Confessions Of A Bookworm March 2016

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I know, I know, I know. This post was meant to go up on Wednesday and now it’s Saturday instead. I also managed to miss February all together so this post will include some of the books that I read over that month as well.

What Am I Reading

So there are a couple of books that have been lurking around on the ‘Currently Reading’ list for a while. As a compulsive book hopper I tend to put a book down for a few weeks and then return to it later if it hasn’t completely got my attention or if a new book turns up that I’m desperate to read. So for the purpose of this post I’ll focus on the newbies on the list.

‘Glass Sword’ and ‘After You’ are both sequels and both books have only just turned up on this list. I’m most of the way through ‘After You’ already as I really love Jojo Moyes’ writing style. It’s a very easy read despite tackling tough topics. I fell in love with the main character Lou in the first book ‘Me Before You’ and the ‘After You’ is just as engaging. It helps that the world Jojo writes in is very human and familiar. While I love fantasy and scifi, sometimes a break is good.

‘Glass Sword’ is the follow up to ‘Red Queen’ and is another dystopia world with significant social divides and a trodden down heroine desperate to save her family. It’s not by any means the only book of its kind but I’m enjoying it all the same. I’m not very far in so I won’t say very much about it.

‘Blackbirds’ is the last book I’m going to talk about in this section and that’s because once this post goes up I’m going downstairs, cooking a bacon sandwich, and sitting down with that flipping book and getting it read. My aim for the end of April is to have finished all these books lurking around on my currently reading list and get some fresh blood on there. ‘Blackbirds’ will be the first one I tackle.

 

Recently Finish

I’m aiming to read fifty books this year and currently I’m two books behind target so this section will have to start getting a bit bigger each month if I want to stay on track.

I’ll start with ‘The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe’. I have Douglas Adams’ whole series sat on my bookshelves. They are the sort of books that I keep telling myself I should read, but never seem to get around to. ‘The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe’ was me doing such that. Despite being set in space, it has the same familiar feel to it in places as ‘Me Before You.’ Arthur Dent’s obsession with a decent cup of tea wins me over almost immediately and it’s a fun book. I’m not sure I’d go back to it, but I enjoyed it all the same.

I’ll cover ‘The Fire Prince’ and ‘The Blood Curse’ in one. For starters, I did not expect Emily Gee to rival George R R Martin on the bloodthirsty scale! I have never read a series quicker, terrified on every page that the characters I’d really come to invest in were about to get a throwing star to the temple. The whole series was engaging and by the end of it I wished she had written more books.

‘Me Before You’ will make you cry, there is no two ways about this. The trailer for the movie came out a couple of months back and Lou’s character leapt out at me then. I ordered the book and thought I might read it before going to see the film, it turns out that I couldn’t put it down once I’d picked it up. Within two days I had finished ‘Me Before You’, had a good cry and ordered ‘After You.’ As I said earlier, Jojo’s writing has a wonderfully familiar tone to it. Lou’s home town reminds me a lot of the town near to my childhood home and the whole book has this English quirkiness about it that I loved from page one. Lou’s mother who is so house proud it’s insane, her father who makes endless bad jokes, and her grandfather who’s just muddling along in the background. It felt real and the romance in the story was so beautifully heartbreaking. Check out the trailer for the film here.

‘Night Study’ and ‘Daughter Of The Blood’ were two books that I pre-ordered and couldn’t wait to get my hands on. Both are fantasy fiction, both have strong female characters and both are books that I get way too excited about.

One of the things I like most about The Wall of Night series is that while love and relationships take place in the book, they are never the main plot-line. The focus is always on saving Harth and the people in it. Friendship in some ways replaces romance in these books, playing its part among duty and honour.

This instalment of the series doesn’t feature Mailin as much as the previous two, looking more at Kalan and his part in the storyline instead. This is another strength in Helen Lowe’s writing as she managed to write both female and male story lines while building up this great sea of flesh out, full bodied characters. The names can sometimes be a little confusing as some are very similar but other than that I find it hard to criticize her work. I enjoy reading it too much.

‘Night Study’ is the fifth book in the ‘Poison Study’ series. I’m going to admit that ‘Night Study’ isn’t my favourite book in the series however. It’s very much a set up for the sixth book and reading it I could see that very little would be resolved before the book ended. All the characters I love were still there and it was a great read by an author I greatly admire, but it just wasn’t as good as it’s counterparts.

