Zi71bFS9nQHnivtvUJquhejTHIQ The Story Factory Reading Zone: August 2013

Monday, 19 August 2013

Guest Post: Ally Malinenko- You Have To Read This Book

Today I'm pleased to welcome 'Ally Malinenko' to 'The Story Factory Reading Zone'. I really enjoyed reading Ally's book 'Lizzy Spear and the Cursed Tomb'. I also hear that Ally is an avid reader, so she should fit in well here.

Welcome Ally:

About Ally
Hi. I’m Ally.

I live in Brooklyn which is good except when it’s not which is horrid. I’ve been writing for awhile, and have some stuff published and some stuff not.
I don’t like when people refer to pets as their children and I can’t resist a handful of cheez-its when offered.
I have a burning desire to go to Antarctica, specifically to the South Pole so I can see where Robert Falcon Scott died.
I like to read books. I like to write stories and poems. I even wrote a novel. Rumor has it, it got published. But I don’t believe rumors. And you shouldn’t either.

You Have to Read This Book

The book to read is not the one that thinks for you
but the one that makes you think
                                                                                                                -Harper Lee

People get really hung up on the answer to the question “What do you do?” We love to ask that. What do you? What do you do? The answer for most people 9 times out of 10 is what they do for a living. What brings in the money. What keeps a roof over their head. And that makes sense. But that’s what you do for a job. It’s not really what you do.

If I answered that question seriously, I would say I was a reader. It’s easily my favorite way to pass time. Maybe it’s being an introvert. Maybe it’s cause I started reading at a very young age and never stopped. Maybe it’s cause I’m a junky for the printed word. The library in my hometown was about the size of most people’s living room but to me, there was nowhere else I wanted to go on a weekend. When my mother would take me to the Big Library a few towns up, one that had more than one floor, I nearly fainted.

The fact of the matter is nothing is better than a book. They’re perfect. Compact. Lightweight (well, unless you’re reading Proust), and everyone takes from them a different experience, a different set of sensations. Love it or hate, a book changes you. I think if you rounded up all the other forms of life distractions, (internet, movies, television, games, etc) books would still win by a knockout.
They’re full of magic and memory and dreams and intrigue and laughter and sadness and heartbreak. I think if you could physical hold a soul, it would be in the shape of a book.

Even the places that house books are magical. How many hours can be spent wandering around a bookstore? I cannot recall ever walking into a bookstore and being alone. How many chances are there to pick up a story that will change your life? What other object do we speak about with that level of passion? To say, ‘this book changed my life’ is a common expression. How often do we ram them into the hands of friends and family, begging them to read, please you have to read this?

I read a book this year that describes perfectly the sensation of falling in love, with all the necessary anxiety and helplessness and joy and laughter and delight. (Eight White Nights by Andre Aicman)
I read a book this year that left me adrift in a boat facing the very reality of my impending death (Heart of the Sea by Nathan Philbrick).

I read a book this year that taught me that inside the dimension of spacetime is another little curled up world called the Calabi-Yau manifold (Elegant Universe by Brian Greene).

Every one of those books has changed me. Because that’s what books do. They are the only true magical thing I have ever encountered. So tell me, what did you read?

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb by Ally Malinenko (A Review)

About the book:

…a normal twelve year old girl with a talent for writing, who has a very notnormal family secret. And when Lizzy’s father vanishes, that secret will change her life in ways unimagined. (Spoiler Alert!  It turns out that Lizzy, or Elizabeth S. Speare, is the last living descendant of William Shakespeare.  Shhh!  Don’t tell anybody!)
Then Lizzy and her best friend Sammy are kidnapped, awakening in the faraway land of Manhattan. Their host is Jonathan Muse, whose job is to protect Lizzy from becoming the latest victim in a family feud going back nearly five hundred years.  Is that why is the mysterious, eye patch-wearing Dmitri Marlowe is after her? (Spoiler Alert 2—he’s the last living descendant of Christopher Marlowe, a friend and rival of Shakespeare’s.  But keep it to yourself!) Is Marlowe after Lizzy’s family fortune rumored to be kept in the tomb of that bald guy with the goatee? Does he seek artistic immortality? Or Revenge (with a capital R) for a death long, long ago?
In a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, Lizzy and Sammy are thrust into the realm of the mythical and fantastic—from satyrs and Cyclopses to Middle Eastern cab drivers and Brooklyn hipsters in what is truly “an improbable fiction” as the Bard himself once wrote.

