Book Review: The Improbable Wonders Of Moojie Littleman by Robin Gregory

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The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman. Robin Gregory

Genre: Fiction. YA. Historical.
Pub Date: 1 November 2015
Publisher: Price World Publishing
Length: 294 pages
Paperback : £11.00

Synopsis

Early 1900s, Western America. A lonely, disabled boy with a nasty temper and uncontrolled mystical powers, Moojie is taken by his father to his grandfather’s wilderness farm. There, Moojie meets an otherworldly clan of outcasts that he wants to join. Following a series of misadventures–magical and mystical–he is summoned by the call to a great destiny … if only he can survive one last terrifying trial.

https://www.amazon.com/Improbable-Wonders-Moojie-Littleman/dp/1942545002

 

I was surprised to learn that this book was published over 2 years ago; it seems to be suddenly everywhere I look online.

Although touted as Y.A, I found it to be an engaging and beautiful story – Set in late 19th early 20th century. Moojie Littleman is a foundling who is adopted by childless couple; Henry and Kate Littleman. Moojie is written across the babes forehead, and so the name sticks.

The name is an interesting choice, it is no accident that the name Moojie (and its variant spellings) can mean – an ethnic slur in India, particularly about a Muslim. For Kabbalists it is about optimism, being friendly and likeable, other sources say it means ‘gift from God’. Knowing just this gives a foothold into this world created by Robin Gregory. A world of hard men; of Scottish, Irish and European origins, who live hard lives in the dust-blown, western edge of the earthquake riddled coastal town of San Miguel de las Gaviotas.

As Moojie grows to an age when certain stages in development should be met, it becomes clear that he is not like other children. For starters he is disabled. This physical disability is not named, but reads like cerebral palsy. Moojie does not, or cannot, speak; until much later. He has tantrums that create havoc and can be said to be spoilt by his doting mother; Kate. An interesting character herself, his mother introduces Moojie to the magical world of books – science, history, Odysseus. She sees in Moojie something no-one else can, a special quality that she attempts to nurture.

Then tragedy strikes. Moojie’s world falls apart after his beloved mother’s death and he is packed off to live with a cranky grandfather. He has to toughen up, the threat of being sent away to a boys home hangs over him for years. He is alone, feels unloved and without a sense of belonging.

Enter the Light-Eaters. A strange ‘tribe’ or ‘clan’ of people who live in the hills beyond grandfather’s goat farm. They are not like the locals, they are dark-skinned, dark-haired and viewed with suspicion by the townsfolk, who call them ‘Hostiles’. We are not told if they are Native American, they can speak any language they want, and there is a heavy emphasis on Eastern philosophy and spirituality. A curious group who each have lessons for Moojie; even painful ones, who reveal a little about themselves drop by drop; where are they from exactly? How old, actually, is Babylonia, the ‘girl’ whom Moojie falls for?

Moojie’s desperate desire to belong; to find a family, leads him on a journey of self-development. It is, in essence, a story of self-discovery and spirituality. Moojie’s disability is no excuse or reason for self-limitation, Moojie must learn how to give, how to forgive and how to accept.

This is a curious story, I was quite entranced from the start with the magical elements entwined in amongst the mundane – and isn’t that the point? Gregory has a light touch, poetic adjectives fill the spaces between the daily activities, is an easy read and has a positive message without being cloying. It can be read by the young as a tale of wonder and magic, and by adults as a tale of the human condition, for after all, aren’t we all Moojie Littleman?

 

I am giving The Improbable Wonders Of Moojie Littleman

5 Stars

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Edit, Compile, Publish???

I am currently editing and compiling a series of my own short stories.

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No! No more editing, I can’t take it anymore!

They were begun in 2014, when I first became involved in the world of Steampunk, and continued until 2016. Initially posted on a, now closed, blog the first story having been published in a Steampunk magazine also, I have decided to compile them all into one volume.

