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After the Novel

Fun activities BEFORE THE NOVEL is published

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Music has always been a muse and an inspiration, and just occasionally a musician inspires as well

Police Procedural Pain

Book review: The Ice Child by Camilla Lackberg

Lackberg-The-Ice-ChildSo here are 41 characters introduced in the first 30 pages! And being Nordic there are a hell of a lot of them with surnames ending in …sson. And the point? Zero. Or should I say Noll.

Following that supernumerary error, we have crime thriller 101 errors followed by serial killer 101 errors and psychopathology 101 errors, ad nauseam.

For example: “Patrik wondered what an outsider would think about the banter that went on between them, even during the most harrowing investigations. But it was something they all needed. Sometimes the work left them so weighed down that they had to take a moment to relax, tease each other, and laugh. That was how they coped with all the sorrow, death and despair.”

Continue reading “Police Procedural Pain”

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A Tale of One City, or, Ian Rankin joins Mills & Boon

Book review: Doors Open by Ian Rankin

Doors Open by Ian RankinWell yes, I have loved the Rebus stories and the wonderful descriptions and depictions of Edinburgh as a character in the Ian Rankin novels. Although he is a curmudgeon of the highest order, there’s still huge humanity lurking beneath the Rebus exterior.

There’s depth of experience of life, there are the wrinkles of bad experiences and bad decisions, plus there are the friends and colleagues, loyal or not, who surround the Rebus plots with lightness or darkness — and all knit together into profoundly satisfying novels.

With Doors Open Rankin introduced a bunch of new characters and surrounded them with the Edinburgh personality with his usual acumen. The streets, buildings, climate and atmosphere are as alive as always. The characters, not so much — in fact hardly at all — and that was a disappointing surprise.

Continue reading “A Tale of One City, or, Ian Rankin joins Mills & Boon”

Top 10 Things Wrong with Girl in the Spider’s Web

Book review: The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

Yes, you are reading correctly. These are just the top 10 things wrong; I could go on for some time, otherwise, and that may not be fair to any brains hoping for a simple afternoon of catching up with the latest “international blockbuster”. Or whatever they’re saying this week.

girl in the spiders web book reviewSo let’s begin …

1. Personality Problems 

Blomkvist went into the kitchen to get some peace and quiet. He was exhausted and wanted to go home.

This is laughable. Blomkvist had just had sex with his lover, a married woman and therefore extra frisson, he had just heard from the most dangerously exciting woman in his life after many months of silence, he had just been shot at, and he was the first to discover a hugely important dead man alongside a highly traumatised autistic boy. Blomkvist would be wired on adrenaline, testosterone and a dozen other synaptic exciters. He would not be a tired wimp!

Continue reading “Top 10 Things Wrong with Girl in the Spider’s Web”

Misogyny Masquerading as Literature

Book review: The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

Devotion-of-Suspect-X-coverWell it was going fairly well, albeit rather tedious with the triangle of the ‘super intelligent men’ all trying to outdo and outsmart and out manoeuvre each other. And, once again, a whole lot of the author telling us who thought what and when and why.

That’s how the initial two-thirds of The Devotion of Suspect X reveals itself. Ho hum.

Continue reading “Misogyny Masquerading as Literature”

Just another moderate-drinking male cop story

Book review: The Inspector and Silence by Hakan Nesser

hakan-nesser-the-inspector-and-silence-cover-200pxSo after my poor experience with Nesbo, I looked around for something with a bit of guts and novelty and, even, full-blown storytelling. So when I saw, “favourably compared with Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson”, how could I go wrong.

The Inspector and Silence is an Inspector Van Veerteren Mystery and VV spends a lot of time musing about cases, both current and past. And about women, both current and past. And a lot about when and how to have a cigarette, and/or a glass of wine, or a couple of beers, or which dish to choose on a menu, or whether to walk or row or drive, and which music could or should accompany any of the preceding activities.

