Tuesday, 30 April 2013


Hello, hello, hello my lovelies! Today I'm picking the winner of the Second Mega Exclusive The Night Itself Giveaway. The winner will receive all these beautimous (sorry Sarah Rees Brennan, I tried to avoid stealing your word as long as I could, but it was just too beautimous) prizes which are ridiculously gorgeous and NO ONE ELSE GETS TO HAVE! Because they are exclusive!

However! Before I pick the winner I want to share some of the wonderful entries from my amazing readers who I love so much. When I asked for people to spread the word about this book I was not expecting some of you to bust out your amazing artistic skillz and make fanart for a book that ISN'T EVEN OUT YET.

I mean... just... I can't even. These are so, so beautiful and I am so, so humbled. I showed these to my mother, even (I never do that, guys). And I'm so happy that you're as excited about this book coming out as I am. My readers = the best readers. *Hugs to all*

But now it's time for me to work my random number mojo, so let's get cracking. The winner of the 2nd Mega Exclusive The Night Itself Giveaway is...



*Wait for it!*


*Trumpet Salutes*
*Angels Singing*

Which is extremely fitting, since Kimberley's was the very first piece of this beautiful fanart to arrive (the dragon coiled around a katana) and made me totally burst into tears with happiness. This shows that fate (or the random number generator) can sometimes be truly kind. 

Congratulations, Kimberley. This is very, very well deserved. Email me at z d marriott (at) g mail (dot) com and let me know your address and I will ask Lovely Lass to spring into action and send your prizes out to you.

In the meantime, for everyone else who entered - thank you, thank you, thank you for your enthusiasm and your talent and your sheer wonderfulness. Remember that this isn't the last chance to win these prizes! There is one more giveaway coming up in May. So don't give up, and don't feel bad.

See you on Thursday, my lovelies!

Thursday, 25 April 2013


Hello, Dear Readers! Happy Thursday. Some entries for the Mega Exclusive The Night Itself Giveaway are still trickling in (some of the best ones have come in the last couple of days, actually - I'm really humbled) so I've decided to let the giveaway roll over until next week. If you haven't entered yet, or you'd like to get another entry or two in, you've got until midnight on the 29th, so get a wriggle on there.

Today's second order of business is to congratulate my friend and fellow Author Allsort, Emma Pass, on the publication of her debut YA novel: ACID. Happy Book Birthday - and Many Happy Returns, Emma! Here's my mini-review, in case you'd like to know what the book is about. 

And now onto today's RetroThursday post - or rather, RetroThursday rant. I decided to post this one again because I'd forgotten all about it until a quote from it showed up on my Tumblr dashboard and I did a double-take and went 'Huh. I wrote that, yes. I was a bit cross at the time, clearly...'

These issues are still coming up again and again in mainstream coverage of YA, but these days I'm much more wary on clicking the links, because spending the day fuming and coming up with searing rebuttals is bad for your word target AND your stomach lining. So let this stand as my response to all such sillness, once and for all.


When I woke up this morning to find my Twitter feed being eaten alive by references to an article in the Wall Street Journal about YA literature, my first reaction was confusion, because that article came out ages ago. Didn't it? Oh, no - this was a NEW article from the WSJ, ANOTHER article belittling my genre and chosen medium as an artist. Did a YA author kick the editor of the WSJ in the ankle on the train recently or something? These guys just don't seem to like us. But then, thinking about it, no one really seems to like us, do they?

Pretty much every other day YA writers have to put up with another condescending article in which the entire field of young adult and children's writing is compressed down to the sparkly vampire elements so that the journalist can smirk. Or a comment from some lauded adult literary writer who thinks anyone who bothers writing for people under the age of eighteen is mentally defective. Or an article like this one, that bemoans the debauched, depraved tone of YA literature and compares it unfavourably to the books of the writer's own childhood.

The first thing most of these articles do is to point out how new YA is. And they're right. Young Adult only got its own shelf in the library or bookshop sometime in the late eighties or early nineties. Before that, there was just children's and adult's. And not long before that, there was adult, all on its own, and children read the Bible and classics and that was it. A lot of people seem to wish for a return to this state of affairs - or, at least, that's how it seems to those of us who keep finding ourselves under attack for daring to see young adults as a worthy audience with high intelligence, enquiring minds, and their own particular experiences and concerns, who deserve books specifically written for them.

