Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Killables - Gemma Malley

Before we begin, this is first of my book reviews.  I will write a review every time I finish a book.  If you want to see what I’m reading right now or any book I’ve already read this year, please look to the right-hand side of the screen where there is a book list.  There are however, no other book reviews, as this is the first.  I’d also like to just mention that every time I use an example I have found them in the novel – in this case ‘The Killables’ by Gemma Malley.

A Spoiler Free Bit About the Book

This morning I finished Gemma Malley’s ‘The Killables’, a teenage fiction novel set in dystopian London which is called the City which is run by the Brother.  In the City evil has been eradicated by the removal of the amygdala – the part of the brain the people of the City believe evil lives – in a procedure called the New Baptism.  Everyone has a label from A to D which indicates your ‘goodness’ level, I suppose.  ‘A’ being that there is no evil in you whatsoever and ‘D’ being ‘deviant’ or one to watch.  The D’s are despised by others in their community and suspected of evil.  If worse comes to worse and the System believes your amygdala is growing back and you have the capacity for evil you are labelled a ‘K’.  The K’s are sent off to be reconditioned and have a second New Baptism.  But the K’s are never seen again.

The novel follows a teenager called Evie.  I believe she’s sixteen or seventeen.  She works for the System changing people’s labels.  Evie believes that she may have the capacity for evil as the world she lives in has made her anxious and timid (or that’s how I read into it).  Evie worries that she isn’t like everyone else (as we all do at some point in our lives).

My Review

I must say, I struggled throughout ‘The Killables’ to connect with Evie, the protagonist, but also most of the main characters.  I sympathised with them at points but it wasn’t enough and I at last began to like Evie at the very end of the novel.  I was tempted many times to put it down and not finish it because I’m a character girl.  I like character driven novels vs plot driven novels and I felt this was a plot driven novel. 

What kept me hanging on was the plot itself.  I loved the whole concept.  I’ve read many dystopian novels (I love them) but I loved that this one was different, which isn’t that easy to find.  So I stuck around for the plot, the characters annoying me all the way, which I found very odd.  I’m not saying the character development was bad or that they were unrealistic, not at all.  I just couldn’t identify with them and in their situation would’ve made very different decisions.  Sometimes characters’ decision making drives me crazy (if you’ve ever read the ‘Hush, Hush’ trilogy or ‘The Immortals Series’ you’ll know what I mean).  The Killables’ made me feel like this at times.

Another issue I had was Gemma Malley’s writing style.  Again, I’m not saying it’s bad and that she’s a bad author because she isn’t by any standards.  It just wasn’t my cup of tea.  It was more like she’d offered me black coffee with sugar and I’d drank it to the bottom when I really wanted white tea without sugar. 

First of all, it’s written in the third person (for those of you unaware, the third person is saying: “Evie’s heart thudded”, almost like there is an omnipotent narrator telling the story whereas the first person is saying: “My heart thudded”, where the protagonist is telling the story themselves).  Third person makes me feel distant.  It’s just a personal feeling and a taste and I think it’s why I had a hard time connecting with Evie – because I felt we really were living in different worlds whereas when I read first person I feel like I’m there with them.  Before you get any ideas, I’m not saying I hate the third person – may I remind you that Harry Potter is written in the third person.  I’d just always pick the first person if given a choice.  I guess having written in nothing but the first person for four years can’t have helped either.

What really irritated me, like a fly buzzing around your ear but you just can’t catch it, was Malley’s incessant use of adverbs.  If you haven’t read my previous posts you won’t know about my hatred for adverbs (which are words describing a verb such as “she reddened awkwardly”, awkwardly being the adverb).  I can’t stand them at all, but in my mind to use them in a novel is a writing sin.  Malley either doesn’t know this or disagrees because ‘The Killables’ is just littered with adverbs.  In more than one instance I found that double adverbs had been used.  Two next to each other!  Like using one wasn’t bad enough.  I tried to look for an example but the book’s 370 pages long so no luck.  Instead I found an example of what I mean when I scream about my adverb loathing.  “He stared at Linus uncomprehendingly”.  There must have been a better word for Malley to use.  “Uncomprehendingly” almost sounds like a made up word.  Another example I found was “Evie said loudly”.  Is it just me, or would “Evie said, raising her voice” sound better?  Or even “Evie yelled”, “Evie shouted” or “Evie called”.  The word “loudly” adds nothing you can’t get through other and much better words.  Adverbs, throughout the novel, take away from the connection to the characters and add to the readers’ distance felt between them and also slow down the plot.  Adverb rant over, I promise.


