Tag Archives: Reading

New Year’s Resolutions

Give up drinking, stop smoking, more exercise… the usual resolutions are pretty passé by now. And besides, no one ever sticks to them. I’ve heard a couple of people claim their New Year’s resolutions are not to have any resolutions. So what are my resolutions? To write a novel? Read all the books I keep getting told “everyone” should have read? Lose the Christmas belly?

To be honest, I can never decide on resolutions. I always think of one, and think it’s a brilliant idea for an hour and then realise that it’s never going to happen. My resolution is generally something about getting published, winning a competition or just finishing my novel. And come the next New Year’s, I have to make the same resolution all over again because I forgot about it by mid-January and never did it.

I could make a New Year’s resolution about blogging – more posts per day, more followers… I’d love for my fashion blog to be up there with the greats, and I’d love to have some amazing author recognise my writing blog. But actually, the only reason I started these blogs is for the sheer egotism of it – I like the sound of my own voice, so to speak.

I could promise to keep my room tidy, or not spend so much money on clothes. I could resolve to give up my five-cups-a-day tea habit (yeah right). Or I could resolve not to try anything too difficult this year, and just concentrate on living my life. After all, the world’s ending in December next year, right!? Wouldn’t it be a waste to spend it all in the gym trying to get thin for the parade past the Pearly Gates.

So this year, my New Year’s Resolution is to GET ON WITH IT.

What’s yours?

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I know I’ve been completely rubbish! I promise a post a day and then I’m easily distracted by evenings at the pub. Well, in my defence, it wasn’t ALL evenings in the pub. I also managed to secure myself a job at a publishers! Yes, people, you are looking at the marketing administrator (temp) for a BIG publishing company. I think I died in excitement. This is it! I’m a genius. So, yes, I have been celebrating, but I have also been having some bittersweet drinks with previous colleagues at the architect’s firm I’ve been working at the past few weeks – they were amazing to me, and will be sorely missed.

So this is a post to apologise for my lameness, and a promise to get my act together. But first, I have to get ready for a certain sister’s birthday…

I also promise a review of A Discovery of Witches. I have a lot to say about this, so be prepared.

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Being a Writer…?

I had an interview today that proved very interesting. In one question, he asked about my creativity vs. writing for business. It made me wonder – is writing split into two groups? The “creative” stuff and the “business” stuff?

I would say that a writer is a writer, whether it be factual, fictional, professional, blog or personal. You are still putting words on the page, and you are still accessing that creative part of the brain. An artist is still an artist whether painting, drawing, moulding or building, right? So why is it that creativity should be so far removed from “professional”? We have professional writers – what they write is for their business.

Do non-writers read this blog because it’s got books in it? Probably (hopefully). Does this mean I’m not a writer because my audience isn’t reading it with a “creative” thought in mind?

You’re on a speed-dating night. You approach a new table and have one minute to describe yourself… what is your opening line?

For me, it’s probably going to be something along the lines of: “I’m Fran, I’m a writer.”

And my most likely response: “Oh, yeah, and what do you write?”

If I was to say marketing documents for a corporate company, would you still think I was a writer?

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Storm Front

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Orbit: paperback published 2011: 336 pages

Meet Harry Dresden, Chicago’s first (and only) Wizard P.I. Turns out the ‘everyday’ world is full of strange and magical things – and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in.

Harry is the best at what he does – and not just because he’s the only one who does it. So whenever Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal capabilities, the look to him for answers. But business isn’t just slow, it stinks.

So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get… interesting.

You think you’ve read awesome? This beats your awesome hands-down by its awesome awesomeness. I literally have no other words to express my delight in discovering this series (thank you, friends, for harassing me into reading it). If you like any of the following, you will like Storm Front:

1. Humour – this includes sexual innuendos, heroic quips, self-deprecation, a horny spirit-in-a-skull and wacky scenarios.

2. Fantasy – this includes faeries, a big scary Council-type thing and some wicked dark magic.

3. Murder mystery – think a magical whodunnit and you’re close. I’m never great at guessing the murderer, and this wasn’t rocket science, but it still had you gripped.

