Things I Didn’t Do Before I Was a Book Blogger

The other day I was sent a book that was the third in the series, and while I haven’t read the other two, I thought I’d read it straight away anyway. I’d never have done that before I was a book blogger, and it got me thinking about things I do since blogging that I wouldn’t have before.

  • Reading a book without reading the ones before it – past me wouldn’t have even considered doing that, but now if I have a limited time I’m happy to dive right in.
  • Similarly, if a new book in a series comes out, I used to have to read all the previous ones first to get myself back into it. These days there’s so many books and so little time, I just have to trust my memories!
  • I didn’t read this much until I started blogging. Well, maybe when I was a teen and younger, but during uni I didn’t find the time or the will really. I’m so glad blogging has made me fall back in love with reading.
  • I also didn’t give up on books until recently. I also struggled through a book I wasn’t enjoying, mostly because I didn’t even think about not finishing them. I hate not knowing what happens! But these days I figure I have too many books and too little time to read to bother trying to enjoy something I’m not.
  • Even when I was reading lots, I was never this up to date with new releases, new authors and general bookish news. I love that blogging has got me discovering new books and not rereading the same old favourites like I used to!
  • I’ve always been a bit of a book hoarder, and it’s only the last few months that I’ve decided to get more ruthless with what I keep. The tottering piles of books were starting to get dangerous now Little Moore is crawling!
  • I didn’t use Twitter before I blogging, and I’m so glad I started. It’s opened up this whole new world of people to talk to, the UKYA community and fellow book lovers and book bloggers.

Have you noticed any new bookish habits since you started blogging?

Book Review: Dear Charlie (N. D Gomes)

Publisher: Harlequin

Pages: 222

Release Date: October 20th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Death should never meet the young. But it did. Thanks to my brother, death made fourteen new friends that day. Maybe even fifteen, if you count Charlie.

At sixteen, Sam Macmillan is supposed to be thinking about girls, homework and his upcoming application to music college, not picking up the pieces after the school shooting that his brother Charlie committed.

Yet as Sam desperately tries to hang on to the memories he has of his brother, the media storm surrounding their family threatens to destroy everything. And Sam has to question all he thought he knew about life, death, right and wrong.

Review:

I won this book in a competition on Twitter so big thanks to YAHQ for the copy!

This was a fascinating book because of the subject it explores: Sam’s brother, Charlie, takes a gun ti school and lets rip. We don’t hear much about the incident, but rather the aftermath, how it ‘s affected Sam and his parents, and that was really interesting. It’s not something I’ve really thought about before to be honest. When you hear about these incidents, in America these days, your thoughts are with the victims families, not the killers. But, as this book explores, they’re people too, and even if they’ve committed terrible acts, they’re still someone’s child or brother/sister.

I felt really bad for Sam and his family. What Charlie did wasn’t their fault, however the media wanted to play it, and even though he did something awful, they were still grieving for their son and brother. I understand that people are angry and want a place to direct that, but it just felt so unfair to pile it all on this family who are suffering so much already. I liked that the book is endorsed by Amnesty International: reminding us that everyone deserves human rights, no matter who they are or what they’ve done. Even if it’s difficult to remember that at times, it’s important.

The book follows Sam on his journey to recovery after the event: going to therapy, moving schools, enduring the taunts and media attention and clinging onto the hope that it will get better. And all the while he’s trying to process his feelings for his brother too. Of course he’s angry, but he’s also hurt that Charlie didn’t confide in him, feels bad that he let him down and doesn’t know if he’s allowed to feel sad at his death after what he’s done. It’s a minefield of emotions and he just doesn’t know where to start.

While I liked the issues the book presented, I just wasn’t wowed with it as a whole. I thought the friends story line was a bit predictable: he finally finds friends in a group of misfits, feels happier with them until they turn their backs on him and everything gets worse. I didn’t like the love story: Izzy struck me as a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl and I don’t like the whole ‘love makes me feel better’ story line.

