Quarterly Rewind (June-September 17 edition)

Hi everyone! I can’t believe another three months has gone by and it’s time for me to do one of these again, they seem to come faster and faster each time I write one! For anyone who’s new to the blog and hasn’t been around for one of these before, basically I do a new one of these posts every three months, rounding up what I have done during one season and what I’m looking forward to during the next season. I post them on the first day of each new season, which is why I’m doing this today, as it’s the Autumn Equinox. This post will cover from 22nd June-21st September:

Image from this Summer:

IMG_0574[1]This is my friend Hannah and I at YALC with Victoria Schwab!

Favourite Quote from a book you read this Summer:

“Words are everything. Words give wings even to those who have been stamped upon, broken beyond all hope of repair” -The Mime Order, Samantha Shannon

I wasn’t overly keen on the first Bone Season book, but this one and the third one definitely upped the ante and now I am very impatiently waiting for number four!

This Summer In One Word:

Hot!

Most popular review this Summer:

In the period that this rewind covers, I’ve read 7 books and finished two others that I started in the period of the last rewind. The most popular of these was my review of One Of Us Is Lying apparently, which was not what I was expecting at all:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/01/one-of-us-is-lying-review-e-arc/

Top Two Books This Summer:

This is relatively easy as there are two definite standouts of the books I’ve read this summer, they are:

  1. The Song Rising (The Bone Season #3)-Samantha Shannon-This is my second five star read of the entire year, so of course it was a standout! The pacing was so much better than the first too and I loved seeing how far Paige has come as a character.
  2. Six of Crows-Leigh Bardugo-I was really stressed with the hype for this one that I wouldn’t love it as much as everyone else did, but I sped through it in about a week!

Two Things I’m Looking Forward To This Autumn:

  1. Going to Hairspray-The Hairspray UK Tour is coming up to Glasgow in two weeks, and I’m going to see it with my friends as a belated birthday celebration! It’s not something I ever thought I’d get the chance to see on stage and it’s one of my favourite musicals, so I’m super excited.
  2. Team Trials for Equestrian Club-Team Trials is in a couple of weeks (same week as Hairspray) and I’m hoping I might finally be able to try out for the team this year!

Three New Obsessions This Summer:

Ah the hardest part of this rewind! I have a lot of obsessions but most of them are long standing! I’ll give it a go though:

  1. Game of Thrones-Yes you can officially count me on the Game of Thrones bandwagon, I watched all six seasons in two weeks this summer and then the newest season. I didn’t think I was going to like it but I ended up loving it!
  2. Outlander-I started watching season one when it came on More4 a few months ago, and I’m totally hooked! I can’t wait to see what happens next!
  3. The Flash-Another show I binged in it’s entirety this summer. I’m really looking forward to Season 4!

Five Most Popular Blog Posts This Summer:

As usual, all of my five most popular blog posts of this summer were Top Ten Tuesday posts:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday #124-This was my Top Ten Tuesday post from last week, where I talked about the books that have shaped my life. I’m so happy that this one is my most popular post of the season, since it was the TTT celebrating my 21st birthday, so it’s lovely to see how much support it got!

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/top-ten-tuesday-124

2. Top Ten Tuesday #125-This was my Top Ten Tuesday post from this week actually, where I talked about the books that I have on my Autumn TBR. Since it was my second most popular post of the season, I should probably try to actually stick to it!

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/19/top-ten-tuesday-125/

3. Top Ten Tuesday #120-My third most popular post of this summer was from about a month ago, when the Broke and Bookish girls returned from their month long hiatus. I gave book recommendations for people who like books without romance, so I’m glad to see it was popular, and that I’m not the only romance cynic out there!

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/15/top-ten-tuesday-120/

4. Top Ten Tuesday #123-This post is from two weeks ago, when I talked about books that I thought I loved, but actually really struggled with. It’s amazing how much love negative posts get!

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/05/top-ten-tuesday-123/

5. Top Ten Tuesday #121-My final most popular post of the summer is this one where I talked about the best books I’ve read since I started Uni. It was a really fun one to do, I loved getting to look back at all the amazing stuff I’ve got to read since I started Uni, two years ago.

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/top-ten-tuesday-121/

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

I don’t know if I’ve actually bookmarked that many posts this Summer, but I’ll see!

  1. Sarah K @ The Book Traveler, had Alyssa Cavlier did this great post about giving book series’ second chances, which I really enjoyed as it’s something I often struggle with!

http://theyabooktraveler.com/index.php/2017/06/27/alyssacavlier/

2. Libba Bray did this great piece for Entertainment Weekly about her book Beauty Queens and the struggles of being a female author in Hollywood, it’s well worth the read!

‘The Diviners’ author Libba Bray has some thoughts on this all-female ‘Lord of the Flies’ remake

3. Cait @ Paper Fury did this super hilarious post about her most common complaints when reading. It’s actually spooky, we share basically all of them:

http://paperfury.com/10-common-complaints-ya-books/#comment-314776

4. Danika Ellis did this great post for Book Riot about how Goodreads has changed the way she reads, which I found really interesting as I definitely think Goodreads (and blogging in general) have changed the way I read:

https://bookriot.com/2017/07/14/reading-with-stars-in-your-eyes-how-goodreads-changed-how-i-read/

Five Things That Happened This Summer:

  1. I went to YALC with my friend Hannah for the third year in a row. If possible, I think this year was the best year yet!
  2. I visited my sister in Amsterdam for her 23rd birthday.
  3. I turned 21! Just last week actually!
  4. I went to see Mamma Mia with my friend Ellie as an early 21st birthday celebration.
  5. I started my third year of University.

