Book Review – Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts), by L. C. Rosen

13th September, 2018 Leave a comment

Publication Date: 30th October 2018

Genre: Thriller/Young Adult/LGBTQIA/Romance

I was given the opportunity to read this up-and-coming novel courtesy, of the publishers and via Netgalley

First of all, I wish that books like this had been around when I was a teenager. Hell, I wish that we’d had someone like Jack at my school when I was a teenager. So many years of confusion and discomfort about my sexual identity might never have happened.

Comparisons with “Love, Simon” are inevitable, so let’s get that out of the way. Yes, this book features a gay teenager. Yes, it contains a central hidden identity mystery that forms the core of the novel. Yes, it features coercion and blackmail. 

This book feels much more real, more authentic, much less of the Hollywood romanticised view of young gay folk… though it too has a few elements redolent of wish fulfilment.

I expect this book will be shocking to some audiences, because it features frank and detailed discussion of sexual acts between consenting people who are under the age of 18. It features such people smoking, drinking and smoking marijuana, too… and not being guilt-tripped or punished for it.

Jack himself, and his supporting cast of fuck buddies, friends, and compatriots, feel realistic and emotionally well-drawn. As Jack is slowly suffocated throughout the novel by the attentions of his stalker, I found myself hurting for him and just wishing that he’d open up to his mom and the other adults in his life, but whereas Simon’s silence in “Love, Simon” felt forced and unrealistic to me, Jack’s desire to ignore the problem until it went away and unwillingness to draw other people into his problem felt totally, heart-breakingly realistic.

For me a highlight of the novel were Jack’s advice columns, which tackled a range of subjects in what I felt was a heartfelt, funny, and effective way. Not only that, but his advice was absolutely spot-on, and highlighted the importance of communication and enthusiastic consent.

If I had to quibble about anything I’d say that perhaps the ending was a little too quick and convenient, but that’s really only a minor complaint… and honestly it was a relief due to the tension that had been building up over the course of the novel.

I highly recommend this book, especially for LGBTQIA folk and their parents. It would make a great gift for someone who’s recently come out, too!

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Book Review: Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

12th July, 2016 Leave a comment

I was recently delighted to be granted an advance review copy of Revenger by Alastair Reynolds from netgalley.com and this is my spoiler free review of the book.

In a nutshell, this is a rollicking science fiction adventure yarn that left me wanting more.

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Start Writing Fiction: Exercise Four

26th October, 2015 1 comment

Turn on the radio and take note of the first thing that is mentioned. Use it as the basis for either the start of a story or an entire story – whichever, it should be no more than 500 words. Imagine a character, someone who is central to what the story is about. Try to use clear, vivid language so that your reader can see the character. Use some of the characterisation techniques we have talked about so far.

The first thing I heard was an article about refugees and the response of French right-wing politicians to the Syrian refugee crisis. And so, this.

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Start Writing Fiction: Exercise Three

22nd October, 2015 Leave a comment

“Trying to picture the worst place for you to try to write can help you realise what your best venue might be

“Imagine two different venues for writing – one that seems most suited to you, and one that you would find bizarre or too difficult. Write a paragraph describing two writers at work, one in each of the venues”.

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Start Writing Fiction: Exercise Two

13th October, 2015 Leave a comment

Review the notes you’ve collected in your notebook to find a character to develop further.

Pick a character. If you’ve collected, in your notebook, details about people you’ve spotted or spoken to during this week, pick one of these characters. Alternatively, you can pick one of the characters from the opening video.

Write a short character sketch – no more than 200 words – in which you concentrate on appearance and any particular mannerisms you noted.

You will come back to this later so save a copy on your computer or device. Read more…

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Start Writing Fiction: Exercise One

12th October, 2015 2 comments

I’ve signed up for a ‘Start Writing Fiction’ course with FutureLearn and the Open University. I’m going to be posting my exercises here for posterity.

This is my effort for the first exercise.

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Book Review – “Life or Death” by Michael Robotham

2nd June, 2015 Leave a comment

I really, really enjoyed this book. I received a review copy from Netgalley and then devoured it in a few hours of breathless reading. I liked it enough that on finishing it I immediately logged in to my Kobo account and bought all nine of the other books I could find by this author.

At its heart, Life or Death is a good old-fashioned crime thriller that reminded me of Richard North Patterson or John Grisham at their best. The plotting is very neatly done done, with the story unfolding in a series of neat and logical revelations that prove to be very satisfying by the end. Some might complain about the ‘luck’ and coincidence that ties the story together, but for me it was very fitting to the subject matter and never strained credulity past the breaking point.

I’m pleased to say that there was no evidence of characters acting stupidly to further the plot or to provide artificial tension or twists. While people act foolishly at times in the book,they do so in ways that are consistent with their characterisation, histories and circumstances.

A lot of crime thrillers seem to taper off towards the ending or introduce an artificial scene where the protagonist is endangered unnecessarily just to ramp up the tension in a fairly transparent way (I am so sick of authors writing scenes where the protagonist can’t reach their support network of police or other allies due to storms, phone problems, being suspected of being the murderer, and so on…) but Life or Death has an ending that is as satisfying as its beginning.

Finally, I really enjoyed the characters in this book. They all felt like living, breathing people with hopes, dreams, and fears, and the protagonist Audie Palmer is one of the most likeable fellows I’ve read about in recent memory. Even the villains are portrayed as more than thumbnail sketches of eeeeevil with their own motivations and rationalisations for their actions.

This book is highly recommended. Comparisons with Rita Hayworth and the The Shawshank Redemption are well-earned.

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