I still think this is a good read and the issues in it are something I’ve not read in YA before and would like to see more of. It was a bit like a We Need to Talk About Kevin for the YA audience and will definitely get you thinking.

3

Book Review: Nothing Tastes as Good (Claire Hennessy)

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 336

Release Date: July 14th 2016

Summary:

Don’t call her a guardian angel. Annabel is dead – but she hasn’t completely gone away. Annabel immediately understands why her first assignment as a ghostly helper is to her old classmate: Julia is fat. And being fat makes you unhappy. Simple, right?

As Annabel shadows Julia’s life in the pressured final year of school, Julia gradually lets Annabel’s voice in, guiding her thoughts towards her body, food and control.

But nothing is as simple as it first seems. Spending time in Julia’s head seems to be having its own effect on Annabel . . . And she knows that once the voices take hold, it’s hard to ignore them.

Review:

This was a bit of a brutal read but I really enjoyed it. I’m not sure it would be suitable for someone with an eating disorder or who’s had problems with that kind of thing in the past: I found it a bit too close to the bone and worry it could be triggering for some.

Annabel is dead and to get a last message to her family, she has to help a soul in need. She’s been assigned to Julia and Annabel can see her problem straight away: she’s fat. But Annabel knows how to fix that and she uses all her tricks to get Julia thinking about food and weight the way she did when she was alive. But as her thoughts influence Julia, Julia’s own thoughts begin to change the way she thinks too.

It’s clear from the very beginning that both girls have problems with food and neither can see that at first. Although her eating disorder caused her heart to fail, Annabel is convinced she was in control and didn’t have a problem. Julia turns to food for comfort and to block out the hurt of the past. But she begins abusing food another way after Annabel’s attempts to ‘help’ her.

Annabel isn’t always a pleasant narrator and I sometimes found her voice hard to listen to. The way she looks at and judges Julia made me think about myself in that way as well – and a post-baby body doesn’t help! Annabel’s is almost like the voice of society – the kind that shows you beautiful, slim women in magazines and tells you it can be achieved my restrictive diets rather than healthy eating, exercise (and probably some airbrushing). At her worst, Annabel’s voice made me want to not eat the things I normally would, which is why I worry it could be hard to read for a person with a history of eating disorders.

She might be harsh and rude at times but I also found Annabel’s voice very realistic and funny at times too. Her running commentary on Julia’s life made me laugh at times and every little observation brought the book to life and made it real for me. It’s an interesting way to tell a book, with a bodiless, almost god-like narrator (though Annabel has some thoughts on God, being dead and all) seeing everything a girl similar to her does and thinks. The writing style is also very easy to read and I really flew through this book.

The ending was very emotional and did bring a tear to my eye. It’s not too happy and perfect but Julia gets some closure and a wonderful girl power moment and Annabel gets to send a message to her family, although not the one she was expecting.

This is a brilliant book in its own right but I also think it’s great for raising awareness too. An eating disorder is a serious illness and ruins lives on a daily basis. Not all are as extreme as Annabel and Julia’s cases but can still be just as bad: as a nation we’re obsessed with body perfection and diets and it’s easy to see how people develop unhealthy relationships with food. But as this book demonstrates, it’s not all about looking skinny either: eating disorders can be about control and make a person feel powerful even as they’re destroying themselves.

As I write this it’s Eating Disorder Awareness week. This is a great book to pick up if you’d like to learn more on the subject.

4

Guest Post: Satisfying Endings by Sarah Mussi

I’m totally thrilled to be with Maia and a Little Moore on the final post of my blog tour for book two in The Snowdonia Chronicles: Here be Witches

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME MAIA!

During my blog tour I have been interviewing myself on HOW TO WRITE A SEQUEL!

And today Sarah asks Sarah …

Q

Can you recap on Here Be Witches for our readers who have just caught up with this tour?

