Saturday, 31 December 2011

2012 Giveaway

To celebrate the arrival of 2012  I'm giving away three copies of  'SONG TO WAKE TO' in conjunction with the 'I am a reader not a writer' review bloghop. Send an email to jdfield@jdfield.com to participate. Please check out some of the other fabulous giveaways HERE.

Next week I'll be posting a review of my favourite book of 2011. It was by the fabulous Cassandra Claire, but you'll have to wait and see which book it is. In the meantime, this is where I'm spending New Years Eve. The food is fantastic, pork steaks, sausage, real country food. There's an additional free book for the person who can tell me the country and city I'm in...



Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Rock Anthem Christmas!

I've sent it to the nice people at Amazon. They'll check it out and put it on sale. Watch that space...


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Rock Anthem...

... is on it's way, slowly. Definitely before Christmas though. It's more than half as long again as the first one.
I apologise to everybody who's been waiting, though, and hope this will help take their minds of it a little bit.
This is how it's going to look...


Sunday, 27 November 2011

I'll tell you a secret...

... well, not so much tell you a secret as show you where you can read things you didn't know. Some bits and bobs - maybe interesting - about Song to Wake to that I haven't said before.

Now they're recorded, though, mainly because I find it's far easier to talk about yourself when somebody is asking you questions. And it's even easier again if that person is as lovely as the wonderful Amaleen Ison. Check out the amazing picture she included of Glastonbury Tor, at the heart of the story...




She got me talking about the background to Song to Wake to and the Levels series, the characters names, the setting and lots more. I'm just worried I gave too much away...

Take a look, and tell Amaleen what you think HERE

Saturday, 12 November 2011

A Scandalous Life... Mary Lovell's It Girl for the 1800s




Married to a Lord at 17, divorced soon after. Affairs with an Austrian Diplomat, a King, a Greek count and an Albanian robber chief, before she finds the love of her life... a Bedouin sheikh.

If she was a character from the 21st century, Lady Jane Digby - described by everybody who meets her as amazingly beautiful - might have dressed like the hottie in the Armani advert. But she's much, much more than a pretty face.

In a time when women more or less have to do as they're told, Lady Digby is an amazing free spirit. From her family's massive mansion in the countryside she hits London, aged 16, and snaps up a super rich government minister twice her age.

It doesn't take her long, though to fall in love with someone else, and someone else, and someone else. More than anything else the Lady Digby story is one of passion and following your heart. The other thing it's about is travel. Each time Lady Digby's life erupts in scandal she moves on, covering most of Europe in her escapades, and in this book it's beautifully described. She ends up in Syria, camping in the desert with her sheikh lover, twenty years younger than her, and building a house in Damascus.
I read this while the protests in Syria were really kicking in and it made it especially immediate and sad. Lady Jane loves the country, this place in particular.



This book is beautifully put together, with tons of insight into the times, and letters and diary excerpts from all the characters. The most amazing thing about it is that the author, Mary Lovell didn't make it up. It's all true.

Lady Digby and her adventures existed. In my writing I sometimes worry I make things too unbelievable. Is the heroine of  SONG TO WAKE TO unrealistically quirky or romantic? On the evidence of Lady D., definitely not.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Phantom of the Opera Back to Life, Kristine Goodfellow, and stories retold.



The Phantom of the Opera is one of the most famous stories ever told. Transformed from a novel into a musical that took the world by storm, it has now been turned into 'Phantom: Edge of the Flame,' a novel by Kristine Goodfellow. Kristine recently spoke about it  - and her writing HERE, with fellow author Amaleen Ison.

Revisiting well known stories and twisting them into something new is a trick I'm very fond of myself. I did it first with the Quaravan Quartet, then again with The Water Book and its connections to Moby Dick. One of the oldest stories is at the heart of  Song to Wake to - if you've read it, you'll know what I mean, if not, I don't want to spoil it.

Playing with well known stories gives writers the chance to play with reality and fiction. If a book you're refers to something else as fiction, then the book in your hand may seem a little closer to the truth.

However real it may or may not be, 'Edge of the Flame' is a hell of a read, when you've finished listening to the song, hurry on over to Amaleen's blog and take a look.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Why I wrote it like that... and one of the best movie quotes ever.

of



SPOT the odd one out.
Werewolf, Vampire, Angel, Wizard, Spiderman.
Not difficult: All of them have special powers, but only one is a hero. Why is that?
In so much paranormal romance characters have the ability to REALLY make the world a better place. Instead they're sunk in squabbles with their paranormal enemies.
It's such a waste.
That's why, when I wrote one of my lead characters I was thinking of the quote from Spiderman. "With great power comes great responsibility." There's so much romance and excitement in fighting evil and saving the world.
To know which character it is, and to know what he or she can do, you're going to have to read Song to Wake to. Not all of it though, see how long it takes you to guess...

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Charlie Sheen's Secret, a Review of Hush Hush, and some Wayne Rooney



I didn't like Hush Hush. Why? Two Reasons. The first is because of the character Patch. He's rude, a bully, unpleasant. He works with a shy, sweet girl in class and he's unhelpful, makes sexual insinuations, and tries to scare her. He makes Charlie Sheen look like a saint. Why is it that in stories being a 'bad boy' somehow means you're guaranteed to get the girl. I don't get it. Watch the clip of Charlie Sheen, current bad boy supremo. Though he seems to have his Goddesses, he's also a laughing stock. That's how Patch would be treated in the sequel if I wrote it. everybody pointing at him and laughing.

The second reason is the heroine, Nora Grey. She's almost as mad as Charlie Sheen. She repeatedly realises that such-and-such a course of action is crazy dangerous, and then does it anyway. And gets in horrible trouble. She's rescued, and then proceeds to do something idiotic the next chance she gets

And now I've thought of a third reason. The way the mystery is revealed is cumbersome and completely unbelievable. Nora googles fallen angels and all the information is there there. Patch's secret is completely explained in three minutes.

