Tsundoko Tuesday – cover buys

Copy of First Line FridayIn which I have a weakness for fancy fonts

I do try to avoid cover buys. I’m as susceptible as the next bookworm to having my eye caught by a pretty cover (or a pretty spine, or ESPECIALLY sprayed pages). But I do at least glance at the blurb to see if I’m likely to enjoy it. Most times. If I’ve seen it around Instagram and people have been generally positive, a pretty cover might push me over the edge.

There’s a theme, in the covers that tend to catch my eye. Ones that do something interesting with the font, are always begging to be picked up. And sometimes stroked, but we don’t talk about that. Lots of intricate details is another sure attention-grabber, though I have been known to be equally drawn to something boldly simple.

(thanks to Rachel is Writing for the inspiration!)

Excuse me, but are those pink stained pages?

DSC_0481~2Why yes, yes they are. And they were the seal of death to my chances of not picking up this book and buying it. Did I know anything about it? No. I saw an bookshop event for it alongside a number of authors I’ve read and enjoyed before. That’s the limit of my prior exposure to this book. There’s copper foiling on the cover details and PINK STAINED PAGES. What more does anyone need to know?

And here’s the synopsis, which of course I read AFTER having bought the book, but hey, it still sounds like my sort of read!

The house at the end of the lane burned down, and Rita Frost and her teenage ward, Bevan, were never seen again. The townspeople never learned what happened. Only Mae and her brother Rossa know the truth; they spent two summers with Rita and Bevan, two of the strangest summers of their lives… Because nothing in that house was as it seemed: a cat who was more than a cat, and a dark power called Sweet James that lurked behind the wallpaper, enthralling Bevan with whispers of neon magic and escape. And in the summer heat, Mae became equally as enthralled with Bevan. Desperately in the grips of first love, she’d give the other girl anything. A dangerous offer when all that Sweet James desired was a taste of new flesh…

I’m getting serious vibes of The Yellow Wallpaper from that synopsis, anyone else? That was only a short story, a classic we studied in English at school, but it creeped me out very thoroughly, so hopefully a good sign!

And when I say simple and bold…

We set the dark on fire

I mean like this. Seriously, how could anyone not love it? Plus, notice the fancy fonts. Fonts plural, at that. It was never going to be left unbought, really.

The synopsis:

At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.

On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?

Share the tsundoku confessions

What books are sitting around unread on your shelves despite your best intentions? What was your last cover buy – and have you read it yet? Confess in the comments – we’re all in the same boat here!

First Line Friday

First Line FridayIn which I over-commit, again

What are you reading today, bookworms? First Line Friday is a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words. It’s a simple but excellent idea; you, the readers, get an intriguing taste of one of my books (usually a current read or new purchase) from its first line or two, and see if it sounds like something you want to add to your TBR pile!

I’m still working my way through the library backlog I mentioned last week, but despite my bulging shelves of unread, I also signed up for a couple of buddy reads/book clubs. It’s not that I regret it, since it’s always fun to chat (and rant) about what I’m reading with other like-minded folk, but I wish I would remember this propensity of mine when I’m setting my over-ambitious and always-ignored monthly TBRs.

This week’s first line

From one of those buddy reads I mentioned. I’m reading this one on eBook, something I’m doing more and more often as I try to match my voracious book appetite with the fact I have to have something approximating a responsible adult budget. Here’s the first line:

Veronyka gathered the bones of the dead.

Well, that’s nice. Always up for an ominous sort of beginning, me. The fact its just bones, not bodies… Hmm. Veronyka is definitely up to something.

Do you recognise it? This book hasn’t had massive hype, but I’d definitely seen it around before I joined the book club for it.

Clue: YA fantasy, I think it might be a debut for this author. First in a series, though I’m not sure whether the three currently confirmed are the total or not. Prominently features a mythological creature I’d have said was less popular, but they do seem to be having a Moment in YA right now.


Last chance…


Ready for the reveal?