A

Right, Here Be Witches is the second story in the series The Snowdonia Chronicles

Here be Witches

THE SEQUEL TO HERE BE DRAGONS – A PERILOUS ADVENTURE INTO THE MAGICAL AND MURDEROUS REALM OF MYTHICAL SNOWDONIA

Q

Now this is our last blog post and we’ve covered characters and whether to change them or not; settings and how to keep them fresh; plot and how each storyline needs to stand alone in a series with an overarching goal, and now we are coming to endings – how do you set up the ending, so that you can write the next one in the series and still end this story off satisfactorily?

A

Wow – good question and quite hard to answer … anyway I will have a go at it. I think one of the lovely things about writing a series is that readers can keep spending time with characters they have grown to know almost as deeply as they know themselves and they can be guaranteed another adventure in the company of those characters.

However the adventures have to be separate and different and some of the characters need to take a break and new characters need to be introduced. Also what this and many other series actually need – right from the beginning – is an overarching structure or goal. Or an unanswered question.

I think the unanswered question in the Snowdonia Chronicles is: will Ellie and Henry ever really be able to get together, or are the difficulties that separate them insurmountable?

The series then takes completely different adventures in the pursuit of this one main goal. Each of the series titles will have its own separate sub-goal that maintains the same protagonist, sidekick and romance character and antagonist. This gives the stories a coherence. One of the trickiest things to do is how to end the current story in the series so that it has a satisfactory stand-alone ending with its own complete obligatory scene and yet leaves some exciting yet totally different adventure open to happening in the next book.

Q

So how did you do this Sarah in Here Be Witches?

A

First of all I had to thoroughly understand what the obligatory or climactic scene needed to achieve in every story, so that I could deliver a satisfactory and complete ending for each adventure – this is what I found out:

The obligatory scene

The closing section of a story, just before the end should deliver the final confrontation between the forces for good and the forces of evil. This is the moment when my hero must win against all odds against the antagonistic forces (for now). They must face their worst fears to rescue, triumph and survive. And yet the antagonist must not be completely defeated but retire in malice, ready to fight again in the next story with even more wickedness, malice and motive.

In preparing for the fight, I had to consider: How does the confrontation develop? Does your hero nearly lose? How do they defeat the enemy?

I also had to consider what inner resolve/strength/truth is in my protagonist: How does it help my protagonist to grow? How does it help my protagonist to overcome the antagonist? (If they do – or accept defeat.)

I had to be sure I delivered on all the following:

ACT 3 The climax /ordeal/obligatory scene/

Several things must occur at the climax of the story: the hero must face the biggest obstacle of the entire story (so far); she must determine her own fate; and the outer motivation (this story goal) must be resolved once and for all (for now).  

I wanted the outer motivation to be resolved, but also for the protagonist to win by losing (be kept heroic), undergo a ‘seeming’ death (create reader empathy), and be reborn – or returned to a former (yet wiser) state.

This is important for the satisfactory ending of the story, but also important so that I could set up the way the next story will develop – so that it seemed right and natural that it should develop in that way. To do this I had to keep the series goal unresolved (will they ever be with the one they love?) but deliver on the narrative goal in Here be Witches (save Henry and Snowdonia and break the witches’ spell).

Q

So Sarah how did you end Here be Witches … and achieve this duality?

A

Well, just like I set up the prologue in order to overcome problems with a first person narration, I set up the epilogue to bring about closure to the current story and yet introduce the possibility that there was more to come. Below is an excerpt from the epilogue and you can see for yourself how it puts to bed the first story and introduces the possibility that this not the end of things. Here it is!


So Mote It Be

Later that spring ~ 30th April ~ The Eve of Calan Mai*

ELLIE’S PHONE 30th April 12.00

Status: In a committed relationship

This morning the sun is shining. I’ve biked all the way up to the top of Pen-y-Pass.

I rest briefly. I check the straw man I’ve made is safe inside my pocket.

Then carry on with my plan.

I’m going to Dinas Emrys for the first time since March.

My heart pounds. I bite my lip. But I’m ready.