Having ranted a bit, I should also say that the story's not all bad. It's well written and the dialogue is very tight. Considering she's such a wimp, Nora has some very sharp one liners, as does her best friend Vee. One of the funnest parts of the story is when they get into little confrontations with their arch enemy at schools. Most of the lines are about hair, clothes, and being fat, but some of them sting.

The other character with some sharp lines (though his are generally either about having sex with Nora, or hurting her somehow) is Patch himself. And now we've got back to the subject of the mystery man himself, let's look at another current bad boy, who demonstrates what REALLY happens if you get over excited even a little bit, and break the rules.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Free Kindle Book!

Song to Wake to is now FREE on Amazon.com, and has been downloaded over 2000 times! Click on the cover to download your kindle copy now.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Song to Wake to - Available now in full!

 Here it is!
 The complete version of Song to Wake to, 71,500 words.

Sixteen-year-old Maddy Bride starts at a new school in the countryside. She knows she’ll have to deal with sports obsessed rich kids, cliques, and pressure. She doesn’t expect myths from the shadowy past to be taking place around her. Not only are the legends unfinished. They’re starting all over again.

Her new classmate, Eddy Moon, is awkward, and shy, and has lived a life of hardship and loneliness. As his strength and sense of purpose become more and more striking, Maddy comes to believe that he may have a place in the stories. At the same time she realises that the place she wants is by his side.
Closeness to Eddy brings Maddy another shocking realisation. Not only is he a mythic hero returned to life in the countryside, but maybe she too has a place in the legends. Torn between normality and her attraction to the magnificent Eddy Moon, Maddy has to decide who she is, who she is going to be, and whether stories must end the same way twice.

This is the first book in the LEVELS series. The second, 'Rock Anthem' will be released in November 2011 and the third in January 2012.

Pleeeeease buy it, read it, tell your friends to read it, write a review of it on your blog.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Don't Watch This! Anne Hathaway's face and no more...




The book or the film? The book then the film? The film then the book? Which one do you prefer? Or is the question better put 'which one is less bad'?
To me, good books and films don't combine at all well. Books where the characters think a lot, where they feel a lot. These don't make good films. Too much of it gets lost.
Of course, films where characters run around a lot, and squirt blood out of themselves and fall over, these make bad books. Or possibly don't make books at all.
'One day', and here is the quote, is one of the best books I've read about modern relationships among children of the seventies and eighties. (Not actually that modern, these days).
The characterisation is pitch perfect. The dialogue is nailed on. The characters, again, are so realistic that you can imagine them, perfectly, sitting with you and your friends in a pub on a Sunday afternoon.
Dex is possibly less sympathetic than Em, generally, though they both have their moments. But that doesn't matter, they can't both be completely sympathetic, they wouldn't be as completely real as they are.
One of the bestsellers of recent years, I'm sure you know how the novel works. It tells the story of every July 27th for twenty years, in the life of Emma and Dexter. It's about life, and friendship, and growing up. If you're one of the few people who hasn't read it, get a move one. It's brilliant.
But don't see the film. Don't even watch the clip. It'll force the ideas and images of strangers - directors and cameramen onto you, hijacking your chance to invent characters faces and clothes, or the way they move.
To be honest, there are some things you can do nothing about. I knew Anne Hathaway played Em before I read the book. I couldn't help myself, I gave Em Anne Hathway's face.
Fortunately that's not a bad thing. I can live with imagining Anne Hathaway's face while reading a book, but my recommendation is that you leave it at that.
Anne Hathaway's face and no more.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

FREE E-book.



Very exciting news. I've just published the first half of my YA novel, Song to Wake to on Smashwords. Check it out, download it in a dozen different formats, tell me what you think.
It's HERE.
Enjoy!
The full thing should be available in a month or so, once this bit has been on Barnes and Noble and Amazon for a while.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Please Help...

Hopefully, probably, in previous visits you'll have done my little 1 minute survey. If not, please, please do it now. There's ONE QUESTION... Do it, and you'll help decide what a book will look like...

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Lord of the Rings, Vampires, Whales and the Azores



Vampires, aliens, elves, robots, borrowers, timelords, supermen, werewolves, hobbits, angels. I'll stop there but the list could go on and on. Why do so many books and films hinge on the idea of people meeting, communicating, interacting, and fighting with other, intelligent species?

From the very first fairy stories I read, with wolves and witches, to my obsession with the Lord of the Rings, they seem to have been in more of my books than not. My personal favourites are probably the elves in the Lord of the Rings, and in the wider mythology that Tolkien created. Cross-species romance is incredibly popular at the moment. It doubles the drama of a regular relationship, without limiting the amazing attractiveness of everyone concerned. Mostly the drama is 'I really want my boyfriend to bite me, so I live forever as well.' Tolkien's version was gentler, though. In his stories of elves and men that loved one another, the elves choose mortality, and their family are always stricken. This tragedy was memorably played out by Liv Tyler in the movies. You can see a little bit of it HERE.

It seems like we're desperate for somebody else to talk to. It's almost as if we're bored with people, all the same old problems and abilities. And what problems the other might have... They shine in the sun, they're two feet tall, they're practically slaves. As for their abilities, I think everything, ever, imaginable has been covered.

People who've been reading will know what I'm going to say.

We don't need to make them up. They all ready exist. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you...



...the cachalot, or sperm whale. Biggest brain in the world, largest carnivore to ever exist, it hunts for giant squid with sonar. It's clicks mean it can see in 3D, in the dark. It explores a black, empty world, far from the surface, where we can't go.
It's quite possible they're incredibly intelligent. We don't really know, we know very little about them. One scientist said sitting in boats and trying to understand whales from what we see is like sitting underwater in a drinking hole and trying to understand elephants from their feet and trunks splashing about. Far from falling in love with them, our main interaction with them has been to slaughter them in gigantic numbers and melt down their fat to oil our watches.
Yet they survive. The best place to see these amazing animals is the Azores, in the Atlantic, off Portugal. I went there, to Horta on Faial island. It's a small harbour town, like something out of Pirates of the Caribean, with the most beautiful view, I think, in the world.

