Wednesday, 3 December 2014

IWSG December: You've got to accentuate the positive...

Welcome to the final IWSG post of 2014!

Once again, thanks go out to Alex J. Cavanaugh for creating this wonderful group. Why not check out the official IWSG website or, even better, download the Insecure Writer’s Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond - it's completely free!

I was planning on writing about how my old fear about no one liking my novel has resurfaced once again, but I've read so many positive and inspirational posts this month, that I decided to write a positive post too.

You're all awesome. Seriously. I genuinely don't know where I'd be in my writing (I certainly wouldn't have written an entire draft of my novel) without this group's constant support and encouragement. It's so lovely to know that whenever I'm feeling down or insecure, I can visit any one of your wonderful blogs and be encouraged to keep writing. So here's my small piece of encouragement for you all:

Your writing IS good - Worried no one will like your novel? Some people might not, but others will fall head-over-heels in love with it. You can't please everyone - if you're writing chick-lit or a family saga, don't expect a hardcore zombie/paranormal romance fan to like it (unless, perhaps, you're writing Zombie Pride & Prejudice...) - but that's just the way writing goes sometimes. Don't write to please others, just write for yourself :).

Your idea IS worth it - see above. But, also, remember this - if you're passionate enough to write a whole damn novel about this characters; if you pour all your love and enthusiasm for these characters into your words, your readers will pick up on it, and they'll end up loving the book just as much as you do.

You ARE a good writer - You wouldn't be here reading my writing blog - or anyone else's in IWSG for that matter - if you didn't love writing. You might not think yourself as a 'true author/writer' yet because you haven't got that shiny new multi-million dollar book/film deal...but the second you start writing that idea that you just couldn't get out of your head, the moment you write that very first word that will be the first of many, many more - you are an author. And don't let anyone else tell you different.

So that's it for now. Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a positive start to your New Year!

P.S. Slight self-promotion here, but it you're in the mood of something not-quite-Chrismassy, check out my short flash fiction piece here, and let me know what you think ;)

Monday, 1 December 2014

So, you wanna know what I've been up to lately...?

You know you probably need a break from, well, everything, when you enter the below story into a Flash Fiction competition. The rules were simple: it had to been 100 words or less, and it had to be vaguely 'seasonal' in some way.

So read on! I hope you enjoy my entry ;)...

"The table was set for the feast.
Polished silver cutlery and gleaming plates stood out against the white linen. Steaming dishes full of buttery vegetables, cranberry sauce and rich, thick gravy lay, just waiting to be devoured.
He sat back as his ever-dutiful wife entered, bearing a large platter in her arms. His mouth began to water. She placed the tray carefully in front of him, where he could admire that pink, tender flesh all the more. He had chosen this year's meat well.

He picked up the razor-sharp knife and, slowly, began to carve up that beautiful human head."

Don't ask me where the idea came from - I literally read the email, wondered how I could put a bit of twist in a story of 100 words, and this idea popped up basically fully formed in my head. 

I sincerely hope they can see that I've put a spin on the idea of the traditional Christmas feast, and I'm not just a complete psychopath!

If you don't hear from me in a while though, you know why ;).

Happy 1st December everyone!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Rewriting, rewriting, rewriting...

So since it's a Sunday night and I'm sleepy and all I want to do is curl up with my book in bed, I've decided just to do a short post while I remember.

Following on from my IWSG post on Weds, I stumbled across this post by Nova Ren Suma, and it could not explain more accurately how I feel about my writing right now. All I've been dreaming of the last few weeks is having a glorious block of time where I can blissfully write - no job to worry about, no chores to do, the house would somehow miraculously cleans itself, and I'd magically have the inspiration necessary to power on through my rewrites.

Unfortunately, the lesson that this novel seems to be teaching me at the minute is that I can dream all I want - but this book is never going to get written without me actually, y'know, writing.

It's hard. It's so hard trying to juggle this little thing called life with writing a novel, but ultimately I believe it's worth it. If I didn't, I wouldn't be blogging right now. I wouldn't have spent my Sunday afternoon rewriting a single scene. I wouldn't spend my car journeys to work thinking up pieces of dialogues between my characters. I wouldn't be scribbling almost illegible notes while I'm half asleep in bed, because it appears inspiration likes to come along and knock REALLY LOUDLY when you're on the verge of sleep.

The piece of advice I'm going to take away from Nova's post for this month is the idea of momentum. I'm still going to try and finish my rewrites during November and this week, I'm going to be trying out a couple of new things that I hope will mean less distractions and more writing i.e. not coming home straight after work, listening to music (but not having a huge playlist that means I spend more time changing the song than I do writing), keeping my novel open on my laptop. But most of all, no matter how many, or how few, words I write, I will try to write every day. Because the only way I am going to get through this is to keep going, one word at a time.

How about you? What methods have you got to keep yourself writing?

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

November IWSG: Getting over the (random) fear...

This blog post probably would've been more appropriate for Halloween, but seeing as how that was less than a week ago, I'm going to use it anyway ;).

It's that time of the month again, when insecure writers from all over the internet unite and blog about their deepest, darkest fears that have been plaguing them for the last month. Special thanks go out to Alex J. Cavanaugh for setting up the group, and a huge thank you to all of this month's co-hosts :)!

Although I'm not officially participating in NaNowriMo this year, I'm currently in the rewriting stage of my first draft, and my Other Half has given me the deadline of the 30th November to get it done - so in a way, I'm with all you brave NaNoWriMos out there, at least in spirit.

But here's the thing - I'm STILL struggling to get my mojo together to get into my rewrites properly. It's not because I don't know what I want to do, or that I hate my story (actually, I've felt more hopeful about this novel in the last few weeks than I have done for a while) - it's something else, and I only managed to put my finger on it last night.

I'm scared of succeeding.

I know, I know how odd that sounds - but the fact is, writing a novel is something I've been working towards since I was about 15. And the thought that by the end of this month my novel should (theoretically) be in a readable form (i.e. I could send it out to my beta readers if I wanted to) really does scare me. Do I have the dedication and motivation to actually finish something for once? After so many false starts and disappointments, I find it hard to believe. It's almost as though my subconscious is telling me that no, I can't do this, I can't actually realise one of my life dreams, heaven forbid - so why bother working on it?

So that's it for this month - a slightly odd topic, I know, but it's been bothering me for the last few days. Hopefully it'll pass soon - only 25 days to go until the finish line!

Happy bonfire night, everyone! Stay safe out there tonight!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Sunday night inspirations...

This weekend has been a bit crazy - for once, I've actually been participating in real life, meaning that although I've barely had the time to write, I feel kinda happy and satisfied at the thought that I've hung out with other human beings (y'know, apart from the ones in my head...). I went to a christening, had a catch up with the Engineer and his sisters, went to the cinema and went out for a meal. Phew!

Oh, and seeing as how the Engineer works ALL THE TIME, he dragged me into his office yesterday afternoon so he could finish something off. He did try to persuade me that this was a good thing, as I could work on my novel uninterrupted for a few hours. "That's all well and good," I grumbled, "but what if I don't WANT to work on my novel? In case you haven't noticed, my muse has TOTALLY AND UTTERLY DESERTED ME!"

I still went (because I'm sucker when it comes to promises of a mocha and chocolate). And you know what? Even though I didn't touch a word on my manuscript, it was a surprisingly productive evening.

