Archive for » December, 2012 «

Conflict: How to Create it

Yes I know that conflict is not something most people want more of, especially at this time of year, thankfully I’m talking more about writing stories than I am about real life.

Conflict keeps books moving and keeps readers interested in what’s before them. That person trying to split up the two love-birds or that dodgy radiator on the race car that doesn’t have time to be fixed before the big race are all conflict creators. Conflict is the things the characters have to overcome to reach their goals. The spanner in the works.

Often a full length novel has more than one thing causing that conflict. A single main problem and several little ones along the way. Sometimes even a series of problems that have to be overcome one after the other.

All too often in creating a book I hear of people getting part way through and finding the book drags a little. The conflict is already sorted out and without some more the book has no where to really go.

I plan my conflict around several things. Here’s a list of the questions I ask myself to decide what I could add to make the book more interesting.

What conflict could challenge a defect in an important character? If a character is too shy or not brave they need something to challenge them to be brave and face up to a fear. Character’s all have weaknesses but life often teaches us to grow past those. Realistic characters with depth all manage to grow as well.

What conflict could be a result of character flaws or earlier bad choices? If a character chooses to share a secret that’s not their own out of a desire to stop someone else from saying something stupid, there could be conflict when the people find out that secret has been shared. It could lead to the wrong person finding out about the secret.

What conflict could arise thanks to the setting? If the book is set in a prison then another prisoner could break out, forcing the officials to bring in harsher restrictions. In a book set in the Caribbean islands, there could be a hurricane or a massive storm. The surroundings can be a great source of conflict and delay to the ending of the book.

Whatever ends up being the conflict that stops our hero’s from achieving it’s the thing that hooks a reader and keeps them reading. People want to know how the main character it going to get through it all. They want to be tricked into thinking they might not manage it and to be held on the edge of their seats until right at the last minutes, when everything is finally overcome.

And of course, there’s always real life inspiration. I’m sure most people can think of something that’s probably gone awry over the last week or so.

The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey: A Review

So I eagerly went to see this film, trying really hard not to let the hype of this being another epic from Peter Jackson automatically make the film a dissapointment (films rarely live up to the hype of a trilogy where we’ve forgotten all the not so good bits and made the predecessors into the best films ever in our minds, on top of the excitment of delving back into middle earth).

So ignoring all the hype and ignoring the lord of the rings this film was amazing. The Hobbit is a lighter book than it’s sequel and Jackson managed to capture the extra child friendly atmosphere while still showing middle-earth to be a dangerous place.

It started off fairly slow, although no way near as slow as the Fellowship of the ring did and therefore matched the book again. The Hobbit was faster paced and I got the slight sense of must rush off and do this now.

Interestingly enough it was some of the quietest scenes I loved the most. There’s a beautiful scene not too far in where all the dwarves start singing. It’s the one from the trailor so forgive me for mentioning it, those who don’t like spoilers, but it had the entire cinema full of people in total silence, enraptured and I could feel the atmosphere it created in the room.

I do think it helped I was surrounded by a particularly engaged audience. There was a lot of laughter in all the right places and there was a collective ooo, and intake of breath hissed through our teeth when Bilbo said something he shouldn’t have done to one of the dwarves. I really think we all expected him to get a good smack for it.

On top of all that the fantastic cast were back from the first Trilogy. Galadriel being a particular favourite of mine and there were some gems between her and Gandalf. Those two know each other well and are evidently fond of each other.

Armitage made an absolutely fantastic Thorin Oakshield and really brought that role to life and Martin Freeman more than delivered as Bilbo. There was a hint of Frodo with a lot of Bilbo sillyness thrown in. Golem was also back and perfect. Everything had a pre-lord of the rings sort of innocence about it and yet still hinted at what might come later.

I also really liked how they managed to include enough information (depsite the faster pacing than the fellowship) to make sure anyone who hadn’t watched the first set of films would still know enough to understand what was happening. It’s actually made me quite hopeful that when this trilogy is done as well, they can all be watched in chronological order and feel like they belong that way arounfd.