The island of Pico across the straits. I went out in a whale watching boat, saw Sei whales and millions of amazing dolphins, but no cachalots. I was disappointed, but not too much because it means I have to go back. In the meantime, of course, I'll read books about vampires and watch films about the apes that did for mankind. Kinds sorta the same thing. Maybe.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Look up! Is that a Floating Island?

It's been a while since I took part in a blog hop, but I like the question for this one. What book titles stick in your mind?
My answer would have to be The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier, though I was probably also affected by the awesome cover...

I came back to it a couple of weeks ago, when an amazing thing happened: Fiction became reality when an artist created an ACTUAL FLOATING ISLAND, which looked completely amazing, and then was released and disappeared, last thought to be somewhere over the Czech Republic....

That's my title story, but there are others on each of the blogs taking part in the Crazy for Books Blog Hop. Please check them out. Also, if you're flying, keep an eye out the window, you never know what you might zoom past... But before you go anywhere... PLEASE CAST YOUR VOTE...

UK Riots, True Blood and Sookie Stackhouse


Did you riot?
If not, why not?
Reading and Rioting (Ha!) are so incompatible that a big bookstore in Manchester, Waterstones,  posted on Twitter about it. On Wednesday, when chaos loomed, they wrote 'we're staying open, if they steal some books they might learn something.'
But they didn't.
Maybe reading -  and especially reading a lot - makes you more likely to see things from somebody else's point of view. You spend 300 pages looking at the world through someone else's eyes and you get good at it. You think about what it feels like to be them, and you know that it can't be good for their shop to be smashed in, their livelihood stolen, their restaurant burned down, their community ruined.
So you don't do it.

Of course there's different ways of seeing things from other peoples point of view. In 'Dead until Dark' by Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse can see right INTO other peoples minds. She reads them. What's really interesting, though, is that she hates it. It embarrasses her and she tries not to do it.
So many stories have characters mind-reading for advantage that it's a real breathe of fresh air to find a character who is so NICE that she never even considers it.
Sookie is the biggest strength of the story. The setting - the rural deep south - is strong too. The plot meanders a little, and is a bit improbable - even for paranormality (so many murders). Overall, though, I have to come back to Sookie. She's a barnstorming creation and 'Dead until Dark' is worth reading for her alone.
For all her mind reading skills, though, I doubt even Sookie Stackhouse could work out REALLY why people did such horrible things in London, Manchester, and Birmingham this week. Politicians are trying, a good attempt is made by RUSSELL BRAND, here, but the bookstore staff had as good a try as  any. We're not learning enough, understanding enough, reading enough.
Speaking of which, there will be a bit more reading available in September, when my book 'Song to Wake to' is published. In the meantime I'd be really grateful if you could help me out and - if you haven't already - HAVE A QUICK VOTE. Thanks.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

30 words for $30 - WINNER!




So we have a decision. Sorry it took so long. I've been distracted by the situation in the UK. Really scary stuff. Also, though I've written four novels this year, deciding the best entry was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Next time I'm definitely going to invite a panel of judges.

So thanks to EVERYBODY for excellent entries. You really stepped up to the challenge. The winner has been chosen because of the way it gives a real sense of what the book is like - in fact is quite damning - without using lots of summarising words.

So step up James Steele... entry number 14:


"Flow My Tears the Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick
A 1984ish future.  A protagonist with the emotional depth of oatmeal.  What’s going on?  All I remember is the line where a character “stops speaking to fart silently.”  Thanks, Philip."
By James Steele.
Well done James, I'll be in touch to see how you'd like your prize. Commiserations to everybody who didn't win. I'll definitely be running another competition in a couple of months. In the meantime, if you haven't done it already, pleeeease do my very short cover survey HERE...


Monday, 8 August 2011

Anne Hathaway, 'Switched' by Amanda Hocking, and Princess Di.


Life doesn't seem to suit you, nobody really gets you, you don't get them, they don't show you the kind of respect you're due. Life is tough.
Then one day somebody tells you you're secretly royal. You don't believe them, of course, but they keep telling you. They give you a little bit of proof. in the end, inevitably, you believe. Hurrah!
You're royal, a proper prince or princess.
This story is played out in millions of books, films, songs. The latest I've read is Switched, by Amanda Hocking.
Alright, Hocking twists it a touch. Her heroine finds out she is a troll princess, a changeling who was swapped at birth, and who's mother hated her to the extent that she was diagnosed as insane and locked up. This stuff is interesting, but annoyingly skated over. It should be massively traumatic, especially the story of the boy who was abducted from her family and raised among strangers. He seems fine, everything seems mainly fine, apart from the massive trauma of deciding which boy to fancy.
But of course, as is the case in most of these stories, being royal turns out to be not as amazing as you hoped. The future of this young woman is a case in point...

Still, Hocking's heroine manages, and has the option to walk away, in the end. The lesson, maybe, is the though it seems so much duller, REAL LIFE can be much easier than ROYAL LIFE. My story, 'Song to Wake to' has a royal strand. It's due out on September 15th, and in the meantime I'd really like your help choosing the COVER... Thanks!


Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Final Selection - Decision Tomorrow


This is the final list of entries in the competition. If you want to have a look, tell me what you think, I'd be very grateful.


1. "Book Title: If I Stay
Author: Gayle Forman

In just one moment in time your whole life changes. Everyone you love is gone. Your body is now a hollow shell. Will memories and love keep her alive?"

by Beckie Voigts

2. "Small Blue Thing by S.C Ransom;
I found this book to be very romantic, but in a sort of tragic kind of way. I found it a tad slow at the beginning, but it got better!
by sarahseaturtle

3. "Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson

""I'm not really a neuroscience student. I'm a janitor""
""Oh ...""
""I'm also an alien.""
""Like ... illegal immigrant?.""
""No, from outer space.""
That's where the story lost me."

by Claudia Kruger

4. "Divergent by Veronica Roth
 Dystopian Chicago. Choose a faction, Candor (honest), Abnegation (selfless), Dauntless (brave), Amity (peaceful), Erudite (intelligent), change your life. Right or wrong. Tris and Four are Divergent, what are you? "
by Jules
5. "Hollowland by Amanda Hocking

Remy & co narrowly escape run-ins with zombies and random predators! This has it all - tons of action, suspense, emotion and a little romance, plus plenty of laughs."

