Clockwork Phoenix 4 – Editor Mike Allen

Clockwork Phoenix 4 by Mike Allen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Meh. Though looking at the ToC, there were more stories that I enjoyed than I remember. Not really a recommendation, is it? So, my take on the stories I loved and loathed.

The Canal Barge Magician’s Number Nine Daughter – Ian McHugh – 4 star tale with magic and golems.
Beach Bum and the Drowned Girl – Richard Parks – 4 star take on Myffic Feems.
Icicle – Yukimi Ogawa – 5 star tale of love and redemption.
Lesser Creek: A Love Story, A Ghost Story – A.C. Wise – 5 star ghost story, very reminiscent of Stephen King and Ray Bradbury and in a very good way.
Lilo Is – Corinne Duyvis – 5 star tale of motherhood.
The History of Soul 2065 – Barbara Krasnoff – 5 star tale of Seder and Memory.

These were the ones I felt worth reading. The remainder are, for the most part, good well-written stories that didn’t quite get it right. However, I loathed Tanith Lee’s offering with a passion caused by a dreadful storyline fueled by great disappointment – Tanith is one of my favourite authors, so I was really looking forward to her tale. And then I wasn’t. Loathing caused by temper tantrum?

via Goodreads | Bookmole (Harrow, The United Kingdom)’s review of Clockwork Phoenix 4.

I was just editing the synopsis for a new book in Calibre, when I read this:

A Young Adult Edition of “Wormholes” is also available, edited to eliminate adult language and situations.

Just read that again.

I remember reading Jane Gaskell’s The City when I was about ten. It had a picture of a girl riding an ostrich (except this is a fantasy, so it was not exactly an ostrich). I had to ask my mum what a brothel was and, extraordinarily, she just said “look it up in the dictionary, love”. Which I did, and it did not make any sense to me. So I ignored that, and continued reading the story of love (with sex) and aliens and war.

Bowdlerization is alive and well!

Here’s the cover that attracted me to The City:


Let children read what they will – it’s better than letting them watch what they will!

Fifty Shoes That Changed the World: The Design Museum

Fifty Shoes That Changed the World: The Design Museum: Books.

I laughed at this. I mean, shoe design changing the world? I laughed, then I went to Amazon and looked inside.



The Frye Boot.

It’s on my wish list now, and a timely reminder to not judge a book by its cover!

30 Days of Books, Day 11 – A Book I Hated

It’s you, Bible. I know you mean well, but really?

I hate with a true passion any book that that appears to give strangers the authority to judge me for my morals.

I hate religious nutjobs fervently – more than I hate murderers or rapists and running bloody close with pedophiles; I hate the Phelps, and I hate most of all that I HATE.

I believe goodness is within us all, that we can save ourselves, that we should be honest and honourable because it is the right thing to do, not because I will be punished if I am not, that life would be better if we all tried to make this life the best it can be, rather than praying for a better one after we are dead. Faith can move mountains, they say – pity it cannot provide clean water and decent housing instead.

So, Bible, what you gotta say for yourself?

30 Days of Books, Day 10 – Look out, a gigantic Worm!

Day 10 – Favorite Classic Book

What exactly is a Classic Book? I thought it meant One You Read at School Because You Had To, which seems to me a bit limiting. So I turned to the internet, as I often do in times of need, to find the answer.

A Classic Book, technically, is one written in the Classic languages of Greek or Roman. So, Homer, Cicero, Plato – you get the idea.

Alternatively, Italo Calvino said in his essay “Why Read the Classics?” that “A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say” and comes to the crux of personal choice in this matter when he says “Your classic author is the one you cannot feel indifferent to, who helps you define yourself in relation to him, even in dispute with him.”

Consideration of what makes a literary work a classic is ultimately a personal choice, and constructing a universal definition of what constitutes a Classic Book an impossibility, so we all have to invent our own ideal library of classics.

Classic One – A Book You Read At School Because You Had To – The Borrowers by Mary Norton. A classic children’s book and yet so much fun! I looked for Arrietty everywhere the summer I read this. #

Classic Two – The Odyssey by Homer, which has the distinction of being the only actual classic I have read (in translation) rather than finding bits of in other places. Even though there is debate on whether Homer existed and, if he did, whether he wrote the Iliad and The Odyssey, or transcribed the oral work of other poets, in the process making them more accessible.

Classic Three – Calvino’s Theory leads me to Dune by Frank Herbert. I don’t know how I forgot this book for the Read More Than Three Times book as I surely have! This has everything: a mad sisterhood, giant worms, a corrupt empire, a family fighting to stay alive, love, betrayal, hatred – everything. Plus it is a Science Fiction classic, having inspired writers since it was written.

If you haven’t read it, then you should. There are sequels, and spin-offs, but Dune remains the original and best.


30 Days of Books, Day 09 – Drapery and Snobbishness

Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving

Kipps by Herbert George Wells.

Back story.

I went to a small school and, when it came round to doing O-Level English Literature at age 15 going on 16, my English teacher asked my what book I wanted to read.

The course was one Shakespeare (either Romeo & Juliet or Macbeth – I chose the bloodthirsty one!), a poetry book (The Ablemarle Book of Modern Verse) which was compulsory, and a choice of three or four novels. I can’t remember all of them now, but I chose T H White’s The Sword in The Stone, the wonderful book that became the Disney film.

So, I was all set.

BUT the school could not (or would not? I wonder now) find enough copies of The Sword in The Stone for us all to have a copy. So we were told No, it’s Kipps for you.

Well, I decided Not for me, thank you! I didn’t read it in class when I was supposed to; I refused to get involved in the discussions; I certainly never did any of the essay work! How I got away with it, I do not know.

So, there I am – exam days away (and I do mean days) when I thought Shit. I had better read that damn book! and did.