In the minds of these article-writers, new = bad. Just as, apparently, truthful, intense, dark books which explore the real world young adults share with the rest of us = bad. The YA haters, whatever their stated concerns, always seem to be looking back, longing for some past Golden Age of Innocence, when books for younger readers were bright and cheerful and happy and uncomplicated. A hazy, non-specific 1950's lite period, when kids were respectful to their elders, no one had to lock their doors, child abuse was unheard of. When children never cried alone, or hurt themselves or others. When, presumably, young people themselves were bright, cheerful, happy and uncomplicated.

Here's a little newsflash for you. That time never actually existed.

It is a product of the adult imagination. Nothing more than convenient fantasy. Weak and feeble nostalgia. And kids know it.

The world has never been bright, cheery and happy and uncomplicated. Kids have always been abused. They have always suffered in silence, hurt themselves and others. Children have always, always, always partaken of the pain and agony of humanity. They have always had to live with the same darkness, the same wars, the same nightmares as adults do. In fact, they've normally caught the worst of it. Take a look at childhood and infant mortality rates in any third world country if you don't believe me. Actually, take a look at child poverty statistics for the U.S. right now. Still feeling nice and cozy there on your moral high ground?

One of the most heart-breaking parts of Meghan Cox Gurdon's article is the way that she dismisses Scars, a novel by Cheryl Rainfield. Ms Cox Gurdon thinks the subject of the book - a girl who cuts to help herself cope with years of systematic abuse by her father - 'normalises' self-harm. That the topics it covers are 'lurid'. She criticises the cover with it's photograph of a 'horribly scarred forearm'. Apparently all this stuff is just too 'depraved' for teens.

Does Ms Cox Gurdon realise that Cheryl Rainfield herself was ritually and sytematically tortured by her parents as a child? That the forearm she dismisses as horrible actually belongs to Cheryl? Here, the author uses her own experiences to write a book that reaches back to her childhood self, reaches out to the thousands of other children who are going through what she went through, and tells them 'You can survive this. Don't lose hope.' Scars is an artistic act of the highest courage possible and one I admire more than I can say.

But Ms Cox Gurdon, like others of her kind, does not care about the children whose lives might be saved by this book. Or the thousands of other children who, through reading such a book, will gain understanding, empathy and compassion for the survivors of abuse and become better, more rounded individuals. She wants to pretend that bad things don't happen to anyone real - especially kids - that 'normal' people don't find this stuff relevent, that no one she knows or cares about could be damaged and hurting like the character in Scars.

Let me now address the YA haters directly - for my own satisfaction, but also in hopes of getting through some seriously thick skulls:

The reason you feel free to attack YA this way is because you think it's a soft target. You think it's valueless. You think no one takes it seriously. You think the YA field is a fleeting flash in the pan, getting undeserved attention and success. You think if you sit in judgement in your safe little corner, it'll all go away and proper literature (that's the stuff you like) will eventually take its place.

Unfortunately for you, this attitude betrays you. It makes clear your true feelings about young adults, the very people for whom you profess to have such concern.

You think young adults are valueless. You don't take them seriously. You dismiss their feelings and experiences as fleeting and shallow. You think if you just din your own personal values and beliefs into young adult heads hard enough, you'll be able to drown out their questions, their inconvenient new ideas, their worrying complexity, and produce a Mini-You, an adult in teenage clothing.

Never gonna happen.

YA is too dark for you? Too bleak? Too sad, and challenging and REAL? You think we should all collude in some kind of mass hallucination in which we pretend bad things never happen, and kids exist in a perpetual state of rosy-cheeked glee and laughter? Well, I'll tell you what. You build yourself a nice spaceship, find a new planet and create that ideal, shiny world. Invite your family and friends. I'm sure it'll be just swell. But the rest of us are stuck HERE. Including those of humanity who are too young and vulnerable to have voices of their own. They look to the writers of YA fiction to speak to them, to speak the truth. To write books that are brave enough to touch them in their isolation and loneliness.

We're not going to stop. We're not going to abandon those kids like you want us to, and sweep their experiences under the carpet.

In spite of you, and everything you do to tell young adults that they don't get a say, that their experiences are lesser, that if they just ignore the pain it will go away, that none of it matters and in years to come they will look back and laugh? They will grow into the people they should be. They will grow into new writers and artists, trail-blazers, kicking the status quo in the teeth and telling things like they are.

Young adult literature is new. It's raw and brash and brazen. It's trashy, silly, funny and beautiful. It's stomach-churing, harrowing and dark. It's subtle, complex, transformative and brave.

It's ART, for God's sake. What do you expect?

And when young adults dive into it, they will find all these horrors and wonders - and they will find themselves.

