Come and see the violence inherent in the system

1 Apr
Halo 4 hero Master Chief

Master Chief, the main character of the Halo games (except Reach)

Yes, that’s a Monty Python and the Holy Grail quote. If you recognised it you can pat yourself on the back.

The system I’m actually talking about is my Xbox 360, so not exactly Albion, but I was going for a sort of sideways connection because of the violence.

I’ve been playing a fair bit of Halo 4 in the last week or so, because when you’re feeling stressed and frustrated there are few things quite as cathartic as mercilessly slaying your fellow Spartans in multiplayer mode.

I don’t play a lot of video games, largely because I can’t afford to buy them, but Halo has been one of my favourites for about six years now. My friends and I have spent many a happy hour killing each other, other people, and various Covenant and Promethean forces.

If you don’t know much about Halo, it’s a first-person shooter (where you play as one person, and, well, shoot people) set in the future, and you usually play as a Spartan, who are like super soldiers in funky armour. To be honest, I haven’t played much of Halo 1-3, although I do own Reach, which is a prequel of sorts.

The storyline is pretty easy to pick up, and the controls are now instinctive to me. It is extremely entertaining to play on easy with a parent. I shall provide a snippet of conversation typical of playing with my mother:

“Where are you?! I can’t see you!”
“I’m over here. See? I’m bouncing up and down.”
“All I can see is grass.”
“Okay, you’re looking at the floor. Move the little joystick under your right thumb up. No, your right thumb. The other right. Oops, too far, that’s the sky. Bring it back down. Theeere you are. Now follow me.”
“I can’t see you again.”
“That’s because you’re running into a wall. You need to turn around. No, you just turned all the way round and now you’re facing the wall again. Oops, here’s some bad guys. I’ll kill them all while you try and face the right way.”

One of my friends has had much the same experience playing Halo with her dad, so from this massive sample of two I conclude it to be universal. That’s SCIENCE, y’all.

Waiting for Multiplayer Matchmaking to happen takes some time, so I’ve been able to get some reading in too.

Currently reading

For the Win by Cory Doctorow
“Organizing is a kind of tax on human activity. For every minute you spend doing stuff, you have to spend a few seconds making sure that you’re not getting ahead or behind or to one side of the other people you’re doing stuff with.”

A Dance with Dragons I: Dreams and Dust by George R R Martin

Terrier by Tamora Pierce

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie

Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal by J K Rowling (This is the Chamber of Secrets in Spanish – it creates moments of marvelous misunderstanding such as when I thought it was saying Vernon Dursley was an immense bigot but actually it was just saying he had a huge moustache)

Completed since 12/3/2014

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

Persuasion by Jane Austen

“‘I could bring you fifty quotations in a moment on my side the argument, and I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman’s inconsistancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman’s fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men.’

‘Perhaps I shall. – Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. education has been theirs in so much high a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove any thing.’”

Captain Harville and Anne Elliot in Persuasion. This was published in 1817, people. Still so relevant, and relevant across less privileged groups such as disabled people and different races as well.

An endless round of interviews

27 Mar

When last we met (it totally counts as meeting if I write and some of you read and one of you comments, right?), I was geared up for an interview in Salisbury. That went well – I got through to a second stage, which meant I had to compile an email communication – and I’m still waiting to hear back. Meanwhile, I have another interview lined up, this time in Southampton. I keep getting interviewed, so I guess my CV is well written. I’m a CV badass!

(If you’re American, a CV is a resumé, FYI)

Meanwhile, I had my first appointment with my Prince’s Trust mentor on Monday, so the process of organising my business plan begins. Ooh-er.

First of all I need to organise a portfolio of my work so far. That means I need to find my work so far. I also need to purchase my domain name and build my website.

I worry, though, about conflict between my forthcoming business and any jobs I may get. What if they won’t let me freelance? The Prince’s Trust won’t approve the business without proof that you’ve run it for a little bit.

So, anyway, it’s all go in Pipland.

Settlers of Catan - image from the Settlers of Catan website

Settlers of Catan – “I’ve got wood for your sheep”

Sunday saw holiday planning with my friends and also a bit of a marathon gaming session. We played Ticket to Ride (congratulations, you now have that song stuck in your head), which I lost after dramatically failing to…well…win. This game showcased a very poor level of knowledge of North American geography among well educated British people in their late twenties. (“New Orleans, where are you? Oh. I was looking in the North.” etc.)