I finally pulled together all my scattered notes on the second and third books in my planned trilogy. I added in details to those notes. I made folders for each book on my laptop (this always gives me a geeky rush). I started to get flashes of inspiration for certain scenes in both my current WIP, and the second book which I hurriedly scribbled down. I thought of a vague plot for the third book (which I've been drawing a complete blank on, until now) And finally, finally, I felt myself getting excited about the world that I'd built once again.

And that's not all. I think I may have found a way to drag myself through my rewrites. I knew I wasn't getting anywhere by just opening up my manuscript, copying and pasting a chapter, editing it and then pasting it back in. It still felt like an overwhelming task, even with my beat sheet. So I thought, what was it that got me through my first draft? What did I do this time, that meant I actually finished the damn thing? And that's when it came to me - I needed a new detailed synopsis.

Now, I know this probably seems like a step backwards, but I don't think it will be. I'm not going to do one for my entire novel (at least, not yet). Instead, I'm just going to do it up until my 'inciting incident'. I've chosen to do this because it's the beginning of my novel that needs the most attention - it's the part that I'm essentially going to rip apart and put back together again. To me, this is far to big a task to do with just a few scrawls on my beat sheet. 

We'll see how it goes. I've only just written the first scene for my new detailed synopsis, but already I'm getting a good feeling and what's more, I want to keep writing. I'll let you know how it goes but hey, even if this just turns out to be another form of procrastination - at least it's bound to help my writing in one way or another.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Ploughing on through...kind of...

At the moment I'm supposed to powering through my rewrites, so that my novel will more or less be ready to publish by the end of October. Today, I opened up my diary, saw the big red underline under 31st October, and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

There's no way in hell I'm going to be able to do the amount of work I have to do in just a few short weeks - not unless I have the luxury of my summer holidays back, but alas, that comes but once a year...

And I think that's a huge part of my problem. I'm doing bits and pieces on my WIP, but ultimately, I think I'm stalling. I seem to be waiting for a magical long stretch of time to just open up in front of me so I can write without the bother of, y'know, actually going to work and having an actual life.

I read this post on the NY Times website, and although I'm not too sure whether I feel encouraged by it's message or scared, it has made me realised that the time to get on with my novel is now. Not in an hour, not at the weekend, not next week, now.

Which is why I'm currently staring at my screen, torturously writing one word at a time, as I attempt to finally get going on the final phase of this book. It's not even that I hate my novel (for once), or that I'm being overpowered by insecurities (which makes a change) - it's just that I'm simply being lazy.

I think my task for this weekend will be to find a way that I can work, without procrastinating so much. But until that day comes, I'm just going to have to keep repeating to myself that slow and steady wins the race...I hope...

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Just a little post to say...

...Thank you :).

I was truly overwhelmed by the comments I received on my IWSG post this month. 

In all honesty, I haven't felt this insecure/downbeat about my writing/novel in a long long time, and the messages of support I received really opened my eyes again to what's good about the world of writing. It made me remember why I'm so determined to do this as a career and why I love writing, despite it's many pitfalls. It also made me realise that I belong to a fantastic community of lovely encouraging authors, and despite all the insecurities I feel about my own writing, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

So to all of you who commented or read my post on Wednesday, thank you :). I wasn't lying when I said all your comments inspired me to keep going. For example, today I completely finished my beat sheet:

All the scenes in my novel are now annotated and ready to rock 'n' roll for my rewrites.

Have I got a huge job ahead of me? Hell yeah.

You see that first page? There's a massive red bit that says CUT THIS!!! with lots of red arrows and scribbled notes. Essentially, I have to rewrite/chop/move around a good third of my novel. 
Do I mind? Strangely enough, today I feel as though this task isn't impossible. I feel as though I can do it, and I will do it - all it takes is a little determination.

And thanks to all of you, I've got my determination and willpower back. I may not reach my original deadline of completely finishing this novel, but I'm going to damn well try.

Whether you're writing, or taking a break and doing something completely different over the next few days, I hope you're all having a lovely weekend :).

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

October IWSG: Happy Anniversary!

Welcome to October's IWSG post! Happy anniversary to the Insecure Writer's Support Group! My thanks go out to the group's superb founder Alex J. Cavanaugh - without him, this group and my monthly ramblings would never have happened!

Just a quick reminder for you all - The IWSG is currently producing it's own anthology. If you've got any hints and tips for all us would-be writers out there, you can submit your entry for inclusion right here. The deadline is tomorrow though, so get your skates on ;)!

I'm going to try and keep this short and sweet, but I'm also kinda including two insecurities this month as I missed September's post!

Firstly, this is the stage I'm at with my current WIP:

Yup, that right there is my beat sheet. I'm getting ready to do all my rewrites, but I'm starting to wonder what the point is. All I can think about is, what's the point? I'm never actually going to finish a book, or even if I did, no one would ever read it. A tad melodramatic perhaps, but lately I feel like that everywhere I look, all I can see is other YA authors publishing their new books. I did a quick search online and it turns out a lot of these authors are bringing out at least one new book a year, and now all I can think is how I feel as though I'll never reach that stage. At the moment, it's a struggle for me not to get completely freaked out over my first novel!

And even if I did finish my first novel, do I even have the temperament to write another? I absolutely love the world I've built in my current WIP, but when I took a break from it I started outlining a new novel idea. But I quickly stopped - I just didn't feel as though I had the energy to finish it. I don't know if it's just because I'm so invested in my WIP's world right now, or if (and this is what I'm scared of) I'll never actually be able to flesh out another idea enough for it to become a novel.

So that's it (phew!) for this month. Sorry if it's a bit depressing/rambling folks - it's 7am and I'm not fully awake yet! Happy October everyone!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Blank page, blank mind

So you may have noticed (or not, depending on how much my blog interests you) that I've been away for a little while.

I finished the very first draft of my novel in August and, as much as I wanted to dive straight back in again, I've been forcing myself to take a step back. It's been pretty much a month to the day that I finished that draft and during that time, I've barely done anything writerly at all - including blogging.

I just wanted to take a complete break from everything - my novel, my blog, authonomy - and at first it felt fantastic. Reading all day, baking, bingeing on TV shows online, playing the sims (not to mention going back to my day job) - ahh, that was the life for me. But over the past few weeks...I just haven't been feeling it. I've been picking up books, reading a page then dropping them again. I've been firing up the sims, only to stare blankly at the screen, wondering what the hell I'm doing. I've been feeling...restless.

As soon as I finished Synthetica, I wanted to begin work on the sequel while it was all fresh in my mind. However, in the end I forced myself not to, and I tried to work on a completely new idea instead. But as soon as I wrote down my initial thoughts, I panicked, managed to convince myself that I'm not a writer and that I shouldn't even attempt to try and write anything new (that would've made a great depressing IWSG post).

It was only this weekend that I finally snapped.

I am not good at doing nothing (reading doesn't count as nothing btw). I'm happiest when I'm busy. And so, on Sunday I began to write down an outline for my new novel, telling myself that I could do all this (i.e. planning/writing a novel from scratch) again. And to my surprise, it didn't go quite as badly as I thought it would. Scenes began to pop in my brain as I idly wrote about possible settings, new characters forced their way out of the woodwork, and by Sunday night...I couldn't wait to get started properly.

