Writing Corner: On Struggling With Writer’s Block

Hi everyone! I know I’m cutting it a little fine with this month’s Writing Corner, but hey, it’s still August until tomorrow (also is it just me or has August been going on forever?). I was originally going to talk a little bit about TINALS sequel in this post, but I’ve not really had time to work on it over the last month and I’m going to be more focused on editing TINALS than I am on writing the sequel when I do get back to writing because I felt like I was on a roll with that before I started my summer job and I’d really like to continue and try and get my next round of revisions completed relatively soon. But anyway, enough about TINALS, since that is not the writing project that I’m going to be talking about today. No, today I’m talking about my other writing project, Underground Magicians, which I’ve kind of been taking an extended break from, because of the reason in the title: I have writer’s block.

I know a lot of authors that I admire have said that they don’t believe in writer’s block and that it’s just a case of finding your way through and I would love to believe that this is true, but honestly I genuinely feel like I have hit a brick wall with this project and I just don’t seem to be able to work my way out. I thought that taking a break from it might help and that I might feel inspired by something and go back to it, but that hasn’t really happened.

It’s definitely not that I don’t feel passionate about the project, I love my weird little underground tunnels book and the fact that I love this story and these characters so much is making it all the more infuriating that I can’t seem to find my way through this block.

For a little background, I started writing Underground Magicians last year, and it was my NaNoWriMo project. I wrote the first five chapters, then I found myself getting a little stuck. Thankfully I had an idea of where I wanted the story to end, so I left the start of the story where it was, and then jumped to the end and wrote the last 3-4 chapters & the epilogue. This was unusual for me, because I usually write chronologically, I did that with TINALS, with all of my fanfics and with everything I wrote when I was younger but since I knew how I wanted the story to end, I figured I would write the end and work my way back from there.

However, things haven’t quite worked out the way I wanted them to! I didn’t really suffer from any of the problems of not having a detailed outline when I wrote TINALS, because for the most part, the story flowed quite naturally. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gone back and made quite a lot of edits since them, some of them quite major, but the base structure of the story was easy enough to get down. With Underground Magicians, for some reason or another though, whilst I know how the story starts and I know how it ends, I have no idea how many characters get from point A to point B.

Since NaNoWriMo last year, I’ve written three more chapters of the story, meaning I have eight chapters for the start and then 3-4 + the epilogue for the end, but now I’ve kind of stalled. I know basic plot points that need to happen in order to get Sophie and Mo where I need them to be at the end, but I don’t know how to string those plot points together!

The basic idea behind Underground Magicians is that Sophie (my main character) gets sucked into this world of Underground tunnels after she discovers that she has magic and then alongside her new friend/later love interest Mo (female character, this story has a f/f romance) she has to figure out why the tunnels keep moving and their friends keep disappearing, so the structure itself is very simple. I think the problem that I’m having, is that because the plot is relatively straightforward, I’m struggling to think of ways to make it exciting and I feel like a lot of what probably needs to happen between now and the ending is filler and maybe that’s why I can’t really think of what to write? Filler has never been my forte, I like the action packed stuff! I also get random ideas of things that I want to happen later on in the story and they will fit, but then I will have the same problem that I’ve been having so far, how to get to those things!

Also because I’ve never really suffered from writer’s block before, I don’t really know how to work my way through it! I thought that taking a step back from my project might help me, but honestly it just feels like I’ve been ignoring the problem. I thought about sitting down and writing out the plot that I have of my story so far and trying to work my way backwards to the point where I’ve got stuck but I’m worried that I’ll just get down what I’ve got so far and not be able to string together the rest of it.

I really don’t want to give up on this story, because I’ve really enjoyed writing what I have written so far and I want to see it completed, but at the moment, I’m not really quite sure how to proceed. I don’t want to force it, because I don’t think that will be helpful, but just waiting for ideas to come hasn’t really been that helpful for me either.

It’s just so frustrating because I was on such a roll with this book and was feeling so good about it and now I just feel like I’ve completely stalled out. I reckon this book could be really great if I ever manage to finish it, it’s just trying to get there that I’m struggling with. I have been doing great on editing TINALS, so it’s not like everything in my writing life is a total loss, but it’s hard not to feel like a bit of a failure when you can’t seem to make your other book work!

So I guess basically what I’m saying is that I need advice! Writers out there, how have you got over writer’s block? Have you ever got stuck with the middle of your book? What have you found to be the best way to work your way through it? Let me know in the comments!

I’m aiming to have another one of these up again next month-the idea is that I will hopefully do one of these a month for the rest of the year, so I should have four more of them before the year is out, though I don’t know what they will be about! If you are a writer and you would like to be featured in this series, then contact me on Twitter, @iloveheartlandX.

I don’t know what I will have for you soon, I am hoping to finish Tower of Dawn in the next few days, though that might be a little overoptimistic of me, but I will definitely have a review of that up sometime in the near future and of course a new Top Ten Tuesday post on Tuesday.

