Thursday, 31 March 2016

All's Fair in Love and War - Half Lost by Sally Green
5/5 Stars

The day before this book was released, I saw a spoiler by accident. I didn't believe it was true, honestly, I didn't. I thought it was just a troll looking for attention.

It wasn't.

Now, I know there are a lot of people who think that five stars should be reserved only for perfect books, but I rate by gut instinct. No, this book wasn't perfect, the most obvious flaw being that Vardia and Linus swapped witch types between their first and second mention, but it still gets five stars from me because of the characters and the ending.
This is the one where Gabriel stands up to Nathan and tells him that he's out of line.
That was a relief and a half for me, because I did feel like their relationship had become rather abusive at the beginning.

This is the one that will (hopefully) stop people hating on Annalise.
(Nothing Annalise could do would ever stop people hating on her. Ever.)
You're joking, right? If she hadn't have been there at the climax, things could've worked out very differently.
This is the one where the amulet from the previous book comes into play.
I was worried that it would turn Nathan into a boring invincible hero, but the amulet's protection has its flaws.

This is the one where it all ends.
And what an ending it is. I don't think it hit me until the chapter after it happened. That chapter, when Nathan was with Arran and Adele, and Gabriel was climbing up and diving off the cliff into the lake, made me go and finish the book alone in my room. That's how worried I was that I was going to cry. The worst thing about the ending is that, in a way, it's Nathan's fault. If he hadn't had the amulet... If he hadn't screamed for Arran...

This is the one where everything comes full circle.
My favourite thing about the ending is that everything's different, and yet nothing has changed.

Overall, I'm very happy with the way this series ended. No, it wasn't wrapped up with a bow, but I was actually expecting more characters to die.
I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for Sally Green's next series.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Where to get your witch fix once you're done with Half Lost? LOST COMES OUT TODAY!

It's the final book in the Half Bad trilogy, a series about witches, rights, and magic. 

Of course, this creates a problem: once we've gotten our hands on Half-Lost, where are we going to get our Witch fix?

Here are six series you can turn to, when the magic finally burns out.

For Witches and their Rights...  Burn Mark by Laura Powell

Burn Mark explores an alternate London through two witches with completely different backgrounds. One is a member of a coven that has produced famous witch criminals, and the other is the son of a prominent member of the inquisition. Equal Rites by Terry Pratchet 

Again, we're dealing with witches, rights and magic, but this time around it's the rights of female wizards. In Terry Pratchet's Discworld, women do the witching, and men do the wizarding.

But then Eskarina is born. 
 For Urban Fantasy... The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden is a wizard. Who advertises in the Chicago telephone book. And solves mysteries. Whilst snarking nigh on continuously.
WARNING. This is one of the few adult books I've read and the first one, at the very least, is not suitable for younger readers.
 For Magical Outcasts... 

Runemarks by Joanne Harris 

No, it's not about witches, but it is about outcasts and the magic they wield. Maddy Smith is living five hundred years after the end of the world, at a time when the old gods have fallen. Or, at least, they're supposed to have. 
Click here to see my review of Runemarks.
For Magical Romance...

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

There's something magical going on in Henrietta, Virginia. Something involving Welsh kings, psychic women, magical forests, dreams, destiny, and a deadly kiss. For Characters Dropping Like Flies...

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

It's no secret that I hate the Hunger Games but, if you loved the way characters dropped like flies in the Half Bad trilogy, then this is the series for you.

Any other books you'd recommend to Half Bad fans?

Friday, 25 March 2016

Ruined by the Romance - Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen


This novel had three things that I usually love:
1. A strong protagonist
2. A unique voice
3. Use of mythology and/or folklore
I picked it up purely because it caught my eye when I walked into the teen section of the library, so I was really excited when it just so happened to contain those three things. But, unfortunately, this one wasn't for me.

There was action.

There were heroics.

There was also romance.

