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!

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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!

Top Ten Tuesday #135

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Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a great week, I have been back in Essay Hell this week, but it will all be over by the end of the week as I finally finish Uni for the Autumn Semester! This semester both seems to have flown by and dragged incredibly slowly. My NaNoWriMo project is going well, I’m at just over 41K with 2 days to go. I’m not sure if I will actually reach the 50k marker and know that if I do, then there will still be quite a lot more story to go, but I’m so proud of what I’ve done with this story and I’m really excited to continue it even after NaNo is over.

Anyway, since it’s Tuesday, I’m taking a brief break from my essay (very brief, it’s due tomorrow) to bring you this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of the lovely ladies over at The Broke and The Bookish. This week was meant to be talking about our Winter TBR, but I won’t have that drawn up for another few weeks yet, so I decided to switch that out for a topic from January, Top Ten New To Me Authors That I Read In 2017. One of my bookish resolutions for this year was to read more books from new to me authors, and I think I have achieved it, if with mixed results. So here we go, my favourite New To Me Authors That I Read in 2017:

  1. Samantha Shannon-Author of The Bone Season Septology (three books out so far)

My favourite new to me discovery of 2017! I binged Samantha’s books over the summer and after a shaky start with The Bone Season, completely fell in love with them. I even got the chance to meet her at YALC this year, which was amazing. I would definitely recommend, even if you don’t read her books, following Samantha on Twitter/Instagram because she has great feeds!

2. Stephanie Garber-Author of Caraval

I absolutely devoured Stephanie’s debut back in January, such a magical, beautiful story, Stephanie is certainly a very talented author and I cannot wait to see what she does with the sequel to Caraval when it comes out next May.

3. Ellie Marney-Author of The Every Series

I read the first book in Ellie Marney’s Every series back in January, Every Breath and I love her unique take on the well known character of Sherlock Holmes, I have never seen Sherlock in a contemporary Australian setting before, and I thought she created a decent mystery, if a little slow, and a very shippable romance.

4. Laini Taylor-Author of The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy & Strange The Dreamer

Whilst I wasn’t totally in love with Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I did enjoy the Prague setting and the unique take on angel/demon lore, but wasn’t in love with the half baked romance. Still, it was definitely one of the more different fantasy books that I’ve read, I loved Laini Taylor’s creative world building and her beautiful writing and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.

5. Leigh Bardugo-Author of The Grisha Trilogy, Six of Crows Duology, Language of Thorns and Wonder Woman: Warbringer

Yes, 2017 was the year that I finally jumped onto the Leigh Bardugo bandwagon and totally wondered why I hadn’t been on it the whole time. I read Six of Crows back in August and really enjoyed it, definitely one of my favourite fantasies that I’ve read this year and I’m excited to read more Bardugo in 2018.

6. Louise Gornall-Author of Under Rose Tainted Skies

Louise Gornall’s debut novel is one of the best mental health related YA books that I have ever read, the fact that she is drawing on her own experience of her own mental health conditions of OCD and agoraphobia definitely puts this above other YA mental health books that I’ve read and it had an incredibly strong character voice.

7. Tricia Levenseller-Author of Daughter of The Pirate King

Daughter of The Pirate King is probably the most fun book I’ve read this entire year. I would have liked a little bit more pirating, but I loved the characters and the humour and just the fact that I smiled basically the entire time I was reading this, it’s nice to sometimes read books that don’t rip your entire soul apart.

8. Alex Bell-Author of Frozen Charlotte and Charlotte Says

I’m not usually a big fan of YA horror, but Alex Bell’s stories about creepy Frozen Charlotte dolls were the perfect mix of creepy, without being overly gory.

9. Heidi Heilig-Author of The Girl From Everywhere Duology

I really enjoyed Heidi Heilig’s time travelling historical fantasy, it was definitely different to anything I’ve read before, it had such a diverse cast and I loved the Hawaiian setting. I’m looking forward to getting to the second part of this duology very soon.

10. Karen McManus-Author of One of Us Is Lying

I was a little underwhelmed with Karen McManus’ debut, the idea behind the book was amazing, the execution could have used a little work. I didn’t feel entirely thrilled by any part of the book and I felt like the characters could have been more fleshed out. Still, it was a solid debut and I’m sure that Karen McManus will get better and better as she writes more books.