 

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Top Ten Tuesday #174

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Hi everyone! This weekend I’ve been up in Scotland, I had an awesome time going to see The Guilty Feminist at The Fringe with my friend Nicola and we had a great time catching up on everything since this was the first time I’d seen her since she went to Prague for her semester abroad in February. I’m also going to see her again tomorrow as she’s in London for dissertation research, so we’re going to go do some book shopping in Foyles and Waterstones. I can’t believe that this time next week, I’ll only be a day away from heading back up here for my fourth year of Uni, this summer has gone by so fast!

Anyway, since today is Tuesday, I’m back with another Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. Today is a Back To School Freebie, so I’m going to share some of the books I’m planning on reading at Uni this year (fiction obviously, not the stuff I’ll have to read for class!). This will just be what I’m planning on reading from September-December, since I have not planned ahead for my 2019 reading yet!:

  1. Vicious-VE Schwab

I might have finished this before I get to Uni, since I’m planning on reading it on my five hour train journey up to Scotland next Thursday, but I figured I’d include it on here anyway. I’m super excited to read this one because I’ve heard such awesome stuff about it, and let’s face it, it’s VE Schwab, it’s bound to be amazing.

2. The Hate U Give-Angie Thomas

I wasn’t originally planning on putting this on this list, but the YA Addicted Book Club on Goodreads are reading this as their September Book of The Month and since the movie is coming out in October, I thought it was finally time to dive into this book myself. I’m excited to read it, but also super nervous because what if I don’t love it as much as everyone else?

3. All The Crooked Saints-Maggie Stiefvater

This is my #RockMyTBR book for October, and it’s been a while, two years I think, since I last read a Maggie Stiefvater book. I’m looking forward to it, but am well aware of the criticisms that this book has received from Latinx people about the rep in it, so I’m definitely cautious about that.

4. Midnight-Derek Landy

AHHH MORE SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT! I wasn’t blown away by the first book in the latest phase of the Skulduggery Pleasant series, but I do love the characters and this world and Derek Landy’s humour and I’m sure the series can only get better so I’m super excited to see what happens in this second book of the continuation series!

5. Night of Cake and Puppets-Laini Taylor

This is my #RockMyTBR book for November. I have to admit I wasn’t thrilled by the second book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, but I’ve been looking forward to this companion novella because I love Zuzana and Mik and it will be great to see their super cute first date.

6. Kingdom of Ash-Sarah J Maas

Let’s face it, I will be dropping everything at once as soon as I get my hands on the final book in the Throne of Glass series, because I have been waiting for this book for so long and am dying (and slightly scared) to find out how it ends. Though I’ll admit, I am slightly intimidated after seeing how huge the manuscript Sarah J Maas turned in was-it may take me a year to finish this mammoth of a book!

7. Wonder Woman: Warbringer-Leigh Bardugo

I have been on a real Leigh Bardugo streak this year, I’ve read three of her books so far this year and this will be the fourth and final one, my #RockMyTBR book for December. I loved the Wonder Woman film when I watched it, so I am super excited to see Diana’s adventures turned into what I’m sure is an awesome YA book.

8. Our Dark Duet-Victoria Schwab

I wasn’t overly keen on This Savage Song, but I’ve heard Our Dark Duet is much better and I did enjoy it enough that I really want to see how it ends-plus it is so rare that I get to read YA books without romance so you can bet that I will be revelling in August and Kate’s friendship.

9. Sea Witch-Sarah Henning

I’m reading this at the moment but I haven’t got very far yet, I’ve been using all my free time to read Tower of Dawn and practice for my driving theory test. However, hopefully once I’ve finished Tower of Dawn and gone back to Uni, I should just about have time to finish this Ursula origin story.

10. A Spark of Light-Jodi Picoult

I got approved for Jodi Picoult’s new book on Netgalley, so naturally I’m super excited for it as I love her books. I’m particularly excited for this one as I’ve been waiting for her to do a book about abortion rights for a while and I think she’ll have a very interesting and nuanced take on the topic, as she always does.

So there we go, the books I’ll be reading at Uni this year (well at least for the first three months!). Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s Top Ten Tuesday, we’re taking a break from books and talking Bingeworthy TV Shows/Movies, something I have had a lot of experience with, being a student who likes to procrastinate! In the meantime, I will be hoping to get a Writing Corner post up before the end of August on Friday.

Jo Talks Books: On Unhealthy Relationships in YA

Hi all! I totally did mean to get my August discussion post up way before now, but with my summer job not finishing until last week, I honestly just didn’t have the time to write another lengthy post-which seems to have been the story of my life this summer! Anyway, whilst I was in London for YALC back in July, my friend Hannah and I got onto talking about unhealthy relationships in the media, specifically talking about how cute we thought Ross and Rachel from Friends were as a couple when we were younger and now that we’re older, we realise just how unhealthy their relationship really was. Hannah said she thought it would make a great discussion post and I asked her if she minded if I used it for Jo Talks, to which she agreed. That is all a very lengthy way of saying that today I’m going to be talking about Unhealthy Relationships in YA books, and our tendency to romanticise YA love interests who are in actual fact rather abusive towards their partners.

