Sunday, 31 July 2016

Goodbye to July! (Sunday Post #5)

http://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/the-sunday-post-meme

Today we're linking up with Kimba at The Caffeinated Book Reviewer to say goodbye to July.

News from the Reading Front

This month, I've read two novels (click links for reviews)...


Daylight Saving by Edward Hogan - 3 stars

Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell - 5 stars

...And eight manga books.


News from the Writing Front

Can we not talk about Camp NaNo? At the moment everything I try to write either crashes after about three chapters because, despite my planning, I don't know how to continue, or because I've lost confidence in the idea after doubts have crept in and told me that it's 'stupid'. I need to write some monologues (I love a good monologue), produce some short stories, and win back my writing confidence.

News from the Blogging Front

There's a new button in the sidebar! You probably haven't noticed it because it's black and blends in with the grey background. I did try to change the colour to green, but it didn't work. Anyway, whether it stands out or not, I'm now on Bloglovin'! For anyone who doesn't know, Bloglovin' is a website that allows you to keep track of all the blogs you read in one place. Just click on the button to follow me!

Other News
  • I turned nineteen this month. It was a dreary day heralded by tolling bells and attended by the grim reaper who hovered in the corner of my bedroom, tapping his watch with one long, bony finger. 
(In other news, turning nineteen has not stopped her from being a total drama queen.)

https://giphy.com/gifs/death-note-f1XuVTM3nJgvm
  • I finished watching the Death Note anime. For some reason, I liked Near and Mello an awful lot more in the anime than I did the manga. The way they compensated for the lack of action with dramatic camera work made the entire thing utterly hilarious. Overall, I liked it, but did they really have to change the ending?!? I'm still trying to work out why the hell that awkward foot massage scene was in there too...
  • I've also been watching The Living and the Dead. If you won't watch it for the ghosts, the scene with Harriet and the gravestones, or Charlotte, then watch it to see Merlin denying the existence of anything that cannot be explained in the first couple of episodes. A* casting for irony.
 How was you July? Did you read anything good?

Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Seven Heavenly Virtues of Reading

Charity

Lending good books to friends or, at the very least, recommending them.
 
(Recommending bad books to enemies also counts.)

Chastity

Dedicating yourself to one book at a time, and refusing to so much as touch another until it reaches the end of its natural life-span (AKA for as long as it takes you to read it).


(When do you ever do this?)

Did I say that I did this? Did I? Did I? Where did I say that I did this? Can you point it out to me? Huh? Didn't think so. I'll see you in court, malicious voice that lives in my head.

(Objection! You don't have a case.)

How can you even say that when you don't know how much I'm willing to pay for a lawyer?

Diligence

Seeing a book through to the end in one sitting.

https://giphy.com/gifs/season-17-the-simpsons-17x2-3orifetUYz1GoqDgys

Humility

Never admitting how many books you can read in a weekend.

(Unless you want to make the peasants jealous.)

Thank you Ivy for demonstrating exactly what humility isn't.


(You're welcome.)


Kindness

Keeping spoilers to yourself. Especially those of the heart-breaking variety.

Temperance 

Refraining from attacking authors online just because they took THEIR work in a direction that you didn't like. Killing characters can be necessary, breaking the fellowship can advance the plot, and nobody ever sets out to jump the shark. Remember that writers are people too. Have some manners. Show some empathy. 

Patience

Waiting for the next book in the series to be released.

https://giphy.com/gifs/1963-the-great-escape-a-streetcar-named-marge-mF2x7t7sCvwhW



How many of these virtues do you have? Would you have defined any of them differently?