So there we go, my favourite new authors I’ve discovered this year! Have you read any of these authors? Who are your favourite new authors that you’ve discovered this year (debut or otherwise)? Do we share any? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is Ten Bookish Settings I’d Love To Visit, which sounds like it’s going to be a fun one. I’m hoping to get up my discussion post for November by Thursday, if at all possible, it might have to be very squeezed in, but I’m going to try, so stay tuned!

Top Ten Tuesday #134

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Hi all! I hope you all have had a good week since I last did one of these, I’ve had a brief reprieve from essay hell but I have another one due next week, so I’ll be diving back in again very soon! I went to see Murder on The Orient Express with my friends yesterday and it was so good, I definitely recommend going to see it if you get the chance. My NaNoWriMo project is still progressing solidly and whilst I’m behind on my word count and am not sure I will reach 50k by next Thursday, I’m still happy with what I’ve managed to write over the past 3 weeks.

Anyway, as it’s Tuesday, I’m back with another Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of the lovely ladies over at The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s topic is Thanksgiving themed, as it is Thanksgiving in the US on Thursday and although we don’t celebrate over here in the UK (honestly having two turkey holidays so close together baffles this Brit’s mind), it still seems like a nice idea to share the things that I’m thankful for. In the past, I’ve shared authors that I was thankful for and just general bookish things that I was thankful for. This week, I’m going to be sharing the Top Ten Books That I’m Thankful For. It will be hard to narrow down, but I’ll give it a go:

  1. Harry Potter Series-JK Rowling

How could I make a list like this without including Harry Potter? I just couldn’t. These books were my entry into fantasy, the books the made me want to be a writer, I connected with so many of my friends over a shared love of Harry Potter, I will never not be grateful that I read these wonderful books.

2. Shades of Magic Trilogy-VE Schwab

AHH THESE BOOKS! Such a creative, engaging fantasy world with so many brilliant characters, I am so glad that I listened to all the blogging hype and decided to read this series as through it, I have discovered one of my favourite authors, one of my favourite worlds & several favourite characters.

3. Skulduggery Pleasant Series-Derek Landy

One of the two main fantasy series that marked my teen years, I’m so thankful that I got to experience Derek Landy’s wit and humour, not to mention his wonderful skeleton detective who is without a doubt one of my favourite characters of all time.

4. PJO, HOO, TOA & Magnus Chase Series-Rick Riordan

Okay so that’s basically all the Rick Riordan books I’ve read, but I don’t care. Rick Riordan’s books are so much fun, so inventive and I’ve learned more about Greek, Roman and Norse Mythology through them that I ever knew was possible. I’ve also been introduced to some of my all time favourite characters, the most obvious of course being Percy Jackson.

5. Unwind Dystology-Neal Shusterman

The Unwind Dystology is one of the creepiest, most inventive dystopians I’ve ever read and whilst yes, certain scenes in the last book may have given me nightmares, I’m so glad I read this series, it showed me that there were new and different ideas in dystopian fiction after all and it didn’t just have to be a rehash of the same old tired plots.

6. The Raven Cycle-Maggie Stiefvater

I nearly put the first book down when I was reading it because it took me so long to get through it, but I’m so glad I didn’t because this is now one of my absolute favourite series, it just took me a while to get used to the strangeness of Stiefvater’s world. I’m very thankful for the wonderful friendship of the Gangsey, one of my favourite friendship groups in YA.

7. Throne of Glass Series-Sarah J Maas

I literally picked the first two books up on a whim because of a 3 for 2 offer in Waterstones three years ago. I’m so glad I did because in that time, the world and characters have become amongst my favourites in the fantasy genre. I got to meet Sarah last year and it was so amazing, I’m so grateful that I got the chance to do that!

8. The Book Thief-Markus Zusak

Should you be thankful for having your soul ripped into a million pieces? I don’t know, but this book is one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking things I have ever read and I’m so thankful that I got the chance to read it.

9. My Sister’s Keeper-Jodi Picoult

Again, not necessarily sure I should be thankful for this one as it destroyed me, but this book was the gateway into one of my favourite author’s work, not only that, it’s a beautiful story that has sister relationships at the very heart of it, which is something that will always be important to me.

10. Code Name Verity-Elizabeth Wein

Yes this book crushed my soul and all that jazz, but I’ve never read a book that centred female friendship as much as this one and for that I am so grateful, we need more books with girls supporting girls at the centre.

