Writing Corner: Writing For Pleasure Vs Writing For Work

Hi everyone! I’m back for another Writing Corner post this month, but never fear, I have guests lined up for the next two months, so that should be really exciting, next month I’m going to have a Q&A from author C.G. Drews (who a lot of you will know as PaperFury), so that’s going to be really brilliant, I hope you guys really enjoy that one, I’ll have it up in the next couple of weeks. Today however, you get another post from me, this time I’m going to be talking about something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and that’s Writing For Pleasure and Writing For Work. As an author, journalist and blogger, my writing is pretty evenly divided between work and pleasure, but the lines can often be quite blurry, which is what I wanted to talk about today.

I love writing obviously, I wouldn’t want to be an author, or be doing or Journalism, or even doing this blog if I didn’t. So naturally, writing brings me pleasure, whether I’m doing it for work or for my own free time. However I definitely approach my writing differently depending on whether I’m doing it for work or for myself.

As much as I enjoy Journalism, I approach it as my job. It’s not something that I’m doing for fun and nothing else, I’m doing my Journalism course at Uni with the aim of getting a job in the field someday. I’ve loved writing my pieces for my Project and I’m very passionate about the topic I’ve chosen (period poverty)  but the ultimate aim of doing this is to get my degree and hopefully get a job in the future, I would not be writing these articles if I didn’t need to for my degree. The same goes for The National Student, I love writing for them, but I approach it as a job, I have deadlines and word counts that I need to adhere to, and it’s a way of gaining more experience before I graduate, writing for The National Student isn’t something I do as a hobby in my downtime, it’s something that I’ve chosen to do to further my career.

My fiction writing is slightly different because it somewhat straddles the two. At the moment, I’m not published, I’m not agented or anything like that, so whatever I write, it is mostly for me and my own pleasure, there’d be no point writing my WIP if I didn’t enjoy it because at the moment it’s largely for me. However this has changed over the last year or so, as I’ve started to get more serious about publishing. I still have fun writing my WIP, nothing has changed there, but the end goal is different, I’m not just working on this book for me, I’m working on it because I want it to be read by people, I want to get an agent and I want to get published. This means that as I’ve been going through the editing process, I’ve been thinking more and more about what other people will want to see from my book, how I can make it the best it can be so that it can eventually make it’s way into readers’ hands. In other words, my WIP has become less of something I do simply in my leisure time and more of a work project, in the same way that my articles are.

When it comes to the different things I write, blogging is definitely my leisure outlet. That isn’t to say that it’s not a lot of work, because it is: I spend a lot of time working on my blog, making sure that it is entertaining to read and that it looks the best that it can. But there’s no sort of work pressure to it, I can update or not update my blog as and when I choose to, any kind of pressure that I put on myself and my blog is purely internal. Blogging is a great thing to have, because unlike journalism or fiction writing, it’s not something that I’m looking to do as a career, it’s just something fun that I like to do to share my love of books.

Blogging also fits into things I do for pleasure already anyway, I love reading, so reading books for the blog is a purely pleasure based thing, it never feels like work and I’ve always loved to share my thoughts on the books I read anyway so having reviewing as an outlet is pretty great for me as I can automatically spill out my thoughts about a book onto the blog when I’m doing reading.

There’s nothing to say that you can’t enjoy your work, in fact, I’m sure that most people would agree that the ideal is to be able to combine both work and pleasure, that’s why people want to go into jobs that fit their areas of interest. However, I do think that it’s important to have an outlet outside of your work so that the thing you enjoy doesn’t constantly feel like you’re doing work. I love writing but often it can feel like a chore when I’m writing articles, or even when I’m working on my WIP because my focus there is very much, “I need to do this because I want to work in this field”.

It’s so important to have boundaries between work and hobbies, especially when you really enjoy what you do. I have found this, because I spend so much time doing what I enjoy for work, often I feel like I don’t actually want to write when I have down time because it’s so often what I’m doing when I’m working. This is why I like to have different outlets for writing that are unrelated to work, because it means that in my downtime, I can remind myself that I really do enjoy writing and do things, like my blog that are just for my own personal enjoyment and don’t really have any kind of work aspect (beyond what I would usually do, reading ARCs doesn’t feel like work to me because it’s reading and that’s my main downtime hobby anyway!). I also feel like it’s incredibly important to have hobbies outside of writing as well, especially if you do it for work as well as pleasure because you can start feeling burned out by it if you’re doing it all the time.

Writing for work and pleasure definitely don’t have to be mutually exclusive, you can do both and do both well but there has to be some sort of separation between your writing for work and writing for pleasure in order for neither to feel like a chore (at least in my experience) & I think downtime away from writing is key to maintaining enjoyment within your work.

If you are a writer, do you find it hard to strike a balance between writing for work and pleasure? Do you ever feel burned out by writing? What do you do in your time away from writing? Let me know in the comments!

As I’ve already said, I’m going to have a Q&A with C.G. Drews as my next post for this feature and that’s going to be up very soon, in about two weeks, to coincide with the release of her new book so keep your eyes peeled for that. In the meantime though, I will have a new Top Ten Tuesday post up on Tuesday, so stay tuned for that!