We played Settlers of Catan twice, but I can’t remember who won because it wasn’t me. I think my friend John won. I lost. Both times.

This losing streak has got to stop, people!

Settlers of Catan is an excellent game, with elements of chance and skill and the opportunity to say “So, are you saying you’ve got wood for my sheep?” and also lots of saying:

“What do you want? Wheat?”
“Two wheat”
“To woo”

Because we all like to sound like owls when we trade for resources.

I haven’t managed to do much reading over the past week, always disappointing. Here are the scores at the moment:

Currently reading

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

A Dance with Dragons I: Dreams and Dust by George R R Martin

Terrier by Tamora Pierce

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

By the Pricking of My Thumbs  by Agatha Christie

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Completed since 12/3/2014

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

So basically I started a load more books instead of finishing the ones I was already on. Way to go, me! I’m taking a slow day today because I sometimes underperform in Friday afternoon interviews due to tiredness, so maybe some reading progress will be made!

(I acknowledge that this blog post is all over the place)

Novel Progress: 39012 words

Ticking along

19 Mar

I have a job interview tomorrow – this will be my ninth or tenth since I was made redundant back in November. I interview well, so my odds should be pretty good, right?

Only I’ve interviewed well every single time, and still nothing. If I don’t get this one, next week I’ll start searching for a stopgap job to tide me over until I either get a job in marketing or am ready to launch my own business. Back to retail, yay!

In the meantime, I continue to tick along, searching for work and working on  my novel (although I haven’t written anything since I started blogging again). I’m finding more time to read since I started writing about reading. This is good, as I’ve definitely gotten slack in my levels of reading actual books, instead getting through vast amounts of fanfiction (usually Castle and The Mentalist). I’m going to start working my way through the classics I haven’t read, with help from my local library.

So, to round out this post about nothing, here’s my book progress:

Currently reading

For the Win by Cory Doctorow
On translation from Chinese to English: The intonation. He was always getting it wrong. He’d say, “I’ll go aggro those demons and you buff the cleric,” and it would come out, “I am a bowl of noodles, I have beautiful eyelashes.” But he was getting better.’

A Dance with Dragons I: Dreams and Dust by George R R Martin

Terrier by Tamora Pierce

Completed since 12/3/2014

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

A Risky Situation

14 Mar

So this afternoon my friend John came round to play. I acknowledge this makes me sound like an eight year old, but that’s what happened! This was booked about a week in advance and was much anticipated (by me, not sure about John).

We got snacks, and then sat and played Spartan Ops on Halo IV for about an hour and a half. This involved a lot of swearing (although not quite as much as usual for either of us), a lot of dying, and I lot of me saying ‘Heh, killed HIS ass’ which is sort of a misquote from one of the Southern Vampire Mysteries books.

Halo’s one of my favourite games, although as with all video games, my performance is patchy. Very patchy. I win matchmaking games (where I’m playing against people I don’t know) sometimes, and then another day I’ll lose so thoroughly that some twelve year old kid will send me a kindly message saying “Get the fuck off Xbox and never come back” which is, y’know, flattering. Twelve year old gamers are Lovely, y’all.

Star Wars Risk: Clone Wars Edition

Star Wars Risk: Clone Wars Edition

After a period of Spartan Ops, where we played together, we were now ready for something a bit competitive, so we broke out the Star Wars Risk (hence the post title – see what I did there?). I ended up playing as the Republic, while John took control of the Separatist armies.

We set out slowly, each taking one or two territories from each other per turn, and then I slowly started to make inroads into his territories. I built ships and used them to capture vast sections of the galaxy from the Separatist Scum, while trying to ignore the steady progress of Darth Sidius up the Order 66 trail.

When it seemed like three quarters of the galaxy was mine, disaster struck – Darth Sidius reached the top of the trail, and John declared Order 66. Sidius came out of the closet of evil, and announced that the Jedi had betrayed the Republic. What followed was a massacre. John rolled an eight sided die for each of my territories, and if he rolled two or higher, he got the territory and the troops on it.

I ended up with two territories. Down from about 25.