Take the A Court of Thorns and Roses series for an example. In the first book, Tamlin is unquestionably abusive towards Feyre, he physically hurts her, he is possessive (yes there is a line between protective and possessive) and this goes even further in the second book when he locks her in her room and doesn’t allow her to come out. His behaviour is called out more in the second book, but that doesn’t really excuse the way his behaviour is romanticised in the first book. Even Feyre’s eventual love interest, Rhysand, is abusive towards her, essentially date raping her in the first book and even in the second, is possessive over her to the point of being controlling. Much as I love Sarah J Maas books and I think she does a great job of giving her female characters power and agency, she does have a tendency of writing male characters who are incredibly possessive over their women, to a point where it makes me feel quite uncomfortable. A healthy relationship should not have one person feeling as if they own the other one!

Twilight is obviously another common example given of an unhealthy YA relationship, though I’ll admit, I haven’t read it, so my opinions on it have mostly been formed from what I’ve heard. Still, the entire premise is ripe for an unhealthy relationship given that the main character is 17 (i.e. underage) and the love interest is over a hundred years old, so yeah, it’s more than a little bit gross to start off with. Add to that the fact that Edward is incredibly possessive of Bella, he stalks her, he tries to control her by not allowing her to see Jacob and disabling her car so she can’t drive, and she becomes isolated from her family and friends because of her relationship with him. Bella’s relationship with Edward isn’t just unhealthy, it’s downright abusive. There’s an even more disturbing relationship between Jacob and Bella’s daughter Renesmee, whom Jacob imprints on and describes as his soulmate when she is literally hours old. Pedophilia much?

We also have the classic example of Aria and Ezra from Pretty Little Liars, whose relationship most people will be familiar with through the TV show of the same name, but PLL was originally a novel series and the Aria/Ezra relationship was also featured in the books. I don’t think I really need to explain why a teenager having a relationship with their teacher is supremely unhealthy, not to mention illegal. Granted, their relationship in the TV show is far worse, in the books it is a much more casual thing and doesn’t last for very long, whereas the relationship in the show is much more serious but still: putting a teen/teacher relationship in a YA book is really unhealthy and irresponsible because there is a severe imbalance of power in that kind of relationship.

Snape and Lily in Harry Potter is another example of a relationship that fans romanticise but is really unhealthy. Granted, their relationship never actually becomes romantic, they never date, but I wanted to include it because it is a big sticking point in the fandom and a huge part of Snape’s redemption arc. Snape does not have a healthy attraction to Lily, his love is obsessive and damaging. Snape would lash out at Lily when she did things he didn’t approve of, he joined the Death Eaters because she rejected him and he called her horrible slurs. Just because he agreed to protect Harry, does not mean that his attraction to her was healthy or that anything he did to her was okay.

Also the classic guy is totally obsessed with a girl until she eventually caves and agrees to date him is another annoying trope, both in YA and in other media, because it makes it seem like the girls have no agency and that it is okay for boys to just wear a girl down until she says yes, which it is not at all. The most recent book that I can remember with this in was A Study In Charlotte, which I read back in January of last year, the narrator in that; Jamie Watson, is obsessed with the other main character, Charlotte Holmes and basically seems to hang around with her and wears her down until she agrees to date him. In addition, he was very possessive and had some rather nasty anger issues, which as I have already explored in this post, makes for rather unhealthy relationships.

I realise that a lot of the examples of unhealthy relationships I’ve used have shown men acting badly towards women and whilst this does seem to be the case most of the time, there are also cases of girls in YA acting badly towards boys, for example in Graceling, Katsa is physically abusive towards Po, pushing him so hard it causes bruises. Instead of exploring this, which would have been great, since abuse by women towards men is sorely underexplored in fiction, the author just brushes it off as totally normal.

This is not to say that unhealthy relationships in YA are always a bad thing. When they are romanticised and made to seem like they are the perfect relationship that teens should be striving for? Yes absolutely. But there are YA books that explore unhealthy relationships and show how these are actually really bad things and not what you should be aiming for whatsoever. Take The Exact Opposite of Okay, Danny’s friendship with Izzy is shown to be really toxic, because he thinks he is a Nice Guy, who is entitled to her time, her body and her affections because he is nice to her and gives her gifts. The book totally slams this trope and shows that Danny’s attitude toward Izzy is really unhealthy. You also have books like Dangerous Girls, which explores the unhealthy dynamic between Anna, Elise and her boyfriend Tate, at no point are any of those relationships shown to be particularly healthy nor or they romanticised, but the book does provide a very interesting look into toxic relationships, both friendships and romance wise.

