Hot Key Women In History Bloggers Brunch Recap

 

Hi everyone! I know, what is this madness, event recaps two months in a row? Well it’s going to be a very busy couple of months for me, book event wise, as I’m going to Samantha Shannon’s Priory event in Glasgow on the 28th (so soon!) and then Victoria Schwab’s Near Witch/Steel Prince event, also in Glasgow in March, so there will be a lot more content than there usually is in this section of the blog over this month and the next.

I’ve been on the Hot Key mailing list for a while now, so I often get emails from them inviting me to their blogger brunches or events but 99.9% of the time, I’m in Scotland when their events are happening and their events are always in London, so go figure, I can’t make it. However, this time, I happened to be home anyway for my University’s Reading Week and being a history student who particularly loves Women’s History, I was super excited to be able to get to attend this event.

I got the train in from Cambridge to London at around 9.45, getting into London just after 10.35. I had to admit, I’d never been to the Bonnier Zaffre (the company which Hot Key is an imprint of) headquarters before, but luckily my mum knew the address and had given me instructions on how to get there. It wasn’t too far, I just had to get the tube from Kings Cross to Oxford Circus and after a few false starts with my Google Maps, I managed to find the building.

We were given name badges, and lead upstairs to where the event was taking place. We were all a little bit early, so there was some time to mill around, which meant, *shock horror* mingling. I was a little bit nervous because I was there by myself and I’m not the best with strangers, but thankfully bloggers are lovely people and I happily chatted with a few of them, including Amy from A Bookish Life who was also there alone and really made me feel at ease about the whole thing (thank you Amy!). It was quite funny because no one wanted to be the first one to go for the food, so we were all standing there, hungry, but we didn’t want to be the first one to break the ice. Thankfully, eventually someone did and then we all descended on the pastries.

The food was awesome, I had a chocolate twist, a pain au raisin, lots of raspberries and strawberries and some delicious cookies! After milling around and chatting for a little while, the people from Bonnier Zaffre came in and announced that we were ready to start. We did have to sit on the floor, which I wasn’t totally thrilled about, but I get that it was a small room fitting in a lot of people (hence the lack of pictures of the authors, I just couldn’t see over the people in front of me to get a good picture!).

Then Lucy and Heather came in, Lucy introduced herself and Heather (she was acting as the moderator for the discussion), and then the talk started. It was a lot more informal than many author discussions I’ve been to, which I really liked, I don’t know if the two of them had met before this, I assume so, but they had a very easy and natural rapport and despite talking about a very heavy topic (the Holocaust), they made the discussion engaging and fun to listen to (without taking the subject lightly in any way). The two of them talked about how they came to learning about the Holocaust and how to get young people engaged in that part of history and Heather discussed bringing The Tattooist of Auschwitz to a younger audience and how important it was not to over-sanitise the horrors of the Holocaust.

They talked a lot about how they did research for their books, which was obviously super interesting to me, being a History student, I love to hear about how historical fiction writers do their research. Heather talked a lot about interviewing Lale and the responsibility she felt for telling his story and how much of her research actually didn’t end up in the book in the end because she found out so much that she obviously couldn’t include it all. She also talked about how she wanted to make sure there wasn’t much emphasis in the story on the more famous names (i.e. the Nazis who committed such dreadful atrocities) because they don’t need any more attention drawn to what they did, she wanted to make sure that the story was all about Lale and his experiences.

Heather originally intended The Tattoist of Auschwitz to be a screenplay, and it was quite interesting to hear how the story went from that to a book, she was working on it with a film company, but the project stalled and she couldn’t stop thinking about the story, she talked about Lale so much that her family eventually encouraged her to just, in her words, “write the bloody book”. I’ve never heard of an author transferring their story from screenplay to book before, so it was very cool to hear from Heather how that process worked.

She also spoke more about her upcoming book, Cilka’s Journey, following one of the characters from The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Cilka, also a real life person, and the difficulties she had in researching that book because Cilka died a long time ago, so unlike Tattooist, where she had Lale’s personal testimony, she had to rely on second hand accounts of Cilka. She discussed some of the reactions to The Tattooist of Auschwitz and it was awe inspiring to hear how many people had shared personal stories about how the book had affected them.

Both authors spoke about the importance of hope in Holocaust stories, and how that theme ran through their work, which I really loved as that’s what I always hang onto when reading books about this most harrowing part of human history, the incredible resilience and hope shown by people in the most unbearable of circumstances, so it was great to hear them speak about how they used that in their books.

After the discussion portion of the event had ended, the authors took questions from us, I was, as always, too nervous and awkward of speaking in front of people to ask anything, but both authors had really insightful responses to the questions.

