Recently I have been borrowing, what my son calls, chapter books from the library at the school I work in. The librarian has noticed this and decided to lend me a newly bought book that has yet to be categorised and placed in the library in return for an honest review. My eyes lit up and my brain said, blog post. So here it is, my review of Vulgar the Viking and the Rock Cake Raiders by Odin Redbeard and Sarah Horne (oh, I should say that there are some spoilers in there!)…
I was a little disappointed by the first chapter, it almost seemed like a book for older children. My son is four but he can get the general gist of books for eight to ten-year olds. It may be a strange thing to say, but I felt there were too many technical viking words. Yes it is about vikings, but I felt you needed to have some knowledge of them to access the book. However, chapter 2 onwards seemed to move quickly into writing that was fit for the age range. Along with the quick pace of the story came the silly jokes and gross situations, including juggling elk poo and eating bogeys. That good stuff that makes kids laugh and amuses adults, even though they do not want to admit it. From here it became sillier and sillier, however, what I liked is that it joked about this, it revelled in observational comedy. It was almost as if the characters were asking the questions you wanted to as a reader. For instance, when King Olaf tells the kids a story about how he survived at sea with no food or drink, he says he ate bogeys and drank seagulls blood, then one of the children asks why he did not just eat the seagulls (which is what I was thinking!). Another thing that got me into the story, but was maybe over my four-year old’s head, was that fact we were looking at modern vikings. It was set in the ‘olden days’ but the vikings had shops, a village and did not plunder or loot, Vulgar’s Dad even cleaned toilets for a living. The comedy comes from the fact that the vikings were now ‘civilsed.’ The whole situation in the book stems from the point that Vulgar wants to be a real, old-fashioned, viking. This leads to the three main characters making a boat to cross the village pond and stealing some cakes. It is such a preposterous plot that it is perfect for a children’s book. I actually laughed out loud when the three kids escaped the mob in their barrel boat only to be caught on the other side as the mob just walked around the pond.
Two other children’s books I have been impressed with are Wilf the Worrier and King Flashypants. I have likened these to Monty Python for children. I think that Vulgar the Viking is another book that can fit into this category. Maybe then, this is the state of children’s literature today. Have they finally caught on to alternative comedy much like adults got in the 1970s. Maybe it is the people who grew up with Monty Python that are now putting their ideas into children’s books. I for one am glad if it means we get such funny stories as those mentioned above. The one thing that annoys me, though, is that I have heard many people say these types of books are good for reluctant readers as if they are just silly and that is all. These books are actually well written and great for all readers, they are silly and make you laugh but most importantly they are entertaining. So, I for one endorse Vulgar the Viking and the Rock Cake Raiders and am satisfied to say that it adds to a growing list of what I call ‘proper comedy books for children’.
Well maybe not for the last time, but the last story of Super Lizard Returns is complete and is up on Wattpad. You can read it here. I am relieved that I can actually tell you of a success in my writing and that one of my plans for the year has come off. Well nearly. I still need to do a final edit on all four stories and place the finished ebook on Smashwords. I hope you enjoy Revenge of The White Steed as it moves into new territory by introducing the first super villain into the series. It also builds the relationship between Super Lizard and Tanooki and is actually my favourite story so far. I am happy with the other three but in this one I have tried to hammer out joke after joke which leads to what I think is a very punchy story. I had a large list of jokes before I started writing which I hope means it does not feel forced. I also feel that the story flows well and I could have added more description to it, that I have manager to cut some out makes the story move quickly and I think that is what makes it good for me. Right, I will stop waffling now. Hope you enjoy it.
