Friday, 17 October 2014

Autumn Reads: Board Books Edition

My daughter may be too young to even focus on the pictures, but that doesn't mean that I haven't already stated reading to her! It's really important to me that books and reading are a normal part of her life and that she grows up learning to love them. Besides, she shares her birthday with Harry Potter, so it's clearly meant to be!

Her introduction to books came courtesy of the amazing Booktrust, who give two free books to every newborn. This is a fantastic initiative, just like the free books they send to schools, which I have taken advantage of in the library. Booktrust have even put together a great 'Baby's First Books' reading list, which I will definitely be consulting when I'm out buying books. We were given these books. 

Both are picture heavy, routine/sleep focused and very sweet. 

Last weekend, I also went to Waterstones to buy my first baby books! I bought two cute, Usborne lift-the-flap books, which are bright, colourful and baby friendly. 

I also bought one of my favourite classics - We're Going on a Bear Hunt. The beauty of this story is that you don't even have to look at the book for it to be enjoyable as it can be acted out and sung around the house.

A kind colleague also bought us Dr Seuss' Sleep Softly Book

I wasn't a big Dr Seuss fan growing up, but this book is really lovely. It's definitely a bedtime read I will make frequent use of as my daughter gets older. The rhythm makes it a lot of fun to read and there are lots of textures on the pages for her to explore. 

What are your earliest book memories? I can still fondly remember stories about Old Bear, Paddington, Winne the Pooh and 'Can't You Sleep Little Bear' (which my mum is sick of reading after three children!)

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Summer Reads Part Two

I can remember buying this on the strength of its cover. It looked like a cool, Legend-style dystopian novel. I didn't realise that it was actually about vampires. And parallel universes. Not two subjects I would have thought to put together, but they actually work really well. Evangeline is a lonely and some-what naive character who suddenly find herself in the employment of the mysterious Sophie and is whisked off to New York where she travels each night to a parallel universe inhabited only by vampires. Protected from them by an enchanted necklace, she makes friends with a (really fun, Twilight-esque) group and quickly falls for Caden. Only his clingy, evil girlfriend Rachel and the fact that he lives in a parallel universe stands in their way...

One of the main strengths of this novel is that it's really hard to work out who to trust and which of the vampires are going to turn out to be 'good' or 'bad' (one of the overarching messages is that you can never trust any vampire completely, which adds a good deal of tension to the novel). It's a fun read and worth checking out. I will definitely continue the series at some point. 

I'm determined to vary my reading slightly and not just exclusively read YA novels over the next few months (as fun as that sounds!) As a result, I'm also throwing in the odd classic from my tbr list. It's been a few years since I read the Great Gatsby (and I still haven't seen the film!) and Tender is the Night so I was eager to start TBATD. It follows educated, wealthy and extremely lazy Anthony Patch and his beautiful but vapid wife Gloria, who are waiting for Anthony's grandfather to die so that they can inherit his vast wealth and live an even more lavish lifestyle than they do at the start of the novel. It had elements of a 1920 Wolf of Wallstreet in its excess and I felt completely immersed in Fitzgerald's world due to his fantastic writing. Neither character is particularly redeemable and I spent most of the novel waiting for them to meet a nasty, but well deserved, end (you'll have to read it to find out if they do...) It was enjoyable, but not as good as Tender is the Night.  

The third installment of this superb series does not disappoint! It follows Celaena as she travels to Wendlyn, meeting the stern, but handsome Rowan (can this series really handle any more eligible male characters? The love triangle was difficult enough!) and learning how to harness her magic powers. However the books also features plenty of action from Adarlan through the story lines of Chaol and Dorian (where yet another male character is introduced - seriously, how is she going to choose!) I LOVE this series - it gets better with every book. When I first read Throne of Glass, I wasn't totally convinced by Celaena's character, as she seemed a bit too perfect, but with each novel she becomes more realistic as her background is revealed and her flaws are exposed. There are even more fantasy elements this time, which was great, as well as plenty of action. I don't know how I'm going to wait for the next installment and I'm also really looking forward to quizzing the kids on it when I go back to work, since I know a lot of them were really looking forward to this book being published. 

Another self published book, this one about fairies. Allison lives with her grandparents and schizophrenic mother. She has never met her father, but she's pretty sure he is partially to blame for her mother's mental state. When he mysteriously appears on her doorstep, she tells him to leave. But then strange things start happening; things only he can explain, and Allison finds herself travelling to the land of the fae to rescue her mother before she looses her completely. The Forgotten Ones has a gorgeous cover ad I haven't read many fairy stories. It was good and the characters were convincing. Ethan and Allison's relationship felt very natural and worked well. But the plot sometimes felt rushed and I never felt gripped by what was happening. 

I can see why a lot of people would really rate this book, since it's very well written, but really wasn't for me. It was just a lot more graphic than I was expecting. Not that I necessarily have a problem with sex scenes in books - I love A Song of Ice and Fire and was a huge Chuck Palahniuk fan when I was a teen - I just found them OTT in this book and didn't enjoy reading it as a result. It had some great writing, a really strong plot and an unexpected ending, but I won't be continuing the series any time soon. 

Glamour has a lot of promise. It's another fairy story, but set in a world where demons have taken over and the dwindling human population have been forced to cower behind walls. Only the situation isn't as clear cut as many humans have been led to believe - as Rae discovers as she ventures outside the walls. There were elements of this book that I loved, particularly the concept. However the plot sometimes felt underdeveloped and, as a result, confusing and the romance forced and instantaneous. I think Glamour was the first book Fletcher published and she has written many more since, so I'm tempted to try one of her more recent novels next, as there was a lot I liked about Glamour, it just felt like it needed more polishing. I think my own writing has grown a lot stronger with each book I've written (largely due to the feedback I've received in reviews helping me to pinpoint what I need to work on), so I would like to see where Fletcher is at now, as I think it will be pretty great.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Meet My Villain Blog Hop

Since a) Halloween is coming up, b) Cinaer is my favourite character to write about and c) I'm on a bit of a Wattpad binge at the moment while I wait for my next lot of edits to come back, I have decided to take part in Erin Latimer and Kyra Nelson's 'Meet My Villain' Blog Hop.

1) What is the name of your villain?


2) What motivates him?

Power. Although he comes from one of the Helian Realm's elite families, he has only ever been on the fringes of true power outside of Kalme. Cinaer has his sights set firmly on ruling the entire Helian Realm.

3) What is the villain's relationship with the main character?

Roxy and Cinaer are informally betrothed. At the beginning of Fire their relationship is already fairly heated, but they do get on. By Air however...

Jasmine is certain that he is a danger to Brae and her friends and tries to stay out of his way.

4) What is one thing your villain is afraid of? What is their weakness?

In Fire, Cinaer's greatest weakness is his vanity; something Roxy is only too happy to exploit during training. He'll lose fights in favour of protecting his appearance. 

5) What is their greatest strength

Cinaer knows how to make prudent alliances and how long to keep them going before until he needs to jump ship. When he needs to, he can turn on the charm and manipulate those around him to get what he wants. 

6) Does your villain have any romantic entanglements? 

Well, there's his complex relationship with Roxy. However (Air spoiler alert!) there may be someone else back home in Kalme that the girls should watch out for...

7) List one random fact about your villain

He wasn't in the first draft of the book and became more evil the more I redrafted.

Elements of Power fans should watch out for even more Cinaer in Air. I really missed him in Water and was disappointed that I couldn't fit him into the plot. I've made up for it with lots of great Cin scenes in the final installment.