Reviews Published

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A plea to Lee Child

Dear Lee Child

You're an awesome writer. From a wannabe potentially envious colleague that should count for something, so let me repeat it: you're an awesome writer. Your main character is quirky and fun, your plots rock, your style rolls.

For those who don't know your work, let me give an example.

Blurb for Lee Child's "Gone Tomorrow":

When Jack Reacher witnesses a suicide on a Manhattan subway, he knows that there is more than meets the eye. Soon he's in deep, trying to unearth a dark secret for which both the feds and Al-Queda are willing to kill to keep from being revealed. Even in a city of eight million, a lone wolf like Reacher tends to stand out, and before long he is being hunted from all sides—which is exactly what Reacher wants.

See what I mean? Your books are page-turners, and would remain page-turners even if you were to remove the excessively horrific bits you inject into your novels. Trust me. You don't need them.

Keep the fight scenes if you will, let the blood flow in graphic detail. The war atrocities, though... please leave them to the reader's imagination.

A would-be fan

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Yvonne Walus is...

... reading a Linda Howard, listening to a Lee Child and watching Salt. Not all at the same time.

  • The Linda Howard book: A jungle rescue, a stolen microfilm, a super alpha hero and a competent heroine. Tick.
  • The Lee Child Book: Starts with a suicide bomber, or is it just a suicide? A hook definitely worth its while.
  • Salt: I love the Polish actor who played the Russian spy master. Go Daniel!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Juliet, Naked - a review for those who read the book

In honour of Nick Hornby, I'm writing this review in point form. As a fan and self-appointed Hornbyologist, I'm convinced he's a list guy. (If you don't believe me, just read "High Fidelity", one of the greatest love novels ever written. Or let's start a website dedicated to all things Nick Hornby, analysing his work word for word and agonising over what made him stop writing novels for ten long years.)

  1. To quote another fan's cyber review: "Obviously there's deep irony in posting a review of a new book by one of my favorite authors when one of the key elements of the book's plot is an adoring fan's online review of a new album..."
  2. Throughout the novel, I kept wondering which characters and situations might be autobiographic. Naturally, Nick Hornby as Tucker Crowe is an obvious first assumption. Might there be more? Let's see...
  3. Hornby is a football fan, possibly also a Cobain fan. Might he see bits of Duncan in himself?
  4. Hornby divorced his first wife. Did he want to go back to her a la Juliet? Did he leave her for a Gina-like lover and regret it Duncan-style?
  5. Hornby's father deserted his family. Does the author identify in part with Grace, Lisa and the twins?
  6. As a stay-at-home father (writers don't work in the City), did he intend the relationship between Tucker and Jackson to reflect.... You get the drift.
  7. "High Fidelity" is all about pain and rejection, full of power and beauty and shards, just like the album "Juliet". Does Hornby feel he over-exploited his inspiration for that novel? Does think himself a fraud?
  8. "Juliet, Naked" the book is just like Tucker Crowe's latest album, full of sitting in the garden being happy. It might not appeal to the fans of the sharp-edged "High Fidelity". It might actually be more beautiful.
  9. In the words of another fan: "Hornby is a rare writer who crafts literary novels for mass audiences. He is proof of an argument he has made about many great recording artists in his music writing - that you can create art of great, lasting value while remaining a crowd-pleaser. In that respect, he doesn't aspire to be Tucker Crowe, prototypical cult artist - he wants to be the Beatles."
  10. Nick, you're welcome to email me your thanks for my perceptive review. I won't ask you to prove it's really you, I'll know you're not Duncan.
P.S. The Internet is a wonderful place. Want to listen to a recording of fictional Tucker Crowe's fictional "You and your perfect life"? Or see the album cover of "Juliet, Naked"? Or hear Nick Hornby on Tucker Crowe? No problem. William Goldman, with his fictional foreword to "The Princess Bride", can eat his heart out.

Juliet, Naked - a review for those who haven't read the book

"Juliet, Naked" is Nick Hornby's much awaited latest novel. On the surface, its premise seems a little bland and confusing: a middle-aged protagonist is obsessed by an obscure reclusive musician, but it is the protagonist's girlfriend who starts an email relationship with the recluse.

Certainly not the type of book I would pick up if it weren't for the author, whose "High Fidelity" put him firmly on my top 5 contemporary English-language novelist list.

I finished the book five days ago and am still under its spell. Its actual premise, the one not mentioned in the book, is too enormous for me to encapsulate here, but its aspects include:
  • what is art?
  • when is art a lie?
  • who is an artist without his inspiration?
  • what makes a fan turn obsessive?
  • how does the Internet fuel fandom?
  • what do minor celebrities feel when they read about themselves?
  • is it better to be happy or creatively brilliant?
  • are the two concepts mutually exclusive?
I realise Nick Hornby himself identified the themes in the novel as parenting, middle age and romantic relationships. To me, they are incidental. All I see is a beautiful book about creativity and obsession, and it doesn't take a genius to see the parallels between the fictional musician and the writer who created him.

This is Stephen King's "Misery" gone literary and without the horror bits.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

I Shall Wear Midnight

Terry Pratchett's 4th Tiffany Aching book, "I shall wear midnight" is really good. I loved reading it and I look forward to reading it again soon.

My only quibble is with the target audience. I know Tiff is growing up, and perhaps the idea is that the readers grow up with her, but as she's sixteen, I expect 12-14 year-olds to want to read the book, particularly if they'd read the previous offerings in the series.

Now I know some 13-year olds have sex. I know most of them use swear words. And yet I don't think it's appropriate to include swear words or teen pregnancies in a Discworld book.

Oh dear, now I sound like my own father, LOL. And, to be fair, my mother let me read "Rich Man, Poor Man", with all its sex scenes and violence when I was 12, and I didn't get corrupted by it. So who am I to argue?

Still. There are lots of teen books out there that deal with sex, drugs, bereavement, divorce and family violence. If teens need them, it's important that they exist and are accessible.

It's just that I would have preferred Discworld books to remain pure fantasy and escapism from the world tainted bleak by teen hormones...

Friday, October 01, 2010

Competition Results

As we're coming out of winter in the hemisphere "down-under", I'm celebrating the results of the Nelson Romance Writers' Short Story Competition. The top three winners are announced here.

And this is the lovely certificate, book by Emily May and hamper I won.