sticksandstones recent comments

written 8 days ago

Hi Robin, I had to back this because I *love* Cornwall (my parents are retired and now live a short distance from Helston on the south coast) and because it's a surf story. You have a snappy pitch; it immediately brings to mind The Lords of Dogtown crossed with J. M. Shaw's The Illumination of Merton Browne (a truly harrowing novel).

First line of dialogue - I think there should be a full stop after Jacob. Then . . . I told you (comma) no. Great opening lines.

I'd also place a comma after 'Oh, (to place more emphasis on) can't I?'

Your first paragraph is really effective, straight off we're inside Jake's head thinking his thoughts with him.

Can't sleep at night - I see prison doors. This works literally and as a perfect metaphor for his home life.

I also love the 'If looks could kill . . .' sentence, although it might make a bit more sense to write '. . . Mum would be flat on her back by now, skewered by darts from my eyes.'

I find '. . . you don't want me doing nothin' else neither' awkward to read. I think it implies that actually, she wants him to do something.

The mention of Jake worrying about the prison shower is a bit cliche. I'd either ditch it or make a clearer distinction between the police cell and a juvenile detention center. And since we don't know what crime he's committed, what's the likelihood he'd be sent away?

Love the mention of Pirate fm!

Your description of Jake's admiration of the sea is brilliant. Likewise with the group of surfers who bound into the sea and throw themselves onto their boards. Can really tell that you've written this from experience. You've captured the very real essence of being by the coast without over describing it.

I really like your introduction of the troublesome Aiden. And then you mention Costcutters!!! I think the minimal dialogue between them both really works. Jake knows Aiden is trouble, but it's like he can't keep away from him.

For me, I think perhaps the first Chapter is too long. I did read up to the point where Jake gets given the surf board. I do think it odd, however, that Eric doesn't call the police. Surely there would have been other witnesses too?

I'll have to come back to this, but just my thoughts for now . . .

Ben - The Straitjacket Blues view book

written 12 days ago

I love how Olaf constantly refers to Slave Dave as Minion! You lost me a bit after the woman left in the morning. As Alistair mentioned, I don't think footnotes really work on Authonomy. I wouldn't say scrap them altogether, but consider their necessity. Do they really need to be included?

It didn't quite sit right with me that Olaf sends Slave Dave off to keep an eye on her. Especially not after spending an entire night in the rude hut. Why does she suddenly go on a cruise nine months after her evening with Olaf's Horde? And after having been alone for many years?

I think it would make more sense, if you don't mention an exotic cruise. Keep the woman in one place, perhaps as a trophy prize who garners Minion Dave's sympathy. I still have to chuckle at Ragnar's name. I admire your sense of fun and lack of seriousness. I know other people have made comments about its current format.

Personally, I could see this as a small, illustrated pocket book - perfect for reasonably short work commutes, morning coffee breaks and hiding in the toilets when your boss is having an 'off' day. It's more fun than a lot of books on Autho and I think it should appeal to anyone who's lost their mind a little bit (in a good way).

Ben - The Straitjacket Blues view book

written 14 days ago

Hi Stacey, first of all I want to say that I genuinely love your madcap title! It brings to mind The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin . . . Only with a Viking as the MC. I think your pitch is just right, although you could perhaps embellish the long pitch a bit more. I don't really get an idea of what to expect from the story, other than pillaging.

I've always been told that what makes a good beer is a good froth. Perhaps I'm wrong. If buildings were swept upto into the clouds wouldn't that be indicative of a more severe weather pattern? The idea of using slaves as kindling is both funny and a bit depraved. How does a Chinese man get a very British name like Dave?

Such a great line - 'Halt thine farting and entertain me with jokes.'

The integration of the chicken and a knock knock joke that isn't one, is typically slapstick humour. But I like that. It gives your writing pace and license to send it off in almost any direction. If Olaf's feasting on cabbages and beans what happened to the three dozen fat goats? I had to chuckle at the woman's clothes being too small.

I hope you'll find my comments helpful (as they're intended to be) and will edit my comment to include the rest of the Chapter later on today . . .

