Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Robyn Silver: The Midnight Chimes - Paula Harrison

Life was very ordinary for ten-year-old Robyn Silver. The often-ignored middle child in a big family, the most excitement she had was the dash to the dinner table to reach the last slice of pizza. Until... she begins to see creepy creatures around her town - creatures that are invisible to everyone else. And when her school is forced to decamp to mysterious Grimdean House and she meets its equally mysterious owner, Mr Cryptorum, Robyn finds herself catapulted headfirst into an extraordinary adventure - with more excitement than she could possibly have imagined. Be careful what you wish for...

Every ten year old wishes their life was more exciting, not many of them has that wish granted. Ten year old Robin is just like every other ten year old until one day she sees something outside her house that shouldn't really be there.

The Midnight Chimes are people, people that were born as the clock struck midnight and within hearing distance of a Mortal Clock. Luckily Robyn is not alone, along with her best friend Aiden and another girl from their school called Nora they start training under the Miss Smiting (who is not exactly what she appears to be either) and the incredibly grumpy Mr Cryptorum.

What follows is a hair raising adventure for all involved, with weird and wonderful creatures (scree sags and grodders, bogguns and kobolds), competition from a fellow group of Chimes known as B.U.T.T. and learning to fight for your life at the grand old age of ten!. The Midnight Chimes has something for everyone, mystery and humor, fantasy and friendship. If you'd like to learn how to fight vampires using garlic butter and a baguette then this is the book for you. The Midnight Chimes is the first book in a brand new series and I for one cannot wait to plunge into more adventures with the Bat Club and hopefully see more of the stunning illustrations by Renee Kurilla.

About The Author

Paula Harrison is a best-selling children's author, with worldwide sales of over one million copies. Her books include The Rescue Princesses series. She wanted to be a writer from a young age but spent many happy years being a primary school teacher first

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Robyn Silver: The Midnight Chimes - Paula Harrison
ISBN - 9781407170589
Publisher - Scholastic
Release date - September 1 2016

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Monday, 29 August 2016

Writing A Passive Protagonist - Faye Bird

Please welcome Faye Bird to the Outsider today. Author of the stunning What I Couldn't Tell You, the story of two sisters one of whom has Selective Mutism.

Writing A Passive Protagonist

As readers we have a rightful expectation that a story’s protagonist will be active. It’s easier to like an active protagonist. It’s easier to root for someone who is fighting the fight, particularly in the face of adversity. It’s harder to like a protagonist who doesn’t engage or push back, even if you understand why they perhaps can’t. And if we aren’t there rooting for our protagonist from the start of the story, caring enough about what happens to them, then it’s unlikely we’ll be there to find out where they’ve got to by the end.

I know all of this, as both a reader and as a writer, and yet in writing What I Couldn’t Tell You in my main character Tessie’s voice, I found myself writing a story with a passive not an active protagonist. So how did this happen?

Tessie has a condition called Selective or Situational Mutism (SM). SM is an anxiety disorder that prevents children speaking in certain situations such as at school or in public spaces. In public spaces, unable to speak, Tessie in my story is inevitably inescapably passive.

However I knew from the start that I wanted to write a first person narrative for Tessie because I loved the idea that a narrative could give someone with SM a voice that they wouldn’t otherwise have in the outside world. This was the driver, if you like, for me to write the story as I did, despite the challenges I knew a sometimes non-speaking protagonist would present.

I knew straight away that the absence of dialogue in certain key scenes outside of Tessie’s home would have a big impact on plotting, and I knew that overcoming these challenges would be crucial if I was going to write a successful crime thriller story too. I therefore put in the graft to find resolutions to these anticipated challenges early on.

But there were still challenges in the writing that I didn’t anticipate, and looking back now I think this was because I assumed that Tessie’s potential passivity would be remedied in some way by the first person narrative alone.

I assumed that if we read the thoughts inside Tessie’s head on the page, saw how her experience of SM affected her, saw how she wanted to speak in certain situations but couldn’t, and how she thought about what words she would say if she could, then the reader would be able to make sense of her inaction and in story terms it would resolve the potential problems of her passivity.

But it wasn’t as simple as that because without doubt in authentically representing SM through Tessie’s internal voice I actually risked not meeting the needs I had in the telling of my story. And I realized quite early on that getting Tessie’s voice right was really where the success or failure in resolving this problem within the storytelling rested.

In an accurate portrayal of SM Tessie necessarily responds to the drama around her in the story in a way that we as readers would not perhaps expect and at times perhaps she also acts in a way that we might wish she wouldn’t when she is faced with certain situations.

Tessie is a victim to bullying in the story, because this is not an uncommon experience of those with SM, and we see her simply accept the bullying and the pain it causes her in a way that may make us feel uncomfortable. Tessie is also inactive in the face of violence on occasion in the story in a way that readers may well find surprising, even shocking. But all these scenes are written as they are because they are true to the experience of her SM and how it affects the choices she makes.

But of course I didn’t want to write Tessie as a victim to her SM and above all I wanted to make her a whole and rounded character, a person with different quirks and traits just like anyone else. The driver of giving Tessie the voice of the story was made to both demystify the silence around those who suffer with SM, and in doing so, empower her.

As the story continues, and the stakes get higher, Tessie certainly becomes more active in the story. I made sure that this was the case. The way in which Tessie can listen, infer and observe through the distance her non-speaking creates gives her an active inner voice and a power to change things in the story in a way that no one else in the story can and does. I hope in this there is a dynamism that relieves her potential passivity in places and takes the reader closer to her action.

