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Month: August 2017

Review: Finn by Liz Meldon (All In #1)

Book Review: Finn by Liz Meldon (All In #1)

Skye Summers: Museum Studies grad, yoga enthusiast, sushi fanatic, self-proclaimed cat lady…

Sugar baby hopelessly falling for her sugar daddy.

Unfortunately for Skye, internet security billionaire Cole Daniels, professional workaholic, has always been more like a best friend. When they were paired through an online sugar daddy service in Skye’s most desperate hour, Cole rescued her from financial ruin and a stress-induced breakdown. In return, she has kept the press off his back by posing as his girlfriend for the last four years.

But Skye wants more. Not money or fame, but more of him. Cole: sweet, funny, and ceaselessly charming. At times, even he seems to crave a shift in their relationship to something a little messier—before swiftly pulling right back into the friend zone.

Things take a turn for the scandalous, however, when the latest gift from her sugar daddy arrives: a new dress. He’s taking Skye to a swanky soiree that evening, and the accompanying note has a titillating aside:

PS: Wear something underneath that makes you feel sexy.

Thrilled, Skye obliges with her most daring lingerie. But when Cole’s ulterior motives for the night surface, she’s forced to swallow her disappointment and seek out her own fun—which arrives in the form of the sinfully handsome heir to a chocolate empire, Finn Rai.”

Book Review: Finn by Liz Meldon (All In #1)

What I thought:

*Thank you to the author for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review*

I fell in love with Meldon’s writing earlier this year, and couldn’t resist the chance to receive an ARC of the first novella in her latest series! <3

The MC and cat person Skye is madly attracted to her sugar daddy Cole. However, since their contract states sex isn’t part of the agreement, she doesn’t know what to do. Cole hasn’t shown any romantic interest in her – until he invites her to a party, last-minute, and attaches a note asking her to dress in something sexy under her dress. What’s a girl to make of that? And the party then turns out to be a sex party. What’s a girl to make of that? Did he ask her to wear something sexy underneath for his sake, or because of the party’s undress code?

Cole is his usual pre-occupied self, doesn’t respond to her flirt attempts, and abandons her for much longer than agreed during the party. Lucky for Skye, she runs into handsome Finn with the sexy British accent.

Meldon’s books are packed with believable characters who just try to make the best out of each day. That’s why I love her heroes and heroines – you may not be able to relate to having a sugar daddy or attending sex parties (or maybe you are? I don’t judge), but you can relate to her characters who are beautifully flawed and likeable, and who make mistakes when they try to do the right thing and end up having regrets anyway. Meldon’s characters are some of the most believable ones I’ve ever read, and I love how she blends the unusual with the very relatable.

You can easily get through this in one sitting. If the day job wasn’t a thing, I’d have read this in one go, too!

Please be aware that this is an erotic novella and not suitable for younger readers. There’s a lot of graphic content, so if you’re not comfortable with this genre this book isn’t for you.

Finn is out TOMORROW, friends! So if this sounds like your cuppa tea pre-order it now or make a note for tomorrow! <3

Buy it on Amazon | Add it on Goodreads


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Please note: All reviews contain affiliate links. I do not review books on this blog that I didn’t enjoy or believe in–all reviews are recommendations.

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Review: Zombie Playlist by K. J. Chapman

Book Review: Zombie Playlist by K. J. Chapman

“Dagger has survived the zombie apocalypse with nothing save a metal bat, blades, and assholery. With the company of an IPOD she attained courtesy of Dead-Dude, and King, the Bunker-Boy straggler she somehow acquired on her journey, she travels to the coast, putting down zombies, blowing up high-grade assholes, and teaching King how to ditch his pre-apocalypse conscience and keep his yellow ass alive.”

Book Review: Zombie Playlist by K. J. Chapman

What I thought:

*Thank you to the author for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review*

Zombie Playlist was exactly what I needed when I needed it. I read it shortly after Equal Rites and was still in a bit of a reading slump after two disappointing reads before that, but Dagger’s snarkiness got me out of the slump again!

Dagger has taken to the zombie apocalypse like a little duckling takes to water, and has done incredibly well at staying alive thanks to her general mistrust of other people. While others seek strength in numbers, Dagger knows that she’s best off on her own – until she has a moment and rescues King, who won’t leave her alone afterwards. Kinda like a lost puppy following the only person who’s scratched its ears recently.

This is perfect. Not only am I going to kill him, he’s going to die looking like a twat in a poncho.

Dagger isn’t cold and unfeeling, exactly, but she has survived thanks to basic assholery – glorious uncensored sarcasm abounds, friends. King, on the other hand, has waited it out inside a bunker for most of the apocalypse until he was forced to leave that, and knows nothing about surviving on his own. Dagger is the strength, and King is the kindness. Dagger brings out King’s survival instincts, and he brings out her softer side. They complement each other extremely well, and I loved watching their relationship as well as their individual characters grow.