Once they had answered questions, we got to hear a little bit from both authors’ books. Lucy read a chapter from her upcoming novel Summerland, which addresses the journey of one of the minor characters from The Red Ribbon after the war (she says she has always been interested in what happened to people after the war, as WWII stories tend to end when the war does) and with Brexit, refugees have been on her mind, so she really wanted to write a refugee story set after WWII. I have to admit, I haven’t read any of her books before, but hearing her read from Summerland made me really excited to read The Red Ribbon (plus I loved that each of the chapters from Summerland is named after a different 1940s recipe and that she’s going to make a recipe book of them!).

We then got to hear Heather read from the ending of The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Usually I would be annoyed for being spoiled for the end of the story before I’ve even read it, but since history can’t be spoilers, I wasn’t too bothered knowing the ending of Lale’s story! Plus, it was such a gorgeous passage that she read out to us, and was so heartwarming, that it really made me want to read the rest of the book, so mission successful.

Once the readings were over, we were allowed to go and collect books for signing. I had brought my own copy of The Tattooist of Auschwitz from home, but I needed a copy of The Red Ribbon (since Lucy made it sound AMAZING) and copies of both books for my friend Nicola who couldn’t make it to the event (since you know, she lives in Scotland!). The queues were quite long, so I only got to have a brief chat with both authors, but that’s okay with me since I’m awkward and can’t think of much to say anyway, I talked to Lucy about being a history student, the fact that I thought costume history was such a cool area to go into and that my friend (the aforementioned Nicola) is doing a WWII based dissertation. I’m pretty sure all I managed to say to Heather was that I’d never been to Poland, but always wanted to go. I don’t do well at coming up with stuff to say under pressure!

When I’d had my books signed, it was all over and it was time to go, so I picked up my coat from the hangers they had outside and then headed back to Oxford Circus to get the tube, and then the train home. All in all, a very successful day out for me, it was a super fun event and I hope that I’ll be able to go to another one, if the timing of the next event and me being back home happens to line up again.

Did anyone else go to the Women In History Bloggers Brunch? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments.

I will be back tomorrow with my e-ARC review of Enchantee by Gita Trelease (spoiler alert, I really loved this one guys!).

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Alex and Eliza (Alex and Eliza #1) Review

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Book: Alex and Eliza (Alex and Eliza #1)

Author: Melissa De La Cruz

Bechdel Test: Fail-All the conversations Eliza has with other women in this book revolves somehow around Hamilton.

This month on the blog is Hamilmonth, in honour of me going to see Hamilton for the first (and I’m sure not last) time in London with my friends next week (yes, I’m ridiculously excited about it and will not stop talking about it), so I decided to read the two Hamilton related books that I had on my bookshelf in the weeks leading up to going to see the show, and to kill two birds with one stone, this is also my #RockMyTBR book for February. I was really looking forward to this one, since obviously I love Hamilton the musical, but I found it a little disappointing. There were a LOT of historical liberties taken with the plot, it was rather slow and the main characters felt like cardboard cutouts, not fully dimensional flawed people. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Their romance shaped a nation. The rest was history.

1777. Albany, New York. 

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball. 

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

Obviously my biggest problem with this book was the historical inaccuracies. The entire plot with Livingston was completely plucked from nowhere, Eliza wasn’t engaged to anyone else before Hamilton as far as I’m aware and in fact Henry Livingston was already married by the point this action took place, if De La Cruz had wanted to introduce a romantic rival for Hamilton then she could have at least picked someone who in reality wasn’t married at the time. The stuff with Benedict Arnold did really happen (something I didn’t know about before reading this book) but there is no way that Hamilton would have deserted the army & even then he wasn’t actually given a command until 1781, the book has it a year earlier. Also the Schuylers actually approved of Hamilton, which was why Eliza was the only Schuyler sister who didn’t elope so the whole plot about him not being allowed to marry her because of his status was pure fantasy. Angelica had married John Church three years before, so she would have been married at the opening of the book, not halfway through, plus the author completely ignores the fact that the Schuylers owned slaves, despite the fact that Eliza professes her vehemence for the practice and desire for black and white people to be equal. Both Laurens and Lafayette were already married by this point, and De La Cruz portrays them both as bachelors who are interested in Eliza.  I can deal with a little creative license and I get that there isn’t much to draw from historically, since Eliza burned all Hamilton’s letters, but still, if you can’t get even the facts that we do know right, then you have no place writing a historical fiction novel. It did expand on some stuff that the musical left out, which I appreciated but that doesn’t take away from the many historical inaccuracies.

