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review 2017-03-22 17:12
It Happens All the Time/Amy Hatvany
It Happens All the Time: A Novel - Amy Hatvany

Amber Bryant and Tyler Hicks have been best friends since they were teenagers—trusting and depending on each other through some of the darkest periods of their young lives. And while Amber has always felt that their relationship is strictly platonic, Tyler has long harbored the secret desire that they might one day become more than friends.

Returning home for the summer after her college graduation, Amber begins spending more time with Tyler than she has in years. Despite the fact that Amber is engaged to her college sweetheart, a flirtation begins to grow between them. One night, fueled by alcohol and concerns about whether she’s getting married too young, Amber kisses Tyler.

What happens next will change them forever.

In alternating points of view, It Happens All the Time examines the complexity of sexual dynamics between men and women and offers an incisive exploration of gender roles, expectations, and the ever-timely issue of consent.

 

Ugh, this book was so important and covered such an important and rare perspective that although I didn't actually like it that much, I so highly recommend it.

 

Hatvany does an extraordinary good job of transitioning between sections. The book is told from two perspectives across multiple stretches of time, and although the chapters didn't indicate explicitly which part of the year they were being told from, it was always completely clear to me, which I found to be incredibly effective. I didn't get lost ever and I felt like the author guided me very clearly through the story.

 

I think this book is important. I think it tackles huge topics. I think Tyler's perspective sheds so much light on similar people's thought processes. I think today's society needs this book.

 

But I didn't appreciate the events that prompted the ending. I didn't like how one incident, the one that opens the book, influenced my entire thinking. I would have liked to have seen the actions that one character would have taken had he not had this outside event impacting him. And for me, that seriously detracted from the book.

 

And I didn't find Tyler's character to be as sympathetic as perhaps I was supposed to. His friendship with Amber as he grew up didn't strike me as particularly meaningful. I wished Amber had reached out and found other friends, and I felt like when she was at university, she would have.

 

Mainly, I just never get particularly engrossed in this book. It was easy enough to read, but even though Amber was an extremely motivated and well-rounded character, the type I normally love, I found it hard to really get involved, and I felt like there were many points where I could have stopped reading and simply forgotten about the book.

 

So I recommend this book, I do, because it's important. But I think it could have been better executed.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2017-03-22 15:00
As Old as Time
As Old as Time - Liz Braswell

 

 

 

Have you ever wondered what would happen to Disney's Beauty and the Beast if someone took all the magic out of it?



... well this book is what happens.


“I’M NOT HUNGRY!” she screamed back, rage billowing out of her more forcefully than she had imagined possible. Thinking of the triplets and their behavior hadn’t improved her mood.

“YOU’LL COME OUT OR…I’LL BREAK DOWN THE DOOR!”

“HUFF AND PUFF ALL YOU LIKE, YOU MONSTROUS WOLF!” she spat. “GO RIGHT AHEAD! IT’S YOUR CASTLE, AFTER ALL. DO WHATEVER YOU WANT WITH IT. I’M JUST YOUR PRISONER!”

“YOU CAN’T STAY IN THERE FOREVER!” the Beast roared.

“JUST WATCH ME!” Belle spat back.

“FINE! THEN GO AHEAD AND STARVE!”


This childish dialogue between Belle and the Beast basically sums up As Old as Time: a caricature of the 90’s Disney version of Beauty and the Beast, that doesn’t delve deeper into the characters or the magical world. Instead As Old as Time is full of inconsistencies, over-done, flat, two-dimensional characters, and falls way short of the Disney film.

And by being ‘just’ a retelling of Disney’s story, the author didn’t have to come up with her own characters or world-building, instead she just piggy-backed on people’s childhood nostalgia – and utterly failed.


I DNF-ed the book, I hated Belle so much, felt sorry for the Beast, was generally confused by the inconsistencies of the story, and was annoyed by the boring characters.


I didn’t quite realize that this was a retelling of Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast, and not of the original book. I just picked it up in preparation for the live-action Disney film and was utterly disappointed. The author didn’t fix Disney’s mistakes and inconsistencies, took all magic and wonder out of it, and didn't expound more on the characters or the story backdrop.


In this retelling of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, the Beast is enchanted by Belle’s mother. There was a backstory about why the Enchantress cursed the Beast (because the people of the kingdom turned against magic-users and fairy tale creatures and basically the prince - a child at the time … did nothing?). There was a mention in the book where the Beast said that he was a child when he was cursed and “what could I have done?”. But this doesn’t fix the problems the story-line has. The Enchantress’ reason for cursing the Beast was that: “there is no love in your heart at all, Prince–just like your parents…”.