What has this world come to? If he was my friend, or even just some dude I had travelled with, I would have at least run over his skull; popped his zombie ass like a zit. That’s what I would want if it were me. But, nope, some people are just bloody animals.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced zombie apocalypse novella with great characters which holds nothing back where gruesome detail is concerned, then this is a must-read for you! Its release date is in only a few days on the 4th September, so either mark that in your calendars or pre-order it now 😉

Buy it on Amazon | Add it on Goodreads


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Creating Characters Your Readers Will Love – Which Point of View is Right for Your Book?

It’s time for the final post in this series, friends! Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at how to create believable characters, how and why to craft the anti-baddie, and various other aspects of character creation, but today we’ll take a look at Point of View. It’s an essential part of your WIP, after all!

Who tells your story is one of the first things you decide before you start writing. Will there be one POV, or six? Will it be first person narrator, or third? When I was younger I struggled with this; the choice seemed SO important, and it never even occurred to me that I could just change it later (not that I finished any of my earlier drafts or thought about editing…).

I do have a preference now. My POV of choice is a third person narrator with multiple POVs. While I have used a first person narrator and a single POV on occasion in unpublished experiments, I fall more easily into third person and start every WIP that way. I rarely change my mind. It’s the POV that feels most natural to me when I’m writing.

Let’s take a look at the options available to you:

For many of us, a first person narrator comes easiest. We talk in first person, we send messages and emails in first person, so it only makes sense that you might write in first person, too!

Many of my writing buddies prefer first person to third person. It allows you to really get into your character’s head, and will make it easy to convey what they’re going through as they’re going through it. It makes your chapters more personal, since we feel like the character is talking to us.

At the back of my mind, Darin’s voice grows fainter: Find something, Laia. Something that will save me. Hurry.

No, another, louder part of me says. Lay low. Don’t risk spying until you’re certain you won’t get caught.

Which voice do I listen to? The spy or the slave? The fighter or the coward? I thought the answers to such questions would be easy. That was before I learned what real fear was.

(from An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir)

It’s also more limiting, which doesn’t have to be a weakness! A character written in first person gives the reader insight into everything the character does, sees, and thinks, but no more. This can create tension if done well, but can also leave your reader frustrated if done badly.

For some examples of excellent first person narrators, check out these books:

 

A second person narrator isn’t easy to pull off, but if you want to give it a try I suggest you experiment a little first before committing to anything. I haven’t read any books written entirely in second person, but The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern had some parts written like this. Have a look:

In this tent, suspended high above you, there are people. Acrobats, trapeze artists, aerialists. Illuminated by dozens of round glowing lamps hanging from the top of the tent like planets or stars.

There are no nets.

You watch the performance from this precarious vantage point, directly below the performers with nothing in between.

The reason it can work extremely well is because it makes everything personal. The writer addresses you, and effectively makes you a part of the story. When you’re reading The Night Circus, you feel like you’re experiencing the circus yourself. But it’s also easy to do badly; most people just aren’t used to writing in second person. Educational books and poetry are more likely to use second person, but it can be done in fiction – it’s just not as common. As a matter of fact, my blog posts are a mixture of first person and second person, because I’m addressing you but I’m also talking about my experiences and writing methods!

Here’s the one example I have read:

I love the third person narrator, because it allows you to get into your characters’ heads and give a little insight on the side. It’s a common choice in fiction, so you’d be in excellent company!

I’ve read several articles that state third person POVs can’t get into your character’s head as well as the first person narrator does, but I don’t think that’s true. I’d argue that third person narrators are just as capable as getting into your character’s head (and your readers’) as first person narrators. In fact, the books that have moved destroyed me the most were written in third person!

When the woman dared disobey him the child was so surprised she bit her fingers. She scarcely felt the small pain, vast like the barren wastes beyond the village’s godpost, and had been so since her first caterwauling cry. She was almost numb to it now.

(from Empress by Karen Miller)

You need to be careful, though, because it’s all too easy to switch narrator part way through. If this keeps happening to you, you may want to consider writing your book with several POVs (more on that below). It’s easily done – you’re writing a chapter from Kath’s POV, mention briefly how Jake left the room without a word because he felt like he needed to throw up – and just like that you’ve switched POV without even realising it! Because, you see, Kath only knows that Jake ran out of the room without a word. She might suspect it’s because he’s feeling sick, but she can’t know that because he hasn’t said anything. When you’re writing your first draft it’s easy to make a mistake like that, but it can be hard to spot on your own, so you need to be careful.

Take a look at these wonderful examples:

While I personally prefer multiple POVs, I don’t mind a single narrator telling the entire story. I prefer writing multiple POVs, but I’m not fussy when it comes to reading them.

