Top Ten Tuesday #137

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Hi everyone! Can you believe it’s less than two weeks to Christmas now? I certainly can’t! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, I had my last two Uni Christmas dinners and spent the weekend binge-watching Season 2 of The Crown (so, so good!) so all in all it wasn’t a bad way to end the week. The rest of this week will be spent relaxing before my friends come up to join me for our annual Christmas meet up on Saturday.

Anyway, as it’s Tuesday, it’s time for another Top Ten Tuesday, thanks to the lovely ladies over at The Broke and The Bookish. This week we’re talking Best Books of 2017, as there is only a few weeks till it’s over. For some, it might be a bit early to this list, but as I will probably only read two or three more books before 2017 is over, it’s the perfect time for me! So here we go, my Top Ten (and I am going to try to stick to ten!) Books of 2017:

  1. A Conjuring of Light-VE Schwab-5 stars

I had to start with this one, the book that set an impossibly high standard for all of my other reads of the year because it was just that brilliant. It was hard to say goodbye to Lila, Kell and Rhy (at least for the time being, Schwab has announced a spin off series to Shades of Magic which she has heavily hinted the three will be making an appearance in) but this was the perfect conclusion to their story.

2. The Song Rising-Samantha Shannon-5 stars

My only other 5 star read of the year, this was an action packed, tightly paced book full of amazing character development, the shorter book definitely worked a lot better for this story and am now anxious to see where Paige ends up in the next book. Whilst I may have started off having lukewarm feelings about this series, I can definitely now call it a favourite.

3. Six of Crows-Leigh Bardugo-4 stars

Yup, I’m jumping on the Six of Crows bandwagon, at last! The cast of characters that Bardugo created was wildly entertaining, and once you got into the action, it happened a breakneck speed and I could barely put the book down for even a second. I have four Bardugo books on my #RockMyTBR Challenge for 2018, so I think it’s safe to say that I am firmly on the bandwagon.

4. A Court of Mist and Fury-4 stars

I was so wary of the hype on this one, but it definitely lived up to it, it was so much better than the first book of the series, we got new characters, new settings, new villains and Feyre’s character development was brilliant. I still have yet to read the third book of the series yet, but I’m actually excited to now!

5. Caraval-4 stars

I loved the magical world building, the beautiful writing and the engaging characters in Stephanie Garber’s debut novel. I would love to get to be a spectator of Caraval, because it sounds like it would be incredible to watch.

6. Scythe-3.5 stars

Whilst I didn’t love this offering of Neal Shusterman’s as much as I adored Unwind, I still enjoyed the interesting world that he created and thought that the concept of this book was absolutely amazing, so it still makes my favourites list for this year.

7. The Girl From Everywhere-3.5 stars

I read this book after a couple of underwhelming ones and it was really nice to read something that I genuinely enjoyed again. I loved the setting for this one, I’ve never read anything set in Hawaii before, and it sounded beautiful. Plus a time travelling pirate ship? Pretty darn awesome. I thought the whole thing was very creative and beautifully written, the only shame was that I didn’t connect to the main character more.

8. The Crown’s Game-3.5 stars

This book had an amazing setting, a really cool magical system, great characters, pretty writing and most importantly of all lots of food! I would have loved it even more if it had been paced just a little bit better, but overall it was really enjoyable (and there was a masquerade, so that would have saved the book even if I’d hated the rest of it)!

9. Under Rose Tainted Skies-3.5 stars

I’ve discovered over the years that when it comes to YA contemporaries, mental health focused ones are my favourites, perhaps because they are usually harder hitting than ones focusing on romance. This one is definitely one of my favourites that I’ve read, the fact that the author is #ownvoices for the conditions she writes about definitely comes through because Norah’s voice just feels so authentic.

10. Daughter of The Pirate King-3 stars

In terms of fun factor, this one would have got five stars, it was only my analytical reviewer brain that stopped me from giving it that, it was definitely the most fun that I had whilst reading this year, so for that alone it makes it on to my best of the year list. I loved Alosa and that was really what made the book for me, she was just such an amazing MC. I’m hoping in the next book there might be a little more pirating though!

So there we go, my favourite books of 2017! This list was a bit of a weird one for me, because obviously as you can see, most of what I’ve read this year has been 3.5 stars (in fact there’s only a few books on my GR Challenge this year that got either more or less than that) but I feel like people see 3 (even if it’s followed by .5) and think I didn’t enjoy a book and that’s just not true, I still really enjoyed a book that got 3.5 stars, it just didn’t quite make it to what I consider to be 4. What were your favourite books of 2017? Did any of mine make your list? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings, which I will still be doing even though I know it’s unlikely Santa will bring any books this year as Santa has spent the year complaining about how many books I have! Still I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a gift card to Waterstones, or just so money that I can spend on books.

I’ve been tagged in a Christmas book tag, so I will probably have that up very soon, I also have plans for a discussion post and am planning some stuff for my Writing Corner, so hopefully I should be able to end this blogging year with a bang!

