Category Archives: Ebook

Pitch Perfect at Bloody Scotland

Had they even written those books they worked so hard to pitch?

I ask only because last year’s winner of Pitch Perfect apparently hadn’t. She pitched. She won. She got contract. And then she wrote. Or I hope she did, as the book is coming out in the spring.

I don’t know why I’ve never gone to one of these sessions before. Well, I do. They sounded too intimate, for some reason. A moment between hopeful writer and stern publishing person. Could be embarrassing to witness.

Pitch perfect

Except it wasn’t. Eight – slightly vetted – hopefuls using their three minutes as wisely as possible, trying to charm the four professionals, who in turn had three minutes per applicant to give their verdict.

The first pitch was really good, I thought. I liked the person, I liked his performance and I thought the book sounded promising. But maybe they’d all be like that.

Well, some were, in some respects, and others weren’t. Most were interesting in some way. But what fascinated me was that while what I liked best, the professionals also liked. I think. But they seemed to like what I didn’t go for, even more. Very illuminating. As far as the publishing world goes, I mean.

And the thing is, a personable potential author does not guarantee a good book, or sales. A good pitch still does not mean it’s going to be a cracking novel. And so on. Those publishing people could be wrong. Maybe?

Or rather, they know very well what is likely to work. But it doesn’t mean they pick the best story to work with. The choose what will fit in best with their business. And it’s from this readers get to pick what they might enjoy. I noticed how one of the panel was impressed by an idea that I at my age felt was anything but original, because I’ve been around for longer.

Pitch perfect

They liked the person who could say who her expected readers might be. Except she had young people in mind, and that makes it YA (the horror of it!), and young people don’t spend money. Probably right. What they overlooked – perhaps – was that authors are often mistaken about who will love what they have written. It’s a judgement better done by someone else.

The panel obviously wanted to tick boxes. It’s how business works. And the digital publisher understandably had different needs from traditional publishing.

That’s why they eventually picked two winners; one for a possible digital future, and one traditional. The latter was the one I liked best, the first one. Look out for crimes in 1930s Singapore!

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Flick Henderson and the Deadly Game

Dead sisters generally put me off, but there was something about Flick Henderson and the Deadly Game by Amanda Wills that spoke to me. I felt ready to give it a chance. I’m glad I did, as it captivated me from the start and kept me reading to see if I was as a good a sleuth as Flick turns out to be.

Amanda Wills, Flick Henderson and the Deadly Game

She’s 14, the same age as her sister Kate was when she disappeared. And there is that word, disappeared, which makes you think that maybe she’s not dead. But it’s been four years, and the family are falling to pieces.

For work experience week Flick gets to try journalism, which is what she wants to do most of all. And through the little mysteries she encounters on the newspaper, Flick begins to look into things, and to solve what needs solving.

I had one early suspicion, which proved correct, and then a later one which didn’t. Perhaps Flick is too clever for her age; I don’t know. But it was fun to read her story and see what would happen, and how the tragedy of losing someone could – possibly – be resolved.

Besides, how can you not love a story that starts with a stranger on the heroine’s doorstep, proudly offering her a dead badger, with ‘hardly a scratch on him’?

Light reading

They’re not bad, those little e-readers. Especially if you are required to use up your suitcase weight allowance with cables. And cheese fondue pods.

Daughter touched down at Bookwitch Towers briefly, en route for the other side of the world. She’d brought her half-read copy of her brother’s translation of Into a Raging Blaze, but as we began weighing every item to go (yes, really), even that had to stay here. Instead we filled up her newly acquired Kindle with books.

Sally Gardner, The Door That Led To Where

I have got Daughter so well trained that she accepted most of my suggestions of Really Good Books. All was going well until she said she’d also quite like something cheerful. Gulp. And something girly, a bit like Cathy Hopkins’s Mates Dates series.

That’s easier said than done. I ransacked my brain for anything a bit like that. I searched my shelves for girlier books than the ones I’d listed. And I’m sorry to say but we didn’t get anywhere much.

We’d be grateful for genuinely good – and cheerful – stories featuring female characters. One is easy. Both together is less common than it ought to be. When I went through my mental list of favourite female authors, I came to the conclusion that many of their books are about male characters. And I’m fine with that, since a good book is a good book.

But Mates Dates they are not.

