Falling Short – Lex Coulton [BOOK REVIEW]

When I first found out about Falling Short, written by Lex Coulton, the blurb promised to be ‘’fresh, funny and life-affirming’’. I am sorry, but no. That is not correct. This book was none of those things. It wasn’t bad at all, but I would prefer describing it as a slow-paced, and confusingly complex in an unsatisfying way.

About the book:

Frances Pilgrim’s father went missing when she was five, and ever since all sorts of things have been going astray: car keys, promotions, a series of underwhelming and unsuitable boyfriends . . . Now here she is, thirty-bloody-nine, teaching Shakespeare to rowdy sixth formers and still losing things.

But she has a much more pressing problem. Her mother, whose odd behaviour Frances has long put down to eccentricity, is slowly yielding to Alzheimer’s, leaving Frances with some disturbing questions about her father’s disappearance, and the family history she’s always believed in. Frances could really do with someone to talk to. Ideally Jackson: fellow teacher, dedicated hedonist, erstwhile best friend. Only they haven’t spoken since that night last summer when things got complicated . . .

As the new school year begins, and her mother’s behavior becomes more and more erratic, Frances realizes that she might just have a chance to find something for once. But will it be what she’s looking for?

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My thoughts:

I am usually good at explaining why I don’t like a certain book, or why I feel the way I feel, and believe me, with this one, I have spent two days and 6 sittings in front of this draft (now published post) to try and write about it. So I am doing my best now…

First of all, there has to be something about a certain book to make me want to read it. With this one – there were two things:

  • I love romance and intrigue, and the blurb promised two people not really talking to each other, but sparks flying around… so yes, that got me

  • The Alzheimer’s disease – as a person that has worked with people suffering from Dementia and Alzheimer’s, this subject is very close to my heart. I couldn’t miss this book for this reason.

Now – the romance part disappointed me, as there was no romance. No romance at all. Unless, of course, you count as a romance a person in their mid-forties sleeping around with drunk teens, and is then too complicated of a character to even realise who he loves, and why, and the moment he does, he still has no idea what to do with that information.

The other disappointment I had was that I expected to read about the Alzheimer’s, and not only that they weren’t there, but also some of the symptoms mentioned were not correct at all. There were only sex relationships and sex scenes, and that was supposed to define their relationship in the end. Not realistic at all.

Even though it seems that we follow Frances’s story throughout, we actually follow Jackson’s story as well. Their characters were too complicated and confusing for me, and it let me to now feel nor care about them at all. I honestly cared about Frances’s dog the most in this book.

The plot wasn’t perfect – there were times when the information given didn’t match

[SPOILER ALERT]

The scene how Frances searches on Google to find the address of her dad. We are then told that she found out his address through Jean. Which one is it, then?

[SPOILER FINISHED – SAFE TO CONTINUE READING]

I am actually quite sad that I didn’t enjoy this book, but I will still be curious about new works from Lex Coulton, because, somehow, I really liked her writing style, despite all the flaws.

Thank you to Netgalley and John Murray Press for providing an ARC copy of this book to me, in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Interview With Jay DiNitto, Author Of Pale Blue Scratch

First of all, Jay DiNitto, thank you for taking your time to do this interview with me!

 Jay DiNitto is the author of Pale Blue Scratch, a wonderful story about a nun and her apprentice, and how they try to make a time-travel machine work.

You can download and read Pale Blue Scracth for free here.

 

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Where do you get your ideas from?

Most of the time, I get ideas from other stories, either from books, movies, or games. I don’t do this in the sense of stealing ideas wholesale, but most story ideas come from exploring how I would write a story or character different after consuming other stories.

 

Where did you get your idea for Pale Blue Scratch?

I was toying with the premise of an odd couple-type pair of sleuths trying to track down a scientist in trouble, where one of the sleuths really believes the scientist’s work is legitimate but the other sleuth doesn’t. Some of that was inspired by the Sherlock Holmes stories.

I also wanted to incorporate the philosophical idea of our senses being almost-infallible sources of knowledge. What if it clashes with scientific or practical knowledge? How is that reconciled?

I liked the idea of using religious figures as central characters, where they aren’t the scheming Big Bad or the abusive authority figure that fired up the rebellious protagonist. I took cues from what Umberto Eco did in The Name of the Rose, and The Father Dowling Mysteries (yes, I watched those). The “two guys” motif was too close to Holmes, so I changed the sex of one of them. At first it was a monk and a teenage girl, but that pairing was too unrealistic for me, so I switched them to a nun and teenager on his way to manhood. Also, I switched their personalities: the religious/teacher figure is the wild risk-taker while the teenager is the bookish, play-by-the-rules type. Their personalities are unusual but they aren’t out of control; I think too many fiction writers are careless with human behaviour and really go crazy with basically rewriting the human psyche.

