Tuesday 15 May 2018

A Baby's Bones by Rebecca Alexander Blog Tour

Today you're getting two for one...if not THREE for one. Crime, Historical Fiction and an author talking about her inspirations...of glorious days growing up spend in a library ( we were all that child!)...Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to the floor: Rebecca Alexander:

How my fascination with crime and fantasy began.

As a teenager, I was a regular at the local library, working my way through the shelves of anything that looked like it had an exciting story. I took out the whole crime and supernatural collection over my teen years, some books many times, and where there was a crossover I enjoyed them even more.

The stories about Elizabeth Báthory, for example, were covered in both genres. A noblewoman living in sixteenth century Hungary and Transylvania, Báthory killed at least 36 young girls, some from minor noble families, between 1585 and 1610. While the subject matter is gruesome, I think the mind-set of someone who can do that sort of crime is fascinating. Along with Vlad Dracula, (Vlad the Impaler) of Wallachia, who was the starting point for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the line between real mass murderer and supernatural evil is a thin one. I
think I’ve always written the two together to some extent, but A Baby’s Bones lent itself to leaning more towards the crime element.

Most of my favourite books have a crime in them and many have a supernatural element. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, for example, was a wonderful read. People have gone missing, a few end up dead, and always in the shadows is the unseen but brooding presence of a creature for history. Deliciously scary at bedtime and for me, evocative of Bram Stoker’s Dracula in its tone as well as subject.

I was a fan of true crime as a teenager too. I read the accounts of forensic pathologists like Bernard Spilsbury, Keith Simpson and Sidney Smith. They attended famous murders in an era when the pathologist was the main forensic scientist. I have always been more interested in how clues developed into a story rather than the tragedy at the middle of a murder, but as I got older that became fascinating too. I loved Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House, at its heart a real crime but written as a great historical crime novel. It took real events with minimal facts at the heart of the actual crime and told a convincing narrative.

A Baby's Bone is out OUT NOW (Published May 1st) from Titan Books. Don't forget to check out all the other stops on the blog tour which you can find below!

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Monday 5 February 2018

Spare and Found Parts Blog Tour and Review

Today it is my pleasure to welcome debut author Sarah Maria Griffin to the blog, on the FIRST stop on the #SpareandFoundParts Blog Tour to talk about her writing process, story development and how a weird idea becomes an even weirder book. Sarah's first book Spare and Found Parts is out tomorrow,  and you can check out my review below. Over to Sarah:

Possibly because I get my inspiration from texts of all different shapes and forms, I am a fairly non-traditional novelist. Not that I’m sure there is any traditional way to be a novelist: rather, I don’t ever start anything at the beginning. Perhaps nobody does, and that’s just some myth baby writers are fed, some mad unrealistic idea of what it takes to build an 80,000 word functioning story-machine. I most definitely don’t start at the end: I hate endings, of television shows and novels and video games and even often of movies, because I prefer the preserved state of a fictional world in my head than any sort of satisfaction that comes with finality [Preach!]. I tend to start developing a story from a single image - something that catches in my thoughts and insists itself into the world [Snap]. In Spare and Found Parts’ case - it was a mannequin hand floating in the water, a backdrop of a ruined Dublin city. Certainly, I had spoken with friends about wanting to write some sort of warped, futuristic Frankenstein novel before - taken on a dare from Deirdre Sullivan, who is a very accomplished and brilliant artist - to make a monster of my own. But the flint that sparked the whole of the book was that single image, a piece of a broken mannequin in the water.

So, that lands me in the slightly inconvenient position of writing my way out of that singular image and into a world, inhabited by people, and problems, and tension, and solution. But when I am just starting out, I move from picture to picture. What is the emotional texture of this image - how would I like a reader to feel when they read over it - who are the people in the picture, why are they there, what do they want most, what frightens them, who do they love? Pictures and questions feels like a deeply disorganized way to write a novel, and certainly, it is, but I’m not sure I could go straight beginning-middle-to-end without cracking up a little bit. Though, if I’m honest, the whole process of writing a novel is like cracking up a little bit - but in the best way, in a way I never thought possible, certainly not possible two and a half times over, which is where I’m at in my book-journey now.

I write everything by hand, because to me, computers feel like work. Microsoft Word is a terrifying place, most especially when it is empty. A foolscap page and a fine point Sharpie, however, isn’t terrifying. It’s a playground. No matter where I’ve been in my life, bored and frustrated in school, anxious and stressed in college, the blank page has always been there for me. There’s nothing like the feeling of growing pages under your hand, or ink filling a page - or the freedom of scribbling something out, or a promise to yourself in the margins [I used to write on till roll I feel you!]. It feels more human to me than typing - which, unfortunately, is the next stage in things. I’m a swift enough transcriber, thankfully, and I find it is more focused work than the act of making-something-up straight into the white blank of the screen. By then, the book might be something that looks and feels like a novel - or an almost-novel. After that, my wonderful and patient editor takes me note by note until we’ve carved out all my mistakes, bad habits and accidental insistences on everyone smoking all the time - and importantly, make sure the plot looks like a plot, not just a series of pictures with questions hanging around them.