BUT, the prince was an eleven-year-old boy when he was cursed because he was “selfish, spoiled and unkind”. Realistically how can a ten-year-old child learn to be unselfish and kind with no positive role models and no one to love him? That is not what happens to a child who is isolated, unloved, and turned into a hideous monster! And anyway what about other spoiled, rude, and selfish children - does the Enchantress go around arbitrarily handing our punishment?


If you think about it, a ten-year-old boy who has no parents and obviously learned from fairy tales to distrust haggard looking, old women should definitely not let the obviously-evil witch into his home!


If anything, fairy-tales taught us not to trust old women (and apples and stepmothers)!


Did the enchantress really expect the prince to learn to be kind, and caring, and loving by isolating him from the rest of the world, locking him into an enchanted castle that no one remembers, and by turning an unloved little boy into a hideous monster?

How the fuck is a child supposed to learn about kindness and generosity from a witch who cursed him and robbed him of his childhood for no good reason!

He was fucking right to turn that bitch away!



And the enchanted castle just raises soo many questions:

- Where do the original furniture go?

- Who decides which furniture stays and which is replaced by cursed servants?

- Are all furniture enchanted people? Or do the servants get sucked into the existing furniture?

- Is there sentient furniture that's not a person? And if so what happens to that furniture once the curse is lifted?

- How are the servants not majorly pissed at the beast after all those years?

- The beast grows up during his enchantment, so why doesn’t Chip grow up too? Or was he conceived during the enchantment? In that case how the fuck does a teapot conceive – and with what???

- What happens to the sentient pots of mustard and stuff when they get used up - do they die or are they replenished - and is that actually a person? If so what is the mustard made of?

- And finally, which poor soul got turned into the chamber pot?



I absolutely detested Belle in this book, and as someone who loved Belle in the Disney film, this made my disappointment so much greater. The prince is cursed for being selfish, spoiled, and unkind, but really Belle isn't any better. During the first 40% of the book Belle looks down her nose on everyone from her high horse and gives no thought to the consequences of her actions, she’s pretentious, arrogant, and condescending.

For example, when she destroys the Beast’s last chance at breaking the curse, she doesn’t take responsibility for her actions, basically she just shrugs and says: well you weren’t going to break the curse anyway so what difference does it make.

She gives “gentle insults” to the villagers and basically thinks she’s the only person with a brain in the village – not everyone has all day to read Belle! some people need to work hard to survive (this is in a time when rural France was poor and overpopulated).

And to top her arrogance off, she thinks that she’s way too good for the Beast, instead he should set his hopes for some” nice peasant girl”.

Belle is like the original hipster.

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url 2017-03-21 15:14
The Soundtrack of a Novel

 

“All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music” 


Walter Pater’s said that. It’s a famous quote of his, more famous than he is. When I first heard it, I checked him out, to find he was a nineteenth-century art critic and literary theorist who was born in the East End of London.

 

Some think that this quote is bunkum, and that art doesn’t move towards being music, but the idea resonates with me. Why else would Leonard Cohen have moved his writing sideways from prose and poetry to lyrics (oh! the money, maybe…).  Music often enhances reading; I played Bob Marley all the time when I was consumed by A Brief History of Seven Killings 

 

When I write, I’m always aware that certain scenes make a sort of music in my head. My characters, right from before I had anything published, always listened to music, often (this is possibly why these stories weren't published!) for long, closely-described scenes.

 

Then I read the critically acclaimed Teddy Wayne, and heard about how he created a ‘soundtrack’ to his most recent novel Loneran unsettling story of obsessive desire. In his article, Wayne says…A great deal of pop songs are also about romantic obsession and loneliness (often in the same breath), and many ostensible love songs, when you examine the lyrics, are really avowals of stalker-like pursuit or thoughts of the object of desire; the British seem to have a particular fondness for this kind of ballad

 

Wayne chose ten tracks that informed his portrayal of his protagonist. I’m writing book four of the Shaman Mysteries, Flood Gate, and I'm doing the same thing. My chosen tracks each represent a character, and I’m finding wonderful inspiration from listening to these songs. Follow the links to hear the music.

