The Tragedy Paper

The Tragedy Paper

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan
Let me first start by saying; I love the cover of this book. It’s the perfect summation of the novel.
Blurb
“Every year at an exclusive private boarding school in New York State, the graduating students uphold a historic tradition – they must swear an oath of secrecy and leave behind a “treasure” for each incoming senior. When Duncan Meade inherits the room and the secrets of Tim Macbeth, he uncovers evidence of a clandestine romance, and unravels the truth behind one of the biggest mysteries in the school’s history”

This is a simplistic summary, and it is a simple story, but it has rich characters and a captivating setting (who doesn’t love a boarding school setting). The main character, Tim, is an Albino, LaBan uses this to emphasize the teenage struggles of ‘do I, don’t I, fit in’. I don’t feel Laban was exploitative or insensitive, I feel she used this condition as an effective tool to express the feelings of many young people.
The “treasure” Tim leaves Duncan, is a set of audio CD’s telling his story of the previous year. Duncan discovers their lives are taking similar and often parallel paths. As Duncan plays the CD’s the story unfolds and we hear how Tim deals with his social inadequacies  at a new school, and as a teenager in love. Tim’s insecurity and self doubt ultimately leads to “the tragedy’. Duncan learns from Tim’s mistakes and discovers insight to himself and his own doubts are reassured through the therapeutic effect of Tim’s CD’s.

What I enjoyed most about the book, is the suspense that LaBan creates. The rhythm of the novel is like a ticking clock. The characters and the reader are hyper aware of time passing. This creates tension and a sense of urgency. We are left waiting for Tim’s words to reveal the secret, and wondering what the tragedy will be. As Duncan is continually drawn back to Tim’s CD’s, so are we. We are given clues throughout the book and can piece together a vague idea of the coming tragedy, but this, in no way, detracts from the book.

I really enjoyed this book, and LaBan’s writing. I found I was grabbing the book at every moment.

Published: 2013
Publisher: Corgi Books
Pages: 308

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane

ocean end of lane

Neil Gaiman is mostly known for his wonderfully dark, Stephen Kingesq children’s novels, but he does dip his quill into the realm of adult fiction and it’s just as atmospheric and haunting. In his current novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, he delves into an adults’ recollection of his childhood. The narrator is a seven year old boy whose name we never learn, while reading the book I didn’t notice the absence of a name, it wasn’t until I finished that I went looking; maybe I missed it. Obviously this was deliberate and I wondered whether Gaiman was either trying to say it was insignificant or, more likely, that the character was unsure who he was.

Through a magically symbolic story, Gaiman explores how our memories of our childhood are perceived differently as an adult and how we are affected by them. The blend of fantasy and realism had me wondering if the boy’s imagination created an unreal world so he could deal with the real problems of his father’s infidelity and a family where he didn’t quite fit.

What I enjoyed most about this novel was Gaiman’s attention to the details of a child’s relationship and observations to the world around him and his interactions with his family. This excerpt shows his ability to capture a world through a child’s eye:

“Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences”

Plot, Plotter, Plotted

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What is the plot of a novel? According to the Macquarie Concise Dictionary the word Plot means:

  1. A secret plan or scheme to accomplish some purpose, esp. a hostile unlawful, or evil purpose. (oooh)
  2. The plan, scheme, or main story of a play, novel, poem, or the like. (I like no.1 better)

The plot is the synopsis you send to the publisher, it’s the blurb on the back of the book that makes you spend your hard earned cash. So, how do you create an award winning, unique plot? If you research the subject you will find countless theories and analogies on the number of possible plot themes from “The seven basic plots”, “Twenty Master plots” and of course the famous “The Thirty-six Dramatic Situations”.

Are these lists any use to the writer? or do they interfere with the creative process and develop fiction devoid of imagination. I believe they have a place in the writing process. For example, my writing starts with an inspiration, an idea, I then develop the characters that can move this idea along and get the story to its conclusion. I’ll start with the beginning and/or end and then flesh out the ups and down of the middle. If inspiration isn’t coming easily there are many exercises writers use to get a basic plot going, but if the task ahead is Herculean and you are a prolific Trollopian writer a list of themes can be a godsend. I have a series, which centres on the same characters, and at times I look to this list for the spark to get a new theme started.