Continue reading “Just another moderate-drinking male cop story”

Just another drunk male cop story

Book review: The Bat by Jo Nesbo

jo-nesbo-the-bat-cover-200pxI’ve tried but Jo Nesbo is not for me. In fact The Bat is just about the worst ‘drunk male cop with issues’ story I think I’ve read.

Most drunk male cop stories have a girl/woman being abused/raped/tortured/murdered and then another one or two or five suffering similar fates. Meanwhile the drunk male cop goes on a bender or five. Sometime later the author adds a twist so the drunk male cop can find/arrest/kill the bad guy(s). And there’s been nothing in the preceding pages to suggest the drunk male cop has such abilities.

Continue reading “Just another drunk male cop story”

The Crime is in the Writing, not the Story

Book review: P is for Peril by Sue Grafton

p-is-for-peril-by-sue-graftonThis is Grafton’s ongoing saga about private investigator Kinsey Millhone. It is terrible in many ways. Let’s itemise a few.

Spoilers? Not really, because there is no coherent plot.

One: the central mystery about a missing, highly respected doctor has no connection points. It’s all tell and no show. Having most characters say how marvellous he is/was achieves not much. So we don’t really care how that central story unfolds.

Continue reading “The Crime is in the Writing, not the Story”

The Harlan Coben problem

one-false-move-287pxWriters, yes. Storytellers, not so much!

It’s taken a while but I think I now know what’s troubling me with so many “Award-Winner” and “International Best-Seller” books, especially of the crime-thriller variety.

Having been an avid reader for years, the recent dissatisfaction with certain books could have been put down to over-familiarity with the genre. But now I think that’s not it. The real reason has to do with intent.

The craft of writing

There are many aspects to writing, among them style and engagement. You may like a writer’s style and, in some cases, not care too much about how close a book stays to a genre. You may get hooked into a story and go with it, style be damned.

But ONE FALSE MOVE (a Myron Bolitar novel), re-read recently on holiday, suddenly made my issues clear.

The book is not a story. The characters are cyphers but in a bad way. In a “Frasier” bit-part kind of way. It’s like Coben wants to be a TV scriptwriter rather than an author. The clever quips (at least one per 5 pages) soon become tedious as they fail to tell us about either the character OR the story. All they tell us about is the writer.

Is the writing good?

In Coben’s case, yes. The writing’s good IF it’s for a TV episode full of clever but ultimately throw-away quips (did I mention “Frasier”). There is plenty of “style” to the writing, in the same way that a rap star over-emphasises certain traits for effect, like MC Hammer’s trousers. But the trousers do not make a great song.

Myron and Win are a 12-year-old boy’s super-heroes – super-smart, super-strong, super-prepared, super-successful-with-girls. Are they believable? Not one iota. Can they stand if we suspend disbelief? No. That’s because, like “Frasier” or “Friends”, the characters are too OTT. Nobody is quite as innocently dumb all the time like Joey, and nobody is as airtight competent as Win.
The Joeys and Wins are fine on TV because they are here-today-gone-the-next-minute. You’re not having to read 80,000 words that depend on the character.

Is the storytelling good?

In Coben’s case, no. Let’s be clear. I don’t care for the style, at least not in the way Coben strains to make it work over the whole book. But I could excuse that if the story held real interest, or had a stunning finale. But hauling all those words and quips along, just to get to the old chestnut of the super-rich man and the super-attractive maid – surprise! – er, no.

I guess I shouda known – the “vicious young mafioso on the make” blurb – that Christian Science Monitor recommendation on the cover – by the award-winning author (but for an older book, not this one) – and the weird recommendation by the Houston Chronicle (“a heavy hitter like Robert B. Parker”).

And there is the difference. You could say Parker’s CEREMONY and Coben’s ONE FALSE MOVE are similar. Like Ferraris and Toyotas are similar – they’re both cars, right? Parker is gritty, unconstrained, open-ended and a chronicler of life. Coben is smooth, up-tight, middle-class-closed and a chronicler of TV-style and feather-weight non-life.

