Promises and Wishes: 2017 Edition

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(Me in January and December of this year)

Once again, we find ourselves at the time of year where nostalgia and reflection overcome us! Every year on Christmas Eve, I round-up my yearly achievements and set some goals for the new year. To say I made a tonne of progress is an understatement!

Here’s my list from last year:

  • Learn to drive.
  • Go abroad again.
  • Visit Stonehenge.
  • Write another book.
  • Go and see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child again.

Let’s see how much I achieved:

Learn to drive.

Erm… the less said about that the better.

Go abroad again.

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(Dan, Brendan and Me)

Does going to Scotland count as going abroad? Some might agree, some may not. I didn’t use my passport, let’s just say that. But going to Scotland has definitely satisfied some of my wanderlust and has also given me the travel bug. In fact, Dan, Brendan and I are planning to go away in 2018 as well. We got to see a lot of Harry Potter and Outlander sites as well as some historical ones, particularly to do with Mary, Queen of Scots. (More on that later!)

Visit Stonehenge.

Nope. Didn’t happen.

Write another book.

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Yes. NEARLY. I did CampNaNoWriMo this April and managed to write fifty thousand words of a first draft for a book titled The Elementals. I also re-wrote another draft of my mystery novel Losing Lola. A 100k word count for 2017 ain’t bad!

Go and see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child again.

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Well, yes, Part Two anyway. I had a ticket for Part One but I couldn’t get the time off work, so I could only go and see Part Two, which I loved. Good job I knew what happened in Part One!

So, three out of five! Not too bad in my opinion.

Now, here’s my list for 2018:

  • LEARN TO DRIVE.

I really, really need to get around to doing that. Really, really.

  • USE MY PASSPORT.

As I said, Brendan, Dan and I are thinking about going on holiday again together in 2018, and there are a few European cities on the list so who knows!

  • Get into full-time work.

I’m already working part-time in schools which I’m absolutely loving. Ideally, I’d be looking to move into a full-time teaching assistant position. Let’s keep those fingers crossed.

  • Write another book.

If I could write a book a year. I’d be happy with that. I’m aiming to do NaNoWriMo 2018 and have an idea still developing in my mind, so I’m sure this would be an achievable goal for me.

  • Read 100 books. 

I’ve read 100 books the last two years and I really want to keep this number up, even if I’m going to be trying to get into full-time work. Reading is my greatest passion, and I want to keep my favourite hobby going at all costs!

So, let’s see what 2018 brings! What’s on your bucket list for this year? Let me know in the comments!

Best Books of Oct-Nov-Dec

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I can’t believe it’s soon to be the end of the year, and I’m not only going to be wrapping up the best books of this quarter but in a few weeks, I’ll also be listing my best books of the year! How time flies! For today, I’ll be talking about the top five books I’ve read in the past three months.

These books are in no particular order.

1.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

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The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago. Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. – from Goodreads.com

I absolutely love a YA fantasy series, especially one set in a boarding school with a supernatural/retelling element. That’s pretty much my favourite mix! I really, really enjoyed reading this and hope to continue with the series.

2.

The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher

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The Christmasaurus is a story about a boy named William Trundle, and a dinosaur, the Christmasaurus. It’s about how they meet one Christmas Eve and have a magical adventure. It’s about friendship and families, sleigh bells and Santa, singing elves and flying reindeer, music, and magic. It’s about discovering your heart’s true desire and learning that the impossible might just be possible. – from Goodreads.com

I have loved Tom Fletcher since his days in McFly, and ever since he started to release children’s books, I’ve bought them one by one. Then he announced a live show of The Christmasaurus and I knew I needed to get on reading it before I see the live show! It was such a cute story that really got me in the Christmas mood!

3.