This week’s book is…

Crown of FeathersCrown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto. Look at that cover, folks; why wouldn’t you want to pick that up? I haven’t read many (any?) phoenix books before, apart from Fawkes in Harry Potter, of course.

We probably all know the basics of the myth – firebird, rebirth from ashes, etc – but from the outset I was interested to see how they worked for the story and what other little details the author had come up with. So far, I’m almost halfway in, enjoying the book, and I’d say the phoenixes are definitely one of the best bits!

So, did that first line work for you? Intrigued enough to want to keep reading?

Who doesn’t love a demon?

spooky reads (1)In which I flail about Sorcery of Thorns

Because, basically, that book is my whole reason for picking today’s Blogtober prompt from Anniek and Hâf – demonic characters. I saw the prompt. I thought: Silas!

Yeah, and that was about it. Couldn’t bring to mind any more demonic characters? Hmm, might be difficult to string a post together.

But Silas.

Okay, okay, I promise I’ve given it a little bit more thought since then, and come up with a few more of my favourite demons – or demon-ish folks – to share with you. Admittedly, I’m only up to a total of 3, and that’s with the help of some time staring hopelessly at my bookshelves until inspiration struck. But then I have, for once, been good and stuck to actual demons and not, you know, vampires and sunai which could probably be described as demonic if I wanted to stretch the point (yes, I am talking about Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch and August Flynn).

Please note: This post comes with some major spoiler warnings for the Shadow and Bone trilogy and King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo. I try and keep my blog spoiler-free, but this one’s a biggie, and it can’t be avoided.

Silariathus from Sorcery of Thorns


Yes, that’s Silas’ full name. He can’t go around being referred to as Silariathus for all and sundry to hear, can he? Names are power, after all.

Silas is probably my favourite character from Sorcery of Thorns. And I loved both Nathaniel and the protagonist Elisabeth, so that’s saying a lot. I can’t say a lot more without spoilers, but when he’s in his bound form as Nathaniel’s servant, he’s proper and efficient and mildly terrifying, and when he’s in full demon form… well.

But even if peculiarly well-mannered, impeccably dressed, tea-making and bad-guy-disembowelling* demons aren’t your particular weakness, I still recommend picking up this book. It has banter, danger, slow-burn romance, sword-wielding librarians (!) and MAGICAL BOOKS WITH PERSONALITIES. Ahem. Oh yes, and it made me cry.

* I can’t guarantee there is actual disembowelment. It seems likely.

[SPOILER!!!!!] from the Grishaverse

IMG_20190707_223853_576Seriously, if you aren’t up to date with the Grishaverse books, why are you still reading this?

I’m giving you a chance to click away. Or to attempt to scroll past without reading anything, depending on how dangerously you like to live.

Still here?

Last chance.

Right, I’m assuming you’re still here deliberately, because you’ve either read the books and know who I’m talking about, or you don’t care. So: Nikolai Lantsov. The wittiest, cleverest and handsomest royal ever to be possessed by a demon, and he’d probably tell you so himself. It’s not exactly a secret that Nikolai is the Best Thing about the whole Shadow and Bone series (still bitter, btw; why would anyone choose Mal over Nikolai?). If ever a supporting character deserved their own series, it was Nikolai, and hurray for Leigh Bardugo because she delivered with King of Scars and its upcoming sequel. Watching Nikolai deal with the consequences and lingering remnants of his possession has only cemented him as one of my favourite characters ever – and he does it all with endless supplies of sass.

Now all I have to do is wait for the sequel. And hope when Nikolai’s casting is announced for the Netflix series it lives up to his character.

Magnus Bane from the Shadowhunter Chronicles

IMG_20170722_232512_228Oh, I know he doesn’t exactly behave particularly demonically. But he is, literally, half demon. Not just any demon, either, but the offspring of a particularly powerful one. So, since he’s also gloriously over-the-top, charming, adorable as half of Malec and generally sparkly, onto the list he goes. Also, one of the few characters to be done well (and gorgeously) in both the ill-fated City of Bones film and the TV series.

