Tuesday, 27 December 2016

R is for Rom Com - Dating Kosher, by Michaela Greene

Part Rom-Com, part inspirational, this vastly entertaining book follows an almost completely self-absorbed young Jewish Princess through her transition to a functioning adult. I could almost describe it as a coming-of-age story, but as the protagonist is around thirty, that wouldn't fit the commonly accepted paradigm.

Regardless, it's funny as all get-out, and there's not a dull page in it! The dysfuntional family is hilarious, and the protagonist is really relatable, even at her most childishly whiny; she is a rounded character and even at the beginning we see the seeds of a decent human being in her love for her cat. 

Whether you like a tale with a moral and a happy ending, or whether you just enjoy a fun read with lots of laughs, Dating Kosher is guaranteed to appeal. I really found nothing to criticise in it.

You can find Dating Kosher and Ms Greene's other books at AMAZON.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Q is for Quest - The Adventures of Llewelyn and Gelert series, by David Bell

Nothing beats a quest book, whether it's contemporary adventure, futuristic science fiction or, as in the instant book, historical fantasy. There is something so deeply satisfying about a quest story; it is one of the archetypical human experiences, one supposes.

In The Dog Hunters, and its sequel, The Dog Assassins, by David Bell, we have not only the fun of a quest, but we also have one of the most realistic, lovable hounds I have ever encountered in fiction. I say 'one of', because I like the hounds in my own work too. Gelert eats filth, rolls in filth, pisses, farts and generally expresses his joyously canine nature, and it is this earthiness that makes him special; yes, all dogs are earthy creatures, but this all too seldom really comes through in fiction. Bell has done a superlative job with this character.

I read the Kindle editions, but these are not what I recommend my readers to buy. The illustrated paperbacks are what you want, really. They're not just any old illustrations; they are beautiful, beautiful pen-and-ink drawings, lovingly created by the author, who is as talented an artist as he is a writer. You can get some idea of the wonder of these pictures by the two covers.

It's not often that I bang on about Christmas, and it's obviously too late for this year, but these books are just perfect for gifts, whether it's Christmas, Eid, a birthday, Chanukkah or whatever.


Friday, 23 December 2016

P is for Pussycats - Chicomadre and the Little Pussycats of Firenze

A good friend recommended this to me on the strength of cats being mentioned in the title. All my friends know I'll read anything with cats or dogs. 

I was a little disappointed at first, because despite the title the cats, although important, really don't occupy much space in the book. Instead of being all about cats, as I had hoped, it's about an emotionally stunted, shopaholic Mossad hitman. That doesn't sound like much of a recommendation, and I must admit to a moment of pure quailing as I realised what I was going to be reading. Nevertheless, the book held my interest right through. By the time the cats made their appearance, they weren't needed; I'd have kept reading anyway.

The emotionally deprived shopaholic hitman, after killing various people, starts to wonder if perhaps murdering people is a bit nasty. This happens by about halfway through the book, and the rest of the book deals with him basically trying to ignore his new social consciousness. Despite this, which ought to have been the kiss of death, the book held my interest. I'm not sure why, but it was a compelling read.

This, in my opinion, is all that needs to be said. Mr Vanounou, despite breaking practically every rule in the writers' book, has succeeded in writing a page-turner, and that, folks, is what it's all about. I'd certainly read him again, and you should, too.

Friday, 16 December 2016

O is for Ordinary - first-class Christian fiction

O is for ordinary, and when I say that, it is not a comment about the quality of this fine book. It rather relates to the way in which daily life, the quotidian, the normal, is used as a setting for a story which, on the spiritual level, is a roller-coaster ride of danger and excitement.

The danger portrayed in this book is one which every settled Christian may face. Probably devout people in other religions run the same risks, too - almost certainly, I should think. It is the danger of becoming smug, of stopping living on the razor's edge and falling into complacency. This is one of the most serious spiritual dangers there is, as many writers of devotional literature have pointed out, most notably C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters. Smugness and complacency in religion lead one into a deadened state in which acts of the most shocking wickedness can be committed, without even a faint awareness that one is sinning, and this is, in fact, what happens to the protagonist of The Christmas Dog. Happily, it all comes right in the end, but we are left with a dizzying sense of the protagonist's narrow escape. 