 

In order of appearance:

 

Larry Waish is a small-time poultry farmer who recently lost all his hens in one of the many floods that plague the Somerset Levels. What he’s discovered, is that his neighbour is to blame for his loss, and he’s hopping mad. Larry really loves Country and Western and plays The Eagles Heartache Tonight  a lot, while he’s trying to cope with what happened between him and Jack Spicer at Harper’s Coombe 

 

Jack Spicer, who’s real name is John, farms 200 acres of Somerset land, as his family has for generations. He's recently lost his daughter, and is helping bring up her daughter, baby Olivia. He knows he's been driven to do wrong, and t’s tormenting him. He's a bit of a classical buff, and listening to the slightly sinister tones of Shostakovich’s first piano concerto helped me build his character. By the end of chapter one, Jack is dead.

 

Sabbie Dare is a young shamanic practitioner and therapist who knows it is her destiny to be of service to people on the very edge of life. The victims of evil…the perpetrators of it.  Sabbie’s mad about Pet Shop Boys and pagan music which can vary from folksy to rocking, and includes groups like IncubuSucubus, Dahm the Bard and The Dolmen 

 

Kelly King was 28 when she threw herself off the Clifton Suspension Bridge. She’d never really recovered from her life in The Willows, a local authority children’s home where Kelly, Sabbie and Debs Hitchings all lived when they were children. Kelly was depressed, directionless, and addicted to chocolate cookies. In her last days, she plugged into the music of her childhood, such as Pink’s There you go.

 

Debs Hitchings is a beautician who wanders from boyfriend to boyfriend and job to job. Debs turned up at the very end of In the Moors, (Book One) where she cuts Sabbie’s tortured hair, and has a small part in Unraveled Visions. In this book Debs, and the story of her past, takes centre stage. She’s known for cracking out Beyoncés Crazy in Love 

at the top of her voice as her heels skittered across nighttime pavements.

 

https://www.milesdavis.com

 

Quentin Lachapelle is a thirty-five year old photographer with a nice studio, a pretty wife, and a flourishing career. He meets Sabbie and Debs at Kelly King's funeral, where he offers to take some glamour shots of Debs, although he finds Sabbie’s dark skin tones and angled face interesting. There is more to Quentin that meets the eye…or the lens of his cameras. Quentin is a Miles Davis fan, of course. 

 

DI Reynard Buckely. Fans of the Shaman Mysteries will be delighted to hear that and Rey and Sabbie are still an item. In fact, things hot up between them considerably! Rey made his musical preferences clear in In the Moors, so there’s only one group I could play, and that’s the Stones

 

Fenella Waish is Larry’s sister. Now in her forties, but still living in their childhood home, Fen seeks help from Sabbie for longterm Ornithophobia, her paralysing fear of birds which prevents her going anywhere near Larry’s poultry shed. Fenella loves her laptop, which is her window on the world. Scared to be Lonely might bring tears to her eyes, but she plays it again and again.

 

Tara Yorkman. Before she died, Kelly was fruitlessly searching for her friend Tara, who lived at The Willows from when she was little. Kelly, in need of someone to care for, always looked out for Tara, until she was a teenager. Then she disappeared. When Kelly’s spirit comes to Sabbie in a dream, she feels indebted to continue the quest for the missing girl. I listen to Taylor Swift and other noughties music to get in touch with Tara.

 

Victor Doyle is a successful Bristol business man, a builder of local housing. Now 55, he's loaded, charming and still handsome in a chiselled way, although he’s put on a bit of weight. In the community, he’s a well-loved philanthropist, but underneath, the man is pure, unadulterated evil. I think he’d be rivitted by Pretty Women from Sweeny Todd.

 

If you're writing a novel, or a series of short stories, try finding and playing the soundtrack that perfectly accompanies the story and the characters. It can make a tremendous difference to the outcome. 

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text 2017-03-21 13:20
Squeeeee!
Sweet Child of Time: Episode Seven of The Chronicles of the Harekaiian - Shanna Lauffey

Just got my early reviewer copy of the next book in the time travel series I love so much. Great timing as I just finished another book and my other books on the go might be moving slowly.

 

Really looking forward to starting this today.

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text 2017-03-21 08:21
Books Are the Things That Make Us

Books are the Thing that Makes Us

 
Until I was four, we lived near a big red brick library which was in the centre of a park; St George's Park in Bristol. My father was the one that would take me into the library, rather than just to the swings and duck pond, and I can recall  the way the high bookcases loomed over my head, and the smell of the place, which I believed was the scent of bookworm. Dad would let me chose my own books from the children's section because he’d be busy picking his selection from the grown-up fiction. He loved authors like  Howard Spring, Neville Shute, George Orwell and John Steinbeck. I liked Milly Molly Mandy, the tales of Little Grey Rabbit and anything by Beatrice Potter. When we got home, he’d read the books to me. 
 