Six Songs I Listened To Way Too Often This Summer:

  1. Mamma Mia-What with seeing the stage show this summer, I’ve had this song on repeat a lot!
  2. The Skye Boat Song-It’s at the start of every episode of Outlander, so it’s safe to say I’ve listened to it a lot!
  3. You’ll Be Back-Hamilton-Yeah I’m not obsessed with this song or anything…….
  4. Defying Gravity-Wicked-I mean it’s Defying Gravity, need I explain?
  5. Coming Home-Country Strong-I love this song and it came up on my IPod a lot over the summer.
  6. Gonna Get Even-Nashville Cast-This song is pretty apt for some things that were happening in my personal life over the summer.

So that’s my Quarterly Rewind for Summer, what do you guys think? What have you enjoyed most on my blog this Summer? What have you been up to? Let me know in the comments!

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Top Ten Tuesday #125

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Hi all! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, mine went from lovely with my birthday and everything last week to pretty sucky because right after, I managed to catch Fresher’s Flu and have been feeling lousy ever since, so yay for me (not). Still, Tuesday means I have another Top Ten Tuesday from the lovely ladies over at The Broke and The Bookish to cheer me up, so at least that’s something! This week we’re talking about our Autumn TBRs, otherwise known as the books I will try and most likely fail to read all of in the next three months. I actually did read 8 out of 10 of the books on my Summer TBR, so I’m feeling pretty good about that, it was an up on my Spring TBR anyway! These are the books I’m hoping to read this Autumn (I am British after all, we don’t call it Fall!), though I doubt I’ll read all of them, I’ll be happy if I manage the same as I did for my Summer TBR:

  1. And I Darken-Kiersten White

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve only read like 70 pages of this in the week I’ve been reading it, I’m not really that invested yet and because I’ve been feeling so lousy with my cold recently, I haven’t really been in the mood to read that much. I’m hoping that once I feel better I will get more into it because I love the concept of this one!

2. Tower of Dawn-Sarah J Maas

It wouldn’t be Autumn without a new Sarah J Maas book to read! I’m very excited for this one once I’ve finished And I Darken, I’ve heard really good things.

3. Charlotte Says-Alex Bell

I’m currently reading the prequel to Frozen Charlotte, but again, I think it’s kind of fallen victim to my current feelings of lousiness as I’ve been dipping in and out quite a lot recently. I’m hoping to have this one finished by the end of the month though!

4. Scythe-Neal Shusterman

If I have time, and I hope I will, this will be a great one to read for October and I’ve been dying to read it for ages anyway, so I’m hoping that I will get time to read it as I love Neal Shusterman’s books and I haven’t read one in a while!

5. The Girl From Everywhere-Heidi Heilig

I’ve heard such great things about this one and it seems like a very Jo book, I mean you have history, and time travel and ships and it just sounds freakin’ amazing, so I’m very excited to finally dive into it.

6. Daughter of The Burning City-Amanda Foody

I got this book at YALC and it just sounds so amazing, I love the whole idea of a circus and illusions and magic and everything, so I can’t wait to dive into this one this Autumn!

7. Three Dark Crowns-Kendare Blake

Something about this book just screams Autumn to me, so I’m hoping to finally read it in the next three months.

8. The Graces-Laure Eve

I don’t know if I’ll actually get to this or not, but this seems like another great one to have in the bank for Halloween.

9. Afterworlds-Scott Westerfeld

This is one of my #RockMyTBR books and I’ve been intrigued by it for ages, so I’m hoping to finally get it read this Autumn!

10. Because You Love To Hate Me-Various

This anthology of villain stories seems like the perfect October read!

I’m going to stick to just 10 this week as I’m never very good at sticking to TBRs and I find that my reading mood changes a lot when I’m at Uni, so I might not been in the mood for all the books I’ve listed here! Do you have any of these on your Autumn TBR? Have you read any of these? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

I will be back next week, with another Top Ten Tuesday, which is a freebie, Ten Books Which Feature Characters…… (fill in the blank). I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to put in the gap right now, so you’ll have to come back next week and see what I decided! In the meantime, I should have my new Quarterly Rewind post up on Saturday, so make sure you check that out, if you want to know what I’ve been up to the past three months!

 

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) Review

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Book: Glass Sword (Red Queen #2)

Author: Victoria Aveyard

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this book, the first book wasn’t my favourite thing in the world but it had potential and I was hoping that the sequel would expand on the potential seen in the first one, plus I met the author just before I started reading it and got it signed so I was really hoping that I would like it. Unfortunately I definitely felt like this book suffered hugely from second book syndrome, it was a LOT of set up with very little reward at the end and was probably about 100-200 pages longer than it really needed to be. Sure the end sets up for some pretty exciting stuff but you can’t expect readers to sit through hundreds of pages of boring to get to the good stuff, just so they’ll keep on with the next book! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.

So where do I start with this? I think the pacing is probably the best place as that was incredibly irritating. We switch between extensive Mare-monologues, to action sequences that really leave absolutely no punch at all, and back again, I don’t even know how many times over the course of this book. The actual plot is relatively simple: find and save newbloods, it shouldn’t have taken nearly 500 pages to do that! It also throws you straight into the new story without giving any kind of background on what happened in the first book and I’m sorry but it’s been over a year since I read Red Queen, I’m not gonna remember everything! You cannot assume that your reader is going to be going into the book, fresh off reading the first in series. This isn’t really a particular bug bear just with Aveyard, it’s authors in general really. Series synopses need to be a thing! The chapters were also overly long, it felt like I was trudging through them to get to the end, as opposed to actively enjoying them.

I also didn’t love Aveyard’s writing? She tended to lean on the same phrases and use them over and over again throughout the book. Seriously, I could have made a drinking game out of the number of times Mare used the phrases “lightning girl” and “anyone can betray anyone” in this book! She treads the line between cheap action sequences that didn’t really add anything to the plot asides from being “flashy” and info-dumping throughout most of the book. I actually said in my first Red Queen review that I liked her writing, so I don’t know what changed in this book, but it really irritated me.