A valuable cautionary tale for any Christian. Or follower of other religions.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

N is for Nasty - three books with super-nasty villains

N is for Nasty, and what's nastier than a really evil villain in a work of fiction? I'll tell you what. Nastier than any fictional villain is a real-life one, and this is what we are shown in the first of today's offerings.


This was meant to be satire, but tragically, the main event has now come true. It's no longer funny, especially for America. However, for students of history, it will no doubt in years to come provide a useful and concise summary of the early part of the 21st century. Read it and weep.

RODDY MURRAY - A Snow White Scenario and Body And Soul

 In A Snow White Scenario, but even more so in Body and Soul, we are treated to some truly egregious nastiness. In fact, I do believe that the crime perpetrated in Body and Soul is the most evil crime I've ever encountered in fiction, and those responsible are some of the most repellent characters I've seen. Thundering good reads, both of them.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

M is for Music and also for Manning

Bernie Manning's seventh album is quite a departure from his previous work. Heroes is a tribute to, as the name suggests, Manning's own heroes. The lineup is an eclectic one: there's one political hero (Gough Whitlam, of course, who else - the hero of every thinking Australian), but most of the lineup is from the arts: a painter (Albert Namatjira), a filmmaker (Alfred Hitchcock), an author (Philip K Dick) composer George Gershwin, singers Billie Holiday and John Lennon, and the fictional James Bond.

The album opens easily with a spoken introduction by Manning, just as if it were a book, and this literary feeling persists through the album. Spoken tributes read by Manning are backed by music and sound effects, in each case reflecting the flavour of the subject. The artist's feeling for his subjects comes through loud and clear, but Manning is never mawkish; his love of his heroes is expressed throughout with dignity and restraint.

Several of the tributes include a tribute song, and these are so cleverly done, reflecting the unique styles of each artist, but never copying. I was particularly struck by the deft way the characteristic feeling of Hitchcock's theme tune was evoked. 

I don't share myself all of these heroes, but one whom of course I do share is that great man, Gough Whitlam, and his tribute brought tears to my eyes. My personal favourite, though, was the James Bond one. It has the unmistakable Manning humour; that same sharp, but ultimately kindly, humour that brought us Men's Secret Business. Those who have come to know Manning through his earlier work will not be disappointed.

Bernie Manning's Greatest Hits, Volumes One, Two and Three, are available from  Bernie's own website, however I could not find any links to the later volumes in the series. The site does have a contact form, however, and the records are also available at Readings bookstore.

Monday, 12 December 2016

L is for Love, Literature and Letting Go

Three disparate elements, yet oddly linked, for are not love and loss two of the great themes of literature? Today, I have three books to offer you, one for each of these concepts.


Stolen Hearts and Muddy Pawprints, by Georgina Ramsey, is a romantic comedy, yes, and it's got a love story - two, actually. It is also the second volume in the About Three Authors series, which is a series united by theme, and written by different authors. You never know, one day I may write one myself! I actually know who is going to be writing the third one, and I'm quite excited about it. But that is not my news to tell. In any case, this one, like the first book, is well worth a read. There is a reason I always call Ramsey the Queen of Rom Coms.


The Fourth Wall, by Tabitha Baumander, is a collection of short stories that, if you have any taste at all, will knock your socks off. I don't know when I've been so impressed with a new writer. Sadly, the book seems now to have been withdrawn from publication following some kind of contretemps with the publisher; it was published by JEA, who seem to be always squabbling with everyone, so I only hope Baumander has a decent reversion clause in her contract. It would be a tragedy if these stories were lost.


I was conflicted about this book. It's quite well done, but I found the notion of overhauling one's friends as one does one's wardrobe rather repellent. Nevertheless, where this book can be really useful is in evaluating one's own behaviour and performance as a friend. You wouldn't want to be one of the toxic people described in this book, no indeed. And with that thought, I leave it to your consideration.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

K is for Killer - Killers in Fiction

Of all the crime fiction that is written, murder occupies a disproportionately great part of the field. I've never really understood why that is. Is it our fear of death that makes murder such a fascinating subject? And yet many devout Christians, who ought not to fear death, devour Christie and all her get by the truckload. Is it simply that murder is the worst of all crimes? And yet, many consider rape a fate worse then death, but there are not the number of crime books about rapists that there are about murderers, not nearly. Is it just that death, physical death, is the worst thing that can happen to a person? And yet that isn't even an universal belief. History is full of people who considered, for example, dishonour worse than death. We wear poppies every year to honour them.