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Quarterly Rewind (December ’18-March ’19 edition)

Hi all! We finally made it to Spring, although Scotland can’t quite decide if it wants to be spring, summer or winter yet, considering that we’ve had all three seasons in one day over the past few weeks! Anyway, if you’ve been following me for any length of time, then you’ll know what this is about by now, but for any new followers, this is a feature I do every three months or so, at the beginning of each new season, to wrap up the season just passed and look forward to the one to come. It was originated by Jamie over at The Perpetual Page Turner. Today is the Spring Equinox, so the official start of Spring, which means it’s time to wrap up Winter here on the blog and look forward to what I have to come this Spring. This post will cover 21st December-19th March:

Image From This Winter:

hamilton 2

This is me and my friends (from left to right) Hannah, Zoe and Nicola at the Victoria Palace Theatre seeing Hamilton last month (DEAR GOD THAT WAS LAST MONTH, WHAT IS TIME?)

Favourite Quote From A Book You Read This Winter:

“I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive” -To Kill A Kingdom, Alexandra Christo

This is probably one of the best opening lines to a novel I think I’ve ever read, I honestly knew I was going to give this book five stars from this line alone.

This Winter In One Word:

Stressful! (Fourth year of Uni will do this to you!)

Most Popular Review This Winter:

I’ve read 13 books in the period this Rewind covers, and have reviewed 7 of them (no I’m not massively behind, but quite a few of the books I’ve read were comics, and non-fiction). I actually had a tie for most popular review this Winter, fittingly between two of the Grisha trilogy books:

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

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

Top Two Books This Winter:

I’ve actually had a really great reading year so far, so it’s a lot harder than it would usually be to choose this as I’ve had several 4 & 5 star reviews so far this year. Here are the ones I think are my favourites though:

  1. Enchantee-Gita Trelease-This book definitely set standards high right out of the gate, never have I had a 5 star read so early in the year! This was a wonderful historical fantasy, with a memorable heroine, beautiful descriptions and the perfect merge of history and fantasy.
  2. To Kill A Kingdom-Alexandra Christo-This is possibly my favourite Little Mermaid retelling ever, dark, witty, adventurous and just a hell of a lot of fun to read, I enjoyed every second of this one.

Two Things I’m Looking Forward To This Spring:

  1. Superstars of Gymnastics-I’m going home for the weekend to go to this Gymnastics exhibition on Saturday, featuring some of the best gymnasts in the world, including some of my favourite Team GB gymnasts like Max Whitlock and I’m super excited to get to go it.
  2. Sports Ball-My final ever one! I’m super excited to be graduating but it is sad having all of these final Uni events, knowing that I’m not going to be coming back next year for more. Still Sports Ball is always a fantastic night and I cannot wait to have the best time at my final one.

Three New Obsessions This Winter:

  1. Death In Paradise-My friends introduced me to this show, having been trying to get me to watch it for a while, but I was very confused as to what it actually was. Had they just told me it was a detective show set on a Caribbean island where a different murder is solved each week , then they would have been successful far earlier!
  2. Sex Education-Can I clarify here that I mean the Netflix show and not the classes! I loved this funny, weird American/British hybrid comedy show from the first episode and I can’t wait to see the next season now.
  3. David Tennant Does A Podcast With…..-I’m really enjoying David Tennant’s new podcast, it’s been a very entertaining addition to my weekly podcast rotation.

Five Most Popular Blog Posts This Winter:

As always, my five most popular blog posts this Winter were all Top Ten Tuesday posts:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday #195-My most popular post from this Winter was actually a tie between this one and the one at number 2, but I’m keeping them in this order just because it’s easier! This one was my list of shame, the 2018 releases I still have to catch up on, apparently you guys like it when I share my shameful lists of books I really should have read but haven’t yet got to.
  2. Top Ten Tuesday #193-This one was also tied for my most popular post of the season, I talked about upcoming releases that I’m excited for, it was great to get to flail with all you guys about the books that I can’t wait for, though sadly the one book that I have been reading from this list hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. Hopefully the rest will go better!
  3. Top Ten Tuesday #192-My second most popular post of this Winter was the list where I shared all of my 2018 favourites, I always love doing these posts as it’s great to share my faves with all of you, so I’m glad you seem to enjoy it too.
  4. Top Ten Tuesday #198-My third most popular post of this Winter was this one back from Valentine’s Day. It was a freebie and I chose to share my favourite non-romantic Valentine’s films, for fellow cynics. It makes me very happy when my being cynical about love is enjoyed by you guys, because it’s very much on brand for me!
  5. Top Ten Tuesday #200-My fourth most popular post of Winter was this one, from a couple of weeks ago where I talked about Places Mentioned I Books That I Have Visited. I love doing travel themed posts and it’s awesome that my 200th TTT made the top 5 for this Rewind.