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#RockMyTBR 2018 Challenge

Hi everyone! I know this seems incredibly early, but I am nearly done with my 2017 #RockMyTBR (one book to go!), so I thought I’d draw up my 2018 list. For those of you who don’t know, #RockMyTBR is a reading challenge created by Sarah K over at YA Book Traveler where she challenges you to draw up a list of books to knock off your TBR on a given year. Now I’m not sure if Sarah is actually officially running the challenge again for 2018, but I’ve had so much fun doing it over the past two years that I decided to unofficially do it again this year. The idea is that you use books that you already own and that have been on your TBR for a while. If you want to join me in unofficially doing this challenge, then you can find Sarah’s post about it here:

http://theyabooktraveler.com/index.php/2016/12/07/rockmytbr2017/

I’ve stuck with my tradition of having 12 books (though I’ve knocked one from this year’s challenge off before the year is over as I just couldn’t get through it, so I’ll be counting the challenge complete at 11 books), it’s nice and low pressure and allows me to read other stuff as well. As with last year, because it worked so well, I decided to let Twitter decided on my list. They did a pretty good job with last year’s list, so I’m hoping they will have done just as well for this year’s:

  1. Rose Under Fire-Elizabeth Wein-This was the decided winner of it’s poll, which I was quite surprised by as I had it up against Wintersong, which is a 2017 release, but I’m very glad it did as Code Name Verity is one of my favourite books (which I actually read for my first #RockMyTBR Challenge, so it’s actually kind of fitting) and this is one of only two of Wein’s books I haven’t read yet.
  2. Moxie-Jennifer Mathieu-It was an incredibly close run between this and Uprooted, and it ended up winning out by only 6% (so like one vote), but this was declared the winner. I’m so excited to read this one as I’ve heard such great things and as a feminist, I definitely want to read more books like this!
  3. Crooked Kingdom-Leigh Bardugo-This is the year of Bardugo, as every poll I had a book of hers in, it won by a considerable amount, clearly Book Twitter is telling me something. I loved Six of Crows when I read it this year, so I’m excited to read the sequel.
  4. All The Crooked Saints-Maggie Steifvater-I’ve heard vary mixed things about this book, so I’m excited and wary to try it. Maggie Stiefvater is one of my favourite authors, but I’m very aware of the problems that have been brought up by #ownvoices reviewers about the Latinx rep in this one.
  5. Language of Thorns-Leigh Bardugo-The second Leigh Bardugo entry on this list! I’m really excited for this one, simply because the cover of this book is just so beautiful. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before (basically a collection of fairytales), so I’ll be interested to see what I think of it.
  6. Night of Cake and Puppets-Laini Taylor-This one was really interesting because I put it in the same poll as ACOWAR and I was honestly expecting ACOWAR to win, but it was beaten by this by quite a way. Tips from those who’ve read the full Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy, do I read this, or Days of Blood and Starlight first?
  7. Shadow and Bone-Leigh Bardugo-This was winning almost unanimously, until I think a couple of days ago? It ended up at 75% but that was still a lot more than anything else in any of the other polls! I think this is probably going to be my starter read of 2017.
  8. The Exact Opposite of Okay-Laura Steven-I’m cheating a little here, because this is a 2018 ARC, but I’ve had it on my shelf since July when I got it at YALC, it’s been sitting there for five months where I could have read it and haven’t, so I’m still counting it.
  9. Wonder Woman: Warbringer-Leigh Bardugo-The last Bardugo entry on this list, I’m glad I’ve waited to read this one, because now I’ve seen the movie and know how awesome Wonder Woman is, I’m even more excited to read it.
  10. Days of Blood and Starlight-Laini Taylor-Laini Taylor’s second appearance on this list. I’m not gonna lie, slightly terrified by the size of this book, but I’m also really excited to see where Karou’s story goes next.
  11. Vicious-VE Schwab-I’m finally doing it guys! Vicious will be read by me next year. I’m hoping to read it in the first half of the year, so that if I like it, I can get Vengeful straight away.
  12. Radio Silence-Alice Oseman-I’ve heard so much great stuff about this one, so I hope it lives up to expectations!

So that’s my list for 2018! Let me know in the comments what you think I should prioritise and why!

Thanks to the lovely people of Book Twitter who helped pick out my list for next year and I hope you enjoy hearing my thoughts on all the books you’ve chosen for me throughout 2018. I have a feeling this may be my best year yet and I’m excited to dive in when 2018 starts in a few weeks time (where did 2017 go people? Seriously, where?).

Top Ten Tuesday #136

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Hi all! I hope you’ve all had a great week, I have been well and truly getting in the Christmas spirit, I was out at the Christmas market in Edinburgh with my friends today and we exchanged Christmas presents, I have two Christmas dinners coming up in the next two days, so I am feeling very full of cheer right now. Since finishing Uni for the semester, I have been able to kick back, relax and read to my hearts content so I’m feeling pretty awesome right now!

Anyway, as it’s Tuesday, it’s time for another Top Ten Tuesday, thanks to the lovely ladies over at The Broke and The Bookish. This week we’re talking all about Bookish Settings We’d Like To Visit, which is something I’m really excited about, as I often dream of visiting some of my favourite places from books, so it’s great to get to have an opportunity to talk about it! So here we go, the Bookish Settings I Would Totally Visit (were they real!):

  1. Hogwarts-Harry Potter Series-JK Rowling

Do I really have to explain this one? Seriously what’s up Hogwarts, where’s my letter? It’s been 21 years already, you must have really, really slow owls!

2. Red London-Shades of Magic Trilogy-VE Schwab

I’ll be honest, I’d go to any of Schwab’s Londons quite happily and I’d love to be an Antari and get to explore them all, but of the four, Red London sounds like the most fun and it has magic so…..yeah, I’d like to go there.

3. Camp Half-Blood-PJO Universe-Rick Riordan

I just want to have a summer at Camp Half-Blood? Please? Hanging out with all the demigods, getting do all the fun camp activities. I mean I might take a pass on the near certain death quests, but I would love to hang out at the Camp with Percy and the gang. The food sounds amazing!