Be that as it may, when it comes to crime fiction, murder is always the chef's special. 

Killers in fiction, however, are not limited to murderers, and in the group of works I have to present to you today, other killers are also represented.


By an odd coincidence, both of these particularly fine murder mysteries are also historical fiction. The Summertime Dead, by Robert Engwerda, is a beautifully drawn portrait of life in a small Australian town in the 1960s. The Bookseller's Tale, by Ann Swinfen, is set in 14th Century Oxford. Both are meticulously researched and both are wonderful reads. 


In Trish Dawson's I Hope You Find Me, the killer is a deadly plague, presumably viral, which wipes out nearly everyone in the world. A handful of survivors is left to make their way forward. It's an exciting story, enlivened by a touch of the paranormal, but this is not allowed to dominate and the action remains firmly centred around the interactions between the human survivors.


This chilling short story deals with an unexplained plague of vicious monsters, who overrun everyone in their path, leaving a swathe of - well, not corpses - bloodstains on the ground after their prey has been ravenously devoured. Despite the extremity of the premise, it is written with restraint and beautiful timing. A teasing sampler of Tobin's work.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

J is for Joseph Picard - the Lifehack series

If you've read one zombie apocalypse book, I've always said, you've read them all. I didn't know when I picked up Lifehack that it was going to be about zombies; had I known it, I wouldn't have started reading the book. And I would have missed out, badly.

The thing that makes these books special is the characters. They are, all three of them, real novels, teeming with the pain of the human condition, and yet always lightened by the author's wicked humour. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll be occasionally grossed out - but gruesomeness is never slathered in merely for its own sake; there is an essential good taste to the writing of these books that makes them worthy to be considered independently of their genre. 

Although my personal favourite is Watching Yute, I can recommend all three without reserve. They are all properly standalone, as a novel ought always to be; Picard is no amateur. Nevertheless, I read them in order, and as with any series, even the long series of the Waverley novels, I do think this is the best way to maximise one's enjoyment.

Find them, and Picard's other work, at AMAZON.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

I is For Injury, by Val Tobin

A nice, fast-paced story, Injury for me was chiefly distinguished by its nicely rounded protagonist. Typically in books of this type, movie-star heroines tend to be rather cardboard and interchangeable, but Daniella Grayson is a real, live, actual person, and this makes the book.

I did feel that the development of the relationship between Dani and Cope, although believable, was far too rushed; I actually went back to see if I'd accidentally skipped two or three chapters. It felt as if a section had been ripped out of the book. The ending, too, I felt was a little weak, but a nice, entertaining read all the same.

Get it HERE.

Monday, 21 November 2016

H is for Humour - Four Authors Very Well Worth Checking Out

If you're anything like me, and if you are reading my blog I assume we must have something in common, you love to laugh. Here for your consideration are four authors I've recently discovered. They're all very different, but all funny, and all well worth checking out if you haven't encountered them before. Do yourself a favour!

Paul Kater - Hilda The Wicked Witch series

This wonderful series, which so far runs to sixteen books, is a sheer delight. It follows the fortunes of the title character, Hilda the Wicked Witch, sometimes in our own humdrum world (which Hilda finds crazily exotic) but mostly in her own world of magic and dragons. 

The characters are delightful, particularly Hilda and her bestie, Baba Yaga. There are cameo appearances by characters from popular fiction, most notably Magrat Garlick and Granny Ogg from Pratchetts's marvellous Discworld series. This is particularly appropriate, since Kater's style and approach are bound to recommend themselves to fans of that series.

Kater's books can be found at AMAZON and SMASHWORDS.

P.J. Jones - Romance Novel

A deliciously wicked satire on the Twilight series, this book is reminiscent of Mad Magazine at its best. Written with an almost complete absence of the fourth wall, it's packed with laugh-out-loud moments for anyone who has struggled through Twilight. There's just nothing not to love.

Get it at AMAZON

Janet Josselyn - Thin Rich Bitches

A very entertaining account of an impoverished divorcee moving into a community of the rich, struggling to find her feet and forge a new life in a tumble-down old country house. It's a fun, medium-paced read with some good characters, plenty of animals, good lines and a romance subplot. Well worth downloading for a relaxing read, however I somehow felt the book just missed being as good as it might have been. I thought there could have been more variance in the level of tension, and also that perhaps the book ran just a little long for its content. An entertaining read, though, and the ending is very, very satisfying. 