Four Posts I’ve Enjoyed On Other Blogs This Winter:

  1. Laurie Halse Anderson did this awesome essay for Time about teenage boys and sexual assault, I found it an incredibly powerful and emotional read.

http://time.com/5503804/ive-talked-with-teenage-boys-about-sexual-assault-for-20-years-this-is-what-they-still-dont-know/?xid=tcoshare

2. Ashia Monet did a great post for YA Pride during Aro/Ace Awareness week about Centring Friendship In YA Lit, a topic that I’m greatly passionate about, I’m always talking about how we need to recentre friendship in YA and give it just as much, if not more prominence than romance so I really loved this post, not only because I feel friendship needs to be centred more in general but also because I definitely want YA to become an open and friendly space for aromantic/asexual people, everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in books and this whole, “you need love to feel complete” narrative is definitely not friendly to them.

http://www.yapride.org/2019/02/centering-friendship-in-ya-lit/

3. Samantha Shannon wrote this massive epic essay for Unbound and given that I love her work, I read it, it’s a very insightful and interesting look into the George and The Dragon story and how she worked to make it more feminist in her new book, The Priory of The Orange Tree.

https://unbound.com/boundless/2019/02/19/samantha-shannon-retellings/

4. Cait @ Paper Fury did this awesome Q&A post all about publishing in celebration of the release of her second book, The Boy Who Steals Houses, coming out next month.

https://paperfury.com/qa-the-boy-who-steals-houses/

Five Things That Happened This Winter:

  1. I finally went to see Hamilton, in February with my friends. It was just as amazing as I had hoped it would be, in fact it was even better. I thought I loved it when I listened to the soundtrack but having actually seen those songs performed on stage now, I have even more love and appreciation for the genius that is Hamilton.
  2. I went to Samantha Shannon’s Glasgow event for Priory of The Orange Tree with my friend Nicola.
  3. I went to Victoria Schwab’s Glasgow event for The Near Witch and The Steel Prince, also with my friend Nicola.
  4. I went to my first ever Blogger’s Brunch with Hot Key Books in February.
  5. I finally became a five star writer for The National Student.

Six Songs I Listened To Way Too Often This Winter:

  1. Turning My Life Around-Anna and The Apocalypse Cast-I’ve been completely addicted to this indie zombie musical’s soundtrack ever since my friends and I saw it in the cinema last Christmas.
  2. Trip A Little Light Fantastic-Mary Poppins Returns Cast-This song is just so darn catchy, I smile every time it comes up on my shuffle.
  3. A Cover Is Not The Book-Mary Poppins Returns Cast-The perfect song for any bibliophile!
  4. Right Hand Man-Hamilton Cast-For some reason, this particular Hamilton song is the one that has been stuck in my head over the last few months.
  5. Turning Turtle-Mary Poppins Returns Cast-This is an odd song, but a very enjoyable one.
  6. Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You-This one is very popular in my shuffle rotation.

So there we go you guys, my first Rewind of 2019! What have you enjoyed most on my blog this Winter? What have you been up to? What are you looking forward to this Spring, books or anything else? Let me know in the comments!

 

Top Ten Tuesday #203

TTT-Big2

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had good weeks since I last did one of these, last week began rather uneventfully for me, but then I passed my driving theory test and met Victoria Schwab again all in the space of two days, so it ended pretty well. I’ve also finished my project, and started writing my reflective essay, so they end for this semester is nearly in sight, thank goodness!

Anyway, since it’s Tuesday, I’m back with another Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week we’re doing another of our annual TBR topics, our Spring TBR. I did reasonably well on my Spring TBR, I’ve read seven of the books on there fully & finished half of a third. I’m still not done with Kingdom of Ash, at this point I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be done with Kingdom of Ash and the other book on my TBR had it’s release date pushed back to December, so that one really isn’t on me. Still I’m really pleased I did so well on my Winter TBR because I’ve been ridiculously busy doing my project so spending any time at all reading has been difficult.

Anyway enough about my Winter TBR, this is what I’m planning on reading this Spring:

  1. Becoming-Michelle Obama

This is my current read and I’m actually really enjoying it-I don’t mean to sound surprised there, I love Michelle Obama, it’s more a case of I don’t usually read non-fiction so I’m not used to sitting and enjoying a memoir! It’s been a nice change of pace for me though, I love fiction but occasionally you need a break.

2. Catwoman: Soulstealer-Sarah J Maas

This is my April #RockMyTBR challenge book. I have to admit I’m a little apprehensive of this one since superheros aren’t really my thing, but since it’s Sarah J Maas, I am willing to give it a shot. At least this is one Sarah J Maas book that isn’t a huge mammoth so it should take me a normal person length of time to finish! (*side eyes Kingdom of Ash*)

3. A Girl Called Shameless-Laura Steven

I just got this one as a giveaway prize and I’m super excited to dive in, I really want to see where Izzy O’Neill’s adventures go next. I’m probably going to be reading this after my project’s been submitted and I think after three months of project work, a good, funny, short read is probably just what I need.

4. Descendant of The Crane-Joan He

I’m about halfway through this one, I’ve actually been reading it since the beginning of the month and it was on my Winter TBR. I’m in two minds about this one, I love the Chinese inspired world and the characters, but I was kind of expecting it to have more magic and it’s a lot of dense political manoeuvrings which aren’t really my thing.

5. Uprooted-Naomi Novik

This will be my May #RockMyTBR book. I’m again a little apprehensive because I didn’t finish Spinning Silver, but I’m hoping that I will enjoy this one more, especially since I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.