I was reading a lot of anarchist writings (and watching Firefly) and came up with the “contractual society” setting. How would it work if there were no nation-state? How would roads, law enforcement, or laws themselves, work? I have interests in alternate history and alternate technology settings, so that played into the plot.

 

How do you deal with a writer’s block?

I don’t, really. I normally don’t force myself to write; I do it when I’m ready. I work full time and have a wife and kids, so that’s enough of a “block” as it is. One trick I’ve learned, regarding books, is to stop a writing session in the middle of a scene I particularly enjoy, so I have some motivation to return to it soon.

 

What does your writing process look like?

I’m middle-aged, but a young writer, and I don’t have a professional schedule, but I can describe the process for my new project (we’ll call it Project X).

I played around with premises a lot. Since so much has been addressed before and I want to make sure I’m writing about something that hasn’t been overdone. Once the premise is there, I’ll have some scene ideas, bits of dialogue, or philosophies I want to represent that go along with the premise. I like Elisabeth’s character, so Project X is another book with her in it.

For Project X, I wanted to have a society that mirrored the kind of society the ancient Hebrews lived in, in Old Testament times, so there’s a lot that has to go along with accommodating that plot point. From all those ideas I form a coherent chain of events, which eventually become chapters. From there, I’ll write summaries for each chapter before I start the actual first draft.

The biggest hurdle, especially with Project X, is determining who knows what, and when they know it. There’s lots of secrets and manipulations, so keeping characters in the dark and slowly revealing things to them takes a lot of organising.

 

How do you select the names for your characters?

Honestly, I don’t spend a huge amount of time on character names or their significance. For Pale Blue Scratch, Elisabeth takes on her religious order’s name, so a great part of her character and profession reflects that. Other than that, I normally don’t attach too much significance to names unless the story demands it.

 

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Not particularly, but in Pale Blue Scratch there are a few references to the game Chrono Trigger, which is also about time travel (though actual time travel isn’t a big part of the book). If you’re familiar with the game you’d be able to spot them.

 

You can find my review of Pale Blue Scratch HERE!

Pale Blue Scratch – Jay DiNitto [BOOK REVIEW]

Pale Blue Scratch - Jay DiNitto book novel books review blog wordpress writer author diary of difference

I was lucky enough to be approached by Jay DiNitto himself, and he sent me a copy of his first novel – Pale Blue Scratch (you can read the e-book for free here) in exchange for an honest review. This is a book unlike anything else I have ever read, and it left me impressed. I dearly enjoyed it, and maybe you will too.

About the book:

“I would disassemble this body and cast it onto the coronal burn of the sun if it means I get answers.” Thus proclaims the determined Elisabeth Reese, journalist, professor, and joke-cracking nun working in alternate history San Francisco. She has one goal: to rebuild a failed time machine that caused a lethal explosion during its initial demonstration. With her reluctant protege, a young budding scientist, she searches for the machine’s plans left behind by its exiled inventor. But her pursuit is disrupted, threatened by area conflict. A faction of the deadly Al Sayf al Ahmar-the Red Sword-has been rising to power. Lead by the hulking Crazed Herald, Maalik du Mahdi, the Red Sword heed a prophecy that will culminate in a battle between two “one-armed wild men.” Du Mahdi is believed to be the first of the pair, while his counterpart could be anyone…even a small, peculiar nun from across the bay. All Elisabeth wants is to witness the impossibility of time travel, but first she must battle the odds and fulfill the present. Part steampunk and part mystery, Pale Blue Scratch explores the conflict between the senses and logic, and the lengths one may go to resolve it.

Pale Blue Scratch - Jay DiNitto book novel books review blog wordpress writer author diary of difference

My thoughts: 

As I mentioned above, this is a book unlike any other that I have read. It is a great mix of fiction / action / fast-paced scenes / philosophy / psychology and a little bit of time-travelling.

Even though we have two main characters – Elizabeth and Vincent, this book focused more on Elizabeth, for various reasons.

There were times when the scenes were slow, and somewhat a bit dull, but there were also times when there were fast-paced scenes that make me bite my nails. Though, as a whole, I found the story to not quite fit my taste. It felt like Elizabeth didn’t have a great or a strong enough reason to do this adventure.