4. The Faraway Tree-The Faraway Tree Stories-Enid Blyton

This is a childhood one, but I loved The Faraway Tree when I was little and the idea of being able to climb a tree into a land that changes every week, still thrills me a little. I would have to ensure it was a good land like the Land of Goodies rather than a bad land like the Land of Slaps before visiting though!

5. Le Cirque De Reves-The Night Circus-Erin Morgenstern

I may not have loved this book as much as everyone else seems to, but I would still love to visit the Circus, it sounds completely magical!

6. Narnia-Chronicles of Narnia-CS Lewis

Granted, I never made it past The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, but I would love to fall through the wardrobe into Narnia, especially after Christmas was returned!

7. Imperial Russia-The Crown’s Game Duology-Evelyn Skye

Sure, life wasn’t all great in Imperial Russia, but the picture Skye paints of it in her duology is so beautiful that I would love to get to visit it, just once.

8. Velaris-ACOMAF-Sarah J Maas

The descriptions of Velaris in ACOMAF sound so gorgeous, I would love to get to stroll the streets, experience Starfall and get to eat some of the delicious sounding food that Feyre eats in ACOMAF.

9. Higher Institute For Villainous Education-HIVE series-Mark Walden

Would I like to train in a super secret school for villains inside the crater of a volcano? Duh of course I would!

10. Caraval-Caraval-Stephanie Garber

I wouldn’t like to take part in the game, but Garber’s descriptions of it make it sound so amazing that I’d love to get to go and spectate, just soak up the atmosphere of the magical game.

So there we go, the bookish settings that I would love to visit! Do we share any? What bookish places would you like to visit? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is Top Ten Favourite Books of 2017 which should be a really fun one to do, it will be nice to share the love for the amazing books that I’ve read this year! I’m not sure if I’ll have anything else up this week, but I’m hoping to contact some people for my writing feature, Writing Corner, very soon, so hopefully I will have something for you guys in that area soon!

#RockMyTBR November Update (2017)

Hey everyone! It’s the last month of 2017, like when did that happen? Also it’s 21 days till Christmas, I have presents bought and wrapped and everything already, I am feeling damn prepared and incredibly Christmassy! I’ll be off to the Edinburgh Christmas Market with my friends tomorrow, so the Christmas spirit is being well and truly embraced. If you are new to the blog, then welcome, this is the feature where I talk about my neverending attempts to attack my TBR and being constantly beaten by it (it’s a challenge run by Sarah K over at The Book Traveller in all seriousness and you should check it out). November was insanely busy with deadlines, so I only read two books, but I am still on track for my Goodreads challenge, so not feeling too bad about that. Here’s what I read in November:

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House of Ash by Hope Cook:

This was my Netgalley read for this month, I read it from 9th August-4th November (on and off, it didn’t actually take me three months to finish it, I didn’t read any of it in September and only picked it up again in October). This was a decent take on a haunted house story, but it’s not my favourite book I’ve got from Netgalley this year. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/11/18/house-of-ash-review-e-arc/

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The Ship of The Dead by Rick Riordan:

This was my other read at the month, I meant to have a #RockMyTBR book as my other book this month, but I wasn’t into the book I had planned for November and I really needed a quick fun read because I was buried under with assignments, so a Rick Riordan book was perfect for that. This was actually my least favourite book of the series, it was still really fun, but I felt like the pacing was off and the ending was somewhat anticlimactic. Still there was some really great character and relationship development along with the always on point humour, so it wasn’t all bad. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/12/04/the-ship-of-the-dead-magnus-chase-and-the-gods-of-asgard-3/

That’s what I read in November, this is what I’m planning on reading this month:

Scarlet-Marissa Meyer-My December #RockMyTBR book. I wasn’t so keen on the first book in this series, but I’ve heard they get better, so I’m hoping I enjoy this one more.

The Crown’s Fate-Evelyn Skye-My current read, I really enjoyed the first book earlier in the year and this one has been decent so far, though I’m still waiting for it to really pick up.

Chainbreaker-Tara Sim-I LOVED the first book last year, so I was so happy to get this one from Edelweiss. I started it a few days ago and it’s been pretty enjoyable so far.

Beasts Made of Night-Tochi Onyebuchi-My Netgalley read for the month, I just started this one and I’m struggling with it at the moment, I’ll be honest.

I’m also hoping to start Tower of Dawn and read another book for #RockMyTBR as I couldn’t finish Afterworlds, though that may be a little optimistic!

I’m on track with my Goodreads Challenge, with only 3 books left to read to meet my challenge, so that’s pretty good I think! I will definitely beat my Goodreads challenge from last year, so I am really happy with that. How are your reading goals going this year? What are you wanting to get done before the year is out? Let me know in the comments!

The Ship of The Dead (Magnus Chase and The Gods of Asgard #3)

34879201Book: The Ship of The Dead (Magnus Chase and The Gods of Asgard #3)

Author: Rick Riordan

I was super excited about the final book in the Magnus Chase trilogy, as I have loved reading this series over the past year and this November was the perfect time to read it, because I had an awful lot of assignments to do and I needed something light, short and fun in order to get me through the month. Whilst I did enjoy the book, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting for a series finale? It felt kind of anticlimactic for the conclusion of a trilogy, I was hoping for a little bit more I guess. It was still an incredibly fun and enjoyable ride, but I wasn’t as thrilled by it as I was hoping to be, though I don’t know if it was the book or because I was weighed down by assignments at the time I was reading it. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Loki the trickster god is free from his chains. Now he’s readying Naglfar, the Ship of the Dead, armed with a host of giants and zombies, to sail against the Norse gods and begin the final battle of Ragnarok. It’s up to Magnus Chase and his friends to stop Loki’s plans, but to do so they will have to sail across the oceans of Midgard, Jotunheim and Niflheim in a desperate race to reach Naglfar before it’s ready to sail on Midsummer’s Day.