6. Finale-Stephanie Garber

AGHH I’M SO EXCITED FOR THIS BOOK! My friend and I went in on the Fairyloot box together, but she’s keeping the book as I had already preordered the signed Waterstones edition. Anyway, I can’t wait to see how Tella and Scarlett’s journey ends and whether they manage to defeat Legend once and for all.

7. We Are Blood and Thunder-Kesia Lupo

I’ll admit I don’t actually know all that much about We Are Blood and Thunder but I’ve been hearing good things from other bloggers, so I’m willing to give it a chance-all I really know is that it’s set in a world where magic is feared and that usually works out pretty well as a storyline for me, so hopefully I will enjoy it!

8. King of Fools-Amanda Foody

I just got accepted for this on Netgalley and I’m so excited! I enjoyed Ace of Shades when it came out last year, but I have a feeling that King of Fools is going to be even better, Ace of Shades was definitely the set up book, I think we’re really going to get into the action here and I can’t wait.

9. Romanov-Nadine Brandes

I’m also ridiculously excited to read this book, I loved Fawkes when I read it last year and a Romanov retelling with magic? Sounds just perfect.

10. The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue-Mackenzi Lee

This will be my June #RockMyTBR book and I have to say I’m looking forward to finally seeing what all the hype around this one is about. I’ve read a couple of historical fiction books this year, but nothing that I’ve really, really loved yet, so I’m hoping this one will fit the bill.

So there we have it, the books I’m attempting to knock off my TBR this Spring. I’m pretty confident I should be able to manage them all, once I’ve handed my project and essay in, I have a month and a half of uninterrupted reading time before my parents come and get me from Uni so I’ll probably spend a large portion of that reading. What book are on your TBR this Spring? Have you read any of mine? Are you excited for any of mine (since half of them haven’t actually come out yet!)? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is an audio freebie, and since one of my resolutions is to try more audiobooks (I am going to have to actually get started on that one once my project is done!), I’m going to make a list of the Audiobooks I Want To Try.

Meanwhile,  the Spring equinox is coming up tomorrow, so I’m going to have my Quarterly Rewind up for you guys on Thursday, so keep an eye out for that!

Victoria Schwab Event Recap

us and victoria schwab

Hi everyone! This is the last of my more regular updates for this section as I don’t have anymore events coming up in the near future, the next one will probably be YALC over the summer. Anyway as I mentioned in my last event recap, Nicola and I had tickets to the Glasgow stop of Victoria Schwab’s UK tour, which was last night.

We actually very nearly didn’t get tickets to this event, they sold out ridiculously fast which we weren’t expecting, but thankfully Waterstones Argyle Street added more tickets, so we jumped on those as soon as they were available. I’d met Victoria a couple of times, at YALC and at an event she did with Samantha Shannon and Neal Shusterman last year but Nicola had missed Victoria the last few times she had been in Scotland, so we were very excited to go to this event.

Nicola had already been in Glasgow for the day with a friend, so we decided to meet up at Waterstones just before the event. I got the train from Stirling at around 5.50 in order to arrive in Glasgow by 6.30. I walked from the station to Waterstones and then met Nicola upstairs, where the event was taking place in the cafe, the same place as last time. We got slightly better seats this time because we were earlier, but clearly a lot of people had been there for a while, because the room was nearly full even half an hour before the event was due to start.

We had some time to kill, so we sat and chatted for a bit before eventually the guy from Waterstones came out to introduce Victoria and go over the safety rules from the event.

The event was the usual Q&A style, with Lydia Gittins, Victoria’s publicist acting as the moderator for the event, which was quite cool as usually authors are moderated by other authors so it was interesting this time to have someone who is involved in the process of publishing V’s books asking the questions.

Lydia described this tour as the Origins Tour because it was to promote the reissue of The Near Witch, which was Victoria’s debut, so her own personal origin story and the the Steel Prince comics which feature Maxim Maresh’s origins tour. She asked V about how it felt to have The Near Witch return to shelves after so long.

It was so cool to hear Victoria talk about this, because she’s never really talked about The Near Witch at any of the events I’ve seen her at before, and she was clearly so grateful and emotional that The Near Witch is being given this second chance. She spoke about writing The Near Witch at university and being so determined that writing was something that she really wanted to do as a career and not something that she wanted to come back to 20-30 years later. She talked a lot about how she was so excited and happy when The Near Witch was bought by Disney and then what happened to the vast majority of debuts happened to it, nothing. She then spoke about writing her other books and how she wasn’t really gaining traction until Vicious and then didn’t really break out until A Darker Shade of Magic, eight novels into her career. I love hearing her talk about her career and how much time it took her to get established, because as a young writer, it’s so easy to focus on all the breakout stories and feel like you’re going to be one of them and then not expect it when things don’t go as you hope, so I really appreciate how honest she is about the difficulties of publishing and how you have to keep working at it because a career is not made on one book.

She then talked about how excited she was when Titan came to her, offering to publish The Near Witch, as somewhat of a gift for her for doing so much for them. She didn’t revise it at all, and explained that this was because she feels books are a time capsule of who we are when we write them and that the reception to the book now is the to the same book as the one that came out ten years ago, but just in a different context. I’m really glad that she didn’t change it, as I love getting to see where my favourite authors started out. She also talked about publishing not being a reflection on your book but just what happens, and that was really encouraging for me going forward in the publishing process, if my book doesn’t happen to sell well, or at all, then I’ll know that it’s more common than I would have thought before in publishing.