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Series Review: The Hollow Earth Trilogy by Carole E. Barrowman and John Barrowman

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13010571-hollow-earth
Hollow Earth (Hollow Earth #1)
4/5

"'Are you like us?' Matt asked, turning away from Renard's gaze, 'Is that why Mum brought us here? Can you make your drawings real, too?'" - Carole E. Barrowman and John Barrowman, Hollow Earth, page 75

Hollow Earth introduces us to Matt and Em, twins with the ability to bring their drawings to life. Whilst the use of twin telepathy from the beginning with no introduction or explanation (I know lots of books and films use it, but I've never actually read anything that does before so it took a few lines before I realised that their telepathy was being treated as 'normal' because they were twins) annoyed me, I liked these two. Matt was your typical preteen boy- he was a bit rash sometimes which made him feel realistic. Em, on the other hand, was cautious and struggled to control her emotions. If she was scared, the world knew it. Again, this didn't make her weak or annoying, just real. The third member of their trio was Zach. Despite the fact that one of his abilities stank of plot convenience, he was an awesome addition to the cast.

I liked the novelty of their powers - the ability to summon things from drawings - and I was impressed by their flexibility. Matt was particuarly ingenuitive with his use of the Caladrius. 


Overall, I thought that this was a strong start to a series that 9-14 year olds will love.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15939894-bone-quill
Bone Quill (Hollow Earth #2)
3/5

"'Matt THINKS? This is so not a great plan, Em.'" - Carole E. Barrowman and John Barrowman, Bone Quill, page 73

Woah! If there was one thing that I was not expecting from this series, it was the ability that Matt and Em gained in this book.
That said, I found the first half disappointing. Despite the excellent adventure that Matt, Em and Zach had when they first used it, the new ability infuriated me a little bit (it seemed to come out of nowhere), and I ended up having to put it down for a few months due to exams and The Blood of Olympus.

When I picked it up again, everything got moving. How realistic the characters are struck me again in this one. Matt is rash. He doesn't always think before he acts. Instead of this being annoying, I actually found it heartbreaking, especially towards the end. No matter how hard he tried, he just kept making things worse, though this is partly because none of the adults ever gave him all of the information. The revelation at the end confirmed my worst fears. I know they say that they cannot bind a child, but it's impossible for me to do anything but worry about Matt. All I can think is, "They won't bind him...will they?" I feel terribly sorry for Em, seriously, this was a terrible book for her. Everything that happened seemed designed to destroy her. There wasn't nearly enough Zach in this book (I am totally biased because he's my favourite character, but still...). I loved the new additions of Solon and Carik, so I really hope that they team up with Matt in the next book. That doesn't mean that I don't want some focus to remain on Em and Zach though.

Above, I mentioned that the new ability infuriated me. It came out of nowhere, I mean, it's never happened to them before, so why now? By the end of the book, I realised that it was 100% necessary and, I'll be honest, this plotline has messed with my head in the same way that TimeRiders does, so I love it.

The end smelt suspiciously of plot convenience to me (I'm looking at you, Jeannie!), but I'm still really excited for the final book! Just don't bind Matt...please... 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21460413-the-book-of-beasts
The Book of Beasts (Hollow Earth #3)
3/5

"Someone nearby was out of time." - Carole E. Barrowman and John Barrowman, The Book of Beasts, page 9

The beginning was slow, the middle was AMAZING, and the ending was...anti-climatic.

Honestly, if the entire book had been like the middle, I would've given it five stars, no problem...but the way they dealt with the antagonist was just...well, it was so quick that I MISSED IT! It also ended remarkably abruptly and I was left wondering where the repurcussions were. I mean, Matt never tried to hide that the plot was all his fault, but I kind of expected a tense scene where the Council debated whether he should be bound or not. Obviously, I wasn't expecting him to be bound (this is a kids' book, after all), but I expected it to be considered.

*Takes a deep breath*

Aside from that, I did enjoy this book. I liked that Matt didn't try to blame anyone else (it's so refreshing when a character accepts responsibility for his/her actions). I also liked Carik and Solon - it was hilarious to see Matt try and explain 21st century concepts to them. I enjoyed seeing Em come into her own. Her brother might have been trapped in the middle ages, but there was NO WAY he was staying there. As for Zach, there was more of him in this book than there was in Bone Quill.