Whilst I quite liked Mare in the first book, despite her awful name, in this book she became absolutely unbearable to me. Her inner monologues were lengthy and boring, she had the tendency to contradict herself all the time, she was arrogant to the point where you kind of wanted to punch her, she was so dismissive and rude to her friends and I felt like she kind of looked down on anyone who wasn’t a newblood? Correct me if I’m wrong, but it felt that way to me! She feels so incredibly entitled and yet is so self-pitying at the same time, it’s not a fun combination to read. I complained in the first book that she didn’t seem to have much agency, and as far as I could tell, that didn’t really change much in this book, she still didn’t feel like much of a leader to me.

The plot was incredibly thin on the ground. It was basically them rushing between one part of the Kingdom and another to rescue newbloods, who just so happened to have the exact powers Mare needed them to in order to complete the big mission at the end. Almost every chapter read the same to me, and I often found myself flicking through to find out when they would be over.

Cal, I actually appreciated more in this book. He seemed to be one of the few who was willing to call Mare out and tell her when she’d gone too far (him and Cameron), he’s actually lost far more than Mare has and deals with it a lot better than she does. I wouldn’t go as far as to say he was totally fleshed out, but I felt like he was more on the way there.

The villains’ just totally dropped off the map in this book! I mean Maven and Elara are kind of there in the background, but they really don’t make their presence felt at all, I mean we’re supposed to believe that all the newbloods are in danger from them and they’re this force to be reckoned with, but they kind of just slink around for the entire book. It would have been nice for them to be more scary really!

I still enjoyed all of the abilities, but it annoyed me that everyone they recruited just happened to have a skill they needed, you’re recruiting all these people. it’s likely that one of them won’t have a useful skill! It just felt too coincidental to me, it would have been better if the characters had powers that fit their personalities, that could have been a prime chance to develop their characters, but no we don’t get that, they are barely developed.  I liked the hints that we saw of Cameron, she was great,  but all the rest basically seemed to be there as props to do Mare’s bidding.

I also didn’t like that for someone who family is supposed to mean so much to, Mare basically forgot about her family half the time throughout this book. There’s no point your YA character having a present family (a big score point) if they just forget about them all the time! I did like that this book explored her relationship with her brother Shade a bit more though, that was good.

I felt so bad for Kilorn, Mare treated him so badly when all he was doing was trying to help. I actually enjoyed his character, he and Cameron were basically the only characters that showed any real spark in this book!

The romance in this was again pretty bland. So Kilorn is basically out of the picture and she tells him as much, which I did appreciate because I hate it when the guy who is obviously not going to win the girl’s affections is led on. Maven and Cal both still appear to be in the running for Mare’s heart, despite the fact that Maven is evil now, Mare doesn’t seem able to let go. It all just felt rather bland to me, I didn’t really feel the chemistry between Cal and Mare and Maven’s not really there for most of it and on his side, Mare feels kind of like a possession, which is something I hate. I don’t feel like romance is Victoria Aveyard’s forte!

I didn’t really feel like the world building was expanded much in this book. They travel through basically the entire Kingdom, but there’s no map and no real expansion of the world, it was just, oh we’re going to this part of the kingdom, now this part, now this part and I just felt completely confused by it! It’s never really been explained why the Silvers are in power or where the whole divide came from, only the vague, “oh there was a war a long time ago and now everyone hates everyone else”. And we still have no idea why newbloods exist, they just do.

It also really bothers me that Mare has no female friends at all, now I’m not saying that girls can’t get along better with guys than girls, but there are very few YA books that show positive female friendships and I would love to see more of this, because I feel like teenage girls need that sometimes, they need to know that other teen girls aren’t the enemy! It wasn’t as bad as the first book with all the girl on girl hate between Mare and Evangeline, but the only girls who have much of a presence in this book are Mare, Farley and Cameron, Mare and Farley, I guess are friends but I’m not sure you could tell by the way they act. Cameron is hostile to Mare from the get go and that’s understandable, but I would have liked it if she had one close female friend. Just one.

The fantasy elements from the first novel seemed all but gone in this one as well, I liked that the first one was a kind of dystopian/fantasy cross, but it seemed like this book couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, dystopian, sci-fi, fantasy, who knows?

There are TOO MANY characters! Have a few characters and focus and really develop them, rather than throwing in all of these newbloods with different names and powers and no personality for readers, just give us a few well developed ones, we won’t mind! We might even actually thank you for it. I read a lot okay, I do not have time to remember every single random character you want to throw into the story and it must be even worse for people who read hundreds of books a year.

I was hoping the Scarlet Guard would have more to do in this one, but aside from at the very start and the very end, they basically do nothing.

It got a bit more exciting towards the end, but still, the action sequences were rather clumsily written, she writes them in a big, cinematic sort of way, which is fine for screenplays, but in books, you don’t necessarily want that.

I also don’t understand how Mare could have got so good with her powers so quickly, she wasn’t even in the palace for that long!

Basically, much as I wanted to like this book, it really wasn’t for me, far too much style over actual substance, Mare was irritating, character development was thin on the ground and world building was practically non existent, there were too many characters, and the plot pretty much wasn’t there at all. I think it would take something really special for me to want to continue the series at this point!

My Rating: 2/5

The next book I will be reviewing is And I Darken, the first book in The Conqueror’s Saga by Kiersten White.

 

 

 

 

 

Jo Talks Books: On The Books That Made Me

Hi everyone! Thank you all for the birthday wishes on my Top Ten Tuesday post yesterday and today, I had a wonderful twenty-first, with friends, shopping, food, cake, presents and the thing that makes all days better, musicals! I had originally planned for something else to be the first post of September, but this was a post inspired by an awesome panel at YALC with Victoria Schwab and Laini Taylor talking about the books that inspired them when they were younger and I thought that since my birthday was yesterday, now would be a perfect time to look back and talk about the books that made me the reader and writer that I am today. I warn you guys, this might be a long one, but I hope you’ll enjoy it!

