January TBR

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It’s a little late, but hey – better late than never! Here’s the list (as it stands atm, at least)…

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell (Bought from a second-hand bookshop… love those places!)

Juliet Dove, Queen of Love – Bruce Coville

Blue Birds – Caroline Starr Rose (Present for Christmas)

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo (Present for Birthday)

Life as we Knew It – Susan Pfeffer

The Looking Glass Wars – Frank Beddor (Second-hand shopping spree :D)

Wonderland Creek – Lynn Austin (Borrowed from Hannah over at The Way of Delight – I keep meaning to read this but then forgetting… Gah!)

Let the reading begin!

 

 

 

 

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Things I Learnt Whilst Writing a Book

So, last year, I wrote my first book. And by ‘wrote my first book’, I mean, during Camp NaNoWriMo, I wrote the first 50,000 words of my first book… You see, going into Camp NaNo, there were a lot of things that I didn’t realise about writing a book. Sadly, it’s not quite as simple as just sticking ideas on a page. You need a plot, direction, conflict, resolution… But anyway, here they are – the lessons I learnt when I wrote my first book…

50,000 words is A LOT of words!

I mean, obviously, 50,000 words is a lot, but I never quite realised just how many ideas that meant. Going into my book, I knew the basic idea, the characters, and how the ending was going to work. Apart from that, I had no idea where it was going to go. So, being the innocent little story-teller I was, I leapt in at the deep end. Turns out, I needed to think about a lot more. I had to plan my character’s travels, think up major scenes and filler scenes, work on the relationships between characters… the list goes on and on!

Writing the first draft is only the beginning…

So, I finished 50,000 words of the book, and left it for a while, as you’re advised to – to let it stew for a while, and to come back to it with a fresh mind. Then, I came back. And I realised that there was a huge hole in the middle, scenes were scattered everywhere, and one character needed a whole lot more development. The first thing I had to do after that was sort the entire thing – it was a bit of a mess! So I figured out which scene went where, and then started writing all the bits to fill in the major scenes. Because most of the scenes I’d written had been major scenes, that meant I had very few scenes that weren’t action-packed or shunting the story along, so I had to fill it in, to bulk out the whole thing and stop it from moving too quickly.

You can have a beginning and an end, but you still have to fill in the middle.

So, I had already written the first 200 words or so – the inspiration I originally had to write my book. And I knew what I wanted to happen in the end (but I won’t tell you that, because I hope that one day, my book will get published, and I don’t want to ruin the surprise!) But apart from all the little ideas that kept popping into my head, I had no idea what to do with it. So I wrote the bits I knew I wanted to write. But when I came back to edit it, I noticed that there was a lot less going on in the middle, and I was left to flesh that out. It wasn’t as simple as just sticking a few scenes on paper, and it involved more development than what I’d anticipated. It was an interesting thing to learn – that I had to figure out what happened to get the characters to my final point.

Characters have to have flaws…

So, every writer knows about the threats of a ‘Mary Sue’, that perfect character who everyone loves. I knew that I didn’t want my main character to be anything like that. But I wanted her to be this amazing character, and I realised that she was running the risk of becoming a Mary Sue. So I sat down with her, and my other two MCs (main characters), and we had a serious conversation about what flaws they would have. Thankfully, that tied into their character development patterns, so it all worked out, but it would have been relatively easier not even to notice the lack of flaw if I hadn’t known about the dangers of the Mary Sue!

Here’s a little excerpt of said first book – enjoy!

Fable was back in her room. She was sitting on the floor, with crossed legs, reading a battered book for the eighteenth time. Her sentence was for eight days, and if she behaved during that time, she would then be allowed out, and begin to be allowed to do jobs, and have more time outside. Hopefully her processing would then start, as well.
She put the book down on her knee, keeping it open, and stretched her arms above her head. Then she picked the book up again, and continued to read, mouthing the words as she went. About twenty minutes before, she had been exercising – doing as much as she could in the small space, but now she was just killing time. There was hardly any chance of escape, as guards walked past the only two windows every fifteen minutes (on their schedules). One had just come past…

Thanks for reading!