Ideally, I'd like to get the detailed synopsis done for this new WIP before I start the edits on Synthetica but as I was going to start working on Synthetica this week, somehow I don't think that's going to happen. So we'll see how it goes. But most of all, I'm simply going to remember to not stress out and just have fun with whatever it is I'm writing :).

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

What to do, what to do...

So, as you may have noticed from this excitable blog post, I finished the first draft of Synthetica on Sunday. And to celebrate, yesterday I made THIS:

It took me the best part of four hours, 12 eggs and 3 different types of jam. I'm a tiny bit ashamed to say that I haven't even had a piece yet (I've been fobbing it off on everyone else - I didn't quite realise it would be so big...), but I'm going to save my bit for elevenses today ;).

I also dyed my hair, and sanded down a bit of the dresser that's been my ongoing project since about Easter. 

And now I'm sitting here this morning thinking...what do I do now? I've already looked up some info on mine and the Engineer's possible trip to Budapest later this year. I've put a wash on. I've (kinda) cleaned our kitchen. I've had a second breakfast (because I'm secretly a hobbit). And now...I'm a bit lost.

But I'm getting the strangest's like a voice in my head that simply won't turn off, and it's saying 'WRITE, WHY AREN'T YOU WRITING?!' I would've thought that voice would've left me alone for a while, so I could bask in the glory of actually finishing something. But no. Apparently writers don't get breaks from the voices in their heads.

So it looks like today, I'm going to be sketching the outline for a possible new book...oh well, could be worse...I could be doing something useful like cleaning the bathroom instead...

How's everyone's day going? How's your writing going so far?

Happy writing!

Sunday, 24 August 2014


So that's it. The first draft of my novel is officially complete. Right now, I kinda feel like this:

I still can't believe it's true. In fact, at the moment, I'm still going through my manuscript tweaking bits here and there. I know I shouldn't, I know I should leave it for the edits but I've been working on this book so intensely for the last few weeks, I find it odd that I can finally...switch off.

I do apologise if I keep going on about this - but the fact is, apart from finishing my major project at uni, this is probably the biggest thing I've ever worked on and finished (well, apart from all the editing etc that now needs to happen...but let's not think about that yet...).

Tomorrow, I'm going to celebrate by dying my hair and baking a really really awesome cake. Hopefully it'll turn out like this one, but maybe that's just wishful thinking.

I'm going to have to physically stop myself from looking at my book for a while now - this book has inhabited my mind so long, it's going to be strange not thinking about it every day. Although, I do need to write a sequel...does it defeat the purpose of getting the book 'out of your mind' if I start working on other books in the series...? Hmm...

And when I get back from my break, I have gems like this to edit and clean up:

"She was trying to go as fast as she could, but the sheer amount of people meant she was forced to go slower."

I know, I know - my literary prowess astounds me too.

Anyway. It's getting late (for me). I'm tired. I have been writing solidly for the last twelve hours. I am genuinely losing the ability to type coherent words (I just looked over this post and realised I wrote 'I no' instead of 'I know').

So until next time, happy writing and have an awesome bank holiday weekend, folks!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The light at the end of the tunnel...

I've been having a sick, twisty feeling in my stomach most of the afternoon.

Now, before you start backing away in horror and reaching for the face masks, it's not because I've contracted some kind of lurgy.

It's because I'm *this* close to finishing the first draft of my novel.

I have never gotten so far with one of my novels before, and while it's exhilarating and I can't help thinking of the millions in sales/the 1001 book deals/film deals that are obviously going to come my way the second I publish it, it's also incredibly scary.

I genuinely can't believe I've got this far. I know I'm not at the end of the road yet. I know I've still got a lot of work ahead of me before I can even think about publishing it, but to me, this is a big deal. 

Never before have I actually written the climax of my novel - you know, that epic scene(s) where everything comes crashing down and your MC has to fight for her life, save the one she loves, while defeating the bad guy with the twirly moustache in a battle to the death (if case you hadn't realised it yet, I have a flair for the dramatic...) - or y'know, whatever your novel's equivalent is.

These are the scenes that I've been imagining since the concept for my book first popped into my head. These are the elusive scenes I've been working towards, but never seriously thinking I'd get to. And today, I finally get to write them. The thought makes me want to squeal in excitement, and run away and hide at the same time. Am I up to writing these final scenes? Will I *gasp* actually manage to finish a book??

There's only one way to find out.

I'm not going to be blogging again until my first draft is finished. So you could very well see me in a day, a few days or a few weeks. But however long it takes, my story that started out as a tiny little idea way back in March will finally resemble something that looks like a book. An actual book.

I'll see you on the other side.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Today I was forced to do something I haven't done in a very long time....

...I drank coffee.

Yes, that's right, coffee. I only drink coffee in the direst circumstances i.e. if I'm forced to get up ridiculously early to go on holiday, or if I have a deadline to work to. Today, it was the latter.

But it wasn't just the deadline that had me reaching for the Nescafe and a large teaspoon of sugar. Today, I simply didn't want to write.

If you've caught my Twitter over the last few days, you may have noticed I've been celebrating writing 7,000 words a day. It's my goal that by the end of the summer holidays (actually, earlier than that as I'm going away for a few days next week) I'll have finished the first draft of my novel, Synthetica.

I am unbelievably close to finishing - out of the 17 page detailed synopsis I wrote a few months ago, I have 5 pages left to flesh out. 5! This is the closest I've ever come to finishing an actual novel, and I am over the moon about it.

However, this does mean that I'm currently writing like crazy. I love it, but at the same time, I ended up hitting the dreaded wall today. I just did not want to write. At all. I don't know if it's because I took a bit of a break over the weekend and got out of the swing of it, or if the writing frenzy of last week was finally catching up with me, or if it's because The Engineer woke me up in the middle of the night to change bedrooms (don't ask).

So today, I procrastinated by baking and doing jobs around the house, before going for a walk in a last ditched attempt to clear my head. I ended up writing 3,000 words - and although I wish it was closer to 7,000, at least it's something. And that's cheered me up slightly - every other time I've hit the wall in my writing, I've left it for days, or weeks, or sometimes abandoned the novel altogether.

So at least it's progress. I'm hoping tomorrow after a good night's sleep, I'll be back on form :).

How's your writing going? Let me know!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Reflections for a rainy day...

This time exactly one year ago today, I was touching down in Shanghai to begin six months of teaching English to kindergarten children. I forced myself to go to China because I despised my job and I couldn't bear to be there a moment longer. Breaking out and going alone to such a different country really opened my eyes, and I can't help reflecting on how different my life is now, to how it was a year ago...

So what has happened in the past year?

Well, I came home from China early in December because I couldn't bear to be apart from the Other Half, and my family and friends any longer.

I got a fantastic job in a school I love.

I got engaged.

I got 40,000 words into a novel I started during NaNoWriMo when I was in China - and then discarded it.

I am now 52,000 words into my current WIP, with no signs of slowing down - I absolutely love this novel, and I can't wait to share it with all of you. At the moment (due to a challenge my Other Half set me) I'm writing 7,000 words of this novel a day and I'm loving every minute of it.

If anything, this year has shown me that there's no knowing where life can take you. Did I think two years ago I'd go to China? Hell no. Did I think this time six months ago I'd be this enthused about a novel? No way. And yet, here I am.