Nonetheless, my two territories, side by side in the Colonies, fought back. Dathomir and…somewhere else…managed to retrieve three more territories before being attacked by a massive onslaught of Imperial forces. After all, all it takes for evil to conquer is for good women to roll snake eyes.

All in all, it was a great afternoon, even if I did lose catastrophically.

All three of my books are still ongoing, plus one more. I’m going to add in random quotes I picked out, because I like quotes. Ask my friends. They’ll be all ‘archaic form of Big Brother!’ and then you’ll know.

Ongoing Books:

A Dance With Dragons: Part I by George R. R. Martin

Snuff by Terry Pratchett
“He heard the voice of Feeney saying, more frantically this time, ‘What are we going to do commander?’
And Vimes blinked and said, ‘Everything!‘”

For The Win by Cory Doctorow

Terrier by Tamora Pierce

A New Beginning

12 Mar
Avast, me hearties! I be a scourge to bloggers everywhere! - Speaking pirate dog

My dog Floyd does not usually look like a pirate, but this one made us laugh so we kept it. Picture (minus caption) by Venture Photography

Hello, gentle readers.

A long time ago, in a galaxy…pretty damn close, a lady with barely visible eyebrows started a blog, wrote on it for a few months, then let it dwindle into obscurity because apparently people with dogs don’t have time to blog.

Since my last post, nearly three years ago now, I have been made redundant, been unemployed for two months, found a job, had said job for 14 months, got made redundant again, and have now been unemployed for going on 4 months.

My first redundancy gave me plenty of time to work on my novel, but somehow this one has not. My current word count is 38187, so it’s slooowly coming along.

What’s really prompting me to start blogging again now is that I’m enrolled in the Prince’s Trust Enterprise scheme, which aims to help people aged 18-30 set up their own businesses. I have attended an introduction meeting and a four day course, and am on my way to setting up my own copywriting business in a few months – the timing depends on whether or not I get a job in the meantime.

I plan to blog about where I’m up to with my business plans, and I will also set up a professional blog and portfolio when the time comes. I’m a little on the nervous side! What’s weird is the last time I posted on my blog I knew absolutely nothing about marketing, and now here I am trying to make a living with it. (I just wrote ‘loving’ and then giggled to myself)

I also plan to open up the focus of this blog to include general geeky things like video games, table top games, and TV shows that I’m enjoying, so I have more to write about – I’m also going to include goings on with my theatre group as the Chameleons is a big part of my life these days.

I’m going to start keeping track of what I’m reading again, but I’m only going to write one review per post and just list the rest, as it was the dauntingness (shutup, it’s totally a word WordPress YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME) of keeping up with myself that probably stopped me blogging in the first place. Floyd’s not really to blame.

So, to kick things off, I am currently reading:

A Dance With Dragons: Part I by George R. R. Martin

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

For The Win by Cory Doctorow

Once I finish one I may even review it!

So, what’s going on with you guys? Any books to recommend that I read next? Any sage wisdom on running your own business or finding a job?

What I’m Reading 6.2

31 May

We have a dog! He’s the one from the Blue Cross I mentioned before, and he’s a massive softy by the name of Floyd. When we come from work his tail wags so much it’s hard for him to operate his legs, and he staggers across the kitchen towards us.

Isn’t the cover for this one ugly? This is the cover of the copy we had when I was little.

Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper concludes The Dark Is Rising sequence in a big, bittersweet showdown of awesome. The six protagonists, the ‘Six’ who shall turn back the Dark, are thrown together at last in the mountains of Wales to defeat the last and greatest rising of the forces of evil. It’s very bittersweet, this one, and you get the real sense of the children starting to grow up without it being spelled out for you. I always feel wistful at the end of this one.

 

The mouse is called Hamlet von Schnitzel

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson is the first autobiography I have ever read from cover to cover. It’s written by the Bloggess who blogs here and is generally amazing. I first was drawn to her blog for the humour and stayed for the mental illness, because it’s oddly reassuring to find really successful writers who suffer from worse anxiety than me.

Lawson (oh heck, I can’t call her that, I’ve been reading her blog for too long) tells of her childhood growing up in rural Texas with her awesome (plus kinda bonkers) taxidermist father and eternally patient mother, and moves on to her adventures working in HR and her life with her husband Victor, along with her struggles with an impressive array of mental illnesses. I can’t read this book without creasing up laughing, and that’s on my second read through.

