Monthly Archives

May 2011

The Murder Artist by John Case

The Murder Artist by John CaseAfter a stint of reading books a tad out of my comfort zone, I made a welcome return to a spot of crime fiction with The Murder Artist by John Case.

A dad working as a reasonably high profile news reporter and separated from his wife takes their twin boys on a rare day out to bond and mend some broken family ties. And it’s all going well, until… the boys go missing, a man hunt ensues, the parents are distraught and as time goes by people give up hope of ever finding them. Apart from the dad.

He refuses to return to work and mounts his own investigation, putting his skills as an investigateive journalist to the test. You’re a fair way through the book by the time you get to this point and I found the build up a little bit tedious. I’m guessing it’s to make you feel the parents’ devastation at losing their children and how this forces you to take risks in order to find them.

Once the investiagtion really starts and the clues of the puzzle start coming together I get hooked, particulaly as th disappearance seems to be connected to some older cases.

It’s hard to review books without giving away the story but the magic unfolds  – there’s a clue in there somewhere – and the twins’ dad gets closer and closer to finding them, convinced they’re still alive and being trained for something big; another clue there too.

It’s a far-fetched story, but a unique one, and I sped throught the second half of the book wanting to connect the dots and read more about this macabre killer; those who like gore can enjoy descriptions of some really rather gruesome murders.

The book ends abruptly with what I suspect is supposed to be a climatic (if tad unrealistic) ending and left me with a few unanswered questions. For example, the dad (I can’t even remember the guy’s name in the book sadly) gets a call from one of the twins on the home phone as he drives back from the fairground on the day they went missing. Why?

So, yes, a good book and a good read but nothing I’d want to cheer about. If I’d felt more emotionally connected to the main characters maybe I’d be raving aboutit.

Robyn’s rating: 6.5/10

Posted May 2011

So proud of my web wizard husband

I’ve been meaning to do this for the last three weeks – say happy anniversary to my wonderful husband Richard. Not our anniversary, but his – being in business as a freelance web designer and developer for one whole year!

If I’m honest it was a nerve-racking time when he handed in his notice at the agency and decided to go freelance. We’d been together less than a year, were getting married and had bills to pay. I never once doubted his ability but the economy was struggling so would he as well? And Rich gets ants in his pants, would he be able to settle into a rhythm
working home alone?

After lots of networking and getting himself into a routine things started to pick up quickly and I’m immensely proud of where he’s ended up 12 months later. It’s had its stressful moments and I hate that Rich is glued to his phone and responding to work emails at all hours but it’s because of his dedication to his work that he’s done so well. I listen to him on the phone wooing customers with his personable and relaxed but professional attitude, I see him working on and creating some fab designs and websites and I see the smile on his face when the cheques roll in with some fantastic feedback from his clients.

He’s grown as a designer and developer, become a businessman and learned some valuable lessons along the way – and I’m no longer the breadwinner in this family. So, here’s to another 12 months and more in business as westfourstreet with my full support and my full admiration. Love you lots Bateman!

Check out Richard’s guest blog post on one year as a freelancer here.

Bodies Electric by Colin Harrison

This book wouldn’t be my usual cup of tea and strays a fair way out of my comfort zone but in an attempt to reach into unread territory and expand my knowledge of characterisation for my own book – which at this rate will never be finished – I gave this one a go. It’s also very literary and I prefer commercial if given the choice.

The book is thick with small type and long chapters, an instant turn-off for me. I like books that are easy to put down and pick up again and shorter chapters tend to make me read the book quicker. Add to that a very slow plot line and immense detail, and I struggled.

Yes, it’s a great example of characterisation in writing as we learn every minute detail about New Yorker Jack Whitman, the main character, and plenty more detail about some of the other characters to boot. But cripes, it took me a long time to read.

This is the way of literary fiction, I guess, and I have less appreciation for intense characterisation and incredible detail than I do for pithy plots and a storyline that makes me want to keep turning pages.

The opening of the book is probably the only part that gripped me, Jack introducing himself and his somewhat broken lifestyle after the murder of his wife. After that, it gets worse and worse and what leads me to think there will be a massive climax at some point throughout the book… well, it never materialises.

We get introduced to immense detail, a lot of it tied up in the pre-dotcom corporate world – which bores me. My interest is mildy lifted when Jack meets Dolores Salcines but as time goes on I find I don’t like Dolores much and I’m not much bothered for Jack either. There’s a part which introduces some significant cruelty to dogs which both sickens me and pulls me back into the plot again, but not for long.

Without wanting to give the story away, for anyone who does read it, I was expecting some humdinger of an ending to make up for having to read the rest of the book, a thick book with very small type so it took an age. But no, the ending was a real flop which left me thinking Jack was pathetic and Dolores was little more than a tease. I always enjoy books more when I like the characters, and I wasn’t keen on anyone in this book, apart from the company chairman who was clearly cleverer than he ever let on.

I kept thinking that the ending would be so amazing it would make up for the rest of the book. Sadly not. Would I recommend reading this book? No. But others who read it liked the way it portrays the dramatic twists and turns your life can take, and how small decisions can have a very big and sometimes life-changing impact.

Robyn’s rating: 3/10

Posted May 2011

Going freelance: 12 months on

Talented web developer and designer Richard Bateman on taking the plunge, going freelance and raising a glass to a fantastic 12 months in business as westfourstreet

In April of last year (2010) I made the decision to spread my wings and fly solo. I even wrote about it here. The decision itself wasn’t a difficult one to make, but in equal measure it was pretty daunting.

In the weeks leading up to my first official day running my own business and working solely on my own, my feelings were mixed. Ranging from the “oh wow, this is gonna be great” to the “oh shit, where am I gonna bring more clients in from?”.

A lot of networking seemed to be the sensible answer and approach, and in and around Milton Keynes there are quite a few business/networking opportunities. Truth be told, I attended only one. Nice lunch, nice enough people, quite a few nice ties too but after about 20 minutes of being there I decided I’d be better off just focusing on the projects I had on the go and just honestly hope for the best.

Snowball effect

So I worked on the projects that I had on the go and continued to get my work out there. Then it happened. The referrals. One project turned into two, then two turned into four and so on. I’ve said it in so many tweets that I truly love my clients and I honestly do. Who needs a marketing department when your own clients get your name and brand out there?

So when May 1st 2011 cam around, I’d reached the one-year milestone. Looking back I wont deny that I strongly believed that things would go well, but my own expectations have been blown away. So without coming across smug (I am a little tiny bit…) I wanted to mark this day with a pat on the back, but also a huge thanks to all my clients who make every single day a joy doing what I do which is essentially make pixels look good on their laptop or computer.

To be working with hugely respected organisations such as The Open University and hugely successful retail companies such as Argos is truly awesome. As much as it is working with smaller companies. It’s the perfect balance. I’m delighted.
The future

I fidget. A lot. Can’t really settle. Being content only lasts roughly around five minutes with me. There have been on quite a few occasions’ projects that I have had to pass on due to existing and heavy workloads. In the future I’d like to expand westfourstreet and hire a designer or developer. This is something that I can see being very likely before this time next year.

So who knows? But I’ll never take it for granted. It could all fall apart tomorrow but if anybody ever asks me if I recommend going out there on your own, I will always, without any hesitation tell them to “go, do it. Now!”. Bring on the next 12 months!

Posted: May 2011