Cindy H

6. "Title: Being. Author: T.R. Mousner
This book was amazing! Aliens, human nature, love, hate, faith and courage.  This author created this world in her book and sucked me right in! IT WAS AWESOME...READ IT!!"
by MELISSA WYER
7. "Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare:

A story set in gorgeous Victorian London, white gloved hands, secret glances and stolen moments. With proper and charming characters; but with the strong fierceness, blades and magic Shadowhunters have.

by Jude Henderson.

Full review: here...
and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!! :D"
8.  "Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky:
A classic on the nature of right and wrong. It's about a man's struggle to understand his place in the world after committing a murder. Grueling, but a great read. "
by Mick Theebs
9. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Upon finishing this book at promptly 9:52 p.m. last night, I realized exactly what I thought of it: It stunk up until page 770. Then it got really good. "

by Michaela Bean

10.  "Out Stealing Horses.  Per Petterson.  
Simply written with basic conjunctions such as 'and', the slow paced descriptions of life in a Norwegian Wood draw you in and then the 'real' story starts.  I recommend it."
by Fiona 
11. "The Shipping News" pulls your heart strings with a story of ill-placed love, displacement and return.  Chilly descriptions of the Newfoundland landscape contrast with the warmth of the characterisation.  Really loved it.

by Redge

12. "My review:Hex Hall by Racael Hawkins
Sophie Mercer thought that she was a normal teen. But after magic gone wrong Sophie is sent to Hex Hall. Now Sophie must uncover deep secrets about her and school."
by Patrick Castro
13. "Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl

This odd but humourous read comes from the seasoned wit of the inimitable children's author. The Three Little Pigs and other classics get a ""revolting"" makeover that doesn't disappoint. "

by Paul Miazga

14.  "Flow My Tears the Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick
A 1984ish future.  A protagonist with the emotional depth of oatmeal.  What’s going on?  All I remember is the line where a character “stops speaking to fart silently.”  Thanks, Philip."
By James Steele 
15. "Next" by Michael Crichton

Instead of research that benefits mankind, every scientist is skirting the legal system so they can make money and get more funding.  The moral of the story: scientists are evil."

by James Steele

16. "When We Were Real by William Barton
The author can’t finish a...  Well...  You see, he can’t finish... Well.  I’m sure you...  Right.  Great.  When there isn’t a vagina around, the whole book is like this."
by James Steele
17. "The Forbidden Game by L.J. Smith

I cried, was tense and afraid, yet there was sweetness there. I met Jenny and Julian, a prince of darkness as evil and terrifying as he was beautiful and compelling"

by Ter05

18. Wuthering Heights fascinates; the obsessive relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy reflected by the raw charge of the wild setting. ‘He’s more myself than I am’ – raises hairs on my neck.  
by Casper
19. "Bird By Bird. By Anne Lamott.

A concise writing guide colored by Lamott's unusual experiences, Bird by Bird belongs alongside Zinsser and Strunk & White on any serious writers bookshelf. "

by Christopher

20. "Game of Thrones: George R. R. Martin
 Incest, sex, betrayal, violence, war, love, family, honor, and a witty dwarf! What more could you need to make an amazing book? Nothing! A must-read!"
Caitlin37
21. "Ebook - Essence by Diane Tolley.

Todd's scientist father has created 'Essence', which will turn anyone into the animal of their choice.
Now it's been stolen. Adventure ensues."

By Diane

22.  "The Glassman by Jocelyn Adams.
Fae realms, strong heroine, hot hero, amusing yet terrifying villain, and a rocket speed writing pace will drag you along for a magical and fantastical ride for the finish line."
 by J.A. Belfield
23. "City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Firecracker Clary Fray rips the glamour off New York’s underworld to rescue her enigmatic mother. Uncovered secrets reveal taboo snogging. Clare writes luscious romance, dynamite action but sickeningly wordy sentences. "

by Emma Madden

24. "Captain Underpants"-  Dav Pilkey
The chronicles of a cool-ass superhero principal with an underwear fetish make this book a refreshing, albeit slightly juvenile, read.   
by Po
25. Thirsty by M.T. Anderson

Teenage boys becoming vampires, lust after imperfection, and inexplicable celestial beings named Chet shape Chris's life.Tch'Muchgar and traitorism infiltrate the climax, while bittersweetness flavors the ending.

by M. L. P.

26. Artemis Fowl : The Arctic Incident by Artemis Fowl
 A nice blend of action and wit. Engaging language and realistic scenes. Awesome chemistry between characters. For action and faery lovers.Can be read alone / series."
by Jezebel Lee

What a selection! Again, thanks to everybody for taking part. If you've got an opinion, PLEASE COMMENT.
And in the meantime, I've got a little survey HERE that I'd really like your help with... 

Friday, 22 July 2011

Review-On-A-Post-It Contest: the entries so far.

With a week to go, these are the attempts to win $30 by writing 30 words. See what you think, and if you want to have a try yourself, there's still time. Come and join in!


1. "Book Title: If I Stay
Author: Gayle Forman

In just one moment in time your whole life changes. Everyone you love is gone. Your body is now a hollow shell. Will memories and love keep her alive?"

by Beckie Voigts

2. "Small Blue Thing by S.C Ransom;
I found this book to be very romantic, but in a sort of tragic kind of way. I found it a tad slow at the beginning, but it got better!
by sarahseaturtle

3. "Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson

""I'm not really a neuroscience student. I'm a janitor""
""Oh ...""
""I'm also an alien.""
""Like ... illegal immigrant?.""
""No, from outer space.""
That's where the story lost me."

by Claudia Kruger

4. "Divergent by Veronica Roth
 Dystopian Chicago. Choose a faction, Candor (honest), Abnegation (selfless), Dauntless (brave), Amity (peaceful), Erudite (intelligent), change your life. Right or wrong. Tris and Four are Divergent, what are you? "
by Jules
5. "Hollowland by Amanda Hocking

Remy & co narrowly escape run-ins with zombies and random predators! This has it all - tons of action, suspense, emotion and a little romance, plus plenty of laughs."

