Friday, 25 July 2014

Wool Review: 'If the lies don't kill you the truth will.'

Hi readers,

As promised, I finally finished reading Wool and I'm reviewing it today. For me, this is my favorite novel of the year and probably will become one of my all time favorite books. When people asked what I was reading, I'd tell them the basic plot in a few minutes and then expended on it for much longer! At the end I'd add that it's the kind of book I wish I'd written. That really just goes to show how this book made me feel. Luckily, there are two more books, so I won't have to say goodbye to it just yet!

If you are currently looking for a good, length book to take away on holiday, then I'd so recommend Wool. I'm taking the second one away with me next week. The minute you start reading, you get gripped into the world and the characters' lives. This carries on through out the novel and at the end it leaves you wanting more. I think what most surprise me about this novel is that though it's genre is dystopia everyone can read and understand it. This is because the force is mostly on the characters and their discovers about the world they live in. The dystopia does come through strongly throughout, but as the action deepens for the characters you just get lost in what's happening to them, more then the background.

My second surprise was that the Silo series is actually nine novellas divided into three books and that the first one was self-publishing on Amazon Kindle. The book become popular and Hugh Howey wrote more and got a publishing deal. He's now also signed the rights to movie. It'll be interesting to see that when it comes out. Once again though, its interesting to see that there is a growing trend of writers being picked up via self-publishing.

The plot of the novel appears simple on the surface: the earth has become inhabitable and people have moved underground. They live in silos which are carefully divided up and go deep down into the earth. They live by strict rules and most of them are fine with that. Those that break the rules get sent outside to clean the cameras the allow the people keep an eye on the outside world. They are also destined to die.

The first novella, Wool, tells the story of sheriff Holston and his wife. They uncover a part of the silo's and the world's past that has been hidden away. They can't really tell this secret and it ends up sending them both outside to clean. This secret is then re-discovered by two other people; Jules and Lukas, whom the second and third novella's follow the stories of.  I'd love to write more about the plot, but I really don't want to give anything away!

The characters are really well written and they are easy to get along with. The background characters also come across as being realistic and they all add a lot to the plot. I really loved all the characters and could connect with each one. Jules was my favorite though and she is an awesome female character. With her being the main character, a lot of time is spent with her, but this works out nicely because of the things she uncovers. The antagonist characters (bad/evil) are understandable too and you do start to see things from their point of view, even though their actions seem wrong. 

The narrative is all third person and switches between a group of characters. This works out well because all the points of the plot get covered and a lot of characters get to share their experiences, (as it were). The characters voices can be heard clearly through the dialogue, which is also really well written. It has a gritty realist feel to it and all the voices come across as being very different from each other. Something else I liked about this novel. The narrative flows well between the different scenes and the words feel like they have a lot of movement. Some jargon and science fiction terms/words are used, but nothing heavy and they are easily explained. That just adds to the world that Howey has created.

Lastly, the imagery that gets created by this novel is big. It feels like there's a lot going on all the time, but because of all the description and details, the images are easy to create in your mind. It's not overburdened with them and just feels right for this kind of work. I can easily see how this would make a good movie and when reading it almost feels like watching one. 

Overall, I would strongly recommend Wool to everyone. The dystopia genre might not appeal to everyone, but this novel is about a lot more then that. It's about family, friends, survival and choosing your own destiny. The novel is wonderfully written, the characters are so realistic and the plot is hard gripping. I'm so looking forward to reading the next books now. 

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Sunday, 13 July 2014

Up And Coming Posts

Hi readers, I thought I'd put together a list of all the posts I'm planning to do in the next few months/the rest of the year. This is also because I've not finished the book I want to review. The other book I thought about reviewing today, I've not read in a good few years. Even though it's by one of my favorite writers, I realized that I so needed to read it again to get the review right. So, I thought I'd do one of these posts again and make a list of things. Hopefully it'll help you as well as me! Please note these are not in any order, beside from the first one.

Book reviews 

1. Wool by Huge Howey.
2. Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite.
3. Shift by Hugh Howey.
4. Dust by Hugh Howey.
5. Batman and Dracula comic book trilogy.
6. One Piece by Eiichiro Oda (Japanese Manga)
7. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami (The Novel)
8. Rapture by John Shirley (Bioshock Novel)
9. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
10. Soulless by Gail Carriger.
11. Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine.
12. The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow
13.Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
14. About a Dragon by G. A. Aiken.
15. Prince Lestat by Anne Rice
16. The King by J .R. Ward.
Other Topics 

1. Has education made us hate literature? (My Opinions)
2. How To: Promote Your book.
3. Editor Jobs.
4. Proofreading Jobs.
5. Ghost Writing Jobs.
6. What other jobs can writers do?
7. Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition.
8. Writing Promotes.

