Friday, 23 January 2015

Book Review: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

249747

Hi readers, 

Today, I've chosen to look at another book I've read a number of times and really enjoyed. Artemis Fowl is aimed at older children and young teenagers, but I read this book as an adult and feel that adults would enjoy it just as much. It is the first in a series of eight- of which I've read all but the last one- and I did like all of them. It was published in 2001 and is set in Ireland, the home of the author Eoin Colfer, who is known for his children's books. It has won a number of awards and is currently being made into a movie.    

The plot  is that Artemis, a twelve year old genius boy, sets up a trap and kidnaps a fairy called Holly. As it turns out, these fairies are not the average kind and they also work with other creatures like centaurs and dwarfs. Holly is a member of the fairy police force and though she has a caring nature is also very determined and tricky. Whilst her friends try to rescue her, she plots her own escape and Artemis demands a ransom and also questions her about her people. The ending is really good and the whole plot feels really thought out and realistic, even though it has fantasy elements.

The characters are easy to connect with and likable. Mulch the dwarf has to be my favorite character because he is funny and lovable rouge of a character. All the characters seem to have goals and do develop over the course of the novel. I think young people would find them ease to relate too as well. All their dialogue is well written and each has a distinctive 'voice' created by accents, but this hasn't been over done. Some of the other background characters do appear in the other books too and some even get more development. 

The themes that appear deeply connect with the characters and plot as the main ones are; greed, family/friends, conflict, nature, technology/science. I'm sure that a young audience could connect with these as well as an adult one could. Also, I like that Artemis first appears as the villain, but later is shown to have done things to try and help his family and that he didn't really mean any harm to the fairies. 

Overall, I would recommend everyone giving this book a go. It has a really interesting story, the characters are enjoyable and it doesn't just feel like another children's book, it does reach out to try and include all ages. Even if you're not big on fairies/fantasy, there could be something else you like about it. 


Next week: another random book review and my monthly update! 

  
Image from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/249747.Artemis_Fowl

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Book Review: Lost Souls by Poppy Z Brite

Lost Souls

Hi readers,

Today we are going to look at one of my all time favorite books and authors. I'm not sure how I first heard about Brite, but I do know that Exquisite Corpse was the first novel I read by her/him -though I did just look it up and Brite does now prefer to be known as a him, so little confusing there, but anyway- Lost Souls was the second book I read. What drew me were the vampires, because they feel far from the main stream ones, which in my mind are the ones before Twilight, but you get what I mean. Also, the way the story is written, because the writing really had its own 'voice' as it were.

The plot of Lost Souls can kinda be divided into two, as firstly there is the story of five vampires and their friendship/relationship. Secondly is the story of Steve, Ghost and Ann, who become tangled up in the vampires due to a few different events. The main setting is New Orleans, though we get to see some of the humans and vampires travelling about early on in the novel. The narrative spends a good amount of time with both sets of characters, who also have developing time and do really start to feel like real people.

I think the real story focus on the character Nothing, who sets out to find his real parents and discovers himself. He meets the vampires who turn him and they help him to achieve is goal. I won't go into too much detail, but there's no dramatic twist about this plot because it is the prologue of the novel. My favorite character happens to be Ghost. For some reason I can really connect with him, because though like all the other characters he has major problems - he can see ghosts and is haunted by visions, which often come true-he is very loyal and kind. He creates brotherly like relationships with his best friend Steve- they are in a band together called Lost Souls? -and some of the other characters.

It isn't just the vampires that makes me love this book so much, its the fact that it feels really gritty and gives a much darker, Gothic, view to New Orleans and life in America. I like how Brite isn't scared to write about topics that people might see as controversial, like homosexual relationships and incest. There is a great level of detail too and it does have that horror genre feel and not the supernatural as most vampire novels are now falling into.

Overall, I would recommend that anyone give Brite ago, even if you don't like vampires or horror, just to experience the refreshing way he writes and goes about controversial topics. I really do wish he had more books out there, because I do love his work.  
            

