Sunday, 28 June 2015


Different approach this week. I've shared a blog on Chelmsford Writers' Group by the fantastic Dot Gumbi. Here's the link. And if you fancy a tweet or too go here.

Anyway, enough of my ramblings, this is what you should really be reading:

Greetings one and all, and apologies for having spent the last however-many-weeks living like a digital hermit. I could attempt to explain but it might take too long, so instead let’s get to the Quorn mince.
I’ve been tinkering with creative writing for over ten years now. I came out of university full of Blackadder-like pomposity, believing I was going to write the genre-bending, mind-melding, magnum opus of our times. I spent a long time chewing pencils and staring whimsically out of windows, writing the odd ‘oh so witty’ sentence and feeling smug about it.
The problem was, it was crap.
And not even passable crap at that. It was the sort of stuff that even a phalanx of plumbers with Mario mustaches would struggle to push through the literary U-bend. No, it was no good. I told myself that if I wanted to improve as a writer, aside from reading more books, I’d have to stare out of fewer windows and meet more people in the same boat as me – fellow writers – and see if they had any ideas I could steal…erm…I mean, skills I could acquire.
So, I went looking for some.
Thanks to the interweb, finding a creative writing group is relatively easy, there’s hundreds of them, up and down the country, meeting in pubs, in village halls,  in people’s houses, in libraries. Some set exercises, some let you read your own stuff. If you’re tinkering with writing and have never been to one of these meetings – I urge you to go. They are both fascinating and inspiring in equal measure. Nobody will expect you to read on your first visit, so you can sit back and listen with immunity. And I reckon you’ll be surprised by what you hear.
The first writing group meet up I ever went to was in Stratford, held in a cellar beneath a church. I was fairly nervous about going, knowing that people were going to judge each others work. What if they didn’t like me? It was an impossibility, obviously, as I was writing a tour-de-force about some stoners in Southend at the time. How could any right thinking person not see that as something that would resonate through the annals of history? As I took my seat I cast a gaze around the room. Twenty or so people, all very friendly, they said hellos and how do you do’s and all that. They were mostly aged 50+, which made me think my stoner story was going to be too edgy for them. It had swearing. Drug references. Even some bad sexual puns. I was worried if I read it to them, I’d cause offence. So I was caught quite by surprise when the meeting was opened by a woman reading from her gay roman hardcore sorcery slash fiction thriller with the line: “I pressed my throbbing member against his virgin arsehole.”
Yeah, how’s that for a first line to hear in a room full of strangers? I looked up expecting the rest of the group, particularly the pensioners, to be shocked. Instead they nodded sagely, with a few making notes on a piece of paper. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that if you’re thinking of going to a creative writing group, leave any assumptions you have at home.
I went to the pub with the group afterwards and found them to be comprised of a fantastic bunch of people. Some were serious/professional writers with book deals and others hobbyists who just liked stories and had no literary pretensions at all. Over the course of a year I heard amazing poems, bizarre Dali-esque sci-fi, war stories, young adult novels of quests and kings and many others. It was great, and everyone had comments and useful feedback about what was working and what was not.
I couldn’t stay living in Stratford forever (see my book The Pirates of Maryland Point for an idea of what the area was like) and moved out to the murky suburbs of Essex. I worried that being outside of London I would struggle to find a group with the same depth of talent.
For the last five years or so I’ve been a regular member of The Chelmsford Writers’ Groupand been left gobsmacked by the quality of the work people bring each month. There’s been ghost stories, post-apocalyptic fiction, superheroes, twists on Greek myths, alien invasions, hapless housewives, troublesome teenagers, reinterpretations of the nativity and even retro-gaming journalism. The collective enthusiasm and endless creativity of the group inspires me every time we meet and whether someone is a professional or amateur writer, everybody treats each other’s work seriously and with respect.  For me the support of the group has, more than once, been the thing that has reminded me that I love to write.
June has been a bit of a bumper month for the group. Several people have seen their books go into print and I’m pleased as punch for them. Have a nose and feel inspired.
Jerry’s been a member of the Chelmsford Writers’ Group since the late 1980s. He has written four novels and has another on the way. He writes mostly fantasy, some of it comical. Third Circle is aimed at the 10-14 age group, which means I should be twenty years too old for it, but that’s not going to stop me grabbing a copy this week. He’s been drip feeding the group chapters over the last year or so, leaving us on cliffhangers each month, in fact it’s taken everything not to slap him and steal his laptop and read the ending. Thankfully I don’t have to do that now. I can read the whole thing in comfort.
Here’s the blurb…
A spirit of immense power is seeking to destroy our world. Our last defence lies in the weathered stone circles of Cornwall, but their resilience is failing as they crumble away. Karin and Denzil draw on the strength of their ancient blood to shore up the defences. Denzil is possessed by the spirit, and must fight against his sister as she strives to hold the weakest point – the Third Circle.