Along the way, they will face angry sea gods, hostile giants, and an evil fire-breathing dragon who happens to be a former acquaintance. But Magnus’s biggest challenge will be facing his own inner demons. To defeat Loki, Magnus will need to use words, not force. This will require finding a magical elixir so deadly that it will either make Magnus Chase powerful enough to out-talk the silver-tongued Loki, or destroy Magnus utterly.

First off, I have to start with the elephant in the room: Percy. As everyone who has read the second book knows, it is hinted that Percy makes an appearance in this one. And he does, however, the blurb makes it seem as if Percy will be involved in Magnus’s adventures. He isn’t, he appears briefly at the start of the book where he helps Magnus out training in water, we find out that he and Annabeth are going to college in New Rome and that his mum has had her baby (Estelle) and then they leave again, only to be mentioned once more at the end of the book. This is fine, it is Magnus’ story and not Percy’s after all, but I just wanted to mention it because the blurb is rather misleading on this point. We do get a rather hilarious sequence where Magnus’s sword Jack tries to chat up Percy’s sword Riptide (who is apparently a girl) out of Percy’s appearance and some very cute Percabeth moments though, so it’s not totally wasted.

There were several typos that I noticed in this book, I wonder if Rick Riordan had less time to edit this one or something, because I don’t usually notice any typos in his books and there were several glaring ones here.

The chapter lengths were nice, relatively even about 10 pages per chapter, some a little longer, some shorter, but I still felt like the pacing was off? I don’t know what it was about this book, lots was happening but it seemed to move at a very slow pace compared to the other two. This might just have been me and my assignment addled brain though!

I enjoyed that Magnus’ Floor 19 flatmates had a bigger role in this one, we got to find out so much more about Mallory, Halfborn and TJ and that was nice as they’ve played mainly supporting roles up to this point, so it was nice that they all got the chance to shine and play a part a bit more in this book, their backstories and personalities feel a lot more fleshed out after this book which was nice.

Alex is still probably my favourite of the characters from this series, she/he (if you haven’t read the second book, Alex is genderfluid and his/her pronouns change frequently throughout the book, Alex never goes by they though, hence me not using it in this review), Alex is fierce, smart, sassy and so confident in who she/he is, I’m actually genuinely in awe of him/her. The rest of the cast of characters is equally cool though, I feel like in this book especially, Magnus really came into his own, he no longer feels like a carbon copy of Percy, he has his own personality and style and that is very evident through this book. Sam is also wonderful, her character arc through this book of finally being able to stand up to Loki was great. Basically everyone on Magnus’s team brings something different and it was great to get to see them all interact in this book.

I still loved the humour, the chapter titles in this book were just brilliant and it will always baffle my mind how Rick Riordan manages to make fight scenes both intense and humourous (case in point, this book features a fight scene between ceramic pottery warriors). The pop culture references again bothered me though, I get that Riordan includes them in order to connect with the kids reading, but they felt a little old even for me and I’m a lot older than the target audience of this book!

Magnus’ narration reached a new level of sarcastic in this book which I really appreciated because ya know, the more sass the better.

The diverse representation in this series is just so amazing. Sam’s Muslim faith is handled very respectfully and I have never before seen a book feature Ramadan before, so it was very interesting to see her faith integrated into the storyline for the book, as obviously quests are very draining, and fasting can present an additional obstacle to that. I obviously can’t attest to how accurate the rep was, not being Muslim myself, but there was nothing that I could see that was glaringly problematic (if you are a Muslim, feel free to correct me). Hearth is deaf and uses ASL to communicate. Alex is obviously gender fluid, & TJ & Blitz are black. Riordan has got so much better at including diversity in his books since the initial Percy Jackson books and it always makes me very happy to see such a wide array of different characters portrayed in a middle grade book.

There is a small amount of romance in this book, not very much, but I was very happy to see the Magnus/Alex relationship finally come to fruition in this book! I mean it was hinted at very heavily in the last book that Magnus had a crush on Alex and it was nice to see that finally come to fruition. I also loved that Riordan included a scene of them at the end where it shows Magnus kissing Alex whilst Alex is identifying as a guy, Magnus says and I quote:

Alex is male right now. I have just been kissed by a dude. How do I feel about that?

I have just been kissed by Alex Fierro. I am absolutely great with that

This entire part just made me squeal, I was slightly worried that Rick Riordan would go down the path of having Magnus only be interested in Alex when Alex was identifying as a girl, so it was great to have this scene confirming that Magnus is interested in Alex no matter what gender Alex is identifying as, it also pretty much confirms that Magnus is pansexual, which yay awesome!

I wish that Blitz and Hearth had been confirmed canonically gay though, that was a bit of a disappointment to me as I felt like Rick Riordan had been hinting at it for the past two books and it would have been nice to have the same on page confirmation for them as we had for Magnus’ pansexuality. It just seemed like such heavy hinting for something that never actually came to fruition. I hope that if he does another Magnus Chase series in the future, then this is actually confirmed.