When I look back, the strangest, most obscure stories have left the biggest impression. One of the most loved books I actually owned was called Unicorn Island. My father read to me when I was little, but very soon I’d learned to read on my own and then I reread it a million times afterward. A coastal village of disparate animals are in fear of the offshore island, where white flashes of the dangerous unicorn can be seen circumnavigating the mountain.When the hero’s little brother falls dangerously ill, he and his friends take it upon themselves to brave the island and come back with a healing herb. They discover all manner of wonderful things there, and the unicorn turns out to be the most marvellous of all. There is a slightly sinister atmosphere to the story and a gravity you don’t often find in picture books now…a precursor (but with a far longer story) of Where the Wild things Are.
 
Not long after I’d started to read on my own, I realized I wanted to be a writer.
 
My first infant school teacher, Mrs Marsden, read a story to the class. It might have been the fable 'The Mouse and the Lion', but I can't really remember.
 
Mrs Marsden finished reading aloud and then asked the class to write a story themselves. It was then that I had my early epiphany. I was dumbfounded. For the first time, I realized that the books I loved had actually been written by real human beings. Before that, I thought they must have fallen from some sort of story heaven. It was a revelation. I haven't looked back.
It was Mrs Marsden that turned me onto full-length fiction. I was going to borrow yet another Milly Molly Mandy from the class bookshelf when she accosted me, grabbed a thick volume from the shelf above and said, “You’re past all these baby books. Try this that one, Nina.” She handed me Mary Poppins, which I can remember taking to bed because I could not put it down. Maybe I read it too young, though, for when I read it aloud to my children thirty years later, the only things that rang a bell was the marvellously flavoured medicine and a strange man on a ceiling.

I was often in bed with asthma, when I was small, and liked a stack of books beside my bed. There were books I’d return to time and again as a small child. The Adventures of Manly Mouse was one – Manly lived in a world where mice who went about their human-like endeavours in a little mousy town. Manly was a deliciously flawed character, often losing his job or breaking with good friends. He drove a dilapidated car and was easily duped by more suave mice. A phrase our family uses to this day came from the lips of one of Manly’s posh employers who had put Manly to work cleaning his posh car (he turned out to be a poor mouse in scam disguise)…and when I say shine, I don’t mean shine, I mean gleam. And when I say gleam, I don’t mean gleam, I mean glitter
 
I can’t pretend I didn’t grow up on Enid Blyton, but the works that made the most impression were the magical Narnia stories, the weird adventures of Alice and the tiny world of The Borrowers. By the time I was twelve, I’d read all of the Anne of Green Gables series. I loved the way Anne hurtled through life. Her ‘modular’ way of learning (by making every mistake in the book – literally) suits me to this day. But, as the books watched her grow into a woman, I also (creep!) loved her commitment to duty and her attitude to life, which reminds me of that quote from Man for all Seasons, when Richard Rich asks… 'If I was, (a teacher) who would know it?' And Thomas Moore replies…'You, your pupils, your friends, God. Not a bad public, that…’
I wrote my first novel at the age of fifteen. Well, okay I started to write a novel which I never finished. I wrote it by longhand and asked my friend to type it out. She was doing exams in typing at the time, so she was quite pleased. Every evening, I wrote in one corner of the room, while she typed at the table. Blissful silence until Maggie looked up and said, 'it is a bit old-fashioned, but it's really nice.'
 
'Thanks,' I simpered. I'm hoping people will enjoy it.'
 
'Nina,' she said, 'I was talking about my new dress. I've been talking about my new dress for the last five minutes.'
I do believe I've got better since then, both at writing and listening to criticism! I can remember bursting with pride when I received the first copies of the first book I had published; a children's novel with HarperCollins (still available from Amazon).
 
As a children’s writer, I am bound to be influenced by the books I read as a child.I’ve even tried to rewrite some of their ideas into my own work, although that has rarely worked, and most of those early stories were never published. They were my apprenticeship, I guess, and although almost all of them are gone from my hands, I will never forget their stories and characters.

In some ways, the books I read made me the person I am. They were probably more influential than my textbooks or my teachers…or even my parents.
 
I think that’s true of a lot of people. Books are the things that make us, when we are young. Finding ourselves inside those marvellous adventures gives us hope, fires our dreams and helps us cope with the things life throws at us. 

 

 
 
Source: kitchentablewriters.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/sarah-hilary-shadow-side-of-writing.html
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