My review:
A dynamic story, weaving together YA, Shakespeare and mythology in a new and captivating way. 
Each character is unique and well-thought out, with a background story and clear motives. They all stand alone in their own rights, with even the most insignificant of them becoming a clear image in the reader's mind. I found myself particularly attracted to the character of Sammy, Lizzy's best friend and a truly heroic, yet realistic, person. The goodies are believable (even the most mythical of them), and the baddies retain an element of humanity amidst their cruelty.
The plot is driven forward by moments of action, each linked together with detective-like thinking or constructive character building. Nothing feels artificial about this story and it all hangs together perfectly. From the beginning to the end, I wanted to know what would happen next and I was never disappointed.
A definite 'you can't put down' book- I hope that I will have the opportunity to read the others in the series. 

Action Reader's Action:
  Investigate your ancestors and then share what you find with someone else

What's your view of Shakespeare?

Monday, 12 August 2013

Water Harvest by Eric Diehl (A Review)

About the book:

The Great Houses of Kast'ar have grown complacent. Technological adaptation bolsters a fragile biosphere, but one quandary remains unattended. Lunar-based harvest vessels orbit continuously, extracting their toll of moisture from the upper atmosphere.

Over time, the planet dries.

Now the Rules are caught unawares when a lunar enclave launches an invasion intended to seize control of the Harvest. House Alar, the greatest of the bloodline Keeps, falls before the predatory warlord. The invader's technology is strong and they are aided by the Guild; wizard-like practitioners whose hallucinogen-induced evocations bend fate to their will.

It falls to Cairn, Legion pilot and displaced heir to Alar, to persuade the House Alliance to intercede. His father and his love Neilai are held hostage, and a battered Cairn is dispatched to carry the vile interloper's edict. With few resources at hand, Cairn and boisterous comrade Dirc Cutter are thrust into a changed world. The Alliance falters and Cairn, son of House Alar, learns how little he knows of his home world.

A science-fiction adventure, fall of battles, this story draws heavily on concepts and terms that will be familiar to all that enjoy the genre.
The plot was interesting, with some unusual twists. Unfortunately I found it hard to follow in places, which was quite infuriating considering the length of the book. I think this was partly due to the long battle scenes, and partly due to sudden changes in alliances.
The battle scenes were complex and, at times, quite gripping. They were full of detail and relatively easy to picture. 
I think that anyone who likes reading about battles would really enjoy this book. Unfortunately there were rather too many of these scene for me. 

Action Reader's Action:
Consider a time when you haven't acted as you should have. Write an apology letter (you don't have to send it if you don't want to).

What motivates you? 

Saturday, 10 August 2013

God Collar by Marcus Brigstocke

About the book:

Marcus Brigstocke is a husband, a father and an award-winning comedian. He's also an atheist... or at least he thinks he is. He knows that God probably doesn't exist because he read it on the side of a bus, and that's one of the ways you can know things.
Here, in God Collar, Marcus sets out on a journey through faith in the hope of filling his 'God-shaped hole' (this is not his arsehole- he is not suggesting his bottom looks like God). He explores his own issues around faith: his lack of it, his need for it, other people's exploitation of it and what good purposes it might serve if he could get hold of it. What good is God if some of His keenest followers abuse children, blow each other up and refuse to dance to 'YMCA'? Can God and Marcus ever be friends when they have so little in common? What's a reluctant atheist to do?

My review:
To be honest, I found this book quite uncomfortable in places. Its not an easy book for anyone of faith to read, but I do think its necessary in order to understand some misconceptions of non-believers about religion and why they occur.
This book promises to be hilarious, and I did find it funny in a few places. But mostly I found it very thought-provoking. I couldn't stop talking to those around me about what I'd read, considering it when I journalled, and generally contemplating each chapter in great detail.
I did really feel for Marcus' exploration of his beliefs. It was interesting to see his thought processes in action, and how we are all influenced by what we experience in everyday life.
I came out at the end of it not having enjoyed the book, but being glad that I'd read it and feeling a little sorry that all Marcus' contemplating whilst writing didn't seem to have made any certainty for him in his life. Worth a read, but not compulsory reading in my opinion.

Action Reader's Action:
Take some time to talk with someone whose beliefs are different to your own

What do you believe in and why? 