And the romance is what ruined it for me. Whenever something interesting happened, three chapters followed in which we were bogged down with the love triangle between Robin, Scarlet and John. Robin was the all-round perfect hero. He had noble blood. Pretty eyes. Perfect aim with a bow and arrows (but it is a Robin Hood retelling, so I'll let that slide). John, on the other hand, was a womaniser. Prior to the love triangle, him and Scarlet argued a lot. After the love triangle came in, he was always trying to kiss her. Annoyingly, both of these guys got to appear far more than Much despite the fact that Much was much more interesting than both of them put together. He actually had an interesting relationship with Scarlet - it was kind of like he was her little brother. If the library has the next one in, I might be tempted to pick it up to see if he plays a bigger role later on, but I'm not sure it'd be worth it.

Plot-wise, it was typical Robin Hood fare. Tax day is coming up and Robin and his band need to scrape together enough cash to cover it. Occasionally, they also broke people out of jail. What I did find interesting were the...we'll call them politics of being a woman in this era. I wish we'd gotten to see more of Ravenna as I found her fascinating, especially her viewpoint.

Overall, I was disappointed with this novel, but I don't think it was the novel. I think it was me. If you know a lot about Robin Hood, or like a lot of romance, you would probably enjoy this.

Do you like retellings? Ever read a Robin Hood one?

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Five books I haven't talked about in a couple of aeons (give or take)
So many books, so little time. Last year alone, I read 101 so it's not really surprising that one or two slip under the radar when I'm gabbling on. Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the Broke and the Bookish and, today, it allows me to wade back into my past and talk your ears off about the stories I forget to love.

1. The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

Not the Heroes of Olympus series. The Percy Jackson series. The first one. Back when Grover was still a main character. Back when we didn't know what was really making Nico stay away. Back before there was a Roman camp at all.

Don't get me wrong, I love Heroes of Olympus, but we never seem to talk about Percy Jackson as just Percy Jackson anymore.

2. +Anima by Natsumi Mukai

This is possibly the best manga series I've ever read.

(And she's read over 300 manga books, so that's really saying something.)

  Over the course of a month, I got the entire series out of the library. It was the type of series where, if you woke up at 4am, you wouldn't even try to go back to sleep. You'd get up and grab the next volume.

3. The 13 Treasures Trilogy by Michelle Harrison
I always seem to call this the 13 Secrets Trilogy, but maybe that's because the last book was the best. 
It's about fairies, secrets, and missing brothers but, honestly, when I first read it at fourteen, all I was bothered about was whether Rowan and Sparrow were getting together. Also, Tanya and Fabian. 

I had strange priorities at fourteen. 

4. Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne

I picked this up in the library, sat down and devoured it in one afternoon. Apparently, I have spoken about it on here before, but I don't mention it anywhere near as much as I should. Probably because, every time I think about it, I find myself lying awake at night and wondering what actually happened. 
It's one of those books that leaves a crucial question forever unanswered.

5. The Burn Mark Duology by Laura Powell

I love witches. I love books set in England. I love urban fantasy. So, naturally, I love Burn Mark. 

The best thing about this series though, is that witches are common knowledge. Most urban fantasy goes for the hidden in plain sight approach, but Burn Mark has laws and registration and ways to suppress the fey.

Have you read any of these? What did you think? And don't forget to link me to your Top Ten Tuesday posts.  

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Ten Things I Love About Writing Contemporary

Anyone who's so much as scrolled through my blog knows that I'm very much a fantasy/mythology/paranormal sort of girl, but that doesn't mean I don't curl up with a contemporary once in a while. I enjoy writing them too - they seem to flow out of me quicker and more easily than any other genre. Here are ten reasons why, sometimes, it's just nice to suspend your disbelief for an hour or two and step into the world as it isn't. 1. And They All Lived Happily Ever After

(John Green. That's all I'm going to say.)