The chapters were relatively nice and short, and I liked the chapter titles, although I didn’t get the point of the little subheadings saying where each chapter took place, especially given that there weren’t all that many different settings in the book.

I did love the sibling relationship between the Schuyler sisters, their banter was great to see, although I felt like Angelica’s wit was dummed down somewhat to make Eliza seem like the smarter Schuyler sister, which wasn’t great, in fact I was kind of disappointed with how Angelica was portrayed. It was nice to see more of Peggy though, since she is barely seen in the musical.

I don’t really know much about Catherine Schuyler (the Schuyler matriarch) but she was made out to be really awful here. Still it was nice that Eliza’s older relatives were included in the story, since so often parents and other adult relatives are left out of YA books, I particularly liked her Aunt Gertrude, she was a hoot!

I will say that the story reads far younger than it is meant to, it’s meant to be for a YA audience, but the writing style and language choice suggests it was written for a younger audience.

There was also quite a lot of infodumping, I get that the author wanted to show she had done some historical research (though clearly not enough) but there were passages that were clearly there just to show what the author had found out about Hamilton and that kind of took me out of the story.

It was incredibly slow paced, not much happened for most of the book, I mean I get it’s a romance and that’s not what I usually read, but the whole book was basically just Alex and Eliza dancing around each other, and despite Eliza initially not liking Hamilton, she seemed to change her mind incredibly quickly. The dialogue was also a bit stilted and cheesy at times, in fact their entire romance came across as kind of cheesy to me.

Alex was a little more shy than I had expected, not at all like the over-confident Hamilton of LMM’s version of Hamilton, but I kind of liked that, I thought he was very sweet and endearing. I also didn’t know that Hamilton was ginger before reading this book! I did like Eliza but I felt De La Cruz was trying to portray her as the perfect woman and a lot of “not like other girls” stuff slipped through, which I didn’t love.

The attempted rape scene, in addition to being historically inaccurate, was entirely unnecessary to the plot and really should not have been included at all, considering that the whole thing was fabricated, De La Cruz could have found another way to get Eliza out of her engagement to Livingston.

The ending was far too rushed, Eliza and Alex are reunited, engaged and married all within 3 chapters and I couldn’t help but feel like if De La Cruz had lost some of the filler, then those parts could have been expanded on and it wouldn’t have felt like the book came to such an abrupt conclusion.

Overall, I did enjoy parts of Alex and Eliza but there were far too many historical inaccuracies and liberties taken for me to get fully invested in the story, and the pacing was incredibly lacklustre which meant it was hard to get into the plot. It’s not a bad book, but I feel like it would appeal more to a younger audience than the audience its aimed for due to the way the story is written and definitely for people who are less familiar with the actual history!

My Rating: 3/5

My next review will be of Enchantee by Gita Trelease, I’ll be publishing my e-ARC review of it on Sunday/Monday in time for release date on Thursday. My next read will be Hamilton and Peggy! A Revolutionary Friendship, my other read of Hamilmonth.

 

Jo Talks Books: How Blogging Has Changed My Reading Habits (5 year Blogaversary Post!!)

Hi everyone! As you can see from the title of this post, today is my 5 year blogaversary, I’ve always found it kind of ironic that the anniversary of me starting this blog falls around Valentine’s Day given what a romance cynic I am, but ah well! Anyway, before I get started on today’s post, I just want to thank all of you, however long you’ve been following or reading my blog for sticking with me over the past 5 years, there’s no way that I’d still be doing this without your support, so thank you so much. It’s hard to believe that when I started this blog, I hadn’t even done my A-Levels yet and now, 5 years later, I’m set to graduate University, I’ve had my work published in an actual newspaper and this blog has over a thousand followers, which is amazing.

Anyway, today being my blogaversary actually fitted quite well with something I was wanting to talk about anyway, how blogging has changed the way I read. My reading habits have changed a lot in the last five years and I could put that down to a lot of things, Uni has had a massive impact on how I read, general changes in my interests but I have to admit, I think blogging has probably had the biggest impact in how my reading has changed in the past five years.

For one thing, rereading. I used to love to go back and reread my old favourite from time to time, just to remind myself of why I loved them so much in the first place. Since I’ve started blogging though, I just don’t have time to reread as much as I’d like to, I buy a lot more books, so I have far more new stuff to read than I ever did before and when you’re only reading two or three books a month, you don’t really have time to reread.

