Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Book 9 - On Writing. Stephen King

Finished 22nd February 2011.

As a life long Stephen King fan I found this fascinating, helpful and encouraging. It starts off with a short autobiography from his early years up until he gets his first novel published and then it goes on to give aspiring writers ( such as myself) some tips and good advice. I certainly learned a lot and was surprised in parts. Probably one one of the most controversial parts of the book is when King reveals that he doesn't believe in outlines when writing. Something that will probably be debated online and in writing classes everywhere !

For any Stephen King fans or aspiring writers, I would highly recommend this book.

It probably won't turn me into the next bestselling Horror writer but it has hopefully helped me to take a few baby steps towards publication. But more importantly, On Writing has done something else. Something that money can't buy. It has encouraged me to plod on with my dream.


Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Book 8 The Whisperers by John Connolly

Finished 16th February 2011

Thrillers are not usually my bag. But this book was brought as a present by my wife a few weeks ago, and it was pleasantly surprising. Surprisingly enjoyable. That's probably more to do with this being a dark thriller ( a thriller-horror ) than anthing else. It was more than just the usual cops and suspense that you find in a lot of books. The great thing about it was the layers. This one has more layers than an onion and that is what made it so rich and readable. In fact I don't think I have read a book with as many layers as this since probably Stephen King's 'The Stand'. And just when you think that you have uncovered all the layers then it provides new ones. In this way, The Whisperers has a canny way of keeping your interest throughout.

This is the first John Connolly book I have had the pleasure of reading and I guess the only slight problem I had with reading this was the fact that I read it out of sequence. The Charlie Parker books can be read as stand alone books but I think I would have enjoyed it and fully ( better ?) understood the ending if I had read the other books first !

The ending was good but it left me with probably a few more questions than answers. Hopefully I will get the opportunity to actually read all the books in order at some point.

The basic plot centres around an ancient box being stolen from an Iraqi museum during the invasion ( liberation ?)of the country and then one by one,returning soldiers start to die in strange circumstances. Charlie Parker is asked to investigate and finds himself up to his neck in a struggle between rival gangs of smugglers and some rather spooky demonic characters.

Would love to read the other books in the sequence. As a writer this has taught me the value of adding skins (layers) to a story. Hopefully something I can incorporate in my own work.


Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Book 7 . The Ghosts of Sleath - James Herbert.

Finished 8th February 2011

I have always been a fan of James Herbert but surprisingly it has been a long time since I have read any of his stuff. This book has been sitting on my bookshelves for a long time and I had forgotten almost that it was there. I don't even remember getting the book !

But what a great reminder of his mastery of horror ! To look at, there is nothing new in this book. It relies upon the old cliche of a haunted village. This story has been written many times whether it is a haunted house, hotel or village. And something happened in the ancient past that has led to a haunting and things are starting to awaken from their slumber. It sounds cliched because it is ! But all credit to Herbert for making it work and not only that, he also makes it fresh and seem almost like he came up with the cliche himself !

Ash is a paranormal investigator and he is sent to the village of Sleath after being called by the local vicar's daughter. ( We actually see Ash in a previous Herbert Novel, but it isn't really a sequel.) Once in the village things start to accelerate and ghosts start to grow like warts. Herbert doesn't pull any punches and we soon get as much blood and guts as we can take. The horror certainly isn't subtle in this book, page after page of pure unadulterated blood and more blood.

This book works. It is as simple as that. It had me turning the pages and it had me glued to the pages. It slowly builds up to an incredible and shocking climax and the ending is satisfying as well as terrifying.


Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Book 6 - Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

Finished 31st January 2011

This is the first time I have read a Pullman book and it is the first time during this challenge that I have read a children's fantasy. It's a good sized book for any child, being 399 pages in total and has all the usual suspects when it comes to children's fantasy. Witches and talking bears, a fantastic journey through a fantasy world, it has all the right mixture of ingredients to keep a child fascinated. The major twist on the theme being the fact that all humans have their own personal daemon, a clever and fun twist, this book really left me wishing that I had one.

I'll be honest and say that as a 39 year old northern bloke, I didn't really appreciate this book as much as it's intended readership would. At times it felt like a bit of a chore to read. If I was 12 or 14 then I probably would have adored it. But as a fully grown and bloated bald bloke, it wasn't too exciting, although I can appreciate this book. I have read a few children's books over the years ( as an adult) that I have enjoyed more.

It is difficult to rate this book. It wasn't a bad book and any child would probably appreciate it more than me. But as a writer it was a good experience to read, especially if I start to write this genre myself, which is quite possible. I only wish I could ever , one day, write a book like this, even if it is not my cup of tea , but I'm an old git.