All the best,

Ben - The Straitjacket Blues view book

written 59 days ago

Hi Wilson, thanks for taking the time to read and write such a lengthy comment.

You say in the first Chapter there was a number of positive attempts by people to reach out to me, but I fail to see how you could arrive at that conclusion?

I was a shy adolescent who'd settled into my first year at school only to have all my friends removed at the start of the second. If I was determined to isolate myself it was only because Chris was the worst kind of bully imaginable.

Of course it's one-dimensional. I'm telling my story, not my parent's or my sister's story. I wonder if you've ever read The Privilege of Youth by Dave Pelzer? He tells his story too.

Keep in mind the book is still a WIP, I haven't finished writing everything I have to say. There are points of light in the darkness, but they come later. That's what a struggle is - you don't come out the other side until you've been through the middle.

I also don't understand why you picked on the last sentence of the last paragraph. There's a difference between wanting friendship, loyalty and respect and having someone make your life a living hell day in, day out. The only thing it betrays is the kind of person Chris chose to be.

I never once say I prefer the sound of my own thoughts. Not once. Yes, the roles of my family and friends are unrealistically defined, because I was depressed.

Perhaps you didn't get to Chapter 3 where I list all the ways I thought about committing suicide!?

I appreciate your thoughts, but honestly, your points don't hit home. If you'd been a kid in my class silently watching it all go on, I think your comments would be very different. view book

written 59 days ago

Hi Christopher, well firstly, you're not alone. I had my own battle with serious depression and bipolar disorder from the approximate age of twelve or thirteen until I was about twenty. My personal belief is that depression has spiritual roots. I like how you start with the floor, my spot was always the corner of our bathroom.

My mind cannot keep pace - yes, exactly. It's frustrating and maddening in a way other people can't understand. All you want is a switch to turn your brain off. I love the way you explain your transient thoughts; for me, they always seemed so bizarre and random. Totally chaotic, without any sense of order or control.

I was once told by a well known American pastor that a righteous man is one who falls seven times, but gets up seven times. Unlike yourself, I never had the experience of being admitted to a hospital psychiatric ward. The very idea of going to a place like that was my biggest fear. I am, however, touched by your honesty.

I admire your writing, because you make your experience sound so real. And as you describe what's happening, I feel that I'm there with you, through your words. Unlike yourself, I didn't grow up with a Church background and family weren't Christian. You describe your early relationship with God almost naively.

I like that you mention your childhood dreams. I think every child believes as you did, it reflects their innocence and innate desire to be anything they choose. My father was very similar to yours and what he told you rings true to me. The paragraph about you growing up as a serious teenager . . . I can really identify with on many levels.

I can feel my heart drop in my chest when you write about waiting to take your SATs and the accident. I suspect - without reading on - that losing a lifelong friend was your trigger. It seems impossible to understand why the test wasn't postponed. Wow and there it all comes out at the end of your second Chapter.

I'd love to read more. It's now five to one (am) and I really must get myself to bed. What I will say, Chris, is that your writing is clear and faultless. It very much reminds me of the style of Elizabeth Wurtzel. It's real, raw and untamed.

I'm giving you six stars and a space on my shelf!

All the best, I hope many more people get to read your work.

Ben - The Straitjacket Blues & How to perform an Impossible Escape! view book

written 61 days ago

Hi Ben, as someone with a similar story to tell, I've been meaning to take a look at your book. I think the title is very fitting and can understand your reference to feeling trapped. Your short pitch is fine, but perhaps you could embellish your long pitch a bit in order to attract readers. Also remember, each comment is only one opinion.

I love the cover too by the way!

As someone who's suffered from Bipolar Disorder and Depression this is definitely of interest. I think being creative and writing your story is an important step on the recovery ladder. You seem to have used a slightly large font, I usually type in size 10, but use what works best for you. Your opening paragraph is very honest.

Your sense of confusion comes through very strong from the opening. I went through that, it lasted for many years. You have to believe it's going to get better and hold on to that hope like nothing else. Let me also say that my situation is somewhat similar. Although I live by myself, I'm not married, have no children etc.