Fun fact: I actually saw the film before I read the books, and liked it enough it was the prompt for me to go get them from the library afterwards. Yeah. If I’d read them first, I don’t think I’d have had the same opinion!

Help out a fellow demon-lover

Okay, so that sounds wrong. I’m going to stick with it though.

I’m sure there are many more excellent demonic characters out there, waiting for me to discover them. I’m even fairly sure there’s a few hiding amongst my endless TBR. So, help me out and point me in the right direction!

Tsundoko Tuesday – the subscription box edition

Copy of First Line FridayIn which I show you yet more books I haven’t read

When I say subscription box, I pretty much mean Fairyloot. I have been known to buy the odd one or two boxes from other suppliers, but mainly because of the cost of international shipping, Fairyloot have always been my go-to. And to be fair, they’ve generally been brilliant, a good mix of fandoms and items (as always, I could use less SJM, but that’s just me), and a whole host of books I’ve been looking forward to reading.

And by looking forward to reading, I of course mean looking forward to putting on my shelves, thinking about reading and then not doing so, for the next couple of years. Hence Tsundoko Tuesday; tsundoko is a Japanese word referring to the habit of collecting books (or reading material in general) and then letting them pile up unread.

(thanks to Rachel is Writing for the inspiration, btw – her Tsundoku Tuesdays tend to be on Instagram, but as I’ve said before, if I can cheat my way out of thinking of my own blogging topics, I will)

The tower of bookish shame

Are you ready for this? We’re not talking one or two unread books, here.





Ouch, right!? Worse still, Fairyloot actually introduced readalongs on their blog at the end of last year, and I was ecstatic to think I’d finally have the impetus to read my beautiful books as I get them, instead of adding them to the TBR pile. Well, I participated in some. But too often, I have every intention of joining in and then never quite seem to get the time to do it. So 3 of the books in that pile are ones where I’ve failed at readalong-ing as well as just reading.

And yes, two ARCs. Given how rarely I get ARCs, as I’m not a big enough blogger to be sent them by publishers, or organised enough to sign up for Netgalley, I can’t believe I let these two sit around unread for so long that both already have sequels!

I promise to read more books!

Here we go, a public commitment to reducing this stack by the end of the year! With two and a half months left, I should be able to get through three that I was especially excited for: Daughter of the Burning City, Grace and Fury, and Daughter of the Pirate King. If I fail, you can all point at this post and ask what my excuse is this time!

And we’ll all just ignore the fact that all three of them were already on my backlist TBR at the beginning of the year.

Share the tsundoku confessions

What books are sitting around unread on your shelves despite your best intentions? Do you have a bad subscription box habit as well? Are any of the books in my pile ones I should drop everything for?

The Guilty Reader Book Tag

Guilty readerIn which I’m on a roll

Can’t stop me now with the book tags. I’ve done one, and I’m going to do them all… Well, alright, maybe not. I reserve the right to be selective with my book tags. But I’m definitely going to do LOTS.

This is another one from Anniek’s Library (thanks, Anniek!)

Let’s dive in:

Have you ever re-gifted a book that you’ve been given

Queen and Invasion of the Tearling

Yes, and I refuse to feel guilty!

You may not know that I’m a not-so-closeted environmentalist as well as a bookworm. Buying and giving secondhand is one of the easiest ways to reduce your impact on the world. So if I’ve read a book, and I’m not going to read it again, it gets passed on. Sometimes to a library, a charity shop or a school, but yes, sometimes I wrap it up and include it in a gift.

But I always read it first! I’m not a monster!

Have you ever said you’ve read a book when you haven’t?

I’m pretty sure I have. I have definitely claimed to have read books I DNF’d, mostly classics or super-popular ones that I don’t want to admit to hating. But I think I’ve probably claimed to have read gifted books so as not to hurt people’s feelings, when in fact they’re buried somewhere in my never-ending TBR.