So yeah, YA definitely has a problem in showing unhealthy relationships, most commonly through possessive, entitled male characters, massive age gaps between characters (I mean how many times have we read the teenage protagonist falling in love with the hundreds of years old supernatural creatures) and in some cases both physical and emotional abuse. It’s such a shame because YA writers have the opportunity to really start a dialogue with their teen readers and show them that relationships like this aren’t okay, but they romanticise them to the point that it seems like this is the sort of relationship teenagers should be striving for. That isn’t to say that healthy relationships aren’t seen in YA, I can think of several YA relationships that are kind and loving and supportive, but they don’t seem to be as normal as “bad boy treats girl terribly and she thinks she can change him” and I hope that this is something that changes, because teens deserve to be treated right in relationships and they deserve to see their favourite characters in books in healthy, loving relationships so that they strive for those, rather than the drama filled, toxic relationships that seem to be so prevalent in teen media.

So that’s it, my thoughts on unhealthy relationships in YA! What examples of unhealthy relationships in YA can you think of? What about healthy ones? Any books that you think explore unhealthy relationships well? Let me know in the comments!

I don’t know if I will have another discussion post for you before the end of the month, I don’t have any plans for another August topic, but if I can think of something that inspires me enough to write about it, then I will. In the meantime, I don’t know what I will have for you guys for the rest of the month, maybe a Writing Corner post if I can think of something to write about, but I guess you’ll just have to wait and see!

 

Top Ten Tuesday #173

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Hi guys! This past week was my last week at my summer job, so after almost seven very long, very stressful weeks I am finally done! It’s been an….ah…interesting experience to say the least, not something I think I want to do again, but it was certainly something new and different to my usual summer shop jobs, so that’s something at least. I have a great week coming up, I got to go and catch up with my friends from school, Hannah and Zoe in London yesterday which was super fun, we basically just sat and chatted for eight hours straight! I’m also going up to Scotland on Thursday to see my friend Nicola, who I haven’t seen since before she left for her semester in Prague in January and we’re going to see The Guilty Feminist at the Edinburgh Fringe, so that’s going to be great as well. I may only have just over two weeks of my summer holiday left (how, I swear this one has gone so much faster than all the others!) but I’m going to make the most of it.

So anyway, that is definitely enough of me rambling, let’s get on with today’s topic! Today Jana has asked us to talk about reading slumps, something I’m sure every blogger has experienced at one point or another, so I’m going to be talking about the Top Ten Books That Have Got Me Out of Reading Slumps. As carefully as I try to pick my reads, sometimes, through no fault of my own, slumps happen! These are the books that have helped me get through those slumps:

  1. The Girl From Everywhere-Heidi Heilig

Basically last September, I just had a really bad slumpy month, which was awful considering that my birthday is in September. Anyway, I was feeling kind of bored with everything I was reading and struggling to finish any of my Netgalley e-arcs. This book wasn’t perfect, but it was just what I needed at the time, something short and fun and that I could just dive head first into and forget about the real world, especially since I had a lot of assignments whilst I was reading it!

2. The Assassin’s Blade-Sarah J Maas

Honestly, the less said about my 2015 reading slump, the better. It was not a good year for me, with A-Levels and starting Uni, I had my worst reading year I think possibly ever and in addition to not reading much, what I was reading? Yeah, didn’t particularly enjoy much of it. So after a few less than stellar books, it was nice to dive into a world I loved again and enjoy some more of Celaena’s adventures.

3. Between Shades of Gray-Ruta Sepetys

Ah, another survivor of the reading slump of 2015. Again, this book came on the heels of several books that I had mixed feelings about, so whilst calling this book enjoyable feels slightly wrong, given the subject matter, it was definitely one that I found really interesting and yes sad, but also touching and hopeful which I think is the best of all possible combinations. Honestly, if you haven’t read any of Ruta Sepetys’ historical fiction, you definitely should, because they are so good.

4. Heir of Fire-Sarah J Maas

Yup, another 2015 book-basically in 2015, I read about 4 books I really loved, Undivided (which I read at the beginning of the year before the slump set in), this book, Between Shades of Gray and The Assassin’s Blade. Everything else I read that year either fell in the category of “not good” or “decidedly mediocre”. So after a run of decidedly mediocre books, it was nice to fall back into a world that I truly loved, with a story that completely shattered my heart but in the best possible way!

5. Chainbreaker-Tara Sim

After another slightly mediocre month in 2017, this time November, I was really dying for something that I would just fall head over heels in love with and thankfully, Chainbreaker was that book. Seriously more people need to talk about this series, it’s a super cool Victorian steampunk style world, it has the absolute sweetest and softest m/m romance ever, this particular book is set mostly in India and the disapora storyline for one of the character which was based off the author’s own experience was just so touching. Plus THAT ENDING THOUGH. I really need Firestarter like yesterday.

6. The Exact Opposite of Okay-Laura Steven

I had kind of a mini slump in February where I was reading Wintersong for most of the month, and yeah, really not enjoying it but I was super stubborn and powered through to the end (if you are feeling slumpy, please never do this). The Exact Opposite of Okay was exactly the book I needed coming off of Wintersong, it was short, it was super funny and feminist and ugh, I just loved it so much, it definitely got me back into the mood to be reading again.

