Monday, October 28, 2013

Bookish Brits Vlog 1: My Introduction

Ahhh! It's finally up! I hope you enjoy it!

Links to things mentioned:

Diary of a Crush Week
Ten Things I Love About The Boyfriend List
Gimble Book Holder
Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Sunday, October 27, 2013


This is a sponsored post. I used Grammarly for proofreading this post because I really really really really really overuse the word really and am really determined to stop. Really.

Unfortunately, Grammarly cannot do a thing about my terrible handwriting.
I tried NaNoWriMo for the first time last year, but failed because I didn't have enough of a plot for that idea and really I wanted to be working on my ongoing project. So this year, I'm joining my boyfriend and becoming a 'Nano Rebel', though I'm not entirely sure I can claim that title as I've never won NaNoWriMo in the ordinary way.

Finishing the first draft of my novel is my number one creative goal for this year. If I don't manage it, I'll only have achieved number two (plan second novel) and number nine (learn to cook more meals), which were quite easily done and are not particularly pride-inducing. Also, I have been working on it, on and off, for years. It's time to get it done, edit it, and move on to new creative pastures. I don't even think I have that many words left to write on my current project, so I won't even be working towards the standard word count of 50,000. Nevertheless, my goal is to finish my first draft by the end of November. Hence, NaNoFiMo, or perhaps just NoFiMo, as two people does not a national event make. Then again, NoFiMo sounds like I'm morally opposed to modelling clay.

But why claim a connection with NaNoWriMo when I'm doing something different? It's the social aspect. Last year I mostly NaNoed alone, though I did make some notes and start a short story during the Write-In on the last day! I think this is another reason why it didn't work.

I've got into the unnatural state, at least for me, of finding it hard to allow myself the time to write. I think that taking a netbook and going to sit in a cafe or pub or bookshop with other writers and the Wi-Fi turned off will help. I want to see if being around other people who are fervently working on their novels helps me. I used to write easily and freely more days than not, and I intend to force myself back into the habit!

I'll lose some of my free time, because of the journeys into central London, but I figure I can use the journey time to read and fill my creative well.

Do you have any tips or advice for me? How do you force yourself to finish projects? Do you find endings easy or difficult to write? Does anyone else spend as much time as I do worrying that their plots are too basic?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday Amusements 20 and Bookish Brits Announcement!

I'm thrilled to announce that I'm joining nine other UK book bloggers for the new collaborative channel, Bookish Brits! Here is the introductory video for the channel:

I hope you enjoy it and make sure that you also watch the first of the personal introductions, by Fluttering Butterflies' Michelle! My intro will be going up a week today. I'm scared, excited...and I can't decide which hat to wear.

SisterSpooky presents her thoughts on Book Tours. I agree with all her points really and would add that I almost never read book tour posts for debut authors, but on the other hand I can get excited about book tours for authors whose books I have previously read. I think that reviews and trailers are much better promotional tools for new authors.

I love reading books about characters I can relate to, but also adore reading about people who are as different to me as can be. As Tanya at Girlxoxo points out with her post On Only Reading Books You Can Relate To ... Why? (Dangerous Reads Month), I'd be missing out on a lot of wonderful books if I limited myself only to those I can relate to.

Five Fictional Characters Saved by the NHS!

 If you live anywhere near Newcastle, Holly Black and Sarah Rees-Brennan will be discussing gothic fiction at Seven Stories. If you go I will be very jealous.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Book Review: My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time, by Liz Jensen

It's 1897 and lady-of-the-night/morning/afternoon Charlotte comes up with a brilliant idea to enable her to afford enough fine dresses, food, and schnapps to get through the cold winter. She and Fru Schleswig, a woman who followed her to Copenhagen from the orphanage she grew up in, claiming to be her mother, will clean the home of Fru Krak, a local widow with delusions of aristocracy. Fru Frak, soon to be married to a pastor, is fond of daytime shopping trips; with her out of the house, Charlotte will steal and sell as many of the Kraks' valuable ornaments and household goods as she can.

But after Charlotte hears some intriguing stories about the missing and presumed dead Professor Krak, she can't keep herself from investigating the mysterious locked basement. What she finds there is a device that saves her life and transports her, rather roughly, across time to modern day London, where her adventures continue in a way she could never have imagined.

