Thursday, 5 December 2019

...Can I Have a Sword? (Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater)

"Dreams are not the safest thing to build a life on." - Maggie Stiefvater, Call Down the Hawk

Thank God this lived up to the hype! Ronan was my favourite character from The Raven Cycle (tied with Noah), so I was really excited when I heard that there was a trilogy coming out focused on him and his dreaming. Whilst the other main characters make cameos via text or, in Adam's case, appear a couple of times, this is very much Ronan's book. 

He's... not coping great.

Turns out, when all of your friends leave to live their lives, not being able to leave home sucks. Especially when it's no longer by choice.

Now that we're focusing in on Ronan, his two brothers, Declan and Matthew, take on much bigger roles to the point that the prologue even begins with the line, "this is going to be a story about the Lynch brothers." Matthew brings some much needed and - I'll be honest, completely unexpected this early - angst to the table and, along with new character Jordan, poses some interesting existential questions. As for Declan, if you thought you were starting to like him in The Raven King, please read this. This is a guy who has put so much effort into being boring that he is personally insulted by any mere hint of a suggestion that he is in fact interesting, but spends his time at seedy magical markets and has an attic full of personality. Someone should probably point out to him that people who are mysteries, wrapped in secrets, hidden within lies are generally not considered boring. Also, he was smooth as all hell asking Jordan out. Like, legitimately did not think he had it in him. I am so here for this couple getting a happy ending.

(Don't count your chickens...)

Too late! I'm counting all of them!

Adam, meanwhile, is breaking my heart. He's done a little bit more than the typical, going away to college and reinventing himself. He's playing pretend as the friend who has it all together: the perfect family, the nice clothes, enough money. We all know it's going to come crashing down at some point, right? Despite that, his relationship with Ronan remains strong. Even after the dorm incident...

Plot-wise, there's a lot going on. And I mean a lot. We have other dreamers, and we have a mysterious group hunting the dreamers using people called visionaries, whose visions are deadly to both themselves and others. Lurking behind it all is the mysterious Bryde, who contacts Ronan through his dreams and could be an ally or an enemy.

The writing is, of course, beautiful, because this is a Maggie Stiefvater book. It's all metaphors and sentences that blossom like flowers, and Ronan's creative swearing. 

I can't wait to see what happens next! Also, despite having no fencing ability and managing to cut my finger whilst using scissors the other day, I want a sword now. Preferably From Chaos.  

Have you read Call Down the Hawk?

Sunday, 1 December 2019

November Wrap-up

Honestly, between my job and how early companies started dropping Christmas ads and music, it feels like it's been Christmas forever. Everyone knows Christmas cannot start until after Bonfire Night. I mean, seriously, respect the order of celebrations. First, we dress up as ghosts and ghouls, then we set fires to celebrate the death of a man from hundreds of years ago, and then we can start thinking about putting trees up indoors and screaming Mariah Carey songs at the top of our lungs.

News from the Reading Front

Often when I feel like I haven't read much in a month, I check my Goodreads and find that I read more than I had thought. This month, not so much.
It's utterly tragic that my TBR is now devoid of Haikyuu! volumes, but the fact that the first two seasons are now on Netflix will ease my suffering until I can pick up another one. I don't always rate them because it would skew my average rating way too high, so just assume that every volume is a five star read.
News from the Writing Front

If I was being honest with myself - really, truly honest - I should not have done NaNo this year. I did not have a project lined up, I decided to just continue with my current one (as it turned out, this had nowhere near 50K left in it), and with my current routine and responsibilities there was no way in hell I could commit to writing nearly 2000 words a day and still expect to function as a human being. Not only did I not hit 50K for the first time ever, I did not hit 25K, but you know what? I'm mere chapters away from having a 90K first draft, so I don't mind as much as I thought I would. So long as I don't fall into a pit, I think I can manage to have a full first draft by new year. 

News from the Drawing Front

I can't share anything right now, because my phone is giving up the ghost and that is my only camera, but I doodled a couple of pics of my D&D character this month.  

News from the Net
  • I have come to the irritating conclusion that most online relationship advice for people who aren't interested in dating is aimed at guys. There's also not enough on how to deal with possessive people who are NOT in a relationship with you. Like, there are over 7 billion people on this planet. If I'm looking for it, there must be an audience.
  • The Haikyuu! trailer for the Land VS Sky OVA is up on Youtube. It follows the Tokyo teams' (Nekoma and Fukurodani) journey to Nationals. 
  • Taylor Swift dropped Beautiful Ghosts and it's so ethereal it makes me want to rip up my whole ghost story draft and start over. (I mean, I'm not going to, but...) 
  • Apparently Young Justice #14 - due out in March 2020 - will feature both Spoiler (Stephanie Brown) and Arrowette (Cissie King-Jones). Also, Aqualad (Jackson Hyde) and Sideways (Derek James). (She says, knowing that comic covers and stories rarely match up...) 
How was your November? Did you win NaNo?

Sunday, 24 November 2019

The Wicked Book Tag

(Spoiler Alert! There is a quote from Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater used in this post.)