Youth, Revisted. Yoof, Remixed.

Megan-Abbott-credit-Drew-Reilly-340x2501Megan Abbott has voice. She has a sharp, reckless, barbed and poetic voice, all at once, often on every page.

The voice – more accurately, the voices – are of Abbott’s protagonists and bystanders. Abbott teases, illuminates and weaves, perfectly, those inner thoughts and often half-spoken conversations that capture teen and pre-teen minds.

end-of-everyTwo of Abbott’s books – THE END OF EVERYTHING and DARE ME – tell stories, yes. But these are not “Field of Dreams” macho stories. These are not stories of men finding redemption, new purpose, forgiveness – all wrapped in a soft, honeyed end-piece.

It’s always been a jungle out there, no matter whether a right of passage is in a forest or a desert, no matter if the backdrop is an asphalt jungle or a school gym, nor if the date is 1812 or 2012. The battles still rage – armies of soldiers or neighbourhoods of cheerleaders – the result is the same.

But Abbott flips the lid open on girls, tweens, teenagers and young women in a breathless gallup, her first-person prose always believable, drawing pictures of characters both intelligent and incomplete.

daremeThe mysteries in the books – for both are who-dunnits – are gripping and yet Abbott paces the action and inaction with a deft hand. When the pace drops, we’re interested in seeing the young minds of the protagonists in their struggles to piece experiences together, even those well beyond their maturity level.

Enid Blyton wrote adventures, often with fantasy leanings, with happy endings. Megan Abbott writes thrillers. Hard-boiled, noir thrillers. Don’t let the gloss deceive you!

The Tropics – an infographic decides the future!

The results are in. After a year-long experiment in Europe, logging the temperatures wherever I’ve been, I need, require, demand a certain base temperature. It seems totally logical to me that I need 21 degrees C in the 21st Century.

Which means, probably, almost definitely, positively Brazil. Just look at the map. The west coast of South America has a chilly coastline, as does the eastern coast of Australia and all of New Zealand. I certainly don’t want to be in a desert in Africa, while Indonesia suffers from enormous monsoon rains and earthquakes and volcanoes.

annual mean temperature world map

Plus, and it’s a big plus, polical unrest in many of the countries in the tropics does not appeal, so that excludes Mexico, Africa, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, etc.

The magic combination of near the sea and an annual temperature that hovers between 20 and 30 degrees C  means Brazil is the ideal place. Plenty of mountains and forest to go exploring, and a huge dance/trance scene to keep my ears hopping (and even my feet).

Just a couple of slight problems, inevitably. Like learning the language, pronto! And defining, styling and purchasing an entire new wardrobe! Life’s little challenges …

BBC Junior Apprentice perpetuates anti-girl bias

In another shocking example of pro-male bias, the 4 girls versus 2 boys in the finishing stages of Junior Apprentice resulted in a blatant bias against the girls.

BBC Junior ApprenticeThe final was mind-boggling in its duplicity. The boys created a boring brand with a surefire FAIL in the finances. Even Lord Sugar said their financial model was seriously flawed. Their product was aimed at an overcrowed market with zero chance of marketing – therefore zero sales potential.

The girls created a clever brand with a great logo, aimed at a terrific potential market – teens. Lord Sugar was clearly out of touch and said he had doubts there was any market there. I guess he has never heard of  J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter, Hannah Montana, Glee or even Anita Roddick and Body Shop.

No wonder the commercial world is totally lopsided in favour of men. Even when there is a clear winner with girls, the ‘men’ will pick, literally, ‘one of the boys’.

It’s sad, it’s maddening, and it’s overwhelmingly true in most aspects of English culture.

A month is a long time in blogland

The past month has been taken up with reading advance info about the Apple iPad, changing and redecorating half the house while moving the home office around, reading all the reviews about the iPad when it was released, setting up new Windows laptop when the previous one died after just 2 years of light use, reading dozens of in-depth blog and website reviews and articles about the iPad, and then deciding to move house anyway!!