If you don't like it? Your spaceship awaits. Bon voyage!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013


Hello, my darling duckies! Happy Tuesday. Let's talk about BOOKS.

NOTE: I had to exercise severe restraint in order to prevent myself typing out the chorus from Let's Talk About Sex (by Salt N' Pepa, a classic from my youth) here, only tweaked so that it was Let's Talk About Books instead. In fact, I did type it out, but then I deleted it. That's how close it was. You're welcome.


I have been lucky enough to get my sticky little paws on some early copies of some reeeeeeeeally exciting books lately, and because I didn't really expect to recieve any of these and each one arrived like a lovely gift, I promised myself that I would take the time to put together some kind of a review for each of them, a bit like I did with my post about films last week (or was it the week before? Whatever).

So, in order of reading:

ACID by Emma Pass

U.K. Paperback
The Blurb: 

2113. In Jenna Strong’s world, ACID – the most brutal, controlling police force in history – rule supreme. No throwaway comment or muttered dissent goes unnoticed – or unpunished. And it was ACID agents who locked Jenna away for life, for a bloody crime she struggles to remember.

The only female inmate in a violent high-security prison, Jenna has learned to survive by any means necessary. And when a mysterious rebel group breaks her out, she must use her strength, speed and skill to stay one step ahead of ACID – and to uncover the truth about what really happened on that dark night two years ago.

The Review: 

The above summary is a little misleading in a couple of ways, but for me to go into them would be even more spoilerific. So I shall resist, and merely say that there is so, so much more to the story than you're going to expect based on that - just layers and layers of STUFF. I was kind of blown away by Emma's ruthlessness when it came to her plot. Every time you thought you'd settled in and found the story's 'normal', everything would explode (and generally get much, much worse than you'd realised it could). I was impressed by the way that social media stuff, such as recordings of phonecalls, newspaper articles, and screenshots of websites, were woven into the narrative, giving us a sense of the wider implications of Jenna's personal adventures and tragedies. It also added to the sense of a futuristic, plugged-in society. 

I've seen some comparisons to The Hunger Games for this novel, but actually I think it reminded me most strongly of The Bourne Identity, only with a Dystopian setting and one of the most kick-ass heroines I've had the pleasure to meet. I whizzed through ACID in two reading sessions (both in the bath, resulting in me ending up all white and pruney two nights in a row) and I highly recommend it if you're looking for something incredibly fast paced and action-packed with a unique, British setting.

The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch

U.K. Hardback
The Blurb:

Fifteen-year-old Raim lives in a world where you tie a knot for every promise that you make. Break that promise and you are scarred for life, and cast out into the desert.

Raim has worn a simple knot around his wrist for as long as he can remember. No one knows where it came from, and which promise of his it symbolises, but he barely thinks about it at all—not since becoming the most promising young fighter ever to train for the elite Yun guard. But on the most important day of his life, when he binds his life to his best friend (and future king) Khareh, the string bursts into flames and sears a dark mark into his skin.

Scarred now as an oath-breaker, Raim has two options: run, or be killed.

The Review:

This book is my stomping ground, if you will - diverse high fantasy with a richly textured setting that takes inspiration from real cultures. I was raring to read it, and I wasn't disappointed. Amy McCulloch unspools her amazingly intricate and thoughtful world-building in a truly wonderful, matter-of-fact fashion, with her hero (the stubborn yet endearing Raim) learning that not everything he has believed or been taught is actually true out there in the wide world. The writing reminds me of the early Alanna books by Tamora Pierce, making the book suitable for younger readers while still providing more than enough to keep older YA and adults interested.

There's a wonderful cast of strong, flawed and evolving characters here, and some truly marvellous magical/mythological details. I believe this is the first book in a duology, so there's another book to come, and I have to admit that the ending teeters right on the edge of feeling unresolved for me. Not enough to put me off, but certainly enough that I'm a bit desperate for the sequel. I tore through this one very quickly and will now be passing it onto my twelve-year-old niece, who I know is going to love it. Roll on book #2, please.

INK by Amanda Sun
U.S. Cover Art
U.K. Cover from NetGalley
The Blurb:

On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.

Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they'll both be targets.

Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.

The Review:

Oh, I've been dying to read this one FOR SO LONG. Even if the story synopsis hadn't completely grabbed my attention (which it did) the cover would have been enough to win my heart forever more. I was so psyched to be approved for an eGalley on NetGalley that I blew off work yesterday and just sat down to read this book instead.

