NaNoWriMo 2018 | Mid-Point Report

Today I bring you the second of my reports on how NaNoWriMo 2018 is going thus far. If you have no idea what I’m blathering on about, then please do check out my week one progress report or my initial post explaining my approach to NaNoWriMo this year.

In my last progress report I mentioned that, as is often the case, I struggle to plot scenes and trajectories in any stories I write because it requires me to make a decision on an action that will lead to a consequence. In my last post I said that this was why I always struggled with NaNo and I also said that I wanted to force myself to sit down and plot even this relatively fluffy, tropey novel I’m writing because then I’d be able to transfer this technique to more complex and demanding plots that I have percolating in my head. However, I think that was a bad call to use the word “force”.

You see, personally speaking, I’m bad at making decisions generally in life, because for so many years I didn’t really have to or need to, someone else made them for me. (This is a wholeeeee other post in and of itself, I’m sure!) The point is that this definitely has an (largely negative) impact on my writing too. In this first half of November, however, I’ve been trying not to dwell too much on this aspect of myself. It’s not a part of my personality that is going to change overnight, and it’s probably something that requires more time and experience to conquer, so I’m just trying my best to make it to little goals here and there throughout NaNoWriMo. So, no, I’m not on-track with my word count. I’m a little shy of 20,000 words when, at the time of writing, I should be at 25,000 words. But, do you know what? I’m ok with that. I don’t feel like I’m failing NaNoWriMo which is… it’s a new feeling for me.

I’ve participated in NaNo for 4 years, and I have never succeeded in getting past 10,000 words on whatever project I was working on. The fact that I’m finally able to break this streak and write 20,000 words on a project that, sure, isn’t the most complicated thing ever but does contain scenes where I’ve had to make decisions about plot points and character traits? That’s huge for me, even if it might seem like the most basic building block of any good story. It feels like it could be the first small step to maybe being able to persuade myself that I do have at least one story inside me waiting to be told. It feels like maybe I could write, if I put my mind to it. It feels like I have the chance to be a writer even though for so long I thought my complete inability (allegedly) to make decisions would render it an impossible ask.

So, yes I’m “behind” with NaNoWriMo right now… but I’m more than ok with that.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year or have you participated before? What are you writing about at the moment? Let’s chat in the comments!


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Tome Topple 7 | Sign Up & TBR

Welcome one and all to, you guessed it from the title, a sign-up post for Tome Topple. The seventh round of Tome Topple is taking place from the stroke of midnight on 16th November and runs through until 11:59 pm on 29th November.

For those who don’t know, Tome Topple is fortnight-long readathon in which the goal is to focus on reading “tomes”, i.e. books of 500 pages (or so) in length. It was created by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes and she now has a whole gang of co-hosts to help run the readathon and keep us all enthused and reading. For extra info, check out the readathon’s Twitter account or the Goodreads group.

If you’ve been a reader of the blog for a while, you may have seen that I’ve participated in previous Tome Topple rounds, to varying degrees of “success”, but I’ve always gave it my best shot. This round will prove to be no exception since I’ll be away from home for a few days at the start of the readathon so I’m not sure how my reading will be affected by that. This does mean I’ll be sitting on a couple of train journeys though so maybe the travel will turn out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise for Tome Topple? We shall see!

As ever, there are the reading challenges to help shape your TBR. I’m not sure whether I’ll focus on these but in the interests of having a bit of structure to the whole thing, I’ve picked out a couple of them to try to fulfil with my reading.

Reading Challenges

  1. Read more than 1 tome
  2. Read a graphic novel (still over 500 pages!) – I won’t be doing this one, I never do!
  3. Read a tome that is part of a series
  4. Buddy read a tome
  5. Read an adult novel

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Challenges: 1/4/5
This one was on my Disney holiday TBR but Disney World proved to be far too distracting and I ended up only just almost finishing one book which was decidedly not this one. Therefore, it was on my mind to pick it up anyway, and now that Tome Topple is here and this book definitely counts as a tome, it seems almost fortuitous. I’ve heard that this is a book you really need to focus on so it would probably be a good idea to only be reading one book at a time when I read this – I tend to try to do that during Tome Topple so this is the perfect time to give it a go.