Life is indeed what you make of it. I've had my share of difficulties along the way, but I'm surrounded by fantastic people that I love, who I know will support me through anything (seriously, you should've heard my mum when I told her I was going to China. I thought she was going to have a heart attack, but she ended up supporting me all the way).
Right now, I'm just happy to see where life takes me - and, obviously, writing along the way ;).

So how about you? What has this year brought you so far? Did you think you'd end up where you are?

Happy writing!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Patience is a virtue....

You may remember last week I posted about starting my own herb garden - well, I have some good news: IT'S STARTED TO GROW!!

Apologies for being so excitable about this, but when you somehow manage to kill everything you try to grow, this is a massive achievement. Especially considering the seeds only cost 30p...

After a week of excitedly checking my plants several times a day, this is the sight that greeted me on Saturday morning:

That right there is my very own basil :). In the soil next to it, I can see some of my other seeds started to germinate, which is pretty cool (I'm also convinced I can smell garlic already from the garlic chives, but that may just be my overactive imagination).

So, this got me thinking: everything needs time - growing herbs, baking a cake, writing a book. You just need to have a little patience and be willing to work at it. It might sound like a completely cheesy thought, but that's what I'm going to try to remember about my novel. So what if it feels like it's taking forever to write? I just need to knuckle down and be prepared to work at it. And in the end, those like shoots of an idea will eventually turn into a flourishing book (y'know, if I don't forget to water it, that is).

Happy Monday, and happy writing, everyone!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

August IWSG: Same old, same old....

Welcome to this August's Insecure Writer's Support Group!

IWSG was set up by Alex J. Cavanaugh (you can view his blog here) and the group now was it's own awesome website here. Make sure you check them both out!

I'm afraid to say I'm going to be rather boring again this month. My project over the last month was the idea of keeping my novel 'open' - i.e. I don't forget about it, and I try to work on it every day, even if it's just thinking about how a new scene will go.

Overall, it's been fairly successful....or at least, if I haven't been able to work on my novel for whatever reason, it's been enough to guilt trip me into writing extra hard the next time I can access my computer.

To be honest, this month I'm just going to try and keep going with this idea. As I have a lot of time to fill until September, my initial idea was to have the first draft completed by the time school starts again. I'm already freaking out that I won't get it done, as I haven't been able to write much over the past few days (Since Monday, I have broken two cars, smashed my mobile up and broken a set of fairy much for things coming in threes...but naturally sorting these things out has taken time!) - and my friend is coming to stay with us today until the end of the week.

So, I think my main fear I'm going to have to keep under control this month is my anxiety that I won't get my book written at all. I've already been freaking out this week because I haven't been writing as much as I wanted too, but I just need to calm down and tell myself that even if it doesn't happen immediately, it will happen eventually. Just like my herb garden ;).

Oh, and if you're a member of Authonomy, I've posted up the first couple of chapters from my book if you want to check them out :) - the link is here. I'm still open to CP offers btw ;)!

Happy writing!

Monday, 4 August 2014

'Thyme' to get busy...

...oh come on, it wasn't that bad was it? I'm actually quite proud I thought of that all by myself!(...this is what happens when you're left on your own for the day in the summer heat...)

Bad puns aside, please bear with me as it does have a point!

So I went back up t'north last week to visit my parents, and it was great to get away from everything and just relax and enjoy looking after the cows/calves/other farm animals for a while (in case you're wondering, yes, my parents do actually live on a farm - I'm not crazy, honest...)

Anyway, while I was there I couldn't help noticing my dad's vegetable patch. The last time I saw it at Easter, he'd just begun to put the seeds, well, it looks amazing! There's rows of green beans, peas, carrots, lettuce, beetroot, tomatoes....we had the honour of eating some of the beans (in a soup) and the lettuce (actually, most of the lettuce) and everything tasted fantastic!

This got me thinking. I have 5 weeks left of my summer holidays and I am the worst person to just sit around doing nothing (in all seriousness, having nothing to do does have a negative impact on my mental health - it takes me back to when I wasn't in such a good place, and well, I won't bore you now, but it is healthier for me if my mind is kept occupied) - so I thought, hey, why don't I do that! Unfortunately, I know exactly what kind of person I am, and I'm the kind of person who gets all excited about an idea (much like my writing), starts it, then loses interest (exactly like my writing).

So I came up with a compromise. My project for this summer is going to be starting my own herb garden. Smaller, easier to manage and you still get some delicious home grown produce out of it! At this point I'm going to chose to ignore the fact that every plant I've tried to grow up to now has died....not through neglect, just through me not having the green fingers necessary to keep them alive.

Luckily for me, the Other Half tends to go along with my whims (not that he has much choice, bless him), so yesterday we went out and bought a planter and some compost (I'd already bought my seeds for 30p from Wilkos the previous day).

And today, this is what they look like!

On the left I've planted some parsley, in the middle is garlic chives and on the right is basil! Okay, so I know it's not much to look at right now (not that that has stopped me from obsessively checking them every half an hour...) - but I'll keep you updated on it's progress :)

Oh, and here's another little something we picked up yesterday too - pretty cool, huh?

So now that that distraction is out of the way...back to writing it is!

Happy holidays!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

It's finally time...

After waiting and waiting for weeks, it's finally here....the summer holidays! *cries in relief*

Now, I know most people will be grumbling and saying that no one needs as much time off as teachers/TA's do, but let me tell you something - when you look after over sixty 4-5 year olds every day for weeks on end, as well as dealing with their parents - you need a break. Otherwise you'll just burst into tears and have a nervous breakdown. I love my job, I really do, but when you've had to put up with kids arguing with you (yes, even at that age), parents shouting at you, children getting hyper because it's approaching the end of term, as well as dealing with the 101 things you have to do as part of your daily job me, you're glad for the break.

On another positive note, we finally have internet in our house - hooray! Although the slight downside is that I'm now away for the next four weeks...but I have constant internet access where I am anyway, so there's really no excuse now for me NOT to blog regularly (apart from y'know, sheer laziness).

Anyway, the real point of this blog was this....

I think I'm finally ready for a Critique Partner.

I'm at that stage in my novel where I've edited (most of) it, I know what I want it to sound like...I now need someone to tell me how to whip it into shape, and to call me out on some of the dreadful writing I know is in there, but I just can't see it. And of course, I will reciprocate in kind :).

I guess I'd just love someone to read though it and let me know as someone who; A) isn't related to me and B) has no obligation to be nice to me because of point A, whether or not my story works and what I can do to improve it.

This is a big thing for me - for years my work has been private and I've shied away from sharing it with anyone because I'm just simply too terrified that people would hate it. Now, I think (and I honestly don't mean to sound arrogant here) I finally have a novel that I'm willing to share with the world.

So if you're a YA author and you're at all interested in becoming my CP, please just let me know :). I'd love to send you a couple of chapters for you to check out (don't worry, I won't bombard you with the whole thing at once!). The email address you can contact me on is:

Or alternatively, feel free to leave me a comment in the comments section of this post :).

Like I said, it's a two way thing, so I'm more than happy to critique your work in kind. And just so you know folks, now is probably the best time for me to review your work as I have a long loooong summer ahead of me ;).

Happy writing!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

July IWSG: Procrastination station

Welcome to this month's Insecure Writer's Support Group!