So I can’t talk about the books that have made me who I am without talking about Harry Potter. I mean I loved to read before Harry Potter and can honestly not remember at time when books weren’t a part of my life in one form or another, even before I learned to read I loved stories, my dad used to read to me and my sister, he read the first Harry Potter book to her when she was little and always jokes about how she used to mispronounce Hermione’s name. My sister has all the books and I would borrow them from her once she was done reading them, devouring each one as it came. Harry Potter was something that we could bond over and share, and it was completely captivating to me. It wasn’t just a book series, it was a part of my childhood, I grew up with the books, by the time the last book was released, I was the same age Harry was in the first book (well almost, my birthday’s in September obviously, so I was still 10 on the official release date). I saw all the movies in the cinema (well at least from number 2, I can’t remember if we saw number 1 there or not, I was only 4!) as they were released, and the first one was among the first books I read on my own. I was utterly captivated by this world where seemingly ordinary people could have extraordinary magic and it was reading these books that made me know that I wanted to be an author. I wanted to be able to create that feeling of wonder and awe for someone.

But Harry Potter is far from the only book that has shaped me as a reader, a writer and a person. If JK Rowling and Harry Potter opened my young mind to the joys and wonders of fantasy, then Jacqueline Wilson was the author who opened my mind to the harsh realities of life. Her unflinchingly realistic portrayal of issues such as death, divorce, adoption, mental illness, friendship, family, poverty etc were wonderful for me to read as as a relatively privileged child who had not experienced many of the harsh realities of life at that point. I remember reading and loving so many of her books as a kid, they were definitely a staple of my early reading diet and then as a teenager, my grounding in Jacqueline Wilson books, led me to Jodi Picoult’s books, who again explores difficult issues but with adults rather than children and she is now one of my favourite authors.

My love of animals was also reinforced through the books I read. From My Secret Unicorn, giving me my first real taste of magical creatures, to Animal Ark which had me seriously considering being a vet when I was older and was one of the first series I ever loved, to The Saddle Club, Heartland, Chestnut Hill, Black Beauty, Blind Beauty and Flambards, which reinforced my love of horses and had me begging my parents for a horse (I started riding at age 8, still don’t have a horse!). Through these books I could read about other animal crazy kids and allowed me an outlet for my love of horses and dogs. My love of animals has always given me a connection with my dad as he is also a big animal lover and one of the first books he ever read to me was Enid Blyton’s Shadow The Sheepdog, a book he read when he was a child, so even before I owned a dog or had ridden a horse, stories like this were very important to me. My dad reading James Herriot books to me was another reason why I ended up loving animals as much as I do, as I loved his humourous stories of working as a country vet in England in the 1930’s-50’s and it was yet another way for my dad and I to bond.

Roald Dahl was also a huge influence on me when I was a kid, from Matilda, to Charlie and The Chocolate Factory to The Twits to Danny Champion of The World, I would devour whatever Dahl story I could get hold of. His combination of somewhat sinister and yet somehow still charming stories were the perfect mix for me. What I loved the most about them was that he never looked down on kids, the kids were always the champions and that’s a great thing to see when you’re a kid! I think Roald Dahl’s books definitely contributed to my love of dark humour, which led me to books like A Series of Unfortunate Events, Skulduggery Pleasant and Unwind when I was older. I also always loved that Roald Dahl’s birthday was the day after mine (ie yesterday)!.

Enid Blyton was another author who turned me into the reader I am today, the Faraway Tree stories showed me the simple joy of reading, of going on adventures with characters to places that you could never go in real life. The Faraway Tree was probably my first ever fantasy love, even before Harry Potter (though I think Harry Potter was the start of my true obsession with the genre). It was the start of my lifetime of longing for adventure, sure I can’t go up a tree and escape into a magical land, but the world is just as exciting and there are just as many different lands that you can escape to! Adventure has always been a huge part of the books I love to read, fantasy stories tend to have some kind or another of adventure and I think that all started with The Faraway Tree when I was little.

I have always loved History, even from a young age and I definitely think that the books I read when I was younger have contributed to the fact that I now do it as a degree. I especially remember loving The Roman Mysteries, the Romans fascinated me even when I was younger and reading those books showed me just how fun history could be. I also had a massive children’s book of Greek mythology (basically the Greek myths but made for kids) which I have no doubt was my grounding for Percy Jackson in the future. The Roman Mysteries was just the start of my historical fiction journey which eventually led to favourite books like The Book Thief, Code Name Verity, Cross My Heart, Between Shades of Grey and The Storyteller. Each of these books showed me how wonderful and powerful history could be and how amazing humans are (sure the characters are fictional but the events are real, they represent a lot of real people) and I knew that I wanted to study it.

Noughts and Crosses was my grounding in dystopia, which eventually led to me reading books like The Hunger Games, Unwind, The Pure Trilogy, Breathe, all really great books but it was also my first real adventure into YA. I remember being a bit reluctant when I was younger to explore the older sections of the bookshop and library as I reached that age because I loved the books I read as a kid so much that I didn’t want to leave them. But as well as being my first experience of reading about racism, this book was also my gateway into YA, so I guess I have Malorie Blackman to thank for my current obsession.

As well as books that have shaped my reading habits and my personality, there are also many books that have turned me into the writer that I am now. I only read the first two Shades of Magic books last year (and the last one this year) but I can definitely say that Victoria Schwab has inspired my writing, the elemental based system in my YA Fantasy This Is Not A Love Story was in part inspired by the magic seen in her books, as well as the magic from the Skulduggery Pleasant books. I’ve always found elemental magic quite captivating, and have loved the idea of being able to manipulate the world around you (in fact my earliest experience of an elemental type magic system was in Linda Chapman’s Stardust spirits, as the girls are all spirits of different types of season and can therefore control different kinds of elements) so it was definitely something in my mind when I was deciding the kind of magic I wanted my world to have. I have also been in no small part inspired by Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass, I was reading Empire of Storms at the time I was writing the first draft of This Is Not A Love Story and I think you can definitely tell in my writing! The snarky humour of both Skulduggery and Percy in Derek Landy and Rick Riordan’s series, two series which formed a huge part of my teen years, were definitely an inspiration in my writing, although I’m not sure Tiffany’s snark is quite as good as theirs.