Despite a few misgivings brought on by seeing comparisons to Twilight (blergh. Why does every paranormal romance or urban fantasy ever written have to be compared to Twilight? Enough already!) I found that I really, really liked this book! Yes, it's definitely a paranormal romance rather than an urban fantasy, but it won me over simply by the strength of its characters. They're flawed, conflicted, wounded and often their behavior varies wildly between noble self-sacrifice and utter jerkishness - just like real people, in fact. The Japanese setting was wonderful. This felt like reading the skillfully written novelisation of a much beloved anime series. The writing is highly visual, and the writer absolutely excels at providing those simple, well-observed details of life that bring a different culture singing vibrantly onto the page. Definitely check this one out.

That's my recent reads. What have you guys been reading lately?

Thursday, 18 April 2013


Hello, my duckies! Welcome to Thursday and the second Mega Exclusive The Night Itself Giveaway! Wwwwooooooooooooooooooot!


So, just like last time, this is the run down of what is on offer to the single lucky winner:

These prizes are all completely exclusive to this giveaway. There's no way to own any of these things other than to win them from us. The posters and notebooks? I had them specially made for this - there are four of each in existence. One will stay with me, and the others are for you. The advanced reader's copies of this book are being so tightly controlled that I only own one myself. Lovely Lass has possession of the rest and will be sending yours out to you straight from Walker Books in London. That's how exclusive they are.

So! What can you do THIS time to get the chance to win all this?

I want you to spread the word, Dear Readers. I want you to spread the word about this book and this giveaway. Draw your friends and families and online acquaintances into our little fandom's happiness over the fact that The Night Itself is coming out on the 4th of July this year. Create a buzz. Get as many people as possible interested. As a bonus, this means you will hopefully have more people to talk to about this, which as a massive fangirl myself I know is fun!

Share the giveaway on Facebook and tell everyone why you think you ought to win these prizes. Share it on Twitter under the hashtag #TheNightItself and explain why you want to read this book. If you've added the book on Goodreads, put a comment in there about how you can't wait for it to come out. Start a Goodreads thread about why you're excited for The Night Itself to finally be released, or if you see that there's already one open, join in and comment about what you think might happen in the story. Talk about it on your blog, make a YouTube video, make a playlist on 8tracks or squee on Tumblr. Just be honest about your feelings! ANYTHING you want to do to share the excitement about The Name of the Blade: The Night Itself will count as an entry. All you have to go is comment here with a link.  

There is no limit on the amount of entries you can submit. But make sure that you put each link in a separate comment so that all your entries will be counted separately.

*WARNING* As always, you must be sensible. Spamming does not create a buzz, so don't try to put links in the comment trails on other people's blogs. They feel like they're being spammed, I feel like hiding in a dark hole, and anyone who hangs out there will be annoyed, not excited. Don't do it. I won't count those as entries, so it's pointless anyway! *END WARNING*

This giveaway is open to anyone in the UK or Europe (sorry non-Euro Dear Readers! My hands are tied on this one) and the winner will be picked when I feel like I've had a sufficient amount of entries, because I really want to get the word out there. If we get lots and lots of entries and buzz right away, I'll probably pick a winner next week, but if entries are a bit thin on the ground I'll leave the competition open longer.

I know how excited I am about the date when I can share this book with you getting closer, Dear Readers. Now show me how excited YOU are. Go forth and buzz!

Monday, 15 April 2013


Heeelllloo Dear Readers! Today I'm going to direct you over to the Author Allsorts blog for my post about developing strong characters through writing. I hope you like it :)

On Thursday, details about how you can win the second Mega Exclusive The Night Itself Giveaway prize pack. Tune in then - same bat time, same bat channel.

Thursday, 11 April 2013


Hello, and happy Thursday, Dear Readers! I had a post planned for today, but then I got this really great question - about my current favourite topic, 'How In The Heck Does Anyone Write A Trilogy?' - in the comments on Tuesday's post and my original idea went right out the window because I just had to answer. Today we tackle A QUESTION OF SEQUELS (in my head I'm doing that in an ominous A GAME OF THRONES sort of way, can you tell?).

Rebecca asked:
"Like you, I am writing a trilogy. I have finished the first draft of my first book and I am steadily going through it and improving areas. I really want to get my first book polished up and perfect but I have a strong urge to write book two straight away. I really like my first book but I have been looking forward to starting the second book for a long while because a lot of exciting things happen. I know I should knuckle down and get the first book re-drafted, but it is really hard to resist beginning book two. Did you experience this problem when writing your trilogy?"
Rebecca, sweetie, who told you that you 'should' knuckle down and redraft your first book? Do you have a Writer's-Rule-Fairy sat on your shoulder giving you orders? Because if so, my advice is to slowly reach out for an old magazine, roll it up, and swat that thing off. Then stomp on it. Hard.