Maggie is a long-standing member of the group and when not penning her own stuff, she’s encouraging others by teaching creative writing. She writes widely, for adults and children, poems, short stories, and novels. The Clock-Mender is her third novel.
According to Maggie, The Clock-Mender is:
…a tale of love, crime and bloodshed in a small rural community in Sweden between the 30s and 50s. A clock-mender’s partner has a light-hearted affair with his best friend. But terrible consequences ensue.
And…it’s free this week on Amazon…so get downloading. A few moments ago it was as high as #496 in the Amazon Kindle chart.

Molly types at 3,000 words per minute. I haven’t seen it with my own eyes, but judging by the number of books she’s written (and the number of times she’s taken on NaNoWriMoand won) I doubt she knows how to type any slower. Quantity doesn’t come at a cost to quality either. Molly is a natural storyteller with an easy flowing style and she was recently shortlisted for the Wicked Young Writers’ Award.
Here’s the blurb for her novel ZA:
The Zombie Armageddon . . . yeah I know.
How unlikely is it, right?
“There are no such things as zombies.”
I’ve heard it all before, but I’ll never hear it again.
There are a few simple rules: Get supplies. Stay hidden. If they come, run. Fast.
After all, this wasn’t a video game and we only had one life each.

There you go, folks. Creative writing groups – bursting with talent and ideas. Here’s some useful links if you’re looking to join one:
Search engine for finding writing groups and book groups –

 First Blogged Here:

Sunday, 21 June 2015

She Is Not Invisible - Marcus Sedgwick



Is it coincidence or something more sinister that draws them together? Many strange things collide in Laureth Peak's life one hot August weekend. Perhaps the strangest of all is the way her dad had been acting lately. And now he's disappeared. It looks as if his obsession with coincidence might have fatal consequences.

As Laureth sets off for New York with her strange younger brother, Benjamin, she has little faith in herself. But she has a burning determination to find her missing father. She has just one clue to follow; his notebook. Does it contain salvation, or madness?

My Review

Now I'm not fond of the blurb. In fact, I wasn't going to pick this book up at all because of it. The reason I did is down to my partner - who doesn't read. He said it sounded good and that intrigued me because I couldn't see it. So here I am with the book on my shelf. And let me tell you, I'm glad he made me reconsider.

'She Is Not Invisible' was a great, easy read. So easy in fact, I struggled to put it down. I read the whole thing - all 354 pages of it - in just one day. It might have been the mystery or the tone and rhythm of the narration, I don't know, but I just fell into it.

I loved Laureth's narration so I was on to a winner. The narrative jumped around in a natural chatty way that was surprisingly easy to follow. I also found Laureth realistic and relatable. By the end, I really wanted to be her friend - which happens to me a lot. However, Laureth's brother, Benjamin, took longer for me to warm up to. Perhaps that was because I felt he was too babyish for seven sometimes. But as the book went on and I got to know the character better, I realised why Sedgwick had written him that way and I took my snap judgement back.

Laureth's father is a writer and every time she mentioned him or his work or his process, I just ate it up. I love to hear about authors in books and that'll always be the case. It always has been."Maybe writers are just a bit bonkers anyway." How can you not love that?