IWSG was set up by the fantastic Alex J. Cavanaugh (you can view his blog here) and the group now was it's own awesome website here. Go and check them both out, now! Or y'know, once you've finished here ;)

I know, I know, I'm a day early, but if I thought that if I posted now, I'd have time to actually take a look around all the other brilliant writing blogs out there tomorrow, and offer some encouragement to all you other lovely writers!

I don't actually have anything specific to blog about this month, but I thought I'd share something interesting I've discovered about myself this month anyway.

So, for the past few weeks I've been working on my novel idea, and I'm pretty excited about this one. For once, I don't find it hard to write – I'm simply enjoying the process of writing it. But I have noticed one thing – if for whatever reason, I don't get to work on it for a day or two, I do find it much harder to get back into the swing of writing when I do open it back up again. I procrastinate like crazy...and yet, when I do finally get to work on it again, I don't want to stop!

I guess it's like any hobby you do – when I started learning guitar, I remember my guitar teacher telling me to keep my guitar out somewhere where I'd see it, so I'd pick it up, and practice more. At first, I didn't believe him but I soon learnt that, actually, it was true – if my guitar was out on display, I was much more likely to pick up and strum away than if I'd had to get it out of it's case every day.

And I think the same applies for my novel. So instead of just having it on my computer, and procrastinating whenever I think about loading it up, this month I'm going to be thinking of ways to keep it 'out in the open' – whether that's blogging more about my progress, never shutting down my computer, starting a notebook with all my notes about the novel in (this is actually my first novel that I haven't done this for), or just listening to music and thinking about ideas for the next scene – I'm determined to keep this novel visible, so I don't forget about it, even for a day.

How about you? How do you keep writing instead of procrastinating? And I'd love to hear if any of you are working on something that you're so enthusiastic about too :)!

Happy writing!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Weekend Reads: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder is another one of those books that I just haven't been able to escape from – it seems like everyone loves it, so once again I gave into peer pressure to see what all the hype was about. And boy am I glad I did!

Cinder is the first book in Meyer's The Lunar Chronicles series and it's futuristic retelling of the fairytale, Cinderella. Cinder, a cyborg mechanic living in New Beijing, dreams of freedom from her wicked stepmother, Adri. But as she's a second class citizen on account of her being a cyborg, she's forced to work as a mechanic to order to fund her stepmother's and step-sister's lifestyles. But with a mysterious deadly plague, letumosis, sweeping through the city, a Lunar queen intent on declaring war and Crown Prince Kai desperate to thwart the Lunar queen's plans, will Cinder finally get the life of freedom she's always dreamed of, or will she be forced into a life of a different kind of slavery?

I thought Cinder was really well written – I could vividly imagine New Beijing, with all it's bustle and noise and new technology (though that may just be because I lived in actual Beijing for a while...) and I loved the futuristic world that Meyer has built. She goes into just enough detail about Cinder's situation as a cyborg so that I was intrigued, but not overwhelmed with technical details. Cinder is a great heroine – she's funny, feisty, strong and independent, but she's also totally believable while she's at it. So many YA books these days seem to just plainly tell the reader 'she is feisty. She is funny. She is strong,' that it was nice to have a bit of change and to have Meyer actually show us Cinder's qualities, rather than have us simply read about them.

I really liked the different relationships between each of the characters, and getting inside each of their heads. I especially enjoyed seeing Cinder's feelings for Prince Kai develop. Thankfully, there was no case of the dreaded insta-love disease, and it was so good to see a natural relationship develop between them, even if it wasn't a full-blown romantic one (at least, not where this books leaves off...).

Overall, Cinder was fun, entertaining read that really drew me into the world of New Beijing. It didn't seem to suffer from the same affliction that some first books in YA series do – it offered the reader enough information to keep them guessing what would happen, but there was enough information in there that this book could stand pretty much stand on it's own, as well as being part of a series. Although there were a couple of slip-ups (i.e. in one scene, the rain stops but a moment later, it's still pattering against the window....) and the 'twist' at the end was a bit obvious (or so I thought), I really enjoyed reading Cinder and I'm really looking forward to picking up the rest of the The Lunar Chronicles series.

Final comments: A good, solid debut that will intrigue you and leave you wanting more (in a good way).

4/5 cupcakes

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

June IWSG - What's right in writing?

Welcome to June's Insecure Writers' Support Group (IWSG) post...and my 75th blog post, hooray!

ISWG was set up by Alex J. Cavanaugh (check out his fantastic blog here) as a place for all writers to come together on the first Wednesday of every month to air their writing woes and offer each other support. You can check out the official IWSG website here (seriously, check it out, it's awesome).

So the last couple of weeks have been surprisingly productive for me in terms of writing – I've managed to finish a detailed synopsis for one novel and I'm currently halfway through another. This is probably the most serious writing I've done since...well, ever....

But as my main insecurities this month are very similar to the ones I had a couple of months back, so I'll try to keep this post brief. Basically, how do you know if your novel is worth writing?

How do you know people will want to read it? I am so so excited about my current project, but I just can't bear the thought that other people might not be as enthused by it as me. But hey, I guess that's what writers do, right? They write in a way that draws readers in so they'll want to read their novel. I guess I'll just have to keep practicing my craft and hope that one day, I'll produce something that people want to read.

Also, on a similar theme – how does one find beta readers? This is a question I've been curious about for a while now, and although I'm nowhere near the stage of needing beta readers, it's just something I'd like to find out about. Should you ask (always professionally and politely of course!) other bloggers to read it for you, or should you pay for a professional to do it? I'd love to know your thoughts!

Til next time, happy writing!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

A game for a rainy day...

...or a sunny day for that matter. The sun is shining, the birds are singing...and I'm sitting indoors like the little hermit that I am.

Anyway! I thought I'd share with you all a little writing tip I read about last week. Now, I don't know about you, but I always work/write better if I don't think of it as actual work...which is why I'm calling this a 'game', and not just a bog-standard writing tip.

Are you ready? Sure?

Ok, let's go - here's what you do:
  1. You sit down.
  2. You open up your laptop/computer/notepad/chalkboard
  3. You write a synopsis for your novel that's between 35 - 80 words
That's it. That's all there is to it.

I know, I know - it probably sounds incredibly boring, but trust me on this - for the past few weeks, I haven't been that excited about my novel. So instead of slogging away forcing myself to write, I decided to thumb through the Writer's & Artist's Yearbook for some inspiration. It was only when I found the page on how to write a synopsis that I thought, 'hey, here's something I could do right now.'

Best. Decision. Ever.

It might sound counter-productive, but having a definite word count really sharpens your mind and forces you to focus on exactly what you want to say. If I didn't have a word count, I might end up writing a rambling 2000 words blow-by-blow account of each chapter in my novel. But by limiting yourself to a maximum of 80 words, you really have to think about the essence of your story, the bare basics of what makes up your novel. Instead of throwing the words down onto the page, I had to think about each one - and once I'd finished my synopsis, I suddenly knew exactly where I wanted my novel to go.

I know you're only really supposed to write a synopsis once you've finished your novel and you're getting ready to query it, but it you're stuck in a bit of a rut, it can be a fun activity to get your excited about writing again.

So what do you think about synopsises? Have you written one before you've finished your novel? If so, did it work or not? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Have a great Sunday, everyone!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Friday Reads: Pawn by Aimee Carter

I've been hearing good things about this book for a while, so eventually I decided to bite the bullet and see what all the hype was about. To be completely honest, Pawn is an okay book...but it's nothing spectacular.

