Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Writing Wednesdays

I'm doing an MA in creative writing! The offer has been accepted, my student loan has been approved, so I am now, 100%, officially, starting my MA this September! 

I'm going to be doing it part-time, distance learning, with Manchester Metropolitan University (which has an amazing Writing School) and specialising in writing for children and young adults. It was the flexible learning opportunities and the children's focus that drew me to this course and I'm already working my way through the reading list for September, starting with The Hobbit. 

I'm really looking forward to learning everything I can on this course, and putting it to work in my rewrite of Fearful (although I'm also planning to start something new for the writing elements of the course). 

I'm taking a career break for at least the next two years (due to the high cost of child care) and I'm excited to have a new challenge to focus on while I'm at home. 

Other writing news:

I've entered three stories into this year's Wattys and am still updating On Sapphire Wings and Democracy is Dead twice a week. 

Last month, I started Fearful all over again and I'm really pleased with how this new take on the story is progressing (higher stakes, more angst for the characters - I'm being really mean to them in this redraft). 

I'm also making a few final tweaks to Mirrored Snow, although I can't decide whether to start querying it this summer, or to sit on the manuscript until after my MA. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Writing Wednesdays

Here's a little update on what I've been writing recently:

On Sapphire Wings
My free-verse fantasy story is still being posted on Wattpad twice a week. I'm really enjoying this as a way to challenge my writing and improve my style. You can read Gwen's adventures Irryss racing here.

Democracy is Dead 
DiD started life as Amber & Ice. I unsuccessfully queried it under a different title a few years ago, but it felt so timely (it's about direct democracy and the way our political preferences are influenced by the world around us without us realising) that I decided to start posting the updated version on Wattpad. It's been consistently in the top three Wattpad novels tagged democracy (at the moment it's second to Amber & Ice!), and has been Wattpad's top SpecFic novel for a few weeks now as well. I fell out of love with this story after I was unsuccessful querying it, so I'm really excited by how well it's being received on Wattpad. You can read it here

I'm still in the middle of querying Fearful, my novel about friendship, prophecies and apothecaries. I've had a couple of full requests, one of which I'm still waiting to hear back from, so things are going fairly well. 

Mirrored Snow
I have finished and edited my full novel version of the gender-reversed Snow White reimagining which started out as a short story on Wattpad. I've received some brilliant feedback on the finished version, but I'm holding off on querying until I see what happens with Fearful. 

I'll be back soon with another writing update, but in the meantime I'll be posting lots more YA and picture book reviews. I finished Enchantée this week and can't wait to share all my thoughts!

Monday, 20 May 2019

A Sky Painted Gold

Growing up in her sleepy Cornish village dreaming of being a writer, seventeen-year-old Lou has always wondered about the grand Cardew house which has stood empty for years. And when the owners arrive for the summer - a handsome, dashing brother and sister - Lou is quite swept off her feet and into a world of moonlit cocktail parties and glamour beyond her wildest dreams.

But, as she grows closer to the Cardews, is she abandoning her own ambitions... And is there something darker lurking at the heart of the Cardew family? {goodreads summary}

I was sold on this novel as soon as I saw someone compare Wood's writing to Eva Ibbotson. Ibbotson was one of my childhood favourites, so I knew I needed to read this! Here are three things I loved about A Sky Painted Gold:

1. The era. This novel has reminded me that I should really, really read more historical fiction! Wood effortlessly transports you to 1920s Cornwall through music, relationship dynamics and plenty of fashion. This would be a beautiful story to see on screen. 

2. Family dynamics. I love the different family relationships shown in A Sky Painted Gold. Lou and Alice's relationship was really special, and the rest of Lou's family were a lot of fun to read about - some of the Aunt Irene moments made me laugh a lot. There were also some great moments that showed how easy it is to read too much into someone's body language and behaviour, and completely misinterpret it. 

3. It had a romance worthy of a Jane Austen novel. I was reminded so much of my favourite Austen couples while reading about Lou and Robert. This novel is getting compared to a lot of great works of literature (and deservedly so), and Pride and Prejudice should be one of them. 

I cannot wait for Wood's next YA novel - Under a Dancing Star - to come out later this year!

Monday, 13 May 2019

The Bear and the Nightingale

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn't mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse's fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil. {goodreads summary}

The Bear and the Nightingale is not a book to read in the summer. This is one you should save for the end of the year, when the wind is howling outside your window and you can snuggle in a blanket with a hot cup of tea while you read. Here are three things I loved about the Bear and the Nightingale:

1. It was so atmospheric. I read the second half of this novel on holiday, while we were trapped inside for a few days by a storm. With the log fire burning and the incessant sound of rain hitting the windows, I felt utterly transported into the world of this story. 

2. The world building and mythology is superb. I know nothing about Russian folklore, but I never felt lost or confused. 

3. I loved the use of prophecy as a way of foreshadowing events to come, while still keeping you guessing about exactly how those events would play out. 

I will definitely finish this series, but I'm going to wait until November/December time to do so. 

Friday, 10 May 2019

Picture This: Ten Little Robots

A complete set! (Elves not pictures because I put it away after Christmas!)

I've blogged about how much we adore this series before, and with the addition of Ten Little Robots, our collection is once again complete! It doesn't seem to matter how many of these books we buy, my 4 and 2 year old love them all. Ten Little Robots go on a colourful adventure through a factory, trying to avoid electromagnets and molten metal. It is a lot of fun to read and the art work is a joy to look at. 

Monday, 6 May 2019

The Wicked King

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world. {goodreads}

Can I limit this review to just three things? I loved The Wicked King every bit as much as The Cruel Prince and am now at a complete loss as to what I'm going to do until the next novel comes out.

1. The characterisation. Jude is brilliant; she's neither good nor bad, although she has a tendency to use violence as a solution for every problem (of which she has many). 

2. The world building: Black makes Faerie both a place of wonder and a place to be feared. 

3. The romance - or the tantalising suggestion of it, at least. There are so many twists and turns in Cardan and Jude's interactions that it's difficult to guess what's going to happen next.

I am so, so pleased The Queen of Nothing's release date has been brought forwards to November!

Friday, 3 May 2019

Picture This: Baby University

It's been so long since I last posted a picture book review! We've had some really nice new ones recently, so I'm going to try and start posting about them more regularly again. Today I'm going to feature the Baby University series, which we've now read four books from. 

My husband is head of science and a physics teacher in a secondary school, so this series started out as a funny present idea, but have actually been a huge hit in our house! The images are simple and bright and the words are easy to follow. I usually just read the first line on each page for the ABC books, making them a fun new way to look at the alphabet. 

There are so many different titles in this series, so there's plenty to go at if you're a Chemist or a Mathematician too. They also make brilliant baby gifts for new parents who work in STEM. I like the sound of Evolution for Babies, and the ABCs of Engineering - although we probably have enough ABC books for now!

Have you read any of the Baby University books? Or are there any other STEM based picture books you love? Let me know in the comments!