The UK finally appeared in a Rick Riordan book! This probably got me happier than it should have, and they’re only there for like two chapters, but I can finally say that a Rick Riordan adventure took place (if only for a little bit) in my home country and that is very cool! There was also a little bit that took place in Norway, a country I’ve never actually seen in a book I’ve read before, so that was pretty awesome.

There was a dragon! (That is totally not the most important part of that section, Hearth gets closure with his dad and it’s sad and kind of beautiful, but you know, I’m dragon obsessed so of course that was the bit I got excited about).

I feel like I must be the last person on the planet not to know that a group of crows is called a murder? I told my friends this and they were like “Duh you didn’t know that?” so clearly I have been out of the loop on that one. Still I think it’s pretty awesome!

I thought the final fight with Loki was a little bit too easy? Like yeah, it’s beautiful that Magnus said all that wonderful stuff about his friends and it was a very moving sequence, but I was expect the final showdown to be slightly more dramatic! It is kind of fitting with his character though, he’s not a fighter, he’s a healer and a team player, so it did make sense that that was how he defeated Loki, it was just different to what I was expecting!

Chocolate tug of war sounds absolutely amazing (tug of war over a chocolate lake) and I really want to try it!

I felt like the ending was a little anticlimactic? And that it was more there to set up the next Trials of Apollo book than close this one, which I didn’t like, Magnus and co. deserve their own proper ending. It just felt like everything wound down a bit too quickly and the last four chapters or so were just filler.

Overall, I did enjoy this book, but it wasn’t quite as action packed as I was expecting. It was great to see the development of the other characters from Floor 19 and see Magnus and Alex finally come to fruition but I was a little disappointed with the resolution of the Loki storyline. Still, it was exactly what I needed at the time, a light, fun filled story, so for that I am grateful and I hope that Riordan returns to these characters at some point, because after three books, it’s safe to say I’ve fallen in love with them!

My Rating: 3.5/5

I don’t know what I’ll be reviewing next as I’m reading 3 books at the moment and I don’t know which one I’ll finish first, so I guess it will be a surprise!

 

NaNoWriMo 2017 Wrap Up Post

Hi all! I’m officially done with Autumn Semester as of 2.30 this afternoon, so yay for that! I’m celebrating this evening with romcoms, pizza and wine with my friends, so life is very good right now. Like last year, I took part in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, where you attempt to write 50,000 words (essentially the first draft of a novel) in one month, the month of November. Now this year wasn’t quite as successful as last year, I didn’t actually get to 50,000 words, I was very close though, just under 6,000 words away from finishing and I thought over 44,000 words was still pretty good especially considering how many deadlines I’ve had in November!

This year, I started doing a Fiction writing course, after I found an offer on Groupon and I started writing the story which became my NaNoWriMo novel, Underground Magicians. It was inspired by a conversation with one of my friends, where she was telling me about a programme she watched about underground tunnels in Europe and I thought, how cool would it be if those tunnels had been created by magicians as hiding places? That was the start of Underground Magicians.

This year my NaNoWriMo experience was a little different to last year. Whilst I am normally a complete Pantser when it comes to my writing, this year, I was so excited about the story that I had already written the first chapter by the time NaNo rolled around. It gave me a good head start, I don’t know if I would have even got as many words as I did if I didn’t already have over 4000 before I started!

However, I didn’t complete let my pantsing tradition go, I didn’t really know where the story was going after the first chapter and I certainly hadn’t planned any of it. Funny story, my main character’s name actually ended up being Sophie because it was the name of the main character in the book I was reading when I started Underground Magicians over the summer. I tried to change it, but any other name just didn’t feel right, Sophie had stuck, so Sophie she stayed.

I approached the story a little differently this year. Whilst last year I wrote This Is Not A Love Story in chronological order, I found I just couldn’t do that with Underground Magicians. By about chapter 3 or 4, I had worked out how I wanted the story to end, but I still didn’t have an idea for the middle, so I jumped right to the end and over the next week or so, wrote the last three chapters of the story and the epilogue. I’m actually really glad I did it that way, because I’m honestly still kind of stuck on the middle of the story and I was so excited about the ending, so it was nice to get to jump forward and write the part that I really wanted to. I’m not saying that I’d write non chronologically every time, but it certainly worked for this story.

Underground Magicians was very different to This Is Not A Love Story. They do have certain things in common, the underground aspects are very similar but other than that and the fact that they both involve magic, they are very different. UM is a 21st century story, which meant I could involve technology and real places and things which was quite exciting to me, much as I loved creating my own world with TINALS, it was nice to actually be able to draw from the real world. In This Is Not A Love Story, I obviously had no romance at all and Underground Magicians I did. The romance surprisingly has actually been my favourite thing to write in this story, I realised quite early on in the story that Sophie was a lesbian, when I wrote her first scene with Mo and could see that there was chemistry between them, I knew that this story was going to involve an f/f romance. I just hope I’ve done it justice, as I know how scarce f/f rep is in fantasy! I was waiting for ages to write Mo and Sophie’s first kiss and when I finally did, it was so satisfying!

The magic in this book is also quite different to in TINALS, Mo and Tiffany share the same power, but that’s where the resemblance ends, UM isn’t an elemental based magic system, there’s a wider variety of magical powers, so that’s been fun to explore. I also had a real villain in this story, whereas I don’t really have one in TINALS (at least not yet, that’s something I’m hoping to get to in editing) so that was awesome to get to do.

