Monday, 31 December 2012

And just before Big Ben chimes...

And just before Big Ben chimes...
Another positive review for The Drought to end the year on a high. This time it comes from blog site Between The Pages. Here is the review in full:

Dan Hilles has a problem. Since splitting up with his girlfriend Stacey, he just can’t seem to get any….you know what. Yes, as the days turn into weeks, he realises he is experiencing a sexual drought. Fortunately, he has his three best friends, Rob, Ollie and Jack, to help him find the girl who will finally end the dry spell. But try as they might, Dan just can’t seem to seal the deal, and he finds himself in all manner of embarrassing, dangerous, and (for the reader anyway) hilarious situations. So will he find the girl he’s looking for – I mean, just how long can a drought last?!

This book is described as lad-lit, but that shouldn’t put off female readers. I chuckled my way through it from beginning to end, and it did make me laugh out loud on occasion, which is something that doesn’t happen very often!

The writing flowed well, as Dan lurched from one unfortunate situation to another. I also liked the main characters. The book is narrated by Dan – a regular guy who likes hanging out with his mates – and through his eyes, we really get to know his friends and colleagues. The only character I wasn’t keen on was Jack, but he still provided some comical moments.

Admittedly, I guessed fairly early on where the story was heading (although the ending still had a nice subtle twist to it), but that didn’t really matter, because the journey to get there was so much fun. An enjoyable read, that I would definitely recommend.

Friday, 28 December 2012

A book review from across the pond!

A book review from across the pond!
Check out this book review for The Drought from US book review site Unshelved. You can read the review here or below...

The Drought book review on Unshelved
Dan, a British twenty-something, has just broken up with his girlfriend of several years. (The incident involved a bat-wielding friend smashing out a window while aiming for his head.)  His mates are sure this is a positive step because it frees him up to play the field. But Dan finds himself (and his penis, Little Dan) in a nine-month period during which he cannot get laid no matter how hard he tries. His friends think he’s like a soccer striker. He needs to score a goal to get his confidence back. But hilaroius disasters ensue and he can’t break his streak.

Work is not going any better. Dan’s appearance on TV holding a gay pride sign leads his clueless boss to try to pick him up with a Pythonesque wink, wink, nudge, nudge. His co-worker, Kelly, usually a great sounding board for what women want, gives her notice so that she can go travel the world for a year just as Dan realizes that she’s the girl he really wants to be with.

Why I picked it up: It was described to me as “lad lit” which I took to mean a British, male approximation of chick lit. I decided it was worth a try just because of the new genre. I was also hoping to pick up some new British slang to casually work into conversations with friends, making them think I was more erudite than I actually am. 

Why I finished it: The funny scenes. When Dan is clipping his pubic hair with an electric razor because one of his mates said that “shaving his bits would make his penis look bigger,” his cell phone rings, startling him into shaving a bald patch. As a young man, before Dan knows what a tampon is, one of his cousins lets him use one to imitate Hannibal from the A-team, a man known for putting a cigar in his mouth. Dan and his friends mock another man who had an asthma attack during sex, necessitating an inhaler, by calling him Weezy Lover. (They also make up and sing a song to him to the tune of Phil Collins’ “Easy Lover” with altered lyrics.) Dan refers to a masturbation session as meeting “Palmala Handerson.” The laughs kept coming.

I'd give it to: My twin sons, who are in college (but not my high-school-aged son) because they loved the similarly themed (and more innocent) read-alikes when they were younger -- Don Calame’s Swim the Fly and Brent Crawford’s Carter Finally Gets It. They’ll learn new terminology and euphemisms, too.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Happy Xmas!

I just wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year! I hope 2013 brings you joy, luck, laughter, and most importantly, Good Times!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Lad Lit Book Reviews: The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich

Books For Men Book Reviews! The Accidental Billionnaires by Ben Mezrich
It is hard to imagine a time before Google, before YouTube, before Twitter. They have become so ingrained in our psyche. But the one social platform that has become entwined into a normal everyday life more than any is Facebook.

A staggering 71% of the British public log in to Facebook every day, over 1 billion users worldwide have signed up, and it is worth an estimated $15m. That's a lot of people looking at a lot of ex's! Quite impressive for a company that launched in 2005.

But the most impressive fact of all has nothing to do with the size of the audience or the staggering value of a company barely out of nappies. The most impressive fact is that Facebook was created so guys could rate girls based om their level of hotness! That's it! No fancy business plan or 5-year strategy to make that first million. The fact is Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in his dorm room at Harvard University so we could perv over the girl next door!

In this book from Ben Mezrich - which inspired the Oscar-nominated The Social Network - Zuckerberg is potrayed somewhat as the bad guy; which is probably due to the fact he refused to take part in the project. The story is fused together from a number of interviews and sources; most notably Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin and the Winklevoss Twins, who would all end up in bitter legal and court wranglings with Zuckerberg over the ownership of Facebook in the years that proceeded the social networks launch.

