The Bunker Diary – Book Review

Bought Kevin Brooks’ The Bunker Diary randomly after seeing it in a list of recent-ish YA books. Entirely worth it. You can check it out at Goodreads, and here it is on Amazon.

Here’s the review:

When I finished this book, I slowly rose, lifted it protectively to my chest, walked a short distance to place it tenderly on a shelf, slumped to the floor, and stroked my sweet kitten. Only then did I begin to cry.

Did not expect that. Thinking on it, though, it makes perfect sense. Poetic, beautiful, miserable, realistic, empty-but-not, pointless-but-not sense. How many kidnappings happen like this? How many lives of the most unfortunate, whatever their circumstances—war, abuse, famine, bigotry—happen like this, in total ignorance and agony? Why? There’s no reason, none good enough. This is real stuff. No movie gloss, no impossible stunts. Just cruelty and slow, sad loss of almost everything.

Expected this to be sort of a combo of hellish reality TV and Saw. Bits of both, with added essence from Danganronpa and Changi, with some seriously twisted psychological experimentation included, whether that is His (the unknown captor’s) purpose or not. Was numb throughout most of it, but heavily compelled to read on, gutted by the helplessness, desperation and almost-utter-hopelessness—there is still some lovely, stubborn optimism hidden in here—every sensation delivered painfully by the diary format, nothing to do but self-reflect, survive, and maybe try to make things less terrible for those you’ve come to care for and depend on. Being as in the dark as the characters as to every how and why was frustrating, but, again, it’s real. Most everyone’s guts would be twisted and minced, reading this.

Loved Linus—he’s nothing but a sweet kid trying to sort himself out, only to be snared into nightmare by his good heart. Seeing him left to try and finish this sorting out in such a brutal situation is heartbreaking. Every character, their reactions, their attempts to cope—they’re all relatable, all understandable. Linus’ perspective of his fellow prisoners is poignant—through him, I see much of myself in this mixed bag of individuals. Not a great thought, in some cases. They don’t all get on—there’s some serious dislike going on with any number of causes—but there’s no desire to hurt, no sinking en masse into uncontrolled violence, despite no hope of salvation (though things get rougher with His intervention). I’m glad of this. It’s one of very few bright-ish points in this bleak novel.

The stream of consciousness parts are pretty intense—don’t think I’ve read any quite so raw. The random reflections and great importance of such little things, like remembering rhymes, worked well. What do people think about in this situation? What can they think about in this situation? Anything to distract, even when they can’t think about finding distractions any more—a powerful protective mechanism, I think.

I’ll repeat a few words to finish, I suppose—painful, realistic, beautiful. Very dark, clever and thoughtful, terrible content handled not quite delicately, but humanly. Kevin Brooks is most deserving of the high praise The Bunker Diary has received. Four and a half stars from me—shall be thinking of random moments from this book at random times for a long while.

Walking: Five Short Stories from the Sands – Book Review

Met a nice author on Goodreads and read their book. Enjoyed it. You can have a look at W.G. White on Goodreads and purchase the book (it’s cheap) from Amazon.

walking

Here’s the review:

It’s a challenge with 100,000 words or more. But with Walking: Five Short Stories from the Sands, White has created depth. Introducing a new protagonist with each story, each bringing a new perspective and trudging through poles-apart circumstances—this is despite the Walkers and Riders living practically on top of each other and highlights the distrust between them—White has crafted a full world with limited page space. More little touches, such as differences in speech even among the Walkers, help flesh out the life going on around the stories and make this book fulfilling on more levels than only the surface plots.

I’m a fan of dystopian stories and was attracted to this uniquely-imagined rover future. The people here still manage to be selfish and bigoted despite having lost everything—somehow I’m not surprised. But there’s still good, and it shines through in each story in different ways, both blatant and quiet. A literary boost now and then, reassurance there’s no need to give up on our race just yet, is always welcome.

As with many indie books I’ve read, there are some grammatical issues here. As well, there were a few words that seemed out of place, a few sentences that were confused and briefly confused me. However, White’s style is generally engaging, and there are multiple examples of quite powerful descriptive writing.