Have you ever borrowed a book and not returned it?

Book, no. Film, yes. Though technically, I still have every intention of returning those, I just haven’t. Yet.

I did once keep a book so long (Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett) that when I returned it to my mum her response was “Oh, I thought that was yours” and then I wished I hadn’t owned up!

Sevenwaters#1Have you ever read a series out of order?

Not deliberately.

But yes.


Have you ever spoiled a book for someone?

Again, not deliberately. But I spoiled Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for my little sister. We were both reading it on the day it came out and I couldn’t stop myself blurting a reaction to something she hadn’t got to yet. After that, we went and read in our separate bedrooms. At least it wasn’t a major plot point!

Have you ever dogeared a book?

Book crownNooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo




(but then I do this, so maybe that’s worse? I am always VERY careful to flatten them out afterwards!)

Have you ever told someone you don’t own a book when you do?

I can’t remember doing this, but I can’t rule it out. Some people in my life have Strong Opinions about certain authors or types of books, and I would probably claim not to have one if it avoided an argument or a rant. I don’t people well.

Have you ever told someone you haven’t read a book when you have?

Same answer!

Have you ever skipped a chapter or section of a book?

There have been one or two books, no more than that, where I was so not enjoying them that I skipped ahead to see if they improved. Reader, they did not. What’s more, I was able to pick up the story without any problems despite the intervening 200 pages.

And when I’m rereading I’ll often just turn to my favourite bits or a particular scene.

Have you ever badmouthed a book you actually liked?

Maybe? I mean there are books I enjoyed even though I can see objectively that they’re really not very good! So I wouldn’t go recommending them to anyone. And anyway, sometimes it’s fun to have a mutual rant about the things that annoyed you, even if the whole didn’t.

Consider yourself tagged

Oh yes, I want to know all your guilty bookish secrets too! If you take the tag, link in to this post so I can see you answers. Or comment with your bookish confession.

Books that would be fantastic on screen

spooky reads (1)In which I pause for a small gushing session

As it happens, a load of my favourite or most-hyped books and series are already heading for one screen or another.

Casting has started being announced for the Netflix Grishaverse production (Ben Barnes! Aaaah!). News about the Darker Shade of Magic movie is sketchier, but we know its in the works. Leigh Bardugo even announced an adaptation of Ninth House within days of its publication (she is a Queen, let’s face it!) Raven Cycle is somewhere in the vague future, and I think I saw somewhere that The Witchlands has been optioned or is in early development, too?

Add on the adaptations that already exist, classics like Narnia and LOTR, Stardust and Coraline, Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, of course, the recent Good Omens series on Amazon and Love, Simon (why have I still not seen that?) and we’re all excessively spoilt bookworms.

But there’s always room for more, am I right? Here’s another three books and series I think would make spectacular adaptations. Oh, and this will NOT be a spoiler-free post, just to warn you.

Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce

Song of the Lioness outdoorsThis has been crying out for an adaptation for thirty years.

A teen girl defies expectations to become the greatest knight in her country, mastering magic and romancing (or being romanced by, I should say) princes, theives and warriors on her way to reclaiming the most powerful magical artefact known and defeating a kingdom-stealing, murderous wizard. What about that wouldn’t make a dazzling, engaging spectacle? Add in the real-life issues Alanna also has to tackle: bullying, worries about identity, impossible maths homework (!), friends turning traitor and family growing distant. It’s a cocktail of everything you need for a successful TV series or teen movie.

The author (my heroine!) has been asked before about the possibility of adaptation and always said the magic, historical fantasy settings and costumes made it prohibitively expensive, but it’s clear from the explosion of fantasy-based shows and films that it’s popular, it sells, and the expense isn’t considered such a problem any more.

Surely there’s a Hollywood exec out there somewhere who can see the potential?

