Zi71bFS9nQHnivtvUJquhejTHIQ The Story Factory Reading Zone: 2012

Monday, 31 December 2012

End of Advent Adventures

So, this month I've been featuring all things to do with books and Christmas. 
In case you missed any of the posts, here they are:

Bookish Presents
A One Man Christmas Carol
The Word

Why not share some of your Christmas posts with us in the comments

Sunday, 30 December 2012

2012 Reading Challenges Summary

Terry Pratchett Read in 2012:
The Colour of Magic
The Light Fantastic
Equal Rites
Wyrd Sisters
Guards! Guards!
Moving Pictures
Reaper Man
The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents
Witches Abroad
Small Gods
Lords and Ladies
The Long Earth (with Stephen Baxter)
Men At Arms
Feet of Clay
Interesting Times  A Blink of the Screen
Dodger (currently reading)

Challenge met!
I'm also hoping to extend this one throughout next year (more about that soon).

Operation Deepen Faith 

Going Deep. 
I read Romans in as many translations as I could find. My aim was to read 4 translations. In the end I read 4 whole translations (NRSV, Youth Bible, Today's NIV, and The Message), plus up to the end of chapter 13 in The Good News Bible. I also got up to the end of Chapter 14 in the study guide 'Romans for Everyone' by Tom Wright. My online journalling didn't quite happen, however.
OK, this part didn't go quite as well. I did pray at the end of each bible passage I read; but I didn't pick them at random, write about them, or meditate on them. This is possibly something I need to work on more.

Christian Non-Fiction
I aimed to read 3 non-fiction Christian books. I thought I'd done well with this, but looking back at my records I seem to  have only managed to read Just:Imagine (which I did in January).
Challenge only 1/3 met
Maybe adapt and try again next year

Goodreads Reading Challenge
I wanted to read 100 books. I only reviewed 48. I know I've read a few others, but I don't think there were over 50 more.

Challenge failed!

Overall a bit poor. I'm guessing that this is because I was generally busier than I thought I would be. It might have helped, however, if I had recorded my challenge progress more often.

How did you do with your reading challenges?


Saturday, 29 December 2012

The Word

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it."
 John 1:1-5 NIV

Friday, 28 December 2012

A One-Man Christmas Carol

Last week, I was very lucky to be able to attend a one-man production of 'A Christmas Carol'.

Yes, you read that right, a one-man production of A Christmas Carol.

Chris Matthewman is a very talented local youth pastor. I believe that he had written the script, as well as performing it.

The play told the classic story of A Christmas Carol, adapted for a modern audience, and with a biblical twist.

The three spirits were portrayed as a rapper (accompanied by the 'This is Your Life' theme), someone from Eastenders, and a Jamacian hoodie (who originally came from Poland). We were also encouraged to sing (and dance) along, panto style. 

The most amazing thing, however, was the fact that each character had a totally different voice and way of moving (remember this was all done by one man). They were all totally convincing. There was even one moment where Bob Cratchett taught Tiny Tim a song and they sang alternate lines to each other.

It was absolutely fantastic! If you have a chance to see any of Chris' work then please do!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Bookish Presents

What bookish presents did you give / receive this Christmas?

I got surprisingly few Bookish gifts (most of mine were actually music-related this year).
 I did, however, receive some lovely page markers:
and a fairy bookmark calendar.

The page markers will come in very handy, as I've been regularly marking passages to quote on this blog. I'm going to try to use them to mark the ones for the next month (and will no doubt run out v. quickly none the less). 

I also received a copy of 'Tales of the Alhambra' by Washington Irving from my bookcrossing secret santa. I'm loving the sound of this and am impressed, yet again, at how well someone I've (probably) never met has got my reading interests accurate. Thanks if you're reading this.

So what did you get (or give) this year?

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Monday, 24 December 2012

Guardians inc. by Julian Rosado-Machain (Review & Guest Post)


YA Fantasy
Title: Guardians Inc: The Cypher
Author: Julian Rosado-Machain
Date Published: July 2012


A chance reading of a newspaper ad will send 16 year old Thomas Byrne into the world within our world. 
 Following the ad he will find Guardians Incorporated. A seven thousand year old organization charged with protecting the balance between Magic and technology. 

Through their guidance technology has kept Magic at bay since the Renaissance, but the balance is shifting and soon all those creatures we've driven into myth and legend will come back with a vengeance.
To protect the present, Guardians Incorporated needs to know the future.