Cindy H

6. "Title: Being. Author: T.R. Mousner
This book was amazing! Aliens, human nature, love, hate, faith and courage.  This author created this world in her book and sucked me right in! IT WAS AWESOME...READ IT!!"
by MELISSA WYER
7. "Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare:

A story set in gorgeous Victorian London, white gloved hands, secret glances and stolen moments. With proper and charming characters; but with the strong fierceness, blades and magic Shadowhunters have.

by Jude Henderson.

Full review: here...
and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!! :D"
8.  "Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky:
A classic on the nature of right and wrong. It's about a man's struggle to understand his place in the world after committing a murder. Grueling, but a great read. "
by Mick Theebs
9. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Upon finishing this book at promptly 9:52 p.m. last night, I realized exactly what I thought of it: It stunk up until page 770. Then it got really good. "

by Michaela Bean

10.  "Out Stealing Horses.  Per Petterson.  
Simply written with basic conjunctions such as 'and', the slow paced descriptions of life in a Norwegian Wood draw you in and then the 'real' story starts.  I recommend it."
by Fiona 
11. "The Shipping News" pulls your heart strings with a story of ill-placed love, displacement and return.  Chilly descriptions of the Newfoundland landscape contrast with the warmth of the characterisation.  Really loved it.

by Redge

12. "My review:Hex Hall by Racael Hawkins
Sophie Mercer thought that she was a normal teen. But after magic gone wrong Sophie is sent to Hex Hall. Now Sophie must uncover deep secrets about her and school."
by Patrick Castro
13. "Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl

This odd but humourous read comes from the seasoned wit of the inimitable children's author. The Three Little Pigs and other classics get a ""revolting"" makeover that doesn't disappoint. "

by Paul Miazga

14.  "Flow My Tears the Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick
A 1984ish future.  A protagonist with the emotional depth of oatmeal.  What’s going on?  All I remember is the line where a character “stops speaking to fart silently.”  Thanks, Philip."
By James Steele 
15. "Next" by Michael Crichton

Instead of research that benefits mankind, every scientist is skirting the legal system so they can make money and get more funding.  The moral of the story: scientists are evil."

by James Steele

16. "When We Were Real by William Barton
The author can’t finish a...  Well...  You see, he can’t finish... Well.  I’m sure you...  Right.  Great.  When there isn’t a vagina around, the whole book is like this."
by James Steele
17. "The Forbidden Game by L.J. Smith

I cried, was tense and afraid, yet there was sweetness there. I met Jenny and Julian, a prince of darkness as evil and terrifying as he was beautiful and compelling"

by Ter05

18. Wuthering Heights fascinates; the obsessive relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy reflected by the raw charge of the wild setting. ‘He’s more myself than I am’ – raises hairs on my neck.  
by Casper
19. "Bird By Bird. By Anne Lamott.

A concise writing guide colored by Lamott's unusual experiences, Bird by Bird belongs alongside Zinsser and Strunk & White on any serious writers bookshelf. "

by Christopher

20. "Game of Thrones: George R. R. Martin
 Incest, sex, betrayal, violence, war, love, family, honor, and a witty dwarf! What more could you need to make an amazing book? Nothing! A must-read!"
Caitlin37
21. "Ebook - Essence by Diane Tolley.

Todd's scientist father has created 'Essence', which will turn anyone into the animal of their choice.
Now it's been stolen. Adventure ensues."

By Diane

22.  "The Glassman by Jocelyn Adams.
Fae realms, strong heroine, hot hero, amusing yet terrifying villain, and a rocket speed writing pace will drag you along for a magical and fantastical ride for the finish line."
 by J.A. Belfield
23. "City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Firecracker Clary Fray rips the glamour off New York’s underworld to rescue her enigmatic mother. Uncovered secrets reveal taboo snogging. Clare writes luscious romance, dynamite action but sickeningly wordy sentences. "

by Emma Madden
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Monday, 11 July 2011

Kim Kardashian, Apes and Whales, and Cassandra Claire's Mortal Instruments


             Fake tan, hair spray, perfume, make up. This is how glamour is achieved in real life, but in stories, it's better. In stories glamour equals magic. The celebrities on the red carpet use their version of glamour to minimise the ordinary, maximise the extraordinary. They make run of the mill features beautiful, and turn beautiful faces otherworldly. It's a kind of real life magic. In contrast, in The Mortal Instruments, by Cassandra Claire, magical beings use glamour to make themselves seem ordinary, to make themselves seem exactly like the rest of us. Art imitating life, but in an opposite kind of a way.
             A while ago I wrote a post about the appeal - in children's literature - of portals (rabbit holes, wardrobes and suchlike) leading to magical worlds.  Now we come across a second kind of magical world, the kind that exists all around us and we just can't see it. I've just read Claire's 'City of Bones' and 'City of Ashes.'  In these a 17 year old girl learns that the world is full of witches, werewolves, vampires and elves, walking alongside us in magical disguise.
             The theme of this blog, recently anyway, has been looking at ideas in books and trying to understand why they work. The idea of glamour is fascinating, but I think a more important part of the story is the idea of different, intelligent species walking among us. What's the draw? I think it comes from the same desire for the real world to be BETTER, more interesting, more romantic that also drives the appeal of glamour.
             I liked the stories, though not so much as it's raving fans, because to me there's tons of magic to be learnt about the intelligence of creatures we really do share planet earth with. 