Having a single POV means that one character tells the entire story. We’re not privy to anything the MC doesn’t know, and will unravel the plot as your character does. This can add a lot of tension, since we don’t know what’s going on behind the MCs back.

What a single narrator doesn’t mean is that your readers only get one opinion. Unless your character never talks to anyone and doesn’t make eye contact, the other characters in your story are likely to argue or support your character throughout. In this way, even though we don’t get whole chapters from their POV, we still know how they feel about the plot and other characters. Your side characters don’t have to fall short just because you’ve chosen a single narrator!

Here are two books with brilliant single POVs:

This is my favourite (I may have mentioned this already… *ahem*). Multiple POVs allow your reader to get a broader sense of what’s going on, but this also means that your characters need to be strong. If you have four POVs and three characters sound and act the same, you’ve got work to do! Every POV needs to add something unique to the story. One of the reasons Six of Crows works so well is because all six points of view have their own voice, and we know who’s talking without Bardugo needing to tell us. There’s a scene where Kaz asks the others what the easiest way to relieve a man of his purse is, and the answers that follow stand alone. No identifiers. No ‘so-and-so said’. But we know who’s talking, because Bardugo has created six strong characters who each stand out from the others.

From my own experience, your readers will either enjoy this or they won’t. Some readers love getting more angles and even knowing that the antagonist has set a trap their favourite characters aren’t aware off, but other readers think it takes away from the tension. Personally, I’m more tense knowing that a character I’m rooting for is walking into a trap. Of course, having more than one POV doesn’t mean one of those has to be the villain! Who you choose is up to you – just make sure they’re there for a reason.

I’ve read plenty of articles recently encouraging new writers to stay far away from multiple POVs. I don’t think that’s necessary. If you want your book to have six narrators, you go write six narrators – just make sure you create six different narrators. Make sure all six are strong, believable, and shine in their own right, and having more than one POV won’t be a problem. It creates more work, sure, but if you enjoy the character creation process like I do you won’t mind that.

More to love, more to hurt you 😉

 

This would be my recommendation of what to stay away from. At least until you find your feet. I’ve read a few books this year which had an omniscient narrator, and most of the time I find it irritating. If a chapter starts with Taylor’s thoughts, I don’t want it to switch to Hillary’s thoughts mid-sentence, and then switch back to Taylor before the paragraph is over. I’ll happily raise my hand and say it’s confusing, and I don’t get it.

You might like an omniscient POV because it knows everything, and can show the reader whatever it wants at any time. Personally, I always feel more detached from the characters, like I’m getting a bit of everything but I’m not getting any of it completely (kinda like buffets which serve however many different cuisines but haven’t mastered any of them).

I’m not saying it can’t be done well, but I do think it takes some skill. I love the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, but as a general rule I’m not a fan.

Here are some examples:

 

You’re excused if you’re writing your book with an omniscient narrator. Otherwise, choose your POV and stick to it. If you feel while you’re writing or editing (I hope for your sanity’s sake that you feel it while you’re still writing the scene) like the chapter would be better told from someone else’s POV, fix it. It’s not too late to change what you’re doing until you’ve hit publish.

If you do switch POV partway through a chapter, make sure there’s a clear scene break so we’re not confused by the sudden change. It’s as simple as tapping the space bar twice instead of once.

As with anything in this business, there’s no one right way of doing things. Go with your instincts. If you start writing your book and it just comes out as a first person narrator with multiple POVs, go with it! If you had plans of writing it in third person with one narrator but the opposite happens naturally as you write, don’t force your first choice. Let whatever happens organically happen.

And if you suddenly realise halfway through the first monster edit that your book needs to be rewritten from third person to first person, I send warm thoughts to you and your sanity.

And that’s it for another series, friends!

If you’ve missed anything or would like to remind yourself of a specific topic, here they are again:

(have you collected your free character questionnaire?)

In the next series, we’ll look at why you should write for yourself above anyone else, what it means to be a plotter or a pantser (or the plotster hybrid), and other general writing related topics, so keep an eye out for those! 😉 In the meantime, if you have any questions, ask away!

How do you decide which POV is right for your book? Do you have a preference when you read? Make yourself a cuppa, and let’s talk about books!


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Review: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #2)

Book Review: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #2)

“Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.”

Book Review: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #2)

What I thought:

Now THIS was the book I needed! I was beginning to worry that fantasy was losing its magic for me, but this one reminded me that me no longer caring about fantasy is about as likely as me never buying another book ever again. So it’s won already, and I haven’t even done the review yet 😀

It takes only a split second for life to go horribly wrong. To fix the mess, I need a thousand things to go right. The distance from one bit of luck to the next feels as great as the distance across oceans. But, I decide in this moment, I will bridge that distance, again and again, until I win. I will not fail.

There was just so much to love. I adored Mamie Rila, the Soul Catcher intrigued me and I loved every scene with her, Harper intrigued me and even more so now that we know a little more about his connection to Elias. I LOVED how much Laia has grown as a character. The foreshadowing was killing me.