And to my mind, Cathy’s books are friendlier than most. The catty friends and horrible boyfriends are far too common in many book plots. I suppose that’s one way of providing action; see how many characters your characters can fall out with before all is well at the end. Or not.

The Girl Who Had No Fear

You don’t really want to be friends with Dr George McKenzie. Such a friendship is likely to involve danger in general, and eyeballs in particular, and not in terribly nice ways.

On the other hand, George is good to have on your side, as long as you manage to stay alive. In the fourth outing for Marnie Riches’s more than feisty heroine, things are darker than ever, and as you read you can’t help but wonder if anyone at all will be alive at the end. Apart from the bad guy, who appears to have at least nine lives.

Well, I clearly can’t comment on that. You must read and find out for yourself, and I can highly recommend starting the new year with Dr McKenzie. She’s imagining danger everywhere, and can defend herself with an Old German dictionary if need be.

Mothers are everywhere in The Girl Who Had No Fear. There is George’s own, who has disappeared. Elvis is busy juggling police work with looking after his mother, who seems to be on her very last legs. Marie is another mother, as is a fearsome girl George encounters when she goes off on her own to… Detective van den Bergen’s daughter is a new mother, too, and this changes how George’s lover looks on taking risks.

This time the crime hinges on bad drugs, and van den Bergen and George search all over the world for answers as to why so many men end up dead in one of Amsterdam’s canals. And it’s not just about a mother who’s nowhere to be found, but George’s long lost father pops up on the horizon. If it is him. If he’s not dead.

And will Marnie have to start afresh with a whole new set of characters in the next book?

In the Land of Broken Time

Maria and Max Evan, In the Land of Broken Time: The Incredible Journey

This was actually a rather sweet and fun little story. In the Land of Broken Time: The Incredible Journey, by Maria and Max Evan and translated from Russian by Helen Hagon, is a picture book. I think. I have read it on the Kindle as that is the only format so far, and generally I find ebooks and picture books don’t work so well.

Hence a certain reluctance on my part to read them. Except in this case I felt there was something there, so I gave it a go, and I’m glad I did, as I really enjoyed the book.

The story is about Christopher who is ten, and who sneaks out to see the circus even though he is unwell. Doing so he comes across another sneaky child, the lovely Sophie, and they end up having an adventure, in the company of a speaking dog. As you do.

There is an air balloon involved and somehow it travels in time, and the children land somewhere different, where there is a time mystery for them to solve.

Maria and Max Evan, In the Land of Broken Time: The Incredible Journey

It’s old-fashioned and modern all at once. It’s like a typical fairy tale, but one where the children have mobile phones and access to Skype. And a talking dog.

A Target for Tommy

A lot of Tommy Donbavand’s friends – who by funny coincidence – are all authors, have got together to write their own Doctor Who-related short stories for the anthology A Target for Tommy.

Currently Tommy is out of hospital, and we are hoping for his speedy recovery. Meanwhile, he and his family still need to pay the bills, and that’s where this anthology comes in.

Please consider buying a copy, or two, of the book. Details can be found here. You can buy either an electronic copy, or a proper printed book; it’s up to you.

I’ve ordered mine, and will get back to you when I’ve had a chance to read it.

A Target for Tommy

The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows

It’s grisly. That’s what it is. And good. Here is Marnie Riches’s third George McKenzie novel, and it is as bloody as the first two. It deals with child trafficking in Europe, so is not easy to read about. Nor are the murders, where the reader as always is sitting in the front row of the stalls, seeing everything.

At one point I paused to think, wondering whether it’s good for me to read about this much blood and gore, accompanied by generous dollops of swearing and sex. I decided it probably was, and that the difference lies in the fact that the books have been written by a woman.

Marnie Riches, The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows

We meet first hand, parents whose children go missing, live through their agony, seeing how their lives fall apart. We are cold, too. Both London and Amsterdam are freezing, caught in exceptionally low temperatures and masses of snow.

Criminologist George is busy visiting jails as well as being annoyed with her lover van den Bergen, until he calls her in to help with his murder hunt and the missing children.

Should I have seen the end coming? I don’t think so. You just know that something not terribly good is about to happen, while hoping there will also be some positive news for a few characters. (If there are more books, I’d like some solutions for Elvis and Marie, please.)

Marnie has put more of herself in this book, giving it more of a raw edge. If you can cope with the grisliness, this is great stuff.

(Order your ebook here.)