Over all I actually think I liked this film more than one and perhaps even two of the trilogy (it’s going to take a little more to beat Return of The king). I am very excited about seeing the next two and have no qualms that Peter Jackson will manage to make it seem like it should be a trilogy as well. They hinted at quite a few things in this film that are events glossed over in the hobbit book but will be included in the trilogy and I am eager to see what they do with all the appendices material that belongs in this time frame.

Sherdan’s Prophecy: Chapter 33

The nightmares had greatly diminished since Anya had been given her pet, Antonio. Sherdan had surprised her with the gift but it had been the perfect choice. It had almost torn down her guard completely and she’d had to remind herself that Sherdan had tortured her for several days.

Several time now he had said that he both loved her and wanted her to leave if it would make her happy, but no matter how many times he said it she couldn’t decide if she believed him. His words were still as fresh to her as the moment he’d said them.

Anya wasn’t sure how she felt about him either. She had considered leaving several times recently before she did something she regretted and got herself in too deep.

Every time she told herself she was leaving she’d have the same dream again about saving Sherdan’s life. Thankfully, it didn’t make her throw up any more.

God evidently wanted her to stay. She hoped she could bring herself to leave when it finally came down to it. The longer she stayed the more she felt attached to Sherdan and his country’s fate.

There had been one moment when she’d almost allowed Sherdan right under her skin. She knew that couldn’t happen. He wasn’t why she was here and she would have to leave at some point soon. She couldn’t have a relationship even if she wanted one.

Anya sat down with a thud, surprising herself at thinking seriously about being with Sherdan. Before today she’d denied any desire for anything of the sort. She’d put any feelings down to Stockholm syndrome.

Her thoughts were so muddled. She couldn’t think of anything to do but pray and hope she could leave soon. Her feelings could be worked through in her own home and church, safe from Sherdan’s unhealthy affect on her.

She absent-mindedly stroked the kitten beside her as she prayed. Strength and focus would be important until her task here was done, even if she still didn’t know what that was.

Her karate lessons were going well. Nathan had taught her a lot in a short space of time. They’d gone through all the blocks so many times that Nathan now struggled to land a blow. She had then begun learning attacks, but she wasn’t as good at those yet. Her punches were very weak, although her kicks weren’t too bad.

Nathan had suggested she try sparring with her ability turned on. In her half way stage she’d be invisible but be able to strike back at an assailant if needed. If she thought she was going to be hit she could move into the full state of her ability and any blows would go through her.

She’d turned down his offer to practice this as she’d not felt completely comfortable fighting him naked, even if he wouldn’t be able to see anything. Also, she didn’t know if she would be able to keep herself invisible and concentrate on karate at the same time. His suggestion had merit, however, so she’d spent a further hour each day practising alone whilst invisible.

Another Sunday passed, with her still away from her church, and another week began, leaving Anya feeling down again. She knew she’d need to leave soon. She finally felt like her time here was coming to an end. It still felt like something needed to happen first but, as the week began, her feelings of expectancy grew.

She could hardly focus on her karate Tuesday morning and did very little in the way of research for Sherdan. The public opinion on him hadn’t changed much lately anyway. People mostly thought he was amazing. The houses he’d robbed people of were largely forgotten already.

He joined her earlier than normal that evening but looked even more tired than he usually did. He smiled at her and went straight to his laptop. She came and sat nearby.

“So what’s the plan this evening?” she asked, expecting him to suggest something as he had for the last week.

“I’m too busy this evening. I didn’t get enough of my work done.”

“Why ever not? You’ve been gone since seven?”

“I… Hitchin had me in the lab a lot of the day.” She raised her eyebrows, “I needed some tests… it seems my ability has disappeared. Hitchin is the only other person who knows, however.”

“I won’t say a word. How will this affect your country?”

“Hopefully it won’t. It seems to just be me, and it also appears that there is no discernible scientific reason, but we don’t have the results from all the tests yet.”

“Oh. I will let you work then.” She got up to go, feeling sorry for him.

“Please stay? At least until dinner. Tell me about your day.”