Tiffany, the MC in This Is Not A Love Story, as well as obviously having quite a lot of me in her (her general cynicism about love, having a comeback for everything, her dislike of most people except for her few close friends and her yearning for adventure), was also in no small part inspired by my favourite fantasy heroines. The Aelin influence I feel is quite clear, she’s very fiery (literally!) and independent. There might be a few shades of Lila Bard in there too, she’s arrogant, headstrong and impulsive and not at all ladylike. She’s a little like Percy in terms of humour but I think hers is a little more biting. The point being, I think you can definitely see my favourite authors’ influences on my work.

The Hunger Games also has had a huge influence on my reading tastes, I mean I’ve always liked stories with female characters who are strong and independent and get the job done, and although Harry Potter had started me in that direction when I was younger with Hermione, I think Katniss cemented it for me, that was what I wanted to see, women being brave and strong and powerful. Sure there are some problems with the whole strong female character trope but when it’s done well, it’s such a wonderful thing to see. I don’t know if this is just because of the proliferation of female authors in YA but when I think of my favourite characters from books, most of them are women and both my WIPs so far have been female centred stories. It’s not that I don’t like male characters, quite the contrary, there are male characters that I love, I just find there’s something so satisfying about seeing women kick butt!

Another thread common to my favourite books is that they all have some kind of theme of friendship running through them. I’ve always loved stories about choosing your family (like in Ballet Shoes) or finding family amongst your friends (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and The Raven Cycle are the three main ones that come to mind here) and that definitely impacted my writing in a big way. I wanted Tiffany to be the centre of her own story yes, and not to be overshadowed by some big romantic subplot, but I also wanted to make sure that friendship was more of a focus as I love it when that happens. In this regard I feel like Code Name Verity was a big inspiration to me, because that story completely centres friendship and I love it. This started with books like The Saddle Club and The Sleepover Club when I was a kid, which had such great portrayals of friendship and it’s something that I’ve sought out in my books ever since.

It’s strange, I’m not actually a huge fan of crying (crying in public is my one big bug bear) but I love books that make me FEEL, and my favourite ones are usually the sad ones, a lot of the books I’ve already mentioned in this post are very hard on the feelings! I’ve always been that way, even as a kid, I loved emotional books, Black Beauty and Charlotte’s Web were two of my favourites and they paved the way for books like The Book Thief and My Sister’s Keeper later on. Humour is also a big thing for me too though and I feel like the best books are the ones that balance the two, that can punch you in guts one moment but have you smiling from ear to ear the next, Harry Potter is an excellent example of this.

Every book I’ve ever read has shaped me in some way. Even the ones I’ve really hated have their use because they’ve taught me what I don’t like. I’ve learned so much from books, taken so much from them and whilst I might have mentioned particular favourites in this post, I can’t think of many books where I haven’t taken something away from them. Books have become such a huge part of who I am and I honestly cannot think who I would be without them, so I’d like to thank all the wonderful authors whose books I have loved over the years, for taking me out of my bedroom, or wherever else I have been reading and allowing me to visit different lands, experience different cultures and times, have innumerable adventures and generally learn about the world around me. You guys are all rockstars!

Over to you! Which books have inspired you, as a reader, as a writer, as a person? Do we share any? Let’s discuss!

I don’t know what I’ll be doing my next discussion post on, I guess I’ll see what I feel like writing towards the end of the month! In the meantime, I will have my review of Glass Sword up very soon.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday #124

80e8d-toptentuesday

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, I’m now back at Uni, just moved in on Sunday, for my third year. Today is also my 21st birthday!!!! I was 17 when I started this blog and 21 seemed like such a long way away, it’s crazy how fast that came around. I’ll be celebrating with my friends tonight with dinner and movies, so that should be fun. Anyway, Tuesday means a new Top Ten Tuesday from the lovely ladies over at The Broke and The Bookish, and this week, incredibly timely, is a throwback freebie, so since it is my 21st birthday, I thought I’d take today as a chance to look back over the books that have shaped my life in the past 21 years and going to do an extra special bumper list this week of 21 to celebrate. I’m going to separate the list into different stages of my life, so the books I loved as a kid, a pre-teen, a teenager and the books I’ve read and loved in the past couple of years. So here we go, my list of books that have shaped my life thus far:

As a child (age 5-8)

  1. The Faraway Tree Books-Enid Blyton

I loved The Faraway Tree books as a child, they were probably one of my first forays into a fantasy type world, and whilst her stories were quite simplistic, they were perfect for me as a young child, I could adventure with Fanny, Jo and Beth to the top of the Faraway Tree into a different land in every chapter and it was so exciting to read about this tree with so many different possibilities at the top of it.

2. Shadow The Sheepdog-Enid Blyton

Yes another Enid Blyton book, I really loved her books as a child! This one used to be my dad’s and he read it to me when I was little, it was also one of the first books I read on my own. I read it so much that the copy literally fell apart. I have always been very into animals, so reading about Shadow’s adventures with his owner Johnny was great for me.

3. My Secret Unicorn and Stardust-Linda Chapman

These two Linda Chapman series were among my first forays into fantasy as well. My Secret Unicorn I loved because it combined a horse crazy girl and magic and those were (and remain) two of my favourite things at the time. The Stardust series had normal kids who at night turned into “Stardust spirits” (kind of like fairies) who could do magic and fly and everything and as a kid I loved those things.

4. James Herriot Books-James Herriot

My dad used to read me and my sister James Herriot books when I was a kid and for a long time I thought I wanted to be a vet, in no small part due to those books (until I realised my skills did not lie in the sciences!). My dad would always do the Yorkshire accents of the farmers (as he’s from Yorkshire), which entertained my sister and I to no end, and I just have such fond memories of being read these books as a kid.