Plot Idea – 9/10 – I loved the plot itself and the idea of the City and the problems that came with it.

Way Plot was Pursued – 6/10 – at various points I found the storytelling just a little too odd for my liking.  Also, I thought there was too much detail at the very beginning which made it seem slow to start.

Characters – 2/10 – I understood them but I didn’t like them or care about them.  I wouldn’t want to follow them to the end of the novel.

Style – 1/10 – adverbs, adverbs, adverbs, plus third person distance.

Pace – 8/10 – for the second half of the novel I thought the pace was perfect.  However at the beginning the plot was slow, it didn’t last too long, but I still had to endure it.

Would I recommend it?  - I would if I believed you would enjoy this type of story and if you’re not all hung up on adverbs like me.  So yes.

Would I look up the author?  - I know she’s written other novels that have received lots of praise, but I would not.  This is just because she doesn’t write in my preferred style.  No.

All in all, ‘The Killables’ wasn’t a bad novel; it was even a good novel in places.  It was a novel I had my problems with and that’s that.

If you’ve read ‘The Killables’ I’d love to know what you thought.  I’m always available for book chatter.

Molly Looby

Author/ Editor / Ghost Writer / Writing Coach

Got something to say, want me to do some freelance work or perhaps to tell me something I might not know about writing (go on, test me!)?  Email me on

Sunday, 23 June 2013

#My1stStory - The Review

So those of you who read my last post (to see it, just scroll down) will know that NaNoWriMo wanted to hear the story of your first story all in the name of spreading the joy of my favourite event of the year - NaNoWriMo of course.

The day after they asked for this they also asked for a review of the first story.  Although I'm a few days late, I thought it'd be fun.  Also, I looked up my notes on this story so I could do this thing just right.  Oh the laughs I had with a PowerPoint full of notes.  I cringed as I read the plot points, in real life, not just in my head.  There was a physical cringe moment.  I knew it was bad but . . . this was something else.

I'll put my reviewer hat on and see what happens.  I'll try not to be the author as I write this.  Here it goes . . . oh and by the way the book had a title (and can you believe it was going to be a trilogy!) which was 'Phoenix Feathers'.

'Phoenix Feathers', for an amateur piece of writing, was very ambitious, it's only a shame that the ambition never turned into action, or indeed plot.  The very basic plot line that was in place - in parts - didn't really seem to be going anywhere.  Myself and the characters were just wandering around looking at the buildings and the trees and the people and so on, but nothing was happening.

The characters' dialogue seemed to mirror this.  Although most of the time the characters' speech was attempting to lead us down a path of plot, we often got lost along the way.  I felt as though just as something was going to happen and the story would be off to some strange new place, the characters stopped speaking short of the point and left me disappointed as I'd have to read more dragging description.

While we're on the subject of characters, those in 'Phoenix Feathers' were one-dimensional, fond of being over emotional and often tiring and uninteresting.  Taking off the reviewer's hat for a second, I remembered while reading my notes and looking to see that I'd given each of the characters birthdays, that I'd crafted their personality on their star sign.  My god, what an evil thing for me to do!  No wonder the characters were one-dimensional!

Putting the hat back on and adjusting my hair now as we get to the more technical bits.  'Phoenix Feathers' is written in the third person and is the only time I've attempted to write a novel in this way.  I'm a first person girl through and through.  I like to write books in it and read books in it, that's just my preference.  So I have no idea why I went for the third person, none at all.  But because of this there's no emotional connection between the reader and the main character - Melody.  We don't care about her, not a single morsel.  And I'm not criticising using the third person, I'm criticising my terrible use of it.

Adverbs.  Yes I'm sorry.  I have to talk to you about adverbs now.  (adverbs being words ending in 'ly'.  Words that describe a verb (a doing word).  Here's an example: 'creeping silently'.  'Silently' being the criminal adverb here.)  The rule is for those unaware, that adverbs ruin your life!  My example is if you're saying someone said something sarcastically, shouldn't the reader, from the dialogue, already know the character is being sarcastic?  And also from my bracketed example at the beginning of this paragraph, the word 'creeping' tells you all you need to know, 'silently' doesn't add anything at all.  It did take me a year or so to accept this and god did I like to use my adverbs before this.  Now I can't stand them in any piece of writing whatsoever.  It makes it less powerful.  Adverbs take away and add nothing.  Please, for my peace of mind, no one use them ever again.