If you don't read this trilogy for any other reason, read it for the nostalgia - this book has walkie talkies. Walkie Talkies. I can't be the only one who remembers walkie talkies, right? Oh, and for the scene with the lightsaber. You do not want to miss the scene with the lightsaber.

Overall Thoughts

This series has an imaginative plot, well-drawn characters, and magical art skills. It's a strong middle grade trilogy. I'm quite suprised that it's not more popular than it is.

Have you read the Hollow Earth trilogy?

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Themed Names - Fit for a Queen (or King)

Throughout history, royalty has had an annoying habit of using the same names over and over and over and over and over and over again. England alone has had three Richards, six Georges, and EIGHT Edwards. 

Royal names tend to be quite traditional, so they work well for characters from all walks of life, especially in Historical fiction. 

Historical Royals

Girls

Elizabeth - A Greek name meaning 'Oath of God'. The name of the current British Queen, and the last Tudor monarch.

Mary - A biblical name worn by Mary I, the first child of Henry VIII.

Victoria - The Roman name of the Goddess of victory. The longest reigning British monarch to date (though maybe not for much longer).

Catherine - Catherine of Aragon, Catherine Howard, Catherine Parr... The name Catherine means 'pure', and hails from France.

Jane - The feminine form of John. Jane Seymour was the third wife of Henry VIII. Lady Jane Grey is known as the Nine Day Queen.

Anne - There have been many many royal Annes. In 1702, Britain was ruled by Queen Anne, then there's Anne of Cleves, who divorced Henry VIII and gained the title 'Sister of the King', and Anne Boleyn, who is suggested by history to have been a highly intelligent young woman.

Matilda - During a civil war (no, not the famous one where King Charles I lost his head) in the 1100s, Empress Matilda fought to be crowned Queen of England.

Charlotte - The name of the fourth in line to the British throne.

Anastasia - A Grand Duchess, and daughter of the last Russian Tsar.

Tatiana - A Grand Duchess, and daughter of the last Russian Tsar.

Maria - A Grand Duchess, and daughter of the last Russian Tsar.

Olga - A Grand Duchess, and daughter of the last Russian Tsar.

Marie - Marie Antoinette lost her head during the French Revolution.

Antoinette - Her surname can also be used as a first name.

Isabella - Isabella of Castile married Ferdinand of Aragon and bore Catherine of Aragon. Her marriage helped to unify Spain and, under her, a number of reforms were passed that dramatically reduced the crime rate among other things.

Boys

William - The name of the French King who conquered the English in 1066. This name is also shared by his son, William II, and a much later king who was married to Mary II.

Henry - England has had EIGHT of these. The seventh defeated Richard III in the War of the Roses, and the eighth is known for having an unusually large number of wives and for creating his own church so that he could grant his own divorce.

Stephen - Grandson of William the Conquerer. Fought against Matilda in a civil war.

  
Richard - Richard I was known as Richard the Lionheart. Richard III lost the War of the Roses and some people believe that he murdered his nephews to gain the throne in the first place.

John - Famously signed the Magna Carta.

Edward - England has had eight Edwards. 

George - England had an entire Georgian era.

James - The Scottish King James VI became the English King James I after Elizabeth I passed away.

Francis - Francis I of France fought against (and with) Henry VIII on various occasions during his reign.

Louis - Louis XVI was execuated during the French Revolution. Louis XIV was known as 'Louis the Great' and 'The Sun King'.

Mythical Royals 

Girls

Penelope - Famous for her loyalty to her husband Odysseus (loyalty that was not returned, I should add).


Ariadne - Assisted Theseus by giving him the ball of string so that he could find his way back out of the labyrinth.

Andromeda - Chained to a rock as a sacrifice to Cetus, a sea monster, because her mother boasted that she was more beautiful than the nereids. Rescued by Perseus.

