Finding Ian Rankin

I first became aware of Ian Rankin when I released my own debut novel. ‘Winter Smith: London’s Burning’ was four years of writing, and finally, April 2016 I independently released her to the world. 

Since April, only a hand full of people have read London’s Burning. Those people are the best people on earth, obviously. The zombie apocalypse novel I put everything into is hardly tearing up the charts, though it did get to number 2 in the best LGBT fiction category on Amazon! But amongst the reviews for Winter came a comment that got me interested: ‘Your writing reminded me of earlier Ian Rankin works.’ 

Now, I cringe whenever I see an author compare themselves to someone else. I don’t do it for a few reasons, one of which being my own self doubt in what others would call my talent. And also, I think comparing yourself to someone else is a bad move. Every writer is individual. Aspire to be, yes, but do not copy. 

But out of curiosity, I wanted to see if I could see any of my own writing in Ian’s work. I wanted to see if this one person out of the hand full was simply flattering me, or telling the truth. 

So I introduced myself to the world of Rebus, who apparently is quite a big deal?! I’ve missed out on years of this Edinburgh detective, and I’ve got to ask myself why. After reading the first novel, Knots & Crosses, I’ve decided my work is nothing like Ian’s. He’s so much better! (I know, I should be selling you my indie novel, shouldn’t I?) 

Ian’s writing is intriguing, interesting and informative. There’s some personality in this early book. Ian himself was quite young when writing it. 

The copy of the book I have included information on Ian himself, and I found him very endearing. For an aspiring author like myself, a young lad wanting to write and get out of this small Welsh town, he becomes an inspiration. 

I will soon be posting a review of Knots & Crosses, but I thought I’d marvel a little bit on a great writer I’m only now discovering! 

The Good Old Paperback

You just can’t beat a paperback book, can you? There’s something great about holding a physical copy of a book in your hands. It just feels right. 

There’s a certain charm about books. To me, the charm is the escapism. A good book will have you sat somewhere, gripped, whilst your mind is fighting the Dark Lord in Harry Potter, or escaping a home invasion on a planet. Sure, you can get this with a digital copy of a book, but it still isn’t the same.

For one thing, paperback and hardback books don’t need charging. You don’t need to worry about whether or not you have enough battery to get you through a chapter of a gripping book, because a paperback doesn’t need battery power. You can be quite secure in the knowledge that you can pick up a book, flip to the first page, or the last page you had, and carry in escaping.

Then there’s that smell. The smell of books is amazing. Old books seem to have a better smell. There’s something about a couple of tatty pages and a bent out spine. It adds to the character. New books do smell new, but they still smell addictive. It might be weird, but book lovers should be in agreement! You can’t smell a kindle!

You’re also helping out an author more if you’ve got a paperback. Better royalty rates, especially for the indie authors who dream of living off writing but are so far away from that. 

And finally, you can get a paperback signed! A kindle might be a little bit harder. 

Carve The Mark: A Review

Something about Carve The Mark caught my eye. I didn’t know what it was. Maybe it was the cover, which really had some effort put into it in its simple yet relevant approach. Or maybe it was the idea of it being set in space, with a war impending.

I read it with excitement. Divergent had never appealed to me, but this book by the same author Veronica Roth seemed different. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get in to it.

There were a few problems with this book, that I personally found.

Development – I found the development was lacking. There were planets introduced, touched on – one was made of ice caps, the other heat – but left to be forgotten about. It was like the planets didn’t matter, like they were just an after thought. I wanted to know who truly lived there, and how those planets functioned. I wanted to know why they were important to this story. But there didn’t seem to be importance to them. They were just…there.

Another issue with development was the characters. Many of them had what I assume are meant to be futuristic names, but were just stupid, and jarring. They got in the way of the story as I wasted time trying to remember them and trying to pronounce them each time I read them. There were character names that kept cropping up, which were important to the role of Akos and Cyra (a name i had to google to remind myself), but I had forgotten about them by the time they were mentioned again. Saying this however, there was one character who seemed well enough developed. Cyra’s brother, Ryzek, was the clear enemy of the story, exploiting his sisters ‘current gift’ as he searched for dominance. However, his scenes were either lacking of dialogue, or weren’t enough to keep the suspense going. I wouldn’t mind a story focussed more on his character than the others.