I’m also far more aware of, and read far more new releases than I used to. Before I started blogging, I would only really be aware of when my favourite authors were releasing new books and other than that, I would mostly just go into Waterstones and see what I’d liked the sound of. Now I know what books are coming up, and what I’m excited for well in advance of their release dates, and I can either request an ARC or I can go into a bookshop and see if they have it. On the one hand this is good, because it takes away some of the uncertainty, but I do miss being able to just browse and come across something that really surprises me, it’s very rare that I don’t know about a new release especially a YA release coming out, so I can’t just go into Waterstones and be surprised by a random book anymore, which is a shame. It does however mean that I read a lot more debut authors than I used to, which has been great, I’ve discovered a lot more amazing authors through blogging because I’m more willing to try authors that I haven’t necessarily heard of before now.

Before I started blogging, I never read e-books at all, I’m ashamed to admit I was a little bit of a snob about them, I had a bit of physical book superiority syndrome. I will still say that I do prefer physical books to e-books, and I only really read e-books when I’m reading e-ARCs from Netgalley as I’m not a massive fan of reading on my computer, but since I’ve started blogging, I have come to appreciate e-books more than I did before and they do allow me to read more, as I read them faster than physical books, so that is definitely a benefit that I’ve enjoyed since I started blogging.

I was also very much a one book at a time kind of girl before I started blogging, and although I still don’t love having more than one physical book on the go at once, I have learned how to balance physical books and e-books so that I’m able to maximise my reading time and get a lot more done, which has definitely helped me in order to read more and therefore be able to blog more, something that I never would have thought about doing when I didn’t have a blog, because I didn’t feel the need to get through multiple books at once (nor did I have e-ARC deadlines to meet).

I’m a lot less willing to go into books blind now, before I would quite often go into a shop and pick up a book and if I liked the sound of it then I would try it, whereas now, I have to have heard something from other bloggers about the book before I’m even wiling to try it, which is good because I feel like I pick up less duds now than I did before, I’m more certain that I’ll like something before I pick it up. I get a lot more recommendations now than I used to, and am more likely to pick things up if they’ve been recommended to me by another blogger than if I’ve never heard of it.

I also keep track of my reading a lot more. I started my Goodreads account in my first year of blogging and since then I have religiously tracked my reading, which has been a really positive thing to come out of blogging, because I can keep track of the books I like and don’t like, the books I’m excited for, the arcs that I’m reading, Goodreads has been super helpful for me in keeping organised in my reading life and I never would have found it if it hadn’t been for blogging. I didn’t even have a TBR before I started blogging, at least not anything official and now because of blogging and Goodreads, my TBR has just exploded.

I’m far more aware of what works for me and what doesn’t because of blogging, and I think that has made me a more discerning book buyer. I can be pretty confident before even turning a single page now whether I am going to like or dislike a book, I don’t think this necessarily all comes from blogging, being a reader your entire life does this as well, but blogging has made more self aware about what works and what doesn’t for me in a book (and why) and this means that I no longer need to waste my time with books I know I won’t like, every book I pick up now, I am reasonably sure before I go into it that I’m going to like it. Blogging has also really helped me as a writer, because in writing reviews, I learn what works and what doesn’t work for me in books and take that into my own writing. I keep notes on every book I read now, and that allows me to sort out my feelings about a book a lot more cohesively than I was able to before I started blogging.

I’m a lot less patient with books now, I still have difficulties DNFing, because I like to have closure, but for the most part, if a book isn’t gripping me, or I’m struggling to get into it, I won’t push on through till the end, I’ll put it down because at the end of the day, I have a lot of books to get through and I don’t have the time to be wasting it on books that I’m not enjoying. I do worry if that means I might miss out books that I will enjoy because I’m not giving them enough of a chance.

I’m also a lot more aware of diversity in books which was something I wasn’t particularly aware of before I started blogging and I will be far more discerning of books that have little to no diversity in them than I would have been five years ago, because now I know how important representation is for marginalised groups and want to help support titles by diverse authors.

Before I started blogging, I had one friend who I spoke to about books all the time and if she hadn’t read them, then I just had to bottle up all my feelings about them until she had. Now, not only can I share my thoughts about books on the Internet, I have an entire community of people that I can talk to about books whenever I want, which is just incredible.

Blogging has definitely changed the way I read, in both good and bad ways, but after five years of doing this, I can’t imagine my life without it, I’ve gained a whole community of book loving friends, I’ve been to so many wonderful book events, I’ve read so many amazing books, it’s been a wonderful five years and I look forward to many more to come!

Has blogging changed the way you read? How? Let me know in the comments!

I have a giveaway going on over on Twitter for my blogaversary, you have the possibility of  winning one of my favourite books if you enter, so go and check it out.

