Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Boy From Brighton, Geoffrey Knight

- Review by Mr Austro-Hungarian.

The Boy from BrightonEat your heart out, Edgar Allen Poe, and that pun was very much intended; who needs the heart beat in The Tell-Tale Heart when you have the tickety-tock-tock-tock from Geoffrey Knight’s The Boy From Brighton?

This short story is a quirky one. It is mainly focused on a Charlie – a young boy of seven – and his mother leaving their drunken father to stay with ‘Jane’, the woman’s sister from Brighton. This young man, all of seven, thinks he is invincible, as he is adamant that the surgeon’s operating on his heart – when he had a heart attack at four years of age – gave him a clock for a heart. This leads him into performing dangerous stunts that test his hypothesised immortality.

This is when we cue in The Boy from Brighton – a young man named Ant, who is from a troubled background. Ant comes to the rescue of Charlie, and makes sure that he is safe for the night.

I thought, first and foremost, that this was a very cute story about love and how it can save even the bleakest of situations. But it wasn’t just about romantic love; the story showed that love does not strictly limit itself in the form of a romantic partner, which I thought was a nice touch by the author. We all are loved, no matter who we are – we have parental, sibling, romantic, platonic…heck, even chocolate love! – and love can overcome anything, if given the chance.

I also thought the way the author used a very well-known event within history to skip forward in time was very clever. If there is one thing I cannot stand, it is jumping back and forth in time without anything to ground me, and this was mitigated within this novel. The writing was also quirky and unusual – it sometimes read more like a poem than a piece of literary prose – but it worked for the most part; this story had the plot to match the whimsical and unique writing style.

If there was one thing that I had to say was a disappointing aspect of the book, however, it would be the realism of the seven-year-old boy. I often had to check back and make sure he was seven, because his actions, vocabulary choices and even physical abilities were not that of a boy of seven. For example, this…

   “Instantly, I started sprinting too, heading in the same direction but on the opposite side of the street, my skinny legs carrying me as fast as they could until I was running parallel with the boy…”

 …implies that a sixteen-year-old boy, who is hinted at being a shoplifter and can obviously sprint, is easily matched by a boy who is seven – this strikes me as odd. The language choice also does not help the cause for the realism of the characterisation. I do understand that this book is not going to be absolutely accurate to the portrayal of a juvenile mind, otherwise this would be a children’s story, but there were many times where the age of the boy was lost; this irked me.

However, it was still a pleasant read, and it was too sweet a book to really hold one criticism against the lovely morals about human nature and the seemingly limitless capacity with which love can operate.

For this reason, along with the quality of the writing, is why I give The Boy from Brighton four stars.

This book was supplied by the publisher, Wilde City Press, in return for an honest review.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Glowing Dim as an Ember, Iyana Jenna

Review by Kazza K
Glowing Dim as an Ember by Iyana JennaMy second short story by Iyana Jenna. The word count is approximately 2750 words, so you can see it is indeed a short read.
The story starts in 1840 in Denmark, when a young boy is awoken by noise/violence and slipped out of the house by a mother he never sees again.
1848, Paris. Fourteen year old Etienne is hungry, living a rough existence with an even younger boy named Jacques - busking, begging, mugging to make ends meet. The thing is, he is also having waking thoughts of someone named Nicholas and a lifestyle far removed from where he is now. Is he going insane? Who is Nicholas? And who is Eric the boy who smells like cinnamon?  How did Etienne come to be where he is now?
An accident occurs. Etienne is hit and flung by a horse drawing a cart. Once he comes to in the hospital  he starts to learn where his thoughts come from, and why. Who Nicholas and Eric are -
"No one else has eyes like yours, and your hair. You haven't changed much. ...And besides, you talked when you were out."
"I did?" What did I say?"

"Dancing bears, painted wings, silver storms....and a boy who smelled like cinnamon."
Blood had rushed to his face when he heard that. "Oh."
If the review is cryptic I apologise, but there is not a lot to review. It is sweet, I enjoyed what I read, but I would have liked more. It is too short for the story it is trying to tell, however nice it is. I would really like to see Iyana Jenna write something longer and hope she does so in the near future. She has much promise and I will certainly read something longer written by her.
Book supplied by the author in return for an honest review.