5. Matilda-Roald Dahl

This book was one of my absolute favourites as a kid, I related to Matilda so much! Roald Dahl books in general were an absolute staple of my childhood but this one was my particular favourite.

Age 9-12

6. Harry Potter-JK Rowling

Obviously this had to be on this list, as the series that really got me into reading and writing, this is basically the series of my childhood. I hope that one day I will be able to inspire someone to write as much as JK Rowling inspired me.

7. Heartland Series-Lauren Brooke

Lauren Brooke’s books I feel are at least partly responsible for my obsession with horses, I devoured them when I was a kid. The stories are relatively simple and can get kind of formulaic after a while, but they are a lot of fun if you are a horsey loving kid.

8. A Series of Unfortunate Events-Lemony Snicket

I remember going to the library every week when I was younger and getting a new ASOUE book each time I went. The series does get a little repetitive but I loved how different it was from anything else I’d read, it’s certainly quite a unique series.

9. The Roman Mysteries-Caroline Lawrence

Again, when I was younger and I went to the library I would get the latest Roman Mysteries book. Books like this series definitely contributed to my choice to study history at Uni, it’s a bit sad actually that I never managed to finish the series, but I think I’d be a little old for it now!

10. Black Beauty-Anna Sewell

Another byproduct of my horse addiction and to date, one of the few classic books I have not only tolerated but absolutely loved!

11. Blind Beauty-KM Peyton

In no way related, although I don’t doubt that KM Peyton was inspired by Anna Sewell’s famous book, this is a beautiful story about a misfit girl and a blind racehorse who form an unlikely team to win the Grand National.

12. Ballet Shoes-Noel Streatfeild

For some reason I had a thing about dance books when I was younger, and this was one of my favourites. On the surface, it’s a story about dance, but it’s so much more than that, it’s a story about choosing your family, growing up and finding your way in the world.

Age 13-19

13. Skulduggery Pleasant Series-Derek Landy

This is one of two main series that marked my teen years (although I actually started reading it at age 12), as the books ended at around the same time I was reaching the end of my teens (although he has now started a second series of them!), so there’s a strong association to my teen years with this series, that’s one of the reasons I was so sad when it ended, because it marked not only the end of the series but pretty much the end of my teen years. This series has everything, magic, skeletons, Ireland, a variety of different monsters, and it’s just so hilarious, I would highly recommend!

14. Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus Series-Rick Riordan

Okay, I’m cheating a little here and lumping these two series together, but like Skulduggery Pleasant, this series marked my teen years, I started reading it at age 14, and got through the first five books all in the same year and then read one Heroes of Olympus book every year from the age of 14 to the age of 18. I was already obsessed with Greek mythology before reading these books, but they definitely took the obsession to a new level. By the time the series was over, much like Harry Potter, it felt like I had grown up with these characters and they’re definitely ones that I hold very close to my heart.

15. Noughts and Crosses-Malorie Blackman

I first read this one at 13, and it was among the first YA books that I read as an actual YA, I was probably reading them before I became a teenager, but this was one of the first I read as an actual teen. It was also my first foray into dystopia, a genre that I have come to love very much over the years, although I didn’t know that was the name for the genre at the time! This is also notable as one of the few love stories I’ve actually enjoyed, but it’s so much more than just a love story, it’s a great commentary on race and race relations but written in a way that’s very accessible for teens.

16. My Sister’s Keeper-Jodi Picoult

This is one of the first adult books I read, at 13, and I was surprised I loved it as much as I did as it wasn’t my usual type of book but I fell in love with the story and my signed copy is now one of my most treasured possessions (though it’s not the copy I first read, as I borrowed it from the library the first time I read it. Then I bought my own copy but lent it to my friend who lost it, so she got me a new one, which is the one I had signed).

17. Unwind Dystology-Neal Shusterman

This is one of my favourite series that I’ve read in the past few years, so I had to include it on this list! This was I suppose the last big series of my dystopia phase as I haven’t really read any since 2014/15. I can honestly say I’ve never read anything else like it, it’s dark and creepy but also really powerful and thought provoking and I think that with everything going on in America at the moment with Trump, it would definitely be a timely read for everyone. Seriously guys, I cannot push this book on you hard enough!

18. The Raven Cycle-Maggie Stiefvater

This series is one of the ones that marks my late teens, as I started reading it when I was in Year 11, I think, so about 16 and the last book came out last year, just before I turned twenty, so I suppose it kind of bookended the last few years of my teens. I wasn’t actually that keen on this series at first, I thought it was so strange when I first started reading it, but it’s that exact thing that makes it so appealing. Nowhere else will you read about dead welsh kings, psychics, magic and one of the best friendship groups in YA.

19. Throne of Glass-Sarah J Maas

Okay, so this has gone through to my early twenties, but I did start this series when I was 17 so I’m going to count it here. If JK Rowling was one of my biggest writing inspirations when I was a child, then Sarah J Maas is definitely the one of my teen years/early twenties. I find it so amazing that this story she wrote at 16, she actually managed to get published and turned into this huge bestselling series, it makes me believe that I may actually be able to do it one day too. Plus, ya know, magic, dragon, royalty, queens, evil demons, fighting, this series has all the elements to make it an Jo fave!

20. The Book Thief-Markus Zusak

This is one of my absolute favourite books, it’s such a beautiful and tragic story, and in amongst the war and death and tragedy, Liesel’s love of books just leaps off the page. I love these kinds of war stories, when the focus isn’t on the big events, it’s on the everyday lives of the people from that time because that’s what history is all about after all, the people. Using Death as the narrator as well was an inspired choice, even if it was a little strange at first!

