Always in the Write | Why I Chose My Blog Name

I’ve had a lot of compliments on my blog name, and being honest I’m actually quite proud of it – I think it might be the highest quality thing to come out of the cloud of dissertation preparation that was November 2015!  At the time I was thinking about what the hell I was going to do come graduation (tip: don’t take 8 months to figure this out and still not come up with anything!!), and decided that a blog would at the very least keep me writing, even if I wasn’t in a relevant job. A stroke of genius while trying to think of decent literary puns led to me saving Always in the Write on WordPress. I left it to be picked up when I had more time. I didn’t have more time until May, but I did pick it up – which if I’m being honest was a bit of a miracle. Looking back I probably should’ve planned ahead and written at least some ideas down in the months between coming up with the name and actually going live, but I’m not that clever. At least I went and did it, and I haven’t given up yet.

 

 

 

Here we are, still. I’m not in a relevant job yet, but the blog still motivates me to write. I’m invested in this now – this isn’t just a way to hone skills or something that looks good on a CV, this is something I truly care about and want to do well.

That’s great Ro, but why did you choose the damn name?

On to the name itself, there are several reasons I chose it –

  1. As I said before, I love a good pun.
  2. I AM always in the right. Ask anyone.
  3. I wanted this to be about my writing. I didn’t want to lose my love of writing (and reading) and I thought that if I had it in my blog name I’d be more inclined to, y’know, write. I committed to going into a writing job after initially planning on going in to teaching – keeping writing as a focus in my life and blog is a way to ensure I don’t lose focus or touch with my goals.
  4. Hello, it’s genius. I’m a genius. Perfect match.
  5. As cheesy as it sounds, it felt right. I’m a big believer in my own intuition and I had a good feeling about this name – perhaps like wands the blog name chooses the blogger…or I’m just a genius (see point 4)

I really like my blog name. I think it’s cute, clever and sums up what I want the blog to reflect – good quality, interesting writing and lots of books! I did think of it while the goal was to have a more creative writing focused blog, but I still think it fits me and my written voice well.

That’s my opinion, what’s yours? How did you choose your blog name and what do you think of it now?

See you soon,

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Last Post: Review Wednesday | Purple Hibiscus

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I’ve been binging It’s Always Sunny again.

Review Wednesday | Purple Hibiscus

Mama had greeted him in the traditional way that women were supposed to, bending low and offering him her back so that he would pat it with his fan made of the soft, straw-coloured tail of an animal. Back home that night, Papa told Mama that it was sinful. You did not bow to another human being. It was an ungodly tradition, bowing to an Igwe. So, a few days later, when we went to see the bishop at Awka, I did not kneel to kiss his ring. I wanted to make Papa proud. But Papa yanked my ear in the car and said I did not have the spirit of discernment. The bishop was a man of God; the Igwe was merely a traditional ruler.

I don’t normally talk about what brought me to read a book on here, mostly because a lot of them were simply there or looked good/pretty. With Purple Hibiscus, however, I think there needs to be an exception. Many of you may have seen Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on Newsnight back in November, discussing the US election with Robert Emmett Tyrell, founder and editor-in-chief of conservative magazine ‘The American Spectator’. Tyrell was unable to see racism or even real fault with Trump’s campaign rhetoric. When Adichie responded he accused her of being emotional – and therefore apparently incapable of intelligent or logical thought. Adichie explained, quite calmly for a woman effectively being told to sit down and shut up, that as a white male he is in a privileged position and cannot define racism. Even if he could, all evidence points to Trump promoting hateful and dangerous attitudes towards people at disadvantage; people of colour, immigrants, disabled people and women. The way Adichie held herself with grace and elegance, despite being visibly upset and angered by these remarks was admirable. She dealt with this situation beautifully, especially considering that she was unaware she was to be on the show with another guest until she arrived. She is a strong, smart woman and her writing in Purple Hibiscus reflects this.

Purple Hibiscus was Adichie’s debut novel, first published in 2003. The novel is told through the eyes of fifteen year old Kambili’s, a Nigerian Igbo girl. She, along with her brother Jaja and mother, lives in the shadow of her overbearing and strictly Catholic father. She has an almost outside view of him – she is enamoured by the charitable, God-loving exterior that her wider community sees, but struggles to consolidate this with the abusive, cruel-hearted man only seen within the walls of their compound. Her world is flipped upside down as she begins to see through his shiny exterior.