I don’t know when my next Jo Talks post will be going up, it depends on how busy I am for the rest of the month, but I’ll be talking about Read-a-thons and why they don’t work for me, so look out for that. In the meantime, I’m almost done with my current read Alex and Eliza, so I should have a review of that up for you guys over the weekend.

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday #198

TTT-Big2

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve had a good week since I last did one of these, I had a lovely weekend, my mum came up to visit and we went to the cinema to see Green Book (great film) and out for dinner, which was very nice. I had a rather frustrating Monday though, as I’m having to chase people up for interviews for my project and not everything is going the way I want it to, which is more than a little bit irritating.

Anyway, enough about my project woes, it’s Tuesday so that means another Top Ten Tuesday courtesy of Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week, we’re talking my least favourite topic, Valentine’s Day. We’re supposed to be talking Favourite Couples but honestly, my list hasn’t changed much since the last time I did this topic, so I’ve decided to switch it up a little, and share my Top Ten Films To Watch on Valentine’s Day For Those Who Are Just Done With Love i.e. if you’re single and cynical like me. So here they are:

  1. The Last Five Years

This one is going in my own Valentine’s Day film rotation this year, it’s perfect for those of us who aren’t wanting to watch a happy couple film on Valentine’s Day, instead you can watch the deterioration of Jamie and Cathy’s relationship from beginning to end (and end to beginning)!

2. Ocean’s 8

What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day as a single woman than gathering your girls and watching this awesome heist movie? I can think of none.

3. A Monster Calls

If you prefer to take the sad, depressing way out of Valentine’s Day, then A Monster Calls is a perfect call, instead of having to watch happy, loved up couples, you can watch Conor face his mother’s terminal illness.

4. Gone Girl

After watching the twisted relationship that is Amy and Nick Dunne in Gone Girl, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars that you are single and not involved in a relationship like theirs!

5. The Book Thief

If you’re feeling a bit maudlin on Valentine’s Day, you can always pop in The Book Thief, and listen to Death narrate the tale of Liesel Meminger, a young bibliophile living in Nazi Germany and using the only weapon she has at her disposal, her love of books and stories.

6. (500) Days of Summer

(500) Days of Summer might look like a rom-com on the surface, but as the movie itself will tell you, this is no love story. It’s a tale of unrequited love and how our expectations and reality of love can be completely different things.

7. The Break-Up

The Break-Up is described as a romantic comedy, but it’s really not, much of the movie follows the main couple Brooke and Gary, after their breakup, as the two fight it out in a battle of wills as to who will keep the couple’s shared condo following the breakup. If you’re not wanting to follow a loved up couple on Valentine’s Day, then this film might be perfect for you.

8. War Horse

There’s not even a whiff of romance to be found in this film, at least not of the human kind, it’s all about the love of a boy for his horse and the harsh times they face during WWI. If you are looking for a movie to make you cry on Valentine’s Day, look no further, you’ve found it.

9. Mulan

There’s nothing like a good bit of Disney, and Mulan is one of the best-yes there is a whiff of romance between her and Shang but that’s not the main focus of the film and this is no princess gets saved by handsome prince narrative, Mulan is the one who does the saving here, and it’s her country, China, not a man.

10. Ruby Sparks

On the surface, Ruby Sparks might appear like your average rom-com, but it’s a dark, twisted look at what happens when an author falls in love with his own character, and writes her to life. What initially starts as a happy romance, quickly spirals into chaos, so if you’re not wanting a typical romantic comedy on Valentine’s, then this might be perfect for you.

So there we go, my suggestions on films you can watch, if like me, you are just done with Valentine’s Day and don’t want to indulge in all the love with everyone else. Have you watched any of these? Did you enjoy them? What films would you suggest for those who don’t want to share in the love this Valentine’s Day?

I will be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, this time we’re talking Books I Loved With Fewer Than 2000 Ratings on Goodreads, but to be honest, I think I’ve done that topic before and I doubt it’s changed much since last time, so I will probably do something different, though I’m not sure what yet. In the meantime, tomorrow is my fifth blogaversary, so look out for a very special Jo Talks post to celebrate!

 

Writing Corner: On How Writing For Different Platforms Helps With Fiction

Hi everyone! Yes. it is me, I am hoping to keep the guest posts from last month coming as a more regular thing on this feature, but as I couldn’t find anyone for February, you’re stuck with me again. I think today’s post should be pretty interesting though, I’m going to be talking about my experiences writing on different platforms and how I think these have helped me become a better fiction writer.