No, YOU listen, you annoying little beggar...
The first rule of writing - the creative part, which is just you and your story and you trying to get that story out of your head and onto whatever piece of paper or electronic device might be lying around - is that there is no 'should'. Trust me when I tell you that every writer's process is unique in some way; there's no logical or standard way to go about doing this, only the way that happens to work for each individual. If people start throwing 'should' at you, you throw something at them. Preferably something heavy.

(Obviously there are rules and 'shoulds' once you get into trying to land an agent and a publishing contract, but that's an entirely different ballgame. We move on).

When I finished The Night Itself (the first book in The Name of the Blade trilogy), all I wanted to do was dive straight into the next book. I was desperate to stay with my characters, stay with my story, just keep going. It felt so completely natural that I never questioned it. There was this immense rush of creative energy and enthusiasm. I could feel, instinctively, just how to begin, and just where my characters were going to go next. It was amazing. I fully intended to put The Night Itself to one side to 'mature' for about a month, so that I could get some distance from it and do a better job of revising it. Why not do what my heart and my instincts were telling me to do and have FUN with the next book in the meantime? I even signed up for NaNoWriMo, figuring that this would add to the fun factor.

Do you know what happened next?

I tripped over my dog's bed and got a herniated disc in my spine. Unceasing agony in anything approaching an upright or sitting position forced me to do pretty much nothing for the next two weeks but lie completely flat in bed. I couldn't write like that. I tried. Oh, I tried. But it hurt too much. And by the time I'd gone through those two weeks of misery and hopeless longing and boredom, my sense of inspiration had seeped away into nothing. I couldn't find my book's starting place anymore. My characters had closed up like oysters that were startled by the shadow of a passing boat, and I couldn't pry them open. It was horrible.

I still think back to that day and that attempt to step over my dog's bed that went so disastrously wrong - in the way that only very ordinary things you do everyday without even thinking about them can go suddenly and spectacularly wrong - and curse myself for not just walking around the damned thing. Events could have gone so differently if I had.

It might sound really pointless to still be obsessing over a little thing like that eighteen months later... except that I ONLY JUST FINISHED BOOK TWO OF MY TRILOGY THIS NOVEMBER. Which means that it took me a full year to do what I might - just might! - have been able to do in a single month, or maybe six weeks, back when I had that amazing sense of inspiration and joy, when I had that precious little bit of free space and I could have gloried in writing what I wanted to write and having fun.

Couldn't I have gloried in writing what I wanted to write and having fun after my back was healed and I was up on my feet again? Well, I tried. I coaxed and swore at my characters and wrote different versions of my beginning and eventually I got my rhythm going and started making progress on book two. But I never really got that sense of instinctive inspiration back. Besides which, real life hadn't been standing still, even if *I* had (or rather, lying still). My boiler broke down, and then I was snowed in, and then Christmas came and brought the first round of The Night Itself edits, and then my dad's care routine changed, and then MORE TNI edits came back... all stuff that needed to be dealt with while still getting a certain number of words down per day.

You get the point I'm trying to make here?

Professional writers have to do without inspiration a lot. We have to force ourselves to write, because there are deadlines to meet and we need to keep on moving the story forward. Over time you learn that some of the best stuff you write can grow out of stubbornly putting one word in front of the other with gritted teeth - which means there's really no excuse for *not* writing, even when you'd rather be doing anything else. And once you find yourself in that desirable position of having a couple of books contracted for publication, you also often have to put aside things that you're in love with right now so that you can work on other stuff, stuff that has a contract and a deadline, because if you don't turn this set of edits in on time not only do you let your editor and publisher down, you don't get the next part of your advance. Which is helpful for, you know, eating. 

But that? Just makes the times when you do suddenly and inexplicably connect with your creativity all the more precious. I once wrote non-stop, longhand, for over eight hours, because I was in the grip of irresistable inspiration. By the next day I felt like I had been put through a blender. My eyes were full of sand, my head ached, and my hand swelled up and became so painful that I had to ice it and take anti-inflammatories. And it was TOTALLY WORTH IT. That was one of the best days of my life as a writer. I would do it again tomorrow if I felt the siren call of inspiration.

(You can read the product of that day in the final two chapters of The Night Itself, by the way).