What strikes me about this novel is its incredibly strong voices. Kambili, while submissive and oppressed by her father speaks eloquently – a reflection of both the character’s strict education and the writer’s own tone. She rarely actually says more than a few words, but her internal narrative is intelligent and mature. Of course this is in part Adichie’s personal writing style shining through, but fits Kambili well. Her Aunt Ifeoma is fiercely passionate and confident, laughing loudly and standing fearless in the face of both her brother and the prospect of losing her job. Her grandfather, Papa-Nnukwu is peaceful and respectful of his son’s faith, but strong in his own traditional indigenous beliefs while JaJa’s fiery temper increases as he becomes more disillusioned by his father’s behaviour.

Her Papa is by far the loudest voice, unsurprisingly. Of course this doesn’t, however, make him the strongest character. He is overpowering, speaking over those he considers lesser and ensuring he gets his own way – no matter the cost. We are shown shocking acts of violence and cruel outbursts, particularly against his wife. She is deeply afraid that as such a popular figure in the community he will be seduced by a younger woman and leave her, but believes that giving him another child would prove her worth. He is more concerned by his image, though I’m not sure whether he is concerned with his image in the eyes of God or the eyes of the clergy. He often appears to use religion and charity as leverage to work his way up the social ladder, rather than a way to please God, and yet insists on saying long, sermon–like grace prayers. Perhaps he just likes the sound of his own voice.

Throughout the novel I was prone to comparing it to The Poisonwood Bible, and in many ways they are very similar. Religion and colonialism are strong themes, and it was interesting to see such a similar story told by a native African voice. I intend to compare them in detail in a future post, but I will say this – the sensible, intelligent Kambili is a much stronger 15 year-old than American Dream obsessed Rachel Price.

I’ve rewritten this several times and still feel like I could revise it all day and not do the book justice, but I truly loved Purple Hibiscus – it is a harrowing, well thought out and engaging novel with a lot of heart. Read it and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

See you soon,

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Last Post: Always in the Write | I’m Back, Baby!

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Always in the Write | I’m Back, Baby!

Hello, hello, hello!

Willam Hello.gif

Look at me, actually publishing things – how swish! I’m so glad to be back, I’ve truly missed posting and sharing my thoughts with you guys. I’m back and ready to share what I’ve been working on over the past few weeks with you. I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped, I’ll admit, but taking the pressure of having to post off has helped a lot. I’ve had the time to re-evaluate what I’m doing, work out what isn’t working and how to fix it.

Good for you Ro, but why should we care?

Well, I’ll hopefully be posting more regularly and with higher quality content. I’ve been thinking about how to achieve this, knowing how damn lazy I am and what little time I have. I’m struggling to find a perfect solution, but I think cutting down how often I post, just for now, is a good idea. I rarely managed to post on ‘Fandom Friday’ anyway. So here’s what’s going to happen:

  • I’m keeping Review Wednesday as is. It’s the one day I manage to keep up with, and doing a weekly review is good for me.
  • I’m not posting on Monday and Friday any more. Instead, I’m doing Saturdays, at least right now. Maybe I’ll go back to Monday-Wednesday-Friday again soon but for now I need to know my limits and work around my schedule better.

What will the result be?

Well, I’m hoping to produce better quality, longer posts that are closer to what I want to be putting out into the world. I have some strong opinions (I am a strong woman, after all – comes with the territory) and there are things I’m always saying ‘I could write an essay on this’; so why don’t I? I want to have less posts that I see as ‘filler’ compared to what I want to put out. Look forward to seeing more creative pieces, more think pieces, and of course more reviews.

Okay, what else?

I want to be around more. I feel like I’ve been a terrible Teacup lately, abandoning my beloved chat just as Mama Teacup has FINALLY come back to blogging (catch Breanna over at Too Cute For Life). I want to engage with the blogging community more, especially my favourite bloggers, & I hope that in getting more organised I’ll have more time to get on to twitter chats, meetings etc. and read more blogs. Once I have a better schedule properly in place I might put one night aside a week specifically to get reading & commenting on more blogs. You can’t expect people to like you if you don’t give anything back, right?