The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman

Challenges: 1/3
I absolutely loved the first book in the series, The Dark Days Club, because it’s basically a Jane Austen-esque Regency society story but with added demons. The heroine, Lady Helen, is basically a demon hunter and that’s all kinds of MY JAM so I adore this series. The author, Alison Goodman, was also super lovely on Twitter when I gushed about the book so I’m automatically even more endeared to this series. I really need to pick up this second book as its sequel aka the third in the trilogy (?), comes out in November.

So, that’s it, that’s my Tome Topple TBR. I’m trying to keep it relatively simple and manageable (for once). Are you taking part in the readathon? What are you planning to read? Let me know and we can cheer each other on!


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NaNoWriMo 2018 | Week One Report

Today I bring you a (slightly belated) recap, a progress post if you will, of how NaNoWriMo has been going during week one. As you may have seen, I decided this year to firmly give up the ghost of trying to write a novel I’ve been trying to write for the past three NaNos: The Upper Deep. Based initially in a steampunk, revised to a gaslamp, fantasy world, The Upper Deep was inspired by Tennyson’s ‘The Kraken’, Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, and the film Stardust with a sprinkle of the aesthetic, the action, and the humour Sherlock Holmes (as directed by Guy Ritchie) and the film Van Helsing. The problem with this story idea is that I have the overarching concept, and I have the characters and their motivations and relationships, but I struggle to work out all the plot points and scene I need to write in order to tell the story I want to.

I’m a very indecisive person (as I’ve much discussed on here) and I haven’t yet found a plotting strategy that will help me to make decisions easily enough to settle on my plot trajectory and the scenes I need to write. This has happened too with another novel idea I’ve been toying with in the past few weeks, a genderbent Hades and Persephone retelling I’ve been calling Half goddess, half hell. When I say “toying with” I really do mean that. I’ve been randomly writing scenes here and there and I’m not sure how any of these will fit together at all, or whether they’d even make it into any version of an actual manuscript of this novel idea. But I have my characters and I know their voices, so there’s that at least.

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Tag | The F.R.I.E.N.D.S Book Tag

I saw this tag recently over on Kristin’s blog, but it was originally created by Roxanne from An Average Life. I love Friends, and it’s definitely a show that I keep coming back to for nostalgia and comfort reasons – I don’t think that will ever change, although my opinions on each of the characters and their decisions always seems to as I get older! But before I end up just ranting how terrible Ross is, let’s just get on with the tag instead.

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Top Ten Tuesday | Backlist Books I Want to Read

Welcome one, welcome all, to Top Ten Tuesday! For those who are unaware (or who might need a reminder) Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by book bloggers and list lovers, The Broke and the Bookish, and is now hosted fantastically by Jana from That Artsy Girl! Each week a topic is chosen for bloggers to respond to.

This week’s topic is Backlist Books I Want to Read. It’s a pretty self-explanatory topic: what are the main books that I want to read that aren’t… well… new releases. So since “backlist” basically means anything that isn’t the current publishing season, I can even include books that were released in Spring/Summer 2018. So that leaves quite a large category of books to choose from! In an effort to filter down this list, I’ve decided to make this the top ten backlist books I want to read before the end of 2018, the real priorities on my far too big TBR list. Now, that’s not to say I will at all get to all 10 of these before the end of December because who knows what will happen with my reading pace? Still, it never hurts to have a plan!

 

crazyrich10) Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Although this backlist book is from 2013 and doesn’t seem like something I’d necessarily read, I feel as though I’ve seen tonnes of people online reading this because of the film adaptation which came out this year. Before that, this book hadn’t really been on my radar in a big way, but after hearing some good things about the film, and that the book was hilarious and a really enjoyable read, I promptly bought it in the hope of it being a light read for my holiday to Orlando. I’m really hoping it fits the bill in that respect since I do love reading (and watching TV shows) about annoyingly rich people, haha.

 

bear.jpg9) The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

I’m ashamed to say that, despite the fact this book is firmly on this list, I’m not sure I recall why I first decided I wanted to read it. I know it’s Russian-inspired fantasy steeped in folklore and tradition. And I know that a lot of readers seem to have found this very enchanting and evocative so I’m sure I will love this novel once I have a chance to set proper time aside to sink into the story it has to tell. I was recently reminded of this book’s existence by a YouTuber I watch, lexcanroar, so I’m glad for that timely reminder that I need to get to this book sooner rather than later.