Mezrich freely admits that he uses a certain amount of creative freedom when writing his books for entertainment purposes and to 'fill in the gaps'. I've read enough of his books to know that he also likes to follow a certain pattern: super intelligent college kid gets involved with something dangerous or cool, he has a love interest who he inevitably will win over in the end, and there is always a dark or siniister undertone hanging around in background ready to rear its ugly little head.

Mezrich is adept at working with a specific type of main character and creating a world around them that is exciting, sexy, and cool. That environment works when you have a bunch of MIT students taking on the Las Vegas casinos, but it feels a little unbelievable at times in the surroundings this story is set in. After all, this is a story about an internet geek who sat in his dorm room looking at images of girls on his computer screen. Again, nothing wrong with that - we've all been there! But Zuckerberg is a man described in the book blurb as an 'awkward maths prodigy and a painfully shy computer genius' and therefore it's hard to see how this story has been billed as tale of sex, money, and betrayal. Money, yes. Betrayal, ish. Sex, zero.

I think this is a book that probably needed to be written because of the historical importance it plays in modern culture, but I don't think the test subject allows Mezrich to be at his best. It's also the only time (as far as I'm aware) in a Mezrich non-fiction book where the story is not told from the main protagonist so you never feel like you are getting the whole story of what really happened with the invention of a modern masterpiece.

It's a good read, and if you have never read a Mezrich book before then no doubt you will find it enjoyable. But my advice would be after you have read this book, make sure you pick up a copy of Bringing Down the House or Busting Vegas to read Mezrich at his very best.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Interview with top chick lit website Novelicious!

Interview with top chick lit website Novelicious! The Drought, Steven Scaffardi, Lad Lit, Chick Lit
I am delighted to announce that I was interviewed by top chick lit site Novelicious today! You can check out the full interview here. A huge thanks to Kirsty Greenwood, the Founding Editor of Novelicious, for taking the time out and posting my interview. And good luck to Kirsty with her fantastic debut novel Yours Truly which you can check out and buy on Amazon for just 77p! That's what I call a bargain!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Lad Lit Book Reviews: Different Seasons by Stephen King

Books For Men Book Reviews! Different Seasons by Stephen King
First things first, let's get this out in the open now. This is a Stephen King book, but it is not a horror story. It's not even one non-horror story, it's actually a collection of four novellas. Two of these novellas spawned two of the greatest films ever made; and on this occasion the films are actually better than the book, even though I really enjoyed the book, or novellas, or whatever they're called!

Confused yet? Okay, let me start again.

I'd never read a Stephen King book before; horror novels have never really appealed to me. But a good few years ago Channel 4 were showing one of my favourite films Stand By Me. I sat down to watch and as the credits rolled this appeared on screen: Based on the book The Body by Stephen King.

'But this isn't a horror film!' I thought to myself. Perhaps I hadn't read the words on the screen correctly, and back then I didn't have the luxury of Sky+ to rewind and check, but I did have this little thing called Google! A quick internet search later and I found out that not only had my eyes not deceived me, but this novel was also responsible for the making of The Shawshank Redemption as well. 'This must be the God of all books' I decided and rushed out the next day to buy myself a copy of this marvelous hybrid of magical words that had somehow managed to inspire not one, but two brilliant films!

And it was as I flicked through the pages in Waterstones that I realised this was a collection of four novellas, rather than one super-story about four boys who go in search of a dead body, do battle against an older gang, find said body, and then all grow-up before presumably one of those boys (probably Gordy) is found guilty of murdering his wife and her lover in his adult life, is wrongly sent to prison, and plots one of the most fantastically jaw-dropping moments in movie history!

Well it could have happened that way!

Instead King has delivered four wonderfully written stories - The Body (Stand By Me), Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (The Shawshank Redemption), Apt Pupil (which was also made into a film in 1998 of the same name), and The Breathing Method.

The two former stories have become well-known in their own right thanks to their film adaptations, and there will be those who are familiar with Apt Pupil, although I have not seen the film myself so I am not entirely sure how closely it sticks to King's tale of the entwined lives of a 16-year-old boy and his elderly Nazi war criminal neighbor, who both set about their own grisly murders of the homeless before a final twist brings them back together.

The fourth novella, The Breathing Method, is about a middle-aged Manhattan lawyer who joins an exclusive men's club where, amongst other things, like to share unusual stories about their lives. It is here that David the lawyer meets  Dr. Emlyn McCarron who tells him of a rather gruesome story that becomes the subtext to the novella.

I won't go into too much more detail as I don't want to give everything away, but what I will say is that the biggest compliment I can pay to Stephen King and Different Seasons is that through reading this book I now want to pick up another Stephen King novel, despite the fact I'm not a fan of horror, such was his ability to paint stories with words. Even though I still prefer the two movie versions of his film, I don't think that is a sleight on King's work here because this collection of novellas still remain hugely enjoyable and you have to remember it was King's imagination that inspired those brilliant stories to be brought to life on the big screen. That deserves your reading attention.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Philippines bookworm gives The Drought four stars!

