as more and more reasons to trust or distrust the narrators, until finally all the pieces are laid out and we find out, as Geoffhurst does, what really happens.

The writing style is beautiful, there are some lovely turns of phrase in this book that show startling observations or sharp metaphors. Chapters and scenes are split up in a really interesting way - with pictures, word definitions, weather forecasts.

I thought this book was excellent, despite the slow revelation of facts the characterisation was great and interesting enough that I didn't want to jump ahead and find out what happened too often.

Extracts are available to read here.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Book Review: Tall, Dark and Dead, by Tate Hallaway

This book got better as I got more into it, although I find the chick-litty cover quite jarring with the content of the book! (Killing and pale yellow? REALLY?) I did find it to be too heavy on the romance and too light on the action for my tastes, although it had some nice humorous moments. One thing that I found inadvertently hilarious was that Garnet's ex-boyfriend Daniel Parrish and new boyfriend Sebastian Von Traum both had English accents. It's such a cliche for American romantic novels to star men with English accents, considering the author got the humour right with religion/subculture-tester-William, she could have noticed and mocked this cliche too for good measure!

The author has done her research into Wiccan rituals and astrology, which gives Garnet, the main character, authenticity. However, Garnet likes to pretend she knows things about vampires that she doesn't, and so a lot of questions I had about the way the vampires in the world of the book work went unanswered. The status of gods in the story was never clear either. Wiccans generally believe that the gods they invoke are not actual individual beings, but facets of a supreme power, but Garnet has a goddess, Lilith, partially and sometimes entirely possessing her. Catholic magic co-exists alongside Wiccan magic, but the author never explains how this is possible. I prefer Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series for world creation and action, but this wasn't a bad stab at the genre.

Monday, March 03, 2008

TV Review: Murder Most Famous

Isn't it exciting whenever a television programme about books and/or writing appears? And then ultimately crushing when it gets cancelled, unless it's Richard and Judy-related? Well, it is for me. Unfortunately, Murder Most Famous is only on for a week. Fortunately, it's not very good anyway.

Murder Most Famous is Celebrity Big Brother/Fame Academy but with writing. It features six "celebrities", two of whom have a bit of an unfair advantage really, being a journalist and a TV writer. The person who writes the worst piece each day has to leave the house, and the competition. The winner at the end gets their novel published. Each day they are set a research task and a writing task. Today's research task was quite ludicrous. They went to the "scene of a murder" and to a morgue to see a pretend dead body. Because real wannabe crime writers get to do this stuff all the time! They had to write a short scene with a murder ending on a cliffhanger. The part where Minette Walters gives her feedback on each of the celebrities' pieces is definitely they most interesting, and I think I'll keep watching it for that, although I'll probably fast foward to those parts - I have to record it for the rest of the week because of uni.

The worst part about this programme is that everything Minette Walters says besides the writing feedback she says, is a giant cliche, uttered without any sense of irony! Examples include:

"Will they have what it takes to survive the cutthroat world of crime writing?"
and when the losing celebrity was out:
"And then there were five."

She also introduced each celebrity the same way:

"_name_ is a _positive adjective_ _job_ but, will they be about to _positive adjective_ _reference to writing_"

All in all, a pretty cringeworthy programme. Please, somebody produce something decent!

Murder Most Famous, BBC 2, 1:30pm daily for this week only.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Book Review: The Journalist's Handbook

Originally posted to this second's obsession, but removed when I decided to focus that blog towards fashion and aesthetics.

I have had this book out from the library for a couple of months and I returned it yesterday, having learnt two things: one - I don't want to be a news journalist, ever and two - I don't want to have a job as a journalist. Okay, I generally don't want to have a job, but journalism as a job is a stressful, deadline focused, competitive career and is not at all for me. Fletcher is obviously devoted to his career. He is proud of being a journalist, serious about the moral and ethical dilemmas the job often involves, and would definitely inspire someone who was interested in a career in journalism. His enthusiasm seemed totally alien to me, which helped me realise that I could never make it as a full-time career journalist.

I think Kim Fletcher's The Journalist's Handbook isn't really deserving of its title as it is not that comprehensive. It focuses on how to build a career as a journalist, how to work your way up and deal with different people, and it does this really really well. There are lots of personal anecdotes from the writer and other journalists. Different stages in a journalist's career are covered in detail. It barely touches on the subject of how to write a piece. It compares the different emphasis that different newspapers will give to a story, offers some advice about interviewing people and that's about it. I don't think it is worth a permanent place upon my bookshelf because there is little in the book that I would want to refer back to. I was hoping for a little more information on how to structure a piece, because all have currently is from the course on journalism I took at university, and from one chapter in Teach Yourself: Creative Writing (an excellent all-round book for absolute beginners, or people who like things to be consise! Buy buy buy!). Sadly, this book doesn't deliver at this level.

If you are looking for information about journalism as a career, this book is great. If you are looking for some advice on practical writing, so am I. Still.

Six out of ten Eight out of ten


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