“Nothing really happened. I’ve been practising my karate and my ability but not much else.”

“Keep practising, it’s good for you.”

“What kind of work do you have to do?” she enquired.

“I have to work out some trade agreements with some of the countries that have asked to trade. I don’t want to give them any of our advanced technology so I’m having to come up with other things we have to offer. Trade will be important to us; with some of them at least.” Sherdan looked thoughtful for a moment. Anya thought it sounded rather tedious but let Sherdan continue.

“Also, a few countries want embassies here. Finally, there’s the ball in three days.”

“I’d like to come to that.”

“I’ve already said. If you are staying then I think you should come.”

“I’m not sure I am staying and even if I were, I have no dress.” Anya got up and walked away to inspect the books. She’d looked over them so many times before but the familiar names soothed her agitated mind. A part of her considered saying she’d stay just to go to the ball but she couldn’t lie.

She lost herself in thought until Sherdan made her jump. He had stopped working and come up behind her. He took her right hand in his and turned her to face him.

“I want you to stay. Be on my arm at the ball, in front of my whole country.” She looked away and then back again. “Stay.”

“I don’t know if I can.”

“Do you want to?”

“No… Well, maybe. I can’t decide.” She couldn’t lie but hated that he’d asked her. “I have things I need to do back home.”

“So do them and come back. I’ll even drive you myself.”

“It’s not that simple.”

Before either of them could say anything else Anne popped her head through the doorway and told them dinner was ready. Anya immediately tore her hand away from Sherdan and went into the dining room. It gave her a moment to compose herself.

She’d come so close to giving in and saying she’d come back. He made her head spin and she was very grateful when he had to carry on working after they had eaten. It gave her some respite to his attentions.

She deliberately fetched her bible and sat reading it in the same room as him. It wasn’t something she’d done before while being in the same room as him. He’d made such a mockery of her beliefs that she hadn’t wanted to draw any attention to it, but it seemed like a good idea now.

The whole evening Sherdan said very little. His work absorbed his attention and she often looked up to see him frowning over it. A part of her wanted to help him. His work load was obviously too much but she’d already got herself far too attached to him and his country to offer any more help. Enough was enough.

If you can’t wait until my next blog post to read what happens next you can now buy the ebook from Amazon, in the US, UK and many other places.

Butterfly Porcupine: A Review

I was given this Young adult ebook by Susan Francis to review, so here’s what I think.

The book started off following Tasha as she got ready for her prom at the end of high school in Trinidad. It talked of them all saying goodbye and laid the groundwork of the book and the plot well. Tasha had decided to come to England to continue her education under her father’s roof and was saying goodbye to her mother, friends and brother to do so. I was intrigued right away, although I had one small moment of confusion when the dresses were talked about in terms of 1920’s and 1950’s and I had to try and work out when the book was set. The date’s made me think this might be a historical fiction book but it wasn’t, as I found out when the usual technology was mentioned.

I really liked Tasha and her prickly personality as well as Kai and his extroverted nature. The two were wonderful opposites and as we all know opposites attract.

On top of that I loved the way the estate they lived in worked. Aintree Court, being a closed off area where every neighbour is meant to look out for every other neighbour was the perfect example of good intentions not going quite right. I loved all the little quirks this brought to people’s behaviour and expectations and the way the upper middle class area looked down on anyone not part of their special ‘club’.

I did have a few niggles with the book, however. Mostly, the ages of the children. Half the kids were doing AS levels, including Tasha but all of them were 17 before they started and had 18th birthday parties throughout the year and following summer holidays. It confused me at first because that’s a year too old. English children are normally 16 and have 17th birthdays in their first year doing A-levels. This confusions continued with the kids in the year above, all of them were 18 before they even started their second year. At that point English kids go off to University, even if they only turn 18 in the summer holidays before hand. It just kept me confused a lot of the time, trying to work out who was in what year. I was surprised when Kai went to high school with the others for example,. He’d turned 18 before the book started so I expected him to be off at Uni and the only birthdays that were mentioned all seemed to happen in the summer holiday too.

