Book Review: Shimmer

Shimmer by Kathryn Deans

My rating: No rating given

The blurb: Grieve is a troll with a seriously big problem. The Shimmer, a fragment of the Creation Stone, has been stolen, and all the evidence points to him being the thief. Grieve knows there’s only one set of creatures evil enough to use it – the fairies. He also knows he’s going to need specialist help in getting it back.

My review: I started reading Shimmer by Kathryn Deans. She’s an Australian writer (by night) and works in a bank by day. Now, this is no reflection on the writer or the book, but…I stopped reading it. I’m not all that keen on trolls, ogres, dwarves, elves – and this story has all of them. I only read the first 20 pages and I found that my mind kept wondering. I just wasn’t in the mood. I can tell you that the author writes with a humourous flow, which I liked, and the main character was well crafted. I’ll put the book back on the shelf and will come back to it at a later date…maybe.

Book Review: The Pit

The Pit by Ann Pilling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The blurb: Oliver, a contemporary London boy, finds himself, through a series of strange events, thrown back in time to the middle of the plague epidemic raging through London in the mid-seventeenth century.

My review: The cover captured my attention straight away. I knew by the “bird man” that the plot involved the plague and I was right.

Briefly, the book is about Oliver, who lives in London. He’s a 12 year old boy who has a fascination with all things spooky – horror films, spooky comics, death. He’s a bit of a loner, so doesn’t have a lot of friends. A girl tries to befriend him but he’s not really interested, but somehow gets talked into having a “shared” rat for a pet (even though he knows his mother will be angry if she finds out about it). At the same time a strange old man moves into his parents boarding house. Then, things start getting strange.

A “darkness” keeps coming for him. It takes him back in time to 1665 when London was experiencing the plague. He experiences life through the eyes of a five year old, whose family is struggling to stay alive as thousands of people die around them. For several weeks, Oliver lives two lives – awake in the present day; and, at the oddest moment he passes out and is taken back in time. Can he solve the riddle that brings the events of the past and present together? Is he strong enough to handle the truth? Will life ever be the same again?

The first two chapters of the book were mediocre, but after that it came alive. Being interested in the historical references, I knew the author had done her research. Yet it wasn’t until the end that I discovered that the idea for the book came about from a real event written in the diary of Samuel Pepys, who lived in London during the plague and recorded the daily events and happening of the people. This diary is referred to in many books and does exist.

The subject matter drew me in, and the plot held me. I liked the way the author put real events into the present day. I enjoyed following Oliver’s journey and his sense of discovery. And I learned that, in children’s books, you can write about death, suicide and mangled bodies and get away with it.

This is a book for young readers. Yet all readers will reach the end of the story and know what life was really like in 1665, during the plague. It was a great read. I wasn’t disappointed.

Book review: Assassin’s Apprentice

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Last night, I finished reading Assassin’s Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1) by Robin Hobb. There were things I loved about this book, and things I hated.

First, a short blurb on the storyline (so skip to the next paragraph if you haven’t read the book, and don’t want it spoilt). Fitz is a royal bastard (as in born outside of wedlock). At age five his mother’s family deliver him to the royals and abandon him. The boy looks just like his King-in-Waiting father, but this doesn’t win Fitz any favours. His father, and his wife, abdicate and move away from the castle, leaving Fitz to be tended by the stable master. Over the years, Fitz is treated badly, but one day the king finds a use for little Fitz, and he is apprenticed to Chade, the king’s assassin. From here everything that can go wrong, does, but I’ll let you read the book to find out how it turns out.

I loved the characters and the plot. Both were deeply woven together. There were a number of surprises, some of them tear jerkers. It is written in first person, but Robin Hobb did a beautiful job with this. She allowed the reader to get right inside the main characters head, and this paid off, because I really felt connected with him – I felt his pain and loneliness. It was enough to shatter the heart.

As I said, Assassin’s Apprentice was written in first person, so the author felt she had to include a short passage at the beginning of each chapter (ranging from a few lines to one and a half pages), which explained the history and other characters. These were things that the main character didn’t know and was mostly “telling”. This is the main thing that I disliked about the book. I found it distracting and…well, boring. After reading the first few, I stopped reading them and I feel I didn’t miss anything. The story was just as rich without these “info dumps”.

There were places where the author also described too much. For example, it took something like five pages to describe a city. By the time I’d read 3 pages, I was well and truly over it and just wanted the story to continue – so skipped the rest of the description. Other sections were over described too, but not as bad as the section I just mentioned. These long descriptions were also distracting and managed to pull me out of the story I was thoroughly enjoying.

Taking these things away, this book is excellent. The story and characters are so real that the reader has no choice but to “get over” the bad things and move on. I did, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The book is the first book in a trilogy, but it is also a stand alone novel. I don’t have to read the next book, but I will because I want to see where the story will go (and how the author improves because, I believe, this was her first published novel).