Sophie is a lot different to Tiffany, they’re both kind of snarky but although Sophie has a tendency of putting her foot in her mouth at times, she’s not as impulsive and more willing to work with the team than Tiffany is. She’s also a couple of years younger than Tiffany, so that obviously makes a difference when writing. I wrote both novels in first person though, so I think there’s naturally a lot of me in both of them, but I’m hoping that their voices do sound different!

I don’t know if my writing inspirations can be seen as strongly in this one as in TINALS, I think if you read both of them then you could definitely tell I wrote them both but I’m not sure you can see my influences as much in Underground Magicians as in TINALS, I don’t know if that makes it better or worse than TINALS, it’s just the way things worked out this time around.

I actually wrote every single day this time (bar the first day, where I just used what I’d already written) even if it was only a few hundred words, and that respect, I actually think I did better this time than last time, because last time yes, I finished, but I didn’t write every day, so I’d actually rather have lost and written every day than won without writing every day.

There were also things which surprised me in this story, as in TINALS. Sophie’s whole backstory with her mum and dad was something that just evolved naturally over the course of the story, I haven’t written all of it yet, but it’s something I’m excited to explore whilst writing the rest of it. Mo and Sophie’s romance just evolved naturally after their first meeting. The entire ending sequence just came to me once I came up with the idea of the tunnels moving and people getting sucked into them. I’m sure there’s going to be even more that surprises me as I continue writing this story.

I still have a long way to go, 44000 words of this story is still only like nine chapters and an epilogue, so there’s going to be a lot more to write before this story is actually complete! I’m hoping to keep writing this story over the course of December and maybe even finish it by the end of the month? That might be a little too ambitious but it would be great if I could!

Did anyone else take part in NaNoWriMo? Did you win? Anyone close like me? Anyone do it for the first time this year? What are your stories? Let me know in the comments!

I’m hoping to have more stuff up in the next few weeks with all my newfound free time, I’ll have a review of my latest read up for you guys very soon and I have some fun writing features planned for the next few weeks as well, so stay tuned for those!

Jo Talks Books: On Twenty Something Bloggers in The YA Community

Hi everyone! I had totally planned on getting this discussion post to you guys sooner, but November has been a crazy busy month for me, I’ve had basically back to back assignments for the past few weeks, so I didn’t have time to sit down and write this until now. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you will have seen back in February that I did a discussion post on teens in the YA community, talking about the issues relating to them after some Twitter drama earlier in the year. I decided that as a follow up to that, I would write a post about the experiences of twenty something bloggers in the YA community, see how our experiences differ to those of teens and the issues that we face.

Being a twenty something blogger in this community is a strange thing. Not in that there aren’t many of us, on the contrary 20 somethings probably make up the biggest proportion of YA bloggers out there, as a lot of us start blogging in our late teens and just keep going. At some point, every teen blogger will become a twenty something blogger, unless you hit 20 and suddenly decide you’re not going to blog anymore. It’s a strange time, especially when you’re in your early twenties, as we don’t really fit anywhere. We are young adults, but we’re not teens, so by being so prominent in YA it seems like we’re trying to take over their space. There are book bloggers who blog about adult fiction, but it’s a much smaller community than the YA one and we don’t exactly fit in there either, because 20 somethings have different concerns to say 30 or 40 something adults. NA isn’t really a thing, so the community that is the most natural fit for us, is one that doesn’t really exist. It’s a strange feeling and something that I don’t feel is talked about very much, so I decided to speak to some other 20+ bloggers about our place in the community. Here is what they had to say:

Q1: Do you feel like it’s hard for 20 somethings to find their place in the community, particularly those of us who are close in age to teens?

Yes! Especially when YA fiction featuring 18+ year olds are shelved with teenagers rather than a separate YA section. It’s not clear cut what qualifies as teenage fiction and YA fiction, and then there’s NA! I hardly see anything labelled as new adult and it’s not clear just what that is. Some people may feel that people 20 and above are not young adults and shouldn’t be reading YA books, especially people who don’t read YA and consider it teenage fiction.

-Joanne, 21 (no this isn’t me, we just have the same name and happen to be the same age!)

https://thebookwormdreamer.wordpress.com/

Personally I’ve not found it too hard to find my place in the YA community mostly because this past year or so I’ve been more vocal and involved social media wise because it was the first time I wasn’t feeling anxious or shy to do so. When I was a term and blogging everyone I followed and spoke too was older so I looked up to them and was worried I was just an annoying teen. I can look back on that now and realise that wasn’t the case at all but I was also just far too shy to be that active when I was a teen.

-Lauren, 24

https://northernplunder.wordpress.com/

Q2: What have you found to be your biggest struggles as bloggers (related to your age or not)?

Trying not to feel like I’m copying everybody else in terms of reading the same books. But at the same time, feeling like my voice isn’t being heard enough BECAUSE I don’t always read the same books as everyone else.

-Hayley, 21

https://hayleysprout.com/

I definitely feel this one sometimes! I do read a lot of the hyped releases, so sometimes you do just feel like you’re writing the same stuff as everyone else, but then when I write about books that aren’t as well known, I don’t tend to get much interaction on those kinds of posts because not many people have read them, it’s a hard balance to strike!