Lydia then asked Victoria about themes that she has returned to from The Near Witch in her later work, and she talked about how The Near Witch was her exploring Otherness as a theme before she had come out and using it as a way to process that even before she had vocabulary to explain it. She also spoke about how her books explore insider/outsider culture and how that’s something that has always fascinated her and will likely be a continuing theme in her books.

They then went on to talking about The Steel Prince, and how it goes into Maxim’s backstory. Victoria talked about how she likes taking villains and then turning them into antagonists and finally protagonists, which having read a lot of her books now, I can definitely see! She spoke about how she’d been approached by Titan and asked if she wanted to do comics but V was hesitant because she didn’t want to play in another writer’s world, however she enthusiastically accepted when they clarified that they wanted her to write comics in the Shades of Magic world. She said however that she decided to do it as a prequel series rather than sequels because she didn’t want the comics to be confused with the forward timeline in the upcoming Threads of Power books and she had written in hints towards Maxim’s backstory in A Conjuring of Light, so it seemed like a natural fit.

She also talked about expanding the magic system in the Steel Prince comics and getting to explore bone magic more which she found a lot of fun (as did I, reading about it!) and how difficult it is to convey a non-visual power in writing and comics and how they showed the bone magic through sections of the skeleton lighting up, which is super cool.

Lydia then moved on from asking about origins to asking about what is coming up next, no spoilers allowed. Victoria spoke about how hard it is not to spoil entire plots of her books and how her publishers have had to reign her in because she’s prone to spilling the entirety of her plots to readers at events, which we all found incredibly funny. She gave a brief rundown about what is coming up, Tunnel of Bones, the second City of Ghosts book, set in Paris, the second arc of The Steel Prince comics, The Night of Knives, which start next month and her next big project, her adult standalone novel, The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue, which will potentially be coming out towards the end of next year.

She then went on to talk a little more about Addie, how it’s about a girl who makes a deal with the devil to live forever and then he curses her to be forgotten by everyone she meets and how it covers 300 years of Addie’s life. She then spoke about how the book will have been in development for 10 years by the time it makes it to shelves and that even though it looks like she is a fast writer, she’s actually not, because ideas sit with her for a long time.

The floor was then opened up to audience questions, with Lydia asking everyone to avoid questions that contained potential spoilers.

Someone asked about language and how Victoria had built the languages in the Shades of Magic world and V explained how she builds the grammatical structures from the ground up, filling in the vocabulary as she needs it, which has only caused a couple of issues with words that have multiple meanings but V explained that she wasn’t that bothered by that because it happens in English as well. She wanted to make sure that the language wasn’t prohibitive though, that it added to the experience rather than put readers off.

She was then asked about pseudonyms as she had mentioned before that her publishers had considered a pseudonym if her books had continued to not sell as well as hoped. V explained that publishers do this because it is seen as a fresh start in readers’ minds and allows them to market differently, but that she was very hesitant to use one because it felt like an erasure of her identity.

She then responded to a question about becoming peers with authors that she grew up admiring, and V expressed her appreciation that these authors had always treated her like a peer, a colleague and that this is something that she tries to pay forward but that it never stops being weird when someone you idolise treats you like a person.

We then got onto worldbuilding, as someone in the audience asked for worldbuilding tips. This was quite a meandering answer as V explained she had no easy tips for this as she finds it very intuitive because she consumes media which fills the part of her brain. The metaphor she eventually landed on was that of a house, that some fantasy authors build a house and give you a key, letting you wander around all the rooms i.e. basically tell you everything about the world, and others just leave the curtains open and allow you to see into each room as and when you need to (her preferred method). She also talked about how important it is to use your characters as conduits for your world and how their viewpoint changes the world you see, using Kell and Lila as examples.

The final question was about piracy and whether that is wish fulfilment for her and V made all of us burst out laughing by her passionate dislike of water and that the appeal of piracy to her is the sense of lawlessness and the intimacy of the setting of a ship.

When the audience questions were done, we joined the massive signing queue and waited to get our books signed, chatting in the line to pass the time. The queue did actually move relatively fast though and it wasn’t long before we were at the front meeting Victoria.

I wasn’t really quite sure what to say, but luckily Victoria helped me out on that one, as I had worn my As Travars Fable and Black necklace to the event, so she complimented me on that, I explained where I’d got it from and that I bought it because I mostly had fanart of her works and I wanted something I could wear. She had apparently met Fable and Black at one of her events and gave me a recommendation for an Etsy shop called InPages which she said did great pins. It’s so nice when authors manage to break the ice, because I am never sure what to say, especially with authors I love so much! Nicola and I both got our books/comics signed and then we got a photo before saying goodbye. I loved that V asked everyone if they had a good time at the event, it was so sweet!

We then headed back to the train station and had a bit of an issue because our train basically left without everyone and then had to turn around and come back, so we were waiting a good 40 minutes at the train station for the train, whilst trying to have a conversation over the building works and barrage of announcements!

