Rosie Reviews: The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Beautiful Ones_cover image

Title: The Beautiful Ones

Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Thomas Dunne Books

Genre: Romance, Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Review

Take the Belle Époque and then mix in some romance, a fair amount of scheming and a touch of telekinesis. The result is The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. This book is a tale of a girl who dreams of romance, a man who longs to find his love of years gone by and a woman who sacrificed her own happiness for her family’s fortune. This novel is told mostly over the period of two grand seasons, where everyone is in the city, going to balls and courting. Only this time, there is the added bonus of ‘talents’: people with telekinetic gifts who are looked down upon by those without.

I will admit, this book was not entirely what I was expecting based on the blurb I read. I was expecting the telekinesis to be a much larger part of the book than it was and indeed, in some parts I forgot it was actually a feature of the novel. Instead, The Beautiful Ones focused primarily on the relationships between the three main characters, and their own personal development as the story went on. Even though this was not quite what I was expecting, I think the novel was probably better for it.

When I first started reading this book, I made the mistake of reading it on the bus to work. The introduction of the characters and their actions during the first part of the novel had me smiling and chuckling to myself as I read (cue the weird looks from fellow commuters). Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s treatment of the characters is beautiful, particularly in the first half. Each one is fully layered, with their own plans and designs, that you never know quite who to you want to come out on top. Personally, Nina was my favourite – her naïve vulnerability, rebellious nature and hidden strength were rather endearing, particularly as she found herself caught up in the schemes of Hector and Valerie. Unfortunately, the second half did lose a little of the character complexity as it started to focus more on the romance and plot, but it was still entertaining and heart-warming (if a little frustrating in places) to read.

Overall, I would recommend this book if you’re in the mood for a more modern Jane Austen with a little bit of telekinesis added in for good measure. While I don’t tend to enjoy romances, the book is a delight to read. The characters are a clear strength, especially when they are at their most deceptive, but the story and prose were equally as enrapturing.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33380869-the-beautiful-ones

The Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Beautiful-Ones-Silvia-Moreno-Garcia/9781250099068/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

Advertisements

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Week 2 Update

Writing Progress

Today brings about the start of a new week of NaNoWriMo; more importantly (at least in the context of this post) it means that Week 2 of NaNoWriMo is over. I survived. As I mentioned in my last NaNo update, Week 2 and I are not on the best of terms and, so it was, I went into it with some trepidation. Admittedly, I did have some off days – including the first day this month that I wrote fewer than 1,000 words. But those were thankfully only one-offs and this week was also filled with milestones and achievements.

The main achievement being that, after writing 12,771 words this week, I am now over the half-way mark to NaNoWriMo’s final goal of 50,000 words. My new total is 25,815. NaNoWriMo isn’t all about the numbers though, or at least it shouldn’t be. There is also the story you’re telling. The first week was a week of discovery, exploring the ideas I’ve had and meeting the characters. This week, those ideas started to finally feel like a novel. This feeling grows more and more solid with every word I write. Admittedly, a lot of it still feels like a puzzle with only a few pieces in place and a lot more to find, but there is an end-point out there and the final image is slowly revealing itself.

Writing Inspiration – Beating Writer’s Block

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury is a short book, but an inspiring one. It’s a book filled with the passion of writing, all told through essays and anecdotes in Bradbury’s hand. What it isn’t, however, is a book of writing advice. Yet it is this book which helped me overcome the demon that is Writer’s Block (capitalisation intended).

In this book, Bradbury talks of experiences. Experiences, even the smallest or seemingly inconsequential ones, fuelled a large part of his writing. He would pick a moment, or a thing relating to a moment, that he had experienced and write around that. In the end, a story would emerge.

There were a few occasions this week where I sat at my laptop and just stared at the empty page, unsure of what to write. This was despite the novel plan that sat at my desk. I simply had no idea where to start or even how. The first time this happened, I remembered what Bradbury had written and was instantly taken back to earlier that day when I had sat, freezing, at my desk at work. I started to describe how it felt then, before long, I lost control of the story. It grew, expanding from a simple feeling to a chapter which would ultimately turn into a villain reveal. I used the technique twice more in the week, including on the day I had a migraine. Those three days were the only days I wrote more than 2,000 words and were the writing sessions I was probably the most happy with during Week 2.

It would appear that the masters do have handy tips from time to time.