In the interest in serving my fellow writer I have included the 36 plot themes here. These themes were included in the above mentioned book in the 19th century, by French writer Georges Polti, then translated to English in 1916, but the list is credited to Goethe, who credits them to Gozzi from the mid 1700’s.

 

  1. Supplication
  2. Deliverance
  3. Vengeance of a crime
  4. Vengeance taken for kindred upon kindred
  5. Pursuit
  6. Disaster
  7. Falling prey to cruelty or misfortune
  8. Revolt
  9. Daring enterprise
  10. Abduction
  11. Enigma
  12. Obtaining
  13. Enmity of kinsmen
  14. Rivalry of kinsmen
  15. Murderous adultery
  16. Madness
  17. Fatal imprudence
  18. Involuntary crimes of love
  19. Slaying of a kinsmen unrecognized
  20. Self-sacrificing for an ideal
  21. Self-sacrifice for kindred
  22. All sacrificed for a passion
  23. Necessity of sacrificing loved ones
  24. Rivalry of superior and inferior
  25. Adultery
  26. Crimes of love
  27. Discovery of the dishonor of a loved one
  28. Obstacles to love
  29. An enemy loved
  30. Ambition
  31. Conflict with a god
  32. Mistaken jealousy
  33. Erroneous judgment
  34. Remorse
  35. Recovery of a lost one
  36. Loss of loved ones

If the dreaded writers block is firmly wedged, I hope this list will be the jackhammer of inspiration –Happy writing.

 

Independent Novels

Today I’m reviewing two independent novels at request from the authors. I think it’s important to encourage and support this industry, but I will only give a fair evaluation and will not promote any writing that I feel is of poor quality. That said I was very happy to read and recommend both of these books, which are available at a very reasonable price on Amazon.

 

Real Heroes Cry by Kieran Gould-Dowen

Amazon Blurb:

How would you react if you had superpowers forced upon you? More importantly, who decides if that reaction is good or evil?

Standing in a deserted field in rural Hereford, Dom watches alongside his brother Elliot and best friend Zara as meteors crash from the sky. Thrown into the destruction and to his death by Elliot, Dom awakens not just alive but reborn. Confused by his new superpowers, in particular the power over all matter, he soon gets labelled a super villain and sent on the run. With both his evil brother playing the role of superhero perfectly and the new mysterious organisation GEU hunting him and Zara down for crimes Dom was framed for, he is forced to make a choice: die an unknown hero or play the monster to protect those he loves.
Leading his new family of “ghosts” and fighting for the girl he loves, this is a story you won’t just fall in love with, but you will become obsessed with. Forget everything you know about superhero stories, it is time to see how a real hero lives.

Review:

The beginning of the novel is a little disjointed and confusing, but once the main characters of Dom and Zara are introduced it settles into a smooth rhythm that evolves into an engrossing novel. There is strong character arc development as we see the protagonist, Dom develop from a carefree teenager into a leader. I was enthralled by this novel and found its plot gripping; in a X-men meets The Fantastic Four sense. The book sits firmly in it’s YA genre and I look forward to the future novels in this series.

 

Order of Ascalon by Daniel J. Franks

Amazon Blurb:

A magical mystery adventure that takes you around the world…
After a group of drunken yobs mug sixteen-year-old Peter Butler one evening, he discovers that he has ancient magical powers, which will change the course of his life. Powers that will embroil him in the oldest conflict in human history, fought by influential and deadly secret organisations. Embarking on a daring magical adventure around the world, deciphering clues that lead him to long lost and powerful artefacts, hidden in famous landmarks, the Illuminati hunt him. The Arcanium need him. Governments want him!

Review:

Daniel J. Franks delivers a fantasy novel that catapults the reader head on into the world of intrigue, magic and adventure. Even the most reluctant reader would enjoy the fast paced rollercoaster ride that Franks takes to the reader. The writing is succinct and taut and the pace is reminiscent of a Matthew Riley novel. This is a light- hearted adventure that I recommend for the demographic of pre to early teens. This is the first book in the series and I’m sure it will develop a strong fan base.