One last little thing. I think I’m gonna be more relaxed about taking breaks – taking two weeks to plan and knock a few posts out has been really good for me & hopefully the blog. I’m not going to be scared any more about stopping if I need to – in blogging what I’ve learnt is that quantity is good but quality is better.

Anyway, that’s the plan. I’m getting my butt into gear and working it out – I hope you’re as excited about it as I am.

See you soon.

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Last Post: Always in the Write | Seven Month Itch?

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Man I’m glad I’m back.

 

Always in the Write | Seven Month Itch?

One of the big pieces of advice bloggers give about blogging is to plan. Create posts in advance if possible, write down ideas, take photos, etc. They especially say this if, like many of us, you work full time. Going into this job I figured I wouldn’t need to worry, so naturally things are going, for wont of a better phrase, tits-up. This probably seems weird considering my last post was introducing a new blog series, but it’s time for a break.

I think I’m in a bit of a rut – a seven-month itch, if you will. I’m finding it difficult to motivate myself because I know I’m not happy with what I’m producing and it’s just creating a vicious cycle. I’m not in love with what I write, and that’s reflecting in the quality and quantity of my posts. I have good ideas, but I don’t have the time to work on them. I end up either posting something nowhere near as good as I know it could’ve been, or not posting it at all and having to move on to something else that won’t take as much time.

I’ve been trying to get the review for this beautiful book done for so long now.

I will not quit. I’m not a quitter – the sheer amount of sugar I eat proves that – and I don’t want to start now. I’ve been putting off admitting it, but the fact is I need to stop posting – just for a little while. It’s very late, but here’s the plan;
I’m taking two more weeks, maximum, of no posting. It’ll give me time to write and actually finalise a fair few posts. I’ll be able to break out of the pattern of trying to write and edit an entire post in an evening, while hopefully actually getting more written. This isn’t a break, it’s a crash course in reorganising and getting my shit together.

You won’t be getting rid of me that easily, though. I’m sure you’ll be thrilled to hear I’ll still be on social media and in a fortnight it’ll be business as usual.

As always,
See you soon.

Last Post: Me Monday | A New Post Series!

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Review Wednesday | Book Review – A Monster Calls

Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both.


A Monster Calls is a novel by Patrick Ness, based on the late Siobhan Dowd’s last book idea. I first heard of this book on a radio show in which they completely butchered the name ‘Siobhan’ (it’s pronounced Shove-orn or Shove-on!). Other than that they described the book beautifully and I must admit that they did do it justice. I’d read Dowd’s A Swift, Pure Cry before, but never any of Patrick Ness’ work.  I was worried that Ness would try and imitate Dowd’s voice, however this was quickly put to bed once I actually began reading the novel. The tone of the novel is sharply defined; this is not an imitation, but a unique novel with a clear voice. Indeed, on researching (okay, googling) the novel in order to find an appropriate quote (I really need to start marking quotes in the books I review!) I stumbled upon this quote from Ness himself;

“She [Siobhan] would have set it free, let it grow and change, and so I wasn’t trying to guess what she might have written, I was merely following the same process she would have followed, which is a different thing.”

When I read this book, I was not aware that it was aimed at children (I also found this out upon googling it) – although this makes perfect sense. The novel teaches important life lessons, both for children and more mature audiences, in a way that doesn’t sugar coat or patronise. Conor, our protagonist, is dealing with his mother’s illness. As her condition gets worse, he accidentally calls upon ‘The Monster’ – a humanoid yew tree – for help. ‘The Monster’ and indeed the messages he brings, add an element of magic to the story, as well as providing a moral guide for Conor.