Get it at AMAZON.

Erica Lucke Dean - Suddenly Sorceress and Suddenly Spellbound.

Who could fail to fall instantly in love with a series that opens with the heroine being molested by a goat and accidentally turning her boyfriend into a skunk? It's like this all the way through both these delightful books - always just that little bit over the top, always going just that bit farther than one expected. Ms Dean thinks big, and doesn't quail at the most outrageous situations. I am absolutely hooked on this series and can't wait for the next book.

Get them at AMAZON.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

G is for Guest - Guest post by Wendell Thorne

Today I have a guest post from my friend, author Wendell Thorne, lawyer, barber, author, thinker and all-around decent guy. Wendell is the author of The Hot Dog King, Green Tequila Beach, and Don't Worry, It'll Grow Back. 

Today Wendell is going to share with us his thoughts on parenting So, without further ado, take it away Wendell!

When my kids turn 18 and graduate from high school, my job is done. 

Tons of people, when I tell them this, laugh. “Haha,” they say, “we’ll see about that.” 

But the truth is, I already have a daughter who will be twenty-seven next month, and she’ll testify as to the veracity of my stance. I talk to her a few times a year and I see her now and then; sometimes I take her to lunch or, since she is a food-service professional, I’ll give her an exceedingly large tip if I visit her restaurant.

But my job as parent of her has been over for a while. I’m still her father and I’m still here, emotionally and intellectually, for her. She knows that. But the job of providing for her is done.

To many, I'm either a cold-hearted bastard or I'm deceiving myself. (Don't sell me short; I could be both).

Because my way of thinking is not common in our society today. Lots of parents pay for their kids to go to college, or help them financially along the way, or both. A few of these kids graduate and move onward and upward with their lives, but far too many continue to be unprepared for the future and frequently end up back living with their parents. The framework has been set; mom and dad are here to take care of me. They co-sign loans or maybe give the kid a credit card; which provides similar results--but is easier to carry around--as a can of gasoline and a Zippo lighter.

I had one 75-year-old customer who, when I asked him what he was doing that day, told me that he was “going to buy a car for my son.” 

“Really? Why?”

“Well, he got drunk and totaled his truck the other night.”

I asked, “Why doesn’t he buy the car for himself?”

“Well, he’s had a lot of problems, couple of bad divorces, lost his job, you know…”

All too well, I thought. “How old is he?”


That’s the result of parenting one’s adult child. In my way of thinking that’s a form of child abuse, and I’m not going to be guilty of that.

Being a good, tough parent isn’t easy, especially if you’re what’s referred to as an “adult-child.” Children who grow older but do not develop thoroughly as an adult (mostly due to never being required to be responsible for his or her actions, or having a parent who continually “bails him out” of bad situations) make horrible parents. The growing epidemic of these kinds of legacies forms the rickety floor of an unstable society. 

Capitalism is somewhat to blame as well. Parents who consume themselves with their vocations or professions frequently have little time or energy left to model other appropriate parental behaviors. Instead, and due to their job success, they toss money at their kids and purchase whatever a child wants in order to keep him or her “happy.” That’s ridiculous.

The Self-Esteem movement that began in the 1960’s is also a major adult obstruction to proper child development. Stoking a kid’s self-esteem is a fabrication, one that our kids are fully aware of. They know they came in last in the hundred-yard dash; telling them they did a good job and giving them trophies and ribbons only undermines the invaluable importance of failure while instilling a twisted sense of success into the child’s mind. 

You’ve seen adults who aren’t grown-ups. They litter our political and business landscape. They are teachers and police officers and coaches and county commissioners and they fill the pulpits, courthouses and other positions of authority. They’ve lived with an unearned sense of propriety and an inflated sense of self-importance; they know better than you how you should live your life and they have the means and power to make you either fall in line or pay the consequences. 

I don’t want my kids to be that kind of person. 

And so, as much as it hurts (it does, by the way, it hurts), I will not continue to provide parenting-style support to them once they become adults. Now, that means that while they are developing I do the work necessary such that when they arrive at adulthood they’re not clueless or surprised that life isn’t fair, that they are responsible for their own actions and have a real ability to positively impact their own future. They will understand that nothing is about to be handed to them and that the learning curve is still steep before them. Patience and reason and grace and dignity and respect will be the tent poles of their lives. 