Did anyone else go to any of Victoria’s UK events? Or are planning to go to any of her international events in the next few months? Let me know in the comments!

 

To Kill A Kingdom Review

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Book: To Kill A Kingdom

Author: Alexandra Christo

BECHDEL TEST: FAIL-There are no conversations between named female characters that don’t revolve around men, Lira and her mother have a conversation that would have counted, but since her mother is not named, it does not.

To Kill A Kingdom was my March #RockMyTBR book, I picked it up last year at YALC, it was the one book that all three of us (me, Hannah and Hannah, yes they are two different Hannahs) picked up at YALC this year and both Hannahs had already read it and loved it, so it was my turn next. I was a little nervous going into it because I had quite high expectations, and I read a Little Mermaid retelling last year that disappointed me, so I didn’t want to be burned again. Thankfully I wasn’t, To Kill A Kingdom was dark and brutal, with amazingly complex anti-hero characters, so much witty banter and an enemies to lovers romance that was just amazing. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive.

There are seventeen hidden in the sand of my bedroom. Every so often, I claw through the shingle just to check they’re still there. Buried deep and bloody.

Princess Lira is siren royalty and revered across the sea until she is cursed into humanity by the ruthless Sea Queen. Now Lira must deliver the heart of the infamous siren killer or remain a human forever.

Prince Elian is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world and captain to a deadly crew of siren hunters. When he rescues a drowning woman from the ocean, she promises to help him destroy sirenkind for good. But he has no way of knowing whether he can trust her … 

I feel like I have to start with the writing for this one, because it was just so stunning! It was beautifully descriptive and immersive whilst also reflecting the brutality of both Lira and Elian’s characters, and I was completely hooked on every word, even when the pacing of the story lagged, I was still invested because I loved the writing so much. The first line of this book is everything: “I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive”. It’s intriguing, hooks you instantly and really makes you want to read on. Descriptive writing can be a bit hit or miss for me as it can have a tendency to descend into purple prose, but Christo toed the line nicely, with just enough description to immerse me in the world, but not so much that it felt over the top.

I loved Lira so much, she was brilliantly brutal and fierce girls who are completely unapologetic about it are my jam! And yet she’s also grappling with her humanity and the fact that she’s been turned into this monster by her abusive mother, it’s not just that she’s evil by nature. She was just so brilliantly complex, she is fierce and brutal but she’s also grappling with the fact that her mother made her this way and that she feels compassion towards her cousin and that her mother sees any kind of compassion as weakness. It’s wonderful watching Lira develop over the course of the book and realise that humanity doesn’t have to be weakness, but also keeping the fierce, brutal, siren streak and using it to fiercely protect those she cares about. I definitely have a new favourite YA heroine in Lira. She was also so sassy, which as you all know is something I cannot resist.

Elian is also brilliant, I have to admit that I did prefer Lira, but I still loved Elian, he just took a little longer to grow on me. He actually reminds me quite a bit of Nikolai from the Grishaverse, he’s a pirate-prince who doesn’t want to be completely tied to his royal life. Elian and Lira are quite similar, both brutal, both fiercely determined and both very witty, plus they have families who are trying to push them to be something that they are not. Elian is by no means good though, he is cunning and brutal and will do what he needs to do to get the job done, and yet he’s also a prince who just longs for adventure. I love that Christo created two such incredible anti-heroes and allowed them to be the stars of the show without having to become solely good.

I found Elian’s longing for adventure and freedom so relatable, I’ve always wanted to get out and see the world, so I could definitely understand why he would want to do the same.

The chapters were are relatively short, which I liked, it kept the story ticking along nicely, although there were some that ran a little overlong. The pacing was generally good, but it did lag in places, mainly in the beginning before Lira and Elian meet and a little in the middle. It didn’t really matter too much though, I liked the writing & characters so much that I was invested even when not much was happening in the plot.

I loved the dynamic between Elian, Lira and the crew of the Saad, it was a wonderful found family dynamic with so much witty banter which I loved-Alexandra Christo certainly knows how to do brilliant dialogue which I always appreciate. It was also great that Lira and Madrid had a nice friendship as opposed to a girl-hate one.

The Sea Queen was horrible, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like she was kind of underdeveloped as a villain, she’s evil because that’s just the way she is, we don’t really get any backstory on her and how she came to be the way she was.

I liked that there were aspects of the Little Mermaid in there, but it largely felt like it’s own story, that’s what retellings should be, you should be able to see the inspiration but not feel like the author is just rehashing the original and I felt like Christo struck the perfect balance.

The world building was pretty good, I loved all of the siren mythology and how Christo established the differences between mermaids and sirens, and how she established all the different Kingdoms, we get a good sense of how the world works and the different places Lira and Elian come from. I would have liked a little more, but I’m a worldbuilding nerd, so take from that what you will.

The romance between Lira and Elian is brilliantly done, it’s so slow burn, they start of quipping at each other and hating each other and then whoops, oh no, now I’ll die for you because I love you so much. It’s honestly my favourite kind of relationship and the chemistry between these two is just FIRE. Their first kiss scene was just so good, Lira asks Elian to kiss her and if anyone ever tells you that consent is not sexy, please direct them to this particular scene in this particular book because they are WRONG.