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Monday, 7 July 2014

Weekend In London

Hi readers,

I just spent the weekend in London with my boyfriend for my birthday. We had a great time and there was a lot to see and do! It was hard to pick out the four things we ended up doing, but I enjoyed them all. We traveled down on Friday and enjoyed being in first class. The two hours flew by and so did some nice countryside. The hotel wasn't that far from Euston, but with all the bags we decided to grab a taxi and it was nice to see London going past the window. We stayed at a Raddison Blu Edwardian hotel which was close to the theaters.

We went to the British Museum and spent a lot of time wondering around looking at all the different displays. My favorite part was the Egyptian room. I also liked the Roman room too. There was information about the archaeologists and explorers that discovered and brought back the items, which was very interesting. The museum was really busy and it was hot too. We didn't actually get to see everything because we only had an hour or so before we had to get ready to go out.

We had a posh Chinese meal and then went to watch Les Mis. It was really good and I enjoyed being a part of it. I didn't do much singing though! Being on stage, brought it more to life and enchanted the experience of watching the musical. They added a couple of songs which just created a flow into the next one, so I didn't mind that. All the actors were really good and the singing was perfect.

I do enjoy going to the theater to see plays and musicals. I'm sure in the future I'll go more often and there's a lot more out there I want to see. My boyfriend wanted to see The Book Of Moran, but we couldn't offered to go this time. Hopefully, it'll come to Manchester as staying in London is expensive!

The hotel bedroom was really nice though and I did get some sleep before we went to breakfast the next morning. I had pancakes which were amazing. We then headed out for a full day of walking and being being on the Underground. We had planned to go to the London Eye and the zoo, luckily they were on the same underground line, so we could easily get to them from and back from the hotel. Also we had pre-booked tickets for both, which provided to be so worth doing.

We arrived at the London eye way early, so got to walk up and down, before we went on it. I enjoyed doing this and I got to stand on the bridge across from Big Ben. There was a great view of the wheel and Westminster from there. It was mega busy though and there were people everywhere. It was also hot, though we did have a sharp shower later on. We went to pick up the tickets for the Eye and it was really busy and even more so when we had to go and queue up to get on! The fast track tickets cut the waiting time in half or even less and we were soon stepping on the wheel.

The view almost straight a way was good and as the wheel went further up, it just got better. You could see so far and get a good view of London. There were screens in the pod and it showed all the important buildings. It did start to rain a little once we reached the top and started coming down again. This meant that the view of the other side of the pod was rain splattered. The rain stopped when we got off, though I would have been happy to have gone around again!

We then caught the underground to London Zoo. I was really excited as I love zoos and seeing all the animals. We had to walk 15-20 minutes when we got off the train. We stopped in a coffee shop for a drink and homemade cake. When we got to the zoo was I starting to get tried. The weather was also starting to turn. We went to the Aquarium and reptile house, before going to see the monkeys and gorillas. They were inside and mostly sleeping or high up in their enclosures. We left and went to see the Pygmy hippo talk. That was interesting and we got to see the hippo eating and laying in the their 'hot tub house.'

Heading back to see the penguin talk we went to the see the fruit bats. I really like bats and find them fascinating to watch. It was too dark in their cave to take any good photos though. We also stopped for ice creams. It felt like we were in the queue for them for awhile. Not because it was busy, but because the staff were slow and they were also making milkshakes. We had just enough time to eat before we went to the penguin area. The talk about them was really good and it was very popular. We got to see the penguins diving for fish and also eating them out of the keeper's hands.

At the end, we went to the butterfly house which was just behind the penguins. I love butterflies and could have spent a lot longer watching them. My camera ran out of battery at this point. I wanted to go and see the big cats and the other animals that were on the other side of the zoo, but my feet were really hurting. We decided to head back in a taxi and get ready to go to an American Diner tea.

  The next morning, I so didn't want to get out of bed. My feet were still hurting and we'd had a really late night. However, we had to go to breakfast, pack and check out by 11am. Having slowly done this, we left our bags at the hotel and went to the National Gallery. It was a few minutes walk away at Trafalgar Square. When we got there, we found that there was an event on for the Tour De France and the place was noisy and packed. The gallery, though quieter was just as busy. Though I did enjoy looking at paintings and galleries, I ended up sweeping through most of the rooms. Sometimes it was hard to see a painting because of a cluster or tour group of people standing in front of it. However, it was good and I left feeling impressed by the art I did get to see.