There is an extremely sad chapter in the middle where Jenny covers her experience with miscarriages, and my heart pretty much broke for her, so if this is a trigger for you I’d recommend skipping the first half of that chapter (you’ll know which one before it really gets going) but come back halfway through because it’s quite an important part of her life and it’s beautiful and moving. She writes the whole book in a charming rambling dialogue where she merrily wanders off topic, and there is an infinite amount of sadness that I will probably never meet her because I do much the same thing.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey – I know right? Get me with the literature! I’ve been making an effort to read the classics lately. I’ve been reading this for quite some time – since the first of April, according to my Kindle. It’s not easy going, and a lot of time I’m not sure what’s real and what’s just the product of the narrator’s mental illness/imagination. Basically so far it’s a struggle for power on a mental ward, only I think the only way to understand this novel is to finish it. It makes you think, and bits have made me laugh. I need to be in the right frame of mind to read it, and it’s not one I’m in all the time. Slow progress!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins doesn’t exactly need any introduction at the moment, what with being a major motion picture and all, but I feel the need to state that I read it before it was cool damnit! Well, before it was a film anyway. To be honest, i read the trilogy along with Mark at http://www.markreads.net a couple of years ago. It’s unputdownable. I don’t care if that’s not a word.

The 12 districts of Panem are ruled by the Capital, where people live in the lap of luxury whilst those in the districts starve. As punishment for a rebellion 74 years previously, each district must offer up one boy and girl as tribute. Tributes are then sent into an arena to battle to the death in a violent and mad reality TV show. 16-year-old Katniss takes her younger sister’s place and is taken to the capital to compete in the Games.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins is the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy. The Games are over, but Katniss still isn’t safe. Having defied the gamemakers and the Capital by daring to survive her games, they’re out for her blood. Everything in District 12 is about to change for the worse.

I’m reading this at the moment, so I’m not sure how much I enjoyed it the first, second and third times (I’m a serial re-reader), but it continues to enthrall me.

Also? This trilogy has a ‘ship called Peeniss. Or possibly KatPee. Writers need to think about these things. In my novel the two ships would be CaSt and McCosta.

There will be a 6.3. I’ve been reading a lot lately.

What I’m Reading 6.1

14 May

Did you know, it’s actually surprisingly hard to find an affordable large dog? There’s one at the Blue Cross in Southampton right now that looks and sounds just like Puffin, so am hoping to put a reserve on him tomorrow – fingers crossed!

I suppose I should state that the first thing I’ve been reading is lots of sites that advertise dogs and puppies. So. Much. Want.

so, anyway, let’s continue on from Saturday’s fandangle:

From Dead To Worse by Charlaine Harris delves deeper into the revelation that Sookie has fairy blood. She meets her great-grandfather, and gets sucked into both were and vampire wars, and nothing is plain sailing. Meanwhile, Sookie’s brother is cheated on by his pregnant were-panther wife and makes sure Sookie discovers it for herself (we all like to walk in on our in-laws engaged in shenanegins with random people) at the same time as Crystal (the naughty cheating panther)’s uncle, Calvin Norris. Sookie and Calvin stood up for Jason and Crystal at their wedding, so naturally Sookie has to break Calvin’s hand. Were-panthers are just so easy-going.

This novel sees the overhaul of the vampire political system in Louisiana, which was already struggling in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the bombing of the covention in Rhodes from the previous book. At this point it would be extremely hard to just jump into the series, so don’t try. Go back to the beginning. Shoo.

Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris sees the werewolves and shapeshifters doing whatever the two-natured version of coming out of the coffin is. The vampires kindly lend a protective hand and everybody pretends they like each other for the cameras. In little Bon Temps, the announcement goes almost without a hitch, except for one waitress who quits when she discovers her boss likes to turn into a collie at the full moon.

Sookie is dating the Viking vampire Eric again at this point, only this time he knows who he is, which can be a positive or a negative, depending on how you look at it. Sookie is tugged into vampire politics once again – the King of Nevada has taken power from the (now late) Queen of Louisiana, and sent a douchecanoe (I love that word) called Victor to lord it over Louisiana. Victor has his eyes fixed especially on Eric’s Area Five.