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

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“I am Catalina, Princess of Spain, daughter of the two greatest monarchs the world has ever known…and I will be Queen of England.” Katherine of Aragon. Daughter of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, Katherine has been fated her whole life to marry Prince Arthur of England. But tragically, aged only fifteen, Arthur falls ill and extracts from his sixteen-year-old bride a deathbed promise to marry his brother, Henry; become Queen, and fulfill their dreams and her destiny. – from Goodreads.com

I’ve wanted to read Philippa Gregory’s Tudor Novels for a really long time as I love the Tudor period, and The Constant Princess did not disappoint. It’s such an interesting point in history, and I feel like Gregory had a lot of fun filling in the blanks.

4.

The Cormoran Strike Series by Robert Galbraith

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When a troubled model falls to her death from a snow-covered Mayfair balcony, it is assumed that she has committed suicide. However, her brother has his doubts and calls in private investigator Cormoran Strike to look into the case. A war veteran wounded both physically and psychologically, Strike’s life is in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline, but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model’s complex world, the darker things get – and the closer he gets to terrible danger – from Goodreads.com

Considering that most people know that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for JK Rowling, I’m gathering you realise that even if this wasn’t a crime thriller, I’d still read it. I’d read JK Rowling’s shopping list and enjoy it! I actually read the whole series recently and really loved every book. I can’t wait for Lethal White, the fourth book in the series, to come out!

5.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

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It all begins with a fugitive billionaire and the promise of a cash reward. Turtles All the Way Down is about lifelong friendship, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, Star Wars fan fiction, and tuatara. But at its heart is Aza Holmes, a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. – from Goodreads.com

John Green is another author who’s shopping list I’d read in a heartbeat! And as soon as John announced he was going to be releasing another book, I pre-ordered that damn book in seconds! It is 100% going to be on my favourite books of 2017 list. Without a doubt.

So these are the books I read and loved in the last three months. Did you guys read any of these books? Or did you read different ones? Let me know in the comments!

My Literary Trip to Scotland

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Ever since I wrote about my top literary places to visit, I have been chomping at the bit to get exploring! I’m always drawn to places where people lived/live that I admire. For example, in August, I visited Oxford, home of CS Lewis, Tolkien, and various Harry Potter filming locations, and this October just passed I visited Scotland! I was drawn to Edinburgh in particular because of its literary links but also for its historical element, as it was the home of Mary Queen of Scots. (Blog post about her coming soon!)

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Above: On the train journey to Scotland.

Scotland is home to one of my favourite series, Harry Potter, as JK Rowling lived (and still lives) in Edinburgh whilst she was writing the stories. We went to various locations around the city that held history for Harry. The first stop we went to was the Greyfriars Kirkyard filled with graves which Rowling stole names from for characters for the series. We managed to find Tom Riddle, a McGonagall and a Scrimgeour! Victoria Street, just around the corner from the graveyard, also claims to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley.

Above: McGonagall, Riddell and Scrymgeour graves and Victoria Street.

We also visited The Elephant House where JK Rowling wrote a lot of Philosopher’s Stone and also another cafe named Spoon. But Rowling isn’t the old city’s claim to fame. Arthur Conan Doyle, the writer of Sherlock Holmes, was born in Edinburgh, in the home of 11 Picardy Place. To commemorate, there is a statue of Sherlock outside the home which has now become a restaurant. Across the road, there is also a pub, named the Conan Doyle, after the author.

Above: The Elephant House cafe, the Sherlock Holmes statue, and the Conan Doyle pub.

We also visited the Writer’s Museum (which is also free to enter!) which chronicled the lives of Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Burns. Having only read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he was the only author that I knew a little bit about but still didn’t know his full story. The museum was also doing an installation on Ian Rankin, another Scottish novelist.

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Above: The bust of Robert Louis Stevenson inside the Writer’s Museum.

There was so much to see and do in Edinburgh when it came to literary themes, not just history. There were even historical walks that lead you through the lives of writer’s, but we didn’t get a chance to go on that, and it’s something that I would really recommend any literary fiend doing.

As I said in my blog post on literary places, I’m hoping to work my way through them and so next on the list is hopefully Haworth where the Bronte’s lived!

Have you ever been to Edinburgh? Or have I made you want to take on your own literary pilgrimage? Let me know in the comments!

