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Archive for May 2010

Review: Cause Celeb by Helen Fielding

httRosie Richardson was a typical girl working at a publicist for a book company. Until she found herself dating Oliver Marchant, a presenter for a popular tv show called Soft Focus. Soon, she found herself in the "inner circle" of celebrity - being invited to all sorts of parties, until she found out the truth in the personality of her boyfriend, Oliver. On one of her work assignments, she got sent to Africa to help the famine victims in Kefti. It changed her life forever, and once she and Oliver had broken up, she spent her time in Kefti as a relief worker. All was going well until a locust outbreak came, hundreds of thousands of refugees are expected to come, and with no supplies, Rosie decides to go back to London and enlist the help of her celebrity friends from the life she had left behind. Will she be able to do it?

Excellent book. This was Helen Fielding's debut novel, released long before we knew Bridget Jones. In this initial novel, the writing style is almost the same as Bridget: witty yet funny. However, the subject is a bit more deep and provides an insight on what was happening during the 1980s drought in Africa. It's chick list with a cause, as I say, and written in a way to engage the readers in to the realities of the drought without poring too many information in to bore or overwhelm the readers.

 The main characters were well-defined, Oliver is wacky than what I'd ought to be [although I loved him at first], and well, Fielding did good with the descriptions of Africa too. However, what I don't like is the places in Africa that Fielding described - most of them are fictional, which makes it harder for me to understand and picture the places without Googling it. As most of you know, I love to google stuff whenever I read books, just to check up on the facts/information on a particular place or basically anything that peaked my interest. Anyway, back to the review. This book presents the irony of the haves and the have-nots, mostly the divide between the West and the East, that is also rampant today. The novel shows how people care about one another, given the various disasters that we are in, and the only way we could overcome it is by reaching out to the less-fortunate countries distraught and try to do something good.

The novel is also real in a sense that most people would forget the horrible things that they had experienced as they help out the less fortunate, and what matters most is that the general public have to be constantly aware of what's happening around the world, good or bad. That is, we should step outside our sheltered life and realize what is out there.

Published: 2002

Publisher: Penguin.
Available from: Amazon and your local booksellers. It is available at a bargain price in Amazon.
Read it if: You want a chick lit with a cause.
Book was acquired from: a local bookstore for $1.
fickle fan/overall rating:

The post above is included in Cym Lowell's Book Review Wednesdays
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Guest Blog: Kelly Harmon on Writing for Today’s Reader

Hiya everyone and please welcome Kelly Harmon as a guest blogger today. I would personally like to congratulate her on the release of her book "Blood Soup"

Feel free to drop a comment or two to ask questions or just say hi :)

Without further ado, here's Kelly as she writes about Writing for Today's Reader


I’m a huge fan of Tolkien, loved reading The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings books as a teen, but I’ve long maintained that Tolkien would fail to get published if he attempted to do so today.  What appealed to readers a decade or more ago, doesn’t apply to today’s reader.

(We don’t hold on to old technology...so why should we continue to read antiquated styles?)

In my opinion, Tolkien wrote a plodding history filled with exposition. He failed to get to the action fast enough, and used way too many words (these statements, I’m certain, rub a few readers the wrong way...apologies!)  But, here’s an example:

In The Hobbit, Tolkien describes Bilbo Baggins home:

“It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel; a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats–the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of a hill–and many little round doors opened out of it...”

This goes on for quite some length. 

I don’t have the time anymore to sit through pages and pages of such description. Do you? If you’re like me, you’re racing to work, picking up the kids, taking them to soccer practice, flying off to your own meetings, etc. Life is fast-paced.

So...what could Tolkien have done to appeal to modern readers?
1) He could have stepped up the pace by cutting out long descriptions and given us (mostly) the key information. A paragraph or two, three at most, would have sufficed as an introduction to Baggins and his home, then Tolkien should have gotten on with the story.

Other things he could have done: used shorter sentences to make the work read faster. Broken large paragraphs into smaller ones to visually appeal to the eye and create a sense of motion; and tightened his prose into shorter scenes.

2) Tolkien could have started with action. People enjoy thrills and danger...why else are police shows so popular on TV? 24, Law & Order, and The First 48 have us on the edge of our seat. We also like our adrenaline rushes: bungee jumping, roller coasters and free-fall rides, etc.

Tolkien does offer lots of thrills and excitement...but twenty pages into The Hobbit and Bilbo is turning down Gandolf’s adventure.  Turning him down! And we suffer through ten more pages of a dinner party at his home. It’s not until Chapter Two, nearly fifty pages in, that Bilbo actually gets moving on his quest.
Most readers today want to see the action in the first few pages, if not on page one.  Action drops you right into the story.