Okay, so they don't always, but characters in contemporaries at the very least seem to have a greater chance of survival than their fantastical cousins. If a contemporary conflict is solved without somebody getting slaughter, nobody's going to call foul.

2. The Secondary School Setting

Yes, it's an overused setting wrought with cliches, but it has a special place in my heart. Most of us have been to school, so most of us can see a little bit of truth in the caricatured mean girls and lads. It's a great setting for parody too.

3. Write What You Know

So the heroine attends karate classes, the hero plays bass in a band, and the mother's doing on online French degree between changing nappies and working at the local bar. Every writer has a life full of experiences to draw on.

4. It's Not Really The Real World

Yes, contemporary has to be plausible, but it doesn't necessarily have to be realistic. Just because there's a chance something could happen doesn't mean it would. At least, that's how I view it. It's my reality, and I'll exaggerate if I want to.

5. But it is

Hands up if you just want to write something simple from time to time.

(Hands up if you're lazy, more like.)

In contemporary writing, the world building is done for you. There's no stressing over whether your grasp of physics is good enough for you to design an atmosphere that works, or worrying that your fantasy race acts too human. The world is there, and how it works is plastered all over the internet.

6. Pop Culture References Galore

 I have a theory that urban fantasy was created by a writer who wanted to write about magical elves, but also wanted to name-drop all of their favourite things. You can define the hero of a contemporary story by which song comes on when he cranks up the radio, or by whether he puts The Princess Bride or James Bond on when his girlfriend comes round to watch a film. Operation: Insert Conflict Here

Compared to fantasy stories, the conflicts of contemporaries seem so quaint, yet they're treated in exactly the same way. Being unable to find a prom date is akin to being forced to fight to the death for TV entertainment, your friend moving away is like fighting a secret guerilla war against an alien race, and not getting into art school is worse than being the only thing standing between a Titan army and the fate of the world. In the world of contemporary, everything is serious business.

8. A Wild Love Interest Appears

Usually, it's easy to pinpoint the exact point at which the love interest will come in. He'll be the first boy the heroine meets, or the leader of the rebel army, or the mysterious boy who holds out his hand and says, "come with me if you want to live." In a contemporary, he could pop up anywhere. Even the library.

9. Dare To Dream

Contemporary characters find enough adventure to fill a novel in their hometowns, their schoolyards, and their back gardens. They don't need to fall into a portal fantasy, they have enough drama right here. Right now. 

10. The Power of Friendship

It doesn't take a nuclear war to turn a contemporary friendship group into a family of choice. 

"Who Are We?"

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Retellings and Rebirth - Ten Books on my Spring TBR

It's that time of the week again. As always, Top Ten Tuesday is brought to you by the awesome people at The Broke and the Bookish

It's spring, season of baby lambs, chocolate eggs, and hatching chicks. It's the time when the circle of life comes full circle and starts again once more. Seems like the perfect time for a retelling or ten.

(And I thought we were just reading retellings because you desperately needed to do some research before Camp.)

What? No! It's a seasonal thing, I swear.

1. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

If I read none of the others, I have to read this one. It takes the story of Cinderella and drops it into futuristic Beijing.

(You're probably the last person on the internet to read it. Why are you giving them a synopsis?)

I honestly have no idea.

2. Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen

(Polite reminder that you only gave Scarlet two stars.)

Only because the romance annoyed me. I still like what this series has done with the Robin Hood folklore.

3. Magi Volume Volume 15 by Shinobu Ohtaka
This Arabian Nights themed Shonen manga takes characters like Aladinn, Alibaba and Sinbad and drops them into a fantasy world of epic proportions.

4. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

 It's not uncommon for retellings to be from underappreciated points of view, in the case of Mists of Avalon, it's the women of Arthurian mythology.

5. Hood by Stephen R. Lawhead

Yet another man takes up the mantle of Robin Hood in Stephen R. Lawhead's novel Hood. According to the blurb, it involves Celtic Mythology. More to the point, it has a awesome cover.