The Boy Who Steals Houses by CG Drews

IMG_20191008_225405_852Complete change of direction for a contemporary now, but can’t you just picture how well the chaos of the De Lainey household would translate to a screen? The contrast between that and Sam’s harsh reality, the crime he and Avery get caught in, would be a great visual storytelling tool. And, a little more selfishly, it would be fantastic to get some decent autism rep in a mainstream TV show or film as well. If John Green’s mix of poignancy (sometimes over-the-top, dare I say) and romance makes for success, why shouldn’t this one, with it’s added banter and vividness?

Make it happen, someone!

A Thousand Pieces of You outdoorsThe Firebird Trilogy by Claudia Grey

Imagine how much fun a set designer could have with all the different dimensions Marguerite and Paul visit. Hell, just imagine how glorious the Russiaverse alone would be! Danger, drama, romance and betrayal – all the elements of a fantastic story are in place here. The tension of seeing your main character(s) die, several times, without being sure whether our Marguerite and Paul escape to the next dimension. How you could play with the direction so once Evil!Marguerite and Traitor!Theo are in action, you’re never quite sure to begin with which one you’re watching.

I’m drooling just thinking about it, folks!

What book-to-screen adaptations are you most excited for?

Any of the ones already upcoming? I have high hopes for Shadow and Bone, but while I would adore a good adaptation of ADSOM, I’m actually more nervous about that one being done well. I’m glad, actually, that the Grishaverse was picked up as for TV so we get multiple episodes over multiple series to develop the characters and storylines, rather than trying to cram it into a film or two. Fingers crossed it goes well enough for them to add the King of Scars duology!

What so-far-overlooked book would you pick for an adaptation if you had the power?

A writer’s history of reading

notesIn which it becomes blindingly obvious why I write fantasy

I was originally planning on listing a few writers who inspire me, but then I realised I was doing a huge disservice to the books I read when I was younger. The authors who first set me on my writerly track. So why not instead track back through my reading history for the writers who’ve had the biggest influence on both my reading and writing since I was a wee young thing whose stories were more along the lines of talking animals and clueless adults.

And what stands out from the list once I’d started drafting it was that it is almost entirely fantasy. All the books that formed me, as a reader and a writer and even as a person, since I was old enough to pick my own, are based firmly in a more magical world.

To be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What mini-me read

DSC_0516~2I went through a phase, from maybe the age of 4 to the age of 10, where I would only read Enid Blyton. Well, that’s a very long phase, and a slight exaggeration. I did read other things, but if given a choice, I inevitably gravitated her way. And with her extensive catalogue, so there was plenty to keep me occupied. Magical trees full of magical creatures and a doorway to strange worlds at the top (hang on, epiphany has occurred – I’m basically describing a very early portal fantasy here!). Children growing up on farms and basically running wild (wish fulfilment, anyone?). Brownies and elves up to mischief, magical chairs that took you wherever you wished, talking animals, running away with the circus. Fast-forward a few years and I devoured Famous Five, the boarding school stories, the Mystery and Adventure series.

As an adult I can see the uncomfortable sexist, racist and classist overtones of a lot of the stories, endemic of their time, but as a child I was simply swept away on adventure after adventure and it’s fair to say that I can thank Enid Blyton for cementing me in a lifetime of readership.

When YA wasn’t really a thing

I’m not kidding; I actually am that old. We did have a small amount of what would now be called YA – teen fiction, as it was called then – but the scope and range of it compared to more recent publishing was, well. Limited.

So what did I read? I had the additional problem of many a prolific reader, that my reading age was too far ahead of me. Books aimed at my age were too simple; I’d blast through them in half an hour and put them down feeling vaguely dissatisfied. Teen fiction and the odd adult book were nudged my way by sympathetic teachers, parents and librarians, and I often loved them. I also often gave myself nightmares, and I suspect if my parents knew exactly what some of my favourite characters were getting up to, they wouldn’t have been so relaxed about supplying my habit.

