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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…”

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, actually, 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. It can be read independently, so if you haven’t read The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic then this won’t spoil anything. I only recommend that you do start somewhere, because these really are magical.


Have you read Equal Rites? What’s your favourite Discworld novel? Get some cookies, drop me a comment and let’s get this book club going!

I don’t review books professionally. These reviews are mainly a small summary and my opinion on books I’ve loved, they are not intended to be anything more. All ‘reviews’ include a picture, title and name of author linking to the book’s Goodreads listing, the blurb from the back of the book and my non-professional verdict.

For all other book reviews, please take a look here.

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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

“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.”

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 all very predictable, and 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, but if you’re looking for something fast-paced with plot twists and surprises around every corner this may not be for you.


Have you read Never Let Me Go? Get some cookies, drop me a comment and let’s get this book club going!

I don’t review books professionally. These reviews are mainly a small summary and my opinion on books I’ve loved, they are not intended to be anything more. All ‘reviews’ include a picture, title and name of author linking to the book’s Goodreads listing, the blurb from the back of the book and my non-professional verdict.

For all other book reviews, please take a look here.

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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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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 – Q

This is going to be a short one, friends. I didn’t have a lot of time last week to prepare this in advance, so I’ll have to improvise even more than usual ^-^

This week’s winner is:

Where were you all this week? :O Is it because the prompts were too similar? It’s probably because the prompts were too similar. My baby name book has 2,001 names in it but not even one whole page for Q!

If the prompt speaks to you, feel free to use it. If you do, please leave a link here so I can be nosy <3

***

Quillan

(m; cub)

I watched them from the cool shade underneath the thicket. The early morning sun was still weak with no real heat to it, but the men ahead of me were sweating from the heavy crates they were moving. I had no idea what was in those crates; not once had they dropped one, or talked about what was inside. I couldn’t smell anything, so it probably wasn’t food.

One of the men looked my way, and I sank deeper into the soft moss and thin branches. I’d been out here almost every day for the past ten moons, and they hadn’t spotted me once. I had learned a lot from them in that time – that I’d never fit in with their society, for one. Not that I wanted to. I looked like them and I could think their words, but I’d never tried saying them out loud before. The other day two people had shook hands and clapped each other on the back, and I wasn’t sure why they’d done it. It was similar to the way my pack brothers and sisters nuzzled each other in greeting, but I knew nothing about their ways. For all I knew they had threatened each other; although, I couldn’t imagine how a threat could be effective without growling or baring of fangs.

The men disappeared around a corner and silence fell once again. I’d watched them often enough by now to know their routine. They’d be back soon for more crates until the sun stood high enough to blind me and drive me out of my hiding spot. I wanted to inch closer, but I didn’t dare. I wasn’t supposed to be so close to them in the first place, but I wasn’t going to get answers by hiding forever.

I quickly scratched my ear, and turned around. My pack leader wouldn’t be happy if he knew I’d come this close to human territory, but it was the only place that held any answers for me. Many moons ago one of the men had killed one of my brothers, and left him to rot. I couldn’t figure out what the point of the kill had been. We killed to eat, to survive. We fought to assert dominance, but we didn’t kill just because we could. The whole pack would be weaker for it if we did that – but the man had done it, and the loss still hurt.

Maybe, if I learned to use their words not just in my head but out loud like they did, I could pretend to be one of them for long enough to learn their ways. Perhaps there had been a reason behind the kill, after all. A reason only humans understood.

Our pack was weaker for the loss. If there was no reason, I could still stay long enough to take revenge.


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Check out This Sci-Fi and Fantasy Book Promo This Weekend!

This weekend, Rise of the Sparrows is included in this huge monster promotion! Be sure to check it out – it’s 100 amazing additions to your sci-fi and fantasy reading list! 😉

Sci-Fi and Fantasy Promo

“As a homeless orphan, shunned for having the gift, Rachael knows how to survive. The visions of people dying are only hers to see. The shadows are her safety. When Cephy comes into her life, having a friend—a friend as feared by the villagers as Rachael—seems too good to be true.

And it is. Her visions are worse since Cephy came along, and Rachael’s gut feeling urges her to walk the other way. Alone.

When Cephy burns down her old home, the villagers respond with violence: they call on the White Guard to take Rachael and Cephy away for execution. Together they flee into a world they know nothing about. In the unknown awaits a Mist Woman, a prophecy, and a young rebel who sounds sincere –

but in Rachael’s experience, no one ever is. And how can she trust him when he believes in an ancient prophecy that seems to refer to her, and asks her to commit regicide so that people with the gift can be free?