 6. Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves by Alexandre Dumas

 I'm interested in this one partly because it's older than everything else on this list, and partly because it's French. Robin Hood is English folklore. I want to see it from the perspective of someone a little further away than me.

7. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

This one's been all over my Goodreads recently. It's a retelling of Arabian Nights, like Magi, but in novel form. It also seems to be more of a romance than a fantasy.

8. Eve and Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate

 Inspired by the story of Genesis, Eve and Adam is about a girl creating the perfect boy.

(Or trying to.)

 Yeah, well, nobody's perfect.

9. Shadow Over Avalon by C.N. Lesley
(Be honest. You only want to read this because it has the word 'shadow' in the title.)

Lies! Lies and slander! 

Seriously though, science fiction and fantasy retellings always sound interesting to me.

10. The Girl With The Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson

I'm not sure if this is a retelling exactly, but a lot of the reviews say that it incorporates Chinese folklore and it sounds AWESOME, so onto the list it goes.

(I...I don't believe it. That's the end? That's exactly ten. Exactly. No hidden extras, no doubling up. Rain, you've finally learnt how to count!)

I've never felt more ashamed.

Recommend me some more retellings! The more old stories incorporated into them, the better. 

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Counting Down to Camp 1 - What Makes a Retelling?

A question I've been puzzling over a lot in the run-up to camp is 'what makes a retelling?' Is it a similar setting? Is it using the original character names? Is it simply following the basic plot?

For my Camp story, I'm writing a Robin Hood retelling. In a totally different time period. In a totally different timeline. Where all myths are true.

What I'm wondering is, at what stage is it so far removed that I can no longer call it a retelling? 

At what stage do I cut ties completely with the Robin Hood mythos?

But the trouble is, I don't want to do that. This story started as a very simple retelling of one or two of the original legends, and it's evolved into this crazy, fantastical world that I absolutely adore.

(But it's a world built on another story. Maybe fact, maybe fiction. Either way, is it really your story with all that background?)

That's the entire point of retelling. Take an old story, make it new again. It's something that's been done a thousand times before. For example...
  • Supernatural Season 9 includes an episode based on the Wizard of Oz.
  • Wicked by Gregory Maguire is also based on the Wizard of Oz.
  • Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus is the story of Philomela from Ovid's Metamorphoses.
  • The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer are based on several fairy tales including Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel. 
  • Magi: the Labyrinth of Magic is a manga based on Arabian Nights.
And let's not even get started on the way films of books retell them.

Retelling is about keeping old stories alive, often by giving them a new lease of life. 

How do you define a retelling? And can you recommend any good ones?

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Heroine Appreciation Post!

In honour of International Women's Day, let's talk about the fictional ladies who give the lads a run for their money. Whether they're protagonists, sidekicks, or even love interests, female characters have never been stronger. Here are ten of the best.

1. Puck from The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

'“My mother always said that I was born out of a bottle of vinegar instead of born from a womb and that she and my father bathed me in sugar for three days to wash it off. I try to behave, but I always go back to the vinegar."'
The Scorpio Races has been an all-male event since it began, and the people of Thisby are clinging to that tradition. Enter Puck, a teenage girl with two brothers, no parents, and the threat of eviction hanging over her.
The townsfolk can say what they like. Puck Connolly is racing whether they like it or not. 

2. Temari from Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto
Let's be honest, the Sand Siblings were criminally underused in general.
Of the five surviving women who entered the Chunin exams in part one, Temari was far and away the most powerful. Unfortunately, all but one of the other women got far and away more focus than she did in the series as a whole. The exception, of course, is Tenten.

(Wait. Who's Tenten?)


On the bright side, when she did show up, she was always winning, and usually making Shikamaru look like an idiot in the process. For anyone who isn't familiar with this series, that is not an easy task.

3. Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
'Beatrice: I took no more pains for those thanks than you take
pains to thank me: if it had been painful, I would
not have come.'
Shakespeare wasn't exactly writing in the golden age of women's rights. Back then, women weren't even allowed to act. Nevertheless, some of his heroines are surprisingly strong. Beside your Isabellas and your Ophelias, you've got the likes of Lady Macbeth and Beatrice. Obviously, we're not going to hold Lady Macbeth up as a heroine, but Beatrice definitely deserves a spot on this list. Beatrice is a witty and outspoken character. Her love interest falls in love with her because of her quick mind. 

4. Morgiana from Magi by Shinobu Ohtaka

 Morgiana is the strongest of the main trio, but it's not just her strength that makes her a strong character. She's quiet, but not afraid to raise her voice, especially when people are being wronged right in front of her. She's determined to be an asset to the group. And she's also not afraid to strike out on her own.

5. Literally all the girls in the Embassy Row series by Ally Carter

So. We've got Megan, who's a tech-genius, Rosie, who can be practically invisible when she wants to be, Grace, whose sarcasm is on point, and Lila. Who I love. They're all smart, highly motivated, and able to pull together (along with Noah and Alexei) to form one of the best teams in fiction. 

(Personal opinion alert.)

To be honest, we could probably put every woman Ally Carter's ever written in here.

6. Annabeth, Piper, Hazel and Reyna from the Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan

“Oh, but I don't abide by your time frame, giant," Reyna said. "A Roman does not wait for death. She seeks it out, and meets it on her own terms.” 
 To be fair, this is another writer with a knack strong characters in general, but I'm sticking with the Heroes of Olympus because it has the most heroines. 

Annabeth is indisputably the smartest member of the cast. She fights off Arachne with her brains alone. She's the daughter of the Goddess of brains and brawn -
(Knowledge and war.)
That's what I said! So she's a tactical fighter.

Piper is a daughter of Aphrodite, but that doesn't mean that everything important is on the surface. Sure, she makes time to do her hair whilst on an apocalypse-preventing quest, but she also takes down Khione single-handedly. Khione. And, let's be honest, we all want her charm-speak ability.

Hazel is cursed, but she's also very kind and compassionate. It's Hazel who takes the time to teach Piper to swordfight, and it's also Hazel who flips out when Jason isn't keen on saving a person who, for the sake of spoilers, will remain nameless.

You can pretty much sum Reyna up by saying that one of her powers is to give people strength. Literally. But she does it metaphorically too. Reyna is a duty-driven person and does everything for the good of New Rome. If the other authorities at New Rome disagree, she will sacrifice everything to do what she knows is needed. Oh, and she's a praetor, meaning she leads the Romans.
  7. Hermione Granger, Ginny Weasley and Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
 '"No, Harry, you listen, we’re coming with you. That was decided months ago – years, really.”' - Hermione
The three characters who taught a generation of women that it was heroic to be smart, good to be feisty, and that there was nothing wrong with sticking to your own beliefs. 

8. Maddy from Runemarks by Joanne Harris

Brave enough to enter Red Horse Hill alone, forgiving enough to care what happens to the people of her hometown, and loyal enough to go back for Loki. 

9. Glory from Burn Mark by Laura Powell

Glory's brash, childish and stubborn. She's also a powerful, independent witch who isn't afraid to swallow her pride and change views she held her whole life if she's given good reason too.

10. Rachel and Cassie from Animorphs by Katherine Applegate

'"Let's do it!"' - Rachel, all the time.

This is a bit of an old one -

(She says about the nineties series when there's a Shakespeare play on the list.)

- but it has a core cast of six amazing characters. The two heroines, Rachel and Cassie, are complete opposites. Rachel likes clothes, gymnastics, and cannot wait to rush in and clobber the bad guys, whilst Cassie is a vegetarian who's never out of her dungarees, and is the group's moral compass. Neither is portrayed as being better or stronger than the other. They both mistakes, and they're both vital to the team, Rachel for her brawn, and Cassie for her heart. 