November book wrap up

# of books finished this month – 20, and then one other book being finished today.

Weekly hoards for November – Week 2, Week 3

This month, I read –

  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling
  • The Year of the Rat – Clare Furniss
  • The White Tower – Cathryn Constable
  • Kite Spirit – Sita Bahmachari
  • Ironheart – Allan Boroughs
  • Clockwork Angel – Cassandra Clare
  • Ministry of Pandemonium – Chris Westwood
  • Dealing with Dragons – Patricia C. Wrede
  • Searching for Dragons – Patricia C. Wrede
  • Calling on Dragons – Patricia C. Wrede
  • Talking to Dragons – Patricia C. Wrede
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet – Madeleine L’Engle
  • Book of Enchantments – Patricia C. Wrede
  • The Winter Sleepwalker – Joan Aiken
  • A Small Pinch of Weather – Joan Aiken
  • Stormbird – Conn Iggulden

To be honest, I liked all the books I read this month. As you can tell, I revisited some series (Harry Potter, Enchanted Forest Chronicles, I’m looking at you!) All the new books I read were great, the re-reads were re-read because I like them… Some that I would really recommend are The Year of the Rat, Kite Spirit, Ironheart and the entire Enchanted Forest Chronicles (those are the Patricia C. Wrede ones!) I would really suggest that you give all of these a go, however.

Trigger warnings and cautions –

  • The Year of the Rat, The White Tower, Ministry of Pandemonium and Kite Spirit all deal with death of some sort, with Kite Spirit also dealing with the subject of suicide.
  • Stormbird is something I would recommend for mature readers only, as it contained rude language and some inappropriate subjects.

 

Currently Reading Book Tag

So, here goes my first book tag! I was tagged by the lovely Hannah at The Way of Delight to do this  – thank you, Hannah!

1. HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU USUALLY READ AT ONCE?
Well, I used to have about five leisure reads on the go at any given time…

Since then, though, I’ve cut it down (!!!) to one leisure book, one devotional/Christian book, possibly an audiobook, a read-aloud with my family, and whichever work books I’m reading (generally three, for my English class). Currently I’m reading:

  • A Fairy’s Guide to Disaster by A.W. Hartoin (leisure),
  • The Lost Art of True Beauty by Leslie Ludy (Christian),
  • The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis (audiobook),
  • The Menyms by Sylvia Plath (family read-aloud),
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Art of Fiction by David Lodge, and Walden by Henry Thoreau (work).

2. IF YOU ARE READING MORE THAN ONE BOOK AT A TIME, HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHEN TO SWITCH BOOKS?
If we’re talking leisure reads, I kind of switch whenever I fancy. With other books, work has to come first, then I can read my leisure book. Family read-aloud happens in the morning, as does my devotional/Christian book. As I said, I used to read multiple leisure books at a time, but now I find it easier to read one at a time. Plus, I generally read a book every day or two, so it works better that way.

3. DO YOU EVER SWITCH BOOKMARKS WHILE YOU ARE PARTWAY THROUGH A BOOK?

Only if the week changes. I have a little collection of bookmarks, and I use one a week. So, if my book spills over to the next week, the bookmark will change. I used to use anything I could grab, and then reigned myself in, and started using actual bookmarks. I also have a special set that I made from a card, which I use for my three work books. (I always have three books on the go from my English course).

4. WHERE DO YOU KEEP THE BOOK(S) YOU ARE CURRENTLY READING?
Either on my bedside chest of drawers, my windowsill, or my large chest of drawers. Work books go on my work shelf, which is currently just outside my room.