I know this route is different for every writer, and I’m sure for me it will change with every book, but the feeling comes first with the building of the thing. That, I hope, is something I’ll be able to hold onto. The images just won’t quit.


Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour, pick up your copy and get involved! 

Title: Spare and Found Parts

Author: Sarah Maria Griffin
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: 06th Feb 2018
Nell Crane has always been an outsider. In a city devastated by an epidemic, where survivors are all missing parts—an arm, a leg, an eye—her father is the famed scientist who created the biomechanical limbs everyone now uses. But Nell is the only one whose mechanical piece is on the inside: her heart. Since the childhood operation, she has ticked. Like a clock, like a bomb. As her community rebuilds, everyone is expected to contribute to the society’s good . . . but how can Nell live up to her father’s revolutionary idea when she has none of her own?

Then she finds a mannequin hand while salvaging on the beach—the first boy’s hand she’s ever held—and inspiration strikes. Can Nell build her own companion in a world that fears advanced technology? The deeper she sinks into this plan, the more she learns about her city—and her father, who is hiding secret experiments of his own.

A lot of the time when we think of dystopian novels, they are dytopian dystopias ( i promise to stop using that word now), in the sense that they are full form exaggerated versions of themselves, built in world hundreds of years after the disaster. And I very rarely see them set in Dublin. Spare and Found Parts flipped the genre on its head. It felt like the origins of a dystopian world, the aftermath where everyone is finding their place and trying to build their world again. 

I loved the connection to the past, it was inextricable linked to the present in as much as it was feared and revered. People understood it even used it in its various ways to help them rebuild a life whether it was their own and their added part or the way in which they tried to develop the community around them. What I will never understand is why the future is sooo afraid of paper and the power it holds. The pen is mightier than the sword eh. But as with anything we don't understand there is an underlying fear of the things we don't know, and the advancement it presents. They're stuck in a cycle that creates these great moments of conflict, especially when the technology starts talking.

Having never been to the future and seen any negative effect of the rise of the robots I always side with the AI, or in this case IO. IO had this soft warm character that didn't seem restricted by his technology. He understood and that which he didn't he wanted to. He was a raw construction built out of spare parts, but more than that out of want and need and that was a really lovely journey for IO and Nell. This is where the comparisons of Frankenstein come in, i'm just not so sure Nell was a mad scientist in the way that lore has us see Victor. There was a beautiful scene with Nell, it was like a classic film moment, and when you get to it you'll feel the emotions too! 

Nell was a great character. As much as she was part of the world around her she was different in so many way and she ( and through her, I) felt these loud and clear. It's hard to exist in a place where it feels like the weight of the world is pushing down on you and this was very much the case for Nell who had to find her own path, which as we all know will never be smooth. It pits you against yourself and those around you and makes you human. It was at this point that the book shooook me, taking me to a point where I didn't expect it to go, amping up the drama and had be gripping the book. I was here for ever page of it. This is something that seems to happen a lot with me, I never see these twists and turns coming and I think that's the sign of a good story teller. 

The book had great pace flowing along beautifully unveiling its mystery's piece by piece. It gave you enough so that you built the world around you, you vibed with, and moved with the characters. I loved the setting, but I'm not sure I can see Dublin in the same way, so might have to avoid trips there for now.   

This was a fresh take on a genre. I'm excited to read more from Sarah and see what weird and wonderful journeys she can take me on.

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Thursday 9 November 2017

Book Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

Title: Artemis
Author: Andy Weir
Publisher: Del Ray
Release Date: 14th November 2017
Synopsis: Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you're not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of Jazz's problems, as she learns that she's stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself - and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even more unlikely than the first. 

Review: We all talk about the moon a lot and what life would be like to live there, especially the more realistic it becomes that Will.I.Am and Richard Branson will probably be there in the next few years (at a push). But think no more Andy Weir has done it for you and with a kick ass character. 

From the off set you want to be friends with Jazz. She has this open conversational tone that doesn't hold back. As a lone wolf on a small planet, and an independent one at that she's carved her own path and made her life harder. It was honest so you saw her flaws as much as anything else and this was important to the readers connection to the book as she drove the book forward.  

The moon was more structured than we all imagined. So many rules and regulations, and whilst this is obvious, there was a lot of the science within this that for me just got a bit lost in the narrative and distracted me. But it was great to have technology play this crucial role. It was a bit of a mind trip to have to remember the lack of gravity and the way this affected movement, but in that respect was quite cinematic. The book was very visual in all its aspects, it was like watching a movie where the lead character broke the 4th wall and talked at you. 

There was good pace and I enjoyed the plot. Within the overarching story line there was family drama, internal politics, friendship, love and a lot of comedy. All these little things that built to become the heart of the book that gave it that extra meaning and to show that although they live on the moon we're all still human. 

This was a good accessible fun read. Its one of those books that'll keep you going for nice Sunday afternoon or a long train ride and that i'll remember the laughs I had from it. 

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