Monthly Archives: May 2012

Just Finished…Being Human

So…a YA book about vampires – sounds familiar? Well, you’d be wrong! 🙂

Being Human takes the interesting perspective of Tommy, the recently turned vampire. The novel is written from his first-person POV, with only five chapters (incredibly long and semi-interior monologue in style); the chapters cover five distinct stages of his vampire life and experience.

In the world of Patricia Lynne’s vampires, when a human is turned they remember nothing of their former human life – nothing really of their human selves or values – which is why they often return and kill their own families it seems. When Tommy does exactly this, it is only some inante recognition of the special bond he shares with his twin brother Danny that stops him from killing him as he does their parents.

In the early stages of the book, I struggled to like Tommy – he’s heartless, unhuman and is quite blunt. Oh yes – I forgot, that’s because he’s supposed to be that way! He is a vampire after all. Once I got into this, he actually was quite cute and funny – certainly when he was trying to get his head around the intricacies of human/teenage life as his twin experiences it. As you see the new relationship develop with Tommy and Danny, you really see what the novel is about: the examination of what it is to ‘be human’. Tommy asks and examines the questions throughout the book, that we often overlook in everyday life, but that are absolutely necessary in making us what and who we are. I’ve seen this done quite similarly in sci-fi, with books like Human Is?, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and more recently Cinder – it was well done in Being Human.

The examination of various types of love – twins, family, children, romantic – is also very nicely done: the relationships feel authentic and give a greater depth than some other vampire books I’ve read. The main focus of Being Human isn’t a romance, but a family bond which trumps survival, human nature and vampire instinct.

Overall Thoughts: A well-considered vampire book, with interesting elements and world-building for a ‘post-knowledge setting’ where humans are aware of the existence of vampires. The examination of humanity as Tommy actually goes through the process is interesting and well-thought out: many novels I’ve read with human-esque vamps begin way after they’ve already embraced their human side. Enough action and blood for a vampire book, but not actually the main draw in this case. Good stuff!

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Should be…doing something…

Ever have those days where you’ve got lots of things to do, spend the whole day busy and then look back and wonder what happened to the time at the end of it when you don’t feel you’ve achieved very much? Yes?

Great…because I’ve been having one of those days for about four months now 🙂

I know I’m actually getting on with things (although my blogging frequency on here is pretty low and my ability to do any decent writing seems to be completely absent), but I’m wondering whether I’m spending my time focusing on the wrong things. It’s hard to know what’s the best thing to do with your time some days: should you be promoting your book, working on the next one, pushing your social networking, or perhaps (even) sleeping?

It feels like I’ve spent a lot of time doing social stuff recently and not much actual writing… What do you think – go quiet on the promotional stuff to get on with writing? Does the social stuff make much of a difference overall to the success of your book? It’s tough to decide because you see lots of interesting stuff too through facebook, twitter, etc. Perhaps I’m just easily distracted, like a giddy puppy: “ooh ball!”

Anyone out there with some sage advice or wonderous insight?

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Song on Sunday – Turn Me On

A Song On Sunday is an original meme hosted by Emily at Confessions Of A Bookaholic. It’s simple to join in all you have to do is:

1. Pick a song that you loved this week
2. Match it with a book
3. Grab the button
4. Link back to Emily and leave a link so she can see your post

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So for my Song on Sunday I’ve chosen…

…David Guetta Turn Me On featuring Nicki Minaj…

Sorry – I’ve had to post the official video this time as it’s as important to the book connection as the song itself – so you’ll have to put up with skipping the advert. Unsurprisingly, a video featuring a robot woman, reminded me of Cinder by Marissa Meyer, which I read and reviewed earlier this year at Aside From Writing (read review here). There’s a lot of robot/human wonderings in the book – as I’ve found are common in similar books, such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep –  explored through Cinder’s perspective of herself and her combined robot and human parts. Listening to the lyrics in this song about ‘make me come alive’ and ‘turn me on’ (Prince Kai, anyone?) there are direct connections to scenes in the book.