It's difficult when the people you've grown up with are suddenly surrounded by wives and babies. I know that feeling. Every day I have to remind myself how far I've come. What I've got through. What I've achieved that I never thought I could. You're still here, you're still breathing - that's a huge achievement in itself.

At this point I just want to suggest a couple of organisations. You can get in touch with Depression Alliance and the Mind charities via their websites at - and You can also contact your local GP and or Council to find out if there are any support groups that are based in your area.

I totally agree that being thankful for the smallest things makes a huge difference to those who are clinically depressed. Being grateful for what you have can provide you with reasons to go on. It's a positive counter to all the negativity and if you can say it loud it will do you a whole lot more good. Well, I've read to the end of Chapter One.

Sorry my comments tend to be quite lengthy!

All the best with this,

Ben - The Straitjacket Blues & How to perform an Impossible Escape! view book

written 63 days ago

Hi Tim, well there I was (or here I am) browsing for books (again). I honestly had no 'serious' intention of reading this. Romance, especially teen romance (shudders), is a world away from my normal reading material. And then there's the whole American high school scenario, which has been done to death.

That said, your ability to bring Sophy's (urgh, American name spellings) character to life is almost astounding. You use dialogue, observation and even humour to great effect. It didn't make me laugh or smile (look, I have a tea hangover), but then it clearly isn't 'for' readers like me. And I'm loathe to admit this is very, very good.

The set up is handled fantastically - Only three weeks until I need to hand it in and there's this giant missing piece. I think it's hilarious that her mum (sorry, mom, urgh American word spellings) works for an online dating agency. Your dialogue sounds spot on (in my head, I'm not reading it out loud) and then there's the one liners.

Poor Mom. Yet another cluster.

The Battle For Everything, lol! (Ah, damn, one escaped.) Shouldn't it be NPA shitbirds? I love 'heinous, crap-juggling day' as well as 'Freddie the assclown' followed by Sophy's completely unsympathetic/ironic - Oh dear. Oh no. That's a shoehorn dramarama right there (I think)! She heads off, good, prob'ly to fix her make up.

I have not a clue what frogmouth or skijump is . . . And I'm not overly convinced I want to find out. The ebb and flow of their dialogue is how I would imagine two over-angst American school girls to talk (for better or worse). Julie's monologue of annoyance is . . . is . . . is . . . $%^&* - Sorry, don't know the word - do you have any daughters?

The Social Studies project, with Case Study examples is genius!

I don't normally write comments this way, so hopefully you can tell how enamoured I am with this. How and why it isn't on many, many more shelves, I haven't the foggiest. Count me as a believer! Important note to self: must stop using brackets.

Ben - The Straitjacket Blues & How to perform an Impossible Escape! view book

written 64 days ago

Hi Wendy, my word . . . Thank you for writing such a lengthy comment! I certainly wasn't expecting you to read it all. I'm glad you love the title because I've changed it a couple of times!

Not back then. My first attempt at writing was whilst I was in College and it came out as an unedited, angry sweary mess. In fact, there was much swearing and many rude words.

(I've changed a bit since.)

I've always wanted to write my story on my terms and I think it needs a bit of humour to provide a lift. My aim is to inspire, encourage and educate people about living with a mental illness.

I don't want to write it as fiction at this stage; mainly because my story is so unbelievable that I think it would detract from its overall impact if I did. There's still tons to get through!

The 90s theme does crop up in later Chapters in mostly surprising and unexpected ways. Thanks again for your comment and sorry to ramble, I'll keep uploading more. view book

written 65 days ago

Hi Izabelle, I've now read upto and including Chapter Six! I would say there's a very real story buried underneath all the clutter in your father's house. What makes this so compelling is that - like most hoarders - he doesn't seem to have a grip on the reality of his living conditions. I feel, as a reader, pity for you both.

The conversation you have in the hospital is brutally honest. I wouldn't even know what to say to someone like that and I doubt I'd have the patience to stick around. He doesn't seem to care about your priorities, or even his own grandchildren, who can't spend any amount of time in his home. It's a truly shocking, strange tale.

