The Books I Read in August 2017

August was not the best reading month for me. After returning from holiday, I ended up in a massive reading slump – I had very little motivation to read and ended up forcing my way through the books I had on the go. Part of this was likely due the fact I was, and still am, listening to a 45-hour long audiobook, so spent a lot of time prioritising that. As a result, I only actually finished 4 books in August.

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew – 4/5 (Paperback)

Nigerians in Space by Deji Bryce Olukotun- 4/5 (Paperback)

Monstress: Awakening by Marjorie Lu and Sana Takeda – 5/5 (Graphic Novel)

The Border by Steve Schafer- 3.5/5 (Kindle)

 

I am hoping to read more in September. Although there are plans to finish the audiobook (The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson) and as much as I am enjoying it, I am debating taking a break from the story in order to give my other books some love. In future, I think I will probably stick to shorter audiobooks and keep the long novels to paper format. I don’t have a reading list for September at the moment, as, given the bad reading month of August, I want to have a bit more flexibility in book choice. That being said, given that I have four books currently on the go that I have not even looked at in the last few days, this could be an interesting month.

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Rosie Reviews: Magpie’s Song by Allison Pang

Magpie's Song

Title: Magpie’s Song

Author: Allison Pang

Publisher: Indie

Genre: Sci-Fi / Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Review

Magpie’s Song is a fun, steampunk-esque novel about a girl with a clockwork heart who finds a dragon. In this novel, Allison Pang creates a world plagued by a mysterious rot to which only the even more mysterious moon children are immune. The girl with a clockwork heart is one such moon child. Raggy Maggy, orphaned and defined by her distinctive white hair, is a member of the Banshee clan, forced to scavenge for snacks in order to survive. The discovery of a metal dragon in the scrapheap, however, leads Maggy down a road of conspiracy, discovery and betrayal.

The novel itself is the first in a series and, as such, it involves a lot of world-building. We, as readers, are introduced to the social structure, the impenetrable meridian and those that live in its shadow. Unfortunately, this set up means that it does take a good two-thirds of the book before the main story kicks off. That being said, a lot does happen during those first parts, helping to set up the novel with action as well as description; as Maggy is forced from her normal, everyday life into playing a part for plan we’ve only seen the surface of.

Nothing feels completely safe and plenty of questions are asked, some of which are answered but some we will have to wait for the sequels. What is particularly interesting is the mystery which revolves around Raggy Maggy; the mystery of where she comes from and the reason for her clockwork heart.

Maggy, as our lead character, is reckless and also prone to mistakes, but she also has a heart. These traits make her an endearing lead. It is strongly implied, but never actually stated, that she is bi- or pan-sexual (and, indeed, there are a few diverse characters in this book). Those she teams up with are also quite distinct: Ghost, who lives up to his name; Lucian, the careful doctor with a hidden side and Molly, the harsh brothel-owner and scrap-dealer. Each contributes to the novel in their own way and each feels integral to the plot.

This novel does have a dark side, one with death, torture and hopelessness, but Pang handles it well, keeping the novel’s heart even when things take a turn for the worse. As such, it can be enjoyed by people of most ages (although it is more orientated towards teens); the writing is easy to understand and helps the story flow. If you enjoy steampunk novels with action, mystery and compelling characters, then you may enjoy this book too.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35428398-magpie-s-song

The Book Depository (I receive a small commission when this link is used): https://www.bookdepository.com/Magpies-Song-Pang-Allison/9780998534312/?a_aid=rosienreads

The Books I Read in July 2017

This post is a little late – I was away the first week of August, and it’s taken a week to get back into the swing of things. July was a fairly good reading month; it really helped being away in the last week to knuckle down on some of the books I’ve been dying to read. I discovered a few new favourites, but also found myself reading books which, while not hooking me completely, were simply enjoyable to read.

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Hardback

Windwitch by Susan Dennard – 5/5

Paperback

The Map of Bones by Francesca Haig – 5/5

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson – 5/5

The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson – 3.5/5

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King – 4.5/5

Kindle

Darien by C.F. Iggulden -3.5/5

Magpie’s Song by Allison Pang – 3.5/5

 

Audiobook

Just Kids by Patti Smith – 3/5

Those are the books I read in July. August is currently underway, and I am mid-way through a couple of books at the moment, with high hopes for the rest of the month.

Writing Fears

Most, if not all, writers experience it. Fear of the page. Fear of the words. Fear of rejection. The difficulty is knowing when that fear starts to get in the way, when if prevents you from writing the story you want to write. Not just knowing either, but admitting that you have that fear and finding ways to overcome it.

That’s what I’m going to do in this post. My writing updates have been sporadic to say the least and part of that is because I have it. Writing is something I love doing and something I want to turn into more than a hobby, but a big part of me is afraid of failing, of not being as good as I want to be.