‘The Monster’ is modelled after the Green Man, and indeed names this as one of his many identities. Green Man is a distinctly folkloric and magical motif, with unknown and ancient origins. This is fitting for ‘The Monster’ as the guide. He appears to Conor a total of five times I believe – the original apparition has obvious Dickensian roots, proposing that ‘The Monster’ will tell three stories; however Conor must then tell him a fourth. It is in this last apparition that the lessons Conor has learnt from ‘The Monster’ allow him to tell his own story, and fully accept his situation and emotions. The storytelling involved is highly moral, again reflecting the ancient tropes ‘The Monster’ embodies, but this doesn’t read as some kind of strict rulebook. ‘The Monster’s parables teach Conor -and of course by extension the readers -about the duality of humans, life and the mind; as the quote I’ve used to start this post shows. ‘The Monster’ shows Conor that everything isn’t what it seems, nothing is black and white and that that’s okay. He teaches Conor that his thoughts and feelings are valid and natural, allowing him to tell the final story.

I felt that the book was immensely moving and provides a wonderful yet real take on what it means to handle such heavy circumstances, particularly at such a young age. When I was 13, the age Conor was in the book, my granny underwent a triple bypass heart surgery that went wrong. She was severely ill for an awful long time and a lot of the feelings Ness encapsulates in the book are ones that I had a personal experience with at that age, and have often felt since. I wish I’d had this book then, and it is certainly one I would recommend anyone, but especially older children, read; particularly if they are handling the illness or passing of a loved one. Intensely powerful yet heartwarming, Dowd’s last idea has been executed brilliantly.

See you soon,

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Last Post: Spot The Difference – Why There’s No Review Today

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I also didn’t know there was a film coming out! [x]

Me Monday | Creative Piece: Commuter Conundrum

So I got this idea on the train (unsurprisingly) this morning. I haven’t done more than a cursory initial edit so apologies for any spelling mistakes/grammatical errors! The image of the two doing puzzles has been bubbling away in my head all day, and while I did consider lengthening it and giving them a proper story I quite like the snapshot as is right now. It’s been a while since I’ve posted something creative, so I hope you enjoy!

Tim looked up as someone sat down heavily opposite him. A young woman was going through her bag, a dark green headscarf wrapped neatly around her hair. She must’ve only been in her 20s, he thought, and reddened as he considered how he may appear to her. An older, white male with the Daily Mail in front of him – he was surprised that she’d even considered sitting there; he certainly wouldn’t have.
‘Rough day?’ He said with a smile, noticing the stressed look on her face.
‘You could say that.’ She smiled back meekly. She looked down at her hands, and by extension his newspaper, on the table.
‘I don’t read this drivel, for the record. Unfortunately it seems to have the best crossword; I suppose there’s no need for fact checking there.’
Some fellow commuters turned to stare at them as she laughed.
‘I’m a Sudoku fan myself.’
‘That’s on the opposite page, if you’d like to take a look? I’m awful with numbers, could never get my head around them.’
‘I’d love to, if you don’t mind.’
‘Of course not, it’d only on the fire with the rest of it otherwise.’ He tore the page, handing her half of the newspaper to lean on.
‘Thank you. I’m Aliya, by the way.’
‘Tim.’

See you soon,

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Last Post – Review Wednesday | Book Review – The Night Circus

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[x]

Review Wednesday | Book Review – The Night Circus

You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.

The Night Circus is, as you might have guessed, about a circus that opens at night. Le Cirque du Rêves (the circus of dreams) travels around the world, appearing in unknown places at unknown times. The main story, however, starts long before the circus’ inception. Prospero the Enchanter, a magician, and a man known only as A. H-, pit their students against each other regularly in competitions that can last over 30 years. As the story opens they are beginning a new contest with much higher stakes for Prospero than ever before – his contestant is his only daughter, Celia. The story starts years before the competition, with the circus proving to be a worthy arena for such a contest.

The book is written beautifully, with the incredible attention to detail needed to bring such an extraordinary setting to life. I did however find the timeline confusing at times – the story jumps around a lot. As well as Celia and her opponent Marco, the main story also follows twins Poppet and Widget, who are born on the circus’ opening night, and their friend Bailey. Because of this the narrative also jumps perspectives, and does follow other characters for shorter periods, but it manages to flow wonderfully and still make sense even if you’re not sure when you are in the timeline of the circus or the competition.

From the description of the novel, it sounds almost like a children’s book, but this is not the case – it is a novel that, much like the circus itself, I believe would be mesmerising to anyone who picked it up. The world is sophisticated and multifaceted, and Morgenstern clearly put a huge amount of thought and work into creating such a world; this definitely paid off.