Helene’s development got me the most, and the majority of my favourite scenes were hers. I’m hurting so much for her and everything she’s sacrificed and lost. She put everything on the line in this book, she’s fought so hard, and she’s lost everything regardless. I hope she finds a happy end; the poor girl has earned a bit of happiness!

“She deserves better than you pretending she didn’t exist,” Keenan says. I look up, shocked, expecting anger, but his dark eyes are sympathetic. It makes it worse somehow. “I know it hurts. Of all people, I know. But pain is how you know you loved her.”

The only thing I wasn’t impressed with was the continued love triangle possibility of Keenan-Laia-Elias, but that kind of took care of itself so I’m still a happy kitten 🙂 And I did like the dynamic between them! The boys were like little devils and angels sitting on one shoulder each, making Laia feel either strong or like a failure depending on who she was talking to.

I also completely ship Laia and the Nightbringer. That could happen, right? (sssshhhhhhh, nobody correct me)

I close my eyes and allow myself one moment to imagine a different world. In that world, Elias is a Tribal boy, and I am a jurist’s daughter. We meet in a market, and our love isn’t tainted by Blackcliff or by all the things he hates about himself. I hold myself in that world, just for a second.

Then I release it. Elias and I are finished. Now, there is only death.

All I need now is Book 3! I shall be a good girl and practice patience. If anyone has any tips, do pass them on.

Buy it on Amazon | Add it on Goodreads


Have you read A Torch Against the Night? Get some cookies, drop me a comment and let’s get this book club going!

Please note: All reviews contain affiliate links. I do not review books on this blog that I didn’t enjoy or believe in–all reviews are recommendations.

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WWW Wednesday 23rd August 2017

This meme is hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. A similar meme, This Week in Books is hosted by Lipsyy Lost and Found.

Why not join in? Just answer the following three questions in a post and then put a link to that post in the comments over at Taking on a World of Words.

WWW Wednesday

This meme will be categorised together with my book reviews. All links will get you to the book’s Goodreads listing, as always 🙂

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What I’m currently reading

Our Dark Duet

I’m finally getting around to reading Our Dark Duet <3 I treated myself not long ago and am almost halfway there now. In fact, by the time this post goes live on Wednesday and you’re reading it I’ve probably passed the halfway mark 😛 (Edit: I have.)

Blurb:

Kate Harker is a girl who isn’t afraid of the dark. She’s a girl who hunts monsters. And she’s good at it. August Flynn is a monster who can never be human, no matter how much he once yearned for it. He’s a monster with a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

Nearly six months after Kate and August were first thrown together, the war between the monsters and the humans is terrifying reality. In Verity, August has become the leader he never wished to be, and in Prosperity, Kate has become the ruthless hunter she knew she could be. When a new monster emerges from the shadows—one who feeds on chaos and brings out its victim’s inner demons—it lures Kate home, where she finds more than she bargained for. She’ll face a monster she thought she killed, a boy she thought she knew, and a demon all her own.

No Plot? No Problem!

I had to borrow this when I saw it in my library! I’ll be participating in NaNo again this year and this will be a big part of my preparation. I wasn’t going to start my prep until October but I thought if I read it now I can review it in time for October, so that you can decide whether you want to make it part of your own preparations 🙂 So far so good! It’s short so it doesn’t take long to read. Review to come at the end of September 😉

Blurb:

You’ve always wanted to write, but . . . just haven’t gotten around to it. No Plot? No Problem! is the kick in the pants you’ve been waiting for.

Let Chris Baty, founder of the rockin’ literary marathon National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo), guide you through four exciting weeks of hard-core noveling. Baty’s pep talks and essential survival strategies cover the initial momentum and energy of Week One, the critical “plot flashes” of Week Two, the “Can I quit now?” impulses of Week Three, and the champagne and roar of the crowd during Week Four. Whether you’re a first-time novelist who just can’t seem to get pen to paper or a results-oriented writer seeking a creative on-ramp into the world of publishing, this is the adventure for you.

So what are you waiting for? The No Plot? approach worked for the thousands of people who’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo, and it can work for you! Let No Plot? No Problem! help you get fired up and on the right track.

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What I recently finished reading

Mort

Hmmmm, this was good, but it’s not my new favourite Discworld novel as I thought it might be. It’s basically a story about a boy who messes up the space-time continuum because he can’t get himself to reap a girl he likes, and a man going through a mid-life crisis because a younger guy has taken his job. There’s more to it, of course, but that roughly sums up the main plot.