Age 19-21

21. Shades of Magic Trilogy-VE Schwab

I started this series the summer after my first year of Uni, and was pretty much addicted from the first line, honestly. It has everything I love, magic, pirates, royalty, fight scenes, sass, shippable romances (I may tire of romance but when a couple is truly shippable, I cannot resist), brilliant world-building, I mean I could go on and on all day about how much I love this series. VE Schwab is such an inspiration to me, I wish I could write as well as she does. Her tweets are so funny and honest as well, as a young writer, she is my favourite author to follow on Twitter, she offers such great advice and is so honest about her experiences, it’s wonderful to see.

Honourable Mentions: The Hunger Games, The Bone Season Series, Six of Crows, Between Shades of Grey, Code Name Verity, Dangerous Girls, Timekeeper, Charlotte’s Web, The Storyteller, The Pact, Plain Truth, Nineteen Minutes, Animal Ark, Puppy Patrol, Thirteen Reasons Why, Artemis Fowl

So there we go, that’s my bumper size birthday edition TTT! Have you read any of these books? What books do you feel have shaped your life? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s TTT topic is the dreaded TBR topic, so you guys get to see which books I’m going to try and probably fail to read this Autumn! In the meantime, I’m hoping to do a discussion post this week talking about the Books that Made Me, so quite similar to this post, but I’ll be talking about some of these books and authors in more detail and potentially some other books as well as I’ve been inspired by so many books. I also finished Glass Sword on Sunday, so I’ll hopefully have a review of that up very soon (I am back at Uni now though, so bear with me if I’m a little slower posting over the next few weeks)!

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday #123

1fe45-toptentuesday

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, I got back from Scotland on Friday, but it’s not exactly a very long trip away as I’ll be back up there this Friday, before moving into my new Uni accomodation on Sunday. My 21st birthday is also exactly one week from today, so I’m pretty excited about that! Anyway, another Tuesday means another Top Ten Tuesday from the lovely ladies over at The Broke and The Bookish, and this week we’re talking about books we struggled with, whether we struggled to get into them and ended up loving them, thought we would love them but struggled with them or just flat out didn’t finish them. So I’m going to talk about Books I Thought I Would Love But Really Struggled With, as that seems to happen to me a lot! So here we go, books I thought I’d love but struggled with:

  1. A Court of Thorns and Roses-Sarah J Maas

As I’m sure you all know by now, I’m a massive fan of the Throne of Glass series, so when I found out Sarah J Maas was doing another series and it was a Beauty and the Beast retelling, I was really excited. Sadly it took me forever to get into ACOTAR, I was close to putting it down so many times. It does usually take me a while to get into Sarah J Maas’ books, but nothing like it did with this one. Fortunately I really loved the second book, so all hope is not lost for this series!

2. The Bone Season-Samantha Shannon

I thought I would really, really love this one because it sounded like the sort of book that was right up my alley, but it was really confusing to start off with, the chapters were lengthy and the writing was overcomplicated, it took me a long time to really get into it and even by the end, I wouldn’t say I loved it. Luckily the second and third books are so much better and I’m now addicted to this series!

3. A Study In Charlotte-Brittany Cavallaro

I love Sherlock Holmes, so I was really excited for this book as I knew it was a genderbent retelling, but the characters felt flat, the chapters were overlong and whilst the mystery was fine, it was nothing mind blowing.

4. Dangerous Boys-Abigail Haas

I was obsessed with Abigail Haas’ first book Dangerous Girls (which isn’t actually in anyway related to this one), so I was all prepared for my mind to be blown once again with this one. I mean it’s probably safe to say my expectations were a little too high, but this book was just a lot more predictable than Dangerous Girls and not quite as exciting, which was a shame because I really loved that book.

5. Trust In Me-Sophie McKenzie

I love Sophie McKenzie’s teen books, and I had read one of her adult thrillers that I had found reasonably enjoyable, although not as much as her teen books, but this adult thriller was unevenly paced and I didn’t love the characters and it felt overly similar to her other adult thriller. It’s a shame because Sophie McKenzie is one of my favourite authors, I just didn’t love this book.

6. Queen of Shadows-Sarah J Maas

Of the Throne of Glass series, this is definitely my least favourite. I think perhaps because it was the first book where Celaena has embraced her identity as Aelin and SJM made that transition rather clumsily, as it seems like a total 180 rather than a natural progression. It was also very much a set up book, there were two things that needed to happen and the entire book is basically devoted to the planning and executing of those two things. It was a shame because I loved Heir of Fire (the previous book) and was really hoping I’d love this one just as much. Luckily Empire of Storms brought it back up!

7. Graceling-Kristin Cashore

I was really hoping to love this one, as the concept sounded like something I would love, but it was just so slow! It was basically just one big extended journey book without many of the exciting fights that those books usually have. Katsa also rubbed me the wrong way, I know the author was trying to be feminist but it was the kind of feminism where it seems like in order to be feminist, a girl has to totally despise feminine things, be incredibly physically strong and total emotionally dense and I took issue with that.

8. Resurrection-Derek Landy

I absolutely loved the original Skulduggery Pleasant and don’t get me wrong, this book was still good, but I was disappointed that I didn’t love it as much as the original series and I did struggle to get through it in some places.

9. The Invisible Library-Genevieve Cogman

I loved the idea of this book, a world where there is a Library that harvests fiction from different realities. I love books about books but this one was super confusing, the world building was weird, there were way too many elements, the characters were bland and I found it really difficult to read. I put this book down for weeks because I was so confused!

 

10. Stealing Snow-Danielle Paige

I was really excited about this book, as I thought the whole idea of a Snow Queen retelling was pretty cool (pun not intended, just fortunate) but it was slow paced, the romance was awful and the characters and world building were pretty flat.

11. One of Us Is Lying-Karen M McManus

I really wanted to enjoy this one, I love YA mysteries and the premise of The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars sounded so intriguing, but in the end I found it a bit lacklustre.