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Book Review: Prince Lestat by Anne Rice


Hi readers, 

I'm opening my new book reviewing with probably one of the most anticipated novels for horror, supernatural and vampire fans from last year. Being the massive Anne Rice and Vampire Chronicles fan that I am, I couldn't wait to read this and finally in the small hours of last night I finished it, almost two months after having started it. It be honest, I was a little disappointed. To make matters worse, it wasn't just one thing that I had issues with and right now I'm not going to be able to explain all the whys and hows, so, lets look at the key points. 

The first thing, was the segmentation of the novel. I understand that Rice's writing technique has improved over the many years she has been working and this was her first vampire story after fifteen years. However, unlike the plot and narrative structure of her other novels this one didn't have a linear feel to it, even though it was meant to be and I think this is because of the way the novel is divided up. 

Secondly, there is no real focus on one or a few characters, instead you get a lot of characters telling you different parts of the narrative, which sometimes shows their lives and other times gives you the bigger picture. There is also the switch between first person and third person narrative. For me this didn't actually work and maybe its because I'm a bit of an old fashioned reader, but I like my novels not to switch the narrative voice around and not to focus on such a large number of characters telling the story. The flow of things ends up becoming a bit lost and I felt distracted by this.    

Thirdly, the problem with there being so many characters, that you can become lost and start to forget who's who. Normally, I have good mind for that kind of thing, but towards the end of the novel, I was questioning if all the characters had really been necessary. I get part of the plot was to draw all these ancient vampires together to form a council and royal court, but many just seemed to faded into the background. Clearly, they all have their stories to tell and maybe Rice's next books will focus on them, but for me it was a case of character over-saturation.

Fourthly, I felt that parts of the story dragged on or weren't necessary. I know that Rice's writing can often be over descriptive and in the early Vampire Chronicles books I did enjoy this, but this time round, things felt repetitive and for me the last few chapters felt a bit useless. At other points the characters went over things the reader already knew and things the characters should have already known and I felt that maybe this was a bit of bad writing. 

Overall, my first impressions of Prince Lestat are mixed. The characters are well written and they still feel like themselves from the past books. The plot is interesting and does keep your attention, it feels 'new' too and it does tie in nicely with the series. However, it really is let down by the narrative structure and too many characters. If you are an Rice fan and have read the other books, than I'd recommend you give it a try, for anyone else and specially if you are new to Rice's books, you will need to have read some of the others before attempted this one because I don't think some of the characters and themes will be understandable. 

Hopefully, you've found that useful and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this novel. I'm not sure what I'm going to be looking at next week as I've got a few books lined up. Over on my other blog right now I'm looking for short story submissions, so please check that out at; http://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/submission-guidelines/  
     

Links and images: 
 http://bookriot.com/2014/11/10/excited-prince-lestat/

Monday, 5 January 2015

Writing Techniques : Writing Prompts


Hi readers, 

Today and to kick off the new ideas I've had for my blog, I'm going to look at writing prompts and how they can be useful to us writers. I'm sure that many people are already aware of them and for me in the last few months they have become something of a reliable source for generating ideas and starting my creative writing pieces for my short story blog. For those that don't know about them, prompts can take many different forms including single words, whole sentences, dialogue and images, (all of which sometimes come with instructions) and you can use them to inspire you to write.

There is no right or wrong way when using prompts and no one is going to judge you for using one! I normally start my opening line or paragraph with the word or sentence or dialogue, then continue the story from there. With image prompts I normally start with introducing the setting or the character, before trying to include as much as the image as possible. One of my favorite examples of this comes from a short story I wrote about a piano in the woods and it can be read on my other blog, here:     http://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/the-soldiers-piano/ One of the best things I have also found about using prompts is that you don't have to begin the story with them, you could have them appear at anytime or not at all. For example, removing them in the finally draft or just not including the prompt at all. 

Let's now look at some actual prompts. The first one I chose was a written prompt and these kinds seem very popular. There are so many pages and websites out there that list a whole load of these and they can be so useful for starting off imagination and writing.   