It was nice to see one of the old characters make an appearance, and I enjoyed it a lot more towards the end when everything was coming together, but it hasn’t taken the spot of favourite Discworld novel away from Equal Rites 🙂

Blurb:

In this Discworld installment, Death comes to Mort with an offer he can’t refuse — especially since being, well, dead isn’t compulsory. As Death’s apprentice, he’ll have free board and lodging, use of the company horse, and he won’t need time off for family funerals. The position is everything Mort thought he’d ever wanted, until he discovers that this perfect job can be a killer on his love life.

A Torch Against the Night

This was so good, friends <3 I won’t say too much now because my review will be on here tomorrow, but I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to Book 3 🙂

Blurb:

Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.

The Plot Thickens

I’ve finally finished The Plot Thickens. It was good and gave me lots to think about, but it was just a little too dry for me. I prefer my theory reads humorous as you might know by now, and this wasn’t that. I learned something but I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it.

Blurb:

As a literary agent, Noah Lukeman hears thousands of book pitches a year. Often the stories sound great in concept, but never live up to their potential on the page. Lukeman shows beginning and advanced writers how to implement the fundamentals of successful plot development, such as character building and heightened suspense and conflict. Writers will find it impossible to walk away from this invaluable guide—a veritable fiction-writing workshop—without boundless new ideas.

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What I think I’ll read next

The Final Empire

I’ve been waiting to read this for ages! Since I felt I needed more awesome high fantasy reads in my life, I figured now was the perfect time 🙂 My only concern is that I’ve seen so many excellent reviews and no negative words that my expectations are too high, but I’ve a feeling it won’t disappoint <3

Blurb:

In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with colour once more?
In Brandon Sanderson’s intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage— Allomancy, a magic of the metals.
 

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

Originally, this was going to be my next theory read but then I found No Plot? No problem! and plans changed. I’ll definitely get to it next, though, it’s been waiting on my shelf for too long!

Blurb:

“A superb tutorial for anyone wanting to learn from pros how to polish fiction writing with panache.”– Library Journal

 

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Have you read any of these and would like to chat about it? I look forward to hearing from you if you do – just leave a comment below and we can get this book club started!

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A-Z Name Prompts – R

It’s time for another writing prompt, my dears! 🙂 I had fun with this one, which is why it’s a little longer than my usual prompts. Don’t worry if you’re short on time, though, it’s still pretty short 🙂

This week’s winner is:

 

As always, if you fancy giving it a go feel free to use this prompt. That’s what it’s there for, after all 😉 If you do, please link back here so I can be nosy.

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Royale

(f.: regal one)

Royale swore when she slipped in the fresh mud, and landed on her butt. Curse breaking into her own castle at night; her favourite trousers were ruined. Fabulous.

“You okay?”

“Fuck off, Jude.”

“Hey now, is that any way to treat an old friend? Come on,” he held out one hand for her, “let me help you up.”

She scoffed and pulled herself up. She didn’t need help. She didn’t need anyone.

“Stop fretting over me like I’m a five-year old. I can look after myself.”

“Yeah, I just saw how well you–” One glare shut him up. His humour was the last thing she needed tonight.

“Let’s just get on with it, shall we? The gate won’t be unguarded for long.”

“Your wish is my command, princess.” He did a terrible curtsy bow, and straightened when she shot him another glare.

The gap in the wall was tight, but she’d squeezed through worse–and certainly filthier–over the last ten months. Some thorns and spider webs wouldn’t get in her way now she was so close to coming home.

For the past ten months, she’d been on the run. She’d picked up Jude along the way in return for his silence–her disguise had been good enough to fool everyone else, but he had recognised for what she was. Princess Royale. Heiress to the throne. (Her parents had had a flare for the dramatic, calling her Royale and her brother Prince. Prince Prince. He was definitely off worse than her). Now she just needed to sneak in before her brother realised she was back, stab him in the throat while he slept, and sit on her throne by morning.

Royale–or Roya, as Jude had come to call her against her every wish and warning–brushed the webs off herself as Jude squeezed through the gap behind her.

“Welcome home, Princess Roya!” The fool was grinning. Like this was his big moment instead of hers. Although, she had to admit, she had imagined her big moment with less dirt and just a little more gold. Still, that could be rectified. Just as soon as she got to Prince the prince the idiot.

“Shut up and let’s get moving.”

“You have a plan, I take it?”

“You think I’d just walk in without a plan?”

He shrugged. “No, but I hoped you’d finally share it with me.”

She frowned. Jude had proven useful, but she couldn’t be sure that he wouldn’t alert the guards if he knew. He’d been as loyal as any stranger could be, but most people were opposed to regicide. As far as he was concerned, she might as well have been here to talk it over with her brother over breakfast, or midnight pastries.

“You don’t need to know. In fact,” she pinned him against an ivy-covered stone wall, “there’s no need for you to come any further than this. I’ll go the rest of the way myself.”

He sighed. “Ah. I see. That presents us with a problem now, doesn’t it?”

She was too stunned to back away and too stunned to cut his throat. This didn’t sound like Jude. There was something deep inside his voice, something old and primal, and it made her shiver.