My final niggle is actually the title. While it’s meant to describe the personality of Tasha, I didn’t get that until the last few pages and didn’t feel it entirely added to the sense of the book. It’s a YA romance book that I think would be served better by having a gender neutral title.

The book was still good and the romance was very sweet but I got a little put off by the lack of research. I still think I’d check out the sequel, however, now that I know the author had everyone a year older for where they are meant to be.

Christmas

I like Christmas and it’s only one week to go or seven sleeps as people keep saying. The big problem I find, however, is I don’t get much work done in December.

Planning for Christmas actually takes a lot of time each year. There’s all the present buying (which I usually quite enjoy), wrapping, putting the decorations up, writing cards and christmas letters to people we don’t see so often, organising who’s going where over the holiday period and making sure there’s enough food in the house of the right sort (ie, a big enough turkey), christmas dinners, nativity plays, carol services, and all sorts of other little things that all add up to make December a very busy month.

All in all I often find that it’s actually quite a lot of fuss over something that tends to be over quickly and not always very pleasant. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for remembering the true spirit of Christmas and I love watching the kid’s nativity every year. I also really love seeing Santa Claus the Movie with Dudley Moore as Patch the elf, but most of the preparation is part of the Christmas day celebration itself, which tends to revolve around giving people presents, hoping I don’t get anything where I have to fake my smile of gratitude, and eating far too much food that probably took longer than really necessary to prepare. All the while, hoping that everyone gets along and no one says anything that’s going to cause offense (which can be really easy with a lot of families). In short Christmas can actually be really stressfull, not to mention the fact it’s never anything like the Christmas that movies and advertising imply we should have.

I’m not going to go into the details about what Christmas should be. I actually think enough other people will cover the Jesus angle. I just find myself wishing we did some of this all year round. I think I’d like to be able to make less effort at Christmas to include all these things and instead do them spontaneously the rest of the year. I want to have people over for a good dinner in other months too and give people presents on other days that aren’t their birthdays. I’d like to have pretty things in my house and the smell of yummy things baking regularly. But mostly I want to celebrate, appreciate and smile about good things all year round.

Skyfall: A Review

This is the third James Bond film with Daniel Craig as the main character and it came out to celebrate 50 years since the first ever bond film. For a series where there’s no logical explanation why the Bond character changes appearance every now and then it’s doing remarkably well with it’s format and I was eager to see yet another in a quintisentially British series.

The first two with Daniel Craig in, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, were both prequels and both a little dissapointing. Casino Royale being the better of the two as Quantum of Solace just felt like any other standard revenge film and not the different swaggering spy movie Bond normally delivers.

This third one was the same and also delivered us with a prequel, thankfully, no where near as dissapointing. I had found out, not long after the previous Bond film that Daniel Craig actually played Bond much more like the original author intended, which helped me to try and see it from the author’s eyes. In Skyfall I think Craig really came into the role and It completely redeems him for me as a great Bond.

The plot was fantastic and I loved getting to see a bit more of Bond’s previous life and childhood as well as a modernisating effect on the whole team behind him. I was also kept very amused by the references to the old films and hints at beginnings of habits we know Bond well for, like his shaken not stirred drink and his habit of ignoring the rules, tests and anything else anyone tried to give him boundaries with.

On top of all that the support acting was fantastic. The villian felt believably psychotic and had me thinking he really might get to achieve his nasty plot before 007 could stop him, even though a part of me knew Bond always comes out on top. M was again superb but Dench is one of the best actors we have so no real surprises there. The actor who stole the show for me though, was Bérénice Marlohe, who played Sévérine, the trafficked girl owned by our bad guy. Her fear at being in his power and her trepidation at wanting to hope Bond could rescue her had me on the edge of my seat. I’m sure it helped that I’m passionately against trafficking and know more about it than the average person but for me her fear and emotions in those few scenes were so perfect.

However, the only major downside with the film was what happened next with Sévérine. As is normal in a Bond film, he gets to sleep with someone at somepoint (occasionally more than one person). Unfortunately they picked our broken trafficked girly as the one to fall for Bond’s charms but that just wouldn’t happen. No trafficked girl ever feels like they can jump right into the arms of another man just because he ‘might’ be able to rescue her. Especially when they’ve only just met.