3) Tolkien could have stepped up the emotion, made us care more about the characters by showing us–not telling us– how events affected them.

We love our reality TV...couples fighting, battling weight, vying for marriage, singing their hearts out. We can’t help but become emotionally attached as we watch others’ lives unfolding before us. And we find ourselves aligned for this couple, rooting for that singer, hoping that marriage doesn’t break up over a slice of pie as the shows unfold.  We care.

I’m not saying we don’t care for Tolkien’s characters, we do; but I know for me, it’s a mild sort of caring.  I need more in order to relate.

Hobbits love to take a bath: they sing many-versed songs about it. But I’d rather have seen Bilbo sinking into a hot tub of water and sighing blissfully over the joy of it than endure his ten-verse song written into the prose.

In the Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo is awakened by Merry at 4 a.m., making a clattering noise in order to get his attention.  That would tick me off. How about you?  Yet Frodo gets up without complaint and starts moving.  Tolkien could have done so much with this scene.

For me, an author succeeds at making me emotionally attached if I’m crying at the end of a romance, or dreading the final battle scene, or hurt (and angry!) that someone got killed off.

Today’s author should strive to hijack the reader’s emotions as he relates the story.

Postscript: Please don’t hate me for picking on Tolkien! He’s only one example. I could find examples in many author’s books, including some of my favorites and by several authors of classics (who wrote when time wasn’t so precious to us now).


A tale of murder, betrayal and comeuppance.

King Theodicar of Borgund needed an heir. When his wife, Queen Piacenza, became pregnant, he’d hoped for a boy. His wife, along with her nurse, Salvagia, knew it wouldn’t be so: with each cast of the runes, Salvagia’s trusted divination tools yielded the same message: “A girl child must rule or the kingdom will fall to ruin.” The women were convinced that the child would be a girl.

When the queen finally gives birth, the nurse and the king are equally surprised. The king is faced with a terrible choice, and his decision will determine the fate of his kingdom. Will he choose wisely, or will he doom Borgund to ruin?

Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

It's Harry Potter's fourth year at Hogwarts, and lots of exciting things have been happening in the wizarding world. First, there's the Quidditch World Cup, with the finals between Bulgaria and Ireland. Then there's the Triwizard Tournament, an event which brings three students from three different schools to be put in three difficult tasks. The winner would get the Triwizard cup, 1000 galleons and school pride.

However, odd things have been happening this year. The Deatheaters crashed the Quidditch World Cup, causing mayhem, a new teacher took over the Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson, Professor Moody and he seems more weird compared to the other teachers, and Harry was suddenly chosen as the fourth champion for the Triwizard Tournament. Apart from that, his scar is hurting like crazy and he's been having dreams that Lord Voldemort is back. Could Harry survive this year given all these challenges?

Very good Harry Potter book! It provided a lot of character background about Voldemort, Harry and Dumbledore. I love the way JK Rowling wrote the challenges: they were so vivid, its like I was watching the scene unfold as I was reading the book. Very, very good indeed. The extra characters: Barty Crouch Sr and Jr, Bagman, Viktor Krum, Fleur dela Couer, Cedric Diggory, Rita Skeeter, Madame Maxine and Karkarov [sp?] definitely stirred things up in Hogwarts. It's also nice to know that there are other wizarding schools out there, although they were European schools. I wonder if there was an Australian/Asian/American/African contingent of wizarding schools? That would be awesome!

Anyway, I liked that the story involved a lot about the feelings of Harry, Hermione and Ron. They were teenagers in this, and they are just starting to experience love/like/crushes. The Ron/Hermione shippers would definitely love this book too.

So, what else do I like? By the way, apologies for any spoilers above or below. Its simply hard to type a review about Harry Potter without giving too much away =)

I love Pig, the owl, the merchandise at the Quidditch world cup -- makes me wish that the merchandise we get from various event in real life equal to the quality and the ingenuity of the ones available from the wizarding world. I also loved the other magical creatures -- the house elf, the Veela and the leprechauns and the goblins. teehee. Hmmm.. what else? Did I mention that Voldemort scared the hell out of me? He's creepy! And the latter part of the book is a bit dark, and is a good prequel to what's going to happen on book five.

Very, very, very good book. I'm now a Potter fan and well, every child and person should definitely read the Harry Potter books. You're missing out on a lot if you don't read them! Don't want to read? Well, the movies are equally nice too. The fourth movie was a good representation of the book but there are some details that would be left out, of course.

Published: 2001
Publisher: Scholastic/Bloomsbury
Available from: Amazon and your local booksellers
Read it if: You're a Potterhead. No, everyone should definitely read this book.
Book was acquired from: My friend Toni!
fickle fan/overall rating:

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