Writing Plans for Week 3

For me, Week 3 is the big one. I’ve surpassed the half-way point and am now heading towards to the finish line. Unfortunately, towards the end of the journey are three days in which I will be away and have very little writing time. Enter Week 3. This week with be the big push towards 50,000. I want to get as far ahead as possible so that I can relax a bit while I am away and during the last few days. By the end of this week, I want to have reached and beaten 40,000 words. At a minimum.

This will be a challenge, not least because my writing session for today is going to be shorter than normal (a combination of staying late at work, exhaustion and writing this post). But I do have an entire weekend of very few plans in which to write, and I know that, if I push myself, I can get up to 3,000 words in a day. Given I need to write 2,000 words a day on average to reach that goal, it should be achievable. Although I may need that holiday by the end of it.

 

 

 

Rosie Reviews: Superhero Comics by Chris Gavaler

Superhero Comics

Title: Superhero Comics

Author: Chris Gavaler

Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: NetGalley

Review

Superheroes are everywhere nowadays; it is near impossible to go into town and avoid seeing something superhero-related, be it a toy, a DVD or even a logoed shirt. That being said, I am not complaining. Superheroes have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember; yet, despite that, the comic side of the superhero world has mostly been a mystery to me. When I saw Superhero Comics on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read it.

I will admit, I don’t often read non-fiction. I find it hard to get into and hard to stick to. However, Superhero Comics managed to keep my attention throughout most of the book and I found myself completely fascinated by what it had to say. The book essentially covers three main topics: the history of comics, the social and cultural context of comics and the actual structure and formatting of comics.

Of these three categories, the first two were the ones which particularly interested me and it would be an understatement to say I learnt a lot. The book goes back to before the dawn of heroes to explore what it was that led to their appearance in the world; then, from there, moves forward, going through the various ages of comics before investigating how comics have evolved based on the cultural and societal pressures of the time. This includes superhero roots in the KKK and Nazi ideals, the ups and downs of comic popularity and even tackles why female heroes are drawn the way they are. The chapter which stuck out to me the most was the one which covered female and LGBTQ+ representation, whereas the final part of the book, where it starts to analyse various artist techniques and comic book structure was a little difficult for me to get into.

My main concern with the book was, simply, for a book about comics there were not that may pictures. As someone who has yet to be fully initiated into the world of comic books, a lot of the references were lost on me and so it would have been helpful to have examples of these mixed in with the text. Towards the end, when Superhero Comics was talking about the appearance of comics, this did change a little, although the fact I was reading on a kindle did make it difficult to flip back to the images when they were being discussed. This meant a lot of what was being described ended up being lost on me.

Overall, Superhero Comics is a fascinating read for anyone even mildly interested in the comic book world. It is clear and, for the most part, the terminology is described so that a layperson could understand. The pages are filled with facts that I had not even considered (such as why DC and Marvel are the only companies to use the term ‘superhero’) and, for those just getting into comics, there is also a key text section which covers the main, defining comics of each era – a great place to get started. I recommend this for anyone who is interested in comics, even if you aren’t necessarily an avid comic book reader yourself.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29565879-superhero-comics

Amazon.co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Superhero-Comics-Bloomsbury-Studies/dp/1474226345

 

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Week 1 Update!

Writing Progress

Week 1 of NaNoWriMo is over and, if I’m honest, I am quite proud of myself with my progress in the first week. My daily word count has been a bit varied (writing ~1,000 words on one day and ~3,000 words the next), but on average I have written 1,863 words a day for the last week. And I wrote every day. The biggest challenge for me was actually making sure I wrote a reasonable amount each day while also not letting general work and life-admin get in the way of it. As it turns out, the one week I have had more to fit in, I’ve been the most successful at getting things done than I have for a long time. As a result, my total word count at the end of Week 1 is 13,044 words. Only 36,956 words to go!

In terms of the novel itself, I started out by trying to alternate between my three protagonists each day. Each one has quite a different story, so I thought it would be a good way to keep myself interested in the novel if I kept switching between them. It worked, at least for the first four days when I was in the initial exploratory stages and excited to meet each character and those they associate with. For the last three days, however, I have mostly been focused on one character’s perspective and really enjoying getting a bit deeper into her story without having to step in and out of it. This particular character was always the most vocal in the planning stage, so I am not particularly surprised by her dominance at the moment. That being said, I am still excited to see what the other characters have to bring to the table.