It was then time to say goodbye to London and ahead back home to Manchester. I had a really good time and I enjoyed the parts of London I did get to see. Next time I go, I'm so going to Highgate Cemetery!

Photos are all authors own. Permission need to use. 

Monday, 23 June 2014

1984 Review -Big Brother Is Watching


Hi readers:

This week I've gone back to reading a classic literature novel, I fancied a change from the supernatural and so I decided to look at another of my favorite genres: dystopia. It feels like this genre is also growing and seems popular with young adult fiction. The Hungry Games is a good example of this and my review can be found in the archive section.

For those of you that that don't know, dystopia is the opposite of utopia, most of the time it has happened after a world war, or other large disaster, which means that society has changed. Often there is one ruling power and the people are controlled and restricted by it. Religion, identity and differences are done away with or changed. Also the world has become a darker, less colorful place where people don't live but survive.

Orwell's 1984 has many of these themes and also coined two things, which we use today, though with a slightly different context; Big Brother and Room 101. This novel in a way questions the future of humanity and I want to look at how a novel written in 1949 and set in 1984 could be similar to 2014 now. Whilst reading, I kept coming back to this question and it does seem to be a theme in the novel. So, nearly everyone has heard of Orwell and people will have read his novels in school/college, especially Animal Farm. If you've not read 1984, I would highly recommend it.

The plot of 1984 is centered on Winston Smith who is living in what once was Britain, but has become Oceania after the second World War. He works in an office and his job is to rewrite things so that everything stays in the present and there is no record of the past. However, he slowly starts to give into the rebel voice in his head and starts to question the world he lives in. Of course he gets caught and has to go through a program of rehabilitation. He meets other characters along the way and at first all of them seem to aid him in rebelling against The Party, who are in control of everything throughout the book, and their leader Big Brother, but of course that doesn't last.

The other main character is Julia, who falls in love with Winston. She leads him more into rebelling and thinking about a different life. However, she also leads him to his downfall. Her character symbolizes human freedom and spirit. This is actually what the Party want to get rid of and they want to have complete control over everyone, but strip them down to nothing. Whilst Winston comes across as being completely formed into the perfect party member.Them and the other characters are really well written and feel really realist. The world they live in stands out too and there are a lot of similarities to today's world. For insistence, the idea that you are being continually watched and controlled in your thinking.

The language used doesn't feel dated and I think one of the reasons why this is has to do with Orwell's invention of 'Newspeak'. This is the new form of language that the Party has come up with and is getting the people to use. It isn't heavily used and mostly it just sums up words and shortens them. There are other new terms such as 'doublethink', which has to do with the contradiction of facts and 'thought-police,' so you to control your thoughts. Towards the end of the novel there are also extracts from chapters of a book that Winston is reading. This just reinforces and deeper explains what has already been set up.

Overall, this is a classic novel and it doesn't feel dated at all. The characters and the settings come across as real and it is possible to see a world like this one day. The novel doesn't get stuck down with setting up all the world and giving out information, instead it lets this come through via the characters point of view. As a dystopia novel, it has all the traits and themes, but doesn't dwell or try to force the dystopia genre in the plot.

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Sunday, 8 June 2014

Steampunk - An Introduction to the Genre.

Clock work and cogs

Hi Readers,

Today I went to the Steampunk Market at the Mill. Its a small fair at the historic Queens Mill, Lancashire, UK. I went last year, but it seems that I didn't write about it and that I've never done a post about Steampunk! I'm still a novice about the genre really and today was only my second fair and my first time dressing up, (see photo below). Though now I've a taste for it I'm eager to do it again!

The best way to describe today is probably to compare it to a comic/Scfi/game convention and a Victorian themed market. Spreed throughout the mill were a number of different stalls groaning under the weight of handmade and specialist items. The streampunk theme echoed within them all. There were Victorian style clothes; top hats, mini hats, corsets, dresses and waist coats but most had been 'punked' up with metal cogs/wooden cogs, goggles and metal embellishments. You could also by all of these separated. There was a fantasy games area, a poster/postcard stall with bespoke images of airships. There was also jewelry and other accessories, though some of it looked gothic to me. There was an afternoon tea and cake stall and I just had to try out the carrot cake. Which turned out to be awesome. My only small disappointment was that three of stalls I actually wanted to visit again from last year weren't there! They were the Victorian sweets, fudge and handmade soaps.