And I loved it! Wells’ story of the young man and his changing life was unexpectedly good.

Oh. And I aced the exam too – 95%. Not bad, considering.

from Wikipedia: Artie Kipps is an orphan, raised by his uncle and aunt, and then apprenticed for 7 years as a draper (based on Wells’s own experience). However, his life suddenly changes when he discovers through reading a newspaper that he is the grandson of a wealthy gentleman. He inherits his fortune and is abruptly thrown into upper class society, and struggles to learn about etiquette and the rules of public society; he soon discovers what it is to be a true gentleman.

30 Days of Books, Day 8: It’s Getting Dark Outside…

Day 08 – Most overrated book

Oh come on. Surely, after all this time, you know me well enough to know it’s gonna be Twilight.

It is poorly written, badly plotted, demeaning, sloppy, riddled with adjectives that are meaningless and a total piece of shite. And yes, I HAVE read it.

Believe me, it is Baaaaaaad to the bone. If it had a bone and was not a piece of primordial slime.

That’s how much I think it is worth.

Stephanie Meyer needs to brush off her English Literature degree that I heard she had, and write something wonderful.


30 Days of Books: Day 7 and I Can’t Think of a Snappy Title

Day 07 – Most Underrated Book

I have spent two days, between bouts of shivering due to a bladder infection that is just not going away, pondering this.

What is an underrated book? Is it one from a small genre or sub-genre, it could be highly rated by aficionados but not known by the greater reading public. Most of my reading was Science Fiction – there are many books which have not had the public recognition I feel they deserve, but which are well rated in the community.

Books such as Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Leibovitz, Russel Hoban’s Ridley Walker, or John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up. Post-apocalyptic, dystopic classics. There’s three underrated books for you.

Again, lateral thinking required.

And I think I have found the answer.

How to Win Friends and Influence People.

This book should be read by everyone. Because the Influence bit puts people off. But look! FIRST you Win Friends. Then you Influence People. I think the world would be a much nicer place if we were all trying to win friends and influence people, rather than starting fights and coercing people.

And I stand by Underrated, even though this book has sold 15 million copies. Seems a lot, huh? But it was released in 1937, becoming an overnight sensation and finally selling its fifteen million copies.

Twilight (puke bucket that it is) has sold 17 million copies.

There is something rotten in the state of Denmark.

Shivery bladder infection nearly gone now, thank goodness!

30 Days of Books, Day 6: Are Those Crocodile Tears?

Day 06 – A Book That Makes You Sad

Twilight makes me sad because Stephanie Meyer makes shedloads of money for writing (badly) a piece of trash literature that encourages the female protagonist to be needy, dependent and useless.

And then, just to spread the love, they made movies with people who can’t act don’t act while doing them.

Thankfully, Daughter has never read it.

I have, and it’s dreadful.

Not sure that a book has ever made me cry because it was a sad story.

Not if I wasn’t post partum – they call them the Four Days Blues for a reason, you know – or menopausal – I cried at everything when I was menopausal. In fact, I was never so glad to leave a phase of my life behind as that. Though I miss the central heating – I didn’t wear a sweater for years!

And after all that, I remembered this book: Carla Buckley’s The Things That Keep Us Here.

I enjoyed this book a lot more than expected, given the reviews concentrated on the writing flaws rather than the story of how a divorcing couple and their two children survive an outbreak of H5N1 trapped in their snowed-in house. No electricity. No radio. Atmospheric and moody.

The writing flaws are there. Don’t let that get in the way of a good read, OK? Ignore A timely premise can’t quite compensate for structural deficiencies in Buckley’s lacklustre debut novel and just enjoy it.

When research scientist Peter Brooks is called to the site of a massive duck die-off, he immediately suspects that their bucolic Midwestern town has been invaded by the avian flu. Peter knows the virus is equally harmful to animals and humans, has a fatality rate of 50 percent, and has no vaccine. The town is immediately thrown into an uproar as schools are closed and grocery stores are overrun by panicked customers.

Peter moves back in with his estranged wife and two daughters, and the family hunkers down, in total survival mode. Soon, however, the electricity fails, the family runs out of food, and the adults are faced with some stark life-and-death decisions as their neighbours sicken and die.

Although Buckley’s prose is sometimes awkward, her story gradually gains depth and momentum, operating both as a psychological profile of a family under duress and as a scary, gripping look at the effects of a pandemic.

In the sense that when I read it, I wanted to change the ending, this book made me sad.

Bonus Video – I loved this off-beat song and video about one childhood memory. And it came out during my menopause.

Does a bit of the Stairway to Heaven thing there, lol!

30 Days of Books, Day 5: Feathers, Fun and Frolics

Day Five – A Book that Makes Me Happy.

Generally, happy is not a description of how books make me feel. Sad, engaged, incredulous, page-turningly-hooked-on-knowing-what-comes-next, angry – but not often happy.

Then I remembered the gem that is Dreambirds, by Rob Nixon.

Lyrical, honest, heartbreaking in parts and above all, entertaining, I have no qualms whatsoever recommending this to anyone.

Dad died three days ago: we buried him this morning. His going has bought us all home: five brothers and sisters, strangers and relative strangers, together in the same country for the first time in twenty-four years. Only my brother has remained here in Port Elizabeth, Africa’s southernmost city. The rest of us spread or fled north, east and west to New York, Cape Town, Sydney, Henley-on-Thames. Five children, four continents. I worked it out this morning while preparing for the funeral: collectively we’ve put 22,000 miles between us and the first place we called home.

With ease and elegance, Nixon tells a story that is greater than its parts. At its core lies the ostrich, that throughout history has feathered our dreams more luxuriantly than any other bird.

Go read it. You’ll enjoy it, I promise.