It’s no secret that I write A LOT. I’m a blogger, I write for student news website The National Student, my entire degree is writing based, and of course I have my novel, so honestly, there aren’t many points in a given day where I’m not writing something or other. And obviously practice makes perfect when it comes to writing, so any writing you do is good practice for writing a novel, but I think that particularly writing on different platforms and in different forums has been really important for me as a writer, for several different reasons.

Firstly, voice. Voice is something that a lot of writers can struggle with, finding the right voice for your character and making sure that comes through in your work is hard. However, I think that writing for different platforms has made it much easier for me to pick up that skill. For one thing, so much of Journalism is tailoring the voice of your piece to your audience. You’ll want your article to read a different way depending on the platform that your work will be accessed through, the “voice” is different for every paper, articles from The Guardian don’t read the same as the Daily Mail, or The Independent and that’s because as a journalist, you have to learn to write for your audience, and your audience is going to be different depending on where you write for, meaning that you have to get very good at tailoring your voice to the audience. This is obviously a massive help when it comes to writing fiction because the same rules apply, you’re going to want a different voice if you’re writing for a YA audience as compared to an adult audience, or an MG audience, or a younger child audience. Being able to change the voice you write in is also very useful if you write in multiple character POVs, so that the two do not sound exactly the same, and this is another place where my journalism skills have come in handy, when writing my novel, I imagine what I want the audience to see in my characters, and tailor their voice to that, just as I would do when writing an article for a specific audience.

Blogging, believe it or not, is also quite helpful for developing voice in stories, albeit in a different way. When I write my blog posts, I want it to feel as if I am talking to you, like we could just be sitting and having a conversation, and I’ve tried to carry this over to my fiction as well, as that was something that was really important to me when writing This Is Not A Love Story, I didn’t want it to feel like my audience would just be sitting there watching Tiffany and Cam go through the motions, I wanted it to feel like they could be sitting with the two of them and listening to them tell their own story. I don’t know how successful I’ve been with that, but that was the intention anyway!

Journalistic writing has been a massive help in making my writing more concise. I mean being concise isn’t as much of a requirement in fiction as it is in journalism, but personally, I hate authors that waffle on with unnecessary description that isn’t really needed, so when I write my book now, I keep the lessons that I’ve learned from Journalism in mind and make sure that every word I use has a point and I’m not waffling on for the sake of it!

Writing on different platforms also gives my brain a break when I’m getting bogged down in one of my stories. If I don’t feel like working on TINALS or Underground Magicians or the sequel to TINALS, then I can come here and write a blog post, or write something for The National Student, and I’m still flexing that writing muscle, but it gives me a chance to work on something else and let plot issues bubble over in the back of my brain whilst I’m doing so. It also adds some variety to my writing life that I’m not always constantly working on fiction and I think that in turn makes me a better writer because you need different skills to be a great journalist or a great blogger than you do to be an author, but there are lessons that you can learn from each which make you better at the others.

It does have it’s downsides, spending so much time writing, means that sometimes my hobby feels like a chore, and I do have to remind myself that it is something that I find fun and I’m not just doing it to get a degree or for my future career, I’m doing it because I love it. I think it’s very important to have hobbies outside of writing as well, especially when you spend as much time writing as I do, because you don’t want to feel completely burned out by it.

So yeah, basically, I would really recommend writing for different audiences and different platforms if you are a fiction writer, it gives you more flexibility, you can learn transferable skills from writing for different purposes, it allows you to have some variety in your writing and plus, it can just be fun sometimes to try your hand at writing different things!

If you are a writer, have you ever tried writing something outside of your normal remit? Anyone else do Journalism like me? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll have my Top Ten Tuesday post up for you guys tomorrow, and also Wednesday is my fifth blogaversary, so I’m going to have a very special Jo Talks post up to celebrate that milestone, so stay tuned for those in the next few days!

#RockMyTBR January Update (2019)

Hi everyone! I hope everyone’s January wasn’t too taxing, I know that January feels like the month that goes on for ever (I swear how is it only just February, it felt like January was a whole year on it’s own) but it’s over now and hopefully we all had good ones! For those of you who are new to my blog, the #RockMyTBR challenge is a challenge set up by Sarah K at The YA Book Traveller in 2016, that I’ve kind of co-opted for myself over the last few years. She challenged us to take a list of backlist books that we wanted to read and knock them off over the course of the year, with the aim of knocking books off our TBRs (and immediately replacing them with more, but let’s not talk about that). My aim is to read one book from the list of 12 for each month of the year, so that by December, I will have read them all. January was pretty decent, I read 3 books book this month and here they are:

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo:

My first #RockMyTBR book of the year, and first book of 2019 overall in fact! I started it on 1st January and finished it on the 13th, so it took just under two weeks to read. I really enjoyed this one, it still suffered from some pacing issues, but I loved all the new characters, especially Nikolai! Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/19/siege-and-storm-shadow-and-bone-2-review/

41577908Enchantee by Gita Trelease:

This was one of my most anticipated debuts for 2019 and it blew all of my expectations out the water! It was delightfully magical, surprisingly dark and just all kinds of amazing, I was completely swept up in the story and I loved the sister relationship that was at the centre of it all. This was my first five star read of the year and is going to be so tough to beat. I read it from 30th December-17th January. No review yet, as it doesn’t pub in the UK until the week after next.