I had a lot of fun reading My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time, and it was a great choice to take on holiday. I loved the premise, along with Charlotte's personality (though not her penchant for ampersands) and shameless money making-schemes. She is a very funny narrator, vain but charming, bold and cunning. But as the story progresses, she becomes less active and more of an observer, and although I still enjoyed it, I felt that some of the magic was lost as the tale progressed.

I think it was largely the fault of the love story, which seemed very rushed. Charlotte meets her lover, and in the space of a few pages, they are in a serious relationship. It seemed like the author wanted to focus more on the time travel, which would have been fine except that Charlotte has little interest in either the mechanics or in actually travelling all over time and the world. After some initial excitement, she doesn't even seem that thrilled by modern-day London, and she doesn't spend much time exploring it, which was a shame because I really wanted to see what she thought about my home. There are other characters that do more in the way of time travel, but we only find out what they got up to through Charlotte.

I would still recommend it to people looking for an amusing, easy read. It's an entertaining, silly adventure, with a few mysteries along the way.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Monday Amusements 19

My reading challenge spreadsheet in action.

The Booktrust has put together a list of the 100 Best Books for Children up to the age of 14. Don't forget to vote for your favourites!

If you're in the mood for a shorter list, check out 5 Signs You Are Reading Too Much YA from Book Riot. I exhibit none of these symptoms. Must read more YA ;)

I loved this post about Dream UKYA Collaborations at YA Yeah Yeah.

6 Tricks To Stay Healthy While Sitting + Staring At Screens All Day - because I'd like to be able to type when I'm 90, wouldn't you? Yes, by then typing might be a completely obselete method of inputing data, but it would be nice to have a functioning back and flexible arms and fingers regardless.

If you are a writer in or near London you must check out the Spread the Word Autumn 2013 events programme. There are some really interesting workshops available this season, and I am looking forward to the debate about the new gatekeepers in fiction publishing in December.

How well do you market yourself or your blog? Marketing isn't my number one priority at the moment when it comes to my blog, because I'm focusing on establishing a regular posting schedule. However, it is still something that I think about often. I would love to have more commenters and for my posts to lead to proper discussions, and I know that I will have to have a proper marketing plan in order to achieve this goal.

I love reading all sorts of bookish memes, even though I only currently participate in Top Ten Tuesday, so I was thrilled to see The Master List of Book Blogging Memes at Girlxoxo.

What posts have you enjoyed recently?

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Book Review: Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak is a difficult book to review. So many other blogs and articles have featured it before that I am afraid that I will have nothing more to add to the conversation; however, it is a book that should be talked about often, and I will try to explain why!

Melinda, the narrator, is just beginning her first year at high school. She has no friends because of an end-of-summer party that went wrong when Melinda was raped by a older, more popular boy. She called the police but left the party before they arrived, and has never explained her actions. The other teenagers blame her for ruining the party and getting them into trouble, while Melinda's parents don't know what's wrong and get annoyed at her for being withdrawn. Speak is about how Melinda retreats into silence before finally finding her voice.

What I liked most about Speak is that it's not a harrowing read. Obviously, due to the subject matter, it can be uncomfortable at times, but Melinda is a witty narrator, which lifts the tone enough to stop it being relentlessly depressing. Her silence is largely due to fear and shame, rather than actual bullying. Her isolation is at least partly self-imposed. She thinks that nobody will understand what happened to her, and for a long time she tries not to think about it. She can't explain it to anyone else because she can't explain it to herself. Once she thinks about what has happened, and accepts it, she starts to be able to find the strength she needs to tell other people.

I also really liked the characters at school that Melinda interacts with. Her art teacher is a fantastic character, dealing with his own anger at the school board through his work. I also thought that Melinda's former friends were well-developed, interesting and believable characters.

It's not a book that I will read again - this isn't a criticism, because I don't think it's that sort of book. It's very much an 'issue' book, honest and realistic, but there are no exciting plot twists or enthralling love stories to entice me to re-read it. I think that the message it sends out is important and am appalled by the controversy - this is just the type of book that school libraries should stock.


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