Man vs Bookshelf

Man vs Bookshelf: Cherub

This entry is part 88 of 104 in the series Man vs Bookshelf

Transport yourself back to the blogs in this series written in the first three months of last year, if you can stomach, and you will find me moaning about how my productivity has dropped off a cliff.

False starts and abandoned works characterised my writing, and at times it crumbled to an absolute stop. My blogging faltered, and those I did write were, to put it bluntly, pretty shit.

The only aspect of my productivity that survived this decline was my reading. As always I ploughed through books for this challenge come rain or shine, meaning I at least never had to worry about falling behind when it came to whizzing through pages read.

Come April, I went to America, and in the two weeks that I had away from my actual job I was able to arrest the decline and get back on track. I returned with renewed vigour. I caught up with my blogging, often posting twice a week, and, although I did not hit my target of a June release of my novel, my productivity was riding so high by the end of 2018 that I was able to release a book in November and another in January.

Remembering how depressed I had been with my productivity at the start of 2018, I was determined not to let the same things happen again but, of course, they have.

Comparing my man vs bookshelf output between 1st January – 16th March 2018 and 1st January – 16th March 2019 (the date as I write) I can see my reading efforts have been even better, having read 24 books and 7,955 pages last year and 26 books and 11,475 books this year.

But, my blogging efforts have collapsed to their worst point during this challenge, so the difference is far more stark. Last year I was able to write 20 blogs during this period.

This year; just eight.

I hadn’t quite realised how bad it was until I went to look now.

There has been a bit of an excuse, in that my WordPress editor stopped working for a couple of weeks, and only works now because I am using the older, outdated post editor, which is rubbish.

But that’s been a recent issue and doesn’t forgive me releasing only three blogs in six weeks.

I need to sort it out.

After numerous false starts on the novel writing front, I have finally got myself set up with an aim to release two novels at the very beginning of next year, and I’m happy with that target.

Now it’s time to get Man vs Bookshelf back on track, and running towards completion, as I’m desperate to get it done before the end of June.

More one why next week, but for now…


A word on You Might be a Zombie and Other Bad News

This book is brilliantly funny, and I’m sure I could find a bit to write about it, but the truth is it is a collection of the best www.cracked.com articles, and I have already written quite a bit about Cracked during my John Dies at the End review.

I advise you to check that out here, buy the book, then come back for the main thrust of this review which is:

Cherub

I think, before anything else, I should mention that, in my opinion, Robert Muchamore’s Cherub series, is one of, if not the great series of all time, including works for adults, children, YA, pensioner and rabbit. They are outstanding.

The reason I feel they are such an outstanding success? Well, I think Muchamore himself nails it when he says:

“In 1998, my twelve-year-old nephew moaned that books were for geeks and there was nothing cool to read. I’d always wanted to be a writer, and his comment stuck in my mind for a few years, gradually turning into the idea for CHERUB.

CHERUB was going to be about kids who lived in the real world. I didn’t want clean-cut heroes like Harry Potter or Alex Rider. James Adams was going to save the world while fighting, swearing, getting drunk, lusting after girls and using the toilet…”

Boy did he hit the mark.

CHERUB is the story of a secret organisation that employs orphan children (and later the children of former agents) as secret agents around the world. Their key advantage is that adults never suspect children are spying on them.

It is a simple concept, and one carried out to perfection in the original 13 book series revolving around James Adam, his sister Lauren, and others.

What is so brilliant about these books is what Robert says, they are entirely grounded in real life.

Yes, these are children that are being sent to investigate dangerous criminals with the authorisation of the British Government, and no this (probably) wouldn’t be allowed to happen in real life.

But if it were, this is how it would work. There are no explosive car chases and fights with maniacal baddies hell-bent on taking over the world. These are real baddies with real consequences.

Right from the beginning, James Adams must deal with the moral consequences of his actions. Take book two, for example, where James becomes involved with a drug crime lord, Keith Moore, only to grow close to Keith, and to see what a great person he is day to day, despite all the horrible acts committed in his name.

Plus, when the takedown happens, our agents are nowhere to be seen. They slip away, and the evidence they have gathered is used to arrest the criminal.

There is no world domination, just regular drug dealers and bikers and eco-terrorists that exist in the real world.

Beyond the missions themselves, it is also great to see teenage characters that act like teenagers. James Adams swears, and makes jokes about shitting and at times is petulant and difficult, like any teenager would be.

He wants to save the day, but more often than not his primary motivation is to do with lusting after girls. You know, like a real teenager.

Muchamore spends as much time dealing with the relationships between the principal characters as he does on the missions, and one of the reasons I loved the series so much is we get to see them grow up.

This happened with Harry Potter (sort of), but where JK wrote that for younger children, it never felt like they became teenagers, instead transitioning from children straight to adults, without a swear word in between.

It is clear these books are not for younger readers, but when my child hits their teenage years, it’s precisely the sort of book I would hand them to get them into reading.

More importantly, if I write a book for young adults, this is the kind of book I would want to write. Something fast paced, easy going, but that perfectly deals with everything teenagers are thinking, feeling and doing, from drugs to sex, to swearing, to working for the Government.

Well, maybe not that last part.


Next Time

Spoiler alert. For once I’m not going to say, but I will be back.

Hopefully next Saturday.

Maybe sooner.

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International worst selling author Mark Ayre has been writing since before he could pick up a pen (somehow). Recently he is taking the internet by storm with his Man vs Bookshelf Challenge where he aims to read the 210 books on his bookshelf in 210 weeks, reviewing them on his blog and Goodreads along the way. He is also publishing books on Amazon, his most recent being the family suspense novel, Poor Choices, which you can find here.

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