Promote Yourself: Lorraine Montgomery

My guest this weekend is Lorraine Montgomery who is quite simply a wonderful blogger. Lorraine writes about all kinds fo things, and has two blogs—one for life in general, the other mainly books, films, and reviews. I recommend you go and have a look, particularly at some of her book recommendations.

Here is Lorraine to introduce herself.

Retirement is Wonderful!

Having taught elementary school for more than 25 years and been involved in many amazing technology and curriculum projects, I find I’ve developed a myriad of interests based on literature I’ve read and music I’ve heard. I’ve followed The Wright Three to Chicago, Ansel Adams to Colorado, The Kon Tiki Expedition to Easter Island, Simon & Garfunkel lyrics to New York City, Frank Lloyd Wright to Fallingwater, Pennsylvania, and have only just begun.  I began writing my Bookshelf blog in May and am enjoying the challenge of keeping up with my reading, writing, movies, and theatre.

follow my adventures at  mysm2000.wordpress.com

follow my book blog at  http://mysmsbooks.wordpress.com/

This is a post I did on August 19th after the sad death of Robin Williams:

A few months ago I wrote about one of my all time favourite movies, Dead Poets Society.  I have the poster on the wall of my ‘tech room’ along with one from King Lear and another from Stratford’s 1979 season, Henry IV, and one of Amelia Earhart.  Pretty heady company.  This movie touched me as a teacher.  The story centers around a young professor (O Captain, my Captain) at a prep school who inspires his students to reach out, reach up, and find what in the world has worth and meaning to them, to “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life” (Thoreau).  Their theme is ‘carpe diem‘ — seize the day!  It is a sad and poignant story because the one young man who reached the hardest and found the most finds himself thwarted and, faced with losing everything he has found, he chooses the most desperate and tragic of endings, he commits suicide.

mFUffK7iL4SgMhqeOgdFeUQ

The teacher, of course, was played by Robin WilliamsPeople magazine, along with many others, has proclaimed him a “comic genius” and yet many of his best roles have shown his dramatic side in an extremely profound way:  Good Will Hunting, for which he received an Academy Award; The Fisher King; Awakenings.  Even in his comedic roles, there were moments of pathos: in Mrs. Doubtfire; Good Morning, Vietnam.  He was indeed a comic genius, but he was so much more.  He had many roles: actor, comedian, father, husband, friend.  How many lives did he touch with tender moments or side-splitting laughter?  How many fellow actors, directors, crew members, in addition to viewers, stood in awe of his genius?  His gift was immense; his talent incomparable.  He was truly one of a kind.  His presence has gone but the glow from his movies, his humour, will continue to bathe people in its warmth for decades to come. Thank you, Robin Williams.

And thank you Lorraine. You have two beautiful blogs that are well worth browsing through.

To review, or not to review

Authors are advised not to write book reviews, probably so as not to be accused of gunning down the competition. But when I have finished something I enjoyed, writing a review is an extension of that enjoyment. Perhaps my enthusiasm will be contagious. But what happens when I don’t like the book?

Since I acquired a Kindle, I have stopped reading ‘books’. As owning a Kindle automatically draws you into the Amazon buying experience, I have acquired a lot of ebooks by authors I would otherwise not have heard of. At first I was dismayed to find that the big names were still expensive even in digital format, but also made the much happier discovery that there is a wealth (or at least a hell of a lot) of cheap to free books to be had.

As a new author, who will one day be published, I have been trawling through the lists looking for those books that, like my own, are by complete unknowns, but could be as entertaining as anything on the lists of the big publishers. The first two I read, The Fifth Circle by Tricia Drammeh, and Thumb by John Collick I very much enjoyed and was more than pleased to write reviews to encourage others to try them out.

Since then I haven’t had such good luck. I have abandoned a couple after getting far enough to know that I was wasting my time, and a couple more that I finished, enjoyed certain aspects, but the overall impression was of something lacking, glaring plot holes, or an irritating plethora of typos.

Much as I would love to write about the things I enjoyed in these books, I put myself in the place of the author, and think how crushed I would be to be told, kindly, but firmly that the characterisation was nice, the description effective, but the storyline was just a random string of events with no connection and no tension.

The rating system on Goodreads and Amazon makes a review more like a judgement. Some aspects can be good, others less good, and others frankly rubbish, so do you take the highest or lowest denominator? Either is unfair to the book. Seems to me that criticism ceases to be constructive once the book is published, except at the level of, you’d be well advised to take this book down and clean up all the typos.

Even when it is laden with what seems to me to be completely unjustified praise, I would feel very uneasy about giving a critical review to an indie book. I feel too much for the author, the ego and self-confidence that is so easily bruised by a less than glowing review. If I can’t praise a book wholeheartedly, I’d rather keep quiet.
This is the difference between the review written by a reader to inform other readers, and the review written by an author to encourage and support a fellow author. Is it hypocritical to only write reviews of books you have liked? Can an author gain anything except a red face from receiving a critical review? Is it incumbent upon every reader to stick red warning lights on every book they dislike?

I don’t know the answers, but I know that there is a bunch of books that I have liked, but felt were flawed, that I am keeping quiet about, unable to steel myself to writing an honest review for fear of hurting an author’s pride.

Book review: Land of Midnight Days by Katrina Jack

Land of Midnight Days is a story without the usual fantasy tropes, and the familiar elements (elves, ogres) are altered in such a way as to appear completely original creations. The hero is a lonely, mute boy, whose sole possession and tenuous link with an unknown past is a silver flute. The setting is out of the ordinary too. There are no orderly Hobbit-type Shires, desolate howling deserts or leafy, elf-filled forests; this is a mucky, violent, industrial city.

These are perhaps the story’s greatest strengths. The city is a character in its own right, ever-present and menacing. The underbelly of our large cities with their gang violence and underground economies becomes in this story the reality for everyone. There seems to be no escape from the street gangs, the despair, and dirt for the apathetic population. Into this grim, monochrome setting is introduced Jeremiah Tully, an engaging, intelligent waif-like boy who, as a half-breed, is an object of revulsion even in this city where nobody seems to give a damn about anything. Katrina Jack doesn’t clutter the storyline with explanations about the history behind her world. She doesn’t need to; we can all understand prejudice, and know it doesn’t need a reason.

This was my favourite aspect of the book, the atmosphere of indifference and menace, in which Jeremiah’s blundering search to find out who he really is seems doomed to failure. Circumstances push Jeremiah out of his fragile nest and into the maw of the city, and as he searches for clues that might lead him to a link with his lost family, the reasons for his very existence start to appear. The clues lead to real people and the action takes off into surprising realms.

If I were to make a criticism of this magical story, it would be that the introduction of the other characters in the second half occasionally seems rushed. Zebediah takes form gradually (and very surprisingly!), but the others appear already made; credible and original, but for that very reason I would have liked a bit more background about them. The action moves into a higher gear, and the intimacy of Jeremiah’s perspective has to take a back seat. But this is YA, there is a limit to the amount of introspection a younger readership will tolerate, and the action is very well done, ending with a fabulous, demonic tableau.

Land of Midnight Days is the kind of story that stays with you, and I am looking forward to reading the next instalment. From what we know of Katrina Jack’s world, we can be certain it isn’t going to be all beer and skittles.

See Katrina’s blog for details of where you can buy this wonderful book

Copy of midnightdayscover