DSC_0496~2So I turned to another my old favourites, Narnia. And then I discovered Tamora Pierce. (Mum, if you’re reading this, I swear the romance was very understated and the serious stuff happened off-page!). Between the two, I was now officially a fantasy reader. And in Alanna the Lioness, I finally discovered a heroine who I could really relate to. A girl who was badass to the extreme, who dressed like a boy and did boy things, often better than the actual boys, who knew what she wanted and went to get it.

Alanna was the template for the heroines of my early attempts at writing my own books. At the age of twelve, I started an actual full-length novel which was pretty much a cross-over between Narnia and the Song of the Lioness, with a main character who was pretty much me if I was Alanna. Yes, I still have it tucked away somewhere. No, no one will be reading it, EVER.

The lost years

An exaggeration? Actually, no. I gradutated from the children’s fiction and the minimal teen fiction I could find. I was a grown-up now, at the ripe old age of 15 or so. It wasn’t going to stop me reading Tamora Pierce, hell no. But I would have to start reading grown-up books.

DSC_0505~2Trouble was, grown up fantasy wasn’t all that varied, at the time. Raymond E Feist. Terry Brooks. Robert Jordan. Hey, I enjoyed a lot of them. But. They were all variations on the same sort of Tolkein-esque epic quest fantasy. They all had SERIOUS problems with the few female protagonists they included. Basically, young men got to be the hero, and I was left floundering in a world I had loved that no longer seemed to fit me. Eventually I discovered David Gemmell, who at least had a bit more variety, and the occasional woman who seemed like an actual person, even if it was still the Menfolk who generally got to go have adventures. I tried other genres, what was disparagingly known as chick-lit, some historical fiction, a literary thing here or there. Had a feeble attempt to get into classic sci-fi, and failed almost immediately. They all passed the time pleasantly enough, with the exception of the sci-fi, but none of them fired the same enthusiasm as my younger fantastical adventures.

Looking back, I wonder if it’s a coincidence I spent a lot of this time struggling with my writing, putting it on the backburner and thinking of it as a slightly odd hobby instead of remembering it had been my dream.

SJM, The Hunger Games and all the YA

Story time: I was twenty-something. A friend bought me Throne of Glass. I still didn’t know YA was a thing, but it was a fantasy book with a young woman as the protagonist, so of course I was intrigued. But, once a bookworm always a bookworm; I put it on my bookshelf and promptly got on with reading library books and impulse buys and everything else for about a year, before I picked it up again and started reading.

DSC_0449It was okay. It didn’t light up the world, but it was a fun read and I wanted to know what happened next, so I asked for book two for my next birthday. At about the same time, the Hunger Games movie was being massively hyped, and I knew it was based on a book, so I went to my library and found it in the teen section, which was already looking a lot more impressive than the ones I remembered.

The Hunger Games was my entry drug into the world of YA fiction and regaining my love of all things bookish. With a day of finishing the first book, I had ordered my own copy of the entire trilogy, reread the library version, bought and watched the first film and got lost down several internet rabbit holes of fanart, trailers for Catching Fire and bookstagram. Look, I was on maternity leave, ok?

I found more YA fantasy books. I started writing again. I joined the online bookish community, initially as a writer but very quickly as a reader and all-round fangirl, thrilled to have found people who liked the stuff I liked, who wanted to talk and flail and share that love. I plotted out a complicated four-book fantasy series that morphed into the book I’m currently working on (and it’s future sequels). But it was still in the background, something I might concentrate on one day.

And then, after languishing on my shelf for another year or so, Crown of Midnight found its way into my hands.

Now, my relationship with SJM is complicated. Her books are undoubtedly problematic (that’s a whole other post, or maybe several. I’m not getting into it here) and as I’ve read more I’ve realised I don’t actually like her writing style all that much, and the romance tropes she seems to be particularly fond of rub me up the wrong way. But Crown of Midnight didn’t have that sort of romance. It had a glorious, sweeping love affair between two people with every reason to not want to fall in love with each other but who were unable to help it anyway. It was full of action and adventure, danger and heart-pounding scenes. And I fell in love with them too.