7. The Language of Thorns-Leigh Bardugo

Much like TEOOO, I read this one coming off a book that I had been struggling with for a good part of April, Hero At The Fall, which I was disappointed with because it was one I was expecting to love and it just didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Anyway, The Language of Thorns was the perfect book to read coming out of that, it was short and really immersive, and from an author I already know I like, all things that equal beating a reading slump before it starts.

8. Scythe-Neal Shusterman

This was another book that I read in October last year, coming off my September slump and it was another really great one. If you are ever in a reading slump, I definitely recommend reading a book by a favourite author, because 9 times out of ten that I will really help. Scythe had such a cool concept and although the pacing was a little slow at times, the characters and the concept definitely carried it through for me.

9. A Court of Mist and Fury-Sarah J Maas

I wasn’t necessarily in a slump when I read this one, but I was coming off a run of 3.5 star books which I had enjoyed but hadn’t LOVED, so it was great to read a book that I completely fell for, as the last book that I had loved in 2017 before I read this one was A Conjuring of Light, which I read all the way back in February/March time, so by this point two months later, it was great to read something that I truly loved again.

10. A Darker Shade of Magic-VE Schwab

I didn’t have the best reading month in June 2016, but then I picked up this book towards the end of June, beginning of July and it not only brought me out of my slight slump, it also became one of my absolute favourite books not just of 2016, but ever. Seriously guys, you all need to read this book if you haven’t, it’s so good.

So there you have it, the books I’ve read to get me out of reading slumps, be they major or minor! Apparently Sarah J Maas is my go to for getting out of reading slumps, which I did not realise until today! Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them? What books have got you out of, or helped you avoid, reading slumps over the years? Let me know in the comments.

Next week’s topic is a Back To School Freebie, just in time for me heading back to Uni the week after, so I’m going to talk about Books I’m Planning To Read At Uni This Year (fiction of course, not books I’ll be reading for my course, those are a given!). In the meantime, I’m hoping to have a new discussion post for you guys up before I go to Scotland on Thursday!

Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2) Review

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Book: Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2)

Author: Laini Taylor

This was my August #RockMyTBR book, and after enjoying the first book in the series last summer and buying the other two and getting them all signed at YALC, I was really looking forward to reading this one and seeing what happened next in Karou’s story, but I’m sad to say I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as the first. Whilst the first book was for the most part set in Prague, we move to Morocco/Eretz for most of this book and I have to say I definitely missed Prague! I had thought I would have liked this book more because I had been told it was darker and less romance heavy than the first one, but I actually missed the kind of whimsical, hopeful feel of the first one, for a long while in this one, it just felt like stuff was bad and was never going to get better and mopey Karou and angsty Akiva were difficult to deal with! Perhaps if it had been 200 pages shorter, I might have enjoyed it more, but as it was, it really felt like 400 odd pages of mostly filler and then all the really important stuff happened in the last 100 pages-so infuriating when that happens! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living – one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was like a jewel-box without a jewel – a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

This was not that world.

This book was yeah….it was a difficult one for me to read. We pick up in an odd place, where we left off with Karou and Akiva in the last book, we pick up with Zuzana and Mik in Prague and much as I love them, it felt like a strange place to pick up after the end of the last book! It takes us a good ten chapters to even find out what Karou has been doing and even then, the actual plot, what little of it there is, just drags so badly. It wasn’t until maybe 300-400 pages into this 500 page tome that it actually felt like things were happening and yeah, that was not great.

In addition to this, the book is so dark and depressing. Necessarily so, sure, it is a war book and it couldn’t have had quite the same whimsical feel as the first book, but I think the author didn’t really need to hit us over the head with how bad war is all the time, we get it war is bad and pointless and a lot of people are dying here, but for so long it just felt like pointless, endless war with no hope for reprieve and whilst that may have been Laini Taylor’s point, it wasn’t great fun to read about.

The pacing in this book was SO OFF. The chapters were really uneven, at the start they were super short, and then they started to get longer and then they went back to being super short again and some chapters didn’t even feel like they were adding anything to the story. There was not enough plot to justify 500 pages of story.

Karou is basically a totally different person in this book than she was in the first one. It’s understandable, she’s grieving, but I didn’t feel like I was really rooting for her in this one. She was so directionless and she couldn’t make up her mind and was just generally so whiny and whilst I could understand it, it was not fun to read about. I missed the sassy, smart protagonist that was in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, this book’s Karou felt so completely different to that.

I’m still not a massive fan of Akiva, he still feels totally two dimensional, and I didn’t find his POV engaging at all. Even when I found Karou irritating, she didn’t feel flat in the same way that Akiva did. His motivations are basically solely around her, and it felt like if she hadn’t been Madrigal, Akiva wouldn’t have cared at all about the chimaera. I did however enjoy his interactions with his siblings, Hazael and Liraz actually felt more three dimensional than Akiva did and they saved Akiva’s POV for me, because even when I didn’t like him, I did enjoy them.