My review: 
A simple adventure story featuring a range of magical creatures, this book feels like an alien-based comic-book TV show. 
The main character, Thomas Bryne, comes across as younger than his stated age of 16. He is unusually naive and trusting, despite his troubled background. We learn a lot about his past, but little of it appears relevant to this part of the story.
The fight scenes were dramatic and fast-paced. They left you on the edge of your seat.  In fact the whole of the book happened quite quickly, sometimes too quickly for my liking.
The ending was a real cliff-hanger. It made me not so much want to read on to the next book, but with an unsatisfied feeling. 
This book would appeal mostly to the younger end of the YA market. For them it would be an exciting adventure story, full of fights and drama. Thomas Bryne would be someone to look up to, and they would no doubt envy his escape from humdrum everyday life. And the cliff-hanger would leave them wanting more. 
For an YA audience this book is...


Action Reader's Action: Help a child escape from their everyday lives.
Sponsor a child, or help a child is your own community

What would be your dream job? 

Julian has enjoyed pizza in three continents, holds a degree in graphic design, built armored vehicles and computers, handcrafted alebrijes and swears has seen at least one ghost.
He is the Co-owner of Hacienda de Vega Restaurant in San Diego, California and enjoys the sun with his wife, three children and cat.
Guardians Inc.: The Cypher is the first book in a series. 

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Guardians Inc.
The Guardians Inc. storyline is not a trilogy, but a series of books. Five to be precise, but they might turn into six depending on how long Book Five turns out to be.
Before writing Book 1: The Cypher, I had already developed all story and character arcs for the whole series, and what I wanted to explore on each book. This process took about two years.
            The Ending of the Series is already written and it is quite final.
            Each book seeds the next books, so things, enemies and storylines will appear and reappear all over in the complete series.
             There are allusions and "Tips o' the hat" to many books, writers and movies I admire seeded throughout the Books. From The Jungle Book to The Last Starfighte and  Mythbusters. Most of them are done quite openly, even referenced by name, but some are very cryptic. Me having fun with the story.
            Guardians Inc. relies heavily on historic figures and events. I research thoroughly before referencing a place or an event.
            The same applies to technology, I do try to do as much research as I can before writing about technology. (although, like Thomas, theoretical physics are beyond my full understanding!)
            One of the evil characters in Cypher: THE MAN IN THE TRENCHCOAT, got its own interactive book app for the ipad as an illustrated children's book and it’s doing quite well!     
            ALL storylines will get closure. I promise.
            As time progresses in the story and Thomas gets older, dangers, moral dilemmas, and romantic situations will get rougher, tougher and more... romantic!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Last minute gifts

It's almost Christmas.
The shops are busy.
It's too late to order online.
What are you going to do?
Why not make a little something to give to your friends or family?!

Here are some ideas of things you could make 
(with a little creative spark, and not much else):


The one shown above is magnetic, but that requires magnetic tape which is not easy to find. If you don't have some then you could use photos, old Christmas cards, or your own drawings to add a personal touch to a 'normal' one. Add a ribbon and you have a lovely addition for someone's stocking. 

Use some photos of last year. Either use a computer or cut them out and stick them onto card. Attach together and voila. Why not add family birthdays and occasions for an added personal touch.

Family memento DVD
If you have a video camera and have recorded events throughout the year, then why not put the best bits onto DVD. A great one for grandparents.

Music Mix CD
Buy and download some of their favourite songs. Put them onto a CD (or straight onto their MP3 for a lovely surprise).

Coupon book
What is your partner or your parents always wanting you to do? Make a booklet which vouchers that allow them to make you do those useful things you would rather not do. (Just make sure you're willing to actually do them when they cash them in).

What crafty gifts have you made in the past?


Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas Reading

This Christmas I'm looking forward to:

  • Lots of Reading
Isn't it great to finally have that time to read the book you've been waiting to get to all year. When family gets too much I love to retreat into my 'reading zone'- its a brilliant way to escape the stresses that Christmas can bring.
  • Re-reading the Christmas story.
I've already started this one. I've been reading from a chronological version of the bible and its been amazing to see how the different gospel accounts vary and to get a better idea of what really comes first in the Xmas story.
  • Seeing a one-man version of 'A Christmas Carol'
I'm going to this one tonight and am very intigued to see how it goes.
  • Wallowing in those soppy books
You know, the kind that only come out at Christmas and in the middle of summer. And then there are those which are really only appropriate at this time of year.
  • Taking a blogging break
But don't worry- I'll be setting up automatic posts to amuse you all throughout the festive period.

What bookish things are you doing this Christmas?

Friday, 21 December 2012

The meaning of Christmas

At Christmas we celebrate gift and generosity and open expressions of love. You don't need religion to understand that all those things make life worth living. The Christian story suggests that gift and generosity and love are basic to what God does at Christmas, but also that religious people sometimes need to relearn this truth from others who have the Christmas spirit, even if they don't know the Christmas story.
From Approaching Christmas by Jane Williams

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Xmas Stocking Filler Books

Some of my favourite books, that you can currently buy online for under £5 (click on link for to buy page):

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
One boy, one boat, one tiger ...After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild, blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger. The scene is set for one of the most extraordinary and best-loved works of fiction in recent years.