And that’s a tremendous responsibility for me. Every day I awaken and hope I have what it takes to keep that fire burning, and every day I do something that doesn’t necessarily propel me in that direction. 

But I keep on keepin’ on, fighting the good fight and counting the days, hoping I get all the foundation blocks in place before I set these birds free into the confusing world. After that, it’s up to them.

Because I love them, unconditionally and imperfectly.

And that’s not a tough job at all.

I have to say here that I agree 100% with Wendell's tough-minded stance. Well said indeed. You can find Wendell's books at AMAZON, or follow his blog on GOODREADS.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

F is for Fiction - three very different works

I've a varied selection today - a High Fantasy novel, a romance novella and a short story.

Following on in this month's focus of showcasing other authors, today's offering is of three widely differing works. All good of their kind. I've always been a firm believer in reading widely, and I don't believe any writer can achieve his maximum potential without reading thousands of books in every genre. So give all of these a try.

Calamity June, by Ella Medler

This delightful romance about a married couple is like a breath of fresh air. In what is almost a Shakespearian comedy of errors, a woman flees her loving husband in the belief that he no longer loves her and has taken solace in the arms of another. The story deals with his quest to get her back. It's charming, it's funny in spots and incidentally the reader will learn quite a bit about the art of disguise. A wonderful weekend read.  - even if you don't usually read romance, give Calamity June a go - it's an entertaining read and there is no filth.

In The Company of the Dead, by Ciara Ballintyne

In the grand old tradition of High Fantasy, this dark and doleful tale cannot fail to please lovers of Tolkien, Jordan and Mallory. It harks back to the Good Old Days of fantasy, when heroes were heroes and were concerned more with honour and the eternal than with sex and witty one-liners. 

Caught in a tragic juxtaposition, a hero and heroine tread out their doom, although at the end of the book, a slight ray of hope pierces the gloom. I could hardly put it down. Even if you don't normally read fantasy, give it a try! It's exciting, with great characters and plenty of action.

The Trick, by Chris Johnson

A traditional story with a decidedly non-traditional ending. A great short read with no downside.

Monday, 17 October 2016

E is for Echoes of a more Elegant Era, and also for Epic Fails

Echoes of a More Elegant Era

In Don't Worry, It'll Grow Back, we see one man's effort to retain the elegance of olden days. Like the scent of slightly faded roses, the aromas of the traditional barber shop permeate its pages; one can practically smell the shaving soap and the cologne, and the occasional whiff of a Havana cigar. We learn why, and how, Mr Thorne started his retrospective venture, what went well, what didn't go so well, and we have from this a glimpse into a mind whose ordering may seem odd to this mercantile age. Values other than money have filled the author's sails on his journey through life, and the world is the richer for it. 

Epic Fails 

This collection is a very pleasant way to while away a Sunday afternoon. I didn't love all of the stories equally well; I disliked Of Mycenaean Men and The Loneliness Drug, but the wonderful Agents of Fortune made up for everything. Rhine's strength as a writer lies more in the concrete than the abstract, I feel, and when the leavening touch of humour is left out, as in The Loneliness Drug, or overdone, as in Of Mycenaean Men, the story falters. Overall, though, I enjoyed the collection very much.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

D is for Dogs - Review of Jack the Homework Eater

D is for Dogs, and what better than a nice kids' book about dogs? This one gets my enthusiastic recommendation for primary-age children.

After a bad experience with his parents' Rottweiler, little Alex is frightened of dogs, and when, after the old dog dies, his parents bring home a British Bulldog, he is both terrified and hostile. The dog, Jack, however, soon wins Alex's heart with his loyalty, friendliness and above all his usefulness. Soon the lonely, friendless Alex is the most popular boy in the school, all because of his dog Jack.
Apart from being an entertaining story, this book is worthy of notice for being a really fine piece of didactic writing. There is never any preaching, yet the reader is clearly shown the wrongness of dumping dogs, the benefits of befriending them and above all the value of the human/dog partnership. It's ideal for anyone with a child who is frightened of dogs or even unused to them.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

C is for Craft - Resources for the Novice Writer

Everything You Want To Know About Writing and Much, Much More: The Whole Kit and Kaboodle, by Sally Odgers

I'm exhausted just from typing in that title! Like the title, the book is very, very long and has everything. It took me days to read it. But of course, a book like this is not designed to be read straight through as if it were a novel. I only did so because I was going to review it.