For my 18th birthday, I saw Wicked on the West End. It's probably the first musical I really fell in love with, and you may blame it for my subsequent obsessions with Hamilton, Heathers, and several songs from Rent. My blog has been experiencing a bit of a post drought, so Thank Goodness for the Wicked book tag! This tag was created by What the Hell is She Reading?

No One Mourns the Wicked
(No one would feel bad if this character died) 

Oh God, where to start. Umbridge? Voldemort? The Joker?
I mean, since it's kind of true in-universe, we'll go with Simon.

The Wizard and I
(A book that gives you hope)

I feel like I'm supposed to go with something super deep and profound here, but...

"Everything doesn't have to be about fear. There's room in our line of work for hope too."

"It's only the end if you want it to be." 

What is This Feeling?
(A book You loathed)

Behold. The worst book ever written. Featuring a heroine who is kidnapped by her abusive employer, spends ages begging to go home, is finally allowed to leave, has an inexplicable change of heart halfway home, and returns to marry him.

Ah, yes, the ideal woman...

Dancing Through Life
(A carefree, light book)

Thinking of something light I've read is very, very difficult, because I do love all the angst.

(I can confirm.)

Let's go with My Lady Jane, a very light-hearted take on a British queen who, historically, met with a very tragic end because she was surrounded by power-hungry relatives. My image of Lady Jane Grey is of a sensible young woman standing calmly in the centre of the throne room whilst the rest of the court is running around her, shrieking.

(A book that needs more recognition)

Oh look, an opportunity to scream about The Invisible Library series!

Irene is a dimension-hopping librarian (My! Dream! Job!) with a love of Sherlock Holmes stories, a mysterious past, and an inability to keep her out of trouble. With her apprentice, Kai, and Vale, a great detective, she steals rare books for preservation in the mysterious Library, which I'm 99.9% certain will end up being the ultimate villain of the series.

Defying Gravity
(A character that basically says screw the world I’m doing my own thing)

Villainous example. Light spends all of five seconds consumed by horror that writing a name in the notebook has caused a man to die, before deciding that the human idea of morality does not apply to him.

He goes from zero to a hundred real fast.

As Long As You're Mine
(A scene from a book where a couple couldn't keep their hands off each other)

I don't want to spoil anything, because this only came out this month, but I can't in good faith put any other book here.

"I'm starving. I need to eat. I need to take your clothes off."

Enough said.

(A character who's full of themselves)

Damn. I've already used Light. How about Sherlock Holmes?

A man's called a meddler, or investigater. A murder's a tragedy, or a mystery. Is one a genius sleuth, or an intolerable know-it-all? It's all in the label. That's able. To persist.

For Good
(A book that has changed you for good)
 Not so much the book itself, but this is the first novel I read during a period in my life where I used to spend lunchtime in the school library reading horror fiction.

That time has definitely shaped the way I write. Everything my pen touches turns to horror. 

 Please don't ask me about NaNoWriMo! Instead, tell me about a book that has changed you For Good?

Thursday, 31 October 2019

The Many Mistakes I Made in October

I didn't actually realise that it was the end of October until a notification for someone else's wrap-up dropped into my inbox.

And that's just one mistake I made in October.

News from the Reading Front

I smashed my Goodreads reading challenge this month.

I read eight books, which is a lot more than I thought I'd read. How were these all this month? Time somehow feels both incredibly fast and impossibly slow.

This month, I read...
News from the Writing Front

They've changed the NaNo website. I will proceed to be deeply uncomfortable about this throughout November.

Another mistake I made this month is not preparing for NaNo at all. I'm going to be honest. What made up my mind about not taking part in Inktober this year was when it hit the third of October and I realised that, A, it had been October for three days, and, B, I hadn't drawn anything.

But I can't not do NaNo.

The project I'm working on already has over 78,000 words on it, but I think it has 50,000 left in it and, if it doesn't, I guess I'll just write horror short stories until I make it. 

How was your October?

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Classics Summed up in One Sentence 2: The Thrilling Sequel

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Do not look for sense, you will not find it here.

Measure For Measure by William Shakespeare

All women want marriage, even if they've spent the whole play insisting that they're going to be a nun.

Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott

Growing up will destroy your dreams and dance on the broken pieces.

The 39 Steps by John Buchan

The country is the one true damsel in distress. 

Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway

The Daily Mail's idea of "millenials" in the 1920s.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Literally nothing happens.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

The most eligible bachelors imprison their wives in their attics.

 The Monk by Matthew Lewis

Always have a spare love interest - you never know when you might need one.  

If you have a classic you would like to be passive-aggressive about, by all means drop it in the comics.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

The Good Place Book Tag

Since my Friday evenings are currently consumed by the AGONY of reaching the end of a new episode of The Good Place only to remember that I will now have to wait another week to find out what happens next, today I'm doing The Good Place book tag. This tag was created by Laura @ Bookies and Cookies, and Caitlin @ Book Chats.