The romance is basically non-existent in this book, instead we get my favourite *rolls eyes* thing, with Karou and Akiva being all angsty over each other, as Karou can’t get past what he did to her family (understandable) and Akiva is trying to make things up to her, but I’m sorry Akiva, there are some things a girl just can’t get over. I really can’t get on board this ship anymore, though I know it will probably be a HEA for Karou and Akiva in the last book, because genocide of your girlfriend’s people? Yeah that’s not something that makes for a healthy relationship.

Zuzana and Mik were the saving grace of this book for me, even though they didn’t quite fit as the Prague story is really secondary in this book. I love their relationship and Zuzana is just everything I love, a short, feisty, funny girl and Mik is so cute and sensitive and a generally great boyfriend. I can’t wait to read the novella story about them later this year! So yeah, their part didn’t really fit with all the war stuff going on, but they did provide a nice break from all the despair.

The writing was nice enough, but like in the first book, it did feel overwritten at times, I didn’t need quite so much flowery prose and it didn’t fit as well in this book as it did in the first one, because this one has a much darker tone and it felt like the writing didn’t really reflect that? The constantly switching POVs were also really annoying as it made the pace of the book feel kind of jerky and some of the POVs just didn’t fit-like all the stuff with Sveva and Sarazal? Yeah that wasn’t necessary. Laini Taylor also had a super annoying habit of telling you exactly what was going to happen before it happened and I found that took me out of the story quite a bit.

Thiago, the White Wolf makes for a decent villain of this book, as he is genuinely scary, but it was a bit ridiculous that it took so long for Karou to work out that he was working against her, not for her. I also thought that the attempted rape (trigger warning in this book for rape and extreme violence), was a step too far and was definitely not needed. In fact there was a lot of gratuitous violence and mentions of violence against women in this book and I was definitely not there for that.

There were a lot of new characters brought in in this book, in fact a few too many I thought, because at points I was struggling to keep up with who was who! The only one that really made an impact on me was Ziri, a fellow Kirin, who of course has to have a crush on Karou (*eyeroll*) as he was super cute and precious and just genuinely sweet.

We go more in depth in the resurrection process in this book, which I thought was really cool, the one plus to this book is that we get deeper into the world of Eretz and I definitely came out with a better understanding of everything than in the first book so that was good.

The final twist was pretty much the only part of the book that I felt genuinely excited about and then just as things were getting good, the book was over! The book definitely spent too much time focusing on the wrong stuff and just didn’t get to the point fast enough, and by the time I actually was interested in what was going on, it was too late. I have to admit, I didn’t really understand the point of the ending, though I can’t explain why without spoilers, so let’s just say I don’t think that the direction it looks as if the third book is heading in is entirely necessary.

I loved the map at the beginning, it was super helpful to refer back to when places in Eretz were mentioned!

The conflict between the chimaera and the seraphim feels way too black and white, Taylor makes it pretty clear the chimaera are the good guys and the seraphim are the bad guys and I just felt there was so much more room for nuance than Taylor explored.

Overall, this book definitely suffered from second book syndrome, the pacing was slow, Karou was unrecongnizable for most of the book, Akiva was bland and were it not for Zuzana and Mik, the entire book would have been completely depressing with not much room for hope, ironic given Karou’s name means just that! I still want to read the final book, because I want to know how it ends, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing to do so anytime soon.

My Rating: 3/5

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Karou and Zuzana talk about resurrections and chimaera and magic.

My next review will be of the latest Throne of Glass book Tower of Dawn, which I am finally reading before Kingdom of Ash comes out in October!

Top Ten Tuesday #172

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Hey guys! So I had a pretty cool weekend this weekend, on Saturday, me and the family went to see the Men’s Team Gymnastics Final at the Hydro in Glasgow. If you didn’t know this about me already, I love gymnastics, I saw the same event at London 2012 and a few years ago went with my parents to see the Men’s All Around Final at the same arena in Glasgow, so yeah, was pretty excited. It was an amazing final and GB did so well, we got the silver medal which was awesome to see (if a little frustrating watching 2/3 of the team fall off on the high bar!).

Anyway, enough of my babbling on about gymnastics, we’re here to talk about books! Well more specifically, book bloggers as today Jana from That Artsy Reader Girl has asked us to compile a list of our favourite book blogs. I’m not entirely sure if I actually have ten of these, but I’m going to give it a go, here are the blogs/bloggers that I really love:

  1. Cait @ Paper Fury-https://paperfury.com/

Of course Cait’s blog was going to be first here! If you are in the book blogging community, you have probably at some point heard of Cait, she is very active on all social media, especially Twitter and Instagram. Cait’s blog is super funny, her reviews are awesome and we’re basically book twins, seriously if I think I want to read a book, I’ll just look at what Cait said about it because 9 out of 10 times, I usually agree! She just put her debut novel A Thousand Perfect Notes out this year, so as well as checking out her blog, you should definitely check that out too.