**~SPOILERS START HERE~**

For me personally, the only thing I really disliked about the book were the inevitable romantic subplots. I mean, how oblivious did Celia and Marco have to be? Of course the competition was a fight to the death, of course they’d be star-cross’d lovers and of course they would have to go through the Hunger Games style “we both eat the berries so no one wins” trope. I think I’m just tired of star-crossed lovers and romantic subplots that just don’t feel entirely necessary. I didn’t mind the ending, but the romantic aspect did feel slightly rushed and tacked on. I felt the same with the implication of romance between Bailey and Poppet, in fairness. Maybe it’s just me. Also, can we talk about Tara please?! A woman dies suspiciously and this is just forgotten about after a while?? I want to know more about why this happened, as while at the time it felt like a nice twist, now that I’ve finished the book and it hasn’t been resolved it feels like it was only intended to be something to shake the plot up, not a story in itself – which it was set up to be.

**~ SPOILERS END HERE~**

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The end wasn’t as satisfying as I’d hoped, but it did tie most things up. I was completely sucked into the world of the circus and its occupants. The book has been hyped up a lot, but I can see why. This is a wonderful example of magical realism/fantasy, and you can certainly consider me a newly converted “rêveur”.

See you soon,

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(PS Get me getting two posts out on time in a row!!)

Last Post: Me Monday | Rapid Fire Book Tag!

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DA DA DADADADA AFRO CIRCUS. [x]

Me Monday | Rapid Fire Book Tag!

First things first. I’m baaack..

katya

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve properly posted (reviews excluded) – things are crazy and I work full time with a long commute (I’ve never sounded so grown up, it’s very scary!) so I don’t have much time or energy, but this is changing! I have to wait around for an hour or so after work every day for my dad, so I’m taking to bringing my iPad with me to get some writing done. Hoping this gets my arse into gear and gets some more posts out!

Today’s post is one I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I was tagged in the Rapid Fire book tag by the wonderful Sophie at Blame Chocolate! I should say that this seems like an awfully long tag for one that’s supposed to be rapid fire, but some of the questions are really piqued my interest and it’s a little more in depth than the last reading tag I did (see here)! So, without further ado, let’s get stuck in! (My new job isn’t as a cheesy tv presenter, I promise!)
eBook or Physical Copy?

 

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Either – both have their merits for me. I find it easier to shop physical books, and since I’ve taken to only buying books from charity shops it’s also often cheaper. Saying that, ebooks allow me to read almost anywhere – reading Alora’s Tear on my kindle allowed me to read it in the car to/from work even though it was still dark out (my dad drives, I don’t read at the wheel!). I recently went through a period where I struggled sleeping and it was useful to be able to pick up my book without turning the light on. The Kindle has revolutionised reading under the covers – kids these days will never understand the struggle of reading with nothing but a crappy 90s McDonalds toy for light!

Paper or hardback?

Again, either. I read paperbacks more but there’s nothing like a fancy hardback edition of your favourites. One of my prized books is a gorgeous Art Deco style hardback copy of Grimms Fairy Tales (the originals, none of this censored bullshit) one of my best uni friends gave to me. Saying that, you can’t very well fit a 600 page hardback into a clutch – paperbacks are much more conducive to bringing a book everywhere you go!

Online or in store book shopping?

As I’ve mentioned above, I only seem to buy books from charity shops now – they’re much cheaper, and there’s a huge variety even at a glance – no having to decide which section to start with! So in that respect I’d have to say in store, but as a student I definitely felt the benefits of shopping online – if you want/have to buy 25 odd books at a time you may need a wheelbarrow if you go to a physical shop!

Trilogies or series?

It depends on the story. I think 3 is a nice round number, but some stories need longer or don’t need that long. I don’t really think about it if I’m honest, but I can see why some people might not want more than 3 books – it’s a lot of energy to put into just one story, and getting into a series with over 3 is daunting (I’m looking at you, ASOIAF).

Heroes or Villains?

Is it a cop out to say I like books that blur the lines? I like a sympathetic villain and an unsympathetic hero sometimes. Again it does depend on the story, but I do love an underdog so I think I do prefer villains a lot, maybe because I have a tendency to want to know the other side – it’s a writer thing!