‘I’m coming Henry,’ I whisper.

Going downhill from Pen-y-Pass is scary. The road falls away in front of me, there’s a hairpin bend just ahead, so I cling on. The road drops and drops away, and I have that feeling, as if I’m flying off into nothingness.

I hold my breath. I tear through the sunshine, all the way down to the junction, on to the Beddgelert road. Then I race through the morning like the wind. The bike flies beneath me. I want to reach Dinas Emrys quickly. I want to lay my charm on Henry’s lair, before Sheila or anyone else tries their magick there again.

I hit the Beddgelert road at speed. Air whips my hair back, stings my eyes. The sky is as blue as blue. Sunlight slants off everything. The sides of the mountain lie covered in thick purple heather. The air is charged with such sweetness.

I shoot downhill, all the way to Lake Gwynant.

The water on the lake stretches out shining black. Sundrenched slopes rise from its shores. The road lies totally deserted; the mountain is all mine. Sometimes I like it best that way – just Snowdon and me.

I race past Lake Gwynant crouched low. Just the grey road, winding on down alongside the Afon Glaslyn, down to Lynn Dinas.

I squint into the distance. My heartbeat jumps about. The fortress of Dinas Emrys lies smack ahead.

I think of Henry lying curled under the earth, so near, so far.

He’ll be there.

I need to keep it that way.

What did George say?

‘Be careful Elles. Tonight – May Eve – is auspicious. Gran says you must lay a charm to protect Henry.’

No more witchy stuff with covens. No more trying to wake up my Henry.

An image of Sir Oswald flashes across my mind. Pale eyes. Hooded eyelids. He’ll be under the mountain too.

I slow down.

I swing off the road and cycle up towards a lush green pasture.

I take my shortcut, through a turning to a farm, behind a row of mobile holiday homes, where I can scramble up a steep slope between trees, and get to the fortress from the back. The bracken is tight and scratchy, but it’s really not too far and saves a good three-mile hike.

I go through the farm gates; it’s private property, but there’s no need to worry about the holiday homes now. They’ll be full of tourists at this time of year. They won’t give me a second glance.

I chain the bike to a handy sapling behind the first chalet.

In front of me rises a steep bank, covered by spindly trees. Thick green moss coats every patch of bark. Their roots are tangled knots of black. In parts, the rocky hillside is almost sheer. High above, a skylark trills out short, rapturous notes. I hoist myself up from trunk to trunk. I try to stay strong.

Since the spring equinox, I’ve stayed away from here, too many memories, too much sadness, but I guess I’m needed today.

I climb up to the top of Dinas Emrys. Pause. Pant. Just breathe in warm air.

Since the second landslide, the hill is not much changed. That is the way Henry planned it.

I turn to look up towards Snowdon. Everywhere is thick with brilliance, but through the blinding sunshine, blurred by the shimmer of late spring warmth, I think – no – I’m certain, I see a figure.

There he is: the figure of a young man poised on the edge of the mountain.

I smile.

I rub my eyes. Is it really a figure? Or just a trick of the light? A memory perhaps? Or George checking I made it safely? Rays from the risen sun dazzle me. By the time I look again, he’s gone.

My heart starts pounding.

I squint just to be sure.

I wish so much it were Henry.

Nothing.

But then this is Snowdon.

Yr Wyddfa.

The great burial den of the dragons

Here anything can happen.

Especially on May Eve.

Yes, May Eve and I have come here for crogi gwr gwellt: ‘hanging a straw man’.

It’s a tradition on May Eve that when a lover has lost their sweetheart, they make a man out of straw and put it somewhere in the vicinity of where the lover sleeps.

The straw man represents the enemy, the one that seeks to take the heart of the beloved away.

I find the right spot.

Just where I stood with Rhi.

Just where half of the north face of Dinas Emrys split open.

A vision flashes before me … trees uprooted, boulders cracked; great half-broken tree trunks sticking up in the air. That overpowering smell of crushed foliage, that sickly scent of damp earth, that great scar, huge open depths …

The vision passes.

