Friday 25 April 2014

Review: 5* Shanghai Sparrow - as promised :)

Promises, promises... OK so I'm doing it before I lose track.

Shanghai Sparrow, by Gaie Sebold, is definitely one to look out for. Published by Solaris, out April 29, 2014, It's Steampunk-plus. It must be cos I don't really LIKE Steampunk!

 Jumping between Victorian England and a fantastical China with Fae thrown in for good measure. Result: an entertaining plot, a feisty, determined heroine and a good blending of fantasy and social history; all in all a great read and one I'll be very likely to re-read too.

I 'came down' full of enthusiasm and that feel-good factor one always hopes for but seldom actually gets? So check it out. Better yet, buy it.

Thursday 24 April 2014

What Most Ensures I Can't Put a Book Down?

Plot, right? No, characters. No, world building...
OK, so they should all, in a perfect reader's world, be a factor, but ultimately are they enough?

Recently, reviewing two novels back to back as it were, I found myself making a more direct comparison than usual. Both were carefully constructed, and would tick most boxes, but...
Novel 1: was Victorian era, with amoral vampires and a creepy human villain; nice twist there?
Novel 2: was Victorian era, Steampunk, with a mix of fae and human (Chinese and English) characters.
Both sound interesting, yes? I thought so.

Now as some of you may know, I collect vampire stories, always looking for new versions. And I'm very wary of Steampunk, which I feel too often degenerates into gimmicks. So without thinking I guess I had... expectations.
 So why did I love Novel 2, and wasn't hooked by Novel 1?

Because 2 had that extra, almost indefinable something: I cared about the characters.

Please note that doesn't mean I had to like them, but I did need to feel for them? Because otherwise - you've lost me, however clever the plot, the writing. Oh, I might skim through to see how it all ends but I won't be riveted and I very probably won't look to buy more of that writer's work either.

So for me the key question has become: do I care enough about what I'm reading??

[Note: I promise to add Novel 2 to my 5* reviews here, when I have a minute?]

Monday 14 April 2014

Review: 5* :)

OK, here's another one I really liked.

Narcissus is Dreaming, by Rose Mamber.
published by Pink Narcissus Press, out May 14 2014.

Proof copy blurb says; "What happens when a shape-shifting alien, incapable of emotion, falls in love?"

You'd think the author had deliberately set herself up to fail with such a premis but hooray, she didn't. The plot is tight, the characters credible. In fact the aliens are if anything more vivid than the humans - real writing that.

For some reason, maybe the Press, this is tagged as gay/lesbian. Do ignore that cos it's simply pure SF, and way out there with it. At least take a look at the whole blurb or a sample?

If you want to try something new and different, this is for you.

April? Really?

I had no idea time was whizzing past this fast. I didn't even hear the whooshing sounds.
[Don't know that one? It's from Douglas Adams, the Hitchhiker's Guide writer, who was famously unable to meet deadlines and said - you've got it - he  loved deadlines, he liked the whoosh as they passed him by.]

It's not as if I haven't been busy: writing, critting, reviewing, dealings in Orbit groups, even the odd spot of actual work, but I didn't mean to let my writing here lapse so long.

So here goes to begin catching up...

My new editor has been in touch. She's Australian, so with an American publisher as well that makes me feel very international. She's also very polite and I think we'll be fine - phew.

Of course I also think we'll work well cos she's just said she's halfway through my manuscript and "It's a joy to read and edit".
So far anyway!
I'm understandably chuffed?

Funnier, she remarked she was so glad I could "speak horse". No it wasn't a typo for hoarse, she'd recently edited a writer seemed to think riding a horse was the same as driving a car. Why did I find that so funny?Cos i have 'sat' a horse, but only once, and I wouldn't dare call the experience riding. So, two compliments. How can I not like her?

I'll let you know how it all goes when she's reached the end.