The mill itself is a museum and you can see how they made textiles there. They have a working loom room, which is really noisy and you have to wear ear defenders. A steam engine which provided all the power needed for the factory and lots of different hand looms. It's a good afternoon out, but I prefer Manchester's museum of Sciences and Industry.  

What exactly is steampunk?

In it's basic form it is a sub-genre from science fiction, though it is fast growing into a genre of its own now. The setting is normally an alternate version 19th century Britain, the Victorian era or the America Wild West. The biggest theme of steampunk is the growing industry and the use of steam run technology, only its more extreme and inventive then in the actual Victorian era. It influences everything; fashion, art, style, culture and architecture. Another big feature is airships and hot air balloons as these as a symbol of the Victorian era and fit in with the Steampunk style well.

Being a sub-genre is is very easy -especially in fiction and movies- for elements of other genres to appear in steampunk. These are mostly; history, horror, fantasy, supernatural, adventure and detective/crime. Though it can be crossed or mixed with just about everything. Mostly these are used in plot lines to add more to the story. They work well alongside the steampunk genre and can also add the the realism.

Elements of steampunk begin appearing in the 1950s/60s, but it was in the 1980's when it was coined as a humors take on cyberpunk* from there it has grown steadily and been most prominent in fiction. I think it's only been in the last few years though that it has really taken off and people have become interested in creating the fashion of steampunk.    

However, for some people there is no clear definition of steampunk or else there are a lot of different alternatives.
*Cyberpunk is another sub-genre of ScFi and it is normally set on earth in the near future in a post-industrial dystopia. It's main theme is advanced science, where technology is used or is able to do things that were unanticipated.*

Steampunk Fashion

500px / Photo "She's Leaving" by Michel Reichmann

For me the fashion of steampunk is one of the biggest draws. I think this is because there is a lot to it and there's no right or wrong. I think also just about any piece of clothing can be steampunked. The 'normal look' starts off with Victorian style clothes. For women its the long skirts, corsets or dresses. For men it's breeches, shirts and jackets. Other varies are Victorian adventuring/safari clothes, military uniform or engineer clothing. Some people might go for a more futuristic cyber look.

After that the steampunk elements get added. Normally this would be a pair of goggles on a hat or on a head. Then belts and gun holders. Leather pouches, arm or wrist guards and long leather boots or ankle boots. Other accessories are also added like; long necklaces or chokers, gloves, watches, other jewelry and other things that finish off the costume.  

Other elements included embellishing items like hats, boots and corsets with metal/wooden cogs, gears, watches and shapes like compasses, owls, wings, octopuses and butterflies.

If you want some inspiration just check out the links below or Google it.

Heavy steampunk fashion

Steampunk in Fiction

Like I said before, Steampunk started in fiction writing and novels and short stories set with the Steampunk genre have been rapidly growing. Most are influenced by 19th century writers like; H .G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, H .P. Lovecraft and Charles Dickens. 

There is only a handful of the first official Steampunk novels dating from 1967-1995. The most know are the books which make up A Nomad of the Time Streams trilogy and the Anno Dracula series. It seems to be a small group of writers who've only had success with one or two Steampunk genre novels. 

However, in the 21st century there seems to be a boom of interested in Steampunk fiction. There are lots of new writers who seem to be writing series or a lot of one off novels. The most well known are The Parasol Protectorate series, The Clockwork Century series and The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series.  (I'll review them all eventually!) 

There is also a few anthologies, which collected the short stories of Steampunk together. The best are;  
The Mammoth Book of Steampunk, Steampunk, Steampunk! Reading one these is a great introduction to the genre. 

Lastly, there is the non-fiction books. These are really interesting because they contain a lot about the genre as a whole. These are works like the Steampunk Bible, Steampunk Style Jewelry and Steampunk: The Art of Victorian Futurism.

A list of stearmpunk books and movies can be found in the links below.

Steampunk in Movies and Games 

Most people will have come into connect with Steampunk through movies and games and not even realized it! There are lot of current and past movies and computer/console games that are either completely Steampunk or else have a lot of elements in them. Probably, the movie that is most well known  is Wild Wild West, though some people won't realize that it is in the Steampunk genre.