Another fast-paced read, but this time with a bit more adult pizzaz, for want of a better word. You immediately love Harry Dresden and everything about him – from his weird coat preferences to his mentalist cat Mister and the spirit-in-a-skull called Bob who has an inappropriate interest in the opposite sex, considering he has no body. I laughed, and although I didn’t cry, I didn’t want to put it down. Thank goodness there are lots in the series. AND, I’ve been informed by a very reliable source, I can expect more comical high-jinks that may-or-may-not include a dinosaur.

Tell me you’re not going to read these just for that.

Rating: 8/10

Next book: The Magician’s Guild by Trudi Canavan.

Another well-sourced recommendation, and another first in a series (this time aptly named The Black Magician Trilogy). Canavan is such a big-hitter in fantasy writing (check out her blog for more tidbits) that it seems a little criminal that it’s taken me this long to actually get round to reading it. I actually had to blow dust from it when I picked it up from the bookshelf (all those good intentions all those years ago, and it got overtaken by the post-modern literary big-hitters during my “bohemian/rebellious” phase).

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I am Number Four

I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Penguin: paperback published 2011: 374 pages

They killed Number One in Malaysia.

Number Two in England.

And Number Three in Kenya.

John Smith is not your average teenager. He regularly moves from small town to small town. He changes his name and identity. He does not put down roots. He cannot tell anyone who or what he really is. If he stops moving those who hunt him will find him and killed him.

But you can’t run forever.

So when he stops in Paradise, Ohio, John decides to try and settle down.. To fit in. And for the first time he makes some real friends. People he cares about – and who care about him. Never in John’s short life has there been space for friendship, or even love.

But it’s just a matter of time before John’s secret is revealed.

He was once one of nine. Three of them have been killed.

John is Number Four. He knows that he is next…

 

Well, it didn’t take me long to read. For a teenage-adult crossover novel, it was still distinctly teen-flavoured. But I do love reading Young Adult, and this was no different. Fast-paced and action-driven, I can certainly see why it was chosen for a film. There were certain bits that lacked depth, and others that I imagine would have worked better on-screen. But John Smith is loveable, and the motivation behind each of the characters is good. The only bit that lets the strength of the characters down is the fact that Lore seems to tell and not show – a lot is given away in big bursts of info-dumps, and although useful, I wonder if they could have been worked into the plotline a little more; the characters could have had more of a hand in telling the story. The angst and atmosphere of small-town teens certainly was believable, and I will say again that it is the characters that made this book readable. The faster the pace, the faster I read, just to make sure the characters were safe at the end of it.

For those keen to keep going with Number Four and his team, read The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore, the next in the Lorien Legacies series.

Rating: 6/10

Next book: Storm Front by Jim Butcher.

The first in the Dresden Files series, I have been told a zillion times to read it by a number of sources, all of whom I trust implicitly when it comes to literary opinion. So. Here goes…

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Everyone Loves a Mary-Sue

So I’m halfway through First Rider’s Call. As predicted, it’s rip-roaring, if a little predictable. Karigan – our resident superhuman superhero Mary-Sue – has even managed to get herself promoted, have a high-up love interest and squeezed in a bit of time-travelling. Magic is on the blink, and the breach in the wall is to blame… And the evil THING has taken a particular interest in Karigan.

The predictable bit is the attempt at mystery surrounding the evil THING, but you’ve actually worked out what it was by about page 100.

Do you know what? I truly love these books. But then I also truly love the Shopaholic series, so you be the judge. We already know everything will be okay because there’s several books to go yet, but you still don’t know how safe your peripheral characters are and just who Karigan will kiss first. Rest assured, she won’t be distracted by silly romantic notions while she saves the world.

There is such a stigma about characters like Karigan. It makes them “unrealistic”, and no one can connect with them. Do you know what I find worse? The “irreparably flawed” characters. Like a certain jut-jawed character in a certain vampire series. Yes, you might identify with them, but it’s just depressing.

I’d rather read about some super-heroic character on whose shoulders rests the fate of the universe. That’s far more fun. And hey, Karigan gets her ass kicked a fair few times whilst she’s saving everyone, so fair’s fair – I’ll let her be beautiful, talented and clever and GOOD AT EVERYTHING, because at the end of the day, look at Superman. Now if that’s not a Mary-Sue I don’t know what is.

And I dare you to tell me you don’t love Superman.

So if Superman can be PERFECT IN EVERY WAY, why can’t a few other people? I vote that the  Mary-Sue’s stop having such a rough time of it, and come back from literary wilderness and be embraced.