As 'Phoenix Feathers' was written in a time before I had my adverb epiphany, I'll allow a few of them, I'll read over them.  You know, shudder and move on.  For example: definitely and suddenly I suppose I can stomach.  But not only those ones were used, oh no.  Sinful adverbs were thrown across the scrap of a novel.  Such as: tunefully and cautiously.  In total thirteen different adverbs were used - some more than once - across what is less than 2,000 words long.  I hide my head in my hands and weep at this, but you live and learn.

I also found it very strange that random capital letters were used in dialogue, such as: "My Face." and "They're Violet!"  I will point out these are sentence on their own (believe it or not, it's much more fun to leave out the context) but even so, there is no need for all the capitals.  And I only noticed it this time of reading through.

The title doesn't escape unscathed.  Having read the little that was written and all the background and later plot points, I can tell you that there is nothing to do with a feather or any feathers of any kind.  For the life of me I can't remember why that title.  I guess I thought it was cool or something.

As I've already mentioned, 'Phoenix Feathers' was only 1,800ish words long and so was nowhere near finished.  It was a chapter.  One chapter.  Containing only two of the characters.  So I suppose the biggest criticism I have is that it was never finished.  If I'd carried on even one more chapter I would've learnt so much more.  But I must admit, I'm unsurprised I stopped because I caught on rather quick that 'Phoenix Feathers' was going nowhere fast, or anywhere at all in this case.

Even I have to admit, although it's been fun ripping it to pieces, 'Phoenix Feathers' wasn't all bad.  On the bright side there were some phrases in there I was fond of when I wrote them and remain fond of to this day and make me smile.  Such as "Melody stood there in the most familiar room, with the most familiar person, and yet, she felt lost." and "you never appreciate the colours of the world until you play Eye Spy."

I mustn't just criticise 'Phoenix Feathers' though as, like I said in my previous blog post, I did learn a lot from it and it was one of the many experiences that led me to write again, to keep trying.  This experience taught me that although it didn't come out right and I didn't really know the technique and I needed to put in a lot of hours, I could write.  I could because I'd already done it.  It was bad, of course it was, but it was real.  I had made a story in my head all of my own.  And wow.  How amazing is that?

Molly Looby
Author / Editor / Ghost Writer / Writing Coach

Got something to say, want me to do some freelance work or perhaps to tell me something I might not know about writing (go on, test me!)?  Email me on

Thursday, 20 June 2013


Well, NaNoWriMo says, Molly does.

Today the Wrimos have been asked to share the story of their first story.  Specifically the one that first sparked your imagination.  Now thinking about it, that story never got written.  I immediately assumed it would be the first thing I wrote, but it isn't.

The first story that I ever thought up is a bit incoherent now that I think about it.  It was about people who could turn into phoenixes if they were killed by fire but had unfinished business or something or other.  Their arch enemies were the ice dragons, essentially the same thing but with ice.  These people could turn into phoenixes at will and perks came with this.

Now, I don't really remember what was supposed to happen in this story but I do remember Melody.  Melody - bless her - was my first created character who was all my own.  If you put her in a line up with the main characters from my finished novels - Ali-Rose (Mattie), Felix (The Immorality of Immortality Trilogy), Zane (ZA) and Leanne (I Dare You) - she would look like some sort of genetic experiment.  By that I mean she was never fully formed.  She existed in my head but I never put enough meat on the bones and I knew very little about her.  This was the main issue I had with writing the thing - of which only chapter one ever made it onto paper - there was no character development or interest in the characters at all.  And that was coming from me - the author.  If I wasn't interested why would anyone else be?

Even though the whole experience really didn't lead anywhere it was a lot of fun and it did influence me later to try again.

That's one of the main reasons the book I first wrote and finished - Mattie - was a fanfic, because I knew I had trouble with character development from the above experience.  So in Mattie you have all your familiar Twilight characters, you know the Cullens and Jacob essentially, but also Ali-Rose, my character.  To help me along - I couldn't create her from scratch at this point - I used a lot of my own personality characteristics to help shape her and pull the story forward.