            And we shouldn't forget that we know far more about the minds of our furry relatives than we do about whales and dolphins. The biggest brain ever to have existed belongs to the sperm whale, and we know practically nothing about what it uses all that grey matter for, what philosophies fizz through it. I've written an entire novel of guessing...
            The other pull of these stories is the plotting, but by the end of the 2nd it had begun to drag. There's lots of it that I seemed to half recognise from Star Wars, Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings and who knows where else. And the characters don't seem to move forwards as much as round in circles. It's very much a series, too, with not much ending to mark the movement from one book to the next. It seems fairly arbitrary.
            But if you're prepared to read all three, and you like the idea of hidden magic all around you, I recommend it. I also recommend finding out what whales and gorillas think, but that's likely to be a bit more tricky...
            If you like the stories more than me, why not review one of them in 30 words and enter it in my 'review-on-a-post-it' contest (see the button at the top of the sidebar).

Friday, 8 July 2011

Blog Hop

The theme of this weeks blog hop, from Crazy-for-Books, is a give away from somebody else's blog, so the one I'd like to highlight is Wicked Awesome Books, who are giving away a copy of The Near Witch and a stack of other wicked awesome literature. Check it out...
And also don't forget to check out my mini-review contest, fun AND profitable!

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Thirty Words for Thirty Bucks

To celebrate my birthday on June 30th I'm hosting a MINI REVIEW CONTEST. Review a book in 30 words or less. All the reviews will be published on this blog, and the best one will receive the prize of a THIRTY DOLLAR AMAZON VOUCHER.



Please take part in the 'Review On a Post-It Contest' and pass on the link to friends and students. Come back to admire and comment on the entries. The winner will be announced in the first week of August.

The closing date is July 30th. If you have a blog, please add the button, by pasting the HTML BELOW into a gadget. Thank you!

<em><a href="http://jdfield.blogspot.com/2011/06/thirty-words-for-thirty-bucks.html"><img src="http://i1088.photobucket.com/albums/i331/jdfieldblog/PostitNote-2-1.jpg" /></a></em>

Monday, 27 June 2011

The Number One Place in the World, Floating Islands, and Armies of Wild Cows.


The new best place - or places - in the world, for this year at least are The Azores. There's something about islands, about archipelagos, that really catches the imagination. For me, I think part of it is the idea of self-contained, miniature worlds isolated, all by themselves, away from it all. Rachel Neumeier takes this a step forward in 'The Floating Islands,' an amazing young adults book that I'm reading. It's set, unsurprisingly on a small nation of floating islands. She manages the the world creation perfectly, interpreting it through the eyes of Trei, a fourteen-year-old orphan, arriving in the islands to live with his uncle. He decides he wants to join the flyers, men who defend the islands and travel between them on massive wings, constructed from borrowed feathers.

The Azores are the kind of place you can imagine housing dragons, like The Floating Islands. But actually, besides the hordes of frogs I wrote about here, the best Terceira can offer is a race of fearsome wild cattle. They evolved in the wild hills of the centre of the islands, and led the islanders to build weird structures, like really narrow, deep doorways, by the side of roads. These were so, if you got menaced by the wild cows, you could hide in them!

Once the cattle were famed because, when the island was attacked by Spanish warships, the islanders herded a thousand of the savage beasts straight at the Spaniards. The soldiers who didn't get flattened jumped back on their boats and didn't return! Now, sadly, the cattle are mainly used for these street bullfights.



Travelling through the centre of the island we saw the bulls, three or four to a special, spacious pasture, building themselves up for their exertions. They're kept there, far away from the dairy cattle, because if they could get to them they would cause all kinds of aggro. The dairy cattle meanwhile, produce some of the most amazing butter and cheese I've ever tasted in my life...


The Floating Islands have amazing stepping stones across empty air, and magic-hung stair cases. Terceira can't match those, but it does have astonishing volcanic chambers like the one on the left.

There are also weird, jet black, spiky volcanic shore lines, like the one below at Biscoitos framing a country cliff in the distance. The black stone also criss crosses the island in millions of black walls, that section it up into tiny fields, used to house the other, friendly cows, and protect the vines from the Atlantic winds. In the summer, the black walls heat up and keep the vines warm all night, like growing the grapes in an amazing volcanic outdoor incubator.

The people of the Azores are also slightly different, their lives a bit magical. They talk to every stranger they come across, unabashed, about the charm of life on an island. I asked the owner of our local bar about crime. He shrugged and said 'It's not really a problem, there are two people who might steal something, and we know who they both are, so...'

The Azores are actually so astonishing that to me, they were only fractionally less amazing than The Floating Islands. And Terceira isn't even the best one, next Pico and Faial...

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Kate Middleton was picked on, living in hotels, and Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy



It's like living in a hotel with all your friends. Without your parents, but possibly with loads of magic furniture, secret passages and midnight feasts. No wonder boarding schools are a complete fixture of young adults books and children's stories. From Enid Blyton, through Harry Potter, to Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy.

This last is a great read. It starts slow, and is weirdly like the second in a series, with loads of flashbacks and explaining what has just happened to get our heroes in their current, very dodgy situation. In the middle it sags a bit, there's a lot of explaining how vampire school works, and messing around with red herrings and clues to the twists and turns and smashes and bangs that come at the end. Because of this the third act works very well, and also hooks the reader right in for the sequel.

In all fairness though, boarding school can be scary. Your parents aren't there to take care of you, and there's nowhere you can hide, as shown in the clip above. Mead's boarding school often has more in common with Kate Middleton being (possibly) picked on. There's lots of being ostracized and kept to your room. There are no midnight feasts, though some midnight boozing that I don't think they went in for at St Claire's... The lack of secret passages, given that the school has hundreds of years of vampire history is a serious lack, only just made up for by using fires in the bathroom to distract teachers and sneak into each others dorms. That old trick.

