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DOWN UNDER By Bill Bryson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2011 by stanleyriiks

I bought this book just before going to Australia myself and never got round to reading it. I have to say that although it’s an interesting account of Bryson’s travels around Oz, and his amusing anecdotes offer a little insight into the country, I didn’t really miss much.

It’s an interesting book rather than fascinating. Amusing rather than funny.

The problem is exactly what drives people to read Bryson’s books, their very ordinariness. His adventures (using the term loosely) around Australia were almost as exciting as mine. The places he visited similarly to mine, although I didn’t get to the outback or Perth, I definitely saw more of Melbourne than he did, and my brief trip to Sydney seemed to encompass more than his.

The insights aren’t anything special either. You only have to talk to a couple of Australian and visit their cities to see the issues they have with the Aborigines.

Australia is an interesting and very new and empty country, and you get that idea from Bryson’s book. His travels around the country offer an insight if you haven’t ever been, but it’s much more fun to explore yourself. You’ll likely come to similar conclusions.

Where Bryson’s book does excel is his research. There are some fascinating histories in here amidst the middle-of-the-road traveller’s adventures. He seems to spend every evening in a bar having a beer, a traditional Aussie past-time perhaps, but hardly exciting for the reader.

Down Under isn’t a massive success, nor is it a massive failure. It’s difficult to get excited about the book either way. I neither feel compelled to read another of his book, nor bothered to remember not to.

Unlike a guidebook you don’t feel the sense of exciting of discovery, and Bryson’s mild excitement isn’t really enough to make you want to discover more.

May be this is one of his off books, and may be they’re all like this. I just can’t be bothered to find out.

ODD AND THE FRONT GIANTS By Neil Gaiman – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2010 by stanleyriiks

This short book was made available for World Book Day in 2008, and sold for a £1.00. Worth every penny.

It’s now being re-released.

Odd is a young Viking boy who runs away from home after another argument with his step-father, and sets off into the forest, only to find himself helping out a bear trapped when trying to get some honey. After Odd helps the bear he finds out that not only can the bear, and his companions the fox and the eagle, talk, but they are also Norse gods trapped in animal bodies by a Frost Giant. They ask Odd to help them out, and with nothing better to do the young boy sets off with them to enter Asgard to help them take their rightful place.

This is part myth part fairy-tale, it’s exactly the type of story that Gaiman seems to revel in. Familiar enough, but new and fresh enough to make us keep reading. You have to find out what happens to Odd and his friends, and you can’t help but enjoy the simple tale. Gaiman is a great story-telling, his created world is brilliantly portrayed, and his characters are pretty much as real as you can get.

Gaiman tells stories like no other, and his unique ability is perfectly showcased in this brief story.

A Pint of Bloody Fiction – Featuring MY story!

Posted in Life..., Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2010 by stanleyriiks

A couple of months ago I hadn’t written anything for ages. A couple of months, I thought, but when I checked it turned out to be almost a year. When I saw a call for submissions of 200 words by House of Horror for their new anthology A Pint of Bloody Fiction, the urge was irresistible. I whipped up a 200 word story in half an hour, and then spending twice that long editing it!

I sent it in, and the acceptance wasn’t long coming. Why isn’t it always that simple? The grin on my face stayed for over a week; anyone who know what a miserably bugger I normally am can testify this is an extremely rare event.

So my story “The Blade Bites Deep” appears in the collection, alongside some other stuff by some other writers. (Who are actually pretty good too!)

This burst of confidence also unleashed a six week write-fest, where I wrote something every couple of days. About twelve stories were produced in that time, and now the inspiration seems to have taken a backseat I better get to editing and submitting the buggers before my own version of writers block (life in general, grrr!) starts getting in the way again. So wish me luck!

And go get yourself a copy of  A Pint of Bloody Fiction and tell them I sent you!

Within the pages of this book of nightmares you will find horror stories in small doses, just enough to quench your bloody thirst. From an insomniac vampire to a library filled with human skin bound books, this collection will take you on a wild ride of chills and thrills without you even having to leave your seat. With each story being no more than 200 words, this collection is only a fraction of what these writers can do. Forty-Two chilling tales from many talented authors, trust me you will not want to put this book down.

Available now from House of Horror, Lulu.com and coming soon to Amazon.