Friday, 9 August 2013

One Hit Wonderland by Tony Hawks (A Review)

About the book:

 Its 1988 and radios across the land blast out the Top Ten hit 'Stutter Rap' by Morris Minor and the Majors. The man behind the fake moustache is Tony Hawks.
Fast-forward to the 21st century and those heady days of pop stardom are a distant memory. That is, until it is suggested that Tony is a One Hit Wonder. Really? We'll see about that...
For two years Tony struggles to have a hit, somewhere- anywhere- in the world, changing acts and styles with a bewildering lack of integrity. From Nashville to Amsterdam, from Eastern Europe to Africa, he travels the globe in search of that elusive hit.
But it's only after a chance encounter with Norman Wisdom that things get really strange. Is it possible that together they could storm the Albanian charts?
In One Hit Wonderland anything can happen...

My review:
Witty and funny, you never know where this book will go next. I just love the way Tony Hawk's mind seems to work, taking the impossible and making it possible in the most unbelievable way.
Sometimes its hard to believe that any of this is real. Its not all down-hill sailing but, even during the uphill passages, this book never ceases to provide good reading. The most entertaining part is saved right to the end, but you won't regret reading the rest to get there. 
This isn't the best Tony Hawks book in my opinion, but it certainly a great light-hearted read.

Action Reader's Action:
What's your aim in life? Spend some time thinking about how you can achieve it.

What's your favourite one-hit wonder?
(If you can, provide a link to YouTube so that we can check it out as well)

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo (A Review)

About the book:
Bernardine Evaristo's dynamic debut novel asks: What if the history of the transatlantic slave trade had been reversed, and if Africans has enslaved Europeans? How would that have changed the ways that people justified their inhuman behaviour? How would it inform our cultural attitudes and the insidious racism that still longer today?
We see this tragicomic world turned upside down through the eyes of Doris, and Englishwoman who is kidnapped as a child from the fields near her home; subsequently enslaved; and taken to the New World, as well as to the imperial center of Great Ambossa. Doris movingly recounts experiences of tremendous hardship and the dreams of the people she has left behind, all while journeying toward an escape into freedom.

My review:
A daring and thought-provoking book, this story does its job very well. It was strange at first, reading about this different and yet familiar world, but as the book went it is seemed more and more real. Don't get me wrong, it was never a completely comfortable read, but is was scary how believable it all became.
It was easy to resonate with the character of Doris, to appreciate her viewpoint on the situation she was in. The others appeared as individuals, with clear ways of seeing the world influenced by their own pasts. Each character was unique and believable.
If I had to pick one hole in this book, it would be that I was never entirely sure what time period it was supposed to be set in. Some things seemed really modern, others seemed somehow unnecessarily primitive. However, this only jarred with me once or twice and for a very short time, as the characters were so gripping, and the events so intense.
This book should be read by anyone interested in, or studying, the history of the slave trade. Its also a really hard-hitting and yet enjoyable read for all who usually like historic fiction, or just a good novel.

Action Reader's Action:
Pay particular attention to thinking about how you treat other people today.

How much do you know about your family history? 
How has it influenced your view of the world?


Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Playing the Moldovans at Tennis by Tony Hawks

About the Book

An eccentric wager finds Tony Hawks, a man who loves an unusual challenge, bound for the little-known Eastern European state of Moldova. His mission: to track down members of the country's football team and persuade them to play him at tennis. The bizzare quest ultimately has little to do with tennis or football, but instead turns into an extraordinary journey involving the Moldovan underworld, gypsies, chronic power shortages, near kidnap, and a surprisingly tender relationship with his host family.

My review:
From the moment I picked up this book I was drawn in. It might help that I'd just been lucky enough to see the man himself talking about it, but I think it would have been hard to put down anyway. 
Every character is described in a way that suggests Tony really understands how they tick. They are real people, who feel like they might jump out of the page at any moment.
Its amazing how many events manage to come together in this one book. There's never a dull moment as Tony pursues his quest. Sometimes its even hard to believe that it is real- surely at least some of it is fiction?! But real it is, providing a good insight into a pretty much unknown world alongside its hilarious turns of event.  
Hilarious, inspiring, and revealing, this book is a must for anyone wanting a lighter read.  

Action Reader's Action: 
 Use an atlas to find a country that you don't know much about. Make it your mission to discover more about it.

What's the most exotic place you've ever traveled to?