What really blew me away though was how it all came together. The last few paragraphs particularly, made me insanely happy. I won't be able to explain it, but if you read the book, you'll know just what I'm talking about.

Let me leave you with this. 'She Is Not Invisible' is an incredibly clever book that gets cleverer and cleverer as you read it. I will most definitely remember this book for a long time.


Overall 9/10

Would I recommend it? Yes! It is too clever to miss and so easy to pick up.

Would I look up the author? Yes. I'd like to see what other 'diamonds and pearls' Sedgwick has written.

'She Is Not Invisible' is an insanely clever book I enjoyed every moment of.

Molly Looby
Author / Ghostwriter / Editor / Blogger / Reviewer / Wrimo / Movellian / ZA Ready

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro


Kathy, Ruth and Tommy grew up together at Hailsham, a seemingly idyllic school deep in the English countryside with a dreadful secret at its heart. Now thirty-one, Kathy attempts to come to terms with her childhood at Hailsham and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the wider world.

My Review

All the excellent reviews of 'Never Let Me Go' along with the prizes it's won, made me wary. But I understand where all the prizes and reviews came from. It's a beautiful book.

However, I did have my problems with it. After reading the first chapter, I had to force myself to pick the book up again. This continued to happen until I was about 100 pages in and I'm going to be honest, I almost put it down. Though I can't criticise Ishiguro on why I wasn't gripped because I couldn't find much wrong with the entire book. I suppose maybe it just wasn't for me.

Perhaps one of the reasons I found it so hard to get into was because of Kath's narration. It jumped all over the place - though if you were telling the story out loud that's how you'd tell it. Saying that though, I liked how she was unreliable and it made me wonder how much our memories change and warp over time.

Once the strange mystery was set up and I began asking questions, I was much more interested and into it, reading more than I set out to each time I picked it up. I loved how everything was downplayed and no huge drama. It's just little bits of life here and there that have a way of really touching you. This is refreshing for someone who reads a lot of high drama in YA books set in another world.

Although I can't decide whether or not I enjoyed it, I have a feeling 'Never Let Me Go' will stay with me because it left me empty and sad and thoughtful.


Overall 8/10

Would I recommend it? No. Probably not.

Would I look up the author? No. I know all of Ishiguro's books are supposed to be good but I wasn't gripped enough.

'Never Let Me Go' was beautiful and thoughtful but a struggle to get into.

Molly Looby
Author / Ghostwriter / Editor / Blogger / Reviewer / Wrimo / Movellian / ZA Ready

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Teardrop - Lauren Kate

A Spoiler Free Bit About The Book

I'm not sure I'm qualified enough to tell you about a book I read 40 pages of. (Plus my copy doesn't have a blurb so . . . )

My Review

I didn't like this book. That's being kind. But I'll start at the beginning.

I was already wary when I picked up Teardrop (which was given to me) because I wasn't a fan of Fallen, Kate's most famous book. I was afraid Teardrop was going to have all the problems Fallen had.

And I was right.

The only positive thing I have to say about Teardrop is that I liked the prologue which is bizarre for me because I usually hate prologues. Prologues are - the vast majority of the time - a waste of paper. The story should start and we can learn information later, at least, that's my take on them. This was still true of the Teardrop prologue but it had me hooked and turning pages. Until I met Eurkea.

Before I move on to that, I have a question about YAs and therapists. Why do the protagonists always hate their therapists? I get that some people do but some people also like them because they're good people and they're trying to help. Eureka might not be that person but surely someone writing YA can have a helpful therapist for once?

Anyway . . . chapter one seemed to drag on and on and it had nothing to interest me with. Also, I found certain bits of description and thoughts stupid. This can be said of Eureka who I hated almost instantly. Of course she's been through a lot (that's a trend in YA) but she could be less of a brat. I didn't like her attitude. I didn't like her self-destructiveness. I didn't like her name. She seemed like a walking stereotype to me.