5. WHAT TIME OF DAY DO YOU SPEND THE MOST TIME READING?
Any time of day that I can! If I can sit down and grab a few minutes, I will. On weekends, I generally don’t read my leisure books in the morning, but I will then read in the afternoon and evening. And in the weekends – I can stay in bed and read in the mornings… bliss!

6. HOW LONG DO YOU TYPICALLY READ IN ONE SETTING?
It can vary between 5 minutes and an entire afternoon! Though an entire afternoon of reading is very rare, it will occasionally happen, and it’s lovely! Ah, the joy of getting lost in a book for an entire afternoon, rather than a snatched few minutes…

7. DO YOU READ HARDBACKS WITH THE DUST JACKET ON OR OFF?
Off. Dust jackets bug me – they always start falling off the book, and I don’t want to spoil them! All the dust jackets we have are sooo pretty!

8. WHAT POSITION DO YOU MAINLY USE TO READ?
Lying on my stomach (like I am right now), or sitting up. Although I do read in many varied positions, especially when I’m on a sofa. I occasionally lie on my back to read, but then I often end up dropping the book on my face. If I’m on my kindle, though, I’m more likely to lie on my back. It’s easier to manage than a book!

9. DO YOU TAKE THE BOOK YOU ARE CURRENTLY READING WITH YOU EVERYWHERE?

Errm, yes! To be completely honest, even if I’m very unlikely to read it, I’ll bring it. I mean, I might get the chance to snatch a few minutes of reading…! It might be worth it. Whenever I go on holiday, though, my bag will be super heavy – must bring enough books! I have no idea if anyone else has this issue, but I guess it builds my muscles, dragging all those books around!

10. HOW OFTEN DO YOU UPDATE YOUR GOODREADS PROGRESS ON THE BOOK YOU’RE CURRENTLY READING?

I don’t actually use Goodreads right now. I’d like to, but I just haven’t gotten around to it… yet!

I tag… Whoever fancies having a crack at this! Have fun! 😀

 

Book Review – A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L’Engle

Title: A Swiftly Tilting Planet
Author: Madeline L’Engle
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre: Science fiction
My rating: ★★★★★

At Tara in this fateful hour,

I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And the fire with all the strength it hath,
And the lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the wind with its swiftness along its path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the Earth with its starkness
All these I place
By God’s almighty help and grace

Between myself and the powers of darkness.

DESIGN

It’s Thanksgiving, but the threat of nuclear war is hanging over the world. Knowing that might be one of the downsides of your father being a sort of advisor to the president. But there is one chance to save it all. Charles Wallace has a rune. Patrick’s rune, a mysterious set of words that wield great power. So, with the help of a unicorn, he sets out to wage battle against the forces of light. He goes ‘within’ many people from times gone before, all the while kything with his sister, Meg. And as he does, decisions must be made, and clues put together, so that it can be figured out – what is the connection between two brothers long ago, and Indian women with blue eyes? And is there any real hope of beating the dark forces? For Charles Wallace is a small teenager, and he is just one person against many…

DESIGN

This. Is. Such. A. Good. Book! I love Madeline L’Engle’s writing, her characters, and her ideas. And all her concepts of time travel and different planets and worlds. I’ve read the first book of the Time Quartet many, many times, and will continue to do so. And this… well, I’m sure I’ll read this many times, as well. It’s just such amazing, captivating writing – it grabs you and pulls you along for the ride. I love that the characters have grown up, but still meet together to chat and eat, and that they invite a rather grouchy lady to spend time with them, also. They open up their home and hearts to all who need shelter and comfort, whether it be a lonely old lady or a stray dog. The Murray’s are also very accepting people, who are willing to believe that a dog has come to find and live with them, or that their 15 year old son has a job to do in order to save the world. And they’ll just let him get on with it!