I haven’t really struggled that much with blogging about YA books, but I think there are certain attitudes about adults blogging that need to change to be honest. *shrug*

-Steph, 28

https://alittlebutalot.wordpress.com/

I would totally agree with Steph here, there are attitudes about adults blogging that need to change. Sometimes on Twitter, it seems like people are so passionate about making a space for teens (which we of course absolutely should be doing) that it sometimes comes across as if people don’t want us adults to be here at all, and that’s not right. We work just as hard at getting our voices heard as teens do and just because we’re a little bit older, doesn’t mean we don’t still have useful things to say. There’s also still an element of judgement around adults reading YA, even within the community, you hear people saying “This isn’t for you” or various iterations of that, and whilst I know they mean we are not the intended age range for YA, it still comes across as rather hurtful.

I feel like the book blogging community has so many young readers & they all want to relate to the people who are reading the same books as them. I don’t think it’s hard for us to find a place in the community, but I think it can be hard for us to have a large following since we aren’t the age of a lot of the people who like our content.

-Temecka, 20

http://libraryoftomes.blogspot.co.uk/

It can be hard as a new blogger to make your voice heard when you are new but equally a lot of us are starting to face criticism for reading YA when we are no longer teens but we can also not be considered sophisticated or ‘adult’ enough for a lot of adult books which obviously isn’t true. However, there are a lot of bloggers our age who are hugely successful in the community.

-Lauren, 22

https://thebookishfairyblog.wordpress.com/

Lauren and Temecka had very similar points, we’re of an age, where we’re older than teens, so seen as “too old” or “taking up space” by reading YA books but at the same time, we’re barely adults so we’re not seen as an authoritative voice on those either! It’s very hard to win at this age!

Q3: Why do you think people in their twenties gravitate towards YA so much? Is it because of a lack of designated community/very few options for books featuring people in their twenties? Or is it something else?

I think it’s a combination of no designated community for us and the fact that I don’t feel like an adult. I still feel like a teen playing house or playing grown up. I don’t even know about taxes or where I’m going to grad school so I certainly don’t fit in with the adult groups.

-Bayy, 20

https://bayyinwonderland.wordpress.com/

This particular comment resonated particularly with me. I turned 21 back in September, but I honestly still feel like a fake grown up! I can relate so much more to YA characters who are still trying to figure their lives out, than to adult characters in books who have careers and families and seem to have everything totally together! Discovering who you are and not knowing what you want with your life doesn’t stop at 18 guys!

I would love to read more about university and those early adult years but don’t seem to find many books that cover your early 20s without being romance. YA is also so progressive when it comes to social issues that I think it is really leading the way in fiction. I also like books I find easy to read and don’t have to really concentrate to understand some hidden meaning, especially if I’m on the train!

-Annalise, 23

https://annalisebooks.wordpress.com/

This is something that I struggle with a lot as well, I would love to read about university and early 20’s life, but it’s just not out there! YA has so much more diversity than adult fiction.

As someone approaching their mid-twenties, I’ve gravitated towards YA because I can’t find myself in books. I struggle to get my head around a lot of adult fiction and I have to really be interested in it in order to actually pick it up and read it. There isn’t a lot of issues covered in adult books that I can relate to. I also think that YA shouldn’t necessarily include teenagers, because technically YA is people who are 20+ in my eyes as teens are exactly that until that approach the end of being 19.

-Aimee, 24

https://summerreadsmoonlightdreams.wordpress.com/

Aimee is absolutely right, it’s so difficult to find yourself in fiction once you reach your 20s, heck even when you get past about 18 it’s very difficult to see yourself represented as a young adult.

Q4: Have you ever found that teens (for whatever reason) have been hostile to you as adult bloggers on Twitter?

I think a huge difficulty is money, it’s something I struggled with when I started blogging and why I’ve gone through so many blogs before settling. I haven’t found anyone specifically come out and be hostile, but it does hurt when people say that YA isn’t for me. It’s what got me back onto reading at 14, it’s my passion, has been ever since  although it tends to be adults who say it

-Cora, 26

http://www.teapartyprincess.co.uk/

I have never had any backlash at all, from anyone or any age group. I’d argue the book blogging community is one of the most inclusive.

-Rebecca, 22

https://reviewsfeed.net/

I don’t ever feel any hostility from teens however,I would like to say that just because YA “isn’t aimed at us” we’re allowed to have a say in the industry etc, even if we aren’t teens.

-Rosie, 23

https://rosiefrecklereads.wordpress.com/

I was very happy to hear the responses for this one, pretty much everyone said that teens are always lovely to them on Twitter (which has thus far been my experience also) and I found Cora’s response about it being mostly adults saying we don’t belong in this community especially interesting. I think in a well intentioned attempt to help teens voices be heard, some adults have a tendency to try to silence each other and that’s something we need to resolve, we need to all work together to make sure everyone’s voices are heard rather than trying to silence them. I also totally agree with Rosie’s point, we are still a part of this community, even if YA isn’t aimed at us, as part of the community we should get a say on industry stuff, if we want to.

Q5: What can we do to ensure both adult and teen bloggers feel welcome in the community?

I think bloggers just need to listen to each other. Old or young, we’ve shown we have something to say. Supporting each other is also important, as showing people you appreciate them will keep them blogging. 

-Beth, 26

https://iambookmad.com/

You need to listen and be inclusive. A community is give and take, and the easiest way to help with problems is give more than you get. Comment back, engage in conversation, just be NICE. If someone says that something is harmful to them then listen. Blogging feels like shouting into the void, it’s nice to have someone notice.

-Cora, 26

Q6: Would you like to see more books about people in their twenties, like us?

DEFINITELY. There are so many YA books about 15 and 16 year olds when they are still teenagers! A young adult is 18+ and it’s a shame when books are commonly shelved under teenage fiction. There is definitely a lack of books featuring 20 year olds and above and the trials and tribulations they face, be it in the modern day or in a fantasy.

