Saturday, 27 September 2014

book review - Doreen, by Leonardo Acebo

She's loud, she's foul-mouthed, she's slutty, she's dishonest, she has anger management issues and absolutely no impulse control. She is Doreen McCrullers.

From the first page to the last, this hilarious book grabs you by the scruff of the neck and doesn't let go. You'll gasp with shock and terror. You'll scream with laughter. You'll even have the odd 'awwww' moment as you follow the eponymous heroine and her wildly dysfunctional, but at bottom cohesive, family through a rake's progress of farcical, dangerous and often sordid adventures. From blackmail to shoplifting to theft of motor vehicles to rifling corpses, Doreen will stop at nothing to take care of her children.

Highly recommended to all but the prissy.

Doreen and its sequel, Doreen: Blonde Ambition are available from Amazon

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Book review: The Universe Builders, by Steve LeBel

In The Essence of Christianity, the philosopher Feuerbach posited that man creates God in his own image. In The  Universe Builders LeBel has done, although rather less seriously and more entertainingly, just that, creating gods who are just like us, even down to the jeans and untied shoelaces of the young god. Just the originality of it would have been enough for me to rate it above average, but to the novel premise are added solid writing, likable characters, humour and that favourite of mine, a bully who gets his comeuppance.

Suitable for all ages, this book is a thoroughly good read. It rollicks through the attempt of a young god to survive the sabotage attempts of a workplace bully and secure his place in the prestigious Business, and comes to a very satisfying conclusion, neat but not too pat.

Given the subject matter, I feel I should not close without mentioning that devout readers need have no fears of blasphemy; there is no suggestion of conflating LeBel's gods with anyone's Divine Being, or of disrespect to any faith.

The Universe Builders is available at AMAZON.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Book review: Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills

It's not easy to write well for children, and Ms Cross has done a superlative job in this entertaining adventure story.

The book starts with a couple of familiar tropes (the creepy old house, the keen boy/girl detective) and in the opening pages I was expecting a standard 'Nancy Drew' kind of offering, albeit very well done. But The Mystery of Shadow Hills unfolds layer by surprising layer, revealing with each turn something that takes us completely off guard. Oh, there's witches. Oh, no wait, the witches are real and dangerous! Oh, but wait....

Skylar is a wonderfully down-to-earth heroine; there are no child prodigies here, no soaring intellects or paranormal abilities. Just an ordinary little girl with a consuming passion and the patience to learn to use her tools. As we follow her through some really hair-raising experiences, we watch her discover the difference between real and false friendship, and after a few false starts, find her way onto a solid path of common sense.

A wonderfully enjoyable read for ages 8 to 13, but able to be enjoyed by all ages.

Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hill is available from Amazon for Kindle and in paperback.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


A lot of beginning writers have difficulty with the difference between simple and continuous tenses. Once you understand the purpose of them, though, there's really no difficulty.

Starting with the past tense, as the distinction is the most readily apparent, let's consider the operation of simple and continuous past tense.

PAST SIMPLE: Rover ate a bone.
PAST CONTINUOUS: Rover was eating a bone.

In the simple past tense, the action described is complete. The entire action of Rover eating the bone all happens within the confines of the sentence. At the beginning of the following sentence, he has finished eating it. Of course, you might go on and describe him eating it, but that's in the nature of a recap (Rover ate the bone. He went at it like a mad creature, tearing and slobbering.) In the most simple narrative, the next sentence moves on in time. (Rover ate the bone. Then he had a big drink out of the water bowl.)

In contrast, in the continuous past tense, the action described is ongoing. At the end of the sentence, Rover is still eating away at that bone.

Thus we may see that the continuous past tense is used to describe a state of affairs. For example:

When I walked into the kitchen (simple past; action completed) I froze in horror. (simple past; action completed)
Rover was eating the Sunday roast, all over the floor. (see the difference? This is telling you what is now going on, and it's still happening). Fluffy was in the corner, vomiting. (again, she's still golloping away).

Now let's apply this to the present tense. As with the past tense, there are two forms of it.

PRESENT SIMPLE: Fluffy kills a seagull. 
PRESENT CONTINUOUS: Fluffy is killing a seagull.

In the present simple, the action, again, is complete. At the end of the sentence that is an ex-seagull. It has ceased to be. Only a carcass remains.
In the present continuous, what we have is a point-in-time snapshot. Fluffy is killing a seagull. Right here, right now, this is what's happening. Help! Get the broom! He's killing it! You still might save it if you act quickly because the act of killing is NOT COMPLETE.

A good rule is always to use the simpler form when it does what you want, reserving the more complex form for when the simple one doesn't work.

EG: I walk into the room. Rover eats the Sunday roast.
See how that completely doesn't work? Here, we are saying that Rover eats the roast, commencing his depredations only after you walk into the room. The two sentences look disconnected and weird.

I walk into the room. Rover is eating the Sunday roast.
See the difference? OMG what's he doing, that I JUST CAUGHT HIM AT!

This same distinction applies to every tense. A rule of thumb is that whenever you have the participle (eating, opening, whatever, things ending in -ing) you have a CONTINUOUS action. It is the same in the future. 

EG: When you next see me, I will drink coffee. (I will have a coffee with you even though I have not been doing so). 
When you next see me, I will be drinking coffee (I will be slugging down the black stuff at the moment you walk into the cafe).