The stories are based on the characters that my daughter and I assumed as part of the ‘costume’ for events, gatherings and annual Asylum Festival. These events involve people from all over the country, and in the case of The Asylum Festival, the world, dressing up in faux Victorian clothing; often hybridised from various literary characters, films, Industrial mechanisms and so forth.

This is not ‘serious’ literature – and was never meant to be; more a romp through various countries and continents with varying degrees of success. Lucy Lockhart and Theodora Doppler are a pair of adventurers, aka thieves, who collect treasures ostensibly for the Royal Society in London; think Harry Flashman crossed with Indiana Jones in female form! It is pulp fiction (no, not the film), in the style of the penny dreadfulsdime novels, and short-fiction magazines of the 19th century

The issue I have is that over the course of a writing career – especially at the beginning, one’s style and skill changes and grows – the earliest pieces reflect this, and can be seen as the development of these skills.

But do I publish? Of course, no actual publishing house is going to want to publish a set of stories about a philandering, thieving, amoral, (sometimes murdering), woman, set in an alternate 19th century, so it will be a self-published project – if it happens!

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Pulped fiction

Book Review: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
Pub Date: 9 Nov. 2017
Publisher: Hutchinson
Length: 288 pages
Hardback: £12.99

Synopsis

Abby Williams returns to the small town where she grew up. Now working as a successful environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has been tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s economic heart. Abby begins to find strange connections to a decade-old scandal involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

As Abby attempts to find out what happened to Kaycee, troubling memories begin to resurface and she begins to doubt her own observations.”

Krysten Ritter, star of American TV shows such as Jessica Jones and Don’t Trust The B**** in Apartment 23, has published her début novel, Bonfire. I have to admit I had mixed emotions; unsure whether this actor, who I have been a fan of for some years, would be skilled enough to pull off a novel ( I think it was J G Ballard who said one shouldn’t not write a full length novel for a first outing). Bonfire has been described as being ‘dark, disturbing and compulsively readable’ amongst the blurb.


I found the writing to be mature, I don’t know why I was surprised, but I was. Ritter keeps the writing tight and moving along at a fair pace. The protagonist, Abby Williams, is deftly portrayed, she has a strong voice and reminded me a little of a cross between the two characters Ritter has played in the aforementioned shows; intelligent, forthright and possibly a little bit sexy. Other characters are portrayed well with sparse use of adjectives, yet we get to see them clearly.

Abby has tried hard to move away from the memories of her home-town. Memories dominated by the popular girl Kaycee Mitchell, memories of her bullying, of becoming her friend, of Kaycee’s clique of hangers on, like the appalling Misha, and ultimately the illness that gripped Kaycee and the others. To Abby, there is a connection between the illnesses and Optimal Plastics and she sets out to prove it.

Bonfire is dark and compulsive reading, but the disturbing not so much for me. I found myself thinking of The Virgin Suicides (1993), Mean Girls and a little Twin Peaks. So, not hugely original or with a shocking or surprising outcome. Maybe because I am British, but I found it quite difficult to relate to many of the characters; do high school students really behave like that in USA?! And I simply could not get my head around the idea that school-age Abby wanted to be friends with such a bitch! But maybe I’m not the target audience.

Although there are a couple of close moments between the protagonist and other character, there is no reason why this cannot be read by those aged 16 years.

I’m giving Bonfire 3 stars

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The ‘E’ Word or, I Thought I’d Finished But…

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“Did you say the e word?!”

I finished writing my story today, HURRAH! Yes, the one I was doing for NaNoWriMo, that I did not complete in the time-frame; 1st to 30th November.

But now I have to edit it,BOO!

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The joy of editing…

I cannot tell you how much I despise editing. The story was planned – first time I have done that, researched, written and completed.

The idea has been expulsed from my mind and body, like giving birth, or squeezing a particularly juicy spot. I do not really want to spend time poking and fiddling around with the after-stuff. And yet I cannot afford an editors fee – I know some out there who say, they only charge so much per thousand words, but free is the affordable amount for me.