2. Jamie @ Perpetual Page Turner-http://www.perpetualpageturner.com/

Jamie’s blog has become more of a lifestyle + books blog in the last year since having her daughter, but it was always kind of leaning that way anyway, she’s just made the change official now. Jamie’s was actually the blog that inspired me to get into blogging, her posts are always so well written and she made blogging sound like such fun, that I thought, hey maybe I could do that!

3. Grace @ Almost Amazing Grace-http://www.almostamazinggrace.co.uk/

Grace’s blog is again a combination of books and lifestyle stuff, and it was actually her life content that drew me to her blog (though her book content is great too!) as she’s such a frank and honest blogger and talks about such a myraid of topics, plus she’s such a great writer, it’s always fun to read her posts!

4. Hannah @ Books, Life and Other Oddities-https://bookslifeotheroddities.wordpress.com/

I had to include my best friend’s blog here, not only because she’s my best friend, but also because she’s brilliant and funny and we basically have the exact same book taste, so if you like the books I talk about here, you’ll definitely like the books that she talks about. She’s a relatively new blogger, only just started this year, so it would definitely mean a lot to her and to me if you went and gave her blog a follow!

5. Lucy @ Queen of Contemporary-http://queenofcontemporary.com/

I will admit, I follow Lucy more on Twitter than on her blog, but if you love contemporary YA fiction and classics then her blog is definitely worth a read. Lucy runs #ukyachat and is just such an enthusiastic advocate for YA books and books in general and I’m just amazed by how much she’s accomplished at so young, she’s only 18 and her debut novel The Paper and Hearts Society is coming out next year!

6. Alicia @ A Kernel of Nonsense-https://akernelofnonsense.wordpress.com/

I discovered Alicia’s blog through Top Ten Tuesday and then followed her because we have pretty similar taste in books, so it’s always nice to get recommendations from her blog! She also does super cool discussion posts, called Kernels of Nonsense, which are always really interesting and insightful to read.

7. Kate @ Reading Through Infinity-https://readingthroughinfinity.com/

Kate is another blogger who has quite similar book taste to mine, so of course I love hearing what she has to say about certain books and she is a fellow Schwab fan, so great fun to flail with over one of my favourite authors!

8. Rae @ BookmarkChronicles-https://bookmarkchronicles.wordpress.com/

I was interviewed by Rae for her Summer Spotlight Series earlier in the summer and she was just so lovely to me and had such good questions. She writes great posts about books and about feminism and diversity and just generally has great insights, so is definitely a blogger worth the follow!

9. Angel, An Overthinking Teenager, Cora, Elly, Emily, Hannah, Janet, Michelle, Erin & Sydney @ The Feministas-https://thefeministas.wordpress.com/

I’m breaking off from the prompt ever so slightly to include one non book related blog, because it’s one of my favourites, these girls talk all about feminism and feminist issues and it’s such an important topic and one that I am of course very invested in being a feminist myself, so I love reading these girls thoughts on feminism and all the different issues that women face in our society.

10. Lauren @ SERIESous Book Reviews-http://seriesousbookreviews.com/

Lauren’s blog is really great, because she concentrates on series, so you can find out whether a series is worth your time and energy! She also does series recaps which are super helpful because I don’t know about you, but I end up forgetting a lot of the previous book in a series in the year or two wait for the next one!

So there we go, my favourite book (mostly) bloggers! Have you checked out any of these sites? Do you also like them? Who are your favourite bloggers, book or otherwise? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is Books To Pull You Out of A Reading Slump which I am excited for because boy do I have experience with those! In the meantime, I just finished Days of Blood and Starlight, so I think I should have a review of that up for you at the weekend, after my job finishes on Saturday, so check back for that if you are a Laini Taylor fan!

Fawkes Review (e-ARC)

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Book: Fawkes

Author: Nadine Brandes

Published By: Thomas Nelson Fiction

Expected Publication: 10th July (whoops!)

Format: e-book

Thank you to Thomas Nelson Fiction and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book early, I was super excited with it because 17th century historical fantasy is not something that I come across very often and I love this period of history, so it was definitely something that I was really excited to read.

First off, the concept of the story is so darn cool. Like a retelling of the Gunpowder Plot in an England where everyone uses magical masks to control colours? Definitely one of the more inventive fantasy that I’ve read in a while-I read a lot of fantasy so sometimes it’s difficult to find books that feel new and fresh and original and this one definitely did.

Because the book takes place over two years, the plot is quite slow to start off with, it’s only toward the end of the first section “Grey” and the beginning of the second section “Black” that the pace really starts to pick up as the Gunpowder plot really starts to get underway. It does get better in terms of pace, but those first hundred pages or so were a little bit of a slog to get through as not much is really happening. However once the pace picks up, things get really exciting, especially in the last few sections when the story is getting to its climax.

