Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bookish Brits Vlog 21: The Would You Rather? Book Tag with Michelle

Michelle and I did the Would You Rather? book tag when we were both at the #picnicYA meetup in Green Park. This was so much fun, I want to do loads more videos with other people. At first we couldn't stop giggling (as you'll see in the outtake video) but once we got the laughter under control it went really smoothly and in fact was easier than making a video by myself!

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Book Review: Adaptation, by Malinda Lo

Reese remembers the birds. She remembers when they attacked. She remembers the plane crashes. She remembers right up until the accident, and then nothing after. A month has passed when she wakes up in a government facility. She knows that something has changed her. Something has changed the world. She has survived when she should have died, and so has her debate partner, David. And no-one has any answers to give her - or do they?

I enjoyed Adaptation a lot, possibly even more than Ash, despite my eternal love of fairy tales. They are very different books, but they both have a powerfully atmospheric quality to them. Adaptation is particularly interesting because it combines this atmosphere with a science-fiction story that has a massive mystery at its heart.

The world of Adaptation is verging on apocalyptic. After the birds, the public doesn't know what is going on. They are scared. They make up strange theories. Some of them try to investigate. Others trust the authorities, desperately hoping for protection. Reese doesn't know whether to cling to everything that she knows as normal, or to plunge headlong into this strange new chaos.

Of course, having read 'The Birds' by Daphne du Maurier, and watched Hitchcock's The Birds, I could not help but be reminded of them when reading Adaptation, which made it even creepier for me.

I loved the love triangle in Adaptation, despite not usually being a fan of them. Typically, they persist because the main character is trying to decide which love interest s/he is more attracted to or which would be the better choice, but in Adaptation the romantic options represent something more. They indicate two different sides of Reese; two different paths she could take. But at the same time, they are not just symbols, they are interesting characters in their own right who are just as entangled in the plot and the mysteries of the story as she is. I thought I knew which of the two I preferred, part way through the book, but by the end I was fascinated by both of them and I am looking forward to learning more in the sequel, Inheritance.

I also liked all the other characters, from the mysterious figures at the government facility to Reese's mother, who stands up for her daughter and Gets Things Done.

I think that this might be a bit of a Marmite book because of the pacing. From the synopsis you might expect a thriller, and this does have some exciting scenes where I was reading on the edge of my seat/bed, desperate to find out what was going to happen. However, it was also quite a slow burner. I liked this, because it built up the atmosphere and it kept me guessing, but other readers might not.

I am looking forward to reading the sequels - the novella, Natural Selection and the full-length novel, Inheritance. Many thanks to Hodder Children's Books for allowing me to read the ebook of Adaptation via NetGalley.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

And Now, Some Nepotism: An Interview with Nick Bryan, author of The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf

My boyfriend, Nick Bryan, has published a book, The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf, and this has caused all kinds of ethical dilemmas to grow wings and flutter around my brain.
I had already decided a few years ago not to review books that I had been involved in at an earlier stage. The first of my friends to publish a book was Ali Luke, who I met when we were both doing the MA Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths. Her novel, Lycopolis, is about a group of roleplayers that sort-of-accidentally summon a demon. It's very good, I enjoyed it. I would love to be able to review it, but I just couldn't separate the-book-as-it-is-now from all the bits and pieces of earlier drafts in my head. When I review a book, I want to be sure that I am reviewing only what made it to the final pages.

My role in the production of The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf was more minor, all I did was proofread it, but still, the idea of reviewing it makes me uncomfortable. He's my boyfriend. It would Just Be Weird. But I wanted to do something to celebrate the book's publication. After a bit of thought I hit upon the idea of doing an interview. Nick and I talk quite frequently about the craft of writing, but I'd never really asked him about where his ideas came from before, so I started typing up questions and emailing them to him.

Does it count as nepotism when all you're doing is interviewing your boyfriend for your own relatively minor book blog? He has more Twitter followers than me, hell, he has more Twitter followers than the shared Bookish Brits account at this point. So maybe this is actually sneaky nepotism on his part, because he'll be promoting my blog by tweeting about this interview?

