Saturday, 2 December 2017

Gilded Cage

Firstly, I would like to say that any novel which mentions the Isles of Scilly is a major winner in my eyes. The fact that some of the next book might take place on Tresco has me giddy with excitement.

The Britain of Gilded Cage is dramatically divided - skilled 'Equals' rule the lower classes, who are forced to complete ten years of slavery in order to become full citizens. Abi and Luke Hadley have just begun their slavedays, hoping to complete them as a family while they are young enough to survive. But family secrets, rebellion and magic mean their days are anything but easy. 

I loved the multiple perspectives this novel was written in; they weaved together so well and kept the pace of the story fresh and exciting. The world James creates was terrifying, but detailed and enthralling. 

There was a fantastic focus on sibling relationships and I looked forward to seeing these developed further in book two.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe

I was lucky enough to pick up an early copy of the Loneliest Girl at YALC and I am SO pleased that I did - it is phenomenal.

Romy Silvers is the loneliest girl in the universe - until she finds out that another ship has just launched from Earth, one that's traveling fast enough to catch up with her.

I'm actually not going to say any more than that about the plot, because I think the less you know going into this, the more exciting you'll find the book. The Loneliest Girl is a gripping page turner that kept me guessing to the end - I made some big assumptions at the start of this novel which turned out to be completely wrong, and made watching the story unfold even more exhilarating. 

I felt Romy's loneliness quite keenly - this probably isn't a book to read when you're home alone, and is best saving for when you're with other people, otherwise it might bring you down a bit. The novel is character driven and Romy is a fantastic character to follow.

My mind was boggled by the message dates. James says at the end that she kept a spreadsheet to work them all out, and I think that shows just how detailed and brilliant the sci-fi elements of this novel are. Setting is so crucial to the plot of this novel and it's a while since I've read a book where that's the case - possibly not since Way Down Dark.

Everyone should read The Loneliest Girl - it is definitely one of the best books I have read this year. 

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Faber Writing Academy: Plot

I meant to post this months ago, but it somehow got stuck in my drafts!

This summer, I took part in Faber Academy's Plot writing course, which is one of the mini, two month long online courses Faber offers. At £120 per course, Faber's mini courses are considerably cheaper than the longer, more intensive courses offered by Faber, Curtis Brown Creative and The Writer's Academy.

I decided to sign up for this course after reading a few articles on why people often forget to treat writing as a hobby, so feel guilty spending money on it. If I was into cycling, I wouldn't think twice about spending birthday money on a bike, or new kit. If I was a musician, I'd happily pay for instruments, lessons and sheet music. But for some reason I've always been reluctant to spend money on my writing. I'm trying to rectify this (and change my entire mindset on my approach to my writing) by investing in a few books on writing, a Mslexia subscription and this Faber course. 

I really enjoyed this course and it was a lot of fun to take part in, but you do get what you pay for. Feedback is provided by other members of the course (you can pay extra for tutor feedback) and you're mostly left to your own devices. Some of the participants didn't feedback on anyone else's work, which was a shame as I found leaving feedback was a really useful process and I loved seeing everyone's unique and talented responses to the tasks set. 

I thought the resources were brilliant and I picked up some really useful tips and tricks, which I'm using on my current WIP. I think taking the course has helped with my writing process and also stopped me panicking about some of the aspects of my writing I worried about previously. I've also been able to join an alumni forum to keep in contact with some of the people I met on the course. The daily email updates I get from the forum serve as a great motivator to keep writing.

Faber offers mini courses on character, research and setting for the same price. It's also worth pointing out that CBC now offer some great scholarships for people who would like to apply to one of their courses but can't afford them. You can find out more about them here

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Shift Zine

Argh! It's been so long since I posted anything. I don't know what happened - I have around ten posts saved in my draft which I haven't finished and scheduled for some crazy reason. Expect a deluge in the run-up to Christmas!

My most exciting writing news at the moment is that I had a short story published in the October issue of Shift Zine! You can read it here - it's a (very) short story about a vampire discussing his self-control issues (which he absolutely does not have). I had a lot of fun writing it and was so incredibly excited when I heard it was being published. I really hope you enjoy reading it. And after you do, make sure you check out the brilliant reviews and interviews, as well as two amazing short stories by Gemma Varnom and Brianna Henderson. 