Elizabeth’s character – now this is something quite amusing! I have never met a character like this – so twisted in a cute hypocritical way. A nun with an adorable sense of humor, that goes around on a mission to make a time-travel machine, and happens to hurt people on her way… I loved her character in a very weird way (don’t judge!)

Now Vincent didn’t quite hit the mark. He seemed more of a plain character, like a little copy of someone else, somewhere, once upon a time. He gave the impression of a person that, unlike Elizabeth, didn’t quite knew where he belonged and what he’s doing. It felt like it didn’t bother him at all. And that’s alright. The moment when this started to hurt me was at the end – when he didn’t change a bit.

Even though a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to read much about time-travelling as I would want to, this book was quite amusing and it covered various random topics that I quite liked. I loved that variety when one moment you talk about religion, the other moment a great action scene happens, and then here we are again, discussing life philosophy.

All in all, to sum it all up – I greatly enjoyed this book! It was definitely unusual read, and unique in every single way. And if you love fiction / action / a bit of time-travelling / humor and philosophy, this might be easily your new favorite book!

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The Frightened Little Flower Bud – Renée Paule, G R Hewitt [BOOK REVIEW]

I don’t usually read Children’s Books. I used to love them when I was a kid, and of course, those were the books on which I learned how to read. Those are the stories that I will always remember with happiness in my heart and they will always have a special place in my heart.

I was lucky enough to win The Frightened Little Flower Bud on a giveaway from Booklikes, and I couldn’t be happier! This is a short, cute story about one flower, and the process of how it blooms.

Before it blooms, it has many fears as to what is going to happen, it fears that the sun will dry it, and the rain will drown it, and that it won’t be as beautiful as the other flowers out there.

It reminds me of the fears that us people have every day before we go out of the door. We fear this and that, without realising to enjoy our lives, and live them like they are our last. A perfect description of how fear and doubt can let us down, but also a perfect example of what happens when you actually get the courage and go out there, and realise that yes – you can be the prettiest flower out there.

I liked how there are questions at the end of the books, to engage the little readers after reading it. However, in all honesty, I believe that the images inside the books won’t keep a kid there for very long, and they might not be the most exiting this in the world.

Quidditch Through The Ages – J. K. Rowling [BOOK REVIEW]

For every Harry Potter fan out there, there is a book in the fictional library, that somehow wizards allowed for it to be shared with us muggles.

Note: I am not a muggle, I am, of course, a wizard, but I believe Hogwarts has made some admin mistakes and my letter is yet due to arrive!

But for you muggles out there, this book has been approved to be shared, and it talks about the most famous sport in the wizarding world – Quidditch. A sport in which Harry Potter was a star, just like his father and many famous people before him!

Quidditch Through The Ages speaks about the rules of Quidditch, the history, the famous teams around the world, the most famous players, the most exciting matches, the most devastating injuries, and the most mysterious endings of the matches.

While I was listening to it (Yes, I have the audible version – actually the second audio book I have ever read/listened to), this book made me feel like I was a part of this world, the same feeling I always get when I read the Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling is such an amazing writer, and times and times again, I wish this world was real, and I wish I was part of it.

With my audio version, I also got the bonus scenes of the 2014 World Cup being held, and it being reported by Ginny Potter and Rita Skeeter. It was the most amazing thing ever. It is also taken out from the Pottermore edition, so I think you might be able to find it online!

This book belongs to the never-forgettable shelf, alongside Harry Potter, and alongside all my other favourite books!

Note: Audible has an amazing offer that let’s you get one book for free once you sign up. So if you want to pick this book, or any other book, click here.

Cryptid – MIchael Kott [BOOK REVIEW]

Cryptid by Michael Kott is the second book of these series. It is a sequel to the Piasa, and you can find my review on that here. I have to admit and say that I didn’t enjoy Cryptid as much as I would like to, and you’ll find out why soon.

About the book:

Cryptid continues to tell the story of Sara, a girl that survives a car accident, when all her family dies. While in the first book she meets Mike, who gets her a job as his assistant in his adventures, in this book we will see Sara still maintaining that position, but a little bit from the background. When a few cats that look like leopards will appear at the museum, people start to get scared, and the police wants to shoot the animals. Then Mike and the team come to the rescue, to try and identify what the cats are, and save them from dying.

Review:

In Cryptid, we will be introduced to a couple new characters, some of which I happened to be very fond of (Hi Xenia!). The good thing for me was, that I could get a bit of a break from all the Sara moments. The thing I didn’t like was the fact that their background was too short and untold, and they kept making decisions based on the past that we didn’t know (I will mention Shannon’s decision here).