In any case, whoever is the nepotist, here is the interview. I hope you enjoy it.

Let's start with a pretty basic question. How did you come up with the idea?

I watched a lot of odd-couple detective shows and thought "Y'know, if one of them is going to act like a teenager, they might as well be one." After that, a lot of the dynamic, from the way both of them cover up their real selves for silly reasons to their on-off infantile bickering, came pretty naturally.

Like many things I write, it originally had more of a fantasy element - the wolf they're chasing in The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf was basically the Big Bad Wolf, straight out of a fairy story. But as I read Fables and watched Once Upon a Time, it became clear that was well raked ground, and I came up with this crime-drenched modernity instead. Like the old gangster days where every business is a front for criminal activity, except with more contemporary enterprises. And still a Wolf, because making it fit without the Big Bad aspect was almost more fun.

Which part of the writing process did you find the most difficult?

The hardest part of the writing process by far is actually having an idea. The typing and editing takes longer - and self-publishing does admittedly contain some quite monotonous tasks - but it's nowhere near as stressful as getting my thoughts together.

A short story by Nick Bryan will generally have involved half a day of drumming my fingers trying to work out what to do for every one day spent actually writing it. This is one reason I like novels and serialisation - I get much more use out of the ideas.

Oh, ideas. If only they arrived fully formed rather than full of gaps that require a lot of hard thinking to fill in. Which part of the writing process did you find the easiest?

For me, the part where you sprint away into a first draft, no longer chained down by the leaden chains of having an idea and before the sudden stop of having to bring the story into a sensible shape in order to finish your first draft and edit it into something socially acceptable.

Finishing later, more arduous edits is more satisfying, but pattering out first draft is definitely the easiest bit for me.

Oh, except for the part where you sit down the pub with your mates, talking about how you're going to write a book but never actually doing it. That's also kinda straightforward.

Yeah that is not something I've found a particular struggle, though when progress is slow I find it kind of embarrassing to talk about. Back to The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf, which character is your favourite? Is it hard to choose?

Hobson and Choi, probably jointly. Hobson is more fun to write, but Angelina is more like me. Turns out, channelling my inner teenage girl comes pretty easily.

Outside of the heroes, probably The Left Hand, the evil discount pub. It's not a character, obviously, but it's just such a ridiculously OTT concept. And in the broader context of the entire Hobson & Choi series, I think The Left Hand probably did the most to set up and establish where it'll all end up going. It was such fun, I decided to go harder in that direction.

That's set up a nice segue into my next question, thanks. The Hobson & Choi series is set in London, and there's quite a lot of travelling to different locations. What area is your favourite to write about? Is there a location that you haven't featured but would like to write about in the future?

Outside The Left Hand, I enjoy writing about South London a lot, actually. It's easy and fun to make it into a character. So look for more Peckham and Brixton stuff in future books.

In the future: I may have to bite the bullet and take the team into Central London, properly in town with all the tourist attractions. Don't know if I can put it off any longer. They gotta meet the Queen.

Do you think you could have written the book, albeit under a different title, if Twitter had never been invented? The Girl Who Facebooked Wolf? The Girl Who Put A Wolf in her Myspace Top Friends?

Without social media, I imagine they'd just have read about it in the paper. Or maybe someone would've come into the office and hired them, like all the classic detective storylines, and I'd have needed a different terrible wolf pun.

Of course, Twitter could become redundant in the future, but the beauty of self-publishing is I could just go back and update it into The Girl Who ZapKibbled Wolf or whatever replaces it.

Probably won't really do that, but do all remember to friend me on ZapKibble. I really think it could be the next big thing.

Back in 2014, you can follow Nick on Twitter at @NickMB, or visit his website to find out more about The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf and his other writing.

I hope you enjoyed reading this interview! If you're a book blogger, have any of your friends or family members published books? Do you review their work or have you found other ways to support them?