The Rider and The Shuffler stood out in my mind, the former painfully close to the bone and the latter a solid redemption story. The Cultist was violent and sad, always a poignant combination. The Walker manages to be both twisted and touching, a feat I respect, while The Chaperone covers twisted and twisted, if that’s your thing—White should be proud of that creature of horror he’s created here.

Walking imagines a bleak, evocative world through appealing characters we can get behind, even if we don’t agree with what they’ve done. Three and a half stars from me; I’d recommend this book to those who like satisfying, visceral reads in one sitting.

Valiant or Vain (or Both): A Cunning Time Plan

So I’ve been floundering for a couple of months. A bit. Nothing new, really – so much to do, so little time. It’s a not-so-good thing that I’m not great at optimising my time, due to further not-particularly-new-or-unique reasons – too tired after work to write, kitty to be played with, songs to be sung – the usual.

But now, I will at least have a valiant/vain attempt. Weekdays without evening commitments, be ready. Hopefully getting it down will help with sticking to it – or trying, at least. Just imagine I have an approximate tilde before every time …

6.30 – get up

6.30 – 7.15 – morning chores and readiness for work

7.15 – 8.00/8.15 (depending on bussing or biking)  (or – 9.00/9.15 when I stop working overtime) – work on Treading Twisted Lines

8.00/8.15 – 8.54 (or 9.00/9.15 to 9.54 without overtime) – bus or bike to work

8.54 (or 9.54 without overtime) – 18.00 – do the work thing

18.00 – 18.45 – bike or bus home

18.45 – 20.30 – evening fooding, cleansing, chores, etc (maybe a bit of relaxing?)

20.30 – 23.00 – work on editing and reworking Embraced (first novel)/work on new novel, working title Shimmer, Child of Light/work on other projects. Alternate as necessary. But not on the same night. One night, one project. Things will get too muddled, otherwise …

23.00 – fall asleep instantly. I’m not so good at falling asleep, either …

We’ll see what happens, anyway. Given it’s one of my nights without evening commitments, I’m already flouting this – haven’t showered yet. And I suppose anything related to blogging/social networking/self-publishing/looking for not self-publishing agent-publishing people gets crammed in where it fits. Or relegated to weekend time. Not projecting this will last long. But at least it’s an outline. It’ll be good to use what time I have more wisely (if a bit ambitiously) while I still have that time. Am I an adult, after all … adult-ish, anyway. When the time comes for doing adult-ish things, I’ll probably laugh to even remember this post.

The False Angel and the White Knife: a novel excerpt in an Inkitt contest

Greetings lovely people :)

Not expecting many to lift their hand at this salutation – I’ve been gone too long for that, unable to keep up with blogging here at my faithful doll thermometer, attempting other forms of blogging/social media, etcetera. Nevertheless, I hope to still pop things up from time to time – when I put Book #4 of the Treading Twisted Lines series up for pre-release, for one. Should be reasonably soon, I hope. Almost through the last trudge of the final edit. Can’t bring myself to work on it right now, though – just finished Den Patrick’s “The Boy Who Wept Blood”, and I’m having trouble maintaining my composure. Needless to say, difficult to focus with tears streaming. However, there is something I’ve done recently I’d like to share … otherwise I probably wouldn’t be here :) I suppose that’s so with blogging in general, whether long absent or not.

I recently followed the Twitter account of a writing community called Inkitt, and soon after received an invitation to participate in the contest they’re currently holding. It’s called Echo of Another World, held in honour of Terry Pratchett. I wondered a while if I could finish and enter a short story/novelette I’ve had in mind, but concluded I would not have the time to do the story justice. However, the rules indicate that novel excerpts are welcome. So, after a little thought, I spent a few days editing/reworking two chapters from my first novel – the ridiculously long one that no unpublished writer could ever hope to traditionally publish. I nervously popped it up on the site yesterday.

The cover image is awful – text over a Paint-adjusted free image. I am so far from an artist it’s sad.

The excerpt is called “The False Angel and the White Knife”, chapters eight and nine of the presently fourty-four chapter novel, and comes in at roughly 12,000 words. So, roughly, you’d probably estimate the whole thing might be around 264,000 words. Sadly, you’d be wrong – I know for a fact it’s over 400,000.