I could honestly go on and on about all the books I’m thankful to have read, but I’m going to be good and stop at the usual ten this week, especially since I went so overboard last week! What books are you most thankful for? Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is Top Ten Books On My Winter TBR, but since I don’t tend to sort out my Winter TBR until January, I’m going to swap with the New To Me Authors That I Read In 2017 topic from the beginning of January. I don’t think I’ll be posting during the rest of the week, as I’ll be working on my essay, but I will be back here again next Tuesday!

 

House of Ash Review (e-ARC)

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Book: House of Ash

Author: Hope Cook

Published by: Abrams Kids

Expected Publication: 26th September (yes I know, this is super late!)

Format: e-book

I received this book via Netgalley. As always, this in no way affected my opinion of the book. As always, thank you to Netgalley and Abrams Kids for allowing me to read it.

I requested this on Netgalley months ago, but I’ve been super busy since University started and was having problems with my Adobe Reader a few months ago, so it’s taken me a while to finally read it and review it. I thought the concept for this book sounded amazing, a mystery about an old haunted house sounded just the sort of thing I would love. And I did enjoy it but not as much as I thought I would. I can’t really explain exactly why, there was nothing glaringly obvious wrong with it, it was for the most part a relatively enjoyable and intriguing story, it just didn’t grip me quite as much as I’d hoped it would. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

After hearing voices among an eerie copse of trees in the woods, seventeen-year-old Curtis must confront his worst fear: that he has inherited his father’s mental illness. A desperate search for answers leads him to discover Gravenhearst, a labyrinth mansion that burned down in 1894. When he locks eyes with a steely Victorian girl in a forgotten mirror, he’s sure she’s one of the fire’s victims. If he can unravel the mystery, he can save his sanity . . . and possibly the girl who haunts his dreams.

But more than 100 years in the past, the girl in the mirror is fighting her own battles. When her mother disappears and her sinister stepfather reveals his true intentions, Mila and her sister fight to escape Gravenhearst and unravel the house’s secrets—before it devours them both.

I thought it was a very interesting choice that the author started the book with dialogue as you don’t see that very often and her writing style overall throughout the book was really nice, there were some lovely passages of description in there that I really enjoyed. There were a few typos, but since it was a proof copy I was reading, that’s to be expected. There was a particularly great line of dialogue at the end, where Avi says, “She’s British, she’s freezing, of course she wants tea” which made me laugh so hard.

The transitions between Curtis and Mila’s POV’s were a bit clumsy to start off with and this wasn’t helped by the fact that the chapters were quite short so as soon as you’d got into one of their POVs, it was the other ones turn. Still, the author created the sense of time very well in both, you could definitely tell they were from different time periods and the voices were distinct which is always a worry when reading multiple POV books.

I didn’t really fall in love with either of the characters. I mean I found Mila’s chapters more interesting than Curtis’ because more of the paranormal elements were present in her chapters, but she still felt very bland to me, as did Curtis. Also their insta-love was entirely unrealistic to me, Curtis literally sees a picture of Mila and falls in love. Mila sees him in the mirror once and is having steamy dreams about him. I felt like I could root for Mila a lot more than I could root for Curtis though, she is trying to escape the house to get away from her abusive stepfather, whereas Curtis is just trying to find Gravenhearst to prove that she’s not crazy. Curtis’ friend Avi and his sister Sage seemed to be the only ones with any real personality and I wished we’d got a bit more of them.

I would have liked to get a chance to get to know Wynn better, she seemed really sweet and we barely got a chance to get to know her before she disappeared.

I wasn’t a fan of how the mental health aspects of this story were portrayed, Curtis’ father has some form of mental illness, the exact one is not named in the story. It felt like Curtis’ father’s mental illness was merely used as a plot device in order to explain Curtis’ fear at hearing voice and giving him a “tragic” backstory and that didn’t really sit well with me. I wasn’t a big fan of how Curtis dealt with his father’s mental illness, he’s not very understanding, he just gets angry. Also I didn’t like how the author used Curtis believed mental illness as a plot twist, that didn’t sit right with me either. The scenes portraying Curtis’ father’s mental illness can be quite violent and could be potentially triggering, so just a warning for that. It did find it weird since their mother died when they were so young and their dad had been ill for all that time that they hadn’t been taken into care, it didn’t seem realistic.