Had they not been so unrealistic I think I’d be chalking this down to the best Bond film ever, but I just can’t quite bring myself to do so. Even with the fantastic settings, including the house, skyfall (to the left), I just couldn’t quite forgive it for this slip up.

I will be looking forward to the next Bond film, however, and I hope they don’t keep us waiting long. I’ll also be adding this one to my film collection, I just might have to fast forward the shower scene to keep myself calm.

Sherdan’s Prophecy: Chapter 32

Anya didn’t leave her room for breakfast while Sherdan was about the following morning. He went over to the compound with a sad weight on his heart. He’d have to hope she was more open again that evening. Women were so fickle.

There was plenty of work to do, however. The shelters at all the newest occupied houses were being built and installed. Sherdan also expected some kind of response from the UN after Anya’s news the day before.

He had a live link to the BBC news just after six that evening so he could get a full days work in before he needed to be back in his own study. He hoped Anya wouldn’t stray out of her room while it was happening. There wouldn’t be time to tell her about it before hand.

The morning passed uneventfully and he soon took a break to grab some lunch. Hitchin joined him, a little unexpectedly.

“I know you don’t like being studied Sherdan, but we really need to do some more tests. People are beginning to wonder why you don’t come and identify the new abilities in the growing number of residents who still don’t know what they can do.” Sherdan sighed but knew his friend was only telling the truth.

“I’ll come next week, I promise.”

“Very well.”

Hitchin stayed where he was sat despite not saying any more. Sherdan waited, not sure he wanted Hitchin to say anything else but not wanting to offend him either.

“How’s everything going with Miss Price? Has she agreed to marry you yet?”

“Not yet. I think things have improved but something holds her back. Her beliefs I think.”

“Hmmm… that would be tricky. Can you not get her to see that it’s in her best interests to do as she’s told?”

“She’s a headstrong girl,” Sherdan said, “I’m sure it won’t be much longer. If anyone can succeed I can.”

“I’m sure she’ll see sense soon as well. After all, it’s a definite result.” Hitchin finally got up and left. Sherdan hadn’t been entirely truthful with him. He didn’t want Anya to just ‘come to her senses’ but to actually love him. He wanted more than he’d ever wanted from a woman before.

The first conversation they’d had regarding Hitchin’s vision sprang to mind. His presumption of winning Anya had been so arrogant. He thought he’d be impossible to refuse and hadn’t really known what it was to love someone. He was learning.

He’d just wanted her to do as he demanded but it no longer seemed enough to have a woman do as he wished. Now he wanted a woman who really though similar things as important as he did, who wanted to be at his side.

Sherdan went back to work. Hitchin hadn’t cheered him up at all. Instead Hitchin had only shown him how different falling in love had made him. He threw himself into his work with more energy than normal, practically making Graham’s job obsolete. Two hours later he’d given himself a headache.

Shortly after four that afternoon a phone call came through for him. The UN had decided to approve the request for recognition as a separate country. While officially, the Queen of England owned the land, it was an old law and the UN thought there was enough weight behind Sherdan’s request to disregard that problem.

They added that they felt it was important Sherdan not just take any more land, however, saying it only weakened his political position with his neighbours. Sherdan didn’t particularly care. He had what he wanted. The UK would be forced to treat him with more respect than they had recently.

Less than ten minutes after he got off the phone to the UN they announced their decision publicly. The whole world knew he had succeeded. Sherdan immediately addressed the whole country.

“I have brilliant news for you all. Utopia has officially been recognised and accepted as a member of the United Nations. In celebration of this, there will be a street party and ball a week today. Congratulations.”

There was a sound of applause from the command room when Sherdan took his finger off the intercom button. This was another very important day for his country. So far, with the exception of Anya, everything was pretty much going to plan.

Sherdan had another phone call before he could do anything else. The President of America, who had ignored him after his first attempt at opening diplomatic relations, now wanted to speak with him.