 Eric by Terry Pratchett
Eric is the Discworld's only demonology hacker. The trouble is, he's not very good at it. All he wants is the usual three wishes: to be immortal, rule the world and have the most beautiful woman fall madly in love with him. The usual stuff.
But what he gets is Rincewind, the Disc's most incompetent wizard, and Rincewind's Luggage (the world's most dangerous travel accessory) into the bargain.
Terry Pratchett's hilarious take on the Faust legend stars many of the Discworld's most popular characters in an outrageous adventure that will leave Eric wishing once more - this time, quite fervently, that he'd never been born .

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein
The classic bestseller behind this year’s biggest movie, this film tie-in edition features the complete story of Bilbo Baggins’ adventures in Middle-earth, with a striking cover image from Peter Jackson’s THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY and drawings and maps by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely travelling further than the pantry of his hobbit-hole in Bag End.
But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard, Gandalf, and a company of thirteen dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an unexpected journey ‘there and back again’. They have a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon…
The prelude to The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit has sold many millions of copies since its publication in 1937, establishing itself as one of the most beloved and influential books of the twentieth century.
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
Winter is an Earth-like planet with two major differences: conditions are semi artic even at the warmest time of the year, and the inhabitants are all of the same sex. Tucked away in a remote corner of the universe, they have no knowledge of space travel or of life beyond their own world. And when a strange envoy from space brings news of a vast coalition of planets which they are invited to join, he is met with fear, mistrust and disbelief. . .

'The Left Hand of Darkness' is a groundbreaking work of feminist science fiction, an imaginative masterpiece which poses challenging questions about sexuality, sexism and the organisation of society.

One Day by David Nicholls 
'I can imagine you at forty,' she said, a hint of malice in her voice. 'I can picture it right now.'
He smiled without opening his eyes. 'Go on then.'
15th July 1988. Emma and Dexter meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways.
So where will they be on this one day next year?
And the year after that? And every year that follows?
Twenty years, two people, ONE DAY. From the author of the massive bestseller STARTER FOR TEN.

What would be your favourite 'stocking filler' book?

Wednesday, 19 December 2012


Much could be said in contrast about the "real Mary" of the biblical narrative: the teenage girl from Nazareth who gave birth on a dirty stable floor; the terrified mom who scurried frantically through the streets of Jerusalem looking for her lost little boy; the woman who had enough influence over Jesus to convince him to liven up a wedding with his first miracle of turning water into wine; the grieved mother who wept in the shadow of the cross."
From A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

Who do you think Mary was?

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Re-post: A Wayne in a Manger by Gervases Finn

Goodreads summary:

"A Wayne in a Manger" includes some wonderfully funny and touching nativity play anecdotes, including children forgetting their lines, ad-libbing, falling of the stage, picking their noses and showing their knickers. One hilarious anecdote tells of an innkeeper who generously says there's plenty of room for Mary and Joseph, while another child, jealous of Joseph's starring role, allows Mary to come in but not Joseph, who can 'push off'...There's the baby Jesus who suddenly pipes up with 'My name is Tammy, are you my Mommy?' and funniest of all, Mary who tells Joseph, 'I'm having a baby - oh and it's not yours'.

My review:
The perfect read for a Christmas holiday, this book have me chortling and "ahhhh"ing all the way through. Anyone who had ever had contact with young children will recognise the antics and anacdotes told in these chapters. It made me want to read it outloud to all around me. In fact, I shared so much that my Auntie wanted to read it as well. Despite not usually being a book reader, she found it hard to put down and finished it within two days.

I bought this book 2nd hand from a charity shop

Action point: Take note (and maybe even write down) the antics of young people around you. You never know, it might brighten up an otherwise dull day.

Reader's question: What's your funniest nativity story? 

Monday, 17 December 2012

A Woman's Christmas

Okay, I'm just going to come right out and say it: A lot of women secretly hate Christmas.
Now, don't get me wrong. We love that picturesque moment in which the tree is lit, the fire is crackling, and children outfitted in matching candy-cane pajamas dance around the living room to Tchaikovsky, showing off armfuls of new toys while a twenty-pound ham bakes in the oven; we just hate the anxiety disorder we developed while trying to produce it.
There seems to be some kind of universal agreement that the advances achieved through women's liberation need not apply during the holidays. It's as though the first trumpet peals of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" sent blasting over the PA at Bath & Beyond are designed to trigger an internal short that shocks us all into Stepford mode, donning aprons and strained smiles and sweaters that have no business surviving another decade.
 From A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

 What stresses you the most about Christmas?