Writing Inspiration – GollanczFest

Almost every writer has those moments where inspiration is slow to strike, or no muses are in town. At these times, writing can prove to veer on the difficult and it becomes an effort to get the words on the page. At times like this, I find one way to build up motivation and inspiration is to actually listen to other writers talk about their work, or the world of writing in general.

This week, I went to GollanczFest, a weekend of panels and workshops made up of the authors of Gollancz, a sci-fi and fantasy publisher. I only went on the Saturday, and only to the panel discussions, but the whole day was a lot of fun (although it did veer onto more serious topics a surprising number of times).

My favourite panel was the one where each author picked a weapon and were pitched against one another in an author death match (absolutely hilarious), but each one was great in different ways. From topics such as things that go bump in the night to where the authors get their own inspiration, it was fascinating to hear the different opinions from each of the authors (particularly when a near fight broke out on stage based on whether we’re heading into a dystopia or a utopia in the real world!).

Ultimately though, the most inspiring thing I find from author talks isn’t the advice they give, or their debates on if ghosts are real. Instead, it’s the fact that the talks humanise them a bit. Authors are real people, with their own lives and own challenges and, really, if they can do it then so can you.

Writing Plans for Week 2

Going into Week 2, I am feeling positive. Week 2 is notorious for being the most challenging and most vicious of NaNoWriMo weeks, yet after the success of Week 1, I do think I will be able to ride out the wave. That being said, I am going to make some slight changes.

A couple of days ago, I moved my novel onto Scrivener. In the past, I have always written a book in a fully chronological order, so writing in a word document worked reasonably well. This time around, however, I have found myself taking a completely different approach. Each writing session starts with a blank page and an idea. If the idea is slow coming, I take a glance at my rough plan (which consists of a list of key scenes for each character, with about 3 words to describe each scene – very broad), and pick the scene which grabs me first. As a result, I’ve ended up with a large number of word documents of random scenes. So, to keep track of them all, after writing, I’ve added the scene to Scrivener with the name format ‘<protagonist name> – <4 word scene summary>’. This has instantly helped me see where new scenes could be added, and where the scenes I have written fit in the book. I will still write on a blank Word document, but at the end of the session, it all gets copied into Scrivener which, in turn will help me decide on new scenes to write.

This blog post is getting a little long (the NaNoWriMo mode has hit) so I’m going to wrap it up now. Another one will be up next week, covering the battle that is Week 2 of NaNoWriMo.

 

 

The Books I Read in October 2017

It is hard to believe that it is November already, and October has been and gone. As with every month end, I bring to you the books I read during the preceding month. Despite my decision to read mostly spooky/creepy books to fit in with the feel of the season, I ended up reading a reasonable collection of books. That being said, the general themes of the month did tend towards either superheroes or villains/murderers.

I was pretty pleased with the range of books I read, although most tended towards an middling rating. My top book of the month was easily Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco, with Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi in second place. Each were both really entertaining stories with captivating characters and brilliant writing. That being said, while only receiving a rating of 4, The Dark Phoenix Saga story-line is one of my all-time favourites, and has been since I first encountered it as a child. The lower rating for this particular book is that parts have not aged too well and, as it was a collection of comic books, there was a lot of repetition as past events were caught up on at the beginning of each comic.

Of the books I read, I don’t think I was disappointed with any. Some, such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies actually surprised me and I even found myself fascinated by the textbook Superhero Comics which I read on my kindle. The complete list of books I read and their ratings is below. For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

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

Paperback

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi – 4.5/5

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood – 4/5

Because You Love to Hate Me by Various (edited by Ameriie) – 3.5/5

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith – 3/5

 

Graphic Novel

The Uncanny X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont and John Byrne – 4/5

Kindle Book

Superhero Comics by Chris Gavaler – 3.5/5

Hardback

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco – 4.5/5

 

Heading into November, I am reading The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I am also still (yes, still) listening to the audiobook Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie. It is, unfortunately, one of those audiobooks that I just want to sit and listen to, but I simply have not been able to find the time to do so. I do only have about four hours left now, so if I don’t finish it in November I may need to re-evaluate my life. As for further November reading, I think I will probably aim to stick with my spooky/creepy theme from October as I am quite enjoying it, but also gradually move into those cosy winter reads as the days get shorter and colder. I am eight books behind in my Goodreads challenge to read 100 books this year, so these next two months will mean a lot of knuckling down, ignoring life-admin and reading (when I’m not writing, of course).