 

villains8) If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

As with a fair few other books on this list, this book by M.L. Rio is one that I’ve been meaning to read for months at this point but that I’m hesitant to ultimately pick up. The reason why? I’m sure I’ll love it. That seems like a dumb reason not to read something but I’m so hesitant to pick this book up because so many people (myself including) are pretty sure I’m going to love this and I’m worried it could disappoint me. I’m told this is very The Secret History-ish but with Shakespeare-obsessed students rather than Classics ones so that does sound like something I should love – fingers crossed for me and this book, huh?

 

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Wrap Up | October 2018

Welcome one, welcome all, to my October Wrap Up. As we’re nearing the end of the year my reading pace seems to be slowing down slightly but that’s ok and I partly blame being on holiday for that. My holidays have been stacked towards the end of the year which means I haven’t read quite as much as I otherwise might have. Very excitingly, I write this post from my hotel room in the Caribbean Beach resort at Disney World in Orlando, tired after a long day wandering around Magic Kingdom and watching their fireworks show Happily Ever After. It’s my first time at Disney and it’s been amazing so far… but all this merriment hasn’t left the most time for reading and I’m kind of ok with that. However, the rest of the month was pretty good for reading I think.

As always seems to be the case, I took part in a couple of readathons: the Charms Extra Credit readathon and Victober. I did better than my cynical self thought I would do with both of them so I’m reasonably pleased with that. Both the readathons were wonderfully hosted so I’d recommend checking them (and their hosts) out and joining in in the future if either of them seem like your jam. As I was taking part in Victober – a readathon in which you read Victorian novels throughout the month of October – a large portion of my reading was (understandably) focused around that. However, I got organised, made a schedule and everything, so that I could finish my Victober efforts just before I went off on holiday, so that my holiday reading could be less… demanding of me, shall we say? I think it worked out quite well even if, as it stands at the time of writing, I’ve only started one book so far on this holiday – and that was on the plane journey here. Still, we’ll see what November brings… but first, let’s wrap up October properly.


In October, I read a total of 5 books 5 fiction and non-fiction – and were re-reads (go me!). This amounted to 1242 pages in total.

In terms of format: 3 were paperback and were ebooks.

As for genre, 4 were comic books/graphic novels and 1 was a classic. (I know, I’m as surprised as you are by these stats for October.)

Onto the books themselves…

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T5W | Characters You’d Cosplay

Welcome one and all to this week’s Top 5 Wednesday post! For those of you who don’t know Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme/challenge which was created by the wonderful Lainey from gingerreadslainey and is now overseen by the equally lovely Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Every Wednesday, participants devise their Top 5 based on a given topic.

This Wednesday’s topic is Characters You’d Cosplayfeature some characters you’d like to cosplay as or you think would make a fun Halloween costume.

I’m not the biggest fan of Halloween, truth be told, never have been… but in my time I’ve dressed up as the requisite witch or two when I was younger. In fact, I think my Mildred Hubble costume from The Worst Witch is still lurking in my parents’ house somewhere! I can’t deny though that there are a few characters I’d love to cosplay as if I got the chance at an event or convention purely because I love their costumes.

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Tag | The Disney Tag

I found this amazing Disney themed Tag on Michelle’s Purple Pumpkin Blog, and it seems quite fitting because as you read this I will be arriving in Disney World Orlando, all excited to experience the magical world of Disney for the very first time. As I’m writing these we’re a few days away from the holiday but I am so excited so I figured it would be useful to channel this energy into something semi useful by completing a Disney themed tag!

1. Favourite Disney Film?

I always struggle to answer this succinctly but I’m going to try. My first true love of Disney will always be Pocahontas when it comes to the animated films and Mary Poppins for the live-action ones. Most recent new love is Moana and Hercules (I did not fully appreciate the latter properly when I was younger so I consider this a “new” love to me).

2. Favourite Disney Character?

Again, it’s so hard to pick one but since I’ve spied that sidekicks and princesses can pop up in the questions after this, I’ll try to pick a Disney “prince” for this one. I love Flynn Rider from Tangled – who wouldn’t? (Also, and this explains SO much about my taste in guys, Roger from 101 Dalmatians.)