“I’ve only a moment but I wanted to say congratulations on achieving membership in the UN. I think we should talk about trade and other such things between our countries.”

“Of course, Al, I’m sure we can discuss things like that over the coming weeks. Shall I have someone get in contact with one of your cabinet to begin discussions?”

“That sounds good. I look forward to hearing from you.”

Sherdan smiled as he put the phone down. He was highly unlikely to trade them any of the things they probably wanted, but they didn’t need to know that yet.

Many similar calls rolled in from various diplomatic figures across the world. All of them congratulatory with an undertone of visitation or trade. He had something they all wanted.

He had to cut short all the calls and request Graham take any more as he headed back to his house for his live news interview. He’d only just sat down where Anne had set up his satellite link when he was introduced.

“Sherdan Harper, you’ve become quite the icon today. How does it feel to gain recognition as the leader of a new country?”

“It feels very good considering the opposition we’ve faced. We’ve also been working hard on relations with other countries and are in the beginning of all sorts of agreements with many of them.”

“What do you plan on doing next?”

“It depends on the British government really. At this point we’d like to negotiate a ceasefire with the UK and concentrate on forming a working political system. We will continue to retaliate as we have been if things stay as they are, however.”

“Do you intend to give the homes you’ve taken back?”

“Possibly. Some of them. Definitely not all. A lot are now inhabited by my own citizens. As I said, I wish to negotiate a ceasefire and giving land back is something I expect to be a part of that.”

“And what about the soldiers that are considered ‘missing in action’?”

“All of them are safe and will be allowed to return home as soon as we’re at peace with the UK.”

“Do you intend to divulge any of your technology now?”

“We intend to keep as much of it as possible to ourselves. For the most part, we just want to get on with our lives in peace.”

“Thank you again Dr Harper.” Sherdan nodded before he was cut off. He looked up to see Anya in the doorway. She’d been listening to the whole thing. She smiled.

“So are you a Prime Minister or a King?” she asked. He smiled and chuckled.

“Neither, yet. I have my views on the best form of government. You already know about that, however.”

“I do. I happen to agree with them in principle.”

“Only in principle?” He noticed she had her kitten curled up in her arms again.

“I’m not convinced you’d be as benevolent as required.”

“What would you prefer to be?” he asked, changing the subject back to her first statement.

“I don’t understand.”

“I want you to be my wife. Which would you prefer? Queen perhaps?”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“I can make you anything you want to be right now.”

“The only thing I want is to be free.” Her eyes flashed in anger. He shook his head.

“I’m not trying to upset you Anya. I love you. I want you to be happy.” She sat down, all the anger dissipated from her. She let Antonio go and watched him play on the floor for a moment.

“Can I come to the party and ball then?”

“You can, if you are staying. It would be dangerous for you to be seen with me and then to leave here.”

“I don’t see how.”

“It just would Anya. Please can we not argue about everything?” She looked away from him. He’d upset her yet again, but he felt hurt too and she never seemed to see that.

“I’m sorry. I don’t really want to argue either. I’m just fed up of being stuck here.”

“No one is keeping you here. If you’re really not happy with me then please leave and go somewhere you are.” She turned her face back towards him. A tear slowly ran down her left cheek. It pained him to see her like that.

“I can’t leave. I’m… I don’t even know if I want to. I just feel like I’m trapped in limbo. I can’t live properly here and I don’t feel like I can leave.”

“I don’t understand what’s forcing you to stay.” Sherdan continued to watch her cry. “I want you to stay and be my wife, but above that I want you to be happy, wherever you are. Will you let me try and make you happy here, at least?”

She wiped away her tears and shrugged. He got up, went to her and took her by the hands, pulling her to her feet. As soon as she was standing he embraced her in the biggest hug he had ever given anyone and didn’t let go for some minutes.

When they finally parted she appeared calm again and even gave him a small smile. He took her hand and led her to the sitting room. He went to the kitchens and got Anne to bring their dinner through to them there.