Hate crimes abound across America against the newly revealed weres and shifters, and Sookie is kidnapped by fairies and tortured – this book ain’t for the faint hearted. But if you were faint hearted you probably would have given up amid the general gore of the first book, so hey. Have I mentioned I love these books?

Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris. Ah, the family. Throughout most of this series Sookie (who, worryingly, I just called ‘The Sookster’ in my head) has thought she has hardly any living relatives. Now she has fairy cousins, fairy great grandparents, fairy great uncles, and a little telepathic human cousin by the name of Hunter who is the son of Sookie’s cousin Hadley, the one who got herself turned into a vampire because she was in love with the Queen of Louisiana, which frankly happens to me every day. There’s a lot of cuteness in this book, and also a lot of plotting murder.

Sookie’s not the only one with family troubles, however. Eric’s maker comes to town, bringing along with him his younger ‘son’ – Alexei Romanov, the son of the last czar of Russia. The kid’s a bit nuts.

Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris - Victor continues to be a douchecanoe, threatening the lives and businesses of people Sookie cares about. He has to go. Sookie, Eric, and Eric’s ‘child’ Pam seek to bring about the downfall of Victor. It’s a rip-roaring tale of cold-blooded murder. Yay!

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris only came out this month, and I only started reading it last night…at 1am…on a worknight…causing me to only get four hours sleep. Sometimes I really get sucked into books, and the Southern Vampire Mysteries are brilliant at this reader black hole thing. I really had to struggle to turn off my Kindle (I love that thing. Its name is Humphrey) and put it down and go to sleep. When I say ‘go to sleep’ I mean ‘lie there for another hour wishing I’d kept reading’. Sookie and Eric are on the rocks, a vampire queen wants to marry Eric, Sookie’s boss’s homicidal werewolf girlfriend thinks Sookie wants to steal Sam off her, the Fae are up to something, and Felipe de Castro, the King of Nevada is in town investigating the mysterious disappearance of Victor (douchecanoe dude). Sookie’s brother is getting married again – here’s hoping this wife doesn’t end up crucified, as this one’s a decent human being. I’m not being supernaturalist – if Crystal had been pure human she would have been a bit of a skank, Michele is just awesome. Anyway, I’ve wondered off track. one and a half books to go for me and then this series is finished . Woe is me.

The Grey King by Susan Cooper is the fourth book in The Dark is Rising sequence. Old One Will, having been desperately sick with pneumonia, is shipped off to stay with relatives in Wales, where he meets a mysterious young boy called Bran, and sets out on a mission to defeat the Grey King of the valley and retrieve a magical harp for the Light. The most sinister thing in this story is a man – an ordinary man – by the name of Caradog Pritchard, who bares an old grudge against Bran and his father, and directs it at the local sheepdogs, especially Bran’s beloved Cafall.

This is probably my second least-favourite of the series, but it’s still really cool.

Ok, that’s all I’ve got time for now – dinner time! There’s a delicious asparagus soup that’s about to happen to me. I’ll put up 6.2 in a couple of days.

Catchup and What I’m Reading 6.0

12 May

Howdy folks. It’s been a hectic few months but I figured I was well overdue for an update – I actually went through a phase of getting a lot of writing done, and now I’m going through a phase of getting none done. I’m also going through a phase of not remembering how to spell phase even though I’ve written it four times in two sentences.

My fiancé Chris was found to be too ill to work full-time about five weeks ago, which sucked. He got lowered a couple of pay bands and moved to a part-time position. It did, however, open the door to us having a dog! My life never feels complete without a dog, so we were super-duper excited. We went to the Dogs Trust in Salisbury and over the next two weeks, we became owners of the lovely Puffin.

Not The Best Picture Ever

Puffin is loving, funny, sweet, and beautiful. Unfortunately, due to some insurmountable problems, we had to take him back to the shelter on Thursday after three weeks, so I’m pretty heartbroken right now.

We’re back to the dog hunt, so if anyone sees any medium-large mixed breed dogs available in Hampshire (England) please let me know!

So, that’s where I’ve been.

Anyway, I’ll do my reading in a few separate posts I think.