Writing Prompt

The key to these prompts is that it gets your mind asking questions, which hopefully will make you want to write in order to get answers. So, for example this prompt makes you ask: who is he? Why is he knocking on doors? What happened at the other doors? What is going to happen next? This really does kick start your brain into wanting to find out and from there you should be able to write a story all around this prompt. 

My next prompt is an image one. I'm a visual person, it's how I learn and think best, so I love image prompts more because I find I get a really good use out of them and can create much deeper stories. This is one my newest images on my Pinterest board (Pinterest is a great website by the way and it lets you group things together under different sections. I've included the link to mine below). So, if I'm going to use this image I'd start my story by describing a character walking down this road and coming across this gate. The image, like the word writing prompt, helps to raise questions, for example: where is this place? what's beyond the gates? what's going to happen, if anything at all? 

writing prompts - Google Search

The last thing I want to look at is physical writing prompt books, like the 642 Things To Write About one below. I own this book and have found it useful, though I just enjoy looking through it and giggling to myself more then actually using it for writing. There is a number of books and also ebooks available now packed with prompts similar to the ones above and they do work in the same way - get your mind and writing going-. Some of them even have blank spaces or pages which you can write in, so you don't feel stuck to your computer and notebook all the time. Some of the ebooks are even free to download like this one;  
Four Seasons of Creative Writing: 1,000 Prompts to Stop Writer's Block (Story Prompts for Journaling, Blogging and Beating Writer's Block) [Kindle Edition] by Bryan Cohen. (linked below) I recently downloaded this myself and though I've not used any of the prompts, most of them look really interesting and do most of the setting up of the story for you.


Overall, writing and image prompts can be great tools to help with any writer's writing. They can get your mind and imagination working and your fingers typing. They can be used in a number of ways; as warm up exercises, the opening line of your story or perhaps in a group or teaching situation. There seems to be an endless supply of them too, so you are always sure to find one that you can use. Also genre and themes are always nearly neutral and you can use them how you want to. If you are just starting out using prompts I'd recommend searching around on the internet first and gathering lots of free ones - in fact I'd recommend that to anyone. Having the prompts in a physical book or ebook which you have to pay for can be useful if you aren't near technology, or you like your breaks from it. I'd never tell anyone not to buy a book, but in this case and with so much being free online, I'd recommend going down that route instead. 

I hope this has been a useful post and you can let me know by commenting if you wish. Also, if you have any other writing techniques you'd like me to look at and try out. You can follow me in a number of different places and these were linked in my last post, so feel free to check it out. Up next in a few days is my book review on Prince Lestat, so I'll see you all then.

Links and Images:

http://www.invyn.com/category/writing-is-like-quotes/
http://thesarcasticmuse.tumblr.com/post/82864997733
http://www.pinterest.com/hails9/fantastical-stories/
http://www.amazon.com/Four-Seasons-Creative-Writing-Journaling-ebook/dp/B009GLMF7U/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1420493456&sr=1-3&keywords=writing+prompts
http://poetryismedicine.wordpress.com/

Sunday, 4 January 2015

A New Year, A New Start


Hi readers,

It's been a long time since I last wrote on here. I've been mega busy and this blog just fell to the side. I guess part of the problem was that I didn't seem to be getting much interested and I wasn't having fun any more reviewing books. That in a way is my own fault though, because I'm highly educated and wanted to review books in an essay style way, which just doesn't work that well with a blogging format. So, now I've decided to try and have another go at doing that, but compacting my book reviews to a limit of 500 words. I'll still be looking at the normal things of character, plot, writing style and my evaluation though.