I pin a note to my straw man.

Gran helped me craft the words:

‘By water and fire, earth and air,

Let Henry’s enemies beware.

Let the words of my charm,

Protect his heart from any harm.

Let the power of my love,

Strengthened by the stars above,

Keep him safe, keep him secure,

Keep his heart forever pure.

By the flowers of Blodeuwedd

Let none attempt to breach his bed.’

***

I place the adder stone on the note.

I sprinkle the place with a potion Gran brewed for me.

I look up to the mountains.

‘I will find a way to be with you again, Henry,’ I whisper.

Then I pray to Snowdon to keep him safe, out of the reach of any evil.

Until I can keep my promise.

* Calan Mai, the first day of May or Calan Haf, the first day of summer is a holy day in Wales. Celebration bonfires start on the evening before, known as May Eve. This night is considered an Ysbrydnos or ‘spirit night’ when spirits are out and about, and divination is possible.

And so the adventures of Ellie and The Snowdonia Chronicles will continue into book three …  a new story with a new goal, but also one that will be the over arching goal of the series to an exciting conclusion and deliver on the seeds planted in Here be Witches!

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME, MAIA!

THANK YOU READERS FOR FOLLOWING MY BLOGS!

I HOPE YOU LOVE READING HERE BE WITCHES.

 



Thank you so much to Sarah for being on my blog today! If you’d like to catch up with the rest of the tour you can do so here:

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February Wrap Up

Well this year is just flying by. I can’t believe we’re into March already! I haven’t read as many books this month – I put a lot of time into one which I eventually DNFd around 50% in. I’ve also started rereading The Sin Eater’s Daughter in preparation for The Scarecrow Queen which arrived yesterday and I am so excited to read!

What I Read

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

Dead of Night by Michael Grant

Silver Stars by Michael Grant

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr

Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy

The Little Book of Sitcom by John Vorhaus

Book Post

This month I had some more gorgeous book post, including:

The Circus by Olivia Levez

(Thanks Rock the Boat!)

The Devil’s Paintbox by Robin Jarvis

(Thanks Egmont!)

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

(Thanks Chelle Toy/Scholastic!)

The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury

(Thanks The Pewter Wolf/Scholastic!)

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What I Wrote:

This month I finished off editing the short story I wrote last month and submitted it to a competition. This is a pretty big step for me and I’m really proud I wrote something to a deadline and produced a piece of work I’m proud of.

I originally wanted to write at least 500 words a day but didn’t quite hit that target this month. I still wrote something each day though, so I’m happy with that. I also finished the (very rough) first draft of my WIP, so another reason to celebrate!

Total word count: 16,220

What I watched:

TV

We finished watching Parks and Recreation which was even better second time round and I really want to get the rest of the series now. We started watching Sherlock but haven’t gotten very far because the episodes are so damn long! It’s like watching a film every night, and when Little Moore is playing up we just don’t have time.

Films

Saying that, we did watch a lot of films! Nathan’s had the crazy idea of watching all our horror films in alphabetical order, so that’s our project for the next year or so… seriously, there’s over 300 of them!

We got off to a good start and covered Alice in Murderland (terrible yet hilarious film) All Cheerleaders Die, Almost Human, Bite (so gory, so fun) Tusk (like Human Centipede but with a Walrus…) Yeah, alphabetical went out the window when new DVDs came in!

What I Did

It was Nathan’s birthday this month so I got him out the house for a few hours and surprised him with a drawing desk (and a rearranged living room to fit it in!) It’s been a fairly quiet month other than that – not complaining it’s nice to have a break after the Christmas/New Year madness!

What Little Moore Did

Little Moore turned one this month! We’re having a little birthday party with family and friends and cake this weekend to celebrate. He’s also started pulling himself up on furniture, which has been a while coming but I think he’s found it slippy in his socks on our laminate flooring!

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