When I was a visual artist, I made a quick pencil sketch of my idea, transferred the image to canvas, and painted it – done. I used acrylics because, firstly I couldn’t handle oils and secondly, acrylic paints dry so quickly, you can pack it up (for no-one to ever look at again!) a day later.

Writing is a bit like sex, the more you talk about it, the less I reckon you’re doing it. If I plan too much, or discuss too much, or overwork the idea, then I lose interest. For me, the excitement in writing lies in what will happen as I travel along this journey with my characters, and when we have reached the end I don’t want to go pouring over what might or might not have been.

Editing gets in the way of me starting my next story; I nearly always have two or three; even four ideas bubbling away at once.

Editing is like waiting for three hours at the airport for your bags after returning from holiday – feels like wasting time, but that’s your stuff.

Editing is like doing the washing up after a fat, fulfilling meal – takes the shine off it.

Editing is like having to write the envelopes after the Christmas cards are written – boring.

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“I said back off! I don’t want to edit my story.”

Revisiting the NaNaWriMo site is helpful, to a degree. There’s congratulations and praise; regardless of whether a writer reached 50,000 words or not. For the NaNo team, it’s the taking part that matters, that effort was made, and creativity happened. But what they do have is a link to help people like me – 5 Quick Editing Wins for December. Thanks NaNo Team (Katharine Gripp and co)

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Buddy the Elf

So, I am off to edit now, wish me luck. To misquote the heroic Captain Oates, “I’m going in and I might be some time.”

Have a good weekend everyone.

Stop Stalling, Get Writing. NaNoWriMo is here !

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Good Morning WriMo’s,

This is my 2nd year at NaNo. Last year I started a sci-fi novel, reached my 50,000 word count and continued it – it is still progressing, has passed 100,000; but that’s for another time. This year I am trying a new approach. Planning!!!!! 

I am late to the party this year, partly because of that and due to other writing commitments: I have a little map of the village in my notebook, all the villagers names, family connections and job roles in the community i.e. dyer, scribe, labourer etc. I have NEVER planned a story before.

I will be ‘trying’ to write a piece of Magical Realism, set in late 17th early 18th century. Suzanna is a 12 year old on the cusp of womanhood. All she wants is to be the May Queen and for James Joseph to fall in love with her. An isolated village, the Church, culture and conformity, and Oak Tree Jesus!

 

And so begins my introduction to this years NaNoWriMo event.

NaNoWriMo?? I hear you cry – what is wrong with you Alex, have you forgotten how to speak or are you making up new words?

National Novel Writing Month – shortened to nanowrimo –  is an annual, Internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November. Participants attempt to write a 50,000 word manuscript between November 1 and November 30. But you don’t have to!

If you’re a writer and need something to motivate you – this might prove to be worth a shout. I joined, last year, on the recommendation of a fellow Wirral Writer. I work alone, I like working alone, I don’t mix well when it comes to creativity, I don’t want to share my ideas and I don’t want to make new friends – if that sounds like you, then NaNo is still fit for purpose. You do not have to do anything you don’t want. But I got a hell of a lot of words written! I found that this works for me, I need a ‘kick-up-the-arse’, not because I don’t write or enjoy it, but because I get lost in the minutiae, or I wander off into the Land of Research – for example, did you know that not everyone in England in the 16th century had a chimney on their house? Chimneys were a luxury, a luxury!! – see what I mean?

Last year I was what is commonly called, a ‘Pantser’ – writing by the seat of your pants, not organised or planned. This year, it’s Planner; let’s see how that goes.

Sure, some people go all the way, they keep in touch, they communicate with new writing friends, they even meet up at venues for real-life ‘write-ins’ as well as virtual ones. It is a perfect writing platform as you use as little or as much of it as you want. You can see other people’s word counts – so you are either incentivized or proud as a peacock throughout.

So, if you are beginning a new story, or even in the middle of one, you can join the community and share as much, or as little, of your experience throughout the month of November – just get that story written!

Before NaNo – daydreaming, and during NaNo – working!