Sigh.

In any case, I’d love it if anyone wanted to read my work and let me know what they think. Also, it’s community voting to determine the finalists, so, if you do like it, a vote would be very much appreciated. Vaguely hoping someone with their foot in publishing’s door might magically spot it and see potential. Aren’t hopes lovely :)

You can have a look at “The False Angel and the White Knife” at http://www.inkitt.com/stories/13054.

And now, here’s the 200-character or less summary that I hope entices you to have a look:

“A scorned leader of a zealously religious and racist people, the Mirror-to-be uncertainly performs a brutal ceremony on capture of a hated False Angel, whose soul is fused with another’s, far away.”

More Exciting News! Chasing Nonconformity Soon To Be Released! Its Cover Is Shiny!

And now it’s December. Hope everyone’s November was lovely. Had a successful NaNoWriMo experience over here, so that’s good.

Here to let you know there’s more good news from author Michelle Proulx: the sequel to her fabulous debut novel Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight into It will be released in spring 2015 (that’s northern hemisphere, people – autumn for we southerners). The sequel is titled Chasing Nonconformity, and, in case my prose is lacking tonight and you can’t tell – feeling a bit creatively clunky here – I’m excited.

And now, the cover reveal:

chasing_ebook

A lovely piece of work this is. The talented artist here is Ravven, who you can visit at http://www.ravven.com/ and is also responsible for the lovely new cover of Imminent Danger, revealed last month.

Not only is the cover revealed today; we also get a taste of the story. Here’s the book summary:

Still reeling from accidentally marrying an exiled alien prince named Varrin, and from almost getting her head blown off by a six-armed lizard man with anger management issues, seventeen-year-old Eris Miller is ready for a vacation. But Varrin is desperate to rescue his beloved spaceship, the Nonconformity, from the clutches of the galactic government, so her vacation will just have to wait.

While Eris and Varrin chase after the stolen ship, they’re unaware that trouble is brewing on the other side of the galaxy. The villainous Emperor of Rakor has assembled a task force, led by the commander of the deadly Skin Slicers, to hunt Varrin down. With enemies closing in and the Nonconformity slipping further and further from their grasp, Eris must ask herself: how much is she willing to sacrifice to ensure her happily ever after?

If you want to know more about Michelle and her books, you can visit her at michelleproulx.com. If you’d like to support her creative endeavours, maybe consider donating to her IndieGoGo campaign at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/book-imminent-danger-ya-sci-fi. There’s many lovely perks on offer for as little as $3 for a little bit of love.

That’s all from me for now :) Shall quietly look forward to the next book in the Imminent Danger series over this long summer.

Exciting News! New Cover of Michelle Proulx’s Imminent Danger Revealed! Will Be Re-Published In Coming Months!

I love the NanoWriMo 1 November midnight sitting. Already feel like I have a head start. Project this year: Treading Twisted Lines. The short story cycle’s not technically a novel. But why not be a NaNoRebel? With any luck, this year’s NaNoWriMo will see the next few stories complete, possibly released before year’s end. Cross all of the limbs.

But no more NaNo for now – there is some exciting news I must share. Hopefully many of you are aware of Michelle Proulx.

MP Author Photo

This is Michelle…

…she was born on the market moon of Vega Minor where she spent her formative years reading, writing, and gambling at illegal underground jsgarn fighting rings. While en route to Alpha Centauri, Michelle crash-landed her space yacht on the planet Earth. She now lives in Canada and divides her time between observing the local fauna and repairing her star ship.

If you have not met her, she lives here online and is the talented author of what remains the best indie book I’ve yet read – Imminent Danger and How To Fly Straight Into It. I would gush here, but, to save on postage, here’s a link to my review. As it happens, Imminent Danger has just gotten some work done in the cosmetic sense and now has a brand new shiny cover for its upcoming re-publishing!

Imminent Danger Cover Reveal

It’s just so pretty!