DESIGN

One thing that always makes me smile is the fact that the mum of this family, an enthusiastic, brainy scientist, cooks most of her meals over a Bunsen burner. It’s the little details like that that make this family feel very realistic, as they have their own little quirks and habits. It’s also super nice to see where all the children from the earlier books have gone. The twins are pursuing their dreams (and had to give up their vegetable gardens – they’re growing Christmas trees now), Meg is <spoiler> happily married (and pregnant!!! <spoiler>, and the rest of the family are continuing to grow up and develop. I was a bit sad that Calvin wasn’t in the book more – I really like him as a character, and it was sad that he was in England for the entirety of the book. However, this was really about Charles Wallace, with a little bit of Meg dotted in, so I understand why he couldn’t be there. Charles was going ‘within’ different people through time, stopping the dark forces from changing time to fit their own will, by assisting the people he was ‘within’ to change history, with the ultimate aim of saving the world from nuclear war.

DESIGN

Now, onto the subject of kything. It’s essentially sharing thoughts, but it also seems to mean that one person can watch the other whilst kything. Meg and Charles kythe together, having learnt in a previous book, and with the help of the new family dog, Meg watches Charles Wallace during his travels through time. She also breaks away from kything a few times, either to be with the family, or to find out information for Charles Wallace. Interestingly, time doesn’t move whilst Meg is kything, but when she stops kything with Charles Wallace, it moves at normal speed. This change in time allows her and Charles to watch and travel through multiple times, in the space of a night.

DESIGN

So… this book is great, has amazing concepts, will make you think, smile, and cry, and is a really nice version of the classic ‘good against evil’ story. Go forth and read it! (But maybe read the first two books before you read this one – it is really, really nice to meet the characters as children first). Enjoy!

Weekly Hoard – November week 3

Dealing with Dragons, Searching for Dragons, Calling on Dragons, and Talking to Dragons – Patricia C. Wrede

Imagine a fairy tale, where the main character is about to marry a handsome prince… there are just one or two problems – the prince is boring, the princess is sick of being a princess (most princesses are namby-pamby wimps), and her parents won’t listen to anything she says. So, she runs off to live with a dragon, and discovers that dragons are actually pretty nice (most of them, at least), wizards are power-hungry, magic-stealing jerks and witches aren’t always ugly old hags. But a plot is afoot, and the King of the Dragons is in danger…

These four books are some of my favourite books on the planet! I was first lent one a few years ago, almost immediately bought the rest, and have read them multiple times since. The books centre around a princess, Cimorene, and her adventures after she runs away to avoid an arranged marriage. Whilst most princesses have golden hair, hers is black. Most princesses – shorter than their prince. Cimorene – tall. Most princesses – would never dream of fencing, cooking, or learning magic. Cimorene – does it all. That is, until her parents stop her. Apparently, it isn’t ‘done’. After she leaves, she meets the dragons, a witch that the dragon who takes her in keeps borrowing cooking utensils from (and her nine cats), the King of an enchanted forest, a magician, many princesses, all the knights and princes that keep coming to try and rescue her, and many more people and magical creatures. This is an amazing set of books, that you should most definitely read!

DESIGN

A Swiftly Tilting Planet – Madeline L’Engle

In this fateful hour, it was herself she placed between us and the powers of darkness.”

This may contain spoilers for the earlier books in the Time Quintet. You have been warned.

Meg’s come to spend Christmas with her family. Everyone is there, except for her husband, Calvin. He’s away, speaking in London. His mum came for Christmas, but she’s not really seeming that keen on even being there. Then, the phone rings. It’s the president. And he tells them that within the next twenty-four hours, a threatening man is going to release deadly weapons. Quite simply, the end of the world is on it’s way. The family are in shock, but Calvin’s mum remembers a special rune – Patrick’s rune. She gives it to Meg’s brother, so that he can use it. And when he does, something incredible appears, and whisks him away on a crazy quest through time, to save the world…

I love Madeline L’Engle’s writing. She had the power to weave captivating spells with her words, trapping you inside her stories. They’re amazing ideas and worlds, and are beautifully written. They can at times be a little confusing, though – they deal with some crazy scientific ideas! I actually love her writing to the extent that my cat is named after a theory in the first book of the Time Quintet – Tesseract, also known as Tessa. Going off on a mini tangent, I wanted my cat to have a literary name, and Tesseract just… worked. Her writing is beautiful and amazing, her characters intriguing, and her ideas – mind-blowing! You should now go and read all her books!

