Sunday, 17 June 2018

Writing Update and Write200

I've recently finished another round of edits on two quite long projects (both fantasy YA) and I've been reluctant to throw myself into the middle of another big writing project straight away. I have made a start over the last few weeks on turning my Snow White retelling Mirrored Snow into a full length novel, but it's something I'm dipping in and out of at the moment, rather than devoting myself to entirely. 

Instead, I'm focusing more on free writing, and have challenged myself to write at least 200 words a day on something unrelated to a current project. I'm using it as a sand box, of sorts, to work on description and world building, and also to try out new ideas. A lot of it is quite rough around the edges, but in a bid to keep myself on track, I'm going to share my favourite piece on my blog each Sunday. Here is the first. 

The pounding at the front door was loud enough to rattle the breakfast things on the tray I’d placed on the table. Fine porcelain cups, a tea pot twice as old as I was and the small jug of milk shook precariously. I was thankful of the tray when a slurp of tea fell from the spout; Mama would have scolded me if the silver-wood table had been damaged. 

As it was, she was already fuming from the interruption: “Whoever could that be at this hour? The dawn lizards aren’t even out yet. No one can have such urgent business at this time of day.” 

Concern curdled in my stomach like spoilt milk; no one called at this hour unless it was an emergency - especially not with a knock like that. My pulse raced when I thought of Papa, who was away on a business trip. Had he taken sick? Been attacked by khaziani riders? Caught in a snow storm? At least we hadn’t had a chance to eat breakfast yet; the churning of my empty stomach was bad enough.

Mama - ever practical and unafraid - reflected none of my fear. She reflected little else of me, either. Her eyes were a pale green to my warm brown; her hair ash blonde to my chestnut; her features soft and friendly while I was made of harsh angles and high cheekbones. My little sister, Freya, and Mama were like two sides of the same coin - practical, yet soft and loving - while I seemed to belong in a different coin pouch all together. 

I got a bit carried away with this piece and ended up with over 600 words (and possibly a new story, but I'm trying not to let it take over my free writing time slot!) The two write200 pieces that have come after it have also been quite long and set in the same world. 

Wednesday, 13 June 2018


Warcross by Marie Lu

When a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths. For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn't just a game - it's a way of life. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. When Emika hacks into the game illegally, she's convinced she'll be arrested, and is shocked when she gets a call from the game's creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year's tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. {goodreads}

Reasons you should read Warcross if you're a writer:

  • The world building! My last WIP included google-glass-like technology, but Warcross took the idea to a level I would never even have considered. I was ready to move into this world. Until the plot twist...
  • And wow, the Plot twists in Warcross are amazing. I'm obviously not going to say anymore, but it's worth reading for the twists alone. Lu is brilliant at subverting readers' expectations.
  • Lu's romances are swoonworthy - I loved the way she wrote relationships in Legend, but Warcross is even better. 

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

So I'm going to try a new style for reviewing. Up until now, I've given you a general overview of the novel - what I liked etc. (I never tell you what I didn't like anyway, as I can't bring myself to be negative - if I hate a book, I just don't review it!) But this year, I've been really focussing on reading like a writer (I mentioned it in my review of The Belles) and I think it would be really interesting to blog about the things I pick up from the books I read, and where their strengths lie from a writing perspective. I'm going to start with The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, which I finished today and gave me the idea when I wanted to write down everything I loved about it from a writing perspective while I was half-way through. 

So here is why I think Gentleman's Guide is a writer's must-read:

  • It's a brilliant example of how to create a convincing character arc. I was fully invested in Monty and his growth throughout the novel. 
  • It shows you that characters can be irritating, but still win the reader over. There were times in this book I could have screamed at Monty, but they didn't make me love him any less. 
  • Diversity is a big part of this book. I don't think I've ever read such a diverse historical fiction novel. 
  • Voice is another strong point, but I think this ties in to the strength of Monty's characterisation.
  • The way Lee writes about love and relationships had me highlighting so many passages on my kindle.  

So that's it. I'll probably make these longer as I go, but I'm hoping this way of blogging will encourage me to update more frequently, as it's something I'm already thinking about as I read. 

Have you read Gentleman's Guide? If so, what did you think?

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

The Belles

Wow! It's been a while! I've been very busy editing two novels and haven't had much time for anything else. But I'm giving myself a few days off from writing to catch up on other things, like blogging and reading. I've read some superb fantasy novels over the past few months which I'm excited to finally get reviews down for. 

I'm starting with The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton.

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful. {goodreads}

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld has been one of my favourite books for a long time, but The Belles took everything I loved about Uglies and made it even better. I adored this novel. It explores society's obsession with beauty and appearance, and has amazing characterisation, friendships and superb world building. 