12. The Archived-Victoria Schwab

Victoria Schwab is one of my favourite authors, and I still loved the concept, I thought it was great, but the characters and world building weren’t as engaging as I have come to expect. I read it in 10 days which isn’t bad for me but I did feel like I struggled with it more than her other books that have taken me longer to read.

13. The Night Circus-Erin Morgenstern

I really wanted to love this book, I’d heard so many people rave about how amazing it was, but I struggled with it a lot, it was confusing and disorienting for the most part and although I loved the circus, I didn’t love the plot or characters.

14. Look Who’s Back-Timur Vermes

For a political satire, this just wasn’t particularly funny. I thought it was such a cool concept, Hitler being alive in the 21st Century and becoming a YouTube star because no one believes he’s really Hitler. I was hoping this would be hilarious, but it was very info dumpy and I felt like some of the German references got lost in translation and it was kind of dull to read.

15. Cinder-Marissa Meyer

I had heard from everyone about how amazing The Lunar Chronicles were, so I was fully expecting to love Cinder, but I found myself kind of underwhelmed? It was just incredibly slow and I found that the primary characters were very archetypal and didn’t really stray beyond their archetypes. I’m hoping that I enjoy the second one more.

16. Slated-Teri Terry

The concept for this one sounded so cool, but I struggled so much with it! The author’s writing style meant that I just couldn’t get into it at all, as well as the main character being kind of bland. It had potential, it just took forever to get to fulfilling it!

17. Panic-Lauren Oliver

I thought this was going to be a dystopian Hunger Games type book because that’s what it sounded like from the blurb, but the blurb was incredibly misleading, it was a contemporary and aside from the brief bits where they were actually playing Panic, it was more just about the mundane details of Heather’s everyday life.

I’m going to stop before I go too overboard! Have you read any of these books? Did you enjoy them more than I did? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s TTT topic is actually perfect timing, as it’s a Throwback freebie which coincides with my 21st birthday, so I’m going to be cheating a little and doing a Top 21 next week (as it is my 21st), and talking about 21 books that have shaped my life so far, which should be a really fun one to do. In the meantime, I’m going to hopefully have a discussion post up in the next week (basically before my birthday), inspired by one of the panels at YALC, I’m going to be talking about the Books That Made Me as it was such a fun panel to listen to and I thought it would be a cool topic to coincide with my birthday. I’m also hoping to finish my current read Glass Sword this week so will hopefully have a review of that up very soon.

#RockMyTBR August Update (2017)

Hi all! It’s the beginning of September, what? I have just over a week before I return to Uni, the last time I did one of these I had 5 1/2, how did this happen?! I’m actually looking forward to returning to Uni though, I haven’t seen one of my Uni friends since before we returned home for the summer, so it will be nice to see her again. Plus, it’s my 21st birthday in 11 days, so that’s pretty exciting! Anyway, that’s totally off topic, the point is, it’s September, I’m here with another #RockMyTBR update for you all, my monthly updates of how tackling my TBR has been going over the last month (not that it helps any, the darn thing is growing of it’s own accord by this point). August was pretty successful in terms of reading, I read 3 books and am 4 books ahead of my reading challenge, which I put up to 34 books (one more than last year), so I’m pretty happy with that. Here’s what I read this month:

23006119Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo:

This was my #RockMyTBR read for the month. I read this from 1st-8th August, which I was pretty pleased with as it’s quite a hefty book and I don’t usually read books like that in a week, but that just goes to show how addictive this book is! I’m really glad I loved this one as it was so hyped and if I hadn’t liked it I would have felt really bad as it sounded like it was something that was right up my alley. I recently bought Crooked Kingdom and am really excited to read it. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/10/six-of-crows-six-of-crows-1-review/

35299976Resurrection by Derek Landy:

This was my second read of the month, which I read from 8th-20th August. I love Skulduggery Pleasant so obviously I was really excited for this new one after a three year break from the series. I did love some things about it, but it wasn’t my favourite book in the series and definitely felt more of a reintroduction book than anything else, I think better is still to come from this new, revamped Skulduggery. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/20/resurrection-skulduggery-pleasant-10-review/

28260402The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon:

THIS BOOK GUYS! I read this one from 21st-28th August and loved every single second of it. Finally, the book was more streamlined, the plot was better paced, the character development of Paige was stunning and the scope of the world is starting to be expanded. I cannot wait for the fourth book to release next year and join Paige on the next stage of her journey. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/30/the-song-rising-the-bone-season-3-review/

That’s what I read in August, here is what I plan to read in September (aka the month where I die under the weight of new books. Birthday + new book releases=Poor but very happy Jo):

Glass Sword-Victoria Aveyard-This is the one I’m reading at the moment, the sequel to Red Queen, I started reading it on Monday before going to her event! It’s still a bit slow at the moment and the chapters are rather long, which is a little off-putting to me. I’m hoping it will pick up soon as I want to finish it before I go back to Uni next week.

And I Darken-Kiersten White-This is my #RockMyTBR read for this month, I’m really excited for it because I’ve heard such good things and historical fiction with a female Vlad The Impaler sounds right up my alley so I’m hoping I enjoy it.

Charlotte Says-Alex Bell-I’ve finally managed to get my Adobe Reader on my laptop working so I downloaded this one as my Netgalley read for the month! I don’t feel like I’m far enough into the book to judge how I feel about it yet, but I’m definitely getting the same creepy vibes as from the first book.

Tower of Dawn-Sarah J Maas-This one is a little ambitious and I probably won’t get it done before the end of September because I’m sure it’s going to be a mammoth like her other books, but I think I’d like to at least start it before the end of September.

I’m 4 books ahead of my Goodreads Challenge at the moment, and that’s after I upped it to 34 books, so I’m quite pleased with that! This month is probably the last month that I’ll really get a lot of reading done as summer is nearly over, I’ll likely be back to two books a month once I get back to Uni, but at least the summer has given me a nice cushion for the rest of the year! How are you guys doing with your reading goals so far this year? What have you been reading lately? Let me know in the comments!