And now, from the author herself, the story behind the shininess:

In the far-gone year of two thousand and twelve, a naive young authoress with a trusting heart gave unto a company called iUniverse thousands of dollars with which to publish her novel. But alas! For this foolish young authoress did not realize the assisted-publishing path was fraught with peril, and the thousands paid were not in value received. Control was relinquished, prices did skyrocket, and the young authoress cried out to the heavens, “Woe is me! Would that I had done this publishing business myself!” And the young authoress did take it upon herself to publish the novel, commissioning a talented artist to provide her with a new cover that doth more accurately capture the spirit of her novel. And lo! The new cover is revealed.

And in case my word of its quality and the promise of a beautiful cover to spruce up your bookshelves isn’t enough, here’s the book summary to further entice you – there just aren’t enough young adult sci-fi romances in the world.

High school junior Eris Miller thinks she’s having a bad day when her roommate’s boyfriend catches her stepping out of the shower wearing nothing but a towel. Then she gets abducted by scaly six-armed aliens with a strange fondness for the color blue, and her day suddenly gets a whole lot worse.
Trapped on a spaceship bound for the slave markets of Sirius B, Eris fears she’ll never see her home again. But then fate whisks her away from her reptilian captors and into the arms of Varrin, a fast-talking space pirate who promises to deliver her safely back to Earth. He claims to have her best interests at heart, but Eris soon discovers that her charming rescuer has a hidden agenda.
As they race across the galaxy, outrunning a villainous figure from Varrin’s past, Eris begins to realize that their relationship is putting her planet, her life, and her heart in imminent danger. She knows that trusting Varrin could prove deadly … but what other choice does she have?
Cannot recommend this read enough for fun and giggles and excitement. And there are alien shopping scenes – I love shopping scenes! And the aliens just make it better! Shall provide links to purchase pages once this fine work is re-published. Very much hope all you lovely people will support a deserving artist by enjoying her work.
Also, an exciting giveaway is happening on Michelle’s blog – get over there to see what you could win and how to win it!

To Test Sea Lore/Ding-Dong

And now, a randomly generated scene…

… using words collected from fellow choristers…

… inspired by Mäntyjärvi’s setting of Full Fathom Five from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Nouns: Notre-Dame, funnel-web spider, congee, rust, jacaranda, charter boat, fatigue

Adjectives: shiny, backward, phenomenal, stupendous, evil

Verbs: decompress, inflate, grind

Adverb: atmospherically

Pearl

Ropes tossed and tied and anchor dropped, a party of tourists strolled from the charter boat onto the dock. The clouds above were evil and the sea more so; judging by the chatter, what was left of their day trip had been cancelled due to an approaching squall. Though some weren’t quiet in their discontent, most seemed perfectly cheerful, keen to join the labourers and sailors buying bowlfuls of congee for their supper from vendors scattered about the harbour.

Intent on escaping the dire weather as tiny raindrops began to speckle their coats and then plummet more steadily, and far too occupied by their own selves and stories, no one noticed the pair that walked in the opposite direction, onto the pier rather than safely off.

The two walked hurriedly, huddled together, the larger with an arm around the smaller. The larger—a man—seemed to have loaned his great overcoat to the other; barely any of their figure could be seen beneath its folds.

They walked past the stupendous charter boat—they weren’t forgetful tourists come to reclaim some lost camera or treasure, a shell or jacaranda blossom claimed from island shores. Instead, they stopped beyond it where there looked to be nothing to attract anyone, local or sightseer. On more careful examination, a tin dinghy, so alike to the waves in colour so as to vanish against them, floated there. A ladder descended from the pier alongside.

The man’s companion seemed reluctant to approach the ladder: they dug their feet into the pier’s wooden planks and refused to climb down. A sudden movement beneath the overcoat caused them to cry out, and they stumbled forward with the man’s push, just managing to catch themselves on a rung. Trembling, the man’s companion awkwardly descended.

A savage gust caught the coat’s folds as they did, so strong it lifted the heavy garment and it flapped, bat-like, in the dim.

That’s when we saw the zip ties locking their wrists together under the coat and the dark spot of blood staining the white of their shirt just below the ribcage.

No, his ribcage. He was a man, too, darked haired and young.