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3. Favourite Disney Princess?

Can I pick Megara from Hercules and Rapunzel from Tangled? They’re both kick-ass in their own ways and I also love me some sass.

4. Favourite Disney side-kick?

Meeko from Pocahontas, no question about it.

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Try a Chapter | Choosing My Disney Holiday TBR

You might have seen my previous go at Try a Chapter for my Barcelona holiday back at the start of September, and it worked so well helping me choose which books to take with me on holiday… whether I read all of them is another issue but shhhhh. And, much like with my previous holiday TBR, I’m not sure how much reading time I’ll actually get on account of the fact I’ll probably be too distracted by the magical world of Disney but I’m willing to try anyway.

There’s a good chance that I’ll be quite tired – ok, mainly my feet will be tired – at the end of most days of this holiday, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to take a few moments to read, so let us see which books I’m fancying reading, shall we? These are what I have to choose from:

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Discussion | Rating Favourite Authors’ Books

Howdy folks! Today I bring you the lesser spotted discussion post in which I muse on something that’s caught my attention lately. For today’s post, I was inspired by my recent read of Vicious by V.E. Schwab, a book which I enjoyed but struggled to settle on a rating for. I thought I’d unpack why and, when it came down to it, the ‘why’ was essentially because V is a fave of mine.

It may surprise Schwab fans to learn that I, an also proclaimed Schwab fan, took three attempts to actually successfully read Vicious. That’s right, three attempts – I had previously DNFed (or, the more charitable/optimistic/misguided PAFNed ‘put aside for now-ed’) this book twice before now. Why? To be honest, Vicious wasn’t really my thing. And, despite everything, it kind of… still isn’t. This seems to be an unpopular opinion around the bookish community online, especially amongst fans of Schwab’s other work. I wouldn’t dream of taking anything away from anyone who does like Vicious most, because it is just personal preference and, for me, I prefer Schwab’s more portal fantasy-esque novels as that’s the line my taste generally runs along anyway.

But the fact remains that, actually, I didn’t love that book, I just enjoyed it, and really appreciated the skill I could see already in Schwab’s earlier work. But I just felt that she has written better (in fact, I suspect that Vengeful will be what I hoped Vicious was) and I’d read better examples of her work. Then came the moment when I realised this and felt like I was somehow betraying an author who I basically considered one of my favourite authors writing nowadays. Which brings me onto the point of this discussion post: I think I automatically look on books more fondly immediately purely because they’ve been written by a favourite author. That might sound obvious to some but I realised recently that this actually affected my baseline average rating for books.

As a rule, when I rate a book I start with 3 out of 5 stars, 3 to me says ‘it was average’, there was nothing special about the book but nothing particularly wrong with it either – it was just ‘ok’. If a book has a problematic element in it, I’ll probably deduct a star or two. If it was poorly written, I’ll probably deduct a star or two. If it didn’t have a logical plot-line or the character motivations seemed skewed, I’ll probably deduct a star or two. Likewise, the flip-side is true. If a book touches on important issues in a constructive and thought-provoking way, I’ll add a star or two. If a book is well-written or the writing style draws me in, I’ll add a star or two. If the plot sweeps me away on a journey and keeps me turning those pages, I’ll add a star or two.

So it’s easy to see how books by my favourite authors can end up getting inflated ratings even if I didn’t necessarily enjoy the theme of the stories within them as much as I have other stories. My baseline for rating a book by a favourite author, a ‘just ok’ book by them, is automatically a star (or more) higher than it would be for just any other random authors’ book. I just can’t be unbiased. I think this was the case with Vicious and it’s likely the case with some of my other favourite authors such as J.K. Rowling, Leigh Bardugo, and Neil Gaiman. If I’d rated Vicious purely based on enjoyment overall and I hadn’t settled it firmly in my head as a Favourite Authors’ Book, it probably wouldn’t have got a 4-star rating – and, ultimately, the review probably wouldn’t feel quite so tricky to write either!

Do you experience this too? Or maybe you’re able to divorce the artist from the work more than me and rate everything as an entity without that bias? I’m really curious about this topic so, if you have an opinion, please share it below in the comments and let’s chat about this.


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