My favourite moments of the book, were, of course, those where Sara wasn’t there. Followed by my previous review of the Piasa, I sometimes like the character of Sara. But I  also couldn’t agree with her. I couldn’t understand her character, behaviour and decisions. Maybe it is because of my own childhood. I mean, luckily, I haven’t lost any of my family, but I have lived without both parents in those crucial years, raised by grandparents, while having a little sister to look after, and having an aunt similar to Pamela to guide me through my worst. But I was never this arrogant, self-centered and desperate for ME-ME-ME attention like Sara. Whoa, that lady really can push my limits sometimes.

The same goes with everyone around Sara that constantly tries to please her, and make sure she’s not upset.

And what is the reason that all of the characters are losing their shoes somewhere?

Unlike Piasa, in this book the focus is only on one big event, at two main places – the park and the museum. Apart from a few places in the introduction, the whole story keeps us around these places, which I particularly didn’t mind, but some people may or may not find it boring.

I was a bit sad because I really like Mike, and he wasn’t as present with his story as his was in the other book. I expected to see and learn a bit more of him.

Not to be all negative though, there were a few moments that I really enjoyed! I loved to read about the sisterhood of Pamela and Xenia, and the beginning of the book was fantastic. Xenia is also such an incredible character, and I really admired her. I also loved the explanations on the different kinds of cats and their latin names and meanings.

All in all, I am a bit sad to say that this will be a 3 out of 5 stars. Especially because the author, Michael Kott, is a dear friend of mine, and I greatly enjoyed the Piasa. I may have expected a bit too much of this book, that left me disappointed. But I do believe that some of you might greatly enjoy it! If you like Young-Adult fiction, and stories about mystery animals and cryptids, you will definitely enjoy this book!

Thank you Mike, for sending me a copy of the Cryptid, in exchange for an honest review.

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The Camelot Shadow – Sean Gibson [BOOK REVIEW]

‘’I can either tell you my tale, or I can respond to your feeble witticisms. I cannot, in my mildly inebriated state, do both.’’

This is not your usual story related to King Arthur, Merlin and Camelot. This will, in fact, be quite different story and not only unusual, but one of a kind.

We go back in time when Queen Victoria was ruling over England. In a time when the author really liked to point out the fact that the characters are using trains. It was pointed out so much, that I had to do a bit of research to see if trains existed in that time. They did – apparently England had the oldest rail transport in the world. And Queen Victoria was one of the first royals to use that form of transport too.

Now, I am not even sure why I kept going on about trains… Back to the story…

The Camelot Shadow covers the story of Lord Alfred Fitzwilliam, a man whose wife is ill from an incurable illness. When an opportunity arises, giving him the chance and hope that he might save the life of his lover, he goes on a mission to find an object from the time when King Arthur was the ruler of England, and Merlin was his companion.

With a help from a group of people, Alfred digs the history and the stories of the past, only to discover that not everything he believed in was true, and not everyone that he trusted is his ally.

A story that reminded me of Dan Brown’s work. Quite similar in the sense of clues, history, what is a myth and what is a fact, though also quite distinctive, as it covers people’s characters so well, describing their personalities in a powerful way.

‘’Wealth. Status. Happiness. A perfect life. All built on an ephemeral foundation, an impossibility masking a lie that, if exposed, if openly acknowledged, would bring it all crashing down around our heads.’’

When a great disappointment comes around, and all hope is gone, people change, and people feel things. A person starts to wonder what they did wrong, what could they have done differently, what if… Alfred is one of the people where we will see his change over the chapters. For better or for worse, I’ll let you decide.

‘’It was Guinevere’s infidelity that brought down Arthur’s Camelot’’ – he said, wiping a trickle of Scotch from his chin with the back of his sleeve. ‘’It was God’s cruelty that brought down mine.’’

A book that explains good and evil in the unusual way. I thought I could explain good and evil, but sometimes my evil can do you good, and your good can do harm to everyone. And power… oh what people are capable to do for power…

‘’Power, Arthur had taught him, was not something to covet, but rather something to treat in the same manner one might handle a wild mastiff – with considerable respect, constant vigilance, and a trace of fear. ‘’

If you are a fan of history fiction, and stories about Arthur and Merlin, you would definitely want to dive in into this book and get lost into the world. And that is not the only thing that this book covers… It covers hope, faith, loss, love, good, evil, power, guilt and everything in between. Get ready for an adventure. One full of bravery and magic. And maybe… maybe some hope.

A huge thank you to the author, Sean Gibson, who was kind enough to give me an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Wrebbit 3D Puzzle CAMELOT King Arthur’s Camelot 3D Puzzle (865-Piece)