Showing posts from August, 2016

No alarms and no surprises

I can report that Dilly Court's The Lady's Maid was nowhere near as bad as I expected it to be. Well, for a book that contained absolutely no surprises anyway.

At no point is the reader anything other than completely aware of what is going to happen next. The opening chapter tells us that Kate is the lady and Josie the gypsy, even though they are brought up in the opposite situations, so the reveal of that means nothing. There's also never any doubt about who each girl is going to end up with despite the back-and-forth of the plot (yes, it is very much a story in which marriage is the only acceptable outcome for a female character). Even the minor characters have arcs that a nine-year-old could predict. There is a certain satisfaction to be had from such a neat story, but you need some suspense.

The predictability extends to the character types too. The noble poor; the selfish but ultimately goodhearted rich girl; the lascivious older 'gentleman'; the jealous help...…

It's literature festival time!

Well, not quite. However, in the past couple of weeks, we've had announcements for a few literature festivals, including the Cheltenham festival and my local one in Birmingham.

These events aren't always the cheapest to go to, so it's often worth picking up a festival pass if you think you'll be attending a number of sessions. Alternatively, if you're in the Birmingham area in October and want to attend just one or two events, may I suggest you make an effort for these:

Trials, Tribulations and Triumphs – October 9th – 12-1.15 – Library of Birmingham

Juno Dawson and Nicola Morgan talk about writing for the YA audience and the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Now, I've seen Juno Dawson talk before at a Waterstones event with horror writers including Darren Shan and Derek Landy. The fact is, she is hilarious. Her books cover a range of genres, with some exploring aspects of her experience as a transsexual as well as delving with insight and humour into the tricky a…

The apocalypse is really bad this time

The Fireman by Joe Hill might just be my favourite book of 2016 so far.

I've been a big fan of Hill since picking up Heart-Shaped Box a few years back. Much like his father (Stephen King, doncha know), he has a wicked sense of humour, the ability to develop characters quickly and believably, and a great feel for plot. Also like his father, he has an eye for the occult and unusual, with his stories normally falling into the horror genre. And again like his father, he sometimes writes other types of stories, but those horror elements persist throughout.

The Fireman is a science fiction novel more than a horror, but there are some scenes of violence and suffering that could be classic video-nasty fare. We follow the story of Harper Grayson, a nurse trying to help patients during an epidemic of Dragonscale. The disease is horrific, covering the victims' skin in scaly marks (thus the name), and leaving them prone to spontaneous combustion. When Harper discovers a very real need to pr…

They call it karma

This, THIS, is what I get for being smug about getting to skip over Joan Collins and Jilly Cooper:


Dilly Court, a writer who must be a thousand years old and has certainly written a thousand almost identical books.

Fucking family sagas.

I think what most annoys me is just how much this looks like one of my previous arbitrary reads:

I find this depressing. It's like readers are expected to think so little about what they're reading that they'll literally judge the book by its cover, picking up identical stories in identikit wrappers. 
What's especially annoying is that it works. My dad is a classic example. He'll buy those multipacks of cheap paperback crime books and discover he's already read most of them after getting through about 100 pages. It's reading, but it's pretty mindless.
This cover replication exists in a lot of fiction. Sure, covers are meant to give an indication of the kind of story within, maybe a sense of the tone or genre, but the indiv…

An ugly image of the future

Rock Creek Park by Simon Conway is one of those books where plot seems to determine character, rather than the other way around. That's not ideal. As a reader, you want to feel like the personalities and actions of the characters dictate what happens next in the story, not that they are pawns being forced to play out the plans of the writer. For all that is interesting about RCP, it never quite gets over this.

As with many books of the thriller genre, Conway's work is high-concept and heavily plot-driven. And it's quite the plot. When a body is found near the home of a senator, an investigation is begun that discovers links with the Russians, a biological research lab dealing in genetic engineering, and Detective Freeman's own past as a soldier in Vietnam. With connections like that to pull together, it's no surprise that the machinations of the plot are prioritised over character.

In fairness, the main characters are ok, but it can be the secondary ones who are most…