Kitty Doe has been raised in a world where, on your seventeenth birthday, you take a test which will determine what rank you receive. Your rank (from I – VI) determines what kind of life you will lead – from what job you will do, to where you will live and what privileges you are entitled to. Aiming for an average VI but marked as a III, Kitty knows that there is no hope for her...until she is offered an opportunity she cannot refuse. In return for raising her rank to a prestigious VII (which only the Prime Minister and his family are entitled to), Kitty must agree to fool the world and live the life of Lila Hart – the Prime Minister's dead niece. But as Kitty is drawn deeper into the Hart's twisted game, she slowly begins to ask herself - is a rank worth the lives of those you love?

Pawn was a bit of a let down for me in terms of writing style and character development. Although it sounds great, I didn't feel as though the rest of the novel lived up to it's premise. Quite often we're told instead of shown that Kitty has 'spunk' – okay, that's great and I'm all up for a feisty character – but not when they're generally just standing around observing events and occasionally coming up with stupid 'smart' comebacks. And if I need another characters specifically telling me that the main character has 'spunk', then warning bells immediately go off in my head and I spend the rest of the book rolling my eyes at her 'spunkiness' (okay, I'll stop using the word spunky and all it's variations now).
Then there's Kitty's boyfriend, Benjy. To me, Benjy merely seems to exist in this book to create some extra teenage angst/drama Рthe overall plot would've worked perfectly well without him, given that he doesn't actually do anything. Ever. Oh, but when he does pop up, you can be assured that he'll bring with him the whole 'overprotective boyfriend' clich̩. Seriously, he wants to stop Kitty from doing anything...but when she says she's going to do it anyway, he just seems to shrug his shoulders and let's her get on with it, which is a tad contradictory to me (not because I agree with him stopping her, just because he seems to whine a lot and gives up far too easily).

The whole book feels very clunky – there are virtually no descriptions, or if there are, they're very generic and flat. The only time I felt as though I could really visualise the setting, was when the author wrote about Elsewhere – then I could really imagine all the vivid colours of the woods. Although, there is one part when Kitty is on a private jet and her luxurious surroundings are described to us, including the real log fire...yes that's right, there's a real log fire on the plane. Now, I'm all for futuristic, but I'm pretty sure a real fire on a plane would interact very badly with the plane's combustible fuel system...but hey, what do I know? There's also a scene with a poker towards the end of the novel – I won't go into details in case I spoil it, but I'd love to know if anyone else spotted the consistency errors in that scene...

Final comments: Overall, Pawn was an okay read – nothing spectacular, but good if you're looking to while away a couple of hours. Just don't expect too much from this novel, and you won't be disappointed.

3/5 cupcakes

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

One detailed synopsis down, one novel to go...

Today I'm proud to announce that I've actually finished something novel-related.

After about three months, and a lot of procrastination, I've finally finished the detailed synopsis for my novel! In case you're wondering, for a while now I've been following a 'how to' guide on writing a novel (because if left to my own devices, I don't get very far...), and in it, it suggests writing a detailed synopsis for your novel, so you can see exactly what's happening in each scene. The idea is that you write your detailed synopsis, then leave it for a couple of weeks and do something completely non-novel related, so you can come back to it with fresh eyes and see what parts of your novel might need fleshed out a little more, whether anything needs to be changed around, or perhaps cut out/changed altogether. That way, when you come to write your first draft, you've already got a solid idea of your novel in your head. Which, trust me, works a lot better for me because it stops me from fizzling out halfway through!

I'm so thrilled that I've actually managed to complete something novel related for a change (even if my original schedule dictated that I finish it in March – but that's a minor detail..) - but my only niggle is that it's only 8,902 words.

Now, I know this sounds like a lot, but the last detailed synopsis I did, it ended up being over 20,000 now of course I'm completely paranoid that there's nothing happening in my novel and I should just give it up. I have no idea how long a detailed synopsis should be, but I'm assuming it's up to the writer, depending on how much, well, detail, they want to put in. But still, I guess 8,000 words is better than nothing!

Anyway, I'm now going to stop worrying now and relax. It's half term next week, so for once I'm going to enjoy the holidays without fretting over whether or not I should be working on my novel, and then come back to it well rested and with fresh eyes in a couple of weeks time.

I've love to hear about your experiences of using a detailed synopsis – do you write one? If so, does it work well for you? Or was it completely pointless? And if you've never written one, would you consider it or not?

P.S. About the book reviews – I definitely still AM writing my book reviews, although I do apologise thatI haven't been able to post any for a couple of weeks. The internet here is horrendous and I hate it. But I am hoping that at least for this Friday and next Friday, I'll be able to post something up for you guys :). Happy writing/reading!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

May IWSG: Time for a confession...

Welcome to May's Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG)! IWSG was created by Alex J. Cavanaugh (you can check out his blog here) and the official website for IWSG is here – I highly recommend you check it out if you're looking for inspiration/tips about writing!

Me: Hi! My name's Rachel....

Everyone else: Hi Rachel!

Me: My name's Rachel and I'm...a quitter.

There. I said it.

Believe it or not, this is actually quite a difficult thing for me to admit. No one likes to think of themselves in the wrong, or of giving up easily...but I do. I wish I didn't, and it's something I'm trying hard to work on – I don't know if flakiness is something that most people my age have, or if I'm just a dreamer that flits from one thing to the other (in all honesty though, it's more likely the second option).

I could sit here all night and try to justify the things I've given up on - I quit my first proper office job after nine months (although I did hate that job so much it was starting to impact on my mental health, and I'm a strong believer that no job should ever make anyone feel the way I did), I quit my job in China because I couldn't stand the thought of being away form home for Christmas; and I quit my volunteering work this week, telling myself that I didn't have the time for it (I do, I just wasn'tl so enthused by it to give up my spare time to do it...and yes, I'm well aware of how horrible that makes me sound, but I am just trying being honest).

But then equally, I could look at it this way:

Because I quit my office job, I got the opportunity to live in China, meet some amazing people and experience an entirely new culture...

...and because I came home early from China, I was lucky enough to get a job a few weeks after I got back – which surprised me because I went completely blank in the interview, and for one question I just outright told them I didn't know what to say. But I'm so so happy in my job now :) and if I hadn't have come home when I did, I never would've applied for that job or gone to the interview.

...I'm not entirely sure what the positive is of quitting my volunteering work yet, but I'm going to choose to look on the bright side and say that it'll give me more time and (hopefully) more incentive to write.

The reason I'm bringing this up is because just like in my everyday life, I quit a lot of the novels and stories I start to write. And once again I could try and justify why I keep quitting, but the fact is, I just give up. Simple.

But once again, there is a positive side to this. The novel I'm working on now is the one I started during NaNoWriMo last year...and I'm still working on it. By now, I would normally have discarded that novel as well as given up on several other ideas, but just the fact that I wake up willing to work on my novel – whether that's by working on my detailed synopsis (which I wanted to have finished by Easter...whoops), or just by mulling over certain plot points in the car on the way to work – is a huge step forward for me.

So, I guess this month's post isn't just about my insecurities and fear that once again, my current WIP will be doomed to end up just another unfinished file on my computer (because that is the biggest fear that I keep returning to) – it's also about positivity and hope. It's a corny saying, but every cloud DOES have a silver lining :).