Children's stories are full of plots that allow kids to run their own lives without adults seeming to interfere. In fiction they go on for months, gigantifying the fun that real life kids get from a few hours of freedom. I remember the first time I went away on a school trip, staying in a hostel in London. We stayed up all night eating chocolate digestives and sneaking in and out of each others rooms. It was spectacular. Exhausting and excellent. If Kate Middleton had that kind of fun once a term, then it might have been worth the being picked on. And that's before considering that boarding school was the first step on the road to Buckingham Palace.

I doubt we've seen the last of the boarding school story, if for no other reason than I'm writing one...

Friday, 17 June 2011

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop is a lovely idea from the crazy-for-books blog. It ties together lots of different book blogs over the weekend. Please go and have a look at some of the other blogs involved. The question this week is 'How many books do you have in your to-read-list?'

For me, this is tricky. I have fifteen books on my goodreads list...



Jdfield's to-read book montage


Switched
Eragon
Shiver
Fallen
City of Bones
Graceling
Evermore
A Great and Terrible Beauty
The Maze Runner
The Hunger Games
Jacob Have I Loved
Island of the Blue Dolphins
The Other Side of the Island
Never After
A Brief History of Montmaray



Jdfield's favorite books »


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then there are the books on the bedroom floor, the books about Ukraine I should read for a story I'm writing, and the books about King Arthur I've got for another story, and all the free books I've got stacked up on my Kindle...

Too many books, not enough time...

Friday, 10 June 2011

Magic Wardrobes, Running into Walls and 'The Iron King' by Julie Kagawa

Who doesn't want to find a door into another world? I reckon I know where they are...
I'm half way through the brilliant 'Iron King' by Julie Kagawa, a young adults book about a girl called Meghan Chase who discovers her connection with another dimension, known as Faery Land. The first time she goes there she accesses it through the back of a closet. Remind you of anything?
What is it about going through the back of wardrobes and finding magical worlds? In fact, why the massive appeal of all the other doors into enchanted worlds that you read about in children's stories? Rabbit holes, trapdoors, or this one, so appealing that real people injure themselves trying to go through it...



The Iron King is a great read, which employs all the classic ideas of magical worlds. Dwarves living in hollow trees, cats appearing and disappearing, and dragons eating you up. For me, though, the charm is the idea of the portals, or 'trods' offering an escape from harsh reality to something entirely charming. There's a reason of course, why such things only exist in children's books. As adults, we know there are no magic doorways leading to enchanted worlds. But maybe we're wrong.
Last year I travelled to Damascus. I went through a doorway in a cold and rainy London and emerged at 2am into 90 degree heat. The road from the airport was lined with parked cars and picnicking families. I wound through the silent, shuttered alleys of Damascus old town to a hotel with a sparkling fountain in a tiled courtyard. Exactly like a magical world.
More recently there was the Azores, enchanted in a completely different way.
So if you're looking for a trod, a magical wardrobe, or an otherworldly doorway, look no further than the arrivals door of an airport in an exotic destination. You can only go through it one way, as is the case with all magical portals, and who knows what you may find on the other side.
If you're really luckyyou might emerge into a land like arrivals at this Cuban airport. If it's not a magical world I don't know what is.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Teenage Losers, Vampires, Nigella Lawson, and Amanda Hocking's 'My Blood Approves.'


In 'My Blood Approves,' seventeen year old Alice Bonham falls in with a family of vampires. The first half of the book is mainly about when is she going to realise they're vampires, and then it's all about which of them will she devote herself to, and how will a possible vampire life conflict with her human life and her family.

The plot is neatly built up, and you want to know what happens next. The book's great strength, I think, is the authenticity of the teenage voice. The moods, the turns of phrase and the pop culture seem to me to be absolutely dead on.

The thing that bugs me about this is the thing that bugs me about other vampire stories: Why are teenage vampires so amazing? Why are they always beautiful, cool, smart, fearless, and supremely athletic. And I reckon it's some kind of wish fulfillment. As a teenager, school can be a complete jungle and I think writers get a lot of success with vampires, because they've invented the 'Superteenager.' Readers visualise these beings and think 'if only that was me, if only somebody bit me and I became a hero.' Vampires even have the 'not bothered' quality that teens admire. They're amazing, but they don't even care. Edward Cullen and his family are prime examples. I suppose stories with amazing teenage vampires are the ones that sell, but I'm still looking for the story with the vampire who never gets asked to the prom, or gets his lunch money stolen.

This is because teenage readers are continually being let down. It's not possible to be a school prince or princess by being a vampire. The message I wish writers would give them is one I got from Nigella Lawson. 'It's not possible to be a 'superteenager' but don't worry. You'll get through it, and then you'll be brilliant.

I was terrible at being a teenager. I didn't get any of it. I always looked two years younger than I was, I was scared of the opposite sex, I liked answering questions in class, I didn't know what was fashionable, I wasn't interested in music or other teenager interests, I had a stupid haircut... (I could go on). And for years afterwards, as I learned how to make life work, I was regretful that I had messed up my schooldays. And then Nigella spoke to me. Or rather, I read a quote of hers in a newspaper article, where she described herself as something like 'not very good at being a schoolgirl' (I can't remember her exact words, if you track it down please let me know). And that was actually no big deal, she was much better at being older. My proof is the video above. Look at her. She is a marvel of decadent food and downright sauciness. The ten seconds of Wham is just a bonus...