It kicked me right up the backside. This was why I wanted to write. This was what I wanted to do. I wanted that magic to come from my mind, my pen, to touch readers the way these books had touched me. Whatever my subsequent views on SJM, however disappointed I was in the way that series turned out, I can’t look back at my reading history without acknowledging the huge impact of that moment.

What I read now

Still fantasy. Still YA, but thankfully adult fantasy has started to catch up and now I know what I’m looking for (thank you again, bookstagram) I can find the ones that welcome me in instead of making me feel like an intruder in someone else’s vision. Add in some (definitely unclassic) sci-fi and historical fiction, the fantastically diverse range of YA contemporary fiction that’s now being published, the odd thing that completely surprises me but comes highly recommended. The writers that have the most influence on me now might not have a lot in common with the ones who got me to this point, and I’ll come back to them in another post, since this one’s got a lot longer than I expected, but I am the product of all these books and authors throughout my life as a reader.

Lifetime-defining books

I’m going out on a limb here to say everyone has them. Maybe not everyone thinks about them in this depth, and maybe some might struggle to put a finger on the reasons, but everyone has that book or two or several that set them on a path. Do you remember yours?

First Line Friday

First Line FridayIn which I plunge into my library backlog

First Line Friday is a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words. It’s a simple but excellent idea; you, the readers, get an intriguing taste of one of my books (usually a current read or new purchase) from its first line or two, and see if it sounds like something you want to add to your TBR pile!

My TBR pile has been out of control for a long time, but that doesn’t stop me adding new books to it. Like, for example, going on a reservation binge on the local library’s website and then being surprised when thirteen books turn up within the space of a week or so. Every. Single. Goddamn. Time.

And yet, I still don’t learn.

This week, a book I reserved, collected about 4 months ago and never quite got round to reading. Well, now I have to, even though it was nowhere near my plans for this month, because I’ve renewed it so many times I’m not actually allowed to renew it any more. And I can’t give it back without having read it, that causes me actual physical pain.

This week’s first line

Well, I’m not sure what actually is the first line of this book! There’s a prologue, and the first line of that is:

They kill my father first.

Which is short and to the point and definitely has a bit of a hook to it. But before the prologue is a sort of epigraph thing. So if you count that as the first line, we get:


1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.


Interesting, huh? I mean, anyone who reads or watches or is vaguely familiar with sci-fi will recognise the first law of robotics. I’m sure there’s minor wording changes between uses, but it’s simple enough. But struck through, and with that little extra – call it a translation? – beneath. Interesting! This book’s doing something a bit different.


Any guesses?


Clue: YA sci-fi, written by a very popular author who also writes as part of a pair of co-authors.


Ready for the reveal?

This week’s book is…

DSC_0494~3Lifelike (or Lifel1k3, if you want to get technical) by Jay Kristoff. The only books of his I’ve read so far are The Illuminae Files, none of the ones he’s written solo, but I’ve seen it around and people seem to like it, so I reserved it on a whim and now we are where we are.

I’ve started it, maybe a chapter or two in, and it just keeps getting more and more intriguing! But based on that first snippet? Well, there’s more than enough books around with dead parental backstories that if I didn’t know the author and read the blurb, I don’t think this would stand out. So the epigraph with the twist is probably a good thing!

What are your thoughts?

NaNoWriMo Prep – week 3


In which we dive into detail

Oh yes we do! Right after I’ve finished panicking about how it’s the third week of October already and why I’m behind on my own damn schedule. November is sneaking up on us all, folks, and I’m not happy about it.

Right. Now we’ve got that out of the way, what do I mean by detail?

Turn story into a plot

Honestly, that sounded more convincing in my head.