Cassiopeia - Mother of Andromeda. Deserves an award for being the worst mother ever.

Helen - Princess of Sparta, but better known as Helen of Troy for running off there and causing a war that famously involves a wooden horse.

Hermione - Daughter of Helen and Menelaus.

Clytemnestra - Sister of Helen. Wife of Agamemnon. Had an affair with Aegisthus whilst her husband was fighting in the Trojan war. In some versions of the myth, she murders her husband upon his return and, in others, Aegisthus does it for her.

Electra - Daughter of Clytemnestra, who supported her brother Orestes in taking revenge for their father. 

Guinevere - Arthur's Queen, who fell in love with Sir Lancelot.  

Boys

Dion - Laconian King whose daughters were blessed with the powers of prophecy by Apollo. Things did not end well for them.

Arthur - Legendary English King who was betrayed by his wife Guinevere and slaughtered by his son/nephew Mordred.  

Fictional Royals

Girls

Briar - As in Briar Rose, the original name of Sleeping Beauty. Briars are prickly plants.

Belle - Disney's name for the beauty in Beauty and the Beast.

Aurora - The name given to Disney's Sleeping Beauty. Also the Roman name for the Goddess of the Dawn. The Greeks called her Eos.

Rapunzel - Princess who was locked up in a tower by a witch.

Tiana - Disney's name for the Princess in The Princess and the Frog.  

Titania - Shakespeare's fairy queen in A Midsummer Night's Dream. 

Boys 

Oberon - Shakespeare's fairy king in A Midsummer Night's Dream. 

Unisex

Ariel - The name of the Princess in Disney's The Little Mermaid is actually a unisex name meaning 'Lion of God' in Hebrew.

Can you think of any great royal names that I've missed? Do you tend to name your royals after real royals, or do you pick a name of your own?

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Seven Deadly Sins of Reading

Avarice

The constant need to buy more books, even though you did that yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. 

Envy

https://giphy.com/gifs/reading-xTiTnEwlPV1OVKKtlC

Fictional people are not bound by the rules of reality, or even the laws of time and space. When you've just finished reading about shonen heroes with their constant, plot-convenient power-ups, schools that teach transfiguration instead of trigonometry, and kids with quests instead of coursework, it's hard to be anything but jealous.

Pride

The feeling we all get when we read a book before it was cool.

Alternatively, that feeling you get when you introduce a friend to another world and they fall in love with it. 

Lust

(*Sniggers*)   

*Glares* Oh, get your mind out of the gutter. What are you doing up, anyway? It's not quite eight o'clock. At night. 

(*Yawns* Well we can't all be morning people.)

Lust can mean to crave or covet something, i.e. a lust for power. Readers have a shameful lust for knowledge and adventure that no amount of reading will sate. 

Gluttony

Two words. Binge. Reading.

(Binge-Read. Verb. 
To consume books one after another in a futile attempt to have your fill of fiction. Has been known to lead to frustration at release dates, reading slumps, and an inability to be pleased by anything. It is also known to be a key gateway to other forms of procrastination. Despite these dangers, some brave readers still choose to take part in readathons. Readathons intensify the risks of binge-reading by challenging innocent readers to read as many books as possible within a certain amount of time.
If you are planning to binge-read, please take precautions. Don't read on an empty stomach, always tell a friend what you are reading, and never read and drive.
Binge-reading. Know your limits.)

Sloth

Two words. Reading. Slump.

https://giphy.com/gifs/october-reader-relentless-QkBIixosz2Ol2

(Reading Slump.
Symptoms:
  • The inability to get through a book without putting it down every few pages and leaving it for several weeks. This is not the book's fault. It could be a book you've been reading for a while, or even a favourite book.
  • Sometimes (though not always) you may go off buying books during a reading slump.
  • You may find it as impossible to enter a bookshop as an uninvited vampire would find it to enter a house.
Causes:
  • Laziness, pure and simple.)
Ivy.
  