Romance – I’m sorry, but does every YA novel need to have a romance? I already knew, immediately, that the two main characters would fall in love. I couldn’t accept it, and it just bored me. I didn’t want to read about a Romeo and Juliette-esque romance when there was supposed to be a war(?) going on. They come from opposite backgrounds, different planets, yet they work together well.

The current gifts – I’ve seen some people saying that the current gift of Cyra of pain is offensive to those with chronic pain. All I’m going to say is people get too offended these days. I didn’t see anything offence about it. This is a novel set in Space, for God’s sake. Accept it for what it is. I also learnt that Veronica Roth herself has chronic pain, so she obviously didn’t meant this to be offensive. However, I found the current gifts were a bit pointless, and were sometimes used as a way to get out of impossible situations, such as fights to the death in an arena (somewhat copying The Hunger Games?). At first, I thought it was going to be interesting as people developed their gifts and used them to fight, but they just seemed to be add ons and mentioned when they were remembered. They didn’t matter to me. I didn’t even understand Akos’ gift properly.

The oracle – apparently, Ryzek is searching for an oracle. For what reason, though, I’m not sure?

There were a few other things which got on my nerves. There was a traditional festival which took place, and was mentioned a few times, and played a key part, but again, there was no explanation as to why this festival was there and what its purpose was. I wanted that to be explored, but it wasn’t. Too much time was wasted on what Akos thought of Cyra and what Cyra thought of Akos. Maybe I’m not the intended market audience here – a twenty-two year old gay male – so maybe I missed the relevance in this slow burning and boring plot.

There were also quotes for the sake of quotes, which are clearly intended for people to tattoo on themselves and then regret in later years. Quotes such as ‘honour has no place in survival’ made me exhale from my nose and flutter my eyes.

Having said all of this, the novel is written well, albeit the author could have substituted the words ‘he said’, ‘she said’.

I’m afraid, though, that I got near the end, glanced at the last couple of chapters, saw someone return that I didn’t know, but was clearly meant to know, and just couldn’t be bothered to finish it.

A great read if you swallow romances and teenage angst, but not for me!

Holding: A Review of Graham Norton’s Debut

I’m not sure how I managed to miss the release of this book by TV presenter Graham Norton, but when I found it whilst trailing Amazon, I was intrigued. I know Norton has a career in TV presenting, and I also know he writes for newspapers, but writing a novel is something completely different.

It might be easy to think that this is just another celebrity who has put his name to a ghost written book in the hopes of starting a successful career in the publishing industry, when so many other nobodies struggle to get noticed. Thankfully, it seems Norton really did write this of his own accord. Think Dawn French.

Knowing this, I went into it with an open mind. It’s set in Ireland, where Norton originates from, and follows a non-conventional detective called PJ. Immediately, we pity this man. He’s bored, he’s overweight, and he’s awkward. He’s not like the other detectives we read about: strong, smart and a natural investigator. He’s focussed on the wrong things, and he’s more concerned about where his next meal will come from.

We’re soon introduced to a whole host of other characters. Mrs Meany, who has a very interesting past of mystery. Another detective. The Ross Sisters, who have an air of uncertainty around them. Three grown women living together, single and anti-social.

The novel keeps you hooked just enough. Set in a small town, you feel like you’re being let in on gossip. Nothing ever happens here: that is until the body of a man who they think is Tommy Burke appears. Tommy disappeared years ago, and has not been seen since. He breaks the hearts of two women, who even after he has left, have not been able to move on with their lives. The two women are unhappy. A marriage is falling apart, and there are affairs, scandal and lies.

Everyone has a secret in this novel, which keeps you guessing. You’re sure there’s a murder, and you want to find out what happened to the body at the farm. When a second body appears, you’re curious as to the links.

