March wrap-up: What I Read, What I Wrote and A Few Random Thoughts

In which I participated in my first readathon

And, in my usual organised fashion, I forgot until the first of the three days was almost gone. But it seriously helped boost my reading, not least because I used it to blast through a few shorter books. It’s all about the numbers, dahling.

The readathon was part of NovelKnight’s Beat The Backlist challenge. Like most bookworms, I’ve a healthy supply of books I’ve bought or been given but never quite got around to, and with the help of this challenge I’m hoping 2017 will be the year I make a serious dent in them. Or at least get through some of the most persistent lingerers.

I also discovered audiobooks

Actually, that’s a blatant lie. I tried my first audiobook back in January. But I made more use of them this month. I don’t get a lot of time to listen, but a few walks back from dropping the kids from school, a couple of photo-editing sessions for bookstagram, some evening chores … I can get in an extra book, maybe one and a half, per month. The challenge is finding good ones. A lot of fantasy & YA audiobooks have US narrators, but being a cast-iron Brit, I’m a little picky about the accents I can listen to without distracting from the story.

You weren’t joking about the random thoughts, were you?

Alright, alright. I like to chat, even if the words are simply disappearing into the void of the internet. But here’s the reviews you actually came for:

The highlights

I finished A Conjuring of Light! Hooray! After putting myself in a slump in February, I ignored it for most of the this month in favour of quicker, different books. When I did finish it off, I loved it. It was one disaster after another, the sass levels were astronomical, the character development was awe-inspiring (special mention for Rhy. Wow!) The last two hundred pages were a crazy ride of heart-stopping, heart-breaking action, sprinkled with deaths and terror. There’s enough open ends for more stories in this world, which I’m praying VE Schwab will one day write. It was a beautiful end to a marvellous trilogy. I’m very sad to say goodbye. or rather, anoshe.

Something completely different: We Were Liars by E H Lockhart. The cover caught my eye, I vaguely remembered having heard of it, the synopsis was intriguing, and for £1 in a charity shop, how can you go wrong? Oh. My. God. I spent most of the book thinking it was a decent thriller/mystery type thing and then the ending just killed me. I can’t say much, because you have to go into it knowing as little as possible, or you lose the impact. The writing style, I admit, isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I thought it did a beautiful job of conveying the MC’s brokenness and struggles. In summary, just read it. Read it! Now, dammit!

A Monster Calls was a complete whim, spurred by lots of bookstagram love. Also completely different to my usual reads, probably a MG (8-12) or younger YA book. It blurs the lines of reality and magic to look at grief, family and loss. The main character was so relatable, and the emotions throughout were raw and vivid. I’d not read any Patrick Ness before this, but I’m definitely going to try some more.

I read Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo years ago, and remember being pretty ambivalent about it (so long ago, incidentally, it went under the title of The Gathering Dark). But having adored the Six of Crows duology, I thought I’d give it another go. The audiobook narrator was brilliant, easily the best I’ve come across so far. And the story was a lot better than I remembered. The romance (love-triangle territory) I still wasn’t feeling, but there was Alina – how could I have forgotten how feisty and determined she was? The world and side characters were wonderfully complex. 4 stars, and I’m definitely going to continue to the rest of the trilogy this time.

The rest

Queen of Hearts – I was thrilled to find a British audiobook narrator. Less so when everyone but the royal family and one wheezing tutor were voiced as village yokels. As an origin story for the Red Queen, it fell flat. Motivations were incomprehensible or unbelievable, Dinah frequently reached too-stupid-to-live, and the pacing was… non-existent. An example? Disaster strikes, character flees for her life… and we stop to admire the view and describe shades of blue flowers. For what felt like Six. Whole. Pages. A gruesome, dark interlude in the middle belonged in a completely different book.

Poison and Protect – A novella linked to the Finishing School steampunk paranormal books by Gail Carriger. I was disappointed by the almost total lack of actual paranormalness. The plot was an anti-climax, but it was really all about the romance, which was sweet enough, if predictable. And on the romance – this is definitely not YA!

Captive Prince – It’s impossible to summarise briefly what I think of this book. It’s flagged up as often for being problematic as it is heralded as a brilliant story. The characters are astoundingly compelling, even when they seem without any redeeming qualities. DO NOT read it without knowing what you’re getting into – it’s very graphic, in not entirely pleasant ways, and includes a lot of possible triggers (rape, sexual abuse, child abuse, violence – though not all on page). I frequently wondered what on earth I was reading, and why the hell I was enjoying it. However, I finished it NEEDING to know what happens to Damen and Laurent. Read it as the first part of a larger story (I read the other two books in April) and it’s more bearable, in a way setting the scene for what the other two books are fighting against.

Lots of reading. Did you have any time left for writing?

Well, a bit. You make time, don’t you? That’s how any writer gets anywhere. Since the kids put an almost total kibosh on my social life, I have a lot of evening to fill, and I write instead of watching telly. I managed 54,742 words.

I did not, however, manage to finish the first draft of The Hunt, which was my goal. The ending is nearly there, and I’m happy with how it’s worked out. Unfortunately, I’m nowhere close to happy with how I got there. As a reader, there’s nothing more frustrating than questions and sub-plots that don’t get resolved, I’m sure you have experienced it. The Hunt has entirely the opposite problem. I’m resolving sub-plots, character arcs, themes – you name it – that I didn’t actually start. The first half of the draft is telling an almost completely different story to the second. It’s going to take some revision!

One last bit of randomness

I wrote this at the beginning of April. I did, I swear! And then there were a few bits and pieces missing – I hadn’t taken the photos, or worked out how to talk about Captive Prince in any way approaching coherent. So it got left. And now it’s August. I really am a terrible blogger. But I didn’t want to waste the effort I put into drafting it, so I hope you enjoyed my ramblings even if they were not as up-to-date as they could have been!

Time for a chat? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the books I’ve been reading (but please, keep it spoiler free for everyone else).

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One thought on “March wrap-up: What I Read, What I Wrote and A Few Random Thoughts

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