Suddenly the cold shadows of Blackrock’s winter don’t seem so bad, and Rachael is torn between finally having food and warm shelter, and surviving on her own as she always has. The Sparrows—fighters of the resistance—believe in her because the prophecy names her. But can she be the leader they need when she can’t control her own magic?

Rachael knows the struggles the gifted endure all too well. Perhaps it’s time she stopped hiding, and fought back.”


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Review: The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov

“A millennium into the future two advancements have altered the course of human history: the colonization of the galaxy and the creation of the positronic brain. Isaac Asimov’s Robot novels chronicle the unlikely partnership between a New York City detective and a humanoid robot who must learn to work together. Like most people left behind on an over-populated Earth, New York City police detective Elijah Baley had little love for either the arrogant Spacers or their robotic companions. But when a prominent Spacer is murdered under mysterious circumstances, Baley is ordered to the Outer Worlds to help track down the killer. The relationship between Life and his Spacer superiors, who distrusted all Earthmen, was strained from the start. Then he learned that they had assigned him a partner: R. Daneel Olivaw. Worst of all was that the “R” stood for robot–and his positronic partner was made in the image and likeness of the murder victim! ”

What I thought:

Well, this smashed my expectations! For reasons I can’t explain now or then I was reluctant to start this. It was so. good. friends.

If this is our future, friends, it’s bleak. I think I’d be with the Medievalists on this one and shout ‘Back to the soil!’ (quietly, in my room where no one can hear me because I’m too socially awkward to do it in public) but then again maybe that’s just because I don’t know anything else. It’s hard to imagine a future where people don’t remember what windows were used for.

In The Caves of Steel, every aspect of life is planned for you. Depending on your social status defined by your job level, you might eat in a soup kitchen every night and shower in a communal bathroom, because resources are too tight to use all the water you want, or buy as much fresh produce as you want. Not that there is much fresh produce; even meat is mass-produced using chemistry. Barely anyone can afford the real thing, but once they do it’s a privilege they’d rather not lose.

Baley wouldn’t commit himself, but now he wondered sickly if ever a man fought harder for that buck, whatever it was, or felt its loss more deeply, than a City dweller fought to keep from losing his Sunday night option on a chicken drumstick – a real-flesh drumstick from a once-living bird.

Cities aren’t like we know them now but gigantic steel caves, shielding the people inside from fresh air, actual sunshine, and the night sky. In fact, people have become so used to living inside their domes, that the idea of walking outside for any length of time seems impossible.

Elija Baley lives inside such a City, and like most Earthmen he is deeply suspicious of robots. So he’s not impressed when his boss asks him to solve a murder with a robot as his partner – but not just any robot. Daneel is a Spacer robot, and if there’s one thing Earthmen despise more than robots its Spacers.  Earthmen see Spacers as terrible snobs, while Spacers see Earthmen as filthy residue, so when I say he’s not impressed…

Daneel looks more real than any robot Baley has ever seen, and it’s not long before Baley suspects Daneel of being the murderer. And he really wants to crack this case, too, because if he does he’s promised a higher social rank and therefore more privileges (like actual, fresh meat every now and again)

City culture meant optimum distribution of food, increasing utilization of yeasts and hydroponics. New York City spread over two thousand square miles and at last census its population was well over twenty million. There were some eight hundred Cities on Earth, average population, ten million.

Each City became a semiautonomous unit, economically all but self-sufficient. It could root itself in, gird itself about, burrow itself under. It became a steel cave, a tremendous, self-contained cave of steel and concrete.

I love how this book looks back on our time now in such a nostalgic way, and I’m truly amazed with what Asimov did here. His vision for the future was so vivid reading this, and I think that was one of my worries; that this would just be another scifi book talking about flying cars and robots who are superior in every way, but it’s not like that at all. Baley even points out once or twice why robots aren’t that superior. It all feels so believable, so well thought through. And it becomes even more incredible when I remember that this book was written in 1954, when all this must have been even more astounding.


Have you read The Caves of Steel? Get some cookies, drop me a comment and let’s get this book club going!

I don’t review books professionally. These reviews are mainly a small summary and my opinion on books I’ve loved, they are not intended to be anything more. All ‘reviews’ include a picture, title and name of author linking to the book’s Goodreads listing, the blurb from the back of the book and my non-professional verdict.