I'm obsessed with all the tiny details that made the world so realistic. The post balloons were my favourite; I would love to see them interpreted in a film version. 

This year, I've been reading more like a writer and one of the things which really struck me about The Belles was how tight the plot was: it hit all the right places with its highs and lows and it is a superb example of exactly how you should write a book - but that's not to say it's in anyway formulaic or unoriginal - far from it. 

The Belles was innovative, surprising and utterly captivating. While I don't think it's a world I want to move to, it's definitely one I want to read more about.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The Cruel Prince

I owe @JennieLy huge thanks for sending me a signed copy of this book, which I devoured in a few days. If I could have done nothing but read for twenty-four hours I would have finished this in one go. 

“If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.” 

Jude and her sisters were abducted as young children and taken to the High Court of Faerie. Instead of hating her new home, Jude wants nothing more than to belong. With politics, danger, action and complex relationships, The Cruel Prince is a novel not to be missed. 

"You may win in the end, you may ensorcell me and hurt me and humiliate me, but I will make sure you lose everything I can take from you on the way down."

The world building in this novel was superb; it made me yearn for childhood fairytales. It was dark, cruel and believable despite its fantastical elements. Jude was a brilliant main character - she was flawed and difficult. Everyone in this novel is morally grey, so you never knew who you could trust. 

“I stand in front of my window and imagine myself a fearless knight, imagine myself a witch who hid her heart in her finger and then chopped her finger off.”  

There were elements of Jude and Cardan's relationship (if you can call it that) which reminded me of Pride and Prejudice, although this was far from being a fantasy YA retelling. 

"Like taking a dare to run over knives, like an adrenaline strike of lightning, like the moment when you've swum too far out in the sea and there is no going back, only cold black water closing over your head."

I can't believe I have to wait a whole year to know what happens next. I can see this being one of my top reads of 2018.  

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

2018: part three

For the past two weeks, I've posted about the books I'm most looking forward to reading this year. Here are the final three, two of which are by the amazing Louise O'Neil. 

When Sarah falls for Matthew, she falls hard.

So it doesn't matter that he's twenty years older. That he sees her only in secret. That, slowly but surely, she's sacrificing everything else in her life to be with him.

Sarah's friends are worried. Her father can't understand how she could allow herself to be used like this. And she's on the verge of losing her job.

But Sarah can't help it. She is addicted to being desired by Matthew.

And love is supposed to hurt.

Isn't it?

I can't find a cover or synopsis yet for this on Goodreads, unfortunately, but the sampler they gave out at YALC was gorgeous (we spent ages looking for it). I love fairy-tale retellings and I love O'Neil's work, so this is one I can't wait to start!

Told from the perspective of each character and a mysterious narrator, Floored is about all the ups and downs of life.

After they go through a traumatic experience together, the lives of six strangers become intertwined, and they decide to meet once a year to commemorate the day they met and the person they lost.

Another YALC sampler I can't stop thinking about is Floored, which is a collaboration between some amazing UKYA authors. It's told form multiple perspectives (each character voiced by a different author) and I really can't wait to find out what happens next in it!

Which books are you most looking forward to reading in 2018? Let me know in the comments. 

Saturday, 13 January 2018

PopSugar 2018 Challenge

After realising I'd done so well on PopSugar's 2017 reading challenge last week, I'm feeling inspired to have a go at 2018's. Here's this year's list and the novels I think I'll be using to complete it.

A book made into a movie you’ve already seen
True crime
The next book in a series you started {Tower of Dawn}
A book involving a heist
Nordic noir
A novel based on a real person
A book set in a country that fascinates you {The Belles}
A book with a time of day in the title
A book about a villain or anti-hero
A book about death or grief {Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index}
A book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym
A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist {Out of the Blue}
A book that is also a stage play or musical
A book by an author of a different ethnicity than you {Warcross}
A book about feminism
A book about mental health
A book you borrowed or that was given to you as a gift {The Book of Dust}
A book by two authors
A book about or involving a sport
A book by a local author
A book with your favorite colour in the title
A book with alliteration in the title
A book about time travel
A book with a weather element in the title
A book set at sea {The Surface Breaks}
A book with an animal in the title {Catwoman: Soulstealer}
A book set on a different planet
A book with song lyrics in the title
A book about or set on Halloween
A book with characters who are twins {One}
A book mentioned in another book
A book from a celebrity book club
A childhood classic you’ve never read {I capture the castle}
A book that’s published in 2018 {Batman: Nightwalker}
A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner
A book set in the decade you were born
A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get to {Always and Forever, Lara Jean}
A book with an ugly cover
A book that involves a book store or library
Your favourite prompt from the 2015, 2016, or 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenges

Are you taking part this year? If so, which books are you planning to read for the different categories? I really struggled to come up with titles for this, so it would be great to hear your ideas!