Take my current novel for example. I have been thinking about this novel for around eight years. Eight years since the first idea came into my head, and the number of people I’ve told about it is fewer than 10. If you take the time I’ve spent actually working on the novel and it’s probably less than half that time. I have spent so long procrastinating, wanting to work on it but worrying about it will end up like, what people will think of it, that I’ve simply not been writing.

The fact is, the novel has been pretty much in a state of completion for nearly a year now. The trouble, however, is that it’s been in the nest for so long that, while the fear of writing has been overcome, I now have to face setting the novel free. I have to actually send it out. Steps have been made in this area – I’ve sent it to a couple of people to read and provide feedback and I’ve started thinking about querying; but, until I’ve actually started sending it out, I think there will be that part of me that just wants to no let go.

Everything comes full circle again when, now that I’ve finished one book, I start on the next one. The fear of the blank page, of writing that first sentence, rises again. Not least because I’ve got a number of ideas and I’m worried about choosing the wrong one or of a brilliant idea not turning out to be quite as brilliant. That being said, this time around the fear, it’s not quite as prominent. I have written a novel, it may not be published yet, but I’ve written one and I can do it again. It’s just a matter of reminding myself from time to time.

I think, on the whole, it is okay to worry and be cautious but, when it starts getting in the way of doing what you enjoy, then you need to take that breath and go for it. I’m going to try doing that more often and to try and not let the fear of failing get the better of me because, really, succeeding in writing a novel no matter how terrible is better than failing to write one at all.

Rosie Reviews: Darien by C.F. Iggulden

Darien

Title: Darien

Author: C. F. Iggulden

Publisher: Michael Joseph

Genre: Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Review

Summary

C.F. Iggulden is a well-known historical fiction author; Darien is his first foray into fantasy. It revolves around the city of Darien, where powerful magic is a thing of the past but remnants remain in objects and as knacks in a few select people. The novel follows a number of these gifted people as they all converge on the city for Reaper’s Eve. By morning, everything has changed.

Plot

The novel follows multiple point of view characters, and so covers a wide range of plots and sub-plots. Ultimately, however, all the threads come together to shake the foundations of Darien’s ruling class. It is a novel in two parts and, ultimately, I much preferred the first part of the novel and felt it could have ended when part one ended. The first part is, admittedly, slow in places, but it does a brilliant job of capturing the magic of the world and introducing the characters, all the while building to the climactic scene where all the threads come together. The second part, unfortunately, just did not work for me – by the time I got to it, it felt like the novel was nearly over. Instead, I was  to embark into another extended climactic scene. It almost felt like it could have been a sequel if expanded slightly.

Characters

As I’ve mentioned, the first part of the novel does a brilliant job of introducing the characters. Of them all, Elias and Nancy stood out to me as the most interesting, two sides of a coin. One only wanted to save his family while the other was purely motivated by revenge. Unfortunately, once the novel hit the half-way mark, I felt like the characters lost a little bit of what made them special in order to allow the more battle-filled scenes to occur. The two female characters, while brilliantly crafted, were also subjected to romances which felt both forced and sprung out of nowhere.

World/Setting

That being said, Iggulden’s experience with historical fiction has led to creation of a world which feels deep-rooted in the novel as well as our own world. I felt I was present in the novel from the beginning, experiencing everything alongside the characters. The set-up of the city felt like you could walk the streets. The only trouble I could find with this was that Darien is supposedly the heart of an empire, yet it felt more like an individual, solitary city than an empire. Even so, it was a city which jumped off the page and I have a feeling that we will see more of the empire in future books.

Final Thoughts

While it is not going to a be a favourite book of mine, I did enjoy Darien. It captured a world built on magic, but where only remnants survive. It introduced me to a number of intriguing characters. It’s also a novel with spectacular writing style – Iggulden can write incredibly well. The novel wasn’t perfect and I was not particularly hooked throughout but I think there is enough in it to make me curious to read the next book in the series.

Darien is out now.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33245839-darien

The Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Darien-C-F-Iggulden/9780718186463?a_aid=rosienreads

Writing Wednesday: Writing Supplies

Last week, I talked about my plan to gradually get back into writing, to get back into the various projects I have started, as well as begin new ones which spark in my brain. Creativity feeds creativity, so the small steps I am making now should hopefully transform into giant leaps in the future.

However, as many a writer knows, part of being a writer is having great supplies (maybe that should be as every stationary lover knows instead…). In this blog post, I’m going to talk about the various supplies I use for writing purposes.

The first, and main, piece of equipment, is my laptop. This is where I write, where I edit and where I store information. It really helps having things in one place where I can just search for what I need and it is a lot easier to edit on a laptop than on paper. The words are clearer to read and, if I make a change later on, it is so much easier to go back and edit it elsewhere in the novel. Once I’ve started planning a novel, I start moving it onto the laptop so I can work on it in a more structured, clean format.