Highly recommended; and, I think it will gain a place in my top ten books. 😀

DVD Review: Ice Age

Last night I watched Ice Age for the first time. I love animated movies and they are the only type of DVDs I will buy. (However, G buys all the action packed ones, so I don’t miss out.)

Briefly, Ice Age is about three mismatched creatures coming together, for their own reasons, to help a human child return to his tribe. Before the adventure is over, the group not only face boiling lava pits, and treacherous ice tunnels, but they discover emotions.

It’s a great story. I enjoyed it immensely. Now I can put it aside for when the (step) grandchildren grow up a little and will appreciate watching it. (Yes, that was my real reason for buying it – honest!) 😀

Punctuation: Comma

Please note that the following usage is for Australians only (it definitely does NOT apply in America, but may apply in England). You should check what your regional standard is.

The Comma

The comma makes the meaning clearer by separating parts of a sentence. It sugges a short puase and is used in the following places:

  • to separate items in a list:
    We had sandwices, fruit, a cake and milk for lunch.
    (There is no need for a comma before “and” in the above sentence.)
  • to separate lists of adjectives or adverts:
    She is a bright, friendly, happy girl.
    The dog moved slowly, carefully, quietly and warily away from the cat.

    (That second sentence is a shocker; never, ever do that in your manuscript.)
  • to separate principal clauses in a sentence:
    They were tired, but they hurried anyway.
  • to separate words, phrases and clauses at the beginnings of sentences:
    However, I wish to disagree.
    In the afternoon, the opposing team arrived.
    If you try hard, you will succeed.
  • to separate words and groups of words that add extra information:
    My dog, Honey, swam in the creek.
    The captain, our best player, scored the goal.
    Sarah, who had a sore throat, stayed at home.
  • to separate words that are said in direct speech.
    “I know,” said Mary.
    “Would you mind,” I asked, “if I sat next to you?”

Sometimes the use of the comma is optional; you can decide whether or not it is needed, for instance, either example is acceptable here:
I hurried but I missed the train.
I hurried, but I missed the train.

Always use a comma if it makes the meaning clearer.

Laid, Lain, Lay, Lie

Now this one is more for me, than you. These four words are a curse to me, because I cannot remember which word I should be using. I’ve been told a million times, I had a friend send me a photocopy of the rule, but still I don’t know.

(Note: The following usages are for Australians. They might change elsewhere in the world, so please — please — do not confuse me by telling me it’s done differently elsewhere. I need to know how it’s done in my own country.)

Laid, Lain

Laid is the past tense of the verb to lay. You always lay something in some place. The hen laid an egg; She laid the plates on the table.

Lain is the past tense of the verb to lie. You lie or rest somewhere. I have lain on the bed for a rest.

Lay, Lie

Lay is a verb meaning to put something down. To lay a path in the garden.

Lie is a verb meaning to “lie down”, “to be at rest”. It is dangerous to lie in the sun. It can also mean to tell an untruth. Do not lie to me. Lie can also be a noun. That is a lie; you know it is untrue.

Source: The Foundation Grammar Dictionary by Gordon Winch

Grammar: The Basics

The other day I shared some more unusual grammar terms with you. Today, I think we’ll return to the basics, because if you don’t know these…we’ve got a problem.

Adjective – is a describing word. It adds meaning to a noun or pronoun. fast car; windy day.

Adverb – adds meaning to a verb or another adverb. very humid; too hot.

Noun – is the name of a person, place or thing. Karen; Australia; computer; happiness. ie Karen came to Australia in 1969. Messing around on her computer brings her happiness.

Pronoun – is used in place of a noun. He is mine.

Verb – is a doing, being or having word. The dog ate his food; We are happy; They have a new teacher.

Grammar Meanings

Absolute Word – is complete in itself; it cannot be more or less. The judges decision is final. You cannot say or write more final. Some other absolute words are perfect, correct, alive, unique.

Alliteration – is the repetition of the first sounds in words. The fair breeze blew, the white form flew; seven stately stallions.

Antonyms – are words that have the opposite meaning. Good, bad; big, small; happy, sad.

Bound Morpheme – is an affix (prefix or suffix) that changes the grammar or meaning of a word but cannot stand by itself. Anti-, antiseptic; -ly, smoothly.

Classifying Adjective – is a describing word that tells us the class of the noun it describes. gum trees; Holden cars.

Compound Word – consists of two or more words joined together. They can be completely joined, as in snowman and eggplant or separated by a hyphen, as in, go-cart and jack-in-the-box. A compound word can be a noun, as already shown, or an adjective, like red-hot, or a verb, such as overtake. A compound word has a different meaning from each of its parts.

Embedded Clause – A subordinate clause within a principal clause. The girl who sat near me was my friend. (I’d be inclined to use commas with this example.)

Interjection – is an exclamatory word, that interrupts the flow of conversation, such as Wow!, Oops! and my personal favourite, Yoohoo!. It usually shows strong feeling and is followed by an exclamation mark.

Onomatopoeia – is a device in which the word’s meaning is suggested by the sound of the word. Screech, slither, scratch, crunch.