21st Century Dodos

If you are looking for something to read that is fun, well-researched and will have you shouting out at regular intervals “Oh my goodness, YES I remember that!” I can recommend nothing more highly than Steve Stack’s new book, 21st Century Dodos. I was lucky enough to read it recently and loved it so much I promptly followed @dodoflip (the twitter account which works VERY well with the iPad – more of which in the book – and gives extra shots of reminiscence) and joined in the conversation as well as telling all my friends about it.

But since I’m also lucky enough to be hosting Steve on his blog tour for the book, I’ll hand over to him!

Hi Steve!

Hello. The lovely Rebecca has invited me on to her blog today to tell you all about my new book, 21st Century Dodos. It is a collection of short, hopefully humorous, pieces about inanimate objects that we all grew up with that are now in danger of extinction. The perfect stocking filler for anyone over 30.

Want to know more? Well here is my son, Ethan, reading two entries from the book about Marathon bars and Opal Fruits.
21st Century Dodos: Marathons and Opal Fruits

Thanks so much, Steve! Now, what are you waiting for you? Off you go and buy it, from here!








Tweet Right

I’m going to tell you something astonishing, that you didn’t know before. Ready?

I love twitter.

What do you mean, was that it? What do you want, blood?

Anyway, I personally think twitter is one of the best reasons for the internet. It’s connected me with so many different people, and given me confidence to do things like keep writing, keep blogging and start my own podcast. BUT I know that not everyone ‘gets’ twitter yet. I had at one stage considered doing my own little ebook guide to twitter. But someone beat me to it.

Nicola Morgan, whose book Wasted I reviewed here a while ago, has just launched Tweet Right; her introduction to twitter for, as she puts it, ‘nice, sensible people’ (yes I know there were a million commas there). It does exactly what it says on the tin (sorry, comma hell followed by cliche hell. Get over it), and cuts through all the rubbish that people say about twitter. People, generally, that don’t use it by the way.

If you know someone who is intrigued by twitter but doesn’t know how to start, or who wants to use it but is struggling, I highly recommend  Tweet Right. Or if you have somehow come to this blog NOT via twitter because you don’t use it and don’t get it (hello mum). Nicola holds your hand through the first steps on the social network from getting registered to using a twitter client. There’s even a list of people you could follow, helpfully broken down into categories. Followers, etiquette, Follow Fridays, DMs, hashtags, games (from a worldwide trendsetter, by the way) are all explained in a clear and accessible style with helpful tips along the way. I would imagine that few people using or thinking of using twitter will not find something helpful and interesting here.

Nicola’s launch blogpost on Help! I need a publisher also mentions the concept of #TwitterAngels – someone to welcome and guide a complete beginner through the first stages of tweeting. I think this is a brilliant idea – wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if everyone offered to be an Angel for someone and hold their hands through something new? – and I’ve volunteered myself.  Check Nicola’s blog for more information on this (I’d also keep a close eye on Nicola’s blog in the near future as I suspect the Crabbit One has grand plans afoot).

In short, if someone needs an introduction to twitter, they couldn’t do better than to read this.

Tweet Right is available from amazon in kindle format (remember you don’t need a kindle to read kindle format books – there are apps for smartphones, pc’s and macs) for £2.74.




Bloodstone is the sequel to the acclaimed Firebrand by Gillian Philip, which I reviewed here last year alongside an interview with its simply fantastic hero, Seth MacGregor. Firebrand has shot up to become one of my favourite books, and being an impatient sort I kept nagging Gillian to find out when Bloodstone was coming out.

Imagine my delight when I received a proof copy of Bloodstone from the publishers, Strident! So here’s my completely honest review to give you an idea of what to expect when it’s released on 19th August.

Firebrand set a really high bar. The story of two Sithe (faeries, but not as Disney know ’em) half-brothers gripped me and it was always going to be hard to live up to that. Bloodstone more than meets the challenge. Seth and Conal’s story continues, 400 years on from the end of Firebrand, and new characters are introduced alongside familiar ones. In particular Finn MacAngus and the mortal Jed really make their mark here, and I clicked with them straightaway with all their flaws and strengths. Kate NicNiven, of course, is back as the charmingly deadly faerie queen and she in particular, I thought, came across even more strongly than in the first book. It took real effort for me as a reader to not be taken in by her again and again and I still don’t know if she’s as black as she’s painted…

Seth is the real star, obviously. If you read the first book you know him as a wild, damaged and passionate young man. Well, take that and imagine him with all those traits distilled and honed for 400 years. Yep. He’s mad, bad and dangerous to know in a way Byron could only dream of. Liable to go off like a crazy rocket at any time, you still can’t help falling in love with him all over again right to the end. Conal is as noble as ever although 400 years have taken their toll.

