Monday, 14 January 2019

Review of Toxic by Lucy V Hay

What I love about the Intersections series is the clever way that the central device (a sort of Sliding Doors scenario) means that the topic at hand is thoroughly explored in new and thoughtful ways. Just as in the last book Proof Positive where the choices facing a pregnant teenager are enumerated, Toxic wades into the volatile world of teenage friendships. County athlete Jasmine is besties with Olivia in the seaside town of Winby. One summer, Ellie and her glamorous London family move in, grockles from the big bad city. Jasmine finds her loyalties tested to breaking point as she is invited to Ellie's party but Olivia is excluded. As the iterations build up so do the secrets that everybody seems to be hiding, as does Jasmine's understanding of the true nature of friendship and her growing maturity.

Refreshingly free of the usual clichés concerning teenagers, the novel vividly captures the crippling insecurities that girls suffer over their friends, their appearances and crucially, their behaviour, or their perceived behaviour. The author draws on her own Devon-based upbringing evoking what it is to be stuck in a seasonal seaside town that seems dreary compared to the exciting lives of the out-of-town city folk who descend on such places every summer. I'm looking forward to the next story in this series.

Toxic on Amazon

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Review of Proof Positive by Lucy V Hay

The great and refreshing thing about this first person account is the originality of Lizzie's voice. Part of a large chaotic family in the south west, Lizzie's life is by no means perfect but this girl has ambitions for herself. Proof Positive details the options she has when she falls pregnant. The ringing of the ubiquitous mobile phone heralds another possible path she could take: abortion? Adoption? Have the baby? Early miscarriage is one possibility, quite rightly inspiring conflicting feelings in Lizzie. Lucy Hay speaks with the the voice of authority here, being at one time a single mother herself. Lucy's own experience with her baby son fuelled her desire for success and she is now a successful blogger, author, producer and speaker in the UK and abroad.

Lizzie is, above all, someone who is intelligent, full of potential, a million miles away from the clichéd 'pram-face' so reviled by the Tories many years ago - responsible for all of society's ills. She is no Jeremy Kyle style stereotype, thank goodness. We have the Daily Mail for that version of the young single mother. No, Liziie is human: strong, bolshy, frail and anxious about what others will think of her and what's the right thing to do. Each decision is prefaced by a name of a friend, sibling, lover and parent, and finally and most crucially Lizzie herself. This book makes you want to cheer for her, because in the end, no one can tell a young woman what to do with her body. This is a story told with wince-inducing honesty and forthrightness, eschewing sanctimonious moralising and outdated piety. It's a baby for heaven's sake - not a nuclear bomb. No one's life is over. This is not only a cracking story, it will doubtless also function as a self-help manual for any young woman in the same situation as Lizzie. It deserves every success.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Review of ‘Everybody Works in Sales’ by Niraj Kapur

Two things stand out about this book: one, the excellent advice on the noble art of selling, and two, the unique journey that the author has been on to bring us this book. I do enjoy a book that not only expounds knowledgeably on its subject but also gives us a flavour of the world and experience of the writer.

Niraj Kapur
occupies a very interesting position in the modern world. Of Indian extraction, he was raised in Northern Ireland and schooled in an atmosphere of bigotry. He moved to London to pursue his career, so the tips on selling are interspersed with observations about his particular experiences in school and work. But lest you worry that this is going to be a relentlessly positive 'how I overcame adversity to be who I am today' sort of tome, take comfort from the section of the book where Niraj examines bad business practice and ruthlessly dissects the sometimes poisonous dynamic that can infiltrate the upper echelons of management, resulting in those who are 'managed' being overlooked, demoted and leaving from frustration. Niraj sensibly gives vent to his experience of this but draws a positive from it for us, the readers.

This book then, serves as a 'what I wish I knew when I was younger' manual. Niraj draws on his extensive work in publishing, advertising and shipping and boils it down to this: we are all in sales, whether we sell our wares, services or even propose what's for tea for the kids. Niraj wants us to tap into this often-unacknowledged talent that may be quite sublimated in many of us. What is it about the idea of 'sales' that puts us Brits off exactly? The Americans have no problem with it as a perfectly respectable occupation. Look at who's in the White House right now. Hasn't Trump sold the American electorate an idea of themselves and the changes that might be possible under his leadership? Of course, politicians do that here too, but we don't call it salesmanship.

Containing 27 valuable lessons, plus 17 interviews with experts, Everybody Works in Sales combines unique storytelling and personal development to ensure you have the tools you need to do better in your career.

I think we're going to have to up our game in a post-industrial world where we in the West are such huge consumers. With everyone on Social Media, entrepreneurs, Mumpreneurs, Specialpreneurs would benefit from the approach laid out by Niraj in this excellent book. Not only that, those who are not in sales might also gain from reading it: teachers, parents etc. The one thing that resounded for me is that so much of selling your service is about managing people's expectations and about fostering good relationships, as well as the product or service that you're trying to generate income with.