22535408Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo:

I wanted to finish the Grisha trilogy before King of Scars came out and I’m glad I did because I feel like I will understand what is going on much better now, but I found this last book a chore to get through, despite it only being 350 pages. The pace lagged for most of the book and the conclusion was just kind of lacklustre. I read this one from 14th-30th January. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/04/ruin-rising-review/

So that’s what I read in January, here’s what I’ve got coming up this month:

Alex and Eliza-Melissa De La Cruz

My #RockMyTBR book for February. I’m about halfway through it now, and I like it, but I’m not IN LOVE with it, there are some pretty basic historical inaccuracies that kind of annoy me given that I’m a History student and the plot is kind of light but it’s enjoyable enough.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely-Brigid Kemmerer

My Netgalley read for February, I started it last month but I kind of struggled to get into it, it’s picking up more now though. I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite Beauty and The Beast retelling ever, but it’s certainly a different take on it, which I appreciate.

Hamilton and Peggy!: A Revolutionary Friendship-L.M. Elliott

My other book for February, the Hamilmonth as I’m going to see Hamilton in 15 days-yes that’s right, 15 days! I’m really excited for this one, Peggy doesn’t feature a lot in the musical so I’m interested to see what the author’s take on her and Hamilton’s friendship is.

Descendant of The Crane-Joan He

If I get A Curse So Dark and Lonely done before the end of the month, then this will be my other Netgalley read, though it’s highly likely it will probably carry over into March. I’m really excited for this one, I know the author is Chinese-American and that the book heavily draws from her culture and I’m really excited about that as it’s something different from any other fantasy I’ve read before.

I think 2019 is off to a good start, 3 books down out of my 35 book challenge is pretty good. How did everyone else’s January reading go? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday #197

TTT-Big2

Hi all! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, I had to go over to Edinburgh for an interview for my project on Friday, and that was really great, I got to talk to a student group who are doing really amazing work at bringing awareness to period poverty and it was so much fun getting to talk to people who are so passionate about the same things I am! I’m meeting my supervisor tomorrow, and I’m feeling really happy about the progress I’ve made, so I’m hoping that goes well.

Anyway, since it’s Tuesday, I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week we’re meant to be talking Upcoming Books We’re Unsure About, but I’m pretty happy with the upcoming releases I have on my TBR, so I had a slightly different take. Basically, since I’m graduating this year, I kind of need to do a big book unhaul, as I won’t be able to bring all of my books home with me, and whilst I do have a space to store them, it seems like a good opportunity to weed out parts of my collection that I’m not necessarily excited about anymore. So here we go, the Books I’m Considering Unhauling Before Graduation:

  1. The Hate U Give-Angie Thomas

Okay, okay, please, please don’t hate me! I know everyone loves this book, and I might give it a second chance, but when I last tried to pick it up in September of last year, I just couldn’t really get into it at all and since then I haven’t really felt the need to get back to it, so I’m not sure if I should just cut my losses and let it go.

2. Even The Darkest Stars-Heather Fawcett

I got this in my first ever FairyLoot box and I did think that the whole expedition aspect sounded fun, but since I got it, I just haven’t felt the excitement or need to pick it up and I honestly forgot I had it, so I’m not really sure if it’s worth keeping.

3. The Big Lie-Julie Mayhew

Again, I thought this one sounded great when I first got it, a contemporary Nazi England sounded like a different take on a story that has been done quite a lot of times, but I haven’t even really thought about it since I bought it, so I don’t know whether to give it a chance or not.

4. The Diabolic-S.J. Kincaid

I picked this one up at YALC last year, and it did sound interesting, but I’m not a massive Sci-Fi fan, so I haven’t really felt the urge to pick it up since, and I’m not sure whether it’s worth keeping or not.

5. Wonder Woman: Warbringer-Leigh Bardugo

Okay this one I am actually really torn on. I love Leigh Bardugo, and it’s signed, so in that respect I want to keep it because I’m loathe to give up a signed book by an author I actually really love. At the same time, I tried to get into it and found it really slow and I’ve heard that that doesn’t really change, so I’m not sure whether it’s worth keeping or not.