This isn’t your typical murder mystery or thriller. The story seems a little bit flat. It’s unexpected, but realistic, and is such a short read. Whilst the characters are well developed, and whilst they do all have their own problems, there are not enough pages to truly get invested in what their problems are and what they could do to resolve them. It’s easy to think that the ending could be a bit of a let down, but it works. It makes sense.

It’s a great debut from Norton, who clearly has a talent to create realistic settings and characters. It would be interesting to see what he comes up with next, if anything.

holding graham norton2

Winter Smith: London’s Burning


Enjoy thrillers? Enjoy YA? Enjoy horror? Can’t get enough of zombies? Then you will love Winter Smith: London’s Burning!

I wrote London’s Burning from the age of 17. It’s my debut novel, and my first proper foray into writing. Last April, at the age of 21, I finally published the novel and waited with baited breath for people to give me their feedback! Thankfully, most people liked it, so I carried on with writing the second (to be released soon).

London’s Burning follows socialite Winter Smith as the life she once knew is ripped apart, and she has to escape from London to the river Thames. Government are promising safety in France, but only to those who can get to the evacuation boats. Winter travels, meeting people along the way, and learning that not everything is as it seems, and not everyone is to be trusted.

If you fancy getting your hands on a copy, you can! It is available in both ebook and paperback format on Amazon, and every now and then I appear at comic and horror cons across the UK in the hopes of selling a few copies of these novels to those who want to read it! Click the link above and get yourself a copy. Also available in Europe and America! No excuses!

Misery: Book Review

Everyone’s heard of Stephen King, and everyone can agree that the man has a very exceptional talent for writing gripping thrillers. But I’ll be honest here and admit I haven’t read as much of Stephen King as I probably should have!

A lot of authors and budding writers cite King as their inspiration, and I’m guilty of that, too. I’ve read Carrie, The Shining, and maybe one or two others. I decided to give Misery ago, as I’ve heard the reputation of the novel and know it’s a must read.

As you may already know, the plot focusses on Paul Sheldon, a writer from America who has just killed off the lead in a series he has been writing for years. This series is Misery. Like many writers know, a series must come to an end, and a series as big as Misery has been taking up Sheldon’s writing time, and he wants to be considered as a ‘serious’ writer from now on. He’s travelling back from finishing a brand new manuscript, drunk and celebratory.

That’s when he crashes, and it all goes wrong.

His legs are mangled in the crash, which has crushed his car, and he is pulled out of a snow storm by Annie Wilkes. But Annie is no saviour. She’s a dragon lady of doom.

She claims to be Paul’s number one fan. And as time goes on, we see just how much Annie admires Paul. So much so, that she doesn’t realise what she is doing is doing more damage than it is good.

An exiled nurse, Annie haphazardly splints Sheldon’s legs, and keeps him as ‘patient’ in her spare bedroom. But Paul soon realises the woman is unhinged. Knowing she has power of Sheldon, she holds pills from him, attacks him, shouts at him and opens up to him. Annie truly believes a romance straight out a Misery novel is about to happen between the pair.

When she learns of the death of Misery, she is furious. She burns Paul’s brand new manuscript, and demands that he brings Misery back to life. Suddenly, Paul has to write to survive.

The development of Annie’s character is rather intriguing. You know immediately something isn’t right with her, but as time goes on you learn why. She shows a vulnerable side every now and then, as her mental health changes her perception of real life scenarios, but not once do you ever feel sorry for her. You can really see why this book caught so many’s attention. The portrayal of mental health may have been a taboo back in 87, or at least something that people tried to avoid talking about.

King has a talent for making you route for the good guy, which in this instance is Paul. I will admit, at the beginning it took me a little while to get into it, as I didn’t really see where it was going. But with all good suspense novels, the story must unfold naturally, and King is the one to do such a thing.

If you haven’t read Misery, I urge you to go out and get a copy! Annie is waiting.misery

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