Having meals in the dining room was something he normally insisted upon but lately he had been slack. He wanted Anya to feel relaxed more than he cared about such concepts any more.

He kept conversation focused on small things, like up coming films, while they ate. By the time they’d finished dessert she seemed a lot brighter again. She evidently liked talking about films and actors. She knew much more about them than he did. He didn’t usually have time for them, although he enjoyed them when he did.

After dinner the topic progressed to books which had been made into films. Sherdan felt on more familiar ground. He often read, especially since purchasing a kindle.

They talked for ages, comparing their opinions. She preferred the Narnian books to the films. He preferred ‘Lord of The Rings’ as a book and she as the films. There wasn’t much they agreed on, as usual, but it was an amicable conversation.

The ended their evening together much happier than they had began it. Sherdan felt relief when Anya left him to sleep, although he still felt confused about her indecision. She acted like she didn’t want to be here but didn’t leave, even when offered the opportunity.

For the next few days Sherdan avoided all serious topics of conversation with Anya. He didn’t think it would do either of them any good. She allowed Sherdan to get closer to her again but if it felt like they might kiss she soon retreated. No matter how hard he tried he couldn’t get past that final wall she’d put up.

There were no more attacks on Utopia either and diplomatic relations were beginning with many countries. Although, the UK had not spoken up yet. Sherdan had called the Prime Minister again a couple of times but, just like Anya, the walls were still up. The army still patrolled all the borders and they still had an active arrest warrant out on him.

There was nothing Sherdan could do but wait and keep trying, hoping both Anya and the Uk would thaw soon.

Skid: A Review

I was given a free copy of the ebook version of Skid by Doug Solter in return for my review.

This is about a teenager called Samantha who has grown up spending a lot of time behind the wheel of a racing car. She’s got lots of experience and had an encouraging father.

In every other respect Samantha is a normal teenager. She’s a little naive about the world, easily angered and very affected by love, although oblivious to most interest in her.

I found myself enjoying this novel much more than I expected from the description and opening chapter. Samantha soon wormed her way into my heart and I found myself routing for her, both in love and in races. I could hardly put the book down and read it in less than two days.

Only one slight thing niggled at me. One particular character who also raced on the same team as Samantha kept saying ‘,yes?’ at the end of most of his sentences even when it didn’t quite seem to fit. I found this a little odd and couldn’t quite get my head around how sentences would be ended like this so often, but it could just be I’ve not met someone who speaks like that. It thankfully, only threw me for a few pages. The character only has a small part to play.

The romance was gorgeous and I actually really liked the rest of the results of the plot too. I completely felt Samantha’s struggle with her difficulties and appreciated her triumphs even more. I also very much loved the ending. It was a perfect ending to the book even though it wasn’t a perfectly happy ending, it still felt right.

I strongly urge readers to pick this book up. It’s one of the best I’ve read in a while.

How to write helpful reviews

Review writing is getting more and more common for the average person with sites like amazon and goodreads for books, imdb for films and lets not forget blogs and social networking but what kind of reviews actually help people?

For starters, reviews can actually be quite a subjective thing. We all have very differing opinions on what’s good or not. Reviews are most helpful when they look beyond our own personal tastes and look at whether the art, film or book was well executed and stylish, conveyed it’s message well etc. These are things we can evaluate that let everyone know something new about it.

For example, if you write ‘I hated this book because it was full of fluffy bunny rabbits and I hate rabbits, they scare me.’ All the people who read this review only learn two things, there were rabbits and you don’t like them. They don’t learn how the rabbits were used. They could have been a comical plot device meant for light relief and a way to move the book along and this could be something another reader really likes the sound of, likewise from the review they could have decided ‘oh I like rabbits’, picked up the book and read it, and then found they didn’t like how they were used as comic relief. The same goes for films, sometimes what we love others hate and we have to explain how things were used and why and then, if we want, say why we liked it.