6. Show Stopper-Hayley Barker

On the one hand, I love circus books and this one does sound fun, but I’ve read some not so great reviews of this book that have kind of put me off, so I’ve kept putting it to the bottom of my TBR pile and now I’m wondering if it’s really worth the read or not.

7. Court of Fives-Kate Elliott

I bought this one a few years ago and at first I was really excited, I liked the idea of the gladitorial type competition but again, since buying it, I’ve kind of forgotten about it and now I’m not sure if I still really want to read it.

8. All The Crooked Saints-Maggie Stiefvater

I tried to pick this up last year and I couldn’t really get into it at all. I love Maggie Stiefvater’s work, but I’m just not sure if this particular book is for me. Still I don’t know if I should give it a second chance, as I wasn’t all that far into it when I put it down.

9. Front Lines-Michael Grant

On the one hand this book sounds amazing, female soldiers in WWII, yes please! But I’ve heard some not so great stuff about the author and his actions and that’s kind of been putting me off reading his books, even though they do sound great.

10. Northern Lights-Phillip Pullman

I picked up this book more because I felt it was something I had to read than something I really wanted to and I just honestly really haven’t felt the urge to pick it up since I bought although maybe since the TV series is coming up soon, I might read it this year, I don’t know.

11. Chasing The Stars-Malorie Blackman

Like Wonder Woman, I am kind of loathe to give this one up, because it is signed, and I do love Malorie Blackman’s work but at the same time, it’s a space/sci-fi book and those aren’t really my thing, so I haven’t really felt the urge to pick it up since I bought it and I don’t know if that’s a sign I should give it up or just leave it a while longer.

12. The Novice-Taran Marathu

I thought this sounded cool when I got it, you know demons and all that, but I’ve felt my interest waning over the years, so I’m not sure if I should just cut my losses and get rid of it, or if I should just wait and see if I decide to read it.

13. Messenger of Fear-Michael Grant

I have much the same issue with this one as with Front Lines, the concept sounds amazing, but since I’ve heard not so great stuff about the author, I’m not really sure if I want to support him anymore.

14. The Bone Queen-Alison Croggon

I picked this one up without realising it was a prequel that I would need the rest of the series to understand! Also to be honest, super high fantasy a la Tolkein is not really my kind of thing, so my interest in this is kind of waning really.

15. The Catalyst-Helena Coggan

To be honest, I don’t even remember why I picked this one up. I think I was intrigued because the author was so young, but having looked at it more, I’m not entirely sure if it’s my thing, the blurb is kind of vague and waffly, but I’ve picked up from reviews that it’s about angels and that’s not really my thing, so yeah, consider me unsure about this one now.

16. The Shadow Queen-C.J. Redwine

I’m in two minds about this one. I love fairytale retellings and I like the idea of a Snow White retelling, but I’ve had this one for like three years and still haven’t read it, so I don’t know if it’s worth allowing it to keep taking up space when it’s been so long and I haven’t read it.

17. Fire and Flood-Victoria Scott

I bought this one at YALC a few years ago, but since buying it I’ve kind of lost interest, and I haven’t really heard much about it, so I’m unsure as to whether I really want to read it or not, especially since it doesn’t sound like a particularly unique dystopia.

18. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer-Michelle Hodkin

The concept of this book is interesting to me, but again, since picking it up, I haven’t really felt a massive pull to read it, added to which I’m not really sure what it’s about, so I can’t decide if I want to read it or not.

19. Wither-Lauren DeStefano

Again the concept for this one did sound interesting when I first picked it up, but I’ve just sort of lost interest over the years, and since it’s been one of the books I’ve had in storage for a while, I kind of forgot I had it! It still does sound cool, and I’m not entirely certain if I want to get rid of it, but I’m not certain if I’m going to read it either and it might be better if I get rid of it and get some more books that I’m more excited for.

So there we go, those are the books I’m considering unhauling-now I need your help! Which of these are actually worth it (and please don’t tell me all of them, I do have to get rid of some!)? Which could I afford to get rid of? Let me know in the comments!

I will be back next week with a new TTT, our annual Valentine’s Day themed one, but since I doubt my favourite couples list has changed much since the last time I did it, so instead I’m going to be sharing Movies To Watch If You’re Not That Into Valentine’s Day, since I’m a Valentine’s scrooge and the last thing I feel like doing is sharing the love! In the meantime, I should have my first #RockMyTBR update of the year up either tomorrow or Thursday, depending on how much time I have!