Monday, September 08, 2014

Book Review: Boys Don't Knit by T. S. Easton

Ben Fletcher is on probation - the criminal variety. Following a certain incident with a stolen bottle of Martini Rosso and a lollipop lady, he has been ordered to keep a journal, Give Something Back (to the community), and attend an extracurricular class. The options are pretty dire (worst of all being car maintenance with his Dad), so he decides to go for knitting, without telling anyone. But how long will he be able to keep his new hobby a secret, especially after finding out that he's actually quite good at it?

I started reading Boys Don't Knit while I was volunteering at the London Short Story Festival. I'd already giggled several times on the way to the events, but didn't get to read very much until my lunch break. The restaurant at Waterstone's Piccadilly, 5th Story, is quite fancy looking. There's a bar and a view and the jacket potato costs about twice as much as it should (though it is delicious). It's filled with the sorts of classy-looking people that you'd imagine would go for lunch at Waterstone's Piccadilly.

And there I was, cackling at Boys Don't Knit for half an hour. I must have really lowered the ambience.

Boys Don't Knit is very very funny. Basically, it is a sports movie, in book form, with knitting instead of sports and with most of the earnestness switched for comedy. It has all the right ingredients. Seriously, if you've read Boys Don't Knit, look up Sports Story on TV Tropes. It's all there. It's a Billy Elliot Plot in which a teenager who is dealing with difficult life situations tries to get out of an Awkward Father/Son Bonding Activity, becoming an Accidental (knitting) Athlete, and in the end, everything rides on the outcome of the Big Game (knitting championship). There are more, but they would be spoilers.

Because it is essentially a sports movie, Boys Don't Knit didn't have the most unpredictable plot of all time, but I don't think that matters. Firstly, it is not a thriller, it is a comedy. The humour is the point. Secondly, I don't think every story needs to have an entirely unpredictable plot. Most don't. Once you've consumed enough stories in their varied and wonderful forms, you are usually able to make a reasonable guess at what will happen in the end when you're only halfway through. I think it's more important for the plot to be coherent than surprising.

So I love that Boys Don't Knit is a sports-free book version of a sports movie. I know next to nothing about most sports, but I do know about knitting, so all I got all the references to the craft and could imagine Ben's struggles and successes easily. It's also very British. There are lots of references that people from outside the UK might not get. However, I don't think you need to know anything about yarn, needles, or British politics to enjoy it, again, because of the humour.

The characters are daft but loveable, and quickly I found myself cheering on Ben and enjoying the downfall of his enemies. I won't tell you any more, because I want you to discover all the weird and wonderful people in Ben's life for yourself!

I would recommend Boys Don't Knit to those who love comedy, especially if you've read The Hunger Games! I am really looking forward to reading the sequel, An English Boy in New York.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Book Blogger UKYA Awards: Voting Open Now!

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Today I am here with VERY exciting news! The shortlist of the Book Blogger UKYA Awards is now ready! This is the time for YOU to vote for your favourite from the list!

Voting is open until 21st September. Make sure you don’t miss out! Voting will also be happening a little differently than the nominations. On this blog you will be voting for: Best Self-Published, Most Social Author (Online), Most Social Author (Offline), and Author Whose Mind You Wish Was Yours and then you will hop along to the next blog to vote for more awards! There are five different awards to jump to, and five/six bloggers hosting each group, but you only need to visit five blogs! This means that you don't have to vote all at once, and you can vote at your leisure – but make sure you do so before 21st September.


Jump To (choose which blog for each category you want to visit!)  

Best Contemporary, Best Historical, Best Crime/Mystery, and Best LGBT
Big Book Little Book
Fabulous Book Fiend
Feeling Fictional
It Takes A Woman
The YA’s Nightstand

Funniest Book, Most Heartbreaking Book, Best First Sentence, Best Ending
Ya Yeah Yeah
Cicely Loves Books
Queen of Contemporary
Luna’s Little Library 

Best Horror, Best Sci-fi/Fantasy, Best Paranormal, Best Adventure
Winged Reviews
K – Books
To Another World
Bookish Outsider

Best Protagonist, Best Couple, Best Friendship, Best Villain
Snuggling on the Sofa
Much Loved Books
Hush Hush Revealings
The Pewter Wolf
The Little Munchkin Reader

Again, make sure to vote before the 21st September!


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