From how you're phrasing this question I'm going to guess that you don't have a publisher or a deadline, sweetie - it seems less like you're worrying about how to manage your time and more like you're just unsure of the 'right' way to go about things. So here's my advice. The right way is the way that lights you up with happiness and makes you feel right.  

Follow your inspiration. It's one of those few things in life that you will never truly regret doing, no matter how everything turns out in the end - and one of those things you always regret, often for a really long time, if you don't.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013


Hello, hello, hello, Dear Readers! Happy Tuesday to all - I hope you've had a good weekend and week so far. If you, like me, are exasperated with what seems to be endless coverage on the death of the elderly and controversial former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, then you'll be delighted that The Zoë-Trope can offer you something completely different!

Lately I've been having a bit of a hard time getting into new books. I think this is mostly because my head is so full of The Name of the Blade bk# 3, but it's also partly because what I really want is to be able to read The Infernal Devices for the first time all over again - and I can't, obviously - so any other new stuff just can't please me. As a result I've been on a bit of a movie-kick, and I thought I'd share some mini-reviews and recommendations with you.

First up is Beautiful Creatures, based on the YA novel and series of the same name by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia. Fankly I found the book really overlong (and when *I* say that, you know there's some weight behind it) as well as problematic in several areas. But I also often find that flawed books can make the best films, as the need to cut extraneous matter can pull the poor, suffocated story up out of all the unnecessary words and give it a chance to breathe.  So I went to see this with an open mind.

The Good: Both lead actors actually had Southern accents, rejecting the book's claim that Lena and Ethan somehow speak perfect, accentless American, which - as a British Northerner with a definite acccent - disgusted me as snobbish classism. The actor playing Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) had a certain unexpected puckish charm which I thought was lovely, too. Watching Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson go for their parts with all the subtlety and enjoyment of pantomime dames was pretty fun and some of the visual effects were clever and interesting.

The Bad: Sadly the problematic aspects of the story were exaggerated by the film, rather than being smoothed out. The fact that male casters (witches, basically) can chose their own fate, and chose to be good even if they are 'Dark' by nature, while female casters are irrational and ruled completely by their emotions to the point where they are unable to chose between 'Light' and 'Dark' and have to be picked by some unknown higher power, is... well, I'm stunned they left that in the film. It's pretty offensive when you think about it for more than a second. My memory of the book isn't pinpoint sharp, due to the aforementioned excess words, but I'm pretty sure that its final third wasn't such a mishmash of badly organised elements, and one of the few interesting plot twists - an unexpected series of betrayals - was either ignored or bungled by the filmmakers.

Overall: Sadly the film failed to move me, and left me with no desire to either re-read the book or any of its sequels, or to buy the DVD. Not recommended.

Next, The Host, based on Stephenie Meyer's adult science fiction novel. I loved the book - I found and still find it hard to believe that it was written by the same author who inflicted Twilight on us all.  Reading it was a really emotional experience, and I was looking forward to seeing the film - especially since it had netted such an exciting young cast. But then word of some really *awful* reviews reached my ears. Stubbornly I decided to watch it at the cinema anyway, instead of waiting for DVD release. My attitude was definitely cautious, however.  

The Good: Um... everything. I mean it. I have no idea what the critics who ripped this apart were thinking. Apart from, maybe, that they've been ripping Twilight apart for years and no one has listened to them, and the films were huge anyway, so now they have a chance to attack and destroy this other Stephenie Meyer project which is far more vulnerable? Which is a pretty sh*tty motive, if so. I can see that some people might subjectively not care for the film - not everyone can like the same things - but to call the film 'a mess' or the dialogue 'cringeworthy' seems to me so far wide of the mark that it baffles me. I adore mocking bad dialogue; I still snigger over 'The Skin of A Killer!' If bad writing had been there, I'd have been laughing and cringing with everyone else. But it wasn't. This film was great, and I loved it. My friend who came to see it with me was reduced to tears by the end. After we left she confided to me - as we made a hasty visit to a bookshop so that she could buy the book - that she had been expecting a 'trainwreck', but had been completely won over.

Lead actress Saoirse Ronan was breathtaking. She played the dual roles of Wanderer, a pacifist alien who occupies a human 'host', and Melanie, the human host who refuses to fade away and shows Wanderer why humans deserve a chance to live their lives un-occupied, even if those lives are often brutal and scary and full of loss, with incredible maturity and emotion. It was really difficult to keep in mind how very young she is. What a talent. I also loved the performances by the young actor playing her little brother Jamie, and especially the actor playing Ian. He wasn't at all the way I pictured the character after reading the book, but he brought such a thoughtful tenderness to the part that I fell in love.