There were some brilliant action sequences towards the end, although it was a little hard to keep track of what was going in places in those last few chapters because just SO MUCH WAS HAPPENING.

I found the end just the tiniest bit confusing, I think because the battle scenes go on for a few chapters and it’s just a bit jarring to go from the end of that to an epilogue of sorts, but as far as I could tell, everything wraps up well and it’s a satisfying end for Lira and Elian. I’m kind of sad there’s not going to be a sequel though, as brilliant as this was as a standalone, I just want to see Lira and Elian have more adventures!

This was a brilliant, brutally dark, banterous piratey romp and I absolutely loved it from beginning to end-360 pages was far too short!

My Rating: 5/5

My next review will be of Michelle Obama’s autobiography, Becoming. I only just started it though, so it won’t be up for a while!

Top Ten Tuesday #202

TTT-Big2

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, mine was largely uneventful, I’ve been editing my project work ready for the deadline in a couple of weeks. I’m going to see Victoria Schwab at her Glasgow event on Friday, and I’m super excited for that, especially since my friend and I very nearly didn’t get tickets!

Anyway, as it’s Tuesday, I’m back with another Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week we’re talking Standalone Books That Need A Sequel, but I’ll be honest, I have barely read any standalones, and those that I have read I mostly feel worked out quite nicely so I don’t really have many standalones that I think need sequels. So instead I’m going to flip that topic on it’s head a little, and do Books That Didn’t/Don’t Need a Sequel(s) as I think that one will be a lot easier for me (I love sequels, but there are many stories that could have been self contained that get dragged out). Here we go:

  1. A Curse So Dark and Lonely-Brigid Kemmerer

It was announced pretty soon after the release of A Curse So Dark and Lonely that it was going to have a sequel, and I have to admit I don’t really understand why, A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a very self contained story, once it’s over, it’s told the story that needed telling, so I don’t really see the point of there being a sequel.

2. The Hazel Wood-Melissa Albert

Another book where the story is self contained and didn’t really need more books to be finished, by the time the story is over, Melissa Albert has told the story that she intended to and there’s not really very many places to go with a sequel. Still I am excited to read the Tales from The Hinterland when it comes out as to be honest that sounds better than the actual book!

3. Sea Witch-Sarah Henning

Sea Witch is a villain origin story and it accomplishes that goal, by the end of the book, the Sea Witch has been born. There’s really no reason to have a sequel, especially since there wasn’t a lot of plot in the first book to begin with.

4. P.S. I Love You-Celia Ahern

It’s just been recently announced that P.S. I Love You is going to have a sequel, called Postscript, and as much as I was surprised that I actually liked P.S. I Love You (it’s a romance, not traditionally my favourite genre), it doesn’t need a sequel, the whole point of P.S. I Love You is that Gerry helps Holly move on via letters, by the end of the book, that story is nicely wrapped up and there’s not much more left to tell.

5. One of Us Is Lying-Karen McManus

One of Us Is Lying has been announced to have a sequel coming out next year and I have to admit I don’t really understand why? One of Us Is Lying again has a pretty self contained storyline and once the killer is revealed, what is the point of having a sequel? Plus this book had all sorts of problematic stuff in it which is so I feel somewhat uneasy about the idea of a sequel.

6. Enchantee-Gita Trelease

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Enchantee and I am actually really excited to read more in this world, but does Enchantee necessarily need a sequel? No, not really, the story wraps up in an incredibly satisfying way that allows it to stand alone.

7. Uglies-Scott Westerfeld

Okay this one is not necessarily that the book didn’t need a sequel, because the way the first book finished, it definitely did, but all the sequels to the book were so disappointing that I kind of wished it had just been a standalone.

8. Alex and Eliza-Melissa De La Cruz

I mean I get that historically there’s more story to tell with Hamilton and Eliza, but honestly this book works fine as a standalone, there’s no real reason to have two more books in the trilogy.

9. The Fandom-Anna Day

Apparently The Fandom is going to have a sequel? I have to admit I don’t really understand why, I mean I found the ending unsatisfying but not in a way where I felt like there needed to be a sequel, just in a way that I didn’t think the author had wrapped up her book properly. The Fandom is once again, a pretty self contained story and I don’t really get why the author feels that a sequel is necessary.

10. Flambards Trilogy-KM Peyton

I liked the first two sequels in this series, but this series was always intended to be a trilogy and not a quartet and you can definitely tell because the fourth book undoes a lot of the development and story that the characters go through in the first three books and it felt like the characters arcs naturally ended after the third book, so there was no need to add another book years after the fact.

So there we go, Books That Didn’t/Don’t Need A Sequel. Do you agree with any of my choices? Have you read any of the sequels to these books? Are you excited for the ones that aren’t yet released? Let me know in the comments!

I will be back next week with a new TTT, Books on My Spring TBR which is always a fun one, though I dread to look back on how badly I did on my Winter TBR! Meanwhile, I should have both a review of my latest read To Kill Kingdom, and an event recap of the Victoria Schwab event on Friday, up before the end of the week, so keep an eye out for those.