Finally, ‘Red Queen’ by Victoria Aveyard. My Amazon account has been recommending this book to me for months but it never really caught my attention that much. As I said about ‘Glass Sword’, the plot-line itself isn’t that original, but it’s still pretty well written and I enjoyed reading it. I was a little disappointed in Mare. Throughout the book she is fighting to control her own destiny but it’s quite clear she’s being pulled along by everyone else. I’m hoping that she will come into her own in ‘Glass Sword’ but at the moment I’m finding her somewhat lacking. She doesn’t demand respect like Celaena or Mailin. She doesn’t invoke any real change, stuff just happens to her. Once again though, it’s still a pretty readable book. Victoria Aveyard writes it well and I didn’t get bored reading it or want to put it down. All in all I was pretty happy with my choice to read it.

 

What I’m Reading Next

 

‘Desolation’ will be in my hands by Thursday which I’m pretty excited about. Other than that I’m not sure what I’ll be reading next. I’m mainly focusing on clearing out my currently reading list and getting on with the books already on my bedside table. I have six hundred books in my house and great chunks of them are only half read. I doubt that will stop me buying more though. I picked ‘The God of Small Things’ up from an Oxfam shop in Nantwich and the woman at the till recommend as I was paying which is always a good sign so I want to read that soon as well.

So there you have it. February and March’s books. Let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts on the books and what you’re reading at the moment. Are you a book hopper too or do you stick to one book and see it through to the end? Perhaps you take part in WWW Wednesdays too!

Dealing With A Bad Review

There are more than a few days when I wake up and wonder if my little foray into self-publishing was an utter mistake. Then I remember that there was a purpose behind choosing that option for Before The Words Run Out and even if the bad reviews leave me feeling like someone has filled my insides with snakes, there were some good reviews as well.

I went into self-publishing with no idea what I was doing and most importantly, no editor. That was clearly a big mistake and not one I would be quick to make again. Despite spending hours pouring over my work it is still clear that I needed someone there to pick out those twinges that I still missed and to push me harder with the poems that didn’t come up to standard.

This morning was the first day in months that I actually went on amazon to check out my book in order to pull out a link and update my Linked In account. I assumed that like me, most of the world had let this little adventure of a book slip to the bottom of the barrel unnoticed, to languish among the many other rashly self-published books lurking out there on the big, wide web.

Instead I found a two star review from last September, a year to the month and my confidence took an impressive swan-dive into solid concrete.

There is an odd mix in Miss Forrester’s anthology ranging from fairly OK poems to dire. The whole package in fact is poorly executed which takes away from the occasional good piece and makes the immaturity of it all painfully obvious, being both patronising and arrogant at the same time. “So far I have won no awards…” Really, dear?

All in all, I think it was too early for Miss Forrester to be publishing and a few more years worth of waiting and planning would have made all the difference.

They’re right of course. It probably was to early for me to be publishing and even now I would be hesitant to follow the same route. That is why I’m going to stick Darkened Daughter through the traditional route, mostly because it needs someone who knows what they’re doing to beat it into shape and to show me what it takes to get something to the store shelves.

I’m not going to cry over this review. It sucks and I feel horrible about it, [actually that might be the virus currently working its way through my body] but I’m willing to accept that this review serves a purpose.

The purpose is reminding me that I need to improve and really think about what I’m putting out there.

I will always find people who will tell me that my work is good. Everyone can find someone to tell them that their work is good and you can also find someone on the other end of the spectrum. The important thing is taking all that and using it to drive you forward. Most of the copies that I had printed of my book were sold to members of my family or friends who knew my family well. A lot of the poems held additional meaning to them because they knew some of the subjects and they could remember the situations that sparked the poems.

So I will follow this advice’s review and keep working and hopefully in a few years I can publish something that does live up to standards.

It hurts of course. Piece likes Grandfather and the likes were in my opinion some of my best works, but when you put something out there you’re going to get negative feedback and I knew I would be opening myself up to this sort of review. They may have been my favourites, but they were still open game for the reader.

So now I’m going to trawl through the comments on this blog and read the ones telling me that I am in fact a rather a good writer and my work is amazing. I need the confidence boost.

Tell me, how do you guys feel about bad reviews and moving forward?

Darkened Daughter Extract – Rickets Den

You did not got to the Purple Pig to drink. You went there for whores and information.

Before the new King’s reign Molly’s tavern had been one of the most successful in Dondara. Now it was nothing more than a crooked sign and a few worm eaten tables crammed into the darkness.