Another common mistake reviews make is to criticize the creator. Often things like ‘this person can’t act’ or ‘so and so is the worst writer I’ve read in a long time’ is put into reviews, especially when the reviewer doesn’t like what they’ve seen or read. There are two reasons I don’t think reviews like this are helpful. Firstly, I actually think this is rather rude. The internet seems to give people the feeling of safety and anonymity to say things about people they would never normally say to their faces and to do so publicly. I tend to go with the concept don’t say things to people on the internet that you wouldn’t say to their face.

Secondly, you are only seeing one example of something they have created and it wouldn’t be in a finished film or a book if someone somewhere hadn’t said it was good. If you really don’t like something it’s good to think about why. I’ve seen someone say a person can’t act because they happen to have watched two films in a row with the same actor in and the roles were almost identical so the actor seemed samey. A good way to review it would have been ‘this was a very similar role to his role in film x, I didn’t like that one much so more of the same left me feeling dissapointed’. Anyone who reads that and loved film x for that character is now going to know they will love this new film and anyone who felt the same as you is going to stay away. Your review does the job.

It’s also good to remember to check your facts if you are criticising something for being inaccurate in a certain way. I’ve seen book reviews where an American reviewer has given an English authors book a 1 star review for bad spelling for having colour instead of color and having her main character eat a doughnut rather than a donut. Any American who looks it up will realise that colour is the English equivalent of color and the author hadn’t spelt anything wrong at all.

Anything Historical is another thing to be careful to criticise. I’ve actually received a review myself where the reviewer decided that in my 1805 set book, With Proud Humility, Marie’s mother couldn’t possibly have painted one wall of her room in a pretty garden scene because paint for walls hadn’t been invented yet. I have to humbly enquire how Michelangelo painted the Sistine chapel (1508-1512) if there was no paint to do so until after 1805?

With that in mind I’ll leave you with some ‘interesting’ reviews of some classics.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Endless, pointless description. DESCRIPTION, DESCRIPTION, DESCRIPTION!!! The entire book is written in stupid metaphors. The few places where there is actually any dialogue bore the reader to tears. Honestly, i think that this is dubbed a classic simply because it is older than sand. Gee, maybe if I just go out and slop a few words down on a piece of paper, it’ll be a classic in 160 years! It’ll be required of every high school sophomore, like this idiotic “story.” Excuse me now, I’m off to begin my masterpiece. I’m sure it’ll be better than this.

The Diary of a Young girl by Anne Frank – I didn’t like this book because it was boring. That’s all that needs to be said. It was very very very very very very very very very very very boring. If you have to read this book shoot yourself first.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – it was so dumb and it is a waste of your time and i gave it 1 star because that the lowest nember you can give.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickins – after reading this book i think dickens would benifit from very low expectations. and by that i mean a lot of people will be returning this book and giving bad reviews. all the classics always in my opinion, are very bad

Yes those are all real reviews you can go find on Amazon.

The Real Steel: A Review

I totally loved the trailor for this film, I mean fighting robots and Hugh Jackman, who wouldn’t? A friend love filmed the blu-ray so we watched it as a group one lazy Sunday afternoon.

It was really interesting watching Hugh Jackman play a really not so nice father and ex husband. The trailor didn’t imply he was anything but a down on his luck boxer but it turned out he was a complete jerk and it actually really worked. I found myself loving to hate him.

The plot was incredibly predictable. Ass gets beat up, loses everything and has to rebuild it all while realising it was his own fault things went south in the first place. He soon learnt some easy to figure out life lessons and got on with things though.

The robot fights were very robot wars esque and I kept hoping Craig Charles would pop up and say, ‘let the wars begin!’ at some point but unfortunately he didn’t.

I also didn’t really get from the trailor what role the kid would play and the kid was awesome! He provided 90% of the comedy in this film and boy was it good comedy. I really hope this little actor has a long career ahead of himself.

By far the best bits in the film were when they put the robot, Atom, in shadow mode. He would literally copy the moves of the person in front of him. It looked amazing and provided the rest of the laughs as people picked up drinks and the robot copied etc and all sorts of other cute things. And, finally the best scenes in the whole film, when the kid danced and the robot copied. Pure genius!

I definitely want to own this film and one day, hopefully, my very own boxing robot with shadow function!