If I can sit here and work on a novel six months after I started it, after a lifetime of flakiness and quitting almost everything I've ever started, then you can do it too :).

It's one small step for man, one giant leap towards my dreams of becoming an author ;)

Friday, 11 April 2014

Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Let me start off by saying that I am a MASSIVE Supernatural fan. I absolutely love love LOVE the Winchesters (well, Dean more than Sam, but anyway...) so when I heard about Anna Dressed in Blood, a story about a teen ghost hunter who moves around America to send the dead back to where they belong, I knew I simply had to read it!

Cas Lowood is no ordinary teenager – he hunts ghosts for a living, a gift he inherited from his late father. Cas moves around America with his mother to send the dead back to where they can rest in peace. When he hears about the famous Anna Dressed in Blood, he knows he'll have to hunt this particularly murderous ghost down too – but what he doesn't expect is to fall in love with the terrifying being that murders everyone who enters her home. Cas is in a race against time, not only to uncover the tragic circumstances that surround Anna's death, but also to find out who (or what) murdered his father, and why they're now after him...

Anna Dressed in Blood starts off well – we met Cas as he's winding up a case before he and his mother move to a new town on the other side of the country. The descriptions in this book were at times, frankly, terrifying. When we first met Anna, I could imagine every detail of her perfectly – something which didn't help me to sleep, I can tell you! The other ghosts and ghouls in this book were no less scary – especially the spirit that pops up near the end. Kendare Blake has a great, punchy, to-the-point writing style which fits this fast-moving story perfectly.

However, although I wanted to find out what happened to Anna, I found the book getting a bit...repetitive towards the end. While the descriptions in the book were great, I didn't think Cas sounded like a teenage boy – Kendare did a good job (way better than the protagonist in Beautiful Creatures at any rate!) but there were times, especially when Cas suffers from the dreadful insta-love disease, that he sounded more like a teenage girl writing in her diary than a bad-ass ghost hunter. I did like the twist of him falling for the ghost though, rather than the typical beautiful ex-cheerleader who befriends him (and yes, that really does happen).

Overall though, I really did enjoy this book. The plot was pretty tight, the writing was good, and the characters all had their own distinct voices. When we find out what happened to Anna, I couldn't help but feel sorry for her, and the ending had me feverishly flipping through the pages to see what happened next. I'll definitely be picking up the sequel, Girl of Nightmares, soon.

Final comments: A good, solid book that's a must read for any fellow Supernatural fans!

4/5 cupcakes

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Book Review: Perfect Ruin by Lauren Destefano

*Guys, just wanted to say sorry for being a bit late with this review - I went to see Divergent last night at the cinema (and it was AWESOME!) and by the time we got home, I just rolled into bed. On the plus side, I'll probably be doing a movie review on Divergent soon, so at least that's something else for you to read :)*

I downloaded Perfect Ruin on my Kindle after reading the description – a floating city in the clouds?! As a massive Studio Ghibli fan, all I could say was, sign me up!

Perfect Ruin tells the story of Morgan Stockhour and her life on Internment – a floating city in the sky. Although citizens are told never to get too close to the edge, in fear that they become 'Jumpers' (i.e. they try to jump off the edge and go a bit crazy for their efforts), life is otherwise pretty peachy. Until someone commits a murder – the first murder in a generation, and one which rocks the city to it's core. Morgan is drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery behind the crime, especially when she meets Judas – the boy accused of the murder, the victim of which also happened to be his 'betrothed'. Can Morgan uncover the dark secrets that lie at the heart of Internment, before they claim the lives of those she loves the most?

I thought Perfect Ruin was beautifully written – the descriptions of the city were simply fantastic, and I could really imagine how it would look – especially how the sunlight would fall on it during the sunrise/sunset (don't ask why this particular image stuck with me – I have no idea!). Lauren Destefano paints a vivid picture of life on Internment – from how life in the sky would work, to their annual Festival of Stars celebration – I almost wanted to run over to the window just to see if there really was an island in the sky that I could go to!

The characters in Perfect Ruin were well written and relatable – I really liked Morgan's best friend Pen and her attitude to life - she really made me smile, and I felt bad for her when some of her more troublesome demons were revealed. Although I can see why some people might think that Morgan steps back a little bit too much and maybe doesn't do as much as she could, I can understand her reasons for being so reserved, given her background (which I won't reveal here!). I also found this book refreshing due to the lack of insta-love/love triangle – Morgan stays true to her own betrothed, though I was initially a little bit suspicious of the chemistry between her and Judas. Thankfully, their relationship didn't develop in that sense – I'm just hoping it'll stay that way for the rest of the series.

Final Comments: Overall, Perfect Ruin was a fantastic read and I would definitely recommend it (I've already read it twice!) - I can't wait for the sequel to come out next year!

5/5 cupcakes

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

April IWSG - Catch up time!

IWSG is upon us again! If you've missed my previous IWSG posts, here's a quick overview:

On the first Wednesday of every month, authors from across the interweb post up their fears and insecurities about their writing, and we all provide support/tea/cake/virtual hugs to encourage all your lovely authors to keep writing (because, believe me, you are all awesome and so is your writing!).
IWSG was set up by Alex J. Cavanaugh (you can check out his blog here) and there's now an official IWSG website, which is full of helpful tips, tricks and encouraging posts – you can check out that awesome site here.

I'm afraid I haven't got much to post about this month - I could make excuses for why I haven't written much during the past four weeks, but tbh, it's just sheer procrastination...

So I thought that instead of me re-hashing the IWSG posts I've done before (because that's literally all my post would be, seeing as how I've only done a minimal amount of writing this month), I'd instead take this opporutnity to go make a cup of tea, put my feet up and instead go on a blog hop around other ISWG blogs. It's been far too long since I've seen what everyone else is up to and seeing as how everyone is normally full of lovely cosy advice and steaming mugs of comfort whenever I have a moan/rant/complete breakdown, I thought I'd properly return the favour this month and cheer all YOU lovely authors up instead!

So that's it from me! Kettle - on. Toast - buttered. I'm ready to go!

Oh, but before I leave, here's a few words of comfort for you, just in case I don't manage to get round to your blog ;)....


*Ahem...I'm well aware that this post may seem a little, well, odder that usual - I'm blaming the cold medicine I'm currently dosed up on...

Friday, 28 March 2014

Book Review: The little old lady who broke all the rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

Welcome back to my newest blog feature: Friday book reviews! (And yes, I am aware I need a snappier title than that - if you have any ideas, feel free to get in touch!). This week's book review is The little old lady who broke all the rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg. 

Guys, just going to apologise right now for the length of this review/rant! Feel free to skip to the end if you want!

I downloaded this book on my Kindle when I was looking for something quick and light hearted to read – I'd heard some good things about it, plus it was discounted on the Amazon store, so I decided to give it a go.

Oh. My. God. I honestly don't know why there was so much hype around this book. I absolutely hate being mean about anyone/anything, but I really am struggling to think of any good points for this book....

The little old lady who broke all the rules is about a group of pensioners who live in a retirement home that is slowly but surely taking away everything they enjoy in life. Martha, the main character in this hapless group, convinces her friends to commit increasingly risky crimes, in an effort to get out of the retirement home and into prison, where they believe a better standard of life awaits. Needless to say, their crimes don't go quite to plan, and soon they're involved in all kinds of mischief and adventures...