A Book You Want Everyone To Read?

JUST ONE? There are so many, but of the ones I’ve recently read I’d have to say Reasons to Stay Alive. It’s so perfect and has really left a mark on me.

Recommend an underrated author.

Again, so many! The first one that came into my head was Shannon Hale. She writes beautiful YA fantasy novels, such as The Goose Girl, Enna Burning and Book of a Thousand Days. She writes powerful women who have stayed in my heart, but I feel like she is written off (get it) and her works could be presumed to be substanceless princess novels – when this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Last book you finished?

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (concept by Siobhan Dowd). I intend to review this next week, but to summarise – I loved it. It was emotional and clever, funny in parts and heartbreaking in others.

Weirdest thing you’ve used as a bookmark?

Literally everything. Sweet wrappers, train tickets, hair clips, rubber bands. You name it, I’ve probably tried to use it as a bookmark. Hint: cats don’t appreciate their paws being used as bookmarks.

Used books: yes or no?

Nah mate. Just kidding. I love used books – all of the books I’ve bought since graduating are used, obviously excluding ebooks. Most books in charity shops (yes I will keep going on about this) are near perfect quality anyway – and if they’re not then they’ve been well loved; nothing wrong with that!

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Top 3 favourite genres

Literary realism, magical realism, fantasy.

Borrow or buy?

Now before I answer this I should say that I love libraries and the idea of libraries…but I prefer to own books. I’m happy to lend them out and I do borrow them but when a book really touches me I like to own it. I can’t really explain why though! I think I’m just possessive. And a hoarder.

Character or plot? 

Well I mean, you need both for a good story. I like character based stories more than big plots I think, but I’ve loved both.

Long or short books?

Again, either, and again it depends on the story! Some long books drag and some short books aren’t long enough. Lately I’ve preferred short books, as I can get through them quicker and this is better for reviewing purposes, but as I’m currently ahead of my review reading I might go for a longer one soon.

Name the first 3 books you think of.

Harry Potter, Going Postal, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Books that make you laugh or books that make you cry?

Both. If you can do both in your writing, you’ll win me over.

Our world or fictional worlds?

Again, I like both! 2 of my favourite genres are realism though, so I suppose it’ll have to be our world. Definitely fictionalised though, please keep me as far away from the real world as possible!

Audiobooks: Yes or No?

Not for me, but I definitely see the merits of them. I did like the radio dramatised version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but that doesn’t really count. I just get bored hearing someone else read it, and I find that they don’t go fast enough!

Do you ever judge a book by its cover?

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Not judge per se, but I definitely tend to pick up books with interesting/pretty covers.

Book to movie or book to TV?

Another one that depends on a lot! Sometimes films do adaptation really well, sometimes TV does. I do think the TV format generally works best, as there’s more time to play with, but then film franchises can often have a bigger budget, which can be more beneficial.

A movie or TV show you preferred to its book?

Okay this is going to sound silly, but Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging. I loved the books, but there’s just something about the film.

Series or standalones?

I don’t know! Again, it depends. At the moment I prefer standalones, again for reviewing purposes they’re better and as I don’t have as much time to read it’s nice to not feel like I’m stuck in the same story for an age.

I can’t think who to tag right now and I’m absolutely exhausted so if you haven’t done it and would like to, then TAG! You’re it.

See you soon,

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Last Post: Review Wednesday | Book Review – Alora’s Tear Volume 1: Fragments (Blog Tour)

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Review Wednesday | Book Review – Alora’s Tear Volume 1: Fragments (Blog Tour)

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

There is no magic in Vladvir…

Tucked away in a quiet valley, the community of Tolarenz offers a refuge and safe haven for its people, keeping persecution at bay. One young citizen—Askon son of Teral—is destined to lead them, but first he must leave them behind: one final mission, in service of the king.

In the north, leering nightmare creatures known as the Norill gather. Their armor is bone and skin; their weapons are black and crude and cold. They strike in the night, allies to the darkness. It is to them Askon marches, his men a bulwark against the threat.

For there is no magic in Vladvir.