You do have a fair amount of repetition in places, but nothing that a good edit can't cut out. When you were describing all the clutter behind the porch door, I did feel slightly overwhelmed. I'm sure it was intentional, but I felt a bit lost in the narrative at that point. Although, the notion of not knowing where to start came across well.

(There was stuff on a coffee table, stuff behind the door, stuff beneath a record player, piles of newspapers, piles of magazines, tins, then other piles of newspapers and magazines, boxes of bits etc etc. Perhaps you could describe how you got everything outside; or explain how you decided what needed to be binned.

Your pitches are what first grabbed my attention. Well done on those. I can't really suggest any further improvements in terms of grammatical 'bits' because I was too engrossed reading. I haven't yet got to the section on your mother, so I'm hoping that will offer a bit more insight into the gerneral family situation.

I gave you high stars (and a spot on my shelf)!

Ben - The Straitjacket Blues & How to perform an Impossible Escape! view book

written 67 days ago

Hi Wendy, there I was browsing for reads and lo and behold I come across Sinkhole! Due to time constraints I have a tendency to be picky; if something doesn't grab me right away I move on. You have a professional looking cover and both your pitches are faultless in making me want to read this. It's a totally intriguing idea!

I wonder whether perhaps you've watched Sanctum one too many times? Although, setting it in England (especially with the hammering the country's had recently) is something of a master stroke. Part of that is the notion of people believing they're safe; when, in effect, we have no control over our external surroundings.

Great opening paragraph! I love the idea of Michael Jackson being a sheep farmer in the South West. There's immediate humour here, but it's subdued humour. You have a balanced, clear way of writing that enables me to picture things very clearly. The field of rough terrain, the wellington boots, his devoted sheepdog, Blackie.

I have to admit to being a bit of a rambler on occasion, but I like your mention of ignorant ramblers from the city. I also like your pacing, there's no messing about, nothing unnecessary; Michael gets to the puddle and I'm already intrigued by what might happen. Very good description of the hole itself and its rippling surface water.

And then you DO mention the flooding! Genius!

I admire how everything you write (in the prologue) is done so from Michael's perspective. Again, this goes back to pacing, because you don't reveal too much, but you also don't reveal too little. It's spot on in my opinion. My only small crit would be I think you can use analogies for things you haven't personally experienced.

I think to really grip the reader in that 'oh my gosh' moment, you need to describe the cavity opening up and swallowing everything in its wake. Perhaps describe the ground disappearing from below his feet. Or maybe a stray deer vanishing from sight. What happens to the trees and hedges? Likewise with Michael's fall . . .

That said, I'll definitely try to read more. I've not been overly impressed by a lot of books I've seen on here recently. This just might be the one to reverse the trend. High stars and going straight on my shelf!

Ben - The Straitjacket Blues & How to perform an Impossible Escape! view book

written 68 days ago

Hi James, taking a break to do a couple of reviews. First impression, a few of your paragraphs seem quite long. Nothing wrong with that in itself, just bear in mind that paragraphs give the reader a break between scenes. If you're writing epic fantasy, I'd probably say it's not much of a concern. Depends on your audience.

Good opening with the boy lying on the forest floor. I used to have a tendency to overwrite my description. As an example, I'd write - through the canopy above, rather than through the canopy of leaves above. I know it seems incredibly picky, but you've already told us what kind of canopy it is. In which case, it doesn't add anything.

I do like your deft description of the pain he feels and the effect it has on his senses. Your style reminds me a little of Raymond E. Feist who is a master at writing epic/descriptive fantasy. Be careful of repetition, you mention the forest several times, when we obviously know he's still there. I like the appearance of scar girl!

You clearly have a vivid imagination and I think that works in your favour. It's a good example of why I've never aspired to be a writer of fantasy. I can't get my head around all the small details and observations. When the girl asks "Are you bad?" I think - The boy frowned, should be on the next line so he frowns before he speaks.

Gosh. Well, I got to the end and you had me all the way. I'm somewhat squeamish so the red hot metal rod against flesh got me in my gut. I can't really offer you any other advice at this stage. I do think with fantasy of this 'type' you need a slower pace (to begin with), in order to create a feeling of empathy towards the MC.