The first half of the book was quite slow paced for me, it was only in the second half when Curtis and Mila’s POVs started to really come together when I became properly engaged with the story.

I liked the Canadian setting, it’s so rare for me to read books set outside the US/UK (if it’s not a fantasy world), so it was nice to see a different setting.

I did like the mystery with the house and how everything came together with Mila and Curtis’ storyline intermingling at the end, I thought that was really well done. Gravenhearst, the house that shifts through time was suitably creepy and you could tell why Mila was desperate to get out of there. Deemus was horrible, truly awful and totally deserved what he got. I would have liked a bit more information on how Gravenhearst worked though, you get vague details but I thought it could have been explained better.

There was some LGBTQ rep with Curtis’s sister, and Mila’s father but it’s very much background and you only really hear about it second hand so I wouldn’t exactly count this as an LGBTQ book.

This is a minor thing, but there’s a passage where Mila was reading out loud from a book and the passage from the book probably should have been italicised.

There were some decent twists towards the end that I didn’t see coming, but the pace was so fast at the end as compared to the slow build up that you didn’t really have time take them in and there were certain things that confused me, although saying what would have been spoilery. I would have liked Zahra to have a bigger role during the story, given her role during the conclusion.

I wasn’t really sure what the illustrations added to the book, but maybe that’s just me being not a particularly visual reader.

The book ended sort of abruptly, it seems like the author is leaving the path open for a possible sequel, but perhaps not, I don’t know, it definitely wasn’t closed enough for a standalone though.

Overall this was a decent haunted house story, the writing was very pretty but the character development was a little lacking and the pace was very uneven, so it felt like the climax was rushed.

My rating: 3/5

My next review will be of the final book in the Magnus Chase trilogy, The Ship of The Dead. I’m not sure when it will be though as I’m only about halfway through now.

Top Ten Tuesday #133

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Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all been having a good week, mine has been not so great, I am currently in essay hell and I swear after this week I will likely never want to see my University library ever again (okay that’s a little over-dramatic, but seriously, I’ve spent more time in the library in the last five days than I have in the entire 2 1/2 years I’ve been at University!). My NaNoWriMo project is still just about on track, despite the aforementioned essay hell, though I’ve hit a slight snag with the middle, so I’m going to attempt writing the end (which I know) and working backwards. This is the first time I’ve ever written out of chronological order, so wish me luck (and anyone who does this regularly, if you have any tips, then help a girl out!).

Anyway, since it’s Tuesday, I’m back with another Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of the lovely ladies over at The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books I Want My Future Children/Nieces/Nephews/Godchildren/Young People in my life to read. Since I’m pretty adamant that I don’t want kids in the future (not a kid person at all!), I’m going to go with Top Ten Books I’d Pass On To My Nieces/Nephews If I Had Any In The Future (I’m adding the if, since I don’t know if my sister will have kids in future or not). These will all be books that I, or my sister, currently own, that I would want to keep to pass down to nieces or nephews were I to have any.

  1. The Harry Potter Series-JK Rowling

There is no way these books wouldn’t be the top of my list. The copies we have actually belong to my sister, but I reckon she would agree with me in wanting to pass these books on to my hypothetical nieces/nephews. Our dad read them to us when we were little and I would love to keep up that tradition with my nieces/nephews were I to have any.

2. Heartland Series-Lauren Brooke

Horses have been such a big part of my life (and part of my sister’s too, though she hasn’t ridden in a while), so I would definitely want that love to be passed onto my nieces/nephews and this series was one of my favourites when I was a kid, so I would love to get to share that with my nieces/nephews.

3. Percy Jackson/HOO/TOA-Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan’s books have been a staple in my life since I was 14, and I would love for my nieces/nephews to have that too. I definitely aim to instill my love of fantasy in any nieces or nephews I may have, and I think Rick Riordan’s books will be a great place to start with that.

4. Skulduggery Pleasant-Derek Landy

Skulduggery Pleasant is quite similar to Percy Jackson in terms of humour, so I reckon if my future nieces/nephews liked Percy Jackson they would love Skulduggery Pleasant too. Plus, there’s no way I would allow them not to have my favourite skeleton detective in their lives.

5. The Book Thief-Markus Zusak

The Book Thief is one of my absolute favourite books, so when my nieces/nephews were a little older, I would definitely give them this one, not only because it’s an amazing story, but because I would like to one day have a family member who I could talk history with without their eyes glazing over.

