Monday, 30 April 2012

Kimi's Secret

John Hudspith

The length of the book worried me a little. It’s directed towards children so I wondered if the 446 pages would be off-putting, but then I got thinking about Narnia, Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland – all classics and all long books, so that thought was soon squashed.

Kimi had an imaginary friend from years ago called Bentley, and he turns up out of the blue on the eve of her eleventh birthday. But it turns out he wasn't imaginary, and he has to take her to a magical world called Heart and he has to take her NOW.

Kimi’s Secret doesn’t hang about, and I was soon thrust into Heart on an enchanting, and sometimes frightening journey where Famoose, Balancers, Adepts and Tuplas all exist alongside murderous crows, police monkeys and aliens. The marvellous array of strange creatures didn't once seem out of place, they were all well-defined characters. I had a particular fondness for Stella, Kimi’s seventeen year old mentor, a zany (human) character, and Babbage whom I can’t even begin to describe! He is the main key in the plot, and probably has a story all of his own (maybe in the sequel?).

The story didn't flag, although I'd have loved a bit more time with Kimi before she was sent to Heart; but this book is directed at kids, and they want FAST and NOW, which Kimi's Secret certainly is.

The one thing I didn't approve of was the language. For some "bloody" "crap" and "shit" aren't too bad, but this book is directed at ten and above and I wouldn't be keen to know my children were reading such language, but then I'm from the era which remembers Enid Blyton with great fondness. The "swearing" could probably be measured in two lines in the entire book, so maybe not too much to worry about, and Bentley, one of the main characters, disapproved too so that could go some way towards redeeming it.

Kimi's Secret was written in conjunction with a school, Portree Primary, and in an interview I had with the author John Hudspith he told me the children were delighted that the book didn't condescend and spoke with "real" language. So maybe I need to get with the times!

John Hudspith has a story to tell with Kimi's Secret and I think he succeeded very well. It has all the elements that a fantasy/sci-fi story needs: time travel, strange creatures, space  ships, a new world. But one thing that stood out for me was the fact that Kimi has nice parents, and got on well with them. I liked that. Too many books and TV aimed show adults and the pre-teen at one another's throat. 

Kimi's Secret doesn’t exactly end with a HEA, there is a To Be Continued but you know Kimi is going to come up trumps even when it’s all stacked against her. The book starts off with a bang, becomes steady, but then takes off at a furious speed that makes you NEED to turn the page. 

For children (and grownups) who loved Alice in Wonderland you'll love Kimi's Secret. It's just as bonkers, as fast and as enchanting (I just didn't like the "swearing"). 

Blurb of Kimi's Secret

Wanna hear something really scary?

When death comes knocking on your door there is really only one place to hide. Dragged screaming to the paranormal world of Heart, where ghosts are real, big cats prowl, aliens are greylians, monkeys rule, trolls troll, fairies are vermin, the Adepts always know best, magic is mojo and roasted dodo is the dish of the day; Kimi Nichols is handed a secret that must never be revealed. To do so would mean the end of mankind. 

WARNING: contains imploding toads, gravity-defying clowns, liquefied brains, a sadistic dentist and a deformed taxidermist; great dollops of blood and bogies, half a million crows, and a giant with OCD.

Gothic horror meets supernatural sci-fi; Kimi’s Secret will leave you gagging, breathless and sleeping with the light on. Suitable for grinning little monsters aged 10 to 100.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence

Roz Morris

This is a cracking how-to novel for newbie (but serious) and experienced writers alike. It's a novel to dip into, or read in one sitting but certainly one to keep for encouragement and inspiration.

At almost 200 pages it isn't too short or too long either. The intro is a bit long, and I did have to skip a few pages to get to the "start", but I felt nurtured by the author as she explained structure, plot, procrastination, characterisation, finding ideas etc and all in a non-patronising, girl-next door kinda way. In short I felt I had a friend.