Available to purchase from Amazon here.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Everybody Works in Sales by Niraj Kapur: BLOG TOUR

I am jazzed to report that I will be posting a review of this book on Saturday!
Stay tuned...

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

REVIEW: Writing Diverse Characters for Fiction, TV or Film by Lucy V. Hay

At last! A book that pinpoints why we need more diversity in the characters we read about, watch or importantly, write about. Not only does Lucy's book highlight the same dreary old stereotypes (my own particular bête noire being the lack of complexity in disabled characters), she gives the reader some excellent observations and insights as to how to actually redress the situation in their own writing without reorting to jargon (I hate jargon!) or exhortations to the writer to flagellate themselves IMMEDIATELY in the name of white, male, middle-class, ableist, homophobic guilt. Save it for the writing, people!

Which is not to say that the writer shouldn't examine their own unconscious bias when writing about characters that have hitherto been marginalised. If the adage 'write what you know' has any value at all, it is surely the writer's own inner workings that prove a worthy source of knowledge. In the age of the internet, as Lucy says, it's never been easier to research the reality of lives that are dramatically different from the writer's own. Authenticity is the name of the name of the game when writing diverse characters, not the recycling of tired old stereotypes (dead sex worker, inspirational disabled person - AARGH!) from OTHER FILMS. This is certainly soemthing I've been guilty of in the past in my own writing. Reading Lucy's book has sparked off some interesting tangents that I hope will enliven my own work.

Lucy backs up her observations with facts and figures, quotes from peers, established writers and producers and her own expertise built up over many years of script reading, writing and blogging. She's not afraid to practise what she preaches. Most importantly, she is passionate about writing, writers and the strength of connections, relationships and community. And if you think it's 'political correctness gone mad' - consider this: audiences want stories that reflect their own realities. Films, series and books that flip the usual characters on the head will be the ones that get made, talked about and REMEMBERED. Isn't that what any writer wants?

Writing Diverse Characters for Fiction TV or Film

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The Other TwinThe Other Twin by L.V. Hay

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me state an interest here; I accompanied Lucy on a recce of Brighton for this book and have listened to the evolution of it over the last two years. Even though I knew the nature of the twist, it still came as a shock. No spoilers here, however! Suffice to say that the nature of it drags crime fiction firmly into the 21st century for this reviewer.

I grew very fond of Poppy, the contradictory protagonist, in her guilt-filled search to find out the truth but also to atone for her own behaviour in the past. I could totally relate to her desire for her ex, even as she manipulates the situation to get closer to the truth. But more than anything, what resonated with me was the fucked-up family dynamic. Secrets are dangerous things and skeletons do indeed tumble out of the cupboard, whatever the attempt to keep them concealed. There’s a warning to us all, here.

Poppy is a heroine for our times; flawed, yes, but with courage and resolve and eventual self-knowledge. The character of India inhabits every page, much like Rebecca in the film of the same name. I liked the diversity of the characters in The Other Twin, this isn’t some antiquated cliché-ridden white middle-class milieu, this is the modem world. It rings true and possible in a world governed for the young by social media. It’s entirely plausible that Poppy takes on the search for India’s real fate herself: the police can only act on the facts. Poppy is self-contained and utterly lacking in self-pity, using the peculiar energy of grief to propel her forward despite the danger to herself. She’s very much in the mould of Smilla in Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow (one of my fave thrillers). She has autonomy, complexity and isn’t that bothered about pleasing others, and that’s so refreshing. More please.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

REVIEW: Twenty First Century Horror Films by Douglas Keesey

If you love reading Sight & Sound magazine (and I do), I think you’ll enjoy this exhaustive trawl through the famous, the cult, the controversial, the remakes and even the spoofs of the last two decades and occasionally of the twentieth century. You may not always agree with the analysis (I certainly didn’t) but that’s the great thing about horror or indeed films of any genre – they are subject to multiple readings and critiques.

Interestingly, what the book did for me was polarise exactly what it is I love about horror. I love the creepy and the jump scare (Sinister, the Babadook, It Follows). I’m not likely to see Martyrs or The Human Centipede any time soon, though I did love Neon Demon. On the strength of the analysis in this book I will certainly see Green Inferno. I also like horror films that say something about politics so it’s Purge 2 all the way for me! Horror is at its strongest when it’s the return of the repressed, so in that vein (arf) I’m keen to go see The Love Witch which seems like it's harking back to an era of just that: fear of female sexuality. Surely that will be included in future editions? I was surprised not to see any of the hugely successful Blade films featured (surely ripe for a revival?) but then I imagine that with such a wealth of material to choose from, it was hard for Keesey to whittle them down.

Buy this for the horror fanatics in your life, it’s practically guaranteed to keep heated debate alive. Perfect also for anyone engaged in more formal film studies. And, like the best horror films, I found once I started reading that I couldn’t look away.