6. Matilda-Roald Dahl

Matilda was a childhood favourite of mine and Roald Dahl was another staple of my childhood, so I would love my nieces/nephews to be able to grow up with that as well.

7. Blind Beauty-KM Peyton

Another one of my childhood favourites that I would love to pass on my nieces/nephews and another step on their hopeful future horse obsession. I would hope that this lovely story might lead onto Black Beauty when they were a little older, and KM Peyton’s other horse related books.

8. The Faraway Tree Books-Enid Blyton

Yet another set of childhood favourites that I would love my nieces/nephews to read. This series introduced me to the wonders of fantasy and I would love my nieces/nephews to become as obsessed with fantasy books as I am.

9. Noughts and Crosses-Malorie Blackman

I’d like to hope that one day this story won’t be as politically relevant as it is today, but that’s just wishful thinking, racism has always been a thing and probably always will be. When my nieces and nephews are older and looking for their first introduction to YA, this will be one of the first books I give them, it’s a beautiful, poignant, important story that I would love for them to read.

10. Ballet Shoes-Noel Streatfeild

Another one of my favourites as a kid, I would definitely love my nieces or nephews (because boys can read books about girls too darn it), to read this one, it’s such a lovely story about family and growing up and finding your way in the world.

11. Shades of Magic Trilogy-VE Schwab

When my nieces/nephews are a little older, I will be shoving VE Schwab’s books into their hands, because they need to be exposed to the wonderful things that come from the brain of VE Schwab and become as addicted to her books as I am.

12. The Hunger Games Trilogy-Suzanne Collins

This is a series that both my sister and I really loved, so it would be great to be able to share that love with my future nieces and nephews if I were to have any. This would be a great introduction to YA for them, I think.

13. Unwind Dystology-Neal Shusterman

Another one of my personal favourites that I would love to pass down to my nieces/nephews when they were teens. I mean it’s better for them to learn sooner rather than later that my nieces/nephews learn that their aunt is into weird, creepy books no? But in all seriousness, this is one of the most unique dystopian series I’ve ever read and if I’m going to get my nieces/nephews into dystopia, I may as well start them with the best!

14. The Raven Cycle-Maggie Stiefvater

Another of my favourite fantasy series that I would love to be able to share with my nieces/nephews, I want to be able to introduce them to Maggie Stiefvater’s weird, wonderful world of dead welsh kings and psychics and magic and one of my favourite friendship groups in YA.

15. Code Name Verity-Elizabeth Wein

I’d love my nieces/nephews to read this, both to get them into history but also to show examples of great female friendship as it’s so important to show girls getting along and supporting each other, and I would like both nieces or nephews to aspire to having friendships as wonderful as Maddie and Julie’s.

16. Charlotte’s Web-EB White

This was one of my favourite books when I was a kid, so I would love to get to pass it down to my nieces/nephews and see if they love it as much as I did.

17. My Sister’s Keeper-Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is one of my favourite authors and I would love to be able to share that with my nieces/nephews when they were old enough to read her books and since this one is my favourite, it would be the one I would start with.

18. Anything by Sophie McKenzie

I’m not picking a specific books but I gobbled up Sophie McKenzie’s books when I was a teen and I would love to be able to share the love and pass them onto my future nieces/nephews.

19. Dangerous Girls-Abigail Haas

Because everyone, including my hypothetical nieces/nephews need to have their minds blown by this book. I will not stop until it has happened.

20. Cross My Heart-Carmen Reid

This is another one of my favourite historical fiction YAs and I would love to be able to share it with my future nieces/nephews, it’s such an underrated but incredibly brilliant book and I’d like them to know about lesser known parts of WWII as well as the stuff that everyone knows about.

So there we go, the books I would pass onto my hypothetical nieces/nephews! I know I got a bit overexcited, but let’s face it, I will be passing every book I can onto my future nieces/nephews if I have them, the love of reading in the Elliott family is not going to die with me! Have you read any of these books? What books would you pass onto to your children/nieces/nephews/godchildren? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is Top Ten Books I’m Thankful For, for Thanksgiving week in the US. Now it’s not Thanksgiving week in the UK as we don’t do Thanksgiving, but I like the idea of the topic, so I’ll still be doing it, it will be a great chance to give my favourite books some love! I am going to be in the midst of essay hell for the foreseeable future, so I probably won’t be posting at all for the rest of this week. I still need to write my review of House of Ash at some point, but I don’t know when that will be!