Philippines bookworm gives The Drought four stars!
Check out this interview and book review from blogger and bookworm Monica, who happens to live just a stones throw away in Singapore! Yes, that's right - The Drought has made it in Asia!

Well, sort of!

Monica was kind enough to interview me as well as give my lad lit novel a four out of five star rating. Check out the full review and interview by clicking here and you can read the review below:

Book Review from Impressions of a Princess
Prior to this novel, I haven’t heard about the existence of lad-lit. I have read stories which were written by men, but not the counterpart of chic lit. It made me curious as to how something can be classified as such, so after I finished the book I was reading, I didn’t waste time and start checking what the fuss was about.

The story started at the end – well, that’s what the chapter said anyway. This was refreshing as most of the novels I have read recently didn’t use this technique. Right away, the story unfolded and one can easily guess why the novel was titled like that. The title and theme were introduced in the first chapter, and I actually like it. I have had experiences reading other books which until now I couldn’t decipher why they were titled like that.

It was narrated in first person, and it made the connection between the character and the reader (me) stronger. In this kind of story, first person point-of-view is recommended and I am glad the author chose to use that.

The main character, Daniel Hilles, was portrayed as a typical English man – or just a man. I felt a bit awkward at first when I have read Dan’s thoughts and actions, but I realized that this is how real men are. Well, mostly. Football and video games, drinking and planning to get laid. There were languages I never imagined I could muster and bold acts I would never wish to see. Still, it’s just my sensitivities. The author wrote the novel in such a way to introduce man’s true thoughts, feelings, and actions that I was appalled to note that if this is how real men are, then I hardly know them at all.

Then there were Dan’s friends. The author wasn’t satisfied to tell a story of a single man, but he included his boisterous and crazy friends as well. I wasn’t surprised though. In any chic lit, the star always have her side kicks with her, so why not in a lad-lit? The characters of Dan’s friends were shown as what real men friends are – supportive in almost everything and never lacking of suggestions no matter how absurd they are.

The characters were realistic. They weren’t depicted as perfect and flawless personalities and I like that. There were instances were they were characterized negatively, and it made them more believable, like they are just normal people.

But what I liked best in the novel was the way Dan was complaining and expressing his heart out about us, women, and our tendencies. It was an eye-opener for me to read this novel. I found myself nodding in almost all of his complaints about our womanly actions. I don’t know how to help him with his problems with women because I also don’t know how we are like that, but I feel for him. I have realized that it is difficult to be a man.

I don’t want to give you spoilers, but I would like to share you some of Dan’s thoughts and questions about women:

On shopping with a girlfriend:
  • Whose bright idea was it to put the changing rooms bang in the middle of the lingerie department? Groups of men are forced to awkwardly stand around, trying their best not to look like pervs. The problem is, the more you try to look like you are not hanging around sniffing women’s underwear, the more paranoid you become that everyone thinks that is exactly what you are doing.
  • “Which one do you prefer?” Hmm, let me think. I don’t care! Just pick that one, pick any of them! Whichever one you choose will be met by the same response: “Really? I prefer this one.” If you have already made up your mind, don’t ask us.
On general:
  • “Why do they always expect you to know what’s wrong with them? If you ask them and they say nothing, and then don’t expect us to press any further on the matter.”
  • “Why do girls insist on chatting continuously when you’re watching the footy, but as soon as the adverts come on they shut up?”
  • “Men are not mind readers. If something is wrong then you should just come out and tell us. It is not fair to presume we don’t care because of out lack of mind-reading abilities… Come out and ask what you want. Subtle hints don’t work. Strong hints don’t work. Obvious hints don’t work. Just say it!”
Men, do you agree? Another thing I liked most about this book is the funny way the author narrated Dan’s life. It was utterly hilarious. I was trying hard not to laugh while I read this in a coffee shop while waiting for my friend, and I ended up coughing instead.

All in all, the novel was pretty find and I like it. I would have given it five stars if the situations Dan got into were more believable. If I could retitle this, it would be Lemony Snickket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. Dan got into a lot of trouble in ending his drought, and in some points I stopped and asked myself if it was really possible to happen in a single person.

That’s the only problem I had with this book and it didn’t affect the way I like it. I would definitely recommend this to everyone, especially to those women who wanted to understand men.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A special message for a very special girl...

Hi guys, just a quick update as I wanted to send out an early Christmas wish to a very special and extraordinary girl called Kerry Thorpe. I met Kerry on Goodreads and I have been very touched by her story as she just keeps smiling despite having end stage cystic fibrosis and is awaiting a double-lung transplant.

Please, please show her your support by following her amazing blog Come Walk In My Shoes. Kerry is surrounded by her wonderful family and boyfriend Josh (who looks like he should be in a boy band so I am very jealous!), but she is always touched by all the support and kind words left on her blog by those who follow her.

This year all my Christmas wishes go out to Kerry and the best present would be that she gets that transplant and starts to get better real soon.