Jo Talks Books: Why Female Friendships In Books Are So Important

Hi everyone! It’s International Women’s Day today, so it seemed like the perfect day to cover a bookish topic that is very close to my heart, it’s something I always talk about loving to see in books and I wanted to talk a little bit more in depth today about why that is and why I think it’s so important. That is, female friendships in books, and I think today is a very apt day to do that, since International Women’s Day is all about celebrating the women in your life (yes men, you get a day too, it’s the 19th November).

Part of my reasoning for loving seeing female friendships in books is quite simple and personal: I’ve always had more girl friends than guy friends, even from primary school, all my friends were girls and it’s been that way ever since. I had bad experiences with boys at secondary school and so I’ve always been a little bit wary of making friends with them, I’ve always found it a lot easier making friends with girls than I have with guys because of that. My friends are massively important to me, they’ve been there for me for years, always supporting me and so I love it when I get to see supportive female friendships in books because it reflects the experiences that I’ve had with all of my amazing friends.

I also have a societal reasons for wanting to see good female friendships portrayed in books though. So often society pits women against each other, suggests that we should be tearing each other down instead of building each other up, that teenage girls should be jealous of other girls their age rather than supportive and I think that the toxic messaging that society sends women about other women is completely wrong. We need to see positive female friendships in books, especially YA books to counteract the horrible messaging that society sends girls, that other women are the enemy and we should only be looking out for ourselves because there’s only enough room for one woman in the room. I don’t think fiction should be responsible for exactly reflecting the society that we see, inequalities and all, I think that fiction should be responsible for reflecting the society that we want to see, where everyone is working together to combat those inequalities, since that’s what should be happening in the real world.

I find it so tiresome seeing books time and time again pit women against each other. We don’t need to see the women in the books we read hating each other because they like the same man, because honestly, that’s sexist and at least in my experience, happens a lot less frequently in life than it does in media. That’s not to say that girls can’t be awful to each other, they can be, but what’s not great is when fiction makes it seem like that’s the only kind of relationship that women can have with each other, which is categorically not true.

Female friendships can be so powerful and enduring and intense and often for teenagers, even more important than the romantic relationships that they have in their lives, anyone who has ever experienced a “friend breakup” can attest to how saddening it is when you part ways with one of your best friends. It’s doing women a disservice when books represent their friendships as completely drama filled and toxic and bitchy and not showing the loving, caring, intensely supportive side of female friendships. Women’s friendships are much more nuanced than fiction sometimes give them credit for and we need to have less of the women at each other throats constantly, because that feeds into the toxic bullshit that society sends us that women can’t be friends with other women because the patriarchy knows that when women support each other, we are stronger than ever.

I’d like to give some examples of really great female friendships that I love from books, to illustrate my point and show what I’d like to see even more of in books as I think friendship in general and it’s importance, especially in YA books which is what I mostly read, can be sorely overlooked sometimes.

Elizabeth Wein’s books are amazing for showing the power of female friendships and women working together. There are women at the centre of all her books and all of these women have other women surrounding them and helping them. Code Name Verity is all about Maddie and Verity’s friendship, it shows just how far women will go to help each other and the love between these two girls just spills of the page, it will forever be one of my favourite books about female friendship. Rose Under Fire also centres women’s friendships, how Rose is able to cope and endure her terrible experiences in Ravensbruck because of the friendship of the other women imprisoned with her, and The Pearl Thief shows the wonderful intensity of Verity’s first female friendship before she even became Verity. If you love women in historical fiction, I 1000% recommend Elizabeth Wein’s books.

Laura Steven’s The Exact Opposite of Okay is also incredible in its portrayal of female friendship. This one is particularly special to me because Izzy and Ajita’s friendship reminds me so much of me and my best friend, they mock each other constantly and to an outside eye that mocking might look mean, but it’s all based on true friendship and you know that they’d just do anything for each other.

The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants was probably my first great YA female friendship book (I loved The Sleepover Club and The Saddle Club for this when I was a kid), Tibby, Lena, Carmen and Bridget were so close, they were almost like sisters and they were always there for each other, even if they were mad at each other.

Throne of Glass also, for it’s many problems, shows some wonderful female friendships, you have the Thirteen who yes, are bloodthirsty witches, but they would rip out the heart of anyone who tries to hurt someone from their coven. Aelin and Lysandra are also a wonderful female friendship which inverts the initial girl on girl hate trope beautifully.

Those are just a few examples of books with amazing female friendships in them, there are so many more books out there that have such positive, wonderful friendships between women and I think the number has only been growing in recent years which is amazing to see. Women supporting women is so important and it’s vital at all age groups of books that girls and women get to see examples of positive friendships between female characters, because we desperately need to counteract the toxic messaging given by so many forms of media that pits women against each other. It’s 2019, there’s no place for that kind of toxic messaging anymore and I desperately want authors to give us the complicated, nuanced, but ultimately incredibly supportive female friendships that we deserve.

Do you like to see female friendships in your books? Tell me about your favourite books that feature awesome female friendships (make my TBR grow more, I dare you!). Let me know in the comments!

I don’t know if I’ll do another Jo Talks post this month, it depends how busy I am, especially with my project deadline coming up, but I will definitely be doing that post on Read-a-thons for you guys! In the meantime, the next post I’ll have for you will probably be my Top Ten Tuesday on yes, Tuesday, so look out for that!