Finished books as of 26/2/12:

Edge of Victory II: Rebirth
Tortall and Other Lands
Star by Star
Little Brother
Lies
Want to Play?
Star by Star
Heist Society
Dark Journey
Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream
Live Bait
Dead Run
Snow Blind
Play to Kill
Over Sea, Under Stone
Mastiff
The Dark is Rising
Dead Until Dark
Moon Child
Looking for Alaska
Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand
Traitor
Destiny’s Way
Force Heretic I: Remnant
Force Heretic II: Refugee
Plague
The Fellowship of the Ring
Catalyst
Dragon’s Time
Emma
Living Dead in Dallas
Club Dead
Dead to the World
Force Heretic III: Reunion
War Horse
The Two Towers
The Final Prophecy
Dead as a Doornail
The Secret Life of Bees

Star Wars books to start with, methinks.

Dark Nest I: The Joiner King by Troy Denning – Truth to tell, I didn’t much like this trilogy the first time around, but on the second read I’m quite enjoying the humour of it. All the young Jedi who were on the mission to Myrkr where Anakin Solo died feel a mental summons, calling them to a colony of sentient insects who are having trouble with their neighbours, the Chiss. Back on the Myrkr mission, one of the Jedi, Raynar Thul, had been kidnapped by some Dark Jedi who were being held captive by the Yuuzhan Vong. Now it turns out he has been hideously scarred by the crash of the ship he was on when kidnapped, and healed by the Killiks, the bug people, and he’s kind of their king. It gets quite complicated. There’s also the issue of whether or not the Dark Jedi who were with Raynar at the time of the crash are still alive.

Some of the young Jedi start to become absorbed by the nest, and become mentally entwined with the Killiks, including Jaina Solo and her friend Zekk, and more sinisterly (shut up spell check, I know it’s not a real word), Alema Rar. There’s a lot of weird touching and people not being able to tell where they end and their friends begin. The best bits in the book come from a scene where Jaina and Zekk are flirting with Jaina’s old boyfriend Jag.

This trilogy is confusing.

Ok, the bits I’ve missed are that Alema falls under the influence of the Dark Nest, the Gorogs, who are under the sway of the two Dark Jedi, Lomi Plo and Welk, and falls to the Dark Side. Leia almost dies in a fight with Alema, and decides that it is time to become a proper Jedi, so starts training with the Barabel Jedi master, Saba Sebatyne.

Dark Nest II: The Unseen Queen by Troy Denning – More of the above. lots of confusingness and some good humour. The most important thing that happens in this book is that Jacen Solo travels to the Hapes Consortium with his little cousin Ben Skywalker, where he discovers that as a result of a night with his old friend Tenel Ka in the previous book, he now has a baby daughter. This leads to some shaky and dangerous decisions by Jacen, and it really becomes clear that Jacen is redefining morality to suit himself. He leads his friends in an attack on the Chiss in order to provoke them into destroying the Killiks, who he feels will drag the galaxy into a never-ending war. He tells lies in order to get his friends to do this, and when they find out that he lied, his sister Jaina swears never to fly with him again. Jaina and Zekk also catch him wiping the memory of little Ben so he doesn’t remember going to Hapes.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne – This was not an easy read. This isn’t to say that the writing was difficult; it wasn’t. The writing generally is like that of a young reader’s book – it was simple and clear, and I actually thought this was a children’s book. Written from the perspective of an innocent nine-year-old boy called Bruno in Nazi Germany, it charts the move of Bruno’s family from Berlin to an unknown location in the countryside that Bruno calls Out-With that is actually Auschwitz. Bruno is homesick and misses his friends and grandparents, and is endlessly curious about the people who live on the other side of the barbed wire fence and only ever wear striped pajamas. One day he goes for a long walk and meets a little boy on the other side of the fence. Shmuel is serious and thin and always hungry, and he tells stories that Bruno doesn’t quite believe, until one day, Bruno crawls under the fence.

The only real problem I have with this book is that there is just no way a nine-year-old child in Nazi Germany would be THAT innocent – Bruno knows nothing about the war, or Jews, or why Jews are Bad. His father is the Commandant of Auschwitz, but Bruno knows nothing of Nazi philosophy. There was extensive propaganda in place aimed at children to make sure that this wouldn’t happen, so I did find this quite a stretch.

I cried myself to sleep after reading this book, but there are some things you should read even though they hurt, and this is one of them.