Certainly the first person narrative allows the reader to have the advantage of hearing her thoughts, her wants and her wishes in those places where she cannot make them known otherwise, and this is a valuable thing in storytelling terms. Because of course we want to see our protagonists survive the adversity they face, and if bad stuff happens to them (which it will) we need to see that somehow in some way they’re stronger because of it. This is the stuff of drama and it’s the way we find resolutions, and work towards making happy endings.
I therefore just hope that the balance that I struck in What I Couldn’t Tell You is enough to carry Tessie’s natural passivity so she is still liked, cared about, so she still keeps the story alive, whilst I also staying true to the depiction of SM within it. If you go on to read the book perhaps you will let me know how well or not I have done!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Waiting On Wednesday #170 - The Ferryman Institute

Waiting On Wednesday, where we put the spotlight on upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating, is hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine.

This week's choice is -

The Ferryman Institute - Colin Gigl 
ISBN - 9781501125324
Publisher - Gallery Books
Release date - September 27 2016

In this stunning, fantastical debut novel from a bold new voice in the bestselling traditions of Christopher Moore and Jasper Fforde, a ferryman for the dead finds his existence unraveling after making either the best decision or the biggest mistake of his immortal life.

Ferryman Charlie Dawson saves dead people - somebody has to convince them to move on to the afterlife, after all. Having never failed a single assignment, he's acquired a reputation for success that’s as legendary as it is unwanted. It turns out that serving as a Ferryman is causing Charlie to slowly lose his mind. Deemed too valuable by the Ferryman Institute to be let go and too stubborn to just give up in his own right, Charlie’s pretty much abandoned all hope of escaping his grim existence. Or he had, anyway, until he saved Alice Spiegel. To be fair, Charlie never planned on stopping Alice from taking her own life - that sort of thing is strictly forbidden by the Institute - but he never planned on the President secretly giving him the choice to, either. Charlie’s not quite sure what to make of it, but Alice is alive, and it’s the first time he’s felt right in more than two hundred years.

When word of the incident reaches Inspector Javrouche, the Ferryman Institute's resident internal affairs liaison, Charlie finds he's in a world of trouble. But Charlie’s not about to lose the only living, breathing person he’s ever saved without a fight. He’s ready to protect her from Javrouche and save Alice from herself, and he’s willing to put the entire continued existence of mankind at risk to do it.

Written in the same vein as bestselling modern classics such as The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde and A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, The Ferryman Institute is a thrilling supernatural adventure packed with wit and humor.

I'll admit I'm curious about this because of its comparison to Jasper Fforde's work so it has a lot to live up to! It does sound fun though and I love stories about the different guises of ferrymen. Fingers crossed it's at least half as good as it sounds! 

Monday, 22 August 2016

Bookmarked... #23

The return of the (mostly) weekly post letting you all know what I'm reading and have lined up for the week! It's my own version of Sheila at Book Journey's It's Monday What Are You Reading (now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date) and I have her permission to rename it for my own nefarious reasons...

More great reading this week along with a really disappointing read, one that I was so excited to read but turned out not to hit the mark. It's Bout of Books this week so I have a fantastic stack of books lined up including 4 more of the Fables collections and some middle grade reading too. I'll be updating via Instagram and Twitter for the first 2 days as I'm away but will then update on the blog after that.


Still Reading


Saturday, 20 August 2016

Book Haul #130, Or The One Where I Only Buy One Book Again...

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly event hosted on Tynga's Reviews where we can share what new books we've picked up this past week be they bought, borrowed or downloaded. There are also lots of other 'book haul' memes out there for you to choose from!

A quick haul post from me this week as I'm not at home and doing this on a Kindle... More fabulous review books and just one book purchased! Shirley Jackson's Let Me Tell You has been on my wishlist since before it was published and I finally gave in and bought a copy this week. I've already started it and it's reminding me of how much I love her work, time for another Jackson reread methinks!



Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Waiting On Wednesday #169 - The Queen Of Blood

Waiting On Wednesday, where we put the spotlight on upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating, is hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine.

This week's choice is -

The Queen Of Blood - Sarah Beth Durst
ISBN - 9780062413345
Publisher - Harper Voyager
Release date - September 20 2016

An idealistic young student and a banished warrior become allies in a battle to save their realm in this first book of a mesmerizing epic fantasy series, filled with political intrigue, violent magic, malevolent spirits, and thrilling adventure.

Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow...

But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms.

With the position so precarious, young women are chosen to train as heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, is under no illusions as to her claim to the throne, but simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Ven, a disgraced champion, has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. Joining forces, these daring partners embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness - a journey that will test their courage and trust, and force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land... before it’s bathed in blood.

Every time Sarah Beth Durst releases a book I mean to read it, I add it to my wishlist and then never get round to it! This one though will be mine as soon as possible. The Queen Of Blood sounds fantastic, it has magic and I love the idea of everything having a spirit. Definitely one to look out for!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #116 - Books Set In Boarding Schools

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the fabulous girls cover at The Broke & The Bookish. This week's topic is -

Top Ten Twenty Books With X Setting

I've chosen boarding schools as my setting this week, mainly because I have an amazing list of books with that setting. I also make no apologies for this being twenty books long and not ten...There's pretty much every sort of boarding school here. Classic, modern, magical, abroad, secret and plenty in between! I've read all of these but if you have any boarding school books I've missed leave them in the comments!

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