Monday, 30 May 2016

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood Stars

'It never hurts to be of semi-divine birth. Or it never hurts immediately.' - Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad

Even if you haven't read The Odyssey (and, I'll admit, I haven't managed to force myself to the end of it yet), you probably know the story of Odysseus. He's a Greek hero.

(As are most men in classical literature.)

Specifically, he's the Greek hero who took ten years to get home from the Trojan war. Not that that was his fault, what with the witches, and the sirens, and the brief trip to the underworld... Anyway, whilst Odysseus was sailing across the ocean, tricking his adversaries and snogging every woman in sight, his wife was waiting for him at home, fending off suitors with a trick of her own. His wife is, of course, Penelope, and The Penelopiad is her story. 

The Penelope of The Odyssey is more of an archetype than a person. She's a faithful wife. A concerned mother. A 'stick used to beat other woman with,' as Atwood puts it. Atwood's Penelope is different. Sure, she's long-suffering, but she's also sarcastic, flawed, and the perfect match for her trickster of a husband. 

And, of course, the biggest difference between Atwood's Penelope and the Penelope of The Odyssey is that we're not entirely sure that we can trust her.

This might be Penelope's story, but hers is not the only point of view. The maids' narrate every other chapter, and they have their own version of events to tell. At first, I felt like the maids slowed the story down and didn't really add much to it, but don't skip their chapters, don't silence them again. 

Overall, this was a fun read, Penelope's voice is wonderfully candid, and the maid's are haunting. Four out of five stars for one of the most enjoyable course books I've had this term.

Do you like unreliable narrators? Have you read the Penelopiad?

P.S. Apologies about the change in font (or size, or something) halfway down, Blogger did it by itself and nothing I tried could fix it. 


Saturday, 28 May 2016

Tagged! The Dragon Loyalty Award!

Thank you to Carly at Books and Etc. for tagging me for the Dragon Loyalty Award! 

Obligatory Dragon GIF.

The object of this tag is for me to list seven statements, four true and three false, and for you to attempt to sort the fact from the fiction.  

(Sounds woefully easy.)

Well we'll see, won't we.

1. I commented on book blogs for over a year before I created my own.

2. I have read exactly three and a half of the Twilight books.

3. I have created my own merfolk with their own appearance, anatomy, class system, gender roles, societal rules, etc. Now all I have to do is write the story that they're supposed to be in...

4. I am a Slytherin.

5. So far this year, I have failed to finish writing anything except a few monologues, and a short play (but that's better than finishing NOTHING, right?).

6. I loved the Merlin finale.

7. As a kid, I went through a Tamagotchi phase.

So, which is true and which is false? Ivy?

(I think I've got it, but you wouldn't want me telling them right now, now would you?)

Oh, I get it, you need more time.

(I do NOT!)

One week. That's how long you've got until I post the answers. Please leave your guesses in the comments.

Carly's already tagged most of the people I'd usually tag, and I can't exactly tag her back, so I'll tag Mironiel Blokzyl @ The Life of a Mirkwood Elf and leave it at that.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Five Things I Loved About The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (And Five Things I Hated)
(MAJOR SPOILER WARNING for the Tumblr link in 'Five Things I Hated' point one. Minor spoiler warning for the actual review.)

"He was a book, and he was holding his final pages, and he wanted to get to the end to find out how it went, and he didn't want it to be over."  - Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven King, page 370
Did I read this the day it came out? Yes.
Have I been putting this review off? Also yes.
This novel took me three days to process.

(And yet your review is still going to be a jumbled mass of loves and loathings.)


Five Things I Loved About The Raven King

1. The Characters

I LOVE character-driven stories. Arguably, The Raven Boys was Noah's book, The Dream Thieves was Ronan's, Blue Lily, Lily Blue was Adam's, and this is Gansey's. 

But it's not just about the main characters. 

The Lynch brothers get their fair share of focus -

(She was very happy about that.)

- As do the women of Fox Way, the Grey Man, Neeve, Piper, Helen, and Henry Cheng.

(More on him later.)

It's the finale, and everyone wants in.