A Granted Wish, Iyana Jenna

-Review by Kazza K

A Granted WishThis is a very short story that I cannot give a big review for because it lacks pages BUT it is so cute, nice and different that I had to give it a review on Greedy Bug.

The MC's are Kyle and Aiden. They have growing feelings for one another. They sneak hand-holding under their bags on the school bus -

(Kyle) loves seeing the blush on the other boy's face, feel the slight tremor running through his hand, though from excitement or fear he knows not.

That's what he feels every time Aiden is around. In the classroom, at PE sessions, during breaks, He cant wait to see him again once he loses sight of him.

When Kyle's dad sees him wistfully looking after the school bus he thinks it's about a girl -

"Don't worry about the girl. She's not going anywhere,"

And besides he's too young -

You're fifteen, Kyle. You shouldn't think about that yet, really.

Hmm, I think Kyle's dad's a bit,uh, wrong about that. At fifteen that's exactly what he would be thinking about -

Kyle sighs. It's bad enough that his dad keeps reminding him he's still too young to think about having a crush on someone; Kyle doesn't have to make it worse by telling his father that it's a boy, not a girl.

And we get Aiden's thoughts as well -

Aiden can't stop smiling. He feels like he's walking in the clouds. He's that happy. The cutest boy in class, the one with twinkles in his eyes, the deepest dimples, and the most engaging and contagious of smiles, the one by the name of Kyle. Kyle who's head over heels over him. Or at least that's what Aiden thinks...... 

That night at dinner Kyle adds his own prayers to grace -

...that he were older in a place with no dad nagging at him. And that Aiden would be older, too, with no one getting in their way, not their friends or teachers.

Kyle gets his prayer/wish, which I won't discuss because I've already put a lot in here. The granted wish is interesting, short, quirky, and, because of the story's length, it isn't explored fully. But, having said that, A Granted Wish still makes some points.

Kyle's father assumes it is a girl his son is thinking about. Kyle doesn't feel like he wants to 'disappoint' his father by being gay as well as actively thinking about another boy. His wish is to do with the freedom he would like to experience with Aiden, being with him, being older. An understandable wish given the secrecy that LGBT youth often have to conduct their relationships under - no matter whether it be holding hands, a kiss, or more.

I'm going to assume that Iyana Jenna is finding her way in the writing world. I would like to see her write something longer. This had the potential to be a very good book, as opposed to short story. It was different and sweet, nonetheless.

Overall, very short but very promising. I will keep on the look-out for longer books from Iyana Jenner and watch to see what happens with her writing career.

This book was provided by the author in return for an honest review.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

By the Creek, Geoff Laughton

By the Creek“School is only going to be a few hundred miles away. We’ve bridged two worlds – together we can do anything.”

- Review by Mr. Austro-Hungarian

This was a truly unique piece of young adult writing, and I do not mean that in a negative way. Not even in the slightest. This book – amongst a sea of gay Young Adult fiction that follow the formula: Gay-nerd-meets-seemingly-straight-jock-and-nerd-doesn’t-like-himself-because-he’s-a-nerd-but-jock-loves-him-because-he’s-beautiful – provides a refreshing and different take on the genre.

In the story, we meet David. He’s just finished the last day of tenth grade; instead of welcoming home he says goodbye to it, as his mother has been transferred to a different branch within her workplace. Much to David’s chagrin – they are forced to move closer to her work. To add insult to injury, it is a house settled in a country part of town, opposite to an Amish community – with this information, the logical conclusion that David’s adolescent head comes to is that he will be living without a car and cable whilst living opposite a community that looks like a living episode of Little House On The Prairie. When they arrive, David’s chagrin sinks in further; this situation couldn’t get more platitudinous, even if he tried.


(N.B: I will go to the ends of the Earth to use that GIF – up until the day I die.)

But luckily for David, the heat of summer and the lack of stimulation causes him to discover a swimming hole opposite his house, which is where we meet an Amish boy by the name Benjamin. Benjamin is, naturally, very stiff and almost scared to be within the presence of an “English”, to which David takes offence and strides away. But he can’t help but think about this boy. What is he like? What would he be swimming in? Would he swim naked?

But a week later, on another hot day, David fancies going by the swimming hole again and is rendered unconscious when he slips and hits his head on a rock. Benjamin saves him, and after a good talk, a forbidden friendship quickly develops. But is that all that is forbidden to the tale of the English kid and the Amish boy?