I also want to do a new publishing schedule and for now it looks something like this:

  • A book review, once a week, (though not necessarily the current book I'm reading).
  • A review of writing technique(s) etc, at the start of each month, (how to and examining usefulness).
  • Creative writing piece, once a month, (see below about my sister blog). 
  • A monthly update, at the end of each month, (on what I've been doing and what's coming up).
I'm hoping that this will help and encourage me to write more on this blog and also all my readers will find it useful. You can also connect me if you have an suggestions or other comments. I have a number of ideas for this month already such as looking at writing prompts (probably my next blog post), reviewing Anne Rice's Prince Lestat and things I could write about for my monthly update.

I'm currently still writing and publishing daily my own short stories on my sister blog at: http://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/ This is where all my creative writing will now take place and it just makes it easier for me to have two separate blogs instead of trying to mash everything together. Though, I might publish my most read story of the month up on here to try and generate some more interested in my writing. I should add that to the schedule. Please check it out. It's growing fast, but I could still use help to spread the word and gain more followers.  

Also, I have decided to try and do a reading challenge. I've posted the list below and also the link to it. I saw this on Facebook and thought I'd give it ago. It's a good way to expend my reading and book reviews. I believe I have got a lot of books that would qualify, which is great news because once again I'm watching my money this year. Even though, I now have a job! I finally got offered a paid position at the youth center I've been volunteering at for two years now. It's doing the same thing I was doing before - helping and running arts and crafts activities for 8-12 year olds- which is really great. I'm only doing one day/three hours at the minute, but hopefully that'll increase once I've done my trial period and finished my teaching course, which I'm currently doing on Thursday. I'll be writing more about these things in my monthly update post.

For now, I'll leave you reading through the reading challenge list.    


You can also follow on me on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thestoryfiles
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ironmaidenfan9
Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/user?u=327832
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=208056472&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile
Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/hails9/
Readwave :http://www.readwave.com/hayley.hardman.7/
Wordpress: http://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/


Thanks for reading and your support. 
  • Public Profile

Images and Links Used:

http://videohive.net/item/new-year-countdown-clock-2015-v2/6417745
http://writerswrite.co.za/50-lyric-titles-as-writing-prompts

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Dust Review: Every Beginning Has An End


Hi readers,

Sorry its' taken me awhile to get this post up, but I've been ill, dealing with family matters and been busy keeping up with my new blog. Finally though, I can write about Dust and finish off the Silo series. I'd recommend reading the other two reviews first, because there will be possible spoils in this review. I also plan to keep this short, but also compared to the other books, this one is on the small side. I guess that's understandable though, because it's function is to bring the other two stories together in a dramatic final.

The book is well written and feels very pacey. Unlike the other two, there isn't much scene or background settings because its been covered in the other books and this actually works because it doesn't feel repetitive.  The characters are really good and realistic. Their actions and dialogue also feel really real and the reader can really connect with the characters. It was also nice that we were back with my favorite character, Juliette, and her friends from the first book.

The narrative switches between Juliette's point of view and that of Donald's and his sister's. This works well though because everything is kept on the same timeline and a nice tension is created between the characters. It also becomes clear that all the characters want the best for each other and Donald especially wants Juliette and her people to know the truth about things. Of course this does actually happen and allows the ending of the series to take place. 

Speaking of the plot; Juliette has encouraged her Silo to dig across to the other one she stumbled upon in the first book as she wants to rescue Solo and the kids. Their digging uncovers a machine, which they then use to help finish off the digging. With the silos joined a little bit of hell breaks loose-which is expected. Then Juliette starts to figure more things out, but before she can really plan her next step, she learns that silo 1 is going to shut them down. She tries to get as many people into the other silo as possible and they seal themselves in. 

Meanwhile, in silo 1, Donald is standing against all of this and he is still being mistaken as someone else with more power. He wakes is sister up and they try to find out if there is more outside then they can see. This they actually do, though Donald is taken down and his sister is left to try and pass the message on to Juliette, which helps the survivors escape the silo and go back to living on the surface. 

The plot does work really well and its a great ending to the series. The conclusion is rounded off and even though I know that there might not be any more books, I was hoping there might be! I could see some stories coming from the other silos and I'd love to read them. 