Good stuff and even reminded me a little of 'Pug' from (Raymond E Feist's) 'Magician'.

Ben view book

written 68 days ago

Chapter 2:

Depending on the age group you're aiming at, I think the first paragraph here is a bit convoluted. Personally, I'd prefer a description of the size of the Forest and how easy it might be to get lost. I don't know if you've read any Terry Pratchett, but one thing he does so well is come up with imaginary names of places you'd love to visit.

It's better when you write - Owen wasn't interested in twinkly sunshine. There's a fabulous irony to your description there. I have to say now, that I can imagine your story with hand-drawn, cartoon style pictures. Owen's rabbit hunting efforts are fun and amusing. I actually had to look up the meaning of myxamatosis!!!

Normally, I'd suggest avoiding repetition. However, within the context, I think it works here. Perhaps you could describe 'how' he gets lost; rather than saying that he wandered further and further into the forest. What's there, what's around him? etc. Gah, another hanger! What's the sound that would make one's blood curdle?

I think you've really got something here. As always these are just my comments, so feel free to use or ignore them as you see fit . . .

Ben - The Straitjacket Blues & How to perform an Impossible Escape! view book

written 68 days ago

Hi Samantha, I think you have a great idea for a Children's book here and at less than 26,000 words it's probably an ideal length. I would like to suggest separating your long pitch into bite size paragraphs and maybe simplifying it slightly. Currently I think you have a bit too much information crammed in there.

Straight off, I like the idea of replacing f's with s's - it get you around the fairytale cliche of once upon a time, or a long, long time ago . . . Also, the idea of the story taking place anywhere the reader can imagine is very appealing. Next sentence; I'd just write - The place where Owen lived was a very small village . . .

His Dad falling into the village pond and being eaten by the eel is very humourous. (Currently there are news reports of a Crocodile roaming the River Avon in Bristol. Two sightings so far!) If someone started reading this in the evening it wouldn't be morning when the story begins, would it? I'm not quite sure about that.

Why was there no food in the house?

. . . a somewhat out-of-tune rendition of 'Morning Has Broken' - this is a brilliant use of humour and wit! I like the small exchange of dialogue in the kitchen, which is snappy and well handled. You almost threw me with the hat stand, but then when it became a rabbit-catching contraption I thought that was an ingenius touch.

The end of the Chapter really made this for me - I am the Man of the House. There are bunny wunnies out there, and I am a Ruthless Hunter. And then the Ruthless Hunter replying "Okay, mum" was great. That final sentence is a terribly appetising end hook! So much potential here I had to shelve it right away. High stars!

Ben - The Straitjacket Blues & How to perform an Impossible Escape! view book

written 69 days ago

Clearly didn't read my message or have the decency to acknowledge it!

I don't appreciate generic comments and won't be reading any more of your book.

My advice, stop GAMING and try taking on board the ADVICE YOU'VE BEEN GIVEN.

Please delete your useless comment from my book!!! view book

written 76 days ago

Hi Stacey, thanks very much for taking the time to comment on my book. Let me just say that The Straitjacket Blues is more a personal survival story than self-help book.

I take your point, but as I'm sure you're aware, long term depression can fog up a person's mind. I don't have a logical order of events to my remembrance.

Life was bad at home, life was bad at school, I'd wake up the next day and repeat.

There are charities and mental health organisations that are far more able to provide support, advice and answers for those who need it.

Yes, I want to share how I got through my illness, but that will come in later Chapters. view book

written 180 days ago

Hi Alistair,

This is great, I mean like, REALLY great. You have such a unique opening Chapter. I wasn't sure about the first person voice/narration at first but it definitely sucks me in as a reader. This has a comical/fantasy Terry Pratchett like vibe, without coming across as copycat. I'd probably liken you more to, say, Jasper Fforde.

I love the humour, it doesn't always work, but the fact it pops out of nowhere with little thoughts and observations is excellent. For me though, the introduction of the undertaker - and the dialogue which follows - is a true example of a writer perfectly comfortable with structuring comical conversation.

