I am a small potato in the giant Blog allotment. Whilst I am theoretically interested in receiving review copies of books (FREE STUFF!- come on you like it too dontcha....dontcha??) when I have been sent them they sometimes engender a certain panic: I'm not interested in bashing anything- there's enough of that on the internet, and I want to write about what I want to write about. But it's hard not to feel a sense of obligation when someone's sent you something, and obligation and objectivity are not friends. This is all perfectly manageable when you're being sent something by a big publisher or distributor but rather less so when you are holding someone's self-published dreams. And so I have tended to head off the self published who approach me periodically for that reason.
Against form I didn't however pass up the offer to be sent Jules Marriner's books; and, reasonably objectively I hope- I'm glad I didn't. In a world where getting a picture book publishing deal is apparently Quite Hard she seems to be doing a very professional job going it alone. These are funny and enjoyable books definitely worthy of a readership outside her immediate family and friends I think.
'Vincent the Vampire' tells the story of a controversial blackberry-loving bat who finds unlikely sanctuary in a vampire's castle with surprisingly good catering for vegetarians.
'Royal Fleas' deals inventively with the tricky problem of What To Do when you spot the Queen's corgi scratching.
Both have plenty of humour in both text and illustration. There's some good spotting to be done. I liked the sharp-toothed dentures and the changing face of Munch's Scream in the background of 'Vincent the Vampire'. In 'Royal Fleas', the incongruous pink fluffy slippers of the Queen's snooty secretary, Mr Horatio Flowers-Simkinson made Bill giggle.
They're not perfect. Personally I find the watercolour palatte of the illustrations could take stronger tones and I'm not sure about the cut out collage lines. Inevitably the 'feel' of them in terms of paper and binding is not quite the same quality you'd get from the budget of a conventional publisher. They have charm though.
Both books bear stickers on the cover saying 'Written and illustrated on the Isle of Wight'. I think this is a pretty canny move on Jules Marriner's part and emblematic of one of the most interesting parts of the brave new world of self- publishing. I love the fact that increasingly a visit to a fair or craft market leads to an encounter with an author next door to the miniature teddy maker and knitted egg cosy lady. And I'd much rather bring back a bookish souvenir to remember a place or holiday than anything else. I like the idea of a community rallying around its authors and supporting their stories.
Visit Jules Marriner's website here to find out more. Her books are available through the dread-but-useful Amazon. I received my copies through kindness of the author, my opinions are my own.