Other most well known films are; Treasure Planet, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Howl's Moving Castle, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Three Musketeers (2011). All these films are well known for the Steampunk elements which appear in them, though some of them are set in non-Victorian or wild west times. However, they either have a Steampunk fantasy or alternate world setting, which does still make it. 

There are a few other films out there, but let's move on to the games. I'm not really a big player of them in general, so when I saw the list I didn't really know what to pick. So, I'm going to list the two that I've sit through being played by someone else and they are Dishonored and Bioshock Infinite. I can understand why Steampunk works well in games because they are some what closer to novels then movies are.  

I think that's it for now, until I come back to review a Steampunk book! 

Images from:
Author's Own (2014)'s-leaving-by-michel-reichmann

Additional Information and Other links:

Friday, 30 May 2014

First Grave On The Right Review

Hi readers,

When I saw this book supported by one of my favorite authors, as well as another author I enjoy reading, I thought I'd buy it and see what it was like. It's been on my bookshelf for a little while now -just like Highgate Vampire- and I thought I'd carry on reading through my top shelf with First Grave. I believed it was the first book in a trilogy, but now I know this is actually a series, with the seventh book coming out  this autumn. So, has the first left me keen to get my hands on the others and read through yet another series? Let's find out.

Darynda Jones, an American writer has so far written this series and a young adult trilogy. She has won a lot of different awards for her writing. She started writing at a young age and after giving it up to do a number of different jobs, including teaching and have a family, she started writing again with the goal to become published.

First Grave is about Charley Davidson, a grim reaper and a PI. She spends all of her time hanging out with ghosts, solving cases for the police and clients, drinking a lot of coffee and wondering about the mysterious Reyes. Along for the ride with her is her dad, uncle, best friend/PA Cookie and ghost teenage boy, Angel. The main plot of the novel is that Charley has to solve the murder of three lawyers, which also ties into a human trafficking ring, another murder, a missing teenager and a wrongly jailed man. The subplot, which in places seems to become the main plot, is about Charley's 'relationship' with Reyes, who also turns out to be her guardian. Reyes, who's in a comma, visits Charley in spirit form and they have a bit of bedroom time throughout the novel. So, yeah the grim reaper makes love to a ghost/ astral projection. She also sets out to find more about him as his records are seemingly very empty.

The narrative is told in first person, present tense by Charley herself. A lot of her character comes through because of this, but the problem is that it becomes something of a burden on the plot. She is over sarcastic, too witty, trying too hard to be sexy and seems to over exaggerated lot. Her sense of humor was also lost on me. Maybe, I am being a bit too harsh, but I just feel like she became unrealistic because all these things were too over used in the novel. Also, I got tried about hearing her addiction to coffee. Beside from all that though, Charley makes an interesting grim reaper. I'd have liked to have found out more about how she came to be one, but that's actually something she doesn't understand herself. Maybe in further books this gets looked at?

It's not just her character that has problems though. The love interested, Reyes didn't work for me. The description of him was a little bit 'too perfect dream boyfriend,' for my liking. Later, it's suggested he might be a supernatural being and that's a possible reason why he looks like he does. However, he just didn't come across as being a strong enough character for me. Okay, so he is in this ghost form and Charley can't see him very well. He speaks very little and to me beside the bedroom action and being overly protective, doesn't display any other signs of love for her. Maybe this gets stronger in the other books though? His other problem is that he's the subplot and because its a first person narrative, there's not much about him and it's bias.

The other characters: Charley's dad and uncle, Cookie, Garrett- a skiptracer, who fancies Charley-and the ghost lawyers, come across a lot better and more realistic. Though they are the supporting characters, they all have their own uses and Jones does this really well. Their backgrounds also seemed to be very detailed and sometimes their own goals also come across. There is tension between a few of them and Charley at different points, but this just adds more and allows their natures to come through.

Overall, I did enjoy reading this novel. It was slightly different from my normal books because it had the crime and detective elements, which have never really interested me. The supernatural elements keep me very entertained though. I did have issues with the characters, though I was well into the book before this happened. I'd be interested to read the second book to see if there were improvements to the characters and plot. I'd recommend this novel if you like this genre or are into similar. If not still give it a try and see what you think.  

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Additional information from:

Friday, 23 May 2014

Links to me

Hi readers,

Here are a few links were you can follow me: 
(For short fiction/non-fiction stories)
(Images that mean something to me)
(Updates and ramblings)
(business profile)
(Watched videos)
(My boyfriend's show which also has me reviewing stuff in it) 

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