This ended up about six times as long as expected. I could probably keep listing characters for several more centuries, but I have an essay to do.

(Pray for her.)
Maybe you could add a couple more in the comments.

Rain out.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Themed Names - Richard of York Gave Battle In Vain

Add a splash of colour to your story with a rainbow-themed name.

Names that are red -

For Girls

Scarlett: a shade of red. Sometimes spelt Scarlet.

Rose: a red flower associated with love. Variations include Rosie, Rosemarie, Rosalyn, Rosalie etc.

Holly a plant with red berries.

Poppy: a red flower.

Cerise: French for cherry.

Ruby: yes, some of them are actually pink, but people tend to associate this gem exclusively with the colour red.

Garnet: January birthstone. Commonly thought of as dark red, though it comes in plenty of other colours.

(Ruby? Garnet? Oh gee, I wonder what you read as a kid?)

For Boys

Adam: hebrew name with a meaning that seems to refer to the red earth. Who knew Adam was really the first man on Mars?

Jasper: a gemstone that is most commonly found in shades of brown, red and mustard.

Russell: meaning redheaded. Also consider Russet, which is a shade of red-brown. 


Rowan: a unisex name thought to refer to a person being small and redheaded.

Name that are Orange -

For Girls

Amber: both a shade of orange and a gemstone of the same colour.

Honey: unfortunately.

Sienna: a shade of orange.

Ember: the glowing remains of a fire.

For Boys

Rusty: works for fairweather friends and people who're a little out of practise.

Names that are Yellow -

For Girls

Saffron: a shade of yellow. Can be shortened to Safie.

Flavia: Roman name meaning blonde.

Xanthia: feminine form of Xanthus.

For Boys

Blaine: meaning 'little yellow one'.

Conway: an Irish name meaning 'yellow hound'. Possibly my favourite out of all of the ones on this list just because of the way it sounds. 

Xanthus: meaning blonde. Also the name of one of Achille's immortal horses. Xanthos is an alternative spelling. 

Names that are Green -

Beryl: associated with several colours of gemstone, including emerald.

Chloe: a name associated with Demeter, Greek Goddess of agriculture. Means 'green shoot'.

Emerald: a gemstone that is most commonly depicted as green.

Fern: a green plant. As a name, it is more commonly spelt 'Fearne'.


Irvin: means 'green water'. Consider also Irving and Irvine.

For other green names, please see this post - and try to ignore the horrific formatting.

Names that are Blue


Skye: as in the Scottish Isle of Skye but, you know, the sky is up above us too. Skyla and Skylar are trendy alternatives.
Perry: could be short for Periwinkle. 

Nila: Hindi name meaning 'sky blue'.

Bluebell: unless your character is a fairy please, for the love of God, shorten it to Bell, Belle, or Bella. Or Blue, I suppose. But Blue is kind of taken.

Sapphire: a gemstone typically depicted as blue (but, apparently, nobody told that to the makers of Rune Factory 3). Can by shortened to Saph or Safie.


Shyam: Sanskrit name meaning either blue or black.

Hinto: a Native American name meaning blue.  


Aoi: Japanese name meaning 'blue'.

Names that are Indigo


Indigo: can be shortened to the more fashionable Indy/Indi for girls. 

Names that are Violet


Violet: a shade of purple. Also consider the Latin form, Viola.

Lilac: another shade of purple. Personal opinion alert: despite sounding delicate, this one always strikes me as a little clumsy. It can be shortened to 'Lila', though that name means something totally different.

Heather: a purple flower.

Lavender: also a purple flower.

Amethyst: a gem that is usually depicted as purple. Can be shortened to Amy.

Iola: Greek for 'violet'.

Iantha: The Latin form of Ianthe (also a name, by the way), meaning 'violet flower'.

Can you think of any boys names related to the colour purple?