By the time Mattie was complete I felt confident enough to create my own characters and I guess I went a little overboard because still to this day does Playing with Reality (Book One of The Immorality of Immortality Trilogy) have the most characters in it.  It really is like my own little world.

Basically what I'm trying to say is, I'm glad my writing used to suck, because you learn more from your mistakes than you ever could do from your successes.

So there you are NaNoWriMo - your wish seems to be my command.

Molly Looby
Author / Editor / Ghost Writer / Writing Coach

Read Mattie here:

Buy Playing with Reality here:Paperback-  Kindle-

Or visit The Immorality of Immortality website:

Contact me on:

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

My Words and My World

So, before we begin, a little about me I think.

So I've mentioned before that I'm an author.  I've been writing books for the past four years (since I was fourteen-years-old) and am on book number seven as we speak.

The first book I wrote is called 'Mattie' and is a novel length Twilight fanfic set twelve years after Breaking Dawn from the point of view of a new character, Ali-Rose.  I wrote it out of boredom but fell in love with the idea of writing stories forever, which is exactly what I'm going to do.
Here is a link to 'Mattie' if you ever fancy reading it:

So then from that I wrote a trilogy on vampires.  My vampires this time.  It was an exploration into what would happen if an average fifteen-year-old girl was turned into a vampire.  I never expected it to take up the next three and a half years of my life!  Although I did love every minute and every sentence. 

I decided to self-publish because the teenage vampire story market was pretty much full in traditional publishing, but even so, I wanted my turn.  I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy my story and not just me.
Including you guys!  The trilogy is 'The Immorality of Immortality Trilogy' and here is the website:

Book One is called 'Playing with Reality' and is available in paperback and on kindle:



Book Two is called 'Gambling a Fairytale' and is available in paperback and on kindle:



Book Three is called 'Chancing the Truth' and is written and awaiting my love and care before it meets its adoring public.

For the past two years I've also taken part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which for those of you who don't know is a challenge you set yourself in November: to write a novel.  Yes, just in November.  50,000 words in 30 days.  It's the most amazing writing experience out there, I'm sure.

Both years I reached the 50,000 words before midnight on the 30th of November, which makes me feel superhuman.  In 2011 I wrote 'ZA' (which stands for Zombie Armageddon) which is about, yes, you guessed it, the Zombie Armageddon.

Last year I wrote a dystopian novel titled 'I Dare You'.  In short, it's about Havengore, a city surrounded by huge boundary walls but no one knows why.  I'm sitting here struggling to describe it in a way that won't give everything away, so here's the blurb I wrote for the Movellas website (the first three chapters can be found there):

Havengore was the beginning and the end of the entire universe.  Yeah, like I could believe that.
Havengore is my world surrounded by a single boundary wall.  It's been there for generations, but don't ask us why, no one seems to know.  There must be something out there though right?  There must be a reason for it, I mean, it wouldn't just be there . . . would it?
Why?  That was what I wanted to know.  Just that:  why?  You’d think I’d be granted that.  It was the only question in the universe I needed to be answered, but no.  No one knew.  That was the extent of it.
What was out there?  Was there anything but nothingness?  What were we being protected from?  I’d sat up here for enough hours of my life to know that there was nothing as far as the eye could see.  So were we keeping something out?  Or were we being kept in?  Those were the questions of my life.  I pondered them here from atop the wall so often it was almost becoming routine.  But the most important was always: why? 

So there you go.  And speaking of Movellas, here's the first three chapter of 'I Dare You', my best novel to date (in my opinion).

Right now, right this very minute, I'm in the middle of chapter three of my latest novel - novel number seven.  So far it's untitled but that's no surprise.  Titles are so difficult for me so I don't panic about them until I'm done.

So there you go, in as short as I could make it, that's me.  Not very personal, I know.  I'll leave that for another day.

Molly Looby
Writer / Editor / Ghost Writer / Writing Coach
Contact me on

Just the Beginning

So, I've had blogs in the past.  And how have they gone, I hear you ask.  Well, not well.  Okay, so why another attempt?  I want to do it right this time.  Also, I want to blog about what I love.

Writing and books!

Yes, another one of these.

I will try and blog at least once a week on my writing progress, oh I haven't mentioned I'm an author yet have I?  Also on books I've read, cool bookshops I've found, writing tips or advice I've received, the writing club I attend once a month and of course, when the time comes, the phenomenal NaNoWriMo.

So there we go.

I hope you enjoy reading it and perhaps learn something.