Thursday, July 24, 2008

Apprentice Writer, A.K.A. ....


This is Apprentice Writer's official Geriatric Biker Name, according to debut author Angie Fox's 'THE ACCIDENTAL DEMON SLAYER' name bestowing gadget. AW does not know, at this moment, what geriatric Harley riders have to do with slaying demons, but with cool names like this, how can the book go wrong?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Laughter Reviews #20


by Eileen Cook (Women's Fiction)


by Jennifer Vandever (Women's Fiction)

Excellent. Apprentice Writer adores one-word titles, elegantly capturing content with economy.
Intriguing. There is currently a powerful Austen wave rolling through print- and celluoid entertainment. Due to contrary nature, this naturally meant AW was fascinated by the Bronte label. The title (and cover) were sufficient on their own to make her purchase.

Beautiful cover in gorgeous scarlets and creams. Would have drawn Apprentice Writer's eye even without buzz.
Interesting mirror image of a modern young woman and a historical young woman each writing at what looks like the same desk. Plus, the font is very cool.


Debut author, who will soon release her next title and maintains a lively internet presence via her personal website and one she shares with a number of other debut authors.


Debut author, who appears to have no follow-up book in the pipeline and who maintains no internet presence that AW could detect. It seems she has returned to her film roots.

Abandoned woman's efforts to convince her fiance to return lead to the launch of psychic career.
Abandoned woman's efforts to convince her fiance to return lead to change in academic career.


Chapters open with astrological forecasts that foreshadow upcoming scenes.


Chapters open with apt quotes from Charlotte Bronte's correspondence, one phrase of which is also chosen to act as chapter title.

What Works

The heroine, Sophie, expresses her self in first person and has several Bridget Jonesesque moments (i.e. she is a fun and endearing heroine). The story opens with a very funny and characteristic scene, and proceeds recklessly from muddle to mess to awkward in linear fashion:

“I’m crouching under the utility sink in the laundry room, clutching Doug’s socks. Not all his socks, just one from each pair, to slowly drive him insane or better yet, drive him back home. I consider trying to stuff myself into the one empty dryer, I consider standing next to the wall (to) blend in with the surroundings, (then I) dive to the floor, pull the stacked laundry bags out (of their shelf), tuck myself in, and pull them back over me. The door opens and Doug walks in.”

The heroine, Sara, is expressed in third person and undergoes character testing both via fiance departure as well as interactions with a great, quirky cast of secondary characters. AW's favorites among them were a French poet who refuses to write any of his work down so as to avoid opinions of others and also due to a wish to include 'everything' in his living poem that he experiences, and the fascinating, aggravating character of a rival academic who heads the 'Princess Diana studies' department.

The writing also appealed, with something funny, thoughtful, or both appearing on almost every page:

"...Sara favored colors that, as her mother liked to point out, occurred naturally in bruises - blacks, blues and grays - while (on) Claire even black looked red."

"...Sara sat on a panel Claire conducted in stony silence. After an hour of tepid debate among the other panelists about quilting and women murderers, Claire turned to Sara and asked if she was giving a demonstration of 'Victorian feminine silence.' Sara mumbled something incoherent about corsets..."

"...'There's a promising young filmaker next to that column,' (the publicist's young female assistant) said. 'Doric or Ionic?' Paul asked. The young woman stared at him, uncomprehending, then ran a hand down the front of her suit. 'Donna Karen. Where have you published?' 'Mostly in Hungary and the back of men's magazines.' She frowned slightly. 'Right now I'm editing "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Complete Idiot's Guide," Paul said. 'What about you?' she wheeled around to Sara. 'Working on my thesis.' 'On?' 'The Bronte sisters.' She thought, cross-referencing with speed-dial celerity. 'I love that old Motown stuff!'..."

What Doesn't

Sophie is not a particularly deep thinker or given to planning. She makes things up on the spot as she goes along, meaning she often has to bear the consequences of her lack of foresight by wiggling out of yet another awkward mess. This is part of her charm, but may also wear thin quickly for some readers, even those who like her but wish her penny would drop with a little more acceleration.

This reader also never quite understood what it was that drew the fiance back at a certain point, and there was an 'Are you kidding me?' moment when no-one but the villain objects to her plan to get in a car and drive herself down an unfamiliar mountain road in the dark within seconds after coming to following a fainting episode. Of all people, her mother - her mother!- is the one to hand her the keys and encourage her to go. Apprentice Writer considers herself generous in suspending disbelief for the sake of a story that is unfolding well, but this put too large a nail in the coffin (tire?) for her.


For Sara, the only aspect AW objects to is in how the story ends. Not because it should have ended differently - it ended exactly right in terms of this particular character and how she had developed. But because this reader would have loved to have had an epilogue or glimpse or SOMETHING to hint at what became of the heroine and the quriky cast of secondary characters following 'The End' (the Gentle Reader will not be surprised to learn that the epilogue in 'A Fish Called Wanda', where the hero and heroine are said to have 13 children and found a leper colony while the villain becomes a government minister in South Africa and fixes the state lottery, is a favorite). All she can do is hope that the author will write another book that satisfies her rampant curiosity.


Enjoyed Sophie's story as a quick, breezy read.