DESIGN

Book of Enchantments – Patricia C. Wrede

Yes, I love this woman’s writing! And I binged all her books that I own! This is a collection of short stories, based on things like legends and fairy tales. One thing I love about it is how she talks about the backstory of each story at the end. There are ten short stories in the collection, each one different from the others. One of them even has the characters from the Enchanted Forest chronicles! Some of the stories are just that – stories, and some of them have morals, but they’re all lovely. From conceited unicorns to jealous older sisters, duelling princesses and enchanted frying pans, each story is different. Some will make you laugh, some make you sit and think for a moment, some make you go and look up their original inspirations, but you’ll love them all!

DESIGN

The Winter Sleepwalker – Joan Aiken

I really like Joan Aiken, and found this book at a second-hand book stall a while ago. I read it on the way home from that place, and then don’t think I’ve read it again since. But I was getting a book for my younger brother to read (Wolves of Willoughby Chase), spotted it, and, as I was in a short-story kind of mood, decided to read it. It’s a aimed at younger readers, in my opinion – the stories are super-short, but I still like it. It has a fairytale air, and has characters like a sailor who marries King Neptune, and a witch who has a habit of turning people into geese. Some of it is quite funny, though – Martians dump monsters on Earth by mistake, and kids start a rock band to get rid of them, a girl is cursed to become a pink snake every Sunday, and games of Heavenly football are played. It also has a few illustrations from Quentin Blake, which add a nice touch! All in all, this book could be described as a collection of modern fairy tales (I really was in a fairy-tale-ish mood last week), and is a nice, quick read for when you just have a few minutes to sit down and read, and want to finish what you start. Short stories are good for that!

Weekly Hoard – November week 2

So, I’m thinking I’ll do a weekly hoard instead of a monthly one – easier to create, and easier to read!

DESIGN

Kite Spirit – Sita Brachmachari

I was actually staring because I wanted to paint you.”

Kite’s best friend is called Dawn. No, was called Dawn. Because Dawn committed the big S. Kite can’t even bring herself to say the word. Her dad refers to it as ‘what happened.’ Nobody really seems to want to say it. Because nobody wants to accept the fact that Dawn killed herself. She committed suicide. Kite’s struggling to cope with this fact. She keeps running over everything in her head, analysing her own actions again and again. What if she’d done this differently? What if she’d been a better friend, rather than failing to notice that her best friend was slipping into despair? Then, one day, Kite’s father takes her on a holiday to the place his mother came from. Kite starts seeing Dawn everywhere. She thinks she’s trying to send her a message, but she’s not sure what…

This book was… emotional. Kite really does blame herself for Dawn’s death. Looking back, she feels like she should have seen the warning signs, spent more time with Dawn, tried harder to get into her apartment the day she didn’t show up at school. She also wonders if she was really a good enough friend to Dawn – Dawn never even mentioned that she was feeling any different to normal. Dawn’s death affected everyone in the book in different ways, and it was really interesting to see how each of the characters dealt with their grief. Kite’s parents were very focused on helping Kite to get over her grief, but her father especially struggled to talk about and accept what had happened. As you would expect, Dawn’s parents were torn apart. They moved away from their apartment, and were completely consumed by their grief. You see, grief can go two ways. You can give up, and spend all your time being sad about the person you lost, or you can keep going.

DESIGN

Ironheart – Allan Boroughs

Outside the sky had turned black and thing, with silvery clouds forming concentric circles over the lake.”