‘What exactly was the difference? he wondered to himself. And who decided which people wore the striped pajamas and which people wore the uniforms?’

All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris sees Sookie accompanying Sophie-Anne, the queen of Louisiana, to Rhodes in order to attend a summit of vampires. Sookie’s still seeing her boyfriend Quinn, whose company is doing a lot of the organising for the summit, so he’s there too. Also present are ex-boyfriends Bill and Eric. Always fun to have all your guys in one basket. This is possibly one of my favourite of the Southern Vampire Mysteries, as it has so much action, humour, and character development. Also? Lots and lots of bombs. Big badaboom! It’s hard to separate out the bad guys and the good guys, and what makes you which. something interesting that this book does is make the fictional universe run truly parallel to ours – although vampires have been out of the coffin for a couple of years, Hurricane Katrina has just happened, vampires are missing, and Louisiana finds itself in a much weaker stance than it would have been had the summit happened before Katrina.

k, I’m going to stop there, because my back hurts. I’ll do a 6.1 soon!

What I’m Reading 5.0

26 Feb

Time for another What I’m Reading extravaganza. It won’t be as excruciatingly long this time!

Finished books as of 5/2/12:

Edge of Victory II: Rebirth
Tortall and Other Lands
Star by Star
Little Brother
Lies
Want to Play?
Star by Star
Heist Society
Dark Journey
Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream
Live Bait
Dead Run
Snow Blind
Play to Kill
Over Sea, Under Stone
Mastiff
The Dark is Rising
Dead Until Dark
Moon Child
Looking for Alaska
Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand
Traitor
Destiny’s Way
Force Heretic I: Remnant
Force Heretic II: Refugee
Plague
The Fellowship of the Ring
Catalyst
Dragon’s Time
Emma
Living Dead in Dallas
Club Dead
Dead to the World

As ever, we shall begin with the Star Wars novels:

The Final Prophecy by Greg Keyes – Tahiri, now united as a combined Jedi and Yuuzhan Vong, is sent with older Jedi Corran Horn to deliver a message to the Prophet of the Yuuzhan Vong Shamed Ones. What nobody knows is that the Prophet is actually Nom Anor, possibly the most self-centred individual in the known universe, who has been stirring up a revolt among the Shamed Ones for his own ends. They agree to take the Prophet to the living world of Zonoma Sekot, and are surprised by having to take priest Harrar and shaper Nen Yim along too. Harrar seems to be just curious and concerned about what the living planet means for the Yuuzhan Vong, whereas Nen Yim thinks the planet needs to be destroyed and carried the means to do so.

In a conversation between Nen Yim and Tahiri, it comes to light that the Yuuzhan Vong whose memories were implanted into Tahiri during her failed Shaping were actually those of Nen Yim, bringing the Jedi and the Yuuzhan Vong closer together. Nen Yim then realises what the secret of the planet is, and asks to be left alone to contemplate it. Nom Anor confronts and murders her, and then runs off to kill the planet. Despite the combined efforts of Corran, Tahiri and Harrar, he manages to infect the planet with a disease, and the planet blindly jumps to hyperspace.

The Unifying Force by James Luceno is the last of The New Jedi Order series and sees the resolution of the whole thing. I forget how this happens, and I’m only about three chapters in – so far Threepio and Han have been playing a game of Dejarik (the ‘let the wookiee win’ one) and that’s about all I remember. I remember it being good though!

Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris continues The Southern Vampire Mysteries – the Shreveport pack of werewolves are having a contest to see who the new packmaster will be. In the running are Sookie’s friend Alcide’s father, and a complete slimeball. Sookie is recruited to keep things honest. Meanwhile, Eric is trying to work out what happened when he lost his memory, and Sookie’s friend Tara is taken captive as a sort of slave by a violent thug of a vampire named Mickey.

Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris sees Sookie going to New Orleans to wrap up the affairs of her late cousin Hadley (on a random aside, I really like that name but now it shall forever be associated with a vampire who was a bit of a bitch when she was alive), the former girlfriend of the vampire Queen of Louisiana.  Matters are complicated when a new vampire rises from one of Hadley’s apartment closets and attacks Sookie and her new friend Amelia. It turns out that the new vampire is an employee of Sookie’s new boyfriend Quinn (there are a lot of Quinns in vampire fiction at the moment) who used to be a werewolf. Since vampires and werewolves really don’t like each other, this is a bit politically controversial. Also, there’s a lot of tension between the Queen and her new husband, and somebody killed a demon in Sookie’s garden.Oh, and somebody’s trying to kill Sookie, as usual.