I read a little of Mark Cain's Hell's Super (which got to the Desk earlier in the year), however this is far more appealing in my opinion. It's a similar idea going in an opposite direction - light comedy as opposed to dark satire. There's much to like about Chapter One, right upto to the end, which I thought was a neat idea.

(Clearly in the afterlife/spirit world doors shouldn't exist; there'd be no use for them).

It's easy to see why this book's doing so well and I only hope you find it on many, many more shelves. It's a hard slog to the Ed, but I honestly think you deserve to get there . . . I'll be back to read more time permitting!

All the best,

Ben view book

written 215 days ago


I've just read (quickly) your first Chapter and also given you a spot on my shelf. This is quite unique, your early writing style reminds me a little of 'Holes' (by Louis Sachar) with short, sharp sentences that are too the point. You then broaden out into giving the reader a lot of detail, which reminded me of 'At Swim, Two Boys' (by Jamie O'Neill).

You have a really good setup with Chip in the Warden's office and their dialogue seems very natural. I could imagine the Warden smoking his pipe and sitting there in his double breasted navy blue jacket quite vividly. I'm not sure about the legality of boys living in a home concerning at what age they're allowed to be told why they were given up. You do express some of the complications associated with fostering and adoption very well.

Considering this is part Y.A fiction, I did feel that some of the language/wording may not be best suited to your intended audience. Keep in mind that reading standards (within British schools) have fallen drastically and the majority of teenagers/young adults can no longer spell properly. That's not so much a criticism; it's just you may need to simplify in places and use easier words.

I have to admit the boat race with the reeds seemed a bit out of place. It's not something I can imagine two teenagers doing to pass the time in the mid nineties. I think you need something more interesting than that. Are these boys well educated? Are they well behaved or do they have a mischievous/rebellious streak? I grew up in the mid/late nineties and like all boys had an unhealthy fascination with setting things on fire...

I think you went into too much detail regarding Lovebytes' lack of sporting achievements. The rugby/soccer/tennis parts all fit and make sense; he loathes rugby because it's a contact sport, football less so but he doesn't like the cold and he prefers tennis because it isn't a team activity. I felt the entire paragraph on Cricket was pointless though, it doesn't add anything to the story in my opinion.

Whilst I accept the two boys are together, I'm not sure exactly how together they are. I don't mean in a graphic sense; but is there any back story regarding how they met, came to realise they're interested in each other etc. I don't really get a sense of that... That said Chip (as the older boy) very much reminds me of the character of Doyler, again from 'At Swim Two Boys'.

I think this has a lot of potential and could do very well on Authonomy if pushed. I'd very much like to read more. If you can work on the pacing so each Chapter has an even flow without giving too much detail, then it will help to keep your readers engaged. Consider your audience also...

Best wishes,

Ben view book

written 355 days ago

i found this to be another great story little work but i'd say the story is good.

view book

written 400 days ago

Hi Sam, I came across your collection of short stories whilst browsing for reads ... It was actually the cover (although I have no idea what that crazy illustration is) and brilliant tongue-in-cheek title, which got my attention. Then I read your snappy short pitch (followed by the absurd long one) and just knew I had to take a look at a few of them.

I love the sheer wackiness of alien space chickens from outer space. You do need to make sure your tense is consistent - either past or present, but not both please. The Terry Pratchett school of humour (that's what I'm likening it to) is an absolute winner for me. Riveting good fun (although I imagine anyone who plays with rivets will get in trouble).

I'm not sure I got/get the quip about logs running for charities in marathons!? Maybe I'm a bit thick though, whoops, let that one slip. The idea of a pig (named Mr Truffles of all names) having a mobile phone is hilarious ... I want one ... Where can I get one of those ... Chapter One is zany and frenetic, and a little bit disturbing at the end.

Your explanation of the bear, and the pig, and the honey, is right out of a Jasper Fforde novel. Personally, I was kind of hoping they'd go right at it. A honey wrestling match maybe? Okay, I know, that really would be weird. Quite how a pig can hop onto a kitchen counter (let alone off one) is beyond me. You have some alien typos you might want to, erm, drown.