In fact, I was so displeased with chapter one, I gave Kate one more chapter to redeem herself before I put Teardrop down forever. I'm not wasting my time with skimming books any more. I'm going to start putting them down.

Needless to say, I put it down. This is the end of me reading bad books all the way to the end because I feel like I 'have to'. Never again!

Teardrop lives in its very own list at the bottom right: DID NOT FINISH


Overall 1/10 - has to be

Would I recommend it? No. How can I when I could barely stomach 40 pages?

Would I look up the author? No. I've now picked up two Kate books I've disliked. I will not be picking up any more.

I couldn't even reach the end of Teardrop and I don't know how anyone could.

Molly Looby
Author / Ghostwriter / Editor / Blogger / Reviewer / Wrimo / Movellian / ZA Ready

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Midnight Alley - Morganville Vampires #3 - Rachel Caine

Before you go any further please know that this is book three in a series so there may be book one (Glass Houses) and two (The Dead Girls' Dance) spoilers ahead.

A Bit of the Blurb

Now Claire has pledged herself to Amelie, the most powerful vampire in town. The protection her contract secures does little to reassure her friends. All of a sudden people are turning up dead, a stalker resurfaces from Claire's past, and an ancient bloodsucker extends a chilling invitation for private lessons in his secluded home.

My Review

I knew that overall I would enjoy reading this book because I enjoyed books one and two back in 2012 when I read them on the recommendation of my A'level English teacher - of all people. I was thrown into Midnight Alley a little rusty but it didn't take long to remember what was going on. The characters are so lively that I recognised them all and Caine was kind enough to only remind me of the most important plot points which I was glad for. I hate it when books give a detailed summary of the previous one, it gets on my nerves.

I went in knowing - as I always do with the Morganville books - that it wasn't going to be by any means a 'literary' piece. Caine isn't trying to make a point or wow you with ideas, she's just out to entertain you. And she's pretty damn good at that. One of the reasons I like these books so much is that they're so easy to read. At times I felt guilty for not picking up something that makes me look a little more intelligent but hey, you like what you like. Caine's taught me to enjoy whatever it is I like to read. It's not a big secret that vampire fiction is a guilty pleasure of mine and these books do a good job of quenching my thirst.

Another reason I love the Morganville books is that I've invested quite a lot into these characters at this point and I want to find out where they end up. Not to mention they're all different and relatable in bizarre ways. Their personality traits are louder in this universe than in real life so sometimes it felt a little caricature but that just made me smile. I'm sure Caine knew exactly what she was doing.

I've blabbed on enough about why I love these books but now I should take a moment to explain they're not perfect. Far from it. First of all, there was a lot of unnecessary description of people's clothes and actions for my liking. I don't care that so-and-so picked this up before sitting on this very specific part of the sofa. It felt as though Caine was trying to get as much out of her chapters as possible. I think I was correct in saying that because the weird unnecessary description disappeared as the plot fired up.

Adverbs! Yes, I know, I know, I won't go on. But seriously(!)? There were a lot more than I expected but I suppose I'm much better at spotting them now. These irritating words didn't annoy me back in 2012 and I'm sure books one and two are riddled with them also. 

But the most painful thing about Midnight Alley was one huge mistake I found. Caine wrote 'Michael' when she meant 'Shane' in a super important scene and confused the hell out of me! I love these books but that's pretty unforgivable. How many people did that mistake go through before confusing me? I just couldn't believe it hadn't been spotted.

Overall though, Midnight Alley was a delight to read. I laughed out loud more than I usually do because the tone and narration are just spot on. The Morganville Vampire books will remain a guilty pleasure for a long time yet.


Overall 7/10

Would I recommend it? Yes. I thoroughly enjoy the Morganville Vampire books when I pick them up.

Would I look up the author? No. This one series is enough for me.

Midnight Alley was just as I expected. A familiar, entertaining read.

Molly Looby
Author / Ghostwriter / Editor / Blogger / Reviewer / Wrimo / Movellian / ZA Ready