 

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Let the Challenge Begin!

Today is the 1st November and, for many people out there, that can only mean one thing: NaNoWriMo, the month-long challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organisation that has been encouraging writers across the world to, well, write for 19 years. I have participated in 4 of those years, winning in two.

This year will be my fourth consecutive NaNoWriMo and, after two years of failing to write those 50,000 words, I’m determined to turn the tables. I have a new novel plan on my desk, a new world to discover and new characters to breathe life into.

Unfortunately, the November I am going into isn’t a November of empty nights and empty weekends. I have, perhaps rather foolishly, turned it into a fairly eventful and social month. This is going to make the challenge a little bit trickier and will require a lot more perseverance and planning on my part.

So, after careful examination of my productivity levels over the preceding few weeks and a closer look at my calendar for the coming month, I have worked out a schedule that might help me win. This mostly revolves around planning to write more words on days where I have no plans, focusing the majority of my writing on the weekend and week-beginning (my post-work productivity drops from Wednesday to Friday). I am also resolving to write more towards the beginning of the month, taking advantage of that first week burst, so that I have enough of a boost/buffer to get me through week two and any slow days which come my way. I also have a spreadsheet to keep track of it all.

The novel itself is going to be a crime fantasy, told from three perspectives. Each PoV character will have their own story, but each will play an important role in the over-arching story-line. There will be magic (in the form of telepathy), there will be murder (multiple murders in fact) and there will be knives at a gun-fight (because, why not?).

As NaNoWriMo has already begun, I have actually started to make progress with this novel. My word count at the end of today is 1,825 words and those words have been spent meeting my least-defined protagonist, one of my main secondary characters and an entirely new character who popped up completely unexpectedly (and on the first day, no less).

I will likely keep weekly updates on my NaNoWriMo progress, although this may vary depending on how my writing is going. If I’m falling behind, the novel is the priority; if things are going well, then I may be able to sneak in a few more updates here and there.

My NaNoWriMo page: https://nanowrimo.org/participants/razka13

 

 

Rosie Reviews: Blood and Stars by Jaime Lee Mann

Blood and Stars

Title: Blood and Stars

Author: Jaime Lee Mann

Publisher: Blue Moon Publishers

Genre: Middle Grade/Children’s Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Review

Blood and Stars is the fifth book in Jaime Lee Mann’s Legend of Rhyme series. It continues Ariana and Asher’s story started in the first book but also expands the universe out to follow multiple other story-lines, each one connected but not necessarily in the same time period. As such, it reads very much like a collection of short stories, before bringing them together in the finale. This format works particularly well as the individual stories are quite different; but my favourite part of the way the novel has been written is the fact that each section begins with a poem (rather befitting of the series’ name).

The poems are a rather enjoyable method of summarising key information relevant to the following section and provide some hint as to what is to come. This was particularly useful for me as I have only read the first two books in this series so was missing a large amount of plot. Despite that, and with the help of the poems, I was able to follow the book reasonably well. There is a glossary and family tree at the end which also helped provide key information of past plot points but, as I was reading on the kindle, I did not get to it until I had already finished the book.

As I mentioned, there are multiple story-lines within this book. We have Ariana and Asher who must come to terms with their destinies, Calla who is bound in a dying slumber and her only hope being her evil sister Elora, the mermaid Teagan who is determined to find her parents and Grimblerod who longs to be reunited with his one true love. As you can imagine, a lot happens in Blood and Stars but Jaime Lee Mann does an excellent job of keeping hold of all the various threads and tying them up neatly at the end of the book. At no point do you feel lost or overwhelmed, or even frustrated by cliff-hangers.

Even though this is a novel for younger readers, it is very much readable by anyone – the novel is easy enough for children to understand, but there is enough occurring within the pages to keep you interested. The world Jaime Lee Mann has created in this series is fascinating, with so many facets that you feel like you could keep on exploring it forever.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35482735-blood-and-stars

Amazon.co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Stars-Legend-Rhyme-Book-ebook/dp/B073VSBCQM/ref=sr_1_2