(Other Possible causes include reading too much, finishing a much-loved series, and being disappointed by a book. 

It's probably just laziness though. I mean, come on, it's not exactly hard. Just PICK UP THE BOOK and READ it.)

Thank you Ivy for that startling, completely out-of-character display of empathy. It's good to know that, the next time I fall into a reading slump, I can rely on you to pull me out with gentle words of encouragement.

Wrath

https://giphy.com/gifs/4s7Yz0VFR7na0

When a book ends on a cliff-hanger and the sequel isn't due out for several years -

(That's one year in non-reader time.) 

- it is common for a reader to indulge themselves in a bit of teeth-gnashing before falling into a perpetual state of sorrow.

How many of these sins have you committed? Would you have defined any of them differently?

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Dolls, Death, and the Deranged - Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23357071-frozen-charlotte
5/5

The weirdest thing about reading this book was not Lilias' bone obsession, the haunting ballad, or the dolls in Rebecca's cabinet. The weirdest thing was that, just a few nights ago, I was looking up scary stories, and I ended up reading about Ouija boards and the experiences that people had had with them. It was completely accidental. I didn't set out to read about them, just to get that thrill of fear, that shiver down my spine.

All of the sites said the same thing: NEVER ask when you're going to die.
  
"His next, and final, question made the laugh stick in my throat. 'When will I die?'" - Alex Bell, Frozen Charlotte, pages 15-16  

Dammit, Jay!

Motivated by a giant spoiler, Sophie heads off to the Isle of Skye to stay with the cousins she hasn't seen since she was young. Cameron is broody. Piper is perfect. Lilias is strange. And Rebecca? Rebecca is dead. 

She was the spirit Sophie chose to summon.

The plot is driven less by Sophie's desire to find out whether the supernatural was responsible for said giant spoiler, and more by Cameron and Piper's constant attempts to paint one another as the villain of the piece. This isn't Sophie's fault - she's entirely reliant on what her cousins will and won't tell her. What they will tell her is patchy and unreliable. What they won't tell her could fill several books. The suspense builds and builds right up until the climax and is maintained right until the end. I'll admit, I'm bad with suspense, or any sort of mystery. If I don't plough through the entire novel in one go, chances are that I'll pick it up when I'm bored and sleepy and flick right to the end. Disaster averted with this one. Frozen Charlotte held my attention from start to finish.

I love a good Gothic horror, and I would definitely class this novel as Gothic. The setting was almost another character, obstructive and antagonistic, it attacked half of the characters and warped the others. Sophie's cousins live on the Isle of Skye, which is only accessible from the British mainland by ferry. This adds to the sense of isolation in the story.

A good ghost story is one of my favourite things, and this one doesn't disappoint.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

'I' is for In Medias Res

We haven't had an alphabet post in a while because the letter 'I' has thwarted me at every turn. Of course, when I finally managed to defeat it, three topics came along at once.

The first was irony, which I'd probably define wrong...

The second was idioms, which I'm usually the queen of. Naturally the moment I thought of it every idiom I knew slipped silently to the back of my mind.

So we're stuck with In Medias Res.

(Which is Latin for 'in the middle of things.')

Right. If you can remember that, you can easily remember what it means. 

A story that starts in the middle, during the climax, or at the end starts in medias res. The exposition and rising action are therefore told in flashbacks, or by character conversation. 

In Medias Res in literature:
  •  Robert Browning's poem The Laboratory begins in medias res, with the narrator already at the eponymous laboratory. Flashbacks are used to tell us what has forced her to such a dreary place.
  • The Odyssey begins with Odysseus' son Telemachus as a grown man and Odysseus having been missing for ten years. We later hear everything that Odysseus has done over the last decade.
 Can you think of any more examples of stories that begin in medias res.