Absolutely loved Sara's story as a satisfying story,peppered with well-thought-out observations on the nature of love and loss, and poking well-aimed fun at popular culture, literature, and the people who populate highter academic instituions. One of AW's best impulse book buys ever.

But does it make you laugh?

YES & YES - on different levels.

If you like your heroine as a hapless everywoman with a dash of slapstick, take a look at Sophie. At first, she simply gets swept along with the tide, making impulsive, opportunistic use of what fortune sends her way, but by the end she has learned that she can actually steer the course of her life. There are some laugh-out-loud moments and physical humor.

If you like your heroine more intellectual, with a gift for seeing parallels between literature and real life, take a look at Sara. At first, she stands somewhat apart from contemporary events around her, focussing more on the bygone lives of the Bronte siblings, but by the end she has gained the passion to live more directly and became a participant/actor rather than primarily on onlooker/acted upon. The humor is more cerebral than laugh-out-loud, but no less effective in this reader's view.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Summer Reading Galore: CONTEST

The published authors of Toronto Romance Writers are not just talented, but generous.

They are giving away a monster collection of signed books to one lucky summer reader, all the way from
dark gothic (Eve Silver),
to blockbuster & debut urban fantasy (Kelley Armstrong, J.K. Coi),
to award-winning series (Molly O'Keefe),
to funny paranormal (Michelle Rowan, Teresa Roblin),
to multi-flavor historical (Margaret Moore, Kate Bridges, Michelle Ann Young, Amy Ruttan),
to multi-flavor contemporary (Kayla Perrin,Kimber Chin)
to steamy (Christine d'Abo, Wylie Kinson)
and more.

Learn more here:

Friday, July 11, 2008

Quote of the Day

From founding member Sarah at

"I don’t personally examine my own writing process closely because I don’t want to scare it or make it feel shy."

Wise words!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Anatomy of DNF

There are many reasons why a reader might pick up one book and not another.

How about the reasons why a reader might disengage from a book part way through?

AFTER THE RICE, Wendy French (Women's Fiction)
Originally picked up because: Enjoyed the author's debut novel, "sMothering", and was fascinated with the premise - a young, healthy, happily-in-love married couple choose to remain childless but find themselves accidentally pregnant. There are many people who remain childless due to fertility problems, financial imperative, not finding the right partner, focus on career, etc., but a couple in the protagonists' situation has not been explored in any books Apprentice Writer has ever read. Sounded promising.
Why put down: Did not want to spend more time with the characters. Following a first chapter in which it seems that the heroine continually observes things about her new husband which irritate her, there is a scene about how the husband wishes there were some way to avoid the obligation of dinner with the wife's family. Initially, this reader thought this was supposed to be a sign of potential ill fit between the spouses. After encountering the family at said dinner, Apprentice Writer cannot blame him. The members 'snap' at each other rather than speaking, they disapprove of the way one sister is 'spoiling' her daughter whom they've dubbed (apparently without affection) 'Pink Tyrant', the mother has to use undisguised coercion for everyone to respond to the invitation of an elderly relative, and the father employs an apparently oft-needed tactic of starting a tableside game to deflect bickering among siblings who are one and all adults. No thanks.
Ultimate test: Based on the strength of the first novel read, AW would look to another novel by this author despite DNF status of this one.

Originally picked up because: It's Julia Quinn!
Why put down: Could not tolerate the hero. He had been harddone by in the backstory, yes, but that just didn't stretch far enough to excuse his being at strategic moments dismissive towards his mother, bullying towards his sister, and petulant, immature, and selfishly evasive towards the heroine. This reader kept hoping someone better would pop up for the heroine, and when it became clear that wouldn't happen it was game over.
Ultimate test: It's Julia Quinn. Or course AW will read this author again!

ME AND MR. DARCY, Alexandra Potter (Paranormal Chicklit)
Originally picked up because: Intrigued by premise of a contemporary heroine going on an Austen-oriented coach tour and somehow being transported back to several encounters with the 'Pride & Prejudice' hero.
Why put down: Could not stand the thought that the relentlessly bland heroine might end up with the perfection that is Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy!
Ultimate test: Though the premise was good and might be so again for another novel, the writing style did nothing to draw AW in, so another book would need to arrive with mega buzz and have a spectactular first page to make this reader try again.

MUMS @ HOME, Sophie King (Women's Fiction)
Originally picked up because: Enjoyed a previous novel by the author, "The School Run", and was attracted to the premise - an ensemble piece about the people who join a parenting website and how it changes their lives.
Why put down: The group of people described in the opening chapters are so utterly angst-ridden that this reader developed a tension headache before the story got properly going. Not what she generally aims for when reading.
Ultimate test: If she came upon another book by this author, AW would give the first ten pages a whirl.

Gentle Reader - what say you? Did you finish any of these stories and think Apprentice Writer should have kept going? What makes you put a book down incomplete?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Non Book Reviews


Pixar 2008

Go see this movie.

Whether you are a preschooler, teenager, childless singleton, grandmother - it matters not. Do yourself a favor and lose yourself in wonderment at the superb animation, engaging characters, stark message told in a gentle and hopeful manner, and the miracle of a full-length movie that arrests your interest for entire duration despite the almost total absence of dialogue (reminiscient in this respect of the phenomenal 'Quest for Fire'.)

Then please come back and tell Apprentice Writer what you thought!