Nail Your Novel also discusses your book's development, the synopsis, writer's block and so much more as well as the above. There were a few things that Roz Morris talks about that I know I should do, but don't, like use a notebook for ideas, a planner for character development but I think I will put that into practice and see if it helps with my own story writing.

I know what this book HAS inspired me to do and that's to look up Roz Morris's website and bookmark it! 

Are you writing a novel? Do you want to make sure you finish? Will you get lost and fizzle out? Will you spend more time reading about how to write than actually getting the words down?

Most books on novel-writing will make you read hundreds of pages about character arcs, inciting incidents, heroes’ journeys. It’s great to know that – but while you’re reading about it you’re not writing your book. 

And what these books don’t tell you is how to use this learning and get the job done.

Nail Your Novel is a writing buddy – and mentor - in a book. 

In 10 easy steps it will tell you:
*how to shape your big idea and make a novel out of it
*how to do your research and how to use it
*how to organise your time. 
*how to plot and build characters
*when you’re going to hit problems and what to do about them
*how to write on the days you don’t feel inspired
*how to reread what you’ve written and polish it. 

Along the way, Thumbnail Notes give tutorials about storytelling and storycraft – strictly when you need them. The author has written nearly a dozen novels that have made it into print – and this is how she did it. 

You don’t even need to read the whole book before you get started. You read a section, then do as it says. And, once you’re finally satisfied, Nail Your Novel will tell you how to sell it to publishers and agents.

You’ve dreamed of writing a novel. Don’t procrastinate with another theory book. Don’t launch in, get stuck and throw your hard work in a drawer. Nail your novel. 

Sunday, 1 April 2012


Jason Deas

Birdsongs focuses on Benny James, a failed FBI agent, who has developed his own business as an investigator. 

He lives in a houseboat, which is different, but I was disappointed that he didn't seem to spend much time there. We heard about it, but that's more or less about it. 

As a murder/mystery book Birdsongs has it all: a murder (or two), a grouchy failed FBI agent, love interest, and several characters that made you wonder if they were the baddies or not.

In the first half of the book I felt Benny James was a caricature of every crime book the author had read until news anchor Rachael Martin arrived on the scene, and then I saw more character development and some very good scenes between them. Indeed, the book heated up until I was turning the pages quite fast.

The secondary character Red, was my overall favourite. Jason Deas did a fantastic job bringing out the sympathetic and menacing characteristics that made up this person. Secondary characters do have a habit of trying to take over, but I think Deas managed to control this one very well.

Over all, Birdsongs had likeable characters, plot and visualization but I think the author needs time to grow before he writes anything else. He certainly has potential, and will be an author to watch out for in his chosen genre of crime.

Birdsongs is a fast-paced mystery centered on former FBI agent, Benny James. 

Fired from the FBI for inadvertently sleeping with the perp in a murder case, he tries to disappear to a houseboat and retirement. Not having what it takes to relax, Benny starts a service offering discreet investigations. That is until a body is found crucified near his marina.

The local police department requests Benny’s help and he knows if he can catch the killer, redemption is his. The Chief gives Benny and the department ten days to solve the crimes before he promises to request the help of the FBI. 

As the case grows, grabbing national attention, and the murders continue, the media soon fills the normally quiet town. Media goddess, Rachael Martin arrives and adds spice to an already flavorful mix. A few newcomers straggle in as well. An ex-convict fresh out of prison from a thirty year murder rap slinks in unnoticed with revenge on his mind. 

Days later, a Greyhound bus delivers a strange young man raised by deaf-mute parents from deep within the Ozark Mountains. An old newspaper clipping and a dark secret pulls him to town. Whatever is going on has something strange to do with birds. 

At each murder site, dead birds are displayed in disturbing ways—the killer arranging them as an artist might. All the strange occurrences and unexplained visitors to this quiet town press Benny James to his max as he vehemently struggles to solve the most important case of his life.