But there has been lots of other activity, including plans to attend the main annual science fiction convention in Australia in September, followed by a Metallica concert in New Zealand in October. Did I mention European iPad envy?

miley-cyrus-cant-be-tamed Meanwhile Miley Cyrus has grown up A LOT as her new song and video reveal – Can’t Be Tamed is a catchy track that features her strong voce with added huskiness. We love Miley and think she can do little wrong. She has enormous family support but also fabulous family understanding about the music business.

Miley’s 12 years in the entertainment business, undoubtedly with help and advice from her musician father and musician brother, has meant an attitude and musical maturity well beyond her years. Madonna worked out how to unwrap herself from narrow ‘pop’ constraints, as did Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. Sure looks like Miley’s achieved her ‘graduation’ in flying colours.

So we hope to catch a Miley concert sometime over the next year, perhaps in various travels.

[Disclaimer: this post was prepared in Live Writer and so is deliberately a raw test of a Windows laptop and Windows software.]

Review – Novaline feat. Lisa Rose – Run Away

Lisa Rose
Lisa Rose

The huge success of trance around the world is a great benefit for listeners, allowing us to tune in to tracks, mixes and podcasts from Holland, Brazil, Australia or Russia. And any club or event needs some driving beats to stir the dancefloor.

Judging by the two-track EP that introduces Novaline, those beats can now come from Sweden via Norway. The man behind the name is Mauricio Unzueta Gubernati from Stockholm, a young trance producer who received his big break courtesy of MySpace.

The Agenda Music boss Einar K heard Mauricio’s music and promptly added his talents to the Norwegian label. The Original Mix of Run Away grabs your ears from the start, straight into a romping beat that encourages feet, fingers and whole body movement. The first break down introduces the vocals of Lisa Rose, crystal clear and then uplifting as the instrumentation builds back up.

The trailblazers of global trance, like van Buuren, Tiesto, Above & Beyond to name just three, have crafted and polished their mixes over years. On the evidence of Run Away, both Mauricio and Lisa Rose have understood the masters and built a floor-filler of a track in their first collaboration.

Lisa Rose began singing when young and started with a vocal coach at age 11. The hard work that followed on many low-profile projects has paid off in the pitch-perfect performance she delivers on Run Away. Now 22, Lisa’s voice captures both ethereal and passionate in equal measures.

The Dub Mix includes soaring passages for both instrumental and vocal, the solid rhythm capable of slotting into any high-profile DJ’s set.

This EP could be on plenty of “Best of the Month” lists for three good reasons – a label that really understands the genre, a talented producer to watch and a vocal ability that could take songs to the top of the charts.

Gig List – DJ Victoria at Ministry of Sound or another trance venue

If ever there is a correctly named podcast it must be DJ Victoria Wood’s Weekly Essentials.

DJ Victoria WoodThe recent Episode 26 is a classic in so many ways. I will do no more than say anyone with an interest in trance, dance and progressive should rush to listen to DJ Victoria. Here is the background to the mashup mix:

A few people have been asking about some of my older mashups, so I decided to get them all together and put them in the mix for this weeks podcast. There are a few missing from this list however which got lost in a hard drive crash last year, so if anyone has one of mine that is not on this list, feel free send me a message.

I have also made these available to download individually from my wordpress page. There is an extra one there too as I had made a different one with the “To The Six” track which was played a couple of weeks ago.

Victoria’s Weekly Essentials Podcast is aired on the following stations:

DiscoverTrance Radio – Wednesdays 5pm-7pm EST | Midnight-2am UK

GrooveENERGY Radio – Tuesdays 2pm-4pm EST | 7pm-9pm UK

EMSRadio – 1pm-3pm Wednesdays UK | 9pm-11pm Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Beijing, Western Australia

http://vickywoodmusic.wordpress.com/

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