Overall, I would so recommend this series and these books to everyone. It has an original feel to the plot and characters, as well as the setting, which I love. even if you don't like dystopia or don't understand it, I would still suggest giving it a try. The plot isn't bogged down by the genre or the technical aspects and it is very character led. I still believe that the first book is the best novel I've read of this year and I'll be sad to move on from it. However, I'm now back to reading The Black Dagger Brotherhood and I shall be posting up that review next week. Thanks for reading and please feel free to follow this blog and check out my new one where I'm publishing daily short stories: http://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/


Thursday, 4 September 2014

Life Update #2



Hi readers,

My review of Dust will be up in the next few days, I just need to finish the last novella. Until then, I thought I'd post another life update. This is because I've started a new blog. Well, its been up for three weeks or so now, but its' still early days. I decided that I would like a clean space to post up some of the short stories I've written and others that I want to write. Also I decided to challenge myself and to write/post a story a day. I'd love it if my followers and anyone else who readers my blog would check out it. Here's the address: http://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/

I'll still be writing this one as I only post a few times a month and I do enjoy reviewing books and looked at writing techniques. I just thought having two separate blogs would be easier and also I seem to have more interest on Wordpress then I've ever had using blogger.com. I'm not sure why this is and I don't really have a preference. At least nothing will change on this blog anyway. My new blog so far has a whole range of different themes and genres on it. Also the word count for each story varies a lot. I also have many different ideas of how I want to display my stories too. So, every story is unique!

My second piece of news is that a job I was guaranteed to get as a receptionist and customer service helper,  last week, I didn't get. It went to someone higher up to decided over me and someone else and they give her the job because she had more experience. I've been really upset and frustrated since Monday. I understand there wasn't a lot I could do, but I was looking forward to starting the next chapter of my life and moving on. I've got another interview for a different job tomorrow and though I'm not as guaranteed to get this one as much, I plan to give it my best shot. Tomorrow, I'll also get to see another area of Manchester and I love exploring my city. I'm still hopeful that something is out there for me and I'll find my path soon enough. Though it feels like I've been waiting an age already.

One of my plans this month is get the first chapters of my novel sorted and send it off to a few agents and publishers. It's something people have been bugging me to do for awhile, but I've not felt ready and nor has the novel. The problem is I'm not sure if the right time will ever come if I don't start acting upon it. So, I'm planing this weekend to start editing and getting it in preparation to be sent it. It can be a long process this and doing the research to find places to send it can take up so much time. I've all the tools and knowledge I need to do this though and I'm sure once I make the first step it'll be easier. As everything turns out to be.

Next, I need to start revising again for my theory driving test. I'm taking it the first week of October. I'm sure most of the stuff has stuck with me, I just need to get into practice with it again and remind my mind about some of the stuff. I want to pass first time because then I can try and do the practical and get a car soon after- around Christmas time, if I can sort out the insurance etc. That's my rest of year plan at the minute.

Lastly, I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition at my local gaming shop. I played my 3rd game last night and I'm enjoying it. I've finding it slightly difficult to get the rules in my head as things aren't the same as 4th edition and I've become far too use to have that works. I'm also liking meeting the flurry of new people that have been turning up to play. This is because for the last few months Encounters has just been one table and 5-7 people and I got to know them really well. I actually preferred that, but mostly because I've social and trust issues and it can take me while to get to know people and feel okay to show my true nature, which also seems to be the opposite of my shy front! However, I'm growing use to more people and have started to make friends with some of them.

I think even though I'm a bit bad at playing and remembering things, I still like going to DD for the social aspect of it. Geeks, Nerds and Role Players/ Gamers are some of the nicest people. Granted they do take while to use to new people, but after that they have habit of become your friend for life. Also doing RP gets you a chance to explore different sides of yourself and others. I think for a writer this can be very useful and also the stories that come out from being around a table too! I'm looking forward to every Wednesday evening now.

So, once again I'm really busy and have so many plans! Like I said at the start, Dust review will be up soon and so until then please check out my new blog. Thanks.