For all other book reviews, please take a look here.

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Creating Characters Your Readers Will Love – Your Character’s History

We’ve already looked at the basics of creating intriguing characters as well as your character’s strengths and weaknesses, but today I’d like to delve a little deeper.

Our characters’ lives are complex. It’s easy to get wrapped up in what they’re afraid of, what their goals are, and what their odd little speech quirks are that we sometimes forget that our little fictional babies didn’t start with Chapter One. They started way before that (unless Chapter One is your MC’s birth, in which case excuse me), and just like with us their history has turned them into the complex creatures they are when your story begins.

Your character’s history is something that will likely pop up sooner or later while you’re writing anyway, so it can’t hurt to be prepared. As with all aspects of writing a book, it’s not necessary for you to know every tiny detail before you start writing the first paragraph – if you’re a pantser you might even prefer it that way! – but knowing at least some of the more basic details can help you when a side character suddenly asks your MC where he’s come from, or why he’s on this journey.

In Six of Crows, for example, Inej had a happy childhood walking the tightrope and generally getting a pretty good grasp over her balance – until she got kidnapped, shipped off on a slaver ship, and sold to a whorehouse. Both of those things – first her childhood then the slavery – had a huge impact on her life, play a massive role in the books, and influence her character development.

In Reflections, Rama’s history is everything. Before the beginning of the book she was raped, and she’s never told anyone about it. This affects the way she sees herself, her confidence, and her desire to become someone else, if only for a brief moment, which only informs the entire plot!

I’m currently reading A Torch Against the Night, the sequel to An Ember in the Ashes. Elias, a Martial who has grown up with his people’s brutality and superiority over just about everyone else, hates the things he’s expected to do and the way he’s meant to treat the other races. He’s seen this cruelty all his life, and it informs his decision to flee the Empire and help Laia, a Scholar girl he’s been taught to kill without question if told to.

Two examples from my own books: Rachael, my main character in the Relics of Ar’Zac trilogy, grew up as a homeless orphan hated by the other villagers because she has magic. She’s paranoid and very suspicious of strangers by the time the story starts. She’s also starved for love and friendship, so when she meets Cephy, a little girl who can control fire and is as hated by the other villagers as Rachael, she’s on her guard but she’s also tempted by the possibility of having the first friend of her life.

Doran, one of my four main characters in Darkened Light, travels and thieves his way through life, but he hasn’t always been a thief constantly on the move. He used to have a happy childhood growing up with his older brother, until the accident (Darkened Light isn’t out yet so I’ll leave it at that to avoid spoilers). He ran away from home, lived in Cairdh for a little while where he learned how to pick locks, pockets, and the prize of shiny valuables, and moved on when the monotony became boring. When the book starts he’s fairly selfish, a wee bit arrogant, and has a habit of getting himself into danger. But he has a kind and loyal side, too, and as the plot progresses he battles with which Doran he wants to be.

They inspire conflict! At the very least your character’s history affects some of her decisions and personality like in Six of Crows, but at most it can affect the entire plot like in Reflections and An Ember in the Ashes!

A few weeks ago I uploaded a character questionnaire, and some of the questions included are there to help you figure out your character’s past. Has your character ever been in love? What’s their earliest memory? Is he holding on to something he maybe shouldn’t be? You can still download the questionnaire here for free – just scroll down to the bottom of the post and it’s there waiting for you 🙂

How do you figure out your character’s history? Do you use a questionnaire, too, or do you use other methods? Pour yourself a tea and share away! 🙂


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Review: Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

‘A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

“Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“I’m a panda,” he says at the door. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

So, punctuation really does matter, even if it is only occasionally a matter of life and death.

Now, we all know the basics of punctuation. Or do we? A look at most neighborhood signage tells a different story. Through sloppy usage and low standards on the internet, in e-mail, and now text messages, we have made proper punctuation an endangered species.

In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, former editor Truss dares to say, in her delightfully urbane, witty, and very English way, that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are. This is a book for people who love punctuation and get upset when it is mishandled. From the invention of the question mark in the time of Charlemagne to George Orwell shunning the semicolon, this lively history makes a powerful case for the preservation of a system of printing conventions that is much too subtle to be mucked about with.’

What I thought:

If you’ve been following my reviews for any length of time, you may have picked up on the fact I like my theory books funny by now. And this books was funny, friends. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a theory read this much, neither have I ever genuinely looked forward to coming back to one. This book got me. I think we connected.