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Song on Sunday – 5

A Song On Sunday is an original meme hosted by Emily at Confessions Of A Bookaholic. It’s simple to join in all you have to do is:

1. Pick a song that you loved this week
2. Match it with a book
3. Grab the button
4. Link back to Emily and leave a link so she can see your post

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So for my Song on Sunday I’ve chosen…

…The Fun, We Are Young…

This song is an absolutely perfect match for David Steinberg’s book Last Stop This Town, which is about the experiences and changes life brings for a group of friends at the end of high school – the opening lines especially remind me of the party with chainsaws, kitty and just striking out! (Don’t worry – they’re all in different scenes). I’ve laughed a lot this week as I’ve read the book and so when I heard this song on the radio it just fitted nicely. If you like a bit of boy humour a la American Pie, but with a bit more feeling and depth then you should try it.

(Visit http://cusick-jones.com/giveaway.php this week and you can win one of five copies direct from the lovely author if you like the sound of it!)

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Just Finished…Last Stop This Town

How much fun was this book to read? LOADS! 🙂

Last Stop This Town is a great graduation/road trip story: it keeps you laughing regularly throughout the story with fantastic dialogue, heart-warming (and non-cheesy) guy-bonding relationships. Some of the set pieces are familiar but done well or with quirky twists – and in honesty there are so many truthful elements to the scenes that I found myself genuinely caught up in the story page after page.

Being a book written by a successful movie screenwriter (including American Pie 2) there is a definite ‘filmic’ quality to the novel, but it reflects only in a positive way. Dialogue is realistic, punchy and very well done throughout. The novel has great pace too – shifting through a range of character perspectives and interesting scenes with enough detail and development without getting bogged down.

What I really liked about this was reading about the crazy world of your late teens from a guy perspective – you’ve seen it in plenty of films, but a book like this takes you deeper ‘behind enemy lines’: some of it is exactly as you’d expect (girls, boobs, sex and silliness, lol), but other parts are more touching and genuine than I think you get from TV/film. I liked the unstoppable carnage of the boys’ road trip and adventures in New York (think Catcher in the Rye, but actually being fun and with characters you don’t want to poke in the eye with a stick just to get them to shut up). I think most people who’ve been to college have had these kinds of days, you know, you go out for bread at 3pm on a Wednesday and next thing you know you find yourself sleeping in the corridor outside your dorm room at 4am Thursday, without the bread you originally went for. It’s so much fun dropping back into that world and reading a book like this. There are also some good mottos to live by if you’re a guy:

(on being offered a threesome) “On the way out the door, Pike asked Haley, “Your roommate’s not a dude, is he?” “No.” “Is she a fattie?” “Uh, no.” “Does she have two legs?” Haley stopped him. “Do you want to do this or not?” “Yes, yes I do.” They continued out the door.

A litte drink?

 I do like teen comedies: the quirky, the ironic, the smart and admittedly – to a certain point – the crass ones. I like the American Pies, I like daft guy banter, one-upmanship, mockery and plain-and-simple bullying – what can I say? 🙂 Coming from this – I knew I’d like this book, but Last Stop This Town was even better than I’d thought: the relationships between the guys run deeper than I expected and the physical/action humour translated really well in the novel, which I had wondered about: the scene with the homeless guy at the start probably works better than in a film and had me guffawing as everything escalated. Love Pike. There are also scenes which made me realise that during these years in some ways girls do have it easier than guys.

Overall Verdict: great for fans of teen comedy, guy-bonding/road trip type stories and anyone in need of some light relief (only in the context of reading obviously). I’d certainly be looking out for anything else David Steinberg does.

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Too tired to TGIF…

As it is currently twelve minutes after midnight – and officially Saturday – I realise that my TGIF Lookback this week is pretty poor: no post, no picture and now it’s not even Friday. Oh well!

It has been a good week though: busy over on Aside from Writing as Indie Author Month continues with the daily features and giveaway; and like most people I’ve been trying to cram five days of work into a shorter week after the bank holiday, so have been kept busy everyday.

Who’d have thought there was a ‘Top Gun Day’?

Quite randomly – as I was cruising to work this morning through an attractive haze of grey rain and listening to a retro pop playlist – Playing with the Boys from Top Gun came on and it got me thinking…if you could walk into any scene in a movie and just become a part of it as though it were actually happening, where would you go? And would you want to take a main part or just sit in the sidelines and watch?

I always liked the look of the bar they go into in Top Gun on the first night Maverick meets the blonde super-professor love interest – I could quite fancy popping in there with my big hair and eighties outfit for a drink. Then there’s Moulin Rouge – how cool would it be to swing around in a diamond encrusted outfit above what looks to be the world’s best party? I’d also enjoy running up the hillside in Julie Andrews’ place to spin around and sing happily – just because you live in Austria and you can and because it’s nice to be a trainee nun. Of course, you’d be in Maria’s happy position, not knowing that your fellow sisters are thinking about a career change for you on the grounds of capability (could you imagine how long proper consultation, performance management and CRB checks might take today to switch her from one role to another now and allow her to work with children?)