I say it again and again, but Gillian has a real knack of making a character jump off the page. Everyone is brilliantly drawn, but I can’t overlook the beautiful, crisp language and the plot, which cracks along with the occasional pause for breath and left me, literally, shaking for about an hour after I finished reading. I have to put in a personal note here – when I was at school I would read solidly for hours and a book like Bloodstone would have been finished in a couple of days. Maybe the same day if it was a weekend. I just don’t have that luxury anymore with children and husbands and such (pesky things) and a book has to be exceptionally gripping to let me switch off entirely from my surroundings. Bloodstone is one of those books.

Bloodstone will undoubtedly appeal to adults as much as teens although I think teens will identify strongly with Seth, Finn and Jed. I’d say it is much better to have read Firebrand first but I’m sure it could stand alone. I’d also like to point you to Lucy Coats’ blog at Scribble City Central where she interviews Conal.

Two questions remain: when oh when will a film production company steal the rights to this series? And is there any way Gillian can get the third book out in, ooh, say the next couple of weeks so I don’t have to wait another whole year to find out what happens?

Pre-order Bloodstone from amazon UK here.

Follow Gillian on twitter here or become a fan on Facebook here.

Visit Gillian’s website here.

And Seth MacGregor is on twitter here: be warned though, he’s mine…

Nosy Crow – Three Little Pigs

One of the things I’ve said about ebooks from the beginning is “Great idea, but children’s books won’t work that way.” One of the many examples of me not thinking out of the box, as proven recently by Nosy Crow‘s Three Little Pigs iOs app.

We got this recently as a treat for Daniel as I’d heard many great things about it and when we got the iPad it was a good chance to try it out. I was absolutely blown away. It’s not the first children’s book app we’ve had, but it’s on a different level. One of my problems with the earlier book apps was that they were basically just reading the story and the interactivity was limited to the child turning the page or possible pressing a picture to get an extra sound effect. Two, if you were lucky. Now that’s all well and good but it’s why I always thought children’s ebooks wouldn’t work. Daniel wasn’t really getting anything from those he wouldn’t have got from us reading to him except the convenience of it always being there, and we were all missing out on the chance of snuggling up with a story.

The Nosy Crow app was different. On one level it can be read to the child as the other apps I mentioned. But if you press ‘Read and Play’ it comes into its own. The child is actually driving the story. It’s not interactive or reactive – it’s proactive. Daniel has to help the pigs build the house for example, or blow the house down. Even 14 month-old Emily knows that to blow the house down she has to blow on the screen (of course, she hasn’t QUITE got the hang of blowing yet, it’s more a spattering of saliva all over the iPad screen. And kudos to her daddy who winces a little inside but still lets her have the fun of joining in).

There ARE elements that are more like Easter Eggs, and they are charming, such as finding a little rabbit playing hide and seek in the hay bales, but they are extras, they’re not the whole point of the app which is how it should be.

The animation is fantastic, and it really reacts to you – for example when all three houses are built at the end tilting the iPad slightly adjusts the angle of the picture. When the truck is driving along the road, a similar effect. And I have to say the child reading the story has a great career in the media – they are not twee or affected, but inject life and drama into the experience.

I still don’t think ebooks will replace children’s picture books entirely, but unless I’ve misunderstood, Nosy Crow aren’t trying to. They have produced a complementary reading experience and other companies trying to do the same thing should really take them as an example of how it should be done. It cost £4.99, so slightly less than a paper picture book and well worth every penny. Nosy Crow are bringing out another app soon and I can’t wait to see it.

And one final thing? It’s perfect for snuggling up together.

Opposite of Amber

So my first failure of the A to Z Challenge – I missed N completely. Totally stumped on that one. I could think of topics – names for example – I just didn’t have anything remotely interesting to say!

Moving swiftly on, O comes very nicely to coincide with a book I was planning to review on here anyway. Continue reading “Opposite of Amber”