The man’s companion clung to the ladder, desperate not to fall, as he tried to board the dinghy in one piece. Above, the man inflated a life jacket—only one—and slipped it over his shoulders, fastening it at the waist. Then, with a light, but urgent step, he hopped down the ladder, joining his plainly frightened captive.

We saw the flash of a knife as the man slipped the blade beneath the overcoat, pressing it to the other’s side with warning words:  keep silent and still.

Once he’d flicked a funnel-web spider to damp doom—ferried far from its preferred habit, it had been spinning there, making itself a nice new home with sea views—the man tugged the motor’s cord and cursed as it pathetically spluttered. He ground his teeth in frustration. When the little motor at last puttered into life, he directed it into the storm, leaving the pier behind, his reluctant passenger huddled in the bow.

Lightning crackled as silver fireworks overhead, illuminating the scene while thunder rumbled atmospherically seconds behind; we’ll admit this storm impressed even us. It was a wonder the little boat wasn’t tossed about more than it was, pushed backward and tipped up almost to capsizing point. Battered and rust-flecked as the tiny boat was, the man knew how to steer. He had more the look of a businessman, though, than a sailor; his suit was pristine, shoes shiny and black. Perhaps he had the sea in his blood from his father or father’s father.

On they went, further from the pier, on and on until it was merely a blip in the distance.

He let the engine die.

Surrounded by roiling grey on grey, cloud, sea and sky, the younger man gave a small whimper.

Far from the eyes of any who might prevent it, the man took his captive by the lapel of his overcoat and hurled him overboard.

‘A drowned man,’ he muttered, fingers entwined in the other’s dark locks as he pushed his head underwater and held it there.

There was fatigue in his voice, no pleasure drawn from this act of violence. Only desperation.

‘Bells,’ he uttered next, and sat very still, elbow rigid, sleeve soaking through as his captive thrashed.

He spoke again, growing even more tense.

‘Bells!’

We held ours still in our hands, feeling no little regret. We would chime for this poor victim. But not for this. Instead, we swam closer.

‘Come on!’ the man shouted, growing angry as the struggles of the drowning man stilled. We felt life leave him through the water. ‘I’ll be no better than him if you don’t! Do us a favour!’

A few of us angled our wrists, prepared to ring.

Wait, we whispered, our voice one with sea and storm.

In the boat, the man had begun to pat frantically at his suit pockets. Curious, we watched his antics. He pulled free a slim, rectangular device and began to press upon it with his fingertips. He must have given it some command, for instantly great bells tolled, as mighty as Notre-Dame. The sound was phenomenal. Even the wind seemed to die with their power as sound erupted, lone and stark, from the small device.

Without our blessing, against our will, even as we swam, hidden beneath the boat, and took the drowned man’s hands, his body collapsed into golden sand. Bone transfigured into blossoming white coral and hair fell into thick cords of knotted black pearls.

Aboard the dinghy, the mood immediately decompressed, relief swamping the man as saltwater had swamped his victim’s lungs moments before.

‘Yes…’ he hissed with the reprieve, sea treasures drifting at the ocean surface on a bed of once-skin seaweed, ready to please any lover, pay any debt… whatever trouble had been worth the other’s life.

Hand now tangled with many strings of precious stones, the man dragged them from the water in elated handfuls, piling them into the dinghy. Then, taking a small sieve—he had come prepared with more than backup imitation bells—he scooped up as much gold dust as he could.

But two treasures beyond value, shining as moon-white orbs, had begun to sink—pearls were far weightier than any eye of flesh and blood.

Keen not to lose them to the deep, the man plunged both hands into the water, each reaching for a twin pearl. Fingertips just brushing the smooth sheen of their surface, he stretched even further, shoulders straining, knuckles popping with effort.

Rain pelted bullet-like upon his shoulders, driving him further forward, nose to the swollen ocean, its roar almighty.

The boat tipped.

We didn’t seize and draw him under; such savage elements don’t appreciate offerings, though we weren’t averse to seeing his knife find his life jacket once he tumbled.

Were he truly of the sea, this man would know more than merfolk lore.

The ocean, the wind and rain: they take what they please.

And as we carried the treasures that remained to rest quietly on the ocean floor, we held our bells ready.