“Who the fuck are you?”

Jude-not-Jude smiled. “Haven’t you wondered how I saw through your disguise when we first met?”

Understanding washed over her in the same instant that a hazy fog stretched in her mind. She backed away but only found more ivy and cold stone.

“Stay away from me!”

“I’m afraid I can’t.”

“Are you helping my brother? Did he sent you?”

He chuckled. “No. Your brother doesn’t even know I exist, but he’s beginning to suspect. You’re coming with me, Royale. I imagine you’ll struggle, but I advise against it. I’ll take you bruised or not.”

“Like hell I will!”

She should have run. She should have tried, at least, but the impossible nightmare before her was already warping her mind. Running seemed like a good idea; she just couldn’t remember how. Her legs felt too heavy for any movement. A hot bath and a nap–that’s what she needed.

Her knees went weak, and she fell into his too-human arms.

“Why?” Her voice sounded muffled, but his was clear in her mind.

“Because the prince can’t die tonight, Roya, but neither can you.” It grinned, so much like Jude and so different to him, too. “Trust me, dearest sister.”

There was so much she needed to know. Why had the monster from their nightmares let them come this far only to kidnap her? Why had it travelled with her for the past six months? And why had it called her sister?

But her mind went numb, her vision turned dark, and her world went silent.


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Review: Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #3)

Book Review: Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #3)

“The last thing the wizard Drum Billet did, before Death laid a bony hand on his shoulder, was to pass on his staff of power to the eighth son of an eighth son. Unfortunately for his colleagues in the chauvinistic (not to say misogynistic) world of magic, he failed to check that the baby in question was a son. Everybody knows that there’s no such thing as a female wizard. But now it’s gone and happened, there’s nothing much anyone can do about it. Let the battle of the sexes begin…”

Book Review: Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #3)

What I thought:

Okay, so, erm, my only notes for this are ‘love Granny Weatherwax <3’

*ahem*

I fail at reviewing this series, I really do.

There were fashions in wizardry, just like anything else; sometimes wizards were thin and gaunt and talked to animals (the animals didn’t listen, but it’s the thought that counts) while at other times they tended towards the dark and saturnine, with little black pointed beards. Currently Aldermanic was In. Cutangle swelled with modesty.

I might just drown you in quotes and hope that does the trick… *hides*

I chose to read Equal Rites because I’d just had a couple of disappointing reads, and knew Pratchett would make it all better. He did 🙂 Equal Rites was every bit as mad as I needed it to be, and made me laugh on every page. My phone is littered with pictures of quotes! (hence why I can drown you in them today – the temptation to just throw the actual book at you is BIG)

And thus it was that while the entire faculty of Unseen University were dining in the venerable hall the doors were flung back with a dramatic effect that was rather spoiled when one of them rebounded off a waiter and caught Granny a crack on the shin. Instead of the defiant strides she had intended to make across the chequered floor she was forced to half-hop, half-limp. But she hoped that she hopped with dignity.

But it didn’t just make me laugh, it also made me think, and that’s why it’s my current favourite Discworld novel. I do have 38 left to read, of course, so I imagine that’ll be topped sooner or later. I have high hopes for Mort, which I’ve possibly already read by the time you see this review on my blog 🙂

Sometimes he seemed to be saying that nothing existed unless people thought it did, and the world was really only there at all because people kept on imagining it. But then he seemed to be saying that there were lots of worlds, all nearly the same and all sort of occupying the same place but all separated by the thickness of a shadow, so that everything that ever could happen would have somewhere to happen in.

Equal Rites was just the right amount of hilarity and philosophy for a novel as mad as this series. You can read it independently, so if you haven’t read The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic this won’t spoil anything. I only recommend that you do start somewhere, because these really are magical.

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Creating Characters Your Readers Will Love – The Anti-Baddie

Over the past few weeks we’ve already talked quite a lot about how to create believable characters. What we haven’t looked at so much are redeeming qualities, or why you might want your villains to be likeable in the first place! The short answer is conflict. The long answer is below 😉

You’ve heard plenty of talk about the anti-hero, I’m sure! People love an anti-hero – a hero who has some negative traits like assassination or thieving besides the good ones – but they love a good anti-baddie just as much.

Your antagonist probably wants to rule the world, create chaos, and generally make life difficult for your protagonist (or something along those lines, anyway – I’m not here to tell your villains their business). But it doesn’t have to end there. Villains rarely see themselves as the bad guys, so there’s no harm in giving them some good traits, too!

We all love an antagonist we love to hate, but I love the antagonist I have conflicting feelings for even more. So he’s an assassin – he’s a cat person, too, and will stop to pet every kitten he meets! (one might argue that’s not really a positive trait, exactly… but don’t listen to those people. they’re not cat people and can’t be trusted.)