In Chapter One you tell Maddy's 9 but in Chapter Three you switch to 7. The hatching of the first Chicken alien is fab, although Mr Truffles steals Chapter Four all for himself. Needless to say, I'm quite appalled the writer didn't end up with egg on his face after such a terrible joke ... I think possibly, you need a bit more of a coherent arc.

There's nothing wrong with humour that ties in with a story, but some of it seems a little over-cooked. Two examples would be the whole egg aside/paragraph, and that bit about Maddy and Truffles being super spies. I don't think you need either, simply because those sections bog the story down in alien chicken poop. (They're far too runny).

I really like the madness of it, you just need to do a bit more refining and polishing. I'd also love to read your stories with cartoon illustrations; they're absolutely begging for some. As for how I rate this, I have no idea; I could give you six stars for inventiveness, but then you'd have nothing to work towards - And I want to see your book shine with polish ...

(Or, you know, custard)

Ben - An Ordinary Sunday view book

written 405 days ago

Hi Thomas, I remember the very first Christian Fantasty novel I read was This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti; it left a profound effect one me when I was in my late teens. I really like your cover, I don't know where you got the artwork from, but it's fantastic. Most YA Fantasy novels on here tend towards the Paranormal; it's refreshing to see something genuinely different ...

I was initially drawn in by your pitch; a couple of small pointers - the opposite of ordinary would surely be extaordinary? Rather than milleniums old dragon (which sounds a bit awkward) I'd state the dragon's age.

You have a good opening, and your style flows well and is very easy to read. The simple lines of dialogue work in your favour and actually make Asa more believable as a Character. Street kids (on the whole) don't talk a whole lot, or at least I'd imagine them not to. Sentences like - He always did eat better around the holidays - are excellenty crafted.

You have a strong literary tool in Rusty the dog and I like how Asa talks to him. Normally, I would say don't ever, ever, reference other Fantasy novels, even if they are the greats ... However, in this instance, I think the comparison works. I like that Asa's a street kid - my own Character ends up as one - however I'm not sure where, or when the story is set ...

I also like the idea of Asa controlling his breathing, but not really realising it. You have a unique way with descriptive language, I find it easy to picture and yet you present simple ideas in unique ways ... A good example would be the tall buildings leaning in over the alleyway. Everything you describe is also very visual without becoming bogged down in detail.

That's a rare gift!

You did lose me slightly with Asa crossing the room into the closet; is there a reason he makes his home in the closet and not the room itself? Or have I misunderstood? The paragraph where he pulls his hair back into a ponytail and removes his shoes is sheer perfection ... Again, your description of the basement (and its books) is also expertly worded.

The relationship you build between Asa and Rusty in this opening Chapter is of sublime importance. Their friendship is obvious, and it shows both through Asa's dialogue and their individual action(s). We don't have newspaper boxes here in England (not that it matters), but I remember seeing them in Canada, and thinking how odd they seemed ...

I've got to write this, Asa definitely has a bit of Oliver Twist about him, I think that's very appealing. The idea of Asa stealing from the book donation bin comes across as original and a little bit roguish - Oliver Twist indeed! Asa's resourcefulness is a shining characteristic, I really hope this side of him continues throughout the rest of the novel.

How did/does Asa attach his bag to the cardboard?

Your sentence - No one cared why an author wrote a book, only whether it was good or not - is an object lesson in how to write effectively for the Young Adult market. I couldn't help smiling at Asa's comment, "What was I supposed to use?" Brilliant. I'm glad you're willing to acknowledge that the Bible has boring parts.

You have a fantastic opening Chapter here, and I'd suggest joining the YARG forum group as soon as possible. I've already made room for your book on my shelf and will also be rating it six stars. I've read a lot of Young Adult material on site, and yours is one of the very best without question!

Whilst I hope the pace quickens in following Chapters, you've taken the time to establish Asa's Character and you've done so in exquisite style. I can't wait to read on ...

Ben - An Ordinary Sunday view book