What Askon finds when he arrives seems impossible: smoke and fire, death and defeat, and all around a suffocating sense of dread. The Norill seek something they call ‘the Stone of Mountain,’ but in the half-remembered stories from Askon’s childhood, it was always ‘Alora’s Tear’: a gem with powers great and terrible. A gem that cannot exist.

Unless there is magic in Vladvir…

 

‘Fragments’ is the first book in the Alora’s Tear trilogy. I must admit that I was wary of this book at first – fantasy is a vast and densely populated genre, with a lot of tropes and clichés that just get boring. High fantasy in particular is one that I often struggle to get into – there’s only so many times you can read the same story over and over, just with different names; and none compare to The Hobbit. I was relieved, then, that ‘Fragments’ proved me wrong – I was drawn into the story very quickly; although this may be in part because it is established early on that Askon, our hero, is left handed!

The story flows very well, and although it is clear that it was always intended to be part of a series, it doesn’t feel like a sort of “build up book” – it is a book in its own right, not mostly filler as many first parts appear to be. I don’t want to spoil, as I feel that it may put some people off, but the book does twist at the end; you know the book is building up to something that you may have to wait until the next book for, but what that thing is changes entirely towards the end of the story. I found this very effective and as a writer I can appreciate the tactic; Barham drew me in and left me wanting so much more.

The characterisation is largely very good, and any minor aspects of ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’ were easy to overlook – as an English graduate and now a reviewer I find that I’m in the very annoying habit of nitpicking and this can get in the way of the story, but this wasn’t an issue here. The characters spoke realistically and Barham’s writing really did them justice. He brought them to life and his attention to detail is great. There were a lot of opportunities for cliché and I half expected medieval, confusing language but the novel manages to avoid this, which I personally am very glad of!

I think my main complaint is actually not with the text itself but the blurb (in italics above). It sets out a premise that doesn’t seem entirely accurate to the text – the magic (or lack thereof) in Vladvir isn’t really mentioned at all. The magical aspects are met by Askon sceptically, but I didn’t feel that it was really laid out in the text that there was no magic in this world; in fact as someone in a non-magical world elves and Norill seem like magical beings to me! I would assume there is magic in the world if not for the blurb, and I don’t feel like making the “magical state” of the world clear would really make a difference to my reading of the text – the events that occur are clearly unnatural for the world by the characters’ reactions to them, whether magic is present in the world or not. This was a great book and if you ask me this blurb doesn’t do it justice.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. It was a great way to get back into a genre I rarely seem to read any more (and to while away my new long commute to work!). I don’t tend to do star ratings on here, but that is the way of this blog tour so for the purposes of that I’ll rate it 4/5 stars. I definitely intend to read the sequels, The Elf and the Arrow and The Voice Like Water, so perhaps it’ll be bumped up to 5/5 once it’s in context – watch this space!

Buy the Alora’s Tear Trilogy:

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See you soon,

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Not this kind of elf. 

Review Wednesday | September Reads Round Up!

This month I have read a LOT. As of yesterday I’ve read 10 books, not including re-reading The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl (we all need ‘chick-lit’ sometimes. God I hate that term.) – while this may not be out of the ordinary for some, especially not in the book blogosphere, during my degree I think I struggled to read even 1 book a month for pleasure! Some of the books I’ve read this month I’ve already reviewed (Reasons to Stay Alive, The Red Tent and The Hidden People), but most are just stored in my brain, getting slowly forgotten. I have books that I read two weeks ago waiting to be reviewed, but at the rate I’m reading I can feel myself forgetting details about the earlier ones! A more organised blogger would get in the habit of writing down some initial thoughts as soon as they finished reading; I didn’t have that much foresight. I have decided, therefore, to give you a round-up of almost all of the books I’ve read this month, excluding those I’ve already reviewed.

The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver

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The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce Evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find out that all of it – from garden seeds to Scripture- is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

White people going to a foreign land to ‘save the natives’ usually means trouble, and The Poisonwood Bible is no exception. The Prices are wildly unprepared and privileged, shocked by a society that they consider primitive. The book is incredibly well researched and sensitively written, however I would have liked to hear more of the Congolese voice as well as the white family’s perspectives. I feel like the narrative has become somewhat overdone now – white people learning about community spirit and love from a foreign, ‘simpler’ community is a trope that I have personally seen a lot of. I liked the book, and the setting was certainly interesting, but it was predictable.