Or how about the evil queen who wants to murder a village – but only because it would save her sister’s life, and even though she’ll despise herself for it?

The redeeming quality can be something emotional like that, or it can be an action. Your baddie might be a murderer, but oh look, he volunteers in a soup kitchen once a week because really he feels guilty about all the lives he’s taken. Or what if he doesn’t want to kill all those people or seek world domination, and only does it because someone else is pulling the strings? Your villains can commit crimes without enjoying themselves or without being the mastermind behind the plans.

All those things make your readers more conflicted. It’s easy to hate the antagonist who creates chaos for chaos’ sake, but it’s harder to hate someone who’s doing all those evil things for a good reason, despite having a good side, or knowing they’ll live with the guilt for the rest of their lives!

As we’ve discussed a few weeks ago, every character has strengths and weaknesses. I won’t go into detail now because we’ve already covered this topic, but in the case of your baddie his weakness could also be his redeeming quality. You could see the assassin with the hit list of ten high-ranking government employees – or you could see the brother who’s scared for his sister’s life because she has talents said government has just outlawed. He goes on to kill some of those high-ranking people, maybe even all of them (where’s your hero in this? why isn’t he saving them??), but he only does it to protect his sister, who may not even know what her brother is up to! Maybe he didn’t tell her because he knows that she would shoulder the guilt, and by not telling her he’s trying to protect her further!

Years ago I read an article – and I could kick myself for not remembering where! – about what makes redemption impossible for any character. This doesn’t affect just your anti-baddie, either, but your heroes, too. There were three actions the article stated no character could recover from. I remember two of them *ahem*

It stated that killing dogs and molesting or otherwise hurting children are actions no character, no matter how good otherwise, can recover from.

While you might disagree, this is something you need to consider. Your character might have a good reason for killing a dog – an exception could be if the dog is dying and in pain, and the character shows mercy and ends its suffering – but you’d need to do something pretty special to let your character recover from it. A lot of people are protective of their dogs and children, and if your character harms one or both chances are he’s had it.

(If you somehow know which article I’m talking about, please let me know so I can link it)

… don’t count. If you ask me. You can disagree with me, obviously, but if something terrible happened in their past and they use it as a reason to do bad things now then that’s not a redeeming quality. So what if your antagonist was kicked out from home at a young age and was despised by his parents before that? He’s still capable of making his own decisions, and deciding to destroy someone’s world – or everyone’s world if your villain is so inclined – is a decision he’s made.

Reading to sick children at the hospital twice a month is a redeeming quality. Getting revenge for something that happened in your past is not. The former is trying to be a good person at least in some aspects of his life. The latter is committing a crime because he can.

If you think you can convince me otherwise, bring it on 😉

Not every villain needs to have a kind side. As I said above, we love baddies we love to hate, and they’re definitely easier to hate when they’re all evil with no flicker of goodness in them. Literature and cinema are full of excellent examples! Just look at Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. Sometimes the bad guys are just evil, and their re-occurrence on TV and in books shows just how much we love it. But plenty of them are more complex than that, too. Next time you create your antagonist, consider creating an anti-baddie, because they need our love and hatred, too <3

Who are your favourite anti-baddies? Do you prefer your bad guys all evil with no kindness, or do you prefer them with a few redeeming qualities? Make a tea, have a biscuit, and let’s chat!


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Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Book Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

“As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life, and for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.”

Book Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

What I thought:

I’m very conflicted about this one. There were aspects of this I really enjoyed, but I feel like the parts that didn’t work for me outweigh them just a little bit.

Never Let Me Go was intriguing, at least in the beginning. I wanted to know what happened next, but the big reveal of why Kathy and the others are special actually comes quite early into the book, and after that there were no more plot twists or surprises.

It’s well written and I enjoyed the prose, but Kathy had a habit of rambling which made some of the paragraphs quite long. The plot itself is relatively disturbing, but I think I must have read too many twisted stories lately because I didn’t find it all that dark.

I stayed beside her like that for as long as they let me, three hours, maybe longer. And as I say, for almost all of that time, she was far away inside herself. But just once, as she was twisting herself in a way that seemed scarily unnatural, and I was on the verge of calling the nurses for more painkillers, just for a few seconds, no more, she looked straight at me and she knew exactly who I was.

Ishiguro has an incredible understanding of the human mind and motivations. For me that was the highlight, because the characters were very human and believable in their actions. In a way this is a fantastic study of human behaviour and of why we do the things we do, and even of why we react one way when we mean to do another. I found that part of it fascinating!

Then again, nothing much happened for most of the book and I didn’t find it exciting. It was very predictable. Because their fates are determined so early on there’s no real reason to root for them. You know what’s going to happen from maybe a third through the book.

For once (and I doubt you’ll ever read me type this again) the film actually worked better for me in some respects. You don’t get the humanity of it like you do in the book (and that was my one highlight, don’t forget), but you don’t get the rambling, either, and the plot moves on faster.