Everything (I'm going to refer to the book here as 'Everything' because I just can't keep typing in that title) can be used in several ways. It is an astonishing reference, but the material is organised and laid out, with frequent exercises, so that it can also be used as a do-it-yourself course on the craft of writing. I say do-it-yourself, but it would work equally well as a text for a secondary or tertiary level course in creative writing. It's well written, too. Explanations are accessible without being patronising, and the tone is cheerful and breezy, making the book a sufficiently entertaining read that there is no sense of ploughing through a textbook.

Sally Odgers has been writing for a long time - her career spans six decades - and although one can see from reading Everything that she knows what she's talking about, her vast oevre shows where this knowledge came from. There is none of the facile prating that one too often sees in 'how to' books. It's all sound, solid knowledge, garnered over a lifetime in the business.

The striking thing to me about this book is the sheer scope of it. It covers, I think, everything the beginning writer will need to learn - from grammar and style to the unwritten rules of dealing with traditional publishers. It is a fantastic tool, and in all 700-odd pages I did not find a single statement with which I disagreed. It's really sound, and if one were going to buy just one book about the craft, I do not believe one could do better than this one. At $59 for the paperback it may seem expensive, but then one can't compare textbook prices to fiction prices. Some of my law textbooks were over $200, and you couldn't just get away with only one book. I consider it an absolute bargain at the price. I will be recommending it to my editing clients from now on, and in this it will be replacing Stephen King's sound, but annoying, book, On Writing

As well as writing, Sally is, like me, an editor, and her firm offers a very comprehensive range of services, including tutoring and promotion. Check out her website HERE.

How I Are Becomed a Very Much Gooder Author, by Sevastian Winters

Winters' book is very different. It doesn't cover the field, nor does it purport to. It is a collection of lessons the author has learned, often at great cost, over the course of his writing career. It's well worth the read, just from the point of view of avoiding those 'here be dragons' moments, and Winters' charming, self-deprecating style makes it a pleasant and entertaining experience for the reader. I didn't quite agree with everything in it - Winters' definition of omniscient point-of-view is, in my opinion, not quite right - but then I don't have to agree with everything a writer says to appreciate his work. There are some very fine observations on self-editing, and on 'going there', which make it well worth the read. You can get it HERE. The cover seems to have been changed to show the author as one Harry Widdifield, although Winters' name still appears in the front matter, so I hope this is not a pirated version. I have not been able to discover any other versions for sale.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

B is for Books - poetry and romance from Juliette Douglas and Biju Vasudevan

Perfume, Powder and Lead, by Juliette Douglas

Juliette Douglas has missed her calling. She ought to be in Hollywood, writing scripts for the movies. All the way through this book, I could not help envisaging it as a film; it could be the Blazing Saddles of the 21st century. It has all the elements for a really fine comic film - the slapstick situation, the coarse humour, people disguised as someone they're not. In the Wild West, three prostitutes dress up as nuns in order to rob a bank. Just that one line tells you what you're getting, and the book doesn't disappoint.

Douglas is what we might call a Wild West specialist. She is noted for the Freckled Venom series, and characters from that popular series also make an appearance in Perfume, Powder and Lead. She lives on a farm with a number of rescued animals. Check out her other books HERE.

A Baby, A Man and Some Times and Other Random Thoughts, by Biju Vasudevan

Vasudevan has given us philosophy, horror, adventure and eroticism, and now in this small collection he gives us poetry. 

It's a charming collection, with flashes of wit among some lovely imagery, and Vasudevan's passionate nature shines through every poem. I most loved Of A Lousy Boss; it's hilarious, and so effectively presents the unspoken frustration that every worker feels at some time in his life.

On the downside, the author is not a native English speaker and at times falls foul of the language. Occasional howlers, such as the unfortunate 'expectorations' instead of 'expectations' highlight the difficulty, and perhaps the unwisdom, of writing poetry in a language other than one's own. I should have liked to see these poems written in Mr Vasudevan's own language and then translated.

Biju Vasudevan, as well as being a writer, is an engineer and freelance musician. Check out his other books HERE.

Friday, 7 October 2016

A is for Authors - introducing Eric Bergreen and Grace Hudson

I like these alphabet thingies. I'm starting a new one, although I don't promise to do it every day. But here goes.