Saturday, 9 September 2017

When Dimple Met Rishi

I can't remember the last time I read a novel in a day, but I couldn't put When Dimple Met Rishi down!

“Seriously? That's what you think I should be relegating my brain space to? Looking nice? Like, if I don't make the effort to look beautiful, my entire existence is nullified? Nothing else matters-not my intellect, not my personality or my accomplishments; my hopes and dreams mean nothing if I'm not wearing eyeliner?” 

Dimple has a plan - for college and coding domination - and an arranged marriage doesn't figure into it. So when she arrives at a summer coding program and Rishi strolls over, introducing himself as her husband, she takes the only reasonable course of action and throws her coffee over him. What follows is both adorable and hilarious. 

“She refused to be one of those girls who gave up on everything they'd been planning simply because a boy entered the picture.” 

I loved the characters and the romance in this story. It was so cute and happy that I defy anyone to read it without a smile on their face. This is absolutely one to read if you want to be put in a good mood.

“But that was Rishi... he was like a pop song you thought you couldn't stand, but found yourself humming in the shower anyway.” 

Saturday, 2 September 2017

On Writing: by Stephen King

I have been reading more non-fiction books this year and the highlight so far has definitely been On Writing, which I was bought for my birthday. It's a fascinating insight into how one of the greatest writers of our time works and I think it will appeal even to people who don't have an interest in writing fiction. 

The first half is a 'writing CV' which is a mini-memoir of the writing related moments in King's life. I actually ended up enjoying this more than the writing types as it was so interesting. However, the writing tips were also extremely useful and I made a lot of changes to my editing process as a result. In particular, the marked up 'edited chapter' King includes at the end of the book was such an invaluable thing to see. I cut a lot of words out of my WIP after reading it (including a lot - but not all - of the adverbs!)

One of the things I found most fascinating, however, was that King doesn't plan his novels. As someone who has recently completed a Faber course on plot in an attempt to get her head around planning, I found this both interesting and surprising. King likens his writing process to an archaeological excavation; carefully uncovering a story that's already there. 

While I don't think everything King suggests is right for me and my writing process, I've taken away a lot of helpful advice and I can't recommend this novel enough as a result.  

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Wing Jones

Beautiful. I've seen a lot of hype for this novel and all of it is justified. My only regret is that I read it on Kindle, so I couldn't get my copy signed at YALC. 

“Wing,” he breathes, like a wish, like a prayer, and it’s as if it is my heart’s name and not my own because my heart flutters in my chest, desperate to get out to fly to him.” 

Wing Jones (or The Heartbeats of Wing Jones, if you're in America) follows a young girl called Wing's attempts to cope with a difficult stage in her life by discovering a passion and talent for running. 

“Then he smiles at me and it’s like I’ve been living in darkness and now there is light.”

I adored the figurative language, which fitted in so well with Wing's personality and what she imagined. It flowed beautifully and made this novel so enjoyable to read. 

"But my happiness is a squishy kind of happiness, squeezing itself in where it can fit, pushing around all the sadness and the stress and the pressure, finding any empty spot, any crevice, and filling it."

The characters were also brilliant - I liked that none of them were perfect, as this lead to a realistic, believable story line. And speaking of believable, I've never read a novel which made me so thankful for the NHS. The medical bills and difficulties Wing's family face are incomprehensible for someone who has never had to pay for healthcare and reminded me how lucky we are to have the NHS in the UK. 

“Another wish, a secret one, flutters by, and it has Aaron’s name on it. I watch it for a moment, fluttering, floating, and then I grab it tight and crush it before anyone else can see it. I can feel the remnants of the mothy wish wings on my skin.” 

Webber captures the exhilaration and freedom of running so well and it (almost) made me want to put on my trainers. Until I remembered that I have a six months old and haven't had a decent night's sleep in over a year, so running is about as appealing as, well, anything that's not sleep, really... I think I'll stick to reading!