Top Ten Tuesday #132

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Hi all! I hope you’ve all had a good week, I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo, it’s going pretty well so far, seven days in and I’ve got over 12k, so I’m pretty happy with that. Any one else out there doing NaNo this year? Let me know about your projects in the comments, I want to know all! Anyway, as it’s Tuesday, I’m back with another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of the lovely ladies over at The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Characters Who Would Make Great Leaders, we’re allowed to choose what they would make great leaders of, and one of the suggestions they gave was a book club, which I thought would be a pretty cool topic for today, so I’m running with it. These are my Top Ten Characters Who Would Make Great Leaders of A Book Club:

  1. Hermione Granger-Harry Potter-JK Rowling

I mean duh? Hermione would be the perfect choice to lead a book club, or a library group or basically anything related to books. Sure she might be a bit bossy, but a book group lead by Hermione is bound to be well run and hopefully a lot of fun!

2. Annabeth Chase-Percy Jackson-Rick Riordan

Annabeth is dyslexic but she still loves to read even though she struggles with it, so I think she’d be perfect to lead a book group full of more reluctant readers/other readers with dyslexia as she’d be able to understand their struggles and help make reading fun for them.

3. Aelin Galathynius (Celaena Sardothien)-Throne of Glass-Sarah J Maas

Sure, Aelin might be busy assassining and/or queening most of the time, but she loves to read and would be able to put the fear of death into members of the group who didn’t read the book, so I figure she’d be a perfect, if slightly dangerous, choice to lead a book group.

4. Matilda Wormwood-Matilda-Roald Dahl

Sure, Matilda’s only five, but given that she can read Hemingway and Dickens, and would probably be able to read circles around most adult readers, I reckon she could quite easily lead a book group!

5. Liesel Meminger-The Book Thief-Markus Zusak

She might have less than legal ways of acquiring her books, but given how good Liesel was at calming the people in the bomb shelters with her stories, I think Liesel would be great at leading a group of readers.

6. Jess Brightwell-The Great Library Series-Rachel Caine

Okay, so more than likely Jess would lead the bookworms in a rebellion to steal all the books back from The Great Library, but I think he would be a great leader of a book group, his love for books is one of his most endearing traits and it might be nice for him to have a group where he can talk about his smuggled books (let’s face it, Jess’ book group would probably eventually turn into a gang of book smugglers).

7. Klaus Baudelaire-A Series of Unfortunate Events-Lemony Snicket

Because seriously. the kid’s life is so miserable, he deserves some joy and happiness and since he loves reading and takes much of a leadership role (alongside his sister) throughout the books, I reckon he would be perfect to lead a book club and it might give him a little happiness in his otherwise not particularly enjoyable life (if he can fit it in between running away from Count Olaf and all that).

8. Delilah-Between The Lines and Off The Page-Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer

Okay, I can’t remember exactly what her last name was because it has been so long since I read this book, but from what I do remember, Delilah loves books more than she loves people and I think that makes her perfect to lead a group of fellow bookworms!

9. Belle-Beauty and The Beast-Gabrielle Suzanne Barbot de Villenueve

Okay, so I’ve never read the original fairytale, I’m more going off the Disney film here, but Belle would be perfect to run a book club, she loves to read and given that her village are all a bit scornful of her favourite hobby (A WOMAN? READING? SHOCKER!), I reckon that she would love to run a book club and be surrounded by people who actually appreciate and share her love of reading.

10. Artemis Fowl-Artemis Fowl-Eoin Colfer

Okay, so a book club with Artemis at the helm would be kind of a nightmare because he loves to prove that he’s smarter than everyone else but I think that’s the exact reason why he’d want to run a book club, I mean what better outlet for an arrogant genius who constantly wants to prove he’s the smartest person in the room?

So there you go, characters who I think would make great leaders of a book club! Do you agree with my choices? Is there anyone else you would add? Who are your favourite bookworm characters? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is Top Ten Books I Want My Future Children to read, but since I am pretty adamant that I don’t want to have kids in the future, I’m going to to change it to Top Ten Books I Want My Future Nieces/Nephews (if I have any) to read. I recently finished one of my Netgalley reads, House of Ash, so I’m going to try to get that up as soon as possible, if I have time between NaNoWriMo’ing and of course actual university work!