-Joanne, 21 (again not me)!

I think this is one of the big difficulties of the classification of YA the way it is, technically we should really call it teen fiction as YA does make it sound like we’re talking about people aged 18+, who are technically young adults. The big problem is that NA, which is the classification for people of our age, just isn’t a thing at all, books about 20+ are usually shelved either in adult or YA and publishers don’t seem to put out books about 20+ characters anyway, because even though there definitely seems to be demand for it, there’s no obvious category to market it in.

Definitely! My problems haven’t stopped because I got accepted into college. Now I have grad school to think about and a career. Not to mention first apartments and all sorts of things. I think that part of our lives gets glossed over a lot and it’s not fair. I want to feel less alone. 

-Bayy, 20

This one bugs me a lot too, because there are so many interesting and life changing things that happen in your 20s and it’s a shame that we never get to see that in books.

It depends how they’re written. I’d love to see characters who are my age that I can relate to, but it doesn’t happen very often! I’ve tried reading New Adult before but it doesn’t really appeal to me in the same way YA does. (Not going to lie, all of the NA I’ve tried has way too much sexy time and not enough relatable content)

-Katie, 25

http://www.queenofteenfiction.co.uk/

I feel the same way as Katie, New Adult is just not for me because of the abundance of sexy times in there, I actually did a whole post about why we needed NA that isn’t totally romance (or sex) focused, if anyone wants to check it out!

Q7: What do you think 20 somethings have to offer the community which is unique to us?

We’re at that point where we’re having to stand on our two feet and discover the real world as it really is. We learn that everything we learnt in school/uni, etc. isn’t all that important and that there are other strengths and advice that we can offer which wouldn’t be patronising.

-Aimee, 24

We have survived through teenage hood! We’ve got through school and maybe some murky relationships and fights amongst friends and family so we can understand characters and their motives more having been through something similar already. When you can connect with a book because of something similar the character has been through to you, the story feels more real and more likely to invoke emotions intended by the author.

-Joanne, 21

Q8: Do you ever feel undervalued in the community, for your age or for any other reason?

I have never felt undervalued. I just found it hard to be involved in a lot of things because I don’t have a huge following and my emails to publisher seem to always go unanswered.

-Lois, 20

https://loisreadsbooks.wordpress.com/

I can definitely relate to this, especially in my first year or so of blogging, I found it really hard to get involved and I didn’t even attempt to get anything from publishers until I got Netgalley last year! It can be hard sometimes when you have a blog with a smaller following to feel like you’re getting heard.

I definitely feel like unless you have that large following or are a publishers favorite you miss out on a lot of stuff. From opportunities, to audience, to connecting with other readers. I feel like it’s a popularity contest a lot

-Bayy, 20

This was a common response to this question, that if you’re not a large blogger, you don’t get as many opportunities. I don’t really know what the solution is to that particular problem, I’m a relatively small blogger myself but I have had the chance to do some cool stuff, I get e-ARCs from Netgalley, I’ve been asked by a couple of companies to do posts for the blog & offered a few ARCs from publishers, but I still feel like I don’t get as many opportunities as some of the bigger bloggers do. Bayy’s absolutely right though, it does seem like a popularity contest sometimes and it doesn’t help that to publisher’s it’s all just a number’s game.

Q9: Is there anything you would like to see change in the community, both for 20 something bloggers and in general?

I’d definitely echo that book events are concentrated in the south east, and I also think publishers can be a little shortsighted and mean when it comes to things like ARCs, etc. By this, I mean not responding to emails (which can feel like shouting into a void), making fans do stupid tasks for books (this happens with a few publishers at YALC) or only sending out books to bloggers with huge followings.

-Annalise, 24

This was part of a larger conversation with the bloggers I talked to, but essentially an issue that was brought up time and time again was that book events do tend to be concentrated around the London area. I didn’t actually realise this was an issue until I moved to Scotland, but it’s very true! From book tours, to book events like YALC, everything is based in the south, the furthest North authors seem to go for author events is Newcastle. I’ve managed to go to a paltry two book tours since I came to Uni. I think as a community, we definitely need to show enthusiasm for events in the North so publishers see that there is a demand and perhaps send more of their authors here!

The location of book events really bugs me. I can’t afford 100+ just for a book event, I also did a mini rant about availiability on my twitter this morning hahaha

-Rosie, 23

I would like to see more of an offline community with events, meetups, and the like, especially outside of London. 

-Kelly, 22

http://thisnortherngal.co.uk/

Thank you to everyone who participated in this, it was so interesting to get to talk to other bloggers of around my age and see how they feel about the community! I know this post is an epic tome, so well done to anyone who actually manages to get to the end of it, I’m sorry for the length, I just wanted to make sure that as many people as possible who took time out to answer my questions were featured and I got way more offers than I was expecting to participate in this!

If you’re a twenty something blogger then please feel free to add your two cents in the comments! The discussion we had as a group was so interesting, I honestly wish I could have shared it all with you guys, but alas, this tome of a post would be twice the size if I had.

I definitely will not have any more discussion posts for you in November, as it’s the 30th today, but I will definitely be back at some point in December with a new discussion post (maybe even two as I have the whole of December off!). In the meantime, hopefully you’ll be hearing a lot more from me as tomorrow is officially my last day of Uni, I have a book review and several features for my writing corner already planned for December, so stay tuned for those! I will also be posting my wrap up of this year’s NaNoWriMo very soon, so you have that to look forward to as well!