2. It Made Me Care About Gansey

It's no secret that Gansey was my least favourite Raven Boy. Noah's adorable. Ronan's awesome. Adam has a tragic past. Gansey's just a rich guy with a goal. 

But this book humanises him.

3. The Twist

The Glendower plot ends epically. You will not see it coming. And you will feel it. 

4. The Horror

 Now I'm not saying that the other books were all sunshine and rainbows, but this one is downright creepy. We're talking demons, possession, the possible end of the world, death, ancient tombs, bees -

(And Kissing.

Oh no! Physical affection! Your one weakness!

5. Henry Cheng

Despite all the nitpicking I'm going to do in a minute, I genuinely did like this guy. He was quirky and endearing.

...And Five Things I Hated

1. Henry Cheng

As much as I loved him, I could not for the life of me work out why he was added to the main cast? Why was he the one who went with Gansey? What was his purpose? I'm not one of the people who believes that he 'replaced Noah' (and neither will you be, if you read this excellent Tumblr post that makes a convincing argument about Noah's purpose in the series) but, even if he had, that still doesn't explain why he was added in so late in the game. The only reason I can think of to explain why he was there, is to link the Gangsey to Piper's plotline...but wasn't that the Grey Man's job?

2. Blue's Origin

This seems to be a bit of a fashion trend this year...

3. The Fact That I Was So Confused

It all came together in the end but, for a while, there was so much going on and so many plot threads to tie up that my eyes were bugging out of my head. That said, I did read it in a single night.

(...Perhaps a reread is in order?) 

4. Sacrifice

Characters always have to sacrifice something to reach their goals. Is it too much in The Raven King? Is it not enough? I can't tell you because of the spoilers involved. All I can tell you is that I was exasperated by it.

5. The  Adventure Continues...

I hate these endings! If there isn't going to be a sequel, I don't want a sequel hook waving in my face. It didn't help that this particuarly one felt tacked on to explain why a plot thread had been entirely abandoned.

(Are you saying that you'd rather have a plot hole?) 

No, but just because this is the preferable option, that doesn't mean that I have to like it.

Overall, I LOVED The Raven King. It might not be perfect, but it's an epic ending to an epic series. 

Okay, show of hands, who's ready for Stiefvater's next book? And have you read the The Raven King yet? What did you think? Link me to your review.

P.S. Apologies for the sporadic posting this month. It's currently the exam period at my university and revision has to come first. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Ten Books That I Picked Up On A Whim

This week, the guys at the Broke and the Bookish have picked the perfect topic for me. Picking books up based on pretty much nothing is my modus operani.

1. Percy Jackson and the Sword of Hades by Rick Riordan 

This was the first Percy Jackson book I ever read, and I didn't even pick it up on purpose. It just so happened to be released as a 2-in-1 World Book Day Book. I bought it for the Horrible Histories book on the other side and, a couple of weeks later, I found myself with nothing to read. So I started the Sword of Hades. I was hooked from the first page. Best accidental book purchase ever. 

2. Runemarks by Joanne Harris

When I bought this, I thought it was about a pair of childhood friends. 
But it wasn't.
I did not think that it was an epic mythological adventure with an awesome heroine and the greatest interpretation of Loki ever concieved. 
But it was.

3. Black Cat volume 18 by Kentaro Yabuki

Yes, it's the third to last volume in the series. But it was the one that was on the library display and, even though I didn't understand half of what was going on, I loved it enough to read the entire series.

4. Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

I didn't enjoy this one, but I was very proud of myself when I first whipped it off the library shelf and discovered that it had a unique voice, and it drew on Robin Hood folklore. 

5. John Dies At The End by David Wong

You should not have touched this book with your bare hands.
NO, don’t put it down. It’s too late.
They’re watching you."

(Proof that blurbs really do sell books.)

6. The Double-Edged Sword by Sarah Silverwood

Not a bad fantasy for something I picked up on a whim. Likeable characters, original worldbuilding and plot...

(Shame that it's impossible to find the sequel, 'ey?)

 7. The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

I picked this up simply because it has the word 'library' in the title.

(Judge her.)

Best. Impulse. Book. Buy. Ever.