Overall: The film is beautifully paced, visually stunning, and heart-breaking. Please go see this if you haven't already. It will restore your faith in humanity to know that the author of Twilight actually *is* talented and does deserve success.

Now for some DVDs!

Firstly Total Recall, which starred Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale. This is based on Philip K. Dick's short story 'We Can Remember It For You Wholesale'. I was interested to see this new version because the original film starring Sharon Stone and Arnold Schwarzenegger was a favourite of my father's and I watched it many times growing up. As an adult I feel that it was an underrated classic, a brave and penetrating look at the nature of reality, memory and identity that also offered up a fast-paced action thriller and astonishing special effects for the time. However, I'd heard that this new film cut out most of the interesting elements, like the fact that most of the story took place on Mars, and had plot holes you could fly a Boeing 747 through, so I wasn't too hopeful.

The Good: Kate Beckinsale. I know she's done action in various sort-of-B-movies like the Underworld films and Van Helsing, but I had no idea how *good* at it she really was. She's fantastic in this. She makes it perfectly credible that the hero, a beefy construction worker, would be fleeing from her in terror. She is icy and relentless as she pursues him literally across the whole world, slaughtering people left and right without a qualm, and I loved the fact that she's basically this film's 'Big Bad'. Yeah, there's a pompus, wig-wearing politician prancing about in the background talking about his grand plan, but Beckinsale's Lori was clearly the main threat. I also loved her boots. Where can I get some?

The Bad: Um... everything else? Poor Jessica Biel, despite being a very classy and reliable action actor, was completely under-used. Bill Nighy was both miscast AND under-used. Colin Farrell was only convincing when he had his mouth shut. The new storyline that the filmmakers inserted to replace the Mars one was predictable, and any meaningful contemplation on the true meaning of character, memory or identity was lost because the film stubbornly refused to tell us whether Dennis Quaid/Carl Howser had ever actually been a double agent in the first place, or just a dupe. The main plot point of the new story, 'The Fall' was ludicrous any way that you sliced it. And every time that the film busted out the expensive special effects, like for the magnetic car chase, my interest just seemed to fizzle. GIVE ME SOME MUTANTS ON MARS, DAMMIT.

Overall: You can enjoy this film, so long as you detach it from any memories of the original or the short story that inspired it. It's mindless action of a fairly competent type without anything that makes it truly memorable other than Kate Beckinsale's impeccable turn as the hero's fake wife/nemesis. Oh, well.

Given my craving for Mars and Mutants, it's probably not that unexpected that my next DVD choice was John Carter, last year's live action megaflop from Disney. This is based on an early piece of science fiction adventure from Edgar Rice Burroughs (writer of Tarzan) called A Princess of Mars. I had a vague memory of reading a good review of it somewhere, so I got it and put it in with not-altogether-high hopes.

The Good: Almost everything. Wow. This was really unexpectedly awesome. The opening portion of the film, which purports to show the hero's death, intrigued me, but I felt my interest wane when we suddenly flashed back to a wild western setting and one of those My Man Pain Is So Holy Heroes who basically acts like a complete d*ck to everyone around him. BUT! The moment the hero arrives on Mars everything kicks into high gear. I loved the fact that the low gravity atmosphere of Mars was reflected in John Carter's being, at first, unable to even walk without flying through the air and landing face first in the dirt, and then, once he'd got the hang of walking, in his being so strong that he inadvertantly broke and killed stuff all around him. The film bravely went into full space opera mode, with assorted alien races, a dying yet starkly beautiful Mars landscape, and gorgeous spaceships zooming all over the place. The heroine of the piece, Princess Dejah, is brilliant - highly intelligent, sarcastic and also badass. I felt as if the film really ought to have kept the novel's name, A Princess of Mars, because this was every bit as much Dejah's story as John's. In their first scene together John whips Dejah's sword away from her and tells her to get behind him so that he can protect her from her enemies. She calmly takes the sword back and kills her enemies herself, to which John responds, 'All right, I'll stay behind you...' Classic.

The Bad: This did feel a tiny bit rushed in places. For instance, in several scenes great play would be made of chaining the hero to a rock and flinging him into a dungeon, only for his captors to come back and retrieve him from the dungeon and chain him to ANOTHER rock two minutes later. The ending, too, failed to quite satisfy me. I think we were supposed to assume that time on Mars and Earth (or Barsoom and Jarsoom) moves at different rates, and that therefore John would be able to return to Mars not long after he had left it despite a thirteen year sojourn on Earth... but I really wanted that confirmed. A single scene, even a split-second flash of him arriving back, would have been enough.