So there it is, my message to Alice Bonham and all the teenage losers out there, courtesy of Nigella Lawson: You don't survive teenage years by becoming a vampire. You do it by just waiting. I know it seems like forever, but in fact it's not that long and you get far more mileage out of being a Superadult than a Superteenager. Pass it on.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Review: Leviathan


So, I have to preface this with the information that ever since I can remember I've been obsessed with the natural world. Recently my focus has been whales. I based an entire holiday around it (see more of my adventure here)and I wrote a novel of my own all about them (The Water Book.)
Given all of this, I was predisposed to love Leviathan. If you have any kind of magpie mind you'll find something to spark your interest here. It's crammed with astonishing facts about beasts that are already fascinating. There is great harshness, too. The narrative is structured around the history of man's interaction with whales, and it hasn't been nice...
My problem with this book is also it's greatest strength. The magnificence and otherworldliness of whales is astonishingly hard to line into words, but Hoare manages this. One phrase of his describing a humpback as a 'barnacled angel' I thought really lovely.
But he goes too far, and is too personal. Often its frustrating and intrusive and I felt the urge to snap at him to back out of the story. He's less interesting than the whales, unsuprisingly, but doesn't seem aware of this.
And the photos are grainy and black and white. A bit of colour and gloss would have been nice.
Still, though, Leviathan gets 5 stars, because I'm unashamedly biased. And I think everybody should read it. Everybody in the world needs to know more about these largest inhabitants of the world ever, and how mysterious their comings and goings are in the entirely unknown and secret depths and wastes of the ocean. Because they're amazing, and it's time we started being a bit nicer to them...

Monday, 30 May 2011

Book Review: Anita Shreve 'The Weight of Water'

I've read four or five Anita Shreve books, and I feel that this one belongs lower down the heap. The problems are that from the beginning you know that things are going to 'come to a climax' and with that in mind there are only a couple of ways it can go, making it a bit predictable.
Telling two stories in parallel, with the story from the past filtered through a character in the present, is a nice structure, and one Shreve has used successfully in the past.
On the upside, the setting is very interesting, the Isles of Shoals. I've always had a thing about islands, something that I go on about a bit on my blog...
She makes the bleak, bare islands with their peculiar names practically become characters in the story.
As for the actual characters in the story, they're unsympathetic across the board, which though i didn't mind it too much, it might be a problem for other readers. The lead character is a photographer, and because of this the book is constantly focussed on detailed visual descriptions of characters and scenes, which are often poetic and sometimes quite beautiful, but there's just, quite a lot of them...
So, if you like very visual books, with unsparing character examinations, intense, morally vague and fairly clipped, this is for you...

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Azores and Animal Stories

After children's books with secret tunnels, ones with uninhabited islands used to be practically my second favourite. Again, Kirrin Island in the Famous Five, and all the places that Swallows and Amazons used to have their adventures, and later, the archipelago in the Earthsea Stories. I've kind of held onto this fondness for islands, so it wasn't suprising that when I got a chance to go to the Azores islands they turned into officially my favourite place in the world. Quite, quite amazing. Probably I'm going to write three or four Azores posts, about the different islands and the things you can do there. There are nine islands, stuck in the middle of the Atlantic, all different and allfantastic. We went first to Terceira, which is the second biggest island in terms of population. We flew from Lisbon, which is about the only realistic way to do an Azores trip. If you don't live in Portugal, and you're planning to go to the Azores, then go via Lisbon and spend a couple of days there. You might even be able to visit Quinta da Regaleira. In Terceira we stayed in Praia Vitoria, about 20 minutes from the airport, in a lovely hotel called Varandas do Atlantico. Which has very nice rooms, with ocean view balconies and really decent rates. There are buses all around Terceira. We went to Angra de Heroismo, which was the first capital of the Azores, a beautiful old Portuguese town, with wide streets of elegant houses and a stunning harbour with cliffs on two sides. It has a tiny park with a pond filled with millions of frogs, (see the picture) The road winds along the cliff tops, through astonishingly green countryside, chopped up into TINY fields by millions of walls made from black volcanic stone, completley cool landscape. We got a cab into the mountains in the middle of the island, again, wierdly green, and all tumbling down steeply to the ocean in the distance, visible from practically everywhere. We found another pond high in the crater of an extinct volcano, where the frogs were so many and so loud it was deafening. More animal stories about Terceira to follow, bulls and wild cattle next...

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Last Night - Film Review

So last night I watched Last Night. And loved it. And so today I'm offering you a review. First, though, watch the preview. Aren't they all beautiful?



What's not to love about a film starring Keira Knightly AND Eva Mendes...? Especially when you add that in the film she plays an author, though not - I suspect - of young adults books...

The film's set in New York, based around a couple, played by Knightly and some guy ;) They seem to have a perfect, wealthy, young, cool life in a massive loft somewhere. The film certainly made me nostalgic for New York...

A perfect life apart from 2 things. 1, the husband works with Eva Mendes, 2, Kiera Knightly's ex is French and charming and in town all of a sudden...

The film is beautifully put together. The dialogue is incredibly natural, nobody says exactly what they mean but there is plenty to read between the lines. Much more of the story is shown us than told us. There are lots of meaningful silences and loaded looks. Very intelligently crafted...

Last Night is a film for grown-ups. The plot is unpredictable, complex, and has nothing in common with young adults books, but still I really enjoyed it and thoroughly recommend it. It's tricky to review without giving too much away, but hopefully you have enough of an idea. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A Castle near Cascais and the Famous 5...





Secret tunnels are brilliant.
When I was little I loved stories that had secret tunnels and stuff. There was one in the first Famous 5 story Five on a Treasure Island that went under the sea from Kirrin Island, near their uncle's house, and openned at the bottom of a well. There was another story set in a big house, where secret tunnels joined up the chimneys. Called Green Knowe, or something.




Last weekend I went to a house in Sintra (just inland from beautiful Cascais, Portugal) where eccentric multi-millionaire who built it decided he wanted to live in the mansion with the secret tunnels. So he dug them all under his massive garden. He built a chapel, with a crypt underneath, and a tunnel coming out. He had a pond which you crossed on stepping stones, to a passage that went behind a waterfall and joined up with the other tunnel and led to the bottom of a well!!!




I wrote my first children's story last year, The Quaravan Quartet and The Lost Ocean (see more here) and even before I started I knew it would have a secret tunnel in it. The kids find it under the staffroom at their school....
So when I went to Quinta da Regaleira it was like being a kid and pretending to be in the Famous 5 all over again. I ran round the tunnels like an idiot, while my Mum and Dad laughed at me and I had a GREAT time...




If you're in Lisbon with three hours to spare, get the train from Rossio to Sintra and follow the signs from the town centre. You won't regret it.