Your problematic fave

I spent far too long thinking about this, before I realised that the most problematic of my favourite characters is Damian Wayne. Ex-assassin. Technically wiped out a species, since he made Goliath the last of his kind. Literally went to DC hell when he died.

And all before he hit thirteen years old.


 A book that challenged you to think about morality

You would think this had something to do with the murder, but no. The thing I felt most conflicted over in this novel was that Addy cheated on her boyfriend, but she was the one I sympathised with.

A book that you find yourself name-dropping or bragging about having read 

Look. If it has upwards of 700 pages, you automatically win bragging rights when you turn the final page. 

A book you love because it has zero pretension

On the Goodreads page, an answer given to a question about this book describes it (with love) as "meandering", "self-indulgent", and "convoluted". 

All of these things are true.

It's also excellent fun.

A book that is informative or a good reference

Say it with me, Anne Boleyn did not commit adultery (with her brother, or otherwise) against the literal King of England.

Possibly my favourite historical figure, Anne Boleyn was wickedly intelligent and only fell because she was betrayed by her own body. Henry VIII changed the religion of the UK so that he could divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry her... only to execute her 1000 days later. You may have heard her referred to as the Queen of 1000 days.

A book struggling to know what it is
I have to go with a film here, because no story has more of an identity crisis than Alita: Battle Angel. Is it a cute teen romance? A sports story? A dystopian sci-fi? 


It's also pure heart-pounding adrenaline that'll have you watching the credits with a massive grin on your face.

A book you thought you'd like, but it ended up just being okay

The Gallagher Girls series. My ratings went up, down, up, then down again, but ultimately there was too much romance and not enough spying. 

A book you would assign as torture

We all know what I'm going to say here, right? It's got to be Pamela. If you haven't heard of my intense hatred for this book then, honestly, you must be new here. It's the heart-freezing love story of a man who goes from a tyrant to a saint the second he falls in love with the heroine, and a protagonist who shows how little she cares for material possessions by talking about practically nothing else.

I once described finishing it as like surviving bubonic plague.

 What's the worst novel you've ever read and why?

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Thursday, 17 October 2019

Stepford Suburbia (The Road Through the Wall by Shirley Jackson)

"'We must expect to set a standard. Actually, however much we may wish to find new friends whom we may value, people who are exciting to us because of new ideas, or because they are different, we have to do what is expected of us.'
'What is expected of me?' Harriet said suddenly, without intention.
'To do what you're told,' her mother said sharply." - Shirley Jackson, The Road Through the Wall, page 148 

If you've never read a book by Shirley Jackson, I strongly recommend you follow this link and read The Lottery. Shirley Jackson is a master of Gothic suspense and it occurred to me the other day that I should therefore make an effort to read everything she has ever written.

The Road Through the Wall was her first novel and it centres on Pepper Street, where a number of very snooty families (and one or two exiled ones) live. Plotwise, I found the ending to be a total let-down. I want to know who did it and the reveal never came, so I now feel totally unsatisfied. The one thing I feel certain of is that it likely wasn't Tod. I don't know why he was so desperate to sell his bike and he's a sneaky little so-and-so, but there was never any indication of him being particuarly interested in Caroline. Hester, he was fascinated by, and he was always trying to get the other boys to hang out with him, but Caroline? And, as one of the other characters said towards the end, the rock was too big for him to lift. Suicide is not necessarily an indication of guilt, especially when you're already damned by public opinion. (I've gone back and realised he's thirteen - for some reason I'd gotten it into my head that he was eight so that idea that he even knew how to do that was even more HORRIFYING.)

Tod's real problem is that he's an outcast in the group of children.

Pepper Road doesn't take kindly to those it rejects. The Perlmans are excluded because they are Jewish. The Terrels are considered ill-bred and have a daughter with a developmental disability. The Martins are poor and considered ill-bred. Basically, there's a lot of class snobbery.

The blurb made it sound like this is a book about monstrous children, but the actions of the children are shaped entirely by their parents. The Desmonds are basically street royalty and their children do not really associate with the other children.Johnny Desmond is held in such esteem that when he is insensitive about one of James Donald's hobbies, James is forced to apologise to him rather than the other way around. This decision is made entirely by the adults - Johnny notably did not want an apology. Tod feels excluded because he is the least favourite child in his family. Another mother - Mrs Roberts - outright states that she only had her second child because her first was such a disappointment. Harriet's mother is emotionally abusive. She is disgusted by the girls writing rather silly, completely innocent love letters that most of the other parents dismiss after a quick chat with their child, and even brings it up later in the story to guilt her. The most awful thing Harriet's mother does though is make her break off her friendship with Marilyn Perlman. Harriet and Marilyn are delighted to have found an equally bookish friend, but Harriet's mother makes her break the friendship off simply because Marilyn is Jewish - she claims that there are "standards" that must be upheld. These standards are apparently closet bigotry as she outright states that on the outside people of their class must be accepting of all religions.

The parents in this story are the root of all evil. If it takes a village to raise a child, this village is rotten to the core.  

 Has an ending disappointed you recently?