I didn't find this book funny. At all. Now, generally I've got a pretty good sense of humour but the 'humour' in this book was just completely lost on me. As this book was been translated from Swedish, I'm seriously wondering if something got lost in translation. The jokes fell flat, characters that were supposed to be funny/cracking quips just came across as annoying or they didn't make any sense. I was almost cringing in some places as the author tried to make an ordinary situation funny, when it would've worked perfectly well without the humour.

Although Martha is the main character, the book does flip from time to time to different character's viewpoints e.g. the police chief, some random criminals that have very little to do with the story, the staff at the retirement home etc. But because of the way the book is written, I found it very hard to differentiate between who was who, especially if the chapters were about the different pensioners, as they essentially all had the same voice. Little bits of the character's background were dropped in every now and again but I was so disinterested in the story, I wasn't bothered about finding out any more about the characters, because they were so flat to begin with. While the author does try to make the characters stand out, she seems to have given them completely stereotypical qualities e.g. the hapless policeman that ignores everything that he's told because he's convinced he's right, the brainy one of the group that can magically turn off alarms and come up with ingenious solutions to problems, the 'hard' criminal that turns out to have a softer get my drift.

I'm going to have to stop writing now before this turns into even more of a giant, whiney rant. I was really disappointed in this book – the writing wasn't good and there were some seriously questionable editing going on – for example, in one scene Martha hugs and talks to her 'boyfriend'...but a few pages later we're told about how he's just been released from prison and Martha runs to greet him! Seriously, what?

Final comments: If you're looking for a book that you can just switch off and read, then by all means give this a go – but honestly, if you're looking for a bit of light hearted humour, go for The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared instead – now that's a fantastically funny book!

2 out of 5 cupcakes 
(but only because I'm giving some allowance for possible translation issues/people's sense of humour being different from mine)

Friday, 21 March 2014

Book Review: Wool by Hugh Howey

When I first heard about Wool, I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical. The premise just sounded a bit..well, odd. But trust me, this book is well worth sticking with – it's amazing!

Wool is set in a post-apocalyptic future. The few survivors of mankind now live together in a giant underground silo, but their lives are controlled by rules, regulations and a strict hierarchy. If anyone chooses not to conform, they're sent outside the silo for the 'cleaning' – a job that there's no return from. When Jules is unexpectedly thrust into a prominent position within the silo, she slowly begins to realise how rotten those at the heart of their community are – but when you've been brought up to conform, will anyone be brave enough to stand with her? Or is she entirely on her own?

While the idea of an underground silo sounds interesting, I really wasn't sure how it would work in practice. But once all the mechanics of it was explained, and you see how everyone works together to keep the silo running, I was hooked – especially once you find out what happens 'outside' the silo, during the cleaning.

Jules is the strong, smart female protagonist who's not afraid to speak her mind and does what she thinks is right, even if it goes against everything the silo teaches her to believe. It's interesting to see how she copes with a situation that is essentially thrust on her when she didn't want it, and then how she deals with it when everything (and I mean everything!) goes horribly horribly wrong.

This book was exceptionally well written – there were a couple of occasions where the author seemed to go off on a slight tangent about the background of the silo, or someone's particular job etc, but it wasn't such a big deal that it detracted from the overall story. The big twist in the story is just...amazing – while I had my suspicions about what was going to happen, I was still shocked (and thrilled) when they were confirmed. Despite it's slightly slow start, I honestly couldn't put this book down; it was fast paced, full of surprises and I really felt for all of the character's situations – I even felt a limited amount of sympathy for the bad guy in all this (Bernard), as Hugh Howey does a great job of explaining the background/rationale behind all the character's motivations and desires. I've already bought the second book in the trilogy, Shift, and I can't wait to get my teeth into it!

Final comments: Although it might sound like a bit of an odd/niche story, Wool is an exceptionally well written debut novel from Hugh Howey and well worth checking out!

5/5 cupcakes

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Book review: Half Bad by Sally Green

Warning: this review contains mild spoilers!

 Half Bad Cover

I was always going to be slightly biased towards this book as 1) I am a huge sucker for giant marketing campaigns and 2) it was written by a fellow North Westerner (still not entirely sure whereabouts in the North West of England Sally Green is from, but I'll take what I can get).

So, Half Bad is a YA book about witches. There are two types of witches – Black and White, and on a witch's seventeenth birthday they have a giving ceremony, which determines which kind of witch they are going to be (I think this is determined by what kind of witch gives them their blood at the ceremony, but I'm not entirely sure...).
Nathan is half and half – his mother was a White witch, but his dad is the most powerful Black witch alive. As he grows up, the Council (who are all White witches and believe Black witches should be wiped out) takes increasing interest in him, as they try to determine what kind of witch he'll be. They imprison Nathan in the hope that they can manipulate him into killing his own father, but he escapes and goes looking for his father instead. It's a race against time for him to 1) receive his three gifts at his giving ceremony on his seventeenth birthday (because if he doesn't, he'll die) and 2) find his father before the Council does.

The book starts with a bang – when we first meet Nathan he's locked up in a cage. Sally Green does a fantastic job of drawing you into Nathan's world, simply by starting the book is what is essentially the midpoint of the plot. The background to Nathan's world is intriguing, and I really enjoyed finding out about the rules of this world, the psychology of both White and Black witches, and about Nathan's own upbringing. However, around halfway through the book, I have to admit I started to get a teeny bit restless. As we follow Nathan on his journey to find his father/another Black witch called Mercury who can help him with his giving ceremony, he makes friends with another Black witch, escapes from Hunters (White witches trained to kill Black witches) numerous times and falls in love with a White witch (naturally). After the halfway point, I started to get a bit bored and found my attention wandering, as Nathan just seemed to be running around and not doing an awful lot apart from moping/thinking about Annalise/agonising over his future (think of the first half of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and you'll get my drift).

Overall, Half Bad is a great debut book and I like the fresh take Sally Green has on witches. The world building was good and I was satisfied with the explanations behind the character's motives and world. The writing is gritty, and the author doesn't skimp on the bloody or violent details like most YA authors tend to do. It's this style of writing that really makes you feel for Nathan and his situation, and makes the whole thing seem more real, as though there really could be witches running around trying to murder each other while us 'fains' (non-magic folk) wander around blissfully unaware. The main theme running throughout the book is the age old question of nature vs nurture, and as a reader, you're constantly wondering which direction Nathan will go – will he stay true to the beliefs he's been brought up with, or will the White witches and their endless persecution turn him into a witch's version of 'Frankenstein's monster'?

For me though, the last third of the book wasn't up to the same standard as the rest of it, and the action felt more rushed than punchy - the last few pages in particular were a whirlwind, and the last line, which was clearly supposed to end the book on a dramatic note, simply made me roll my eyes. There's also the case of the typical 'forbidden love'/insta-love that unfortunately seems to happen so often in YA literature these days; Nathan's love interest, Annalise, comes from the purest White witch family around - although naturally she rebels and decides to follow Nathan instead. To me, I think this aspect of the story could've been written slightly differently to make in more intriguing, as it's completely obvious from the moment Nathan first meets Annalise what's going to happen. Saying that, Half Bad a good start to the series and I'll definitely be checking out the second book when it arrives next year – I just won't be rushing out to buy it like I did with this one.

Final comments: A good solid debut, but a couple of slices short of a full cake I'm afraid.

3/5 cupcakes