Although it just gets darker and darker, I really do like these books. There’s such a sense of humour to them.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd – All Lily knows about her mother is that, when she was four, she killed her.

This isn’t my usual type of book, but it was in the bathroom, so I read it and enjoyed it. Perhaps ‘enjoyed’ isn’t the right word – I feel like I’m a better person for having read it.

It discusses childhood and racism and bees, honey and mental illness and what it can lead you to do. Definitely worth a read.

The Return of the King by JRR Tolkien is the final installment of the Lord of the Rings, and still doesn’t need any introduction. I’m still reading along with Mark at http://www.markreads.net.

Ok, that’s it for now!

Rounding up:

Finished books as of 26/2/12:

Edge of Victory II: Rebirth
Tortall and Other Lands
Star by Star
Little Brother
Lies
Want to Play?
Star by Star
Heist Society
Dark Journey
Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream
Live Bait
Dead Run
Snow Blind
Play to Kill
Over Sea, Under Stone
Mastiff
The Dark is Rising
Dead Until Dark
Moon Child
Looking for Alaska
Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand
Traitor
Destiny’s Way
Force Heretic I: Remnant
Force Heretic II: Refugee
Plague
The Fellowship of the Ring
Catalyst
Dragon’s Time
Emma
Living Dead in Dallas
Club Dead
Dead to the World
Force Heretic III: Reunion
War Horse
The Two Towers
The Final Prophecy
Dead as a Doornail
The Secret Life of Bees

So that’s 39 books, 133 days – one book per 3.4 days – up a bit from last time!

Currently still reading:

Greenwitch
Return of the King
Definitely Dead

Novel Progress

Words0
Words100,000

Get a progress bar at DollarTimes.com

Phase One Complete – Prepare for Phase Two!

22 Feb

Before I begin, I feel the need to question teh Interwebz – HOW is it that most viewers of this blog find it by searching for a variation of ‘sick lolcat’ on Google?! My friend Jenni and I just spent around 20 minutes trying to find my blog by searching using various terms for humourous felines in ill health, but found nothing. Maybe these people are seriously dedicated to finding funny but unhealthy kitties, and are willing to search beyond the first ten pages to do so.

So, anyway, my novel is split into four distinct parts with a different narrator for each section, and the first part of the first draft is COMPLETE! Yippee!

See how I tempt in more readers with lolcats?

So I am enormously pleased with myself. 23600 words in, pretty damn high  body count, and a man with his hands buried in the sand waiting for the sun to return.

My whole novel is based on a short story I wrote for my fifth assignment in the creative writing course I did a couple a years ago towards my degree, and now I’m actually moving towards the section in the narrative that the short story actually covered, which is quite exciting. The Unknown was my favourite of the pieces I wrote for the course, and probably the most publishable as a short story, but I really didn’t want to leave it as one – it only really created one rounded character and didn’t give me a chance to develop him much. I have my four that link up, and I plan to write them as well as I can. The real challenge will be separating them from each other in terms of style.

So. Eek. I’ve gotten so used to my little squad of soldiers, and now I don’t get to write them any more for a while. Military HQ it is, for the next 25000 words or so!

Unrelated News (or ‘A Series of Unfortunate Excuses’ for why I’m not writing faster)

Work is hard
I is poor penniless writer
I’m directing a play! Well, co-directing. It’s a fun little one-act comedy called Curses! Foiled Again (not ‘oiled again’, which I just wrote and sounds like porn) by Evelyn Hood, and we’re having a blast with it so far

Also, today I wrote a riddle so that I could tell a colleague who played a practical joke on her without actually telling her who played a practical joke on her – it doesn’t count if she has to work it out for herself! She now thinks I should write case notes in riddles, which would a) not be very easy to do while on the phone to customers, and b) drive at least one of my colleagues completely up the wall. The practical joke involved a flying pig. Good times were had by all, especially the pig who now has a better view.

I stole this picture from a distinctly unpleasant right wing blog. At least that blog is good for something.

Pigs Fly in customer services department

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