Overall: If you're in the mood for visually brave and thrilling old-school science fiction, check this out. I thought it was wonderful.

Finally! You may remember that last year I was almost beside myself with excitement about Snow White and the Huntsman, the film which had such a beautiful trailer that it set the internetz on fire and launched a few hundred thousand downloads of 'World Collapsing' the trailer music composed by Danny Cocke. It looked like the sort of story that I would write, and I can't really give a higher compliment than that. But sadly when I went to see it I was disappointed. It was a beautiful but ultimately empty film that offered nothing new in terms of plot or characterisation, and took itself far too seriously. Because of all this kerfuffle however, I completely missed out on Mirror, Mirror, the *other* Snow White film that came out at about the same time, starring Julia Roberts and Lily Collins. I've now finally rectified that.

The Good: Lily Collins and Julia Roberts are both on fire in this film. Lily manages to be charming, innocent and sweetly naive - all the classic Princess traits - without seeming either cloying or obnoxious. There's a sense of blooming bravery about her performance that won me over. Julia Roberts has her own charm here, the charm of a powerful and ruthless woman at the top of her game. She managed to raise a few genuine chills with her smiling and entirely rational evil, something Charlise Theron signally failed to do with all that over-the-top sqwacking in SWATH. Ms. Roberts' English accent is also far better than Charlise Theron's. Just sayin'. The visuals are glorious, especially the stark black and white of the woods and the creepy long-tailed beast. This film seems like a live action version of an animated Disney or Pixar feature, and it's full of the simple humour and simple kindness that make those films so heartwarming. I also fell in LOVE with the mini-Bollywood routine at the end.

The Bad: Squashed between powerhouse performances from the two female leads, the Prince ended up feeling like a little bit of a non-entity, although predictably I warmed up to him when he started acting like a puppy. I also felt that Sean Bean was a bit out of place here in his cameo role as the King; someone smoother and less rugged would have been better suited to the part. And why no on-screen comeuppance for the wicked queen?

Overall: A vibrant visual spectacle with excellent performances and a heart of gold, well worth seeing for anyone who likes fairytales, Disney/Pixar films, or just adorable tales that make you feel warm and snuggly inside.

And that's it from me! What have you been watching lately?

Wednesday, 3 April 2013


Hello my lovelies! I hope you are all having a delightful, or at least survivable, week so far. Today I realised that we passed an important threshold without realising it. Last Tuesday it was officially ONE HUNDRED days until the release of The Night Itself! No, really! Which means that today it's only NINETY-ONE days, which sounds far less impressive and important. So I decided to belatedly commemorate this important date by teasing you with a new snippet of The Night Itself. Are you up for that? Sorry, I can't quite hear...? Oh, all right then, there's no need to shout.

Read On.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013


Hello, hello, hello Dear Readers! Welcome to Tuesday - which for most people living in the UK is pretty much a Monday this week, after the Easter Bank Holiday, and consequently a huge bummer. There, there, my lovelies! I know it sucks, but remember, you still have a short week. And let me bring some extra cheer and delight to your sad little hearts by announcing the winners of the Hidden Among Us Giveaway!

If you remember, the criteria to enter this one was really simple - you just had to tweet about the giveaway with the hashtag #hiddenamongus and be living in the UK. So this morning I nipped onto Twitter and employed my random number mojo once more to pick out THREE winners, each of whom will recieve a copy of Katy Moran's enchanting new novel Hidden Among Us and a signed and *personalised* bookplate to stick in it, too.


The winners are...





Congratulations, ladies! Please get in touch with me via email [z d marriott (at) gmail (dot) (c0m)] as soon as possible to let me know your addresses and the preferred names that you would like Katy to write on your bookplates!

For anyone still feeling sad and gloomy today (anyone who didn't win, in other words) just remind yourselves that there will be another MEGA EXCLUSIVE THE NIGHT ITSELF GIVEAWAY later on this month. Plus, it's my birthday this week and no one is allowed to be gloomy on my birthday!

And if that wasn't enough to dry your tears, here is a link to the NEW, extended trailer for the CITY OF BONES film which I am so excited about that when the *old* trailer came on this weekend when I was at the pictures (to see THE HOST - also a really ace film which everyone should check out) I bounced up and down and squealed and freaked my fellow movie-goers out completely. But the new one shows even more good stuff and... look, just check it out. Nrggh.

See you all on Thursday!
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