8. Daylight Saving by Edward Hogan

I still haven't gotten around to reading this one...
9. Heart Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne 
Never read the first page of a library book because, chances are, in four hours time, you'll be sat there reading the last page.

10. Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

It took me two attempts to get through this novel but, my God, was it worth it for the sequel.

Do you pick a lot of books up on a whim? Or do you prefer to have read at least a couple of reviews first?

Friday, 13 May 2016

'H' is for Horror

Horror is a genre that'll make you sweat, and scream, and cry. It's best read at witching hour, when the world is quiet and eerie, and the full moon has swallowed the sky.

(For once, we agree.)

Horror plays on the deepest darkest fears of the human race. Sickness. Death. The unknown. Most books contain at least a couple of elements of horror, if only for shock factor. From in-depth descriptions of gory wounds, to clairvoyant nightmares and creepy graveyards, horror weaves its way through every story...

Not to mention several genres.

I love Gothic Horror. It's a genre of sprawling manors, where byronic and classical heroes go toe-to-toe, and everyone goes to hell at the end.

(Sometimes literally.)

Although it's still around, Gothic Horror had its hey day in the 1700s, when it was basically the equivilent of dystopia - people kept churning it out until the market was saturated and it became impossible to dig the good stories out from beneath the bad.

Gothic Horror books include -

Zombie Fiction is very popular right now, what with the world's obsession with The Walking Dead. It's exactly what it says on the tin - anything involving zombies, the undead, or the eating of brains.

Zombie Fiction includes -

Ghost Stories and Urban Legends are two of my favourite genres. Both of them have a long history because, apparently, the one thing that people just can't get enough of is fear. Ghosts usually have unfinished business, and they can be good or evil. Urban Legends vary from the extremely famous (Bloody Mary, Loch Ness Monster, etc.) to the really obscure, to the completely made-up. I'd also include books that incorporate folklore (mirrors as gateways to other realms, the fey as they were before Disney and the like hijacked them, etc.) in creepy ways in this as folklore is, in a way, just another type of urban legend.

Ghost Stories and Urban Legends include -

(The Raven King? Seriously?)

What? That series could get pretty creepy at times. 

(Awesome things always do.)

On this, we agree.

What's the creepiest book you've ever read? Has a horror book ever kept you up at night? And do you like zombie fiction, or should it have stayed dead?

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Ten Typical Titling Conventions

Do you ever struggle to choose titles for your stories? I know I do. If I don't have a title when I start it, chances are that I'm not going to have one when I end it either. 

But it shouldn't be this difficult. Here are ten typical ways that writers choose their titles.
1. "Protagonist" far the simplest way to title. Just take the protagonist's name and bung it at the top of your manuscript. For a twist, consider using the protagonist's title or alias. This type of title can also be used for groups of main characters, provided the group has a name (an example would be The Raven Boys).
   2. "The Plot Element" simple way to title is to name your story after the major plot element, a la The Scorpio Races and The 13 Treasures. "Protagonist and the Plot Element"

We've seen it with Harry Potter, we've seen it with Percy Jackson, and a whole host of other very successful series. This type of title pulls double duty, introducing both the protagonist and a major plot point, but it's also long and not particuarly catchy. "Location"

Many novels are named after their settings. For example, The Invisible Library, Wuthering Heights, Northanger Abbey... You don't really see this type of title as much as you used to. Gothic novels are especially guilty of this. A Line From the Story Itself
Sometimes writing the story before you come up with the title is the way to go. Characters can come out with seemingly innocent phrases that just happen to double as perfect titles. This comes with the added bonus of a title drop. And everyone loves a good title drop. A Quote or Song Title

(Apparently, song titles cannot be copyrighted.)

Right. There are plenty of novels out there with titles lifted from songs. The same is true of quotes. Especially Shakespeare quotes. Ally Carter's Embassy Row series takes its titles from various nursery rhymes. 7. A Pun

Cliches and other common expressions make bad titles. Puns on the other hand... Exactly What it Says on the Tin

I will admit to using this type of title a lot.

(And not just as placeholders either.)