Either this will ring bells for you, or it won’t. A printed banner has appeared on the concourse of a petrol station near to where I live. “Come inside,” it says, “for CD’s, VIDEO’S, DVD’s, and BOOK’s.”

If this satanic sprinkling of redundant apostrophes causes no little gasp of horror or quickening of the pulse, you should probably put down this book at once.

It’s hard to pick quotes to share with you because I want to show off all of it!

If you’re struggling with the difference between it’s and its, then this book is perfect for you. If you don’t see the problem with the CD’s and VIDEO’s above, you’ll either not get anything out of this or it’ll blow your mind – if you’re open to the idea of learning a bit of punctuation, that is. And you should be, because punctuation is part of language and we kind of need that.

There are people who embrace the Oxford comma and people who don’t, and I’ll just say this: never get between these people when drink has been taken.

Truss also delves into the history of punctuation, which was interesting. If that’s not your thing, don’t worry – humour abounds throughout 🙂

While I didn’t learn anything new (besides history facts) it made me laugh on every page, and what more can you want from a theory book? (besides being educational, obviously) This is perfect if you’re struggling with any aspect of punctuation, or even just if you need a laugh, badly, because this book will deliver both. I’ll leave you with another quote, because I can’t just not share this one:

Ever since it came along, grammarians have warned us to be wary of the exclamation mark, mainly because, even when we try to muffle it with brackets (!), it still shouts, flashes like neon, and jumps up and down. In the family of punctuation, where the full stop is daddy and the comma is mummy, and the semicolon quietly practices the piano with crossed hands, the exclamation mark is the big attention-deficit brother who gets overexcited and breaks things and laughs too loudly.


Have you read Eats, Shoots & Leaves? Get some cookies, drop me a comment and let’s get this book club going!

I don’t review books professionally. These reviews are mainly a small summary and my opinion on books I’ve loved, they are not intended to be anything more. All ‘reviews’ include a picture, title and name of author linking to the book’s Goodreads listing, the blurb from the back of the book and my non-professional verdict.

For all other book reviews, please take a look here.

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Review: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (The Invisible Library #1)

“Irene must be at the top of her game or she’ll be off the case – permanently…

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.”

What I thought:

This is a book where librarians are awesome, have their own awesome way of doing magic, and where sometimes, dragons and librarians work together to save the world. I may have been slightly biased to adore the hell out of this.

It was so easy for me to fall into this – partly because like me, Irene works at a library and loves books. Just my library isn’t super secret. Or anywhere near as awesome, if we’re being honest.

One of the best things for me was that the librarians have their own unique way of doing magic called the Language. With it they can tell dead things to move for them, doors to unlock, and fire-hydrants to explode to stop angry gargoyles or furious dogs. *ahem* For example.

And as a Librarian she had one big advantage that nobody else had – not necromancers, Fae, dragons, ordinary humans or anyone. It was called the Language. Only Librarians could read it. Only Librarians could use it. It could affect certain aspects of reality. It was extremely useful, even if the vocabulary needed constant revision.

I love me a good multiverse, and guess what this had? DRAGONS AND MISCHIEVOUS FAE IN A MULTIVERSE! But what’s even better than all that? Some books only existed in some universes, while others were exclusive to one specific universe. *be still my heart*

The writing was relaxed and effortless, almost chatty, which made it ever easier to get into the story.

It wasn’t about a higher mission to save worlds. It was about finding unique works of fiction, and saving them in a place out of time and space. Perhaps some people might think that was a petty way to spend eternity, but Irene was happy with her choice. Anyone who really loved a good story would understand.

Despite all that, I didn’t connect with the characters. Irene’s adventure was exciting enough, but I didn’t connect with her personally, or with her minion, Kai. I was more interested in the side characters, like Bradamant who Irene describes as a back-stabbing bitch but who I felt had an intriguing history with the library and possibly the main villain, too. I’m excited to read the sequel at some point, and might make it part of my next book haul (which will probably have to wait for NaNo, tho) just so I can find out more about Bradamant.

(Oh hey, that’s the last of my holiday reads reviewed! Hurrah!)


Have you read The Invisible Library? Get some cookies, drop me a comment and let’s get this book club going!

I don’t review books professionally. These reviews are mainly a small summary and my opinion on books I’ve loved, they are not intended to be anything more. All ‘reviews’ include a picture, title and name of author linking to the book’s Goodreads listing, the blurb from the back of the book and my non-professional verdict.

For all other book reviews, please take a look here.

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