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Fable's Fortunes by Sue Johnson (A Review)

About the book:

Fable Mitchell is born under a roof of stars in a Kentish plum orchard, and her early childhood is spent alone in a house called 'Starlight' where she lives with her mother Jasmine and Gangan the Wise Woman. However, her life is not destined to remain like a fairytale.
When she is ten, she is abducted by her estranged father Derek, now a vicar, and taken to live in his austere vicarage as Isbourne on the banks of the River Avon. Fable is unable to escape. When she is sixteen, she falls in love with Tobias Latimer but he dies in mysterious circumstances and Fable's happiness is once again snatched away from her. 
She tries to rebuild her life and marries Tony Lucas because she thinks the omens are right. Fable soon realises he is abusive and controlling, but is trapped because she fears losing contact with her daughter. Nearing her 40th birthday, Fable hears Gangan the Wise Woman's voice telling her to 'be reading- magic happens'.
This is certainly true, but does Fable have the necessary courage to finally seize her chance of lasting happiness?

My review:
I really enjoyed the final third of this book. It was tense, emotionally and heart-felt. I found myself caught up in the character of Fable.
Unfortunately, it took rather longer than I would have like to get to this point. There were interesting events and some evocative passages, but flashbacks and descriptive passages seemed to slow down what was happening rather than adding to the feelings in places. 
The overall feel of this book was like a fairytale, with some adult events. I'm sure it is a mix that will appeal to some, but it just wasn't for me. 

Action Reader's Action: Make some magic happen in someone's life today. Create an happy surprise.

What does happiness mean to you?

Monday, 5 August 2013

Music Out of The Pages: Making Instruments

Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey
....."Then Robinton wants you to borrow a gitar. Master Jerint is sure to have a spare one usable in the workshop. You'll have to make your own, you know. Unless you made one for Petiron at the Sea Hold?"
"I had none of my own." Menolly was rlieved that she could keep her voice steady.
"But Petiron took his with him. Surely you..."
"I had use of it, yes." Menolly managed to keep her tone even as she rigidly suppreessed the memory of how she had lost the use, the beating her father had given her for forbidden tuning, playing her own songs. "I made myself pipes..." she added, diverting Silvina from further questions. Rummaging in her bundle, she brought out the multiple pipes she had made in her cave by the sea.
"Reeds? And done with a belt knife by the look of them," said Silvina, walking to the window for more light as she turned the pipes in a critical examination. "Well done for juust a belt knife." She reeturned the pipes to Menolly with an approving expression. "Petiron was a good teacher."

Have you ever made an instrument?

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter (A Review)

1916: the Western Front, France. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong, and the wind in the leaves in the trees. Where has the mud, blood and blasted landscape of No man's Land gone?

2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Cop Monica Jansson has returned to the burned-out home of one Willis Linsay, a reclusive and some said mad, others dangerous, scientist. It was arson but, as is often the way, the firemen seem to have caused more damage than the fire itself. Stepping through the wreck of a house, there's no sign of any human remains but on the mantelpiece Monica finds a curious gadget - a box, containing some wiring, a three-way switch and a...potato. It is the prototype of an invention that Linsay called a 'stepper'. An invention he put up on the web for all the world to see, and use, an invention that would to change the way mankind viewed his world Earth for ever. And that's an understatement if ever there was one...

...because the stepper allowed the person using it to step sideways into another America, another Earth, and if you kept on stepping, you kept on entering even more Earths...this is the Long Earth. It's not our Earth but one of chain of parallel worlds, lying side by side each differing from its neighbour by really very little (or actually quite a lot). It's an infinite chain, offering 'steppers' an infinite landscape of infinite possibilities. And the further away you travel, the stranger - and sometimes more dangerous - the Earths get. The sun and moon always shine, the basic laws of physics are the same. However, the chance events which have shaped our particular Earth, such as the dinosaur-killer asteroid impact, might not have happened and things may well have turned out rather differently.

But, until Willis Linsay invented his stepper, only our Earth hosted mankind...or so we thought. Because it turns out there are some people who are natural 'steppers', who don't need his invention and now the great migration has begun..

My review:
Partly out of the realms on classic sci-fi, this story explores the idea of what it means to be human. Add a touch of Pratchett humour and you have an ingenious plot.

I particularly enjoyed the literary references which were many and well-thought out.The way the thought processes of the main characters differed was also very interesting.

This book made me want to explore more of Stephen Baxter's work, as well as being a good addition to my Pratchett collection.

Action Reader's Action: Try to reduce the amout of time that you spend on computers. Take back control of your life!

Question: What do you think it means to be human?

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