“Are you sure we’ve got the right place?” Mole kept close as his Captain hurried down the city streets towards Rickets Den. Behind them the stone houses of the wealthy seemed to glow softly in the moonlight, oil lamps dotted along the cobbled streets to ward off the shadows.  Rickets Den on the other hand was a mass of shadows, curling and twisting around the wooden buildings which tumbled into one another and disappeared into the depths of the old mining pits. Mole wasn’t a brave man. He was really quite timid by all accounts with a thin reedy voice and a thick, short stature that left many confusing him with a child. Danny found him useful for sneaking into tight spaces but it took some encouragement to get Mole to agree.

“Just stay behind me and keep you voice down,” Danny warned. “We’ll be fine.”

Mole nodded and picked up his pace, determined not to be left behind. If he’d dared he would have caught hold of the tails of Danny’s coat, but he doubted the pirate would appreciate it so he kept his hands where they were. Quickly the cobbled street ran out and instead they were picking their way across mud slick boarding. Mole tried to swallow the bad feeling bubbling up in his throat as he heard his footsteps echoing beneath him. When he was much younger he’d asked his father how deep the old mining pits in Dondara were,

“Deep,” his father said, and left it at that.

Danny led them further into the wooden city, dropping them further into it’s depths ladder by ladder until Mole lost count in the gloom and found himself stood outside a lopsided shack with no windows. Rickets Den was a feat of engineering. It had started when the poor began building their homes near the edges of the open mine, steadily moving closer and closer until their houses jutted out over the edge. It continued that way until eventually half the city seemed to hang in the air above the endless pit, each building pinned in place by timbers, completely interconnected. Mole wondered what would happen if just one beam snapped. Perhaps the whole thing would crumble.

“Stay alert,” Danny warned, fist raised above the door closest. “This may not go as smoothly as I hope.”

Turning away from Mole Danny rapped on the door three times and then retracted his hand quickly, his fingers wrapping around the handle of his sword as he waited for a response. For a long moment there was nothing but silence and the creak of wood as the whole place heaved and sighed around them.

“No one home?” suggested Mole.

“So it would seem.” 

“So we can leave then?”

Danny shook his head and took three steps back, something of a luxury since most of the streets in Rickets Den were barely wide enough to walk down.

“Here,” he said, shrugging off his coat and handing it to Mole. “I need you to hold this.” 

‘Femme’ – A Book Review

Femme by Delia Strange

A science fantasy with a touch of romance.
A utopian world with a touch of slavery.

Kaley Blackburn is sent to Femme in her final year of Future Tech studies. The world is a socialist utopia of low crime, great health and advancements in technology that leave other worlds envious.

It is a fantastic place to visit if you’re a woman. Men, on the other hand, are the slaves that tend to all feminine desires. Kaley knew about the world’s culture of slavery but never had to face it until she is assigned a slave, Mecca, for the duration of her stay.

Mecca is handsome, intelligent and obedient, but every answer he gives to Kaley’s questions only feed her growing concerns. Does Femme hide an ugly truth beneath its beautiful surface and can she trust her feelings for a man whose sole duty is to make her feel special?

I will admit that ‘Femme’ would not normally be the sort of book that I’d pick up when wandering around a bookshop or perusing Amazon. However, once I got into reading I found myself really enjoying what Delia Strange has created. Despite being set in a not-too-distant future, there is little about the world she creates that comes across as too unbelievable. I wasn’t sure how I felt about aspects such as ‘tourist worlds’ and worlds entirely dedicated to one aspect of life (such as study), but they manage to work within the context of the book.

The characters have to be my favorite part of the whole book however. Despite playing the main role, Kaley Blackburn is in no way extraordinary. Something that I found incredibly refreshing. Delia Strange has created a character is is utterly realistic, a true representation of a twenty something year old student and despite being a romance novel Delia does not expect the reader to believe in true love at first sight or any other literary cliche. The relationships in the book grow slowly, and in each and every one you are left to question motivations, feelings and overall perceptions. Just as in real life, first impressions are often called into serious question.

‘Femme’ is a beautifully written book. The chapters, characters and plot are all carefully crafted, subtly leading you deeper and deeper into the world of ‘Femme’, something that is wonderful to see in an era when the quality of the word is sometimes lost beneath other aspects. ‘Femme’ is a reminder that often little is as it seems and looking deeper can “taint” that perfect picture we are presented with, leaving us unsure of everything else we have been told and more than a little confused. Perfect doesn’t necessarily meant happy and ‘Femme’ shows this with a startling clarity.

He had known he…

He had known her for all of three days. Still, she had saved his life and when they came to drag her to the pyre he’d fought for her, killed for her, earned the hangman’s noose and died for her. So why had he woken cold and alone, clawing at the ceiling of his coffin and trying to scream for help.

The finalised opening for Henry Granger. The deadline for the complete draft is August 31st 2014.