Sorry – I digress a little…

Harry Potter world would be pretty good too – I always liked the first film as I thought it nicely captured the magic and spark for children in discovering a whole new world – so I’d head to the LEaky Cauldron to join in the Diagon Alley stuff – plus Mr V isn’t too tough in that film, so the lights are switched on and you can see what’s happening. By the time you get to the Goblet of Fire it looked like it was being filmed in Manchester with all the grey skies and dark sets.

I’m sure there are lots more I could think of,  but it’s getting late and I’m liable to start writing (even more) rubbish now. But what about you…if you could go into any scene in a film, where would you go and why?

(Oh – last thing before I go – I discovered that May 13th is Top Gun Day whilst searching for the little picture to go on the post. How random is that? I get the Stars Wars – May the 4th thing – but Top Gun Day was new on me. But they have website and everything, so it must be real [click the links to find out more]. If you’re feeling like a retro throw-back, cheesy weekend activity, maybe celebrate with dozens of other people worldwide by watching the film and trying the Top Gun drinking game – it is messy, but supremely entertaining. Maverick out.)

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Just Finished…Zed by Stephen Herfst

I first came across this book when the author came on board for the Indie Author Month on Aside From Writing and I loved the cover 🙂 It fits perfectly with the book / blurb and really made me want to read it. And so I have…

The Blurb

The story revolves around a teenage girl’s promise to save Zed from the human hordes.

Zed is not your typical zombie. He is cursed with the affliction of thought … although he tries to make the best of a bad situation. The goals for his unrest are simple: to improve his stride, to taste a lightly-seared pork loin once again and avoid Activists at all costs.

His life was predictable, controlled and good until chaos crashed the party. In just one day his world is destroyed and his ability to survive is tested. Would he be able to get through this in one piece? And would he somehow be able to survive the unstoppable force that goes by the name of Chase?

The Review

Let’s start with the obvious: Bruce Willis was wrong – Zed’s not dead, he’s undead – which is way more fun!

I am a big sucker for zombie films, but have never actually read a book about them before – so this could go one of two ways. Thankfully for me – this is a great zombie book! I loved the quirky idea of seeing everything from a zombie point of view – albeit a very smart, Mr Darcy-esque zombie in his thoughts and language. Because he is a smart ‘thinking’ zombie Zed is an interesting creature to be inside the head of.

In the first few pages I was hooked on this book: the do-gooder activist humans who want to help train and re-educate zombies to integrate back into society; Zed’s sarcastic and intriguing thoughts on human behaviour seen from a zombie POV and the wonderful backstory of Gumbies, chewable Zombie Treetz TM used to reward good behaviour. For fans of zombie stuff the inversion of the genre in this book is very well done and should give you some laughs.

The action in the book is done well and on the whole moves on at a pace. Also, I think most people will enjoy the antagonistic relationship Zed has with his accidental companion. In parts Zed’s thoughts can ramble on a bit – perhaps that’s the zombie in him getting his brain stuck in a loop? And there were a few occasions where I really had to think about what was written and am still not sure I actually understand the point…maybe I’m not as deep or intellectual as Zed?

Stephen Herfst does a great job of making Zed real and believable. He writes very descriptively and builds an interesting and well-thought out world where the action takes place: it sits clearly within the genre with familiar themes and features, but at the same time gives you more to think about when you actually start to look at zombies as creatures/individuals, rather than a mass horde of sluggish-walking brain feeders. It was these details that made the book for me – that took you deep into a world that you don’t even bother to consider when you’re watching a zombie film and rooting for the grizzly guy at the front to take out the zombie in the supermarket with a banjo-related-decapitation.

Rating: 4* – Zombie fans and lovers of sarcastic heroes should enjoy this!

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With my review sorted, I’m off to watch some Zombieland, Walking Dead and 28 Days Later…I’ve got me a hankerin’ for the undead in a non-sparkly-glittery vampire way…And let’s face it – zombies are probably the real undead anyway…They’re not so pretty and a bit stinky, but at least they’re honest when they maul you and don’t try to baffle you with beauty and sex!

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