This blog may seem as if it is fading, my writing my be halting due to work pressures but when something big happens you need to stop and think. For only the second time this year I feel it right to put my work and family aside and write something down. I am talking about the death of one of my heroes. A few days ago author Terry Pratchett passed away. He was a hero to many, a man who stood slightly away from the literary world by choice and produced book after book of gorgeous prose and clever humour. I first heard about Pratchett when I was in Year 5 of Primary School. I tried to read The Carpet People and Truckers, failing miserably at both as my unprepared brain could not comprehend what was on the page. This was not Billy Blue Hat or Roger Red Hat. Some years later, now at secondary school and in Year 9, I decided that I wanted to become a proper reader, I wanted to understand more and tell people of the books I had enjoyed. I had read some Point Horror and moved on to Point Fantasy. These were mainly watered down books doing for children’s fantasy what Mills and Boons does for adult romance. I was a bored, slow reader. Myself and a friend decided we would start reading the Discworld novels and picked up our copies of The Colour of Magic. It was so different, so new. I don’t think I got a lot of the jokes but I laughed a lot. I was still slow but I really enjoyed it, I may have ended up a few books behind my friends but we could all laugh about Rincewind, The Luggage, Two Flower and the librarian that got turned in to a monke…..erm ape. I think the one character that held my interest most was Death, he wasn’t some scary horror character, he had a soul (well maybe not but it felt like he did). His struggle to understand humanity just brought about so many laughs as well as a kind of strange respect. I stopped reading Discworld when I left 6th Form and decided to move on to new authors and try new genres. I had managed sixteen books in those five years which was amazing for me. Even with work begin hectic I can manage to read eight books a year now, that means that Discworld started my improvement in reading ability. Even though I stopped for some time I yearned for the Discworld and two years ago decided to carry on with them, alternating between a Discworld book then a non-Discworld one. Every time I pick one up it feels like visiting an old friend. Yes some are better than others but all are enjoyable and they are so easy to read. Now, though, I see intricate nuances that I missed before.
What is more amazing is that I have only really wanted to write stories in the last five years, before that I was more of a consumer. However, I did dabble in the odd story when I was younger. One of the my first efforts, which never got finished, was a novel entitled Magical Men. It should have been called A Massive Discworld Ripoff as I am Such a Huge Fan. It was terrible but it made me happy and I really thought I was being funny, I wasn’t though. The only comedy I have released thus far is Super Lizard, when I look at the short stories I think about the slapstick and silliness of the Discworld and use that as my yard stick. It is something I aspire to.
I have many people in this world I love, many famous ones I wish to be more like but none have had such an impact as Pratchett. Yes I have waffled on about myself but I think that is the greatest honour I can bestow on the man. He made me want to read, got me turning pages so my vocabulary, speed and understanding increased. He made me want to write, put pen to paper to give other people joy. But more than this, when I write, particularly comedy, it is his work that is the gold standard I want to get to. I can say nothing more than the man has been an inspiration to me and I am incredibly sad to see him go.
MA finished, summer holidays and child born means I have a little bit of free time and that means writing! I have so many ideas for new books but felt it silly to start on them when I had old projects going. Probably the quickest to finish is Super Lizard Returns so I thought I would tackle that for a bit. Managed to put the structure down for the remaining three short stories and finish writing one. I have once again placed it on wattpad. The plan is to let people have a look and comment before I do a final edit and place the collection on Smashwords. This post is therefore basically saying that the second of the four stories is now available on wattpad and entitled ‘A Rough in the Diamond‘. I hope you enjoy it and I would love some critical feedback, I am not sure it is as good as Super Lizard Begins but I much prefer it to ‘Sequins and Spandex‘ as there are more comedy (in particular slapstick) moments. Like the previous story it is building up to what I hope are the best two short stories in the series so far. All that remains is to ask you to click here and take a look.
Whilst work commitments and working on another project (which I intend to blog about later) have meant that The Wings of Aysh-Karal is currently on stall (I do hope to get another chapter up during the Christmas break) I have found some time to write which is good as I have had a massive itch to do just that. Since a small handful of people reacted positively to Super Lizard and I have lots of ideas for the characters I have decide to make a set of four more short stories. This is good on two levels for me, firstly it satisfies my writing itch and secondly it is a de-stresser. Where as TWOAK can be quite heavy at times and I need to keep meticulous notes to make sure there are no continuity errors and the story is moving where I want it to, Super Lizard allows me to just sit down and write. It gives me an opportunity to turn my hand to a bit of comedy which, although it is not amazing, I am a lot happier with than I thought I would be. Picking up straight after Super Lizard Begins, the first short story of the new series is now up, entitled Sequins and Spandex, and can be found under the collection name of Super Lizard Returns (yes I am using Batman titles!). Have a look for it on wattpad.