 Exactly what it says on the tin is when a book is literally named for what it is. There's nothing particuarly clever about it. It just is. A Religious or Mythological Reference

Similar to Shakespeare quotes in that these are used a lot. They're references that a lot of people will understand - you don't exactly have to study classics to know the story of Troy, or to have read the bible to know the story of Noah and the arc, or Adam and Eve. 
10. The Eponymous Spoiler

Okay, so I've only ever seen this done once, but it's brilliant. A lie so blantant that it can't be true...or can it?

 And there you have it. Ten different ways to title.

Which types of titles do you usually use? And, when buying books, do you have a favourite?

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Blogging Schedule, What Blogging Schedule?

Do you plan your posts weeks in advance? Do you edit them numerous times before you finally send them live? Is your brain so full of ideas that your blog has posts scheduled for the next six months?

(If the answer to all three of those questions is yes, please can I come and live in your brain instead?)

I try!

(If by 'I try', you mean that you wrote one short, four post schedule a couple of weeks ago and proceeded not to follow it, then yes. Yes you do.)

The schedule in question looked like this -
  • Thursday - The Invisible Library Review 
  • Sunday - Ten Things I Learnt From The Raven Cycle
  • Tuesday -  Top Ten Tuesday
  • Thursday - The Raven King Review
(Scheduling, ladies and gentlemen, is the one piece of advice that you will find on ALL tips for new bloggers posts. Not just scheduling, but STICKING TO THE SCHEDULE.)

In all fairness, I did manage the first one. Unfortunately, my brain is refusing to function as far as writing ANYTHING about The Raven King is concerned.

So, no, I can't stick to a schedule beyond Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday (and I even managed to mess that up last week). I'll admit, with the exception of this, which I was really nervous about posting and held onto for almost a month, I usually just give my posts a cursory glance for spelling errors before I send them live. And as for having a brain overflowing with ideas? Ha. I honestly type up my ideas as and when I get them. My blog posts are almost 100% spun from thoughts that have sprang from either stories I'm currently writing or books I'm currently reading. Some of them are completely spur of the moment, like my last themed names post which was born out of the desire to get something anything up before Thursday.

But, despite the mess that is the blogging bit of my brain, I like the way I blog. Maybe it goes against everything that experienced bloggers advise new bloggers to do, but advice is just that. Advice. If scheduling works for you, then that's awesome. You are in total control of your life. If it doesn't, it doesn't. Own your space, and experiment with it. Write a post entirely in GIFs. Review a book in pig latin. Launch features that you abandon after a post or two. 
It's the internet. People are judging you anyway, so you might as well have a bit of fun.

Do you stick to a schedule?

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Themed Names - Angels

Most angelic names come from Christian theology and have been used for thousands of years. They make great names for heroes, and even better ones for villains. There's nothing quite like a bit of irony. 

(Used correctly, of course.)

For Girls

Angela - meaning 'angel'. In the UK, this name was popular in the latter half of the 20th century.

Angelica - meaning 'like an angel'. 

Angelina - meaning 'angel'.

Gabrielle - the female version of Gabriel, the herald in the story of Jesus' birth.

Mikayla - the female version of Michael, an archangel. Alternative spellings include Michaela, Michela, Mikaela...

Lucy - okay, so this one's stretching it a little, but Lucy, Lucia, Lucina, Lucille, and the like could easily be used as a feminine substitute for Lucifer, the fallen angel. Lucia is also the name of a Sicilian martyr. 

Seraphina - meaning fiery-winged. Possibly drawn from the 'Seraphim', the most powerful class of angels. Previously used by Rachel Hartman, as the name for her eponymous heroine.

Faida - meaning 'wings that are folded'.

For Boys

Angelo - meaning Angel. Previously used by Shakespeare for the antagonist in Measure for Measure, and by Rick Riordan as the surname for the son of Hades.

Michael - an archangel.

Gabriel - an archangel and the herald in the traditional story of the nativity.

Raphael - an archangel.

Uriel - an archangel.

Lucifer - an angel who fell for his pride. Lucas and Luca could be used as substitutes, though neither name has any relation to Lucifer. The spelling and the use of the name in a group with angel-themed names would give the necessary effect.

Cassiel - means 'speed of God'. An archangel.

Castiel - the most prominent angel in the Supernatural TV series.

For Both 

Angel - no points for guessing what this name means.