If you’ve been following my NaNoPrep posts, or if you’ve landed here because you’ve got a story idea and you’re not sure what to do with it, you should have something resembling a synopsis. One or two pages with the beginning, middle and end lined up in order was the end goal of my first week of prepping. We’re going back to my sort of streamlined snowflake method now, to turn that synopsis into an outline that should keep you on track during the month of frantic writing that’s to come. Broadly on track, anyway; we all know there’s no way of preventing detours altogether.

First, get that synopsis you’ve written (if it’s still in your head, write it down now!) You’re going to be referring between the synopsis and the more detailed outline we’re about to start writing, so make sure you’ve got a setup that works for you, whether that’s Scrivener’s split-screen view, synopsis in a  notebook and outline in a word doc, two notebooks… You get the idea.

Depending on how much of a handle you think you have on your story, there’s one or two stages to this process. If you think you’re ready, you can jump straight into scene-by-scene outlining. If that prospect horrifies you and you’re already foreseeing a document full of gaps and “something needs to happen here”, then don’t panic. Just like we took a sentence and turned it into a synopsis, we can flesh out our 1-2 page synopsis by taking each segment (beginning, middle, end) and fleshing it out so you have a page or two for each where before you had only a paragraph. It’s like magic – you’re doing magic here, folks!

So, I’m not doing that this time because The Last Flight of the Sparrow is a short novel, possibly even a novella, and it’s been brewing in my head for at least 5 years, so I’m jumping into the scene by scene stage. Ready to jump with me?

It’s easier to show this than explain it, so I’m going to demonstrate with the beginning of Sparrow. Here’s the paragraph I had after week 1:

Meghan Eldrin is looking forward to her first posting as a Lieutenant. The Skyship Sparrow and its Captain, Pedrean Largo, have a reputation for speed and daring, and her position as Second Lieutenant is a prestigious one, given her relative youth and inexperience. On reporting for duty, she’s introduced to Crown Prince Dalgarian, who does not make a good first impression. She is dismayed to learn her duties on the voyage will include babysitting the Prince, and becomes angry when the First Lieutenant dismisses her by saying in no uncertain terms it’s about all she’s good for. Dalgarian follows her as she sets about her duties, but as irritating as his presence is, he does seem willing to listen and learn. She begins to hope the responsibility won’t be as dreadful as it first seemed.

And here’s what that looks like as an outline ready for drafting (I love Scrivener!):

LFotS beginning outline

You can probably see from this there’s a certain amount of chopping around. A single sentence in the synopsis might turn into two scenes, or vice versa. Some of the content of the synopsis might be implied under the action rather than on the surface of what happens in a scene. The more complicated the plot, the more flexibility you’ll need, and likewise when you get further on and you have plots and subplots coming together.

Depending on the length of your novel, you might not get the whole thing done in one week. It’s fine! That’s why we started in week 3, so you can carry it over if you need to. Take breaks, stretch, take walks, go play Sims for an hour if your head starts getting overloaded. If you get stuck, put it down for a while. I find alarmingly often that a solution to a plot hole or jam leaps out at me in the shower.

We’re on the home straight, WriMos – good luck & see you at the finish line!

Why I’m still writing poetry

In which mental health is not something to be ashamed of

It should go without saying, right? Mental health IS health. You don’t blame someone for being unable to walk with a broken leg, or unable to go to work with a slipped disc. And yet there’s still this awful stigma attached to admitting you’re not coping because there’s something wrong in your mind.

Well, tough. I’m not coping. Some days I cope better than others. Today is not a good day.

And when my head is full of rubbish, sometimes I write poetry. It’s not a cure. Nowhere close. But like other people might write in a journal to unburden themselves, I write poetry to express the feelings I can’t get out any other way. I figure they’re better out on paper than festering in my head, anyway.

And sometimes, I like what comes out enough to polish it up a bit and call it an actual poem. So, since I don’t have the spoons for much else today, here’s a snippet from a bad day a few weeks ago, post editing.

are we all princesses now (a poem)


(The feelings and words are mine, but I got a lot of inspiration, and the confidence to try and do something with it, from Amanda Lovelace, so if you like it, you should read her books).