This novel had it all – teenagers who struggle to find their place in life, a love interest between the most unusual people in the most unusual circumstances, serendipitous dialogue that allows for said romance to occur, a conflict that needs to be resolved after a period of inner turmoil and an ending that will warm your heart.

But what made By the Creek so unique were two things:

- The way the author handled every cliché and formula in the industry, and;
- The execution of the unique ideas.

I love anything unique, but when a piece of fiction stands out in this way, it has to be done correctly. In that way, it is quite analogous to whenever a tall gymnast steps up to the podium; every movement of theirs tends to stand out.

…sometimes for better:

…or sometimes for worse:
And in keeping with that same comparison, By the Creek is to Young Adult MM as the lovely Svetlana Khorkina is to Artistic Gymnastics – completely innovative, exciting and different, no matter what way you look at them – they always deliver a beautiful job.

Speaking of beautiful, that is exactly the word to describe the love that was forged between David and Benjamin. When I said that it had teenagers struggling to find their place, these two young men were the epitome of this. Benjamin had always been ashamed of what he felt, as being Amish and gay is something that never happens; David could never find the courage to come out to anyone, as he was also secretly ashamed of who he was. But they both found the strength to become who they wanted to be through each other. David realised that he had an accepting group of friends and family; Benjamin found that he had his own opinion, not just the one of the collective Amish society.

But another thing I liked about this book was that it didn’t demonise the Amish community like I thought it might have; it certainly looked at aspects of the community that seem very archaic, but it didn’t necessarily portray this as a bad thing. In actual fact, David basically alluded to the fact that the freedom of choice with regards to 'how we live is what makes us human', and I thought that was a very good moral to inject within this book.

I also had a really, really soft spot for Benjamin. Benny – as David refers to him – is, quite frankly, adorable – very sweet and innocent. He was portrayed perfectly, in my opinion. Now, I don’t confess to being an expert, or even confess upon having an insight into the minds of the community, but when Ben said this –

      ‘“Are these your gods?” Benjamin asked, pointing at the posters on the walls.’

– I thought that this would be so true, if one did not know better. It made me laugh and melted my heart simultaneously. But what I loved most about his character – and in actual fact, all the characters in this book – was that they all had their own unique voice and had their own way of expressing their opinions. Benjamin was very reserved-but-clever kid that only thought what the Amish collective told him to think, but when he relaxed, he gained an inquisitive intelligence. This also didn’t seem unrealistic. He didn’t suddenly acquire a wealth of knowledge, charisma and vocabulary that seemed jarring or out of the ordinary – he was just being himself, but coming out of his shell.

The pacing of the book was accurately judged. They didn’t become friends straight away. They were wary. They only had limited contact. It progressed slowly but surely. And in particular, there was innocence to their relationship that felt real:

   ‘“I love you too, Davey, and I want you to be my boyfriend forever.” Benjamin kissed him. “I did say that right, didn’t I?”’

These were all good things to me. It would have only felt a bit long-winded and/or boring if the author had not made the chapters frequently skip ahead quite far in time.

And this was the common element in the execution of this story – if the author had done ‘this’, it would have fallen flat; if the author had done ‘this’ – etcetera, etcetera. But this didn’t happen very often –

– Having said that, I did have one gripe with this story, and I didn’t process that I had this gripe until well after I had finished reading the book:

I almost wish the author had written the story from Benjamin’s point of view.

Why do I wish this? Purely because I sometimes think – as much as David’s deadpan-but-yet-slightly-satirical narration on what moving to the country is like and falling in love with someone from another world was great – that Benjamin had a better story to tell.

But I also think that the narration of Benjamin and his story would have been far more inherently risky, purely because we – as the “English” – aren’t privy to the absolute point of view that is living an Amish lifestyle. Can it be researched? Of course. But whilst I think it could have made this book slightly more spectacular, it could have also made this book slightly less accessible.

Besides, this gripe doesn’t so much detract from the story; it just is food for thought, more than anything.

All in all, By the Creek was a great read; it was a wonderfully unique idea that was executed very well, and such a wonderful addition to the Young Adult genre deserves five stars.
This book was supplied by Harmony Ink in return for an honest review.