Friday, 14 December 2012

Kingdom by Anderson O'Donell (Review & Guest Post)


In a secret laboratory hidden under the desert, a covert bioengineering project--codename "Exodus"--has discovered the gene responsible for the human soul.

Somewhere in the neon sprawl outside the nation's collapsing economic core, a group of renegade monks are on the verge of uncovering a secret that has eluded mankind for centuries.

In a glittering tower high above the urban decay, an ascendant U.S. Senator is found dead--an apparent, yet inexplicable, suicide.

And in the streets below, a young man races through an ultra modern metropolis on the verge of a violent revolution....closing in on the terrible truth behind Exodus--and one man's dark vision for the future of mankind.

Welcome to Tiber City.

My review:
Fast-paced, full of both action and tension, Kingdom tumbles the reader through a dystopian world both recognisable and yet immensely different.
At times the descriptions in this book were almost too intense, the scenes too graphic to bear. And yet this horror was never out of place with the world in which it was set, always there for a clear purpose. Its this imagery that really gives life to the book and propels the reader on in the hope that things might become better.
There was never a dull moment in this story. Events just kept coming, mirroring the fast-paced world in which the plot is set. At no point did I want to put the book down and pick it up another time. On the contrary, given the chance I was able to read half this book in one sitting.
Its not an easy read, but this is a boo which I thoroughly recommend to fans of dystopian worlds. I comes with only one warning though- this is not one for the young or the feint of heart!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from the author. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Purchase Links:


Surviving the Indie Publishing Explosion: Why Book Clubs Matter by Anderson O’Donnell

I’m about to write something I never thought I’d think, let alone type: With regard to publishing, particularly in the digital era, it’s not just about the numbers.

I realize that, for some, this realization might not be particularly earth shattering. But when I was researching whether to self-publish, statistics were everywhere: Downloads. Amazon ranking. Page views. Indie fairy tales with a six-figure ending. E-readers market share. Decline in print sales.

Every one, it seemed, was talking about devices and distribution, consumers and downloaders. But what about the readers? In the mad dash for visibility and platform creation, some writers seem to have forgotten that not only does our long-term success hinge on cultivating relationships with readers—as opposed to consumers—but the stories themselves depend on devoted readers.

Sexy Statistics

There are a number of indie publishing prophets tossing around a lot of sexy statistics. For example, did you hear about Amanda Hocking’s deal? I bet you did, and hey, it’s one hell of a deal—exactly the sort of fairy tale that can make toiling away in a dark, damp basement seem worthwhile.

In fact, I have a confession to make: When I first waded into the indie publishing waters, I thought that my number one priority should be getting as many copies of KINGDOM onto as many e-readers as possible. Free downloads—that was the ticket. And through Amazon KDP free days and the like, 15,000 or so people downloaded KINGDOM. But lately I’ve been wondering: how many actually read it? The most majority of downloaded copies are probably languishing alongside a hundred or so similar freebies. The sheer glut of content generated by these promotional giveaways is staggering; how many books are being snagged then forgotten?

While these numbers might yield some sort term gain, in the long run, our stories will suffer. After all, when a story gets published, its not actually done; it’s just moving to the next stage in an on-going creative process. By devouring their favorite stories, readers often reveal elements of the characters and story that surprise even the author. Literature needs to be discussed and dissected. It needs to be loved; it needs to be loathed—visceral is always better than lukewarm. If your story is sitting on an e-reader along with 100 other indie books, odds are this will never happen.

Find Your Readers

The fascination with numbers, rather than readers, is understandable; the numbers are seductive, and all writers dream of during their hobby into a profession. But it’s critical to not allow the numbers to get in the way of engaging readers.

So what’s the antidote to all this? Rather than focusing on numbers, let’s concentrate on finding as many ways to engage readers as possible. This month, for example, I’m participating in the Book Club Bash, where reading groups get together and dissect several new indie novels, including my baby, KINGDOM. I’m thrilled, because events like Book Club Bash are going to help authors distinguish themselves from the current glut of indie authors chasing the numbers. Indie publishing is about building relationships, reader by reader.

So the next time you come across those headline grabbing indie statistics, take a deep breath. There are quite a number of writers taking the self-publishing plunge at the moment, and the ones who survive the inevitable culling will be the authors who ignore the numbers and focus on what truly matters: the reader.

Action Reader's Action: 
Help promote an indie author that you like. 
Make a blog post, chat on twitter/facebook, or talk about their books with a friend

What do you think it means to be human?

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