The Past – Tessa Hadley

the-past

Three adult sisters and their brother meet up at their grandparents’ country home for their annual family holiday–three long, hot summer weeks. The beloved but crumbling house is full of memories of their childhood–of when their mother took them to stay with her parents when she left their father–but this could be their last summer in the house, now they may have to sell it. And under the idyllic pastoral surface, there are tensions.

I saw this novel in the window of Waterstones, with a lot of positive reviews. While it was a good book, with well developed characters, I was slightly disappointed. I feel like it didn’t quite live up to the hype for me. Hadley introduces flashbacks quite far into the book, and while they do provide some extra insights into the siblings’ characters much of the content doesn’t really do much for the present day plot, causing a disconnect between the two periods.

Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education – Raphaelle Frier (ARC)

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Malala Yousafzai stood up to the Taliban and fought for the right for all girls to receive an education. When she was just fifteen-years-old, the Taliban attempted to kill Malala, but even this did not stop her activism. At age eighteen Malala became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work to ensure the education of all children around the world.

I was given a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This is a childrens’ biography of Malala Yousafzai. The book explains Malala’s run-ins with the Taliban and the situation in Pakistan honestly and plainly, managing to find a good balance between being truthful and child-friendly. Malala is an incredibly important figure and role model for children all over the world, and I imagine that this book would be an excellent way to introduce her story to young children. The one issue I have is that reading this book on Kindle meant that the pictures were in black and white and often in the wrong place.

These next three are books I got free in the Kindle Store. Finding books for free on Kindle can be quite hit and miss, and this was certainly the case with these!

Silence – Natasha Preston

silence

For eleven years, Oakley Farrell has been silent. At the age of five, she stopped talking, and no one seems to know why. Refusing to communicate beyond a few physical actions, Oakley remains in her own little world. Bullied at school, she has just one friend, Cole Benson. Cole stands by her, refusing to believe that she is not perfect the way she is. Over the years, they have developed their own version of a normal friendship. However, will it still work as they start to grow even closer? When Oakley is forced to face someone from her past, can she hold her secret in any longer?

This book sounded interesting to me, however was largely disappointing. I feel like this was one of those books with a really strong idea that was destroyed by a poorly developed love story. It actually started off quite strong before the romance aspect came into play, however quickly became predictable and dull.

Honeymoon For One – Lily Zante

honeymoon-for-one

When her fiancé dumps her, Ava cancels her wedding — but decides to go on her Italian honeymoon solo. Alone in Verona, the City of Love, Ava hopes to find inner peace and a clarity of mind but she is surprised to find herself drawn into yet another romantic encounter with the mysterious Nico.


Is she ready to handle even more heartbreak so soon?   

I must admit, I wasn’t expecting much from this book. I downloaded it as a kind of filler between other books – I wasn’t able to buy more and was waiting on some ARC requests. While it wasn’t badly written, it was a typical cheap romance novel. I feel like it could have easily been improved by better scenic descriptions and a more realistic timeframe.

The Tinkerer’s Daughter – Jamie Sedgwick

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Breeze is an outcast, a half-breed orphan born into a world torn apart by a thousand years of war. Breeze never knew her elven mother, and when her human father is recalled to the war, he leaves her in the safest place he knows: in the care of a reclusive tinker. The tinkerman’s inventions are frightening at first – noisy, smelly, dangerous machines with no practical use – but when the war comes home, Breeze sees an opportunity. If she can pull it off, she’ll change the world forever. If she fails, she’ll be considered a traitor by both lands and will be hunted to her death.

Again, I wasn’t expecting much from this. I was, for the most part, pleasantly surprised. The plot was actually largely very good, with mostly good writing. There were some continuity errors and aspects of the plot that were jarring, but it was a fairly well-written steampunk fantasy novel and I was impressed considering that it was free.

That pretty much sums up most of what I’ve been reading this month and what I’ve thought. Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Do you like the round-up format or prefer full reviews?

See you soon,

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