Reason To Love New Horror Anthology

‘Covering four specific horror-related themes: Halloween, ghost stories, nautical terrors, and cosmic horror, The Asterisk Anthology: Volume 1, brings readers eight extraordinary tales from new authors of weird fiction, winners of the Nosetouch Press calls throughout 2017. ‘

Nosetouch Press on Amazon

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The Asterisk Anthology: Volume 1

 

Good Morning all!

I’m very pleased to announce that I have had my work published in this new anthology of horror stories. Not one, but two made it through the selection process! Yay!

It all began in October 2016; after reading a ‘call for submissions’ via Dark Markets, I entered my first story for Halloween. Nosetouch Press ran a 4 Round submission process – Halloween, Ghost Stories, Nautical Nightmares and finally Cosmic Horror. I came second in Rounds 1 and 4. It’s always great to see your work in print; validation through publication says that someone thought your work good enough – and few things feel better – for a writer.

There is a broad range of writing styles, tied together by the four themes. I am convinced you will find some you love in it (I have two reasons to love this anthology!)

I’d like to thank the two people involved in compiling this anthology; David T. Neal and Christine M. Scott, who must have spent hours reading through submissions, deliberating between them who had won and making final decisions. I know, from experience, how hard it is to get 10 writers work collected, edited and compiled into a form for publication, so what it must have been like for submissions from across the world, I cannot imagine.

You can buy your copy of The Asterisk Anthology here-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B076ZB9KR6

Thanks for reading, have a lovely weekend. A

October Book Releases

 

Each month sees the release of hundreds of new book titles. Like the movie goers who queue outside the cinema for hours on the first day of a film’s release, I know many readers like to get their copies ASAP, like NOW!

Personally, I can wait, I like to be behind the curve; what can I say. But for those who can’t wait, here’s ten books you might like this month. I know I will be having a closer look at Philip Pullman’s ‘Book of Dust’.

1. Turtles All The Way Down by John GreenExpected publication: October 10th 2017 by Dutton Books for Young Readers.

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate.

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Turtles All The Way                          by John Green

2. Origin by Dan BrownPublished October 3rd 2017 by Doubleday Books.

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbolism and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.”

3. The Ship of The Dead by Rick RiordanPublished October 3rd 2017 by Disney-Hyperion.

Magnus Chase, a once-homeless teen, is a resident of the Hotel Valhalla and one of Odin’s chosen warriors. As the son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus isn’t naturally inclined to fighting.

4. Without Merit by Colleen HooverPublished October 3rd 2017 by Atria Books.

The Voss family is anything but normal. They live in a re-purposed church, newly baptised Dollar Voss.

5. All The Crooked Saints by Maggie StiefvaterExpected publication: October 10th 2017 by Scholastic Press.

Here is a thing everyone wants: A miracle.Here is a thing everyone fears:What it takes to get one.

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All The Crooked Saints                               by Maggie Stiefvater

6. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer EganPublished October 3rd 2017 by Scribner.

Manhattan Beach opens in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Anna observes the uniformed servants, the lavishing of toys on the children, and some secret pact between her father and Dexter Styles.

7. The Core by Peter V. BrettPublished October 3rd 2017 by Del Rey.

For time out of mind, bloodthirsty demons have stalked the night, culling the human race to scattered remnants dependent on half-forgotten magics to protect them. Then two heroes arose…

8. The Silver Mask by Holly BlackExpected publication: October 10th 2017 by Scholastic Press.

A generation ago, Constantine Madden came close to achieving what no magician had ever achieved: the ability to bring back the dead. He didn’t succeed . . . but he did find a way to keep himself alive, inside a young child named Callum Hunt.

9. Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. DaoExpected publication: October 10th 2017 by Philomel Books.

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. 

10. The Book Of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip PullmanExpected publication: October 19th 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, live with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford. Across the River Thames (which Malcolm navigates often using his beloved canoe, a boat by the name of La Belle Sauvage) is the Godstow Priory where the nuns live. Malcolm learns they have a guest with them, a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua . . .

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The Book Of Dust                                     by Philip Pullman