This cycle won't be concentrating so much on writing techniques as the last. That's primarily because I'm having a little holiday, and not writing anything at present.

Today, a word about two authors I've been reading lately - Eric Bergreen and Grace Hudson.

Eric Bergreen

This series will be a delight to anyone who loved King's IT. Each book has different characters, and the unity is provided by the setting, which remains the same throughout. The protagonists are children of various ages, ranging from quite young in the first book to fifteen in Charter Grove. 

Despite the youth of the characters, these are by no means children's books. The material dealt with is dark, and the ways in which the children solve their problems almost more dark. Notwithstanding this, the books manage to give an overall impression of wholesomeness; the boys are all, we feel, essentially good, even when driven by force of circumstances to terrible deeds. 

Fellow writers may, like me, find the constant homophone errors in these books an irritant; a good copy editor, one feels, would be a wise investment for future editions or further books in the series. Nevertheless, the story is in each case good enough, and engaging enough, to keep one reading right to the end.

Grace Hudson

This emerging author shows great promise. Of her two published works, one (FERTS) is a darkly dystopic science fiction story of a truly horrible society, and one woman's emergence from brainwashed conditioning into a functional personality. 

Open Doors, published earlier this year, is a light-hearted urban fantasy set in our own city of Melbourne. The authentic Melburnian flavour of the characters is delightfully portrayed, and there were times when I shrieked with laughter. It's a wonderfully entertaining read, and I hope to see more in this vein. 

It is a rare pleasure to read something that's actually Australian; our smaller population means that our literary output, as a country, is minuscule compared to those of Britain and America, and when someone really talented comes on the scene it is truly cause for celebration. About like Collingwood winning a Grand Final.  

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Z is for Zafon

As this series has focussed on writing, and the tools of a writer's life, I can hardly close without a word about reading. Reading is as essential to a writer as breathing. From time to time one may see someone claiming that this is not so, generally in a writers' group on Facebook. Then, one immediately knows that person is not a writer. Even if he is a hack who has published something, he is not a real writer. And I'm happy to defend my statement against any and all attacks.

This being the case, it's time for me to review my own reading habits. From time to time I make myself a reading list. Although some of my less literary friends think I've read everything there is, actually I don't consider myself particularly well-read, and there are a number of quite important books I've somehow never got around to reading. So, today I am going to make a list to remedy that.

I take as a starting point that BBC list that floats about from time to time. You know, you must have seen it - the one that's headed 'BBC believes you've only read six of these books'. It turns up perenially on Facebook and we all vie to have read the most. I usually win, but at 65 out of 100 that isn't anything to shout about.

There are thirty-four books on the list I make; I refuse to count the complete works of Shakespeare. I hate reading plays, and never do it. The proper way to experience plays is by going to the theatre.

It would, of course, be a nonsense to attempt to tackle the whole list, so in accordance with our daily theme I choose The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Zafon and Germinal by Emile Zola. And as luck would have it, I already have a copy of The Shadow of the Wind.

I load the book onto my Kindle, but as I'm already reading eight books, reason tells me I need to finish something before starting yet another. I nearly always have a number of books on the go, because different days and different moods call for different reading, but there has to be a limit - if I have too many in progress, it gets confusing, particularly if several are in the same genre, as is the case at present. Here's the lineup:

 With all this lot, it's hard to decide just which one to finish. I run over the field and decide to finish Connelly's The Scarecrow before I start on the new book. 

I start reading, but on this sunny, windy day it just isn't what I'm in the mood for, I want something more light-hearted, so I decide instead to finish Bubbles Unbound. Those Bubbles books are so much fun.

First, though, a walk in the park. Emily has to have exercise, especially on such a beautiful day.

Is she not the most divine being you've ever seen? Even after swimming in the duck pond.

After that, I settle in our favourite reading spot, equipped with coffee, Bubbles and Emily. I finish Bubbles Unbound and read some more of The Scarecrow, then switch to Death du Jour. Not for the first time, I wonder about the prevalence of murders, especially perverted serial killings, in detective fiction. My own crime fiction, in my two published novellas and the novel I am still writing, deals with more innocuous crimes; it's difficult to be funny about a mangled corpse, so I stay away from the gruesome deeds. Why are we so fascinated with these disgusting, extreme crimes? I wonder if it is a symptom of some deep sickness in our society.

Be that as it may, I know that I won't get to starting The Shadow Of The Wind today. But it is next on my list.