My interest in the magic system was definitely what kept me reading in the first part of the book when the plot was a little slow-I thought it was so cool and creative. Basically everyone has a mask which they can use to manipulate different colours, the whole idea is that each person should only be able to control one colour but there are some people who want to be able to use all the colours through the use of White Light. The idea of using masks has always fascinated me so combining these with being able to manipulate objects through the use of different colours? Yup, I will never not be obsessed with this magic system.

I wasn’t overly attached to the narrator Thomas at first. He seemed a bit bland and I wasn’t entirely keen on some of the sexist views he espoused at the beginning of the book (he comments that the main female character Emma is better than other girls because she doesn’t show any cleavage *eyeroll*) but I LOVED his character development throughout the book. At first Thomas kind of just seems like he is floating along and not really making any choices of his own but as he grows and learns more throughout the book, he starts striking out on his own and becoming more independent and really thinking about what he wants and what is actually best for the country and by the end I just wanted to give the boy a hug. At the start of the book, I was like, yeah Thomas is okay, but he’s a bit bland and boring and by the end I was like LOOK AT MY BOY, HE’S BEEN THROUGH SO MUCH AND HE’S JUST TRYING HIS BEST AND I MUST PROTECT THE PRECIOUS (I only have two speeds for characters apparently, bland indifference or must protect at all costs). He has a bit of a hero complex but that’s understandable for a 17th century man and for the most part I did find it kind of endearing. It was great to see a YA novel with a male first person narrator, that’s much rarer that it really should be.

The main female character Emma, I just adored. I love historical women who want to go outside of the box society has set for them, and Emma just totally embodies that. She wants to strike out on her own and paint for a living and no one will hire her to be an apprentice even though she’s an amazing artist and skilled at using colour power (because sexism) but she doesn’t let the fact that no one is willing to give her a chance stop her from trying. She’s super powerful, and really brave and compassionate and I loved getting to see such a well rounded female character. She’s also black, because yes, black people did exist in 17th Century Britain and the author does explore the racism that she faces, but at the same time, Emma’s story isn’t totally about that.

I loved seeing the development of the relationship between Thomas and Emma, they have a really sweet relationship and Thomas learns and grows so much from Emma, at first he’s like MUST BE A MAN AND PROTECT and then he’s like, okay, this girl can stand up for herself. His relationship with Emma is also key in his decisions towards the end of the book. Emma also learns and grows from Thomas as well, as she sees what she really wants out of a relationship and learns that she does not have to stay with the boy who is blackmailing her. It was so nice to see a relationship in a YA book that is based on mutual respect, we need more of these!

If you know the history of the Gunpowder Plot, the story is relatively predictable (and of course, you will know how it ends before you get there) but Nadine’s magical twists and turns mean that the predictability of the historical part of the story never gets boring. I particularly loved the villain of the story, without wanting to give away too much, he was really great and I thought the Stone Plague was a great way of adapting the plague at the time to fit a magical story.

I loved how much the father/son relationship of Guy and Thomas was central to the story, as parent/child relationships are so rare in YA and it was great to see their relationship grow and develop through the story, especially since they had been estranged before the events of the story, so they are really just meeting each other for the first time.

The whole Keeper/Igniter war is very reminiscent of the Catholic/Protestant divisions in the 17th century, and I’m pretty sure that White Light is supposed to signify God, but it’s not whack you over the head with it religion, so if you’re not a big fan of books with religious themes, don’t worry, they are here, but they are relatively subtle and I thought it was quite a clever way to combine religion with the fantasy aspects of the book.

I liked the way that the real life plotters were incorporated into the book, aside from Catesby, I didn’t really know much about the other plotters so it was great to get to learn a bit more about the plotters that you don’t hear as much about through this book. The whole thing at Holbeche House, I had no idea that actually happened, I assumed they were all caught at the same time, so that was definitely interesting to find out about-I love it when I read historical books and they teach me something new!

I liked how White Light was kind of snarky and had a sense of humour-my favourite kind of character, even though White Light is more of a presence than a character, but you get my point!

There were a few gruesome bits, especially involving the plague, so if you are a bit squeamish, just be pre-warned that there are some gross bits in this book!

The ending was bittersweet, I’m glad that the author stuck to the history, because we all know how the Gunpowder Plot worked out, though it was heartbreaking to read about but also that there was a glimmer of hope for Thomas and Emma, because it would have kind of sucked if she had ended with the death of Guy Fawkes (it’s history guys, the end to the Gunpowder Plot is not a spoiler) and just left on that sad note, without offering any sort of hope for the future, so it was nice to have a not totally depressing ending!

Overall, this was a really great historical fantasy, such a unique and creative take on a well known historical event and it was definitely great to read a historical book about a time period that is not explored enough in my opinion. I am definitely looking forward to reading Nadine Brandes’ next book because its about the Romanovs and I LOVE the Romanovs!

My Rating: 4/5

BECHDEL TEST: FAIL-Emma is really the only named female character in this book because 17th century, of course we can’t have more than one woman……*eyerolls viciously*

My next review will be of Days of Blood and Starlight, the sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.