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A Game of Thrones

Wow. I mean… wow.

Yes, you’ll be pleased to hear that I have at last finished A Game of Thrones… and wow. SO, if you don’t want spoilers, don’t read the next paragraph!

So the TV series finishes with Daenerys in labour and Eddard about to have his head lopped off in front of his daughters. That was a pretty annoying ending because you don’t know if a) the baby is born, b) Eddard actually really does have his head lopped off, c) if Khal Drogo survives and d) if you’re going to see Jon Snow with his top off again. Thankfully, the book doesn’t leave you on these cliffhangers (although Jon Snow is less fanciable in the book, being around 14). So, yes, Eddard has his head lopped off – and, might I add, this is very upsetting as I now don’t know who will find out the truth about Joffrey next – and Daenerys has her monster baby, but it’s dead, and Khal Drogo survives but is a vegetable. This seems a very sad ending for each of the characters that I invested several days and 780 pages into. But! It doesn’t end there… Jon Snow abandons his post at the wall, shock-horror, but is taken back by his friends, but THE BEST BIT EVER is that Daenerys, after smothering her husband in an half-mad act of cruel-to-be-kind (again, in the TV series, Drogo is fanciable, which is why I was so upset to see him die now), puts the dragon eggs into the fire (as well as herself) and THREE DRAGONS ARE BORN. Oh yes. This instantly makes this the most awesome book series ever. Do you know why? Because I literally have no idea what’s going to happen next. Joffrey is on the throne, and his grandfather hates him, Eddard is dead and Sansa is hostage. Jon Snow is about to go North of the Wall to find his suspected-dead uncle. Robb has been named King of the North, Renly Baratheon has announced himself king to contend against Joffrey, and now there are dragons. I have no idea who we should be supporting or hating, who’s going to win and what the hell is going to happen next.

I’m heading straight to Waterstones for the next one.

Wait, no. I promised I’d read First Rider’s Call next. Damn.

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Favouritism

I know, I know, I was briefly silent. Blame my internet – I have to rely on an infrequent and temperamental Dongle that only works when it feels like. I’m now back at the flat in Basingstoke – my den. Yes, I love my parent’s house, and my slightly mental cat, and the free food (I’m pretty sure these jeans weren’t that tight before I stayed there…), but nothing quite equals having My Own Place. Okay, so my bed’s broken (in the most boring way possible, I’m afraid – I lay on it) and I’m currently sleep on a mattress, and I’m too scared to turn on the heating until I get a Proper Job again. Oh, and the fridge is half-empty (hello size 10 by the end of September). But it’s Mine.

So what have I been doing with this valuable offline-time? Apart from reading (yes, I’m still ploughing my way through A Game of Thrones, but you’ll be pleased to hear I’m over halfway now), and apart from my “fascinating” temp job to add a few pennies to my pitiful bank account; well – I’ve been applying for jobs… HA!

Really, I’ve been fighting with myself over my characters. Who loves Aistren and our mysterious Cadellan?

Well, yes I do. But remember what I was doing in my last post? I’ve been writing fantasy on-and-off since the innocent age of 14 (I was awful back then, but managed to find one or two acceptable bits) and after all my chopping and sticking and rearranging, the one thing I’m not short of are characters… and I really want some of them to appear now. Like Rayne, my redhead, or Sanoh, my scarred and elegant duchess… or how about Jarett, my arrogant shit of a good-looking man, who you hate so much you kind of want to rip his clothes off?

Am I the only person who has favourites? The same characters you go back to again and again and desperately try to shoe-horn into every story you ever write because you just know how awesome they are and you know exactly what they would say in that situation. They come to your rescue every time you’ve written yourself into a corner with some pithy comment or amazing feat of bravery/cowardice/sexiness. You know the ones. The ones you think you’d want to be.

So, now what do I do? Do I push my favourites to the top of the class, and swiftly and subtly erase our kitchen-woman and slave-that-isn’t-a-slave? Do I try to blend the two and have an epic host of characters to rival War and Peace? Or do I just start again (which, by the way, I hate doing because it takes about 15 attempts of “starting again” until you end up in exactly the same place you were before).

So, here’s my question to you; do you want to hear more about Aistren and the Cadellan? Or are you bored with them already?

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