In a world where floods cover large amounts of what used to be clear land, and technology is a rare treasure, something very valuable is hidden. A mountain of treasures from before the world crumbled. Some amazing things lie there – enough seeds to feed the entire world, and remove the famine forever. However, not only good things lie dormant there. Diseases terrible enough to wipe out the world, weapons strong enough to destroy a country. And now, a race is on. A race to reach those weapons. One man wants to use them to gain power for himself. The girl who stands between him and this hoard wants to find her father. And now, the fate of the world is down to who gets there first…

I like a good, world-endy, barely any tech left, so we’ll have to fight for it sort of book 😀 This had tons of intriguing stuff – pirate riggers, an android called Calculus, a nasty, ratty, cowardly traitor I always kind of hoped would turn out to be a good guy, a brave, strong teenager… you get the idea, I liked this book. India was an interesting character, and the kind I like – she could handle herself, and wasn’t going to allow others to compromise her ideals or push her around. She was also on a quest, however, and fought to take every step towards completing it. It was a book like nothing I’ve ever read before, and very enjoyable.

DESIGN

Clockwork Angel – Cassandra Clare

She took poison rather than let herself be captured by the Romans. She was braver than any man.”

There’s a side to Queen Victoria’s London that only certain people can see. The Downworld. Full of monsters, vampires, warlocks and demons, it’s a secret world that only those who belong in can see. And Tessa Gray has no idea what’s coming. Called to England by her older brother, the moment she steps foot in England she is dragged into a world of magic and mystery, discovering powers she never knew she possessed, and a plot that could threaten not only her and her brother, but all the people she has met and learnt to care for – the people who rescued her when nobody else could…

To be honest, I’m not really sure where I stand with this book. I liked it, I’ve heard multiple glowing reviews from friends, and I was really looking forwards to reading it. Then, I loved the world, and all the ideas of a Downworld. I also really enjoyed the idea of the Pandemonium club, haunted by vampires and other super-naturals, and of the Shadowhunters. And, I loved Jem. He was a great character. However, it just didn’t give me the emotional jerk that makes me love a book. I would read it again, and enjoy it, and I’ll definitely give the other books a go. I certainly enjoyed it, it just wasn’t quite what I expected. That plot twist, though… I didn’t see that coming at all, and I normally spot plot twists, so I was very shocked at that! To sum this up – I liked this book, it just surprised me by not being the book I’d imagined. Still very good, though!

DESIGN

Ministry of Pandemonium – Chris Westwood

‘The lights are like stars.’ ‘A city of tiny stars, yes.’ ‘Millions of them.’ ‘Yes, millions.’”

Ben Harvester is seeing strange things. And he’s met a strange man, who goes by the name of Mr October. Mr October has thousands of different faces to choose from, and seems to think that Ben has been chosen for a special job. When he tells him what this job is, Ben is dragged into a world he never dreamed existed – a world where demons haunt the streets, and two different forces fight for the souls of the dead. One side gives those souls peace. The other side steals them away, and stops them from ever resting. The fate of the dead rests in the hands of people like Ben – whether they rest, or forever walk the earth…

I liked this book. It mixed the supernatural with the ideas of having missing and sick family members, in a way that worked beautifully. The main character was quirky and interesting – he was amazingly talented at drawing, and liked hanging out in graveyards. Throughout the story, he learnt how to make friends, how to grieve, how to let go, and many other things. It was a story about death, life, and what happens after death. Some people in the book were trapped on Earth because of a scheming group that stole away souls, some were willing to pass on, and others couldn’t accept that they were dead, and had to persuaded to leave. You see, Ben was given a special job – working for a group that helped souls pass on in peace. One of those souls, however, was someone he thought he would never see again… you’ll have to read it to find out who!

DESIGN

So, I thought I’d introduce something new, as I love bookmarks, and have many different ones. This is the bookmark of the week – the one I used for all my leisure reading from the 13th to the 19th. Enjoy!

Bookmark otw