Brainstorming, however, is more easily done by hand. There is something freeing about writing by hand; I think the act of forming the words yourself, in any shape, size or position, rather than relying on the limited array of typefaces available on a laptop, really helps unleash creative thought. I own a number of notebooks as a result, trying to keep to one per project (although generally spreading over to countless other notebooks). In these, I scribble down any random thoughts I have, an inspiration, and lines, scenes or dialogue which strikes my fancy. While I do try and keep a structure in notebooks where the brainstorming has progresses into a fully-fledged story, that can feel quite limiting at times, so I’m still working out what works best for me. Regardless, notebooks are an integral part of my writing process.  

As well as notebooks, I also tend to use sketchbooks. I am quite a visual person so it often helps to try and draw out the image I have in my head before translating it into words. This is particularly true for characters. I find it so helpful to draw out characters in my stories; it lets me explore their personalities as well as setting their features in stone for future reference.

Finally, of course, you can’t have a notebook or sketchbook without pens or pencils. While it is very easy to work with just one and never have to change it, I do tend to vary it. I have different pencils for different things (writing, drawing, colouring) and I also like to work in one coloured ink for a section of writing, and then switching to another one if I swap to work on something different. Of course, it does get to the point sometimes where I have so many pens scattered everywhere, that I just have to grab the nearest one.

So, there we have it, those are the main supplies I use when writing (mainly it’s just a lot of stationary – any excuse to buy some). Let me know what supplies you use!

Rosie Reviews: The Fire Sermon series (Books 1 and 2) by Francesca Haig

It is a rare thing for me to read a sequel immediately after finishing a book; normally, I like a break, a chance to take a breath, before continuing on with the adventure. For this series, however, the second book was in my hands within seconds of the final page of the first being turned. That series is The Fire Sermon series by Francesca Haig.

I actually first got my hands on the series about a year ago; I bought the first one and received an arc of the sequel for free at YALC last year. That being said, it’s taken me a year to read them and, with the finale out now, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

The Fire Sermon is set in a world obliterated by fire, implied to be nuclear warfare. Technology is a thing of the past and only twins are born. Of these twins, the Alpha twin is perfect yet the other, the Omega, receives the brunt of radiation damage, being born with anything from an extra arm to missing limbs. Alphas rule while Omega’s live in abject poverty. Despite this, their lives are intrinsically connected – when one dies, so does the other.

Cass, the series’ main character, is born an Omega. Yet, her imperfection is mental rather than physical – Cass is plagued by visions of the blast that destroyed the world, but within that are also visions of the future. These visions guide her as she embarks on a journey to find her own freedom, but ultimately being caught up in something which could see the past repeat itself.

Everything about this series has worked for me so far. Even from the very first pages I was captivated, thinking about the story and everything it entails even when I was not reading. What I particularly enjoyed about the book is that, while it explores so many themes that are so applicable to today’s society, it does so in a way that you don’t realise that’s what it is doing – the themes are perfectly woven into the story.

Haig’s writing melds the story, the characters and the ideas together beautifully, creating a story that requires no thought to get into but will keep your mind active from the moment you’re sucked in. The balance between action and breathers allows you to read without being overwhelmed by all that is going on and the characters are really enjoyable to read (even those which aren’t particularly pleasant).

There is also a fair amount of diversity, particularly with regards to physical disabilities, and, as far as I can tell, these are handled well. The Omegas are shown to be able to function just as well as the Alphas (if not better in some cases), and their disabilities are just facets of who they are rather than a defining characteristic. The book does fall down with regards to mental disabilities; the only one we see is Cass’ ability to see the future, which is not something we see in the real world. That being said, there is an interesting dialogue with regards to Cass’ struggles with fitting in due to her ‘defect’ being invisible rather than physical. The novel also includes prominent PoC characters, and a lesbian character (although, be warned, The Map of Bones does suffer from the dead lesbian trope, albeit this part of the story line is paralleled with a straight character).

On the whole, the first two novels in the series were just what I needed to read when I read them. They got me thinking while also bringing me into a story and world I was properly invested in. I fell in love with the characters, and the book just made me desperate to find out what happened to them. Unfortunately, I have yet to read the first – while the hardback of the third book, The Forever Ship, is available, I am currently on a book-buying ban and I would rather get the book in paperback to match the first two (that being said, the paperback comes out in January 2018 – I’m not sure I can wait that long!).

I definitely recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a good dystopian, realistic characters and a thought-provoking read.

The entire trilogy is out now!

The Fire Sermon rating (4.5/5): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18109771-the-fire-sermon

The Map of Bones (5/5): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26174866-the-map-of-bones

The Forever Ship: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35519886-the-forever-ship