It’s nice, but it lacked excitement. I can recommend this for the human psyche aspect of it. If you’re looking for something fast-paced with plot twists and surprises, this may not be for you.

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WWW Wednesday 9th August 2017

This meme is hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. A similar meme, This Week in Books is hosted by Lipsyy Lost and Found.

Why not join in? Just answer the following three questions in a post and then put a link to that post in the comments over at Taking on a World of Words.

WWW Wednesday

This meme will be categorised together with my book reviews. All links will get you to the book’s Goodreads listing, as always 🙂

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What I’m currently reading

A Torch Against the Night

This is everything I needed from a fantasy book <3 I’m almost done with it now and am hoping to finish it either tomorrow or Thursday morning. I’m a little behind on my reviews, though, so it may not be this week.

Blurb:

Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.

The Plot Thickens

I haven’t made any progress on this but will try to fit it in somewhere this week. Last week was a little busy and all over the place, but now that things have calmed down I should have time for it.

Blurb:

As a literary agent, Noah Lukeman hears thousands of book pitches a year. Often the stories sound great in concept, but never live up to their potential on the page. Lukeman shows beginning and advanced writers how to implement the fundamentals of successful plot development, such as character building and heightened suspense and conflict. Writers will find it impossible to walk away from this invaluable guide—a veritable fiction-writing workshop—without boundless new ideas.

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What I recently finished reading

The Sword of Shannara Trilogy

I gave up on it :/ I hate giving up on books but I just couldn’t get into this. With shorter books I tend to finish them regardless of how much I’m enjoying them, but this one has 1,191 and the tiniest font I’ve ever seen in a novel. There’s just too much of it for me to soldier on, especially considering the many other books waiting to be read!

Blurb:

THE SWORD OF SHANNARA: Long ago, the world of Shea Ohmsford was torn apart by war. But the half-human, half-elfin, Shea now lives in peace – until the forbidding figure of Allanon appears, to reveal that the long dead Warlock Lord lives again

THE ELFSTONES OF SHANNARA: Ancient evil threatens the Elves and the Races of Man. For the Ellcrys, the tree of long-lost Elven magic, is dying – loosing the spell of Forbidding that locks the hordes of Demons away from Earth. Only one source has the power to stop it: the Elfstones of Shannara. 

THE WISHSONG OF SHANNARA: Evil stalks the Four Lands as the Ildatch, immemorial book of evil spells, has stirred to eldritch life. Once again Allanon, ancient Druid Protector of the Races, must seek the help of a descendant of Jerle Shannara.

Equal Rights

This was everything I wanted from a Terry Pratchett book! Writing the review might be hard, though, because my only notes are ‘love Granny Weatherwax <3’ 😀 It’s my current favourite Discworld novel but I suspect Mort will top that!

Blurb:

They say that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it is not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.

The last thing the wizard Drum Billet did, before Death laid a bony hand on his shoulder, was to pass on his staff of power to the eighth son of an eighth son. Unfortunately for his colleagues in the chauvinistic (not to say misogynistic) world of magic, he failed to check that the baby in question was a son. Everybody knows that there’s no such thing as a female wizard. But now it’s gone and happened, there’s nothing much anyone can do about it. Let the battle of the sexes begin…

Zombie Playlist

I was so excited to find my ARC waiting in my inbox one morning! After The Sword of Shannara not working for me I needed something that made me laugh, and this made me laugh a lot! I’d already seen teasers of Dagger online but reading the finished novella was so much better. Dagger has a wicked sense of humour, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Zombie Playlist will be published on the 4th September, so go mark it now if you love snarky zombie apocalypse stories!

Blurb:

Dagger has survived the zombie apocalypse with nothing save a metal bat, blades, and assholery. With the company of an IPOD she attained courtesy of Dead-Dude, and King, the Bunker-Boy straggler she somehow acquired on her journey, she travels to the coast, putting down zombies, blowing up high-grade assholes, and teaching King how to ditch his pre-apocalypse conscience and keep his yellow ass alive.

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What I think I’ll read next

Mort

With A Torch Against the Night begging to be read and the ARC of Zombie Playlist, Mort had to wait – but it’s definitely my next read now and I’m dying (hehe… get it? dying? MORT?) to get to it! It’s already in my locker at work, I just need to finish my current read now 🙂

Blurb:

In this Discworld installment, Death comes to Mort with an offer he can’t refuse — especially since being, well, dead isn’t compulsory. As Death’s apprentice, he’ll have free board and lodging, use of the company horse, and he won’t need time off for family funerals. The position is everything Mort thought he’d ever wanted, until he discovers that this perfect job can be a killer on his love life.

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Have you read any of these and would like to chat about it? I look forward to hearing from you if you do – just leave a comment below and we can get this book club started!

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