#NaNoWriMo2017 – Week 3

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We have passed the halfway mark of NaNoWriMo and in theory, three-quarters of the novel should be finished! Let’s look at the stats and see how I’m getting on.

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I haven’t yet completed today’s word count, but I am hitting the target each day, still with difficulty. I’ve completely lost confidence in this project. Not as myself as a writer, I just am struggling with this project and what I want it to be. It feels as though the idea in my head isn’t translating to paper the way I want it to. I’m thinking that after NaNoWriMo is over, I’m going to put this idea on a shelf and spend a lot of time thinking about it.

I find that if I think about projects long enough, and really spend some time fleshing them out in my head, almost playing the story live action in my head, I can better understand the direction and purpose of what I’m trying to achieve. I think that’s what I need to do with this story. I’m happy with the characters, I’m happy with the basic plot, but something else needs to change.

In a way, I’m quite happy about this revelation because ultimately it’s going to make me into a better writer, and it’s going to make my project better. So even though it feels frustrating at times, there’s still a positive to be drawn from it.

How are you getting on with your NaNoWriMo project? Only one week to go! Let me know in the comments!

#NaNoWriMo2017 – Week 2

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The first full week of NaNoWriMo is almost complete so let’s see how I’m getting on.

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This week has been a struggle, to say the least. Even having an original framework to write from hasn’t helped me get motivated, but luckily I’ve still been able to hit the word count every day, with a lot of difficulty though.

I’m not sure why this week has been so hard for me to write. Perhaps because it’s always easier to start at the beginning, but when you have to write the middle and build a foundation that it’s easier to not bother. I’ve struggled a lot with negative thinking this week towards my novel idea. It’s always been the weakest narrative in compared to all the ones I’ve plotted, and I don’t really feel confident about the story or where I want it to go. I can never imagine showing it to anyone. It’s been very much a sense of “It’s not that good, so what’s the point?”.

I need to remember why I tried writing this story in the first place. I’ve always wanted to write a mystery. Maybe this isn’t the mystery that I imagined. At least it will be a stepping stone to another mystery piece. Maybe one I’ll eventually be happy with? Who knows. But I remain hopeful. And hopefully, next week will be better.

How are you getting on with NaNoWriMo? Are you steaming ahead? Falling behind? Or plodding along just like me? Let me know in the comments!

#NaNoWriMo2017 – Week 1

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So the first week of NaNoWriMo kicked off on a Wednesday this year, so I spent every night after work writing down those words needed to get to the fifty thousand benchmark. Let’s have a look at my stats!

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I kicked off this writing month completing almost 2,000 words in the first couple of days, which has given me a massive head start on my word count. As I said before, I’m reworking an old manuscript that I worked on last year for the Camp edition of NaNoWriMo. Having something concrete to work from has definitely helped give me a foundation, and I’d recommend it to anyone to enter into NaNo with as much material as possible, whether that be a thorough outline or a first draft like me, I’ve found it really, really helps.

Something I did struggle with this week, particularly on Saturday, was writing outside of my routine. I found that coming home from work and sitting down to write every day made it much easier for me to get into the groove. When I tried to write on a Saturday afternoon, I found it hard to get my head in the right space to write, so I’m going to try and keep it the same each day to keep with a routine. Whether I’ll be able to do that or not, I don’t know but I’m hopeful.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? What’s your progress like? And what genre are you writing? Let me know in the comments!

Preparing for #NaNoWriMo2017

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Yes, it’s that time of year again! National Novel Writing Month, also known as November, is upon us, which means all your author friends will drop off the face of the earth as they try to write 50,000 words in a month. I’ve participated for the last two years and once again, I’ll be tackling the big 5-0 this coming November.

My project this year is a second draft of a story I wrote during Camp NaNoWriMo 2016. Losing Lola was the name of the project, and although I achieved my 50,000-word goal, and although it was only a first draft, I’ve had time to think about what I want the story to be and the improvements I want to make on the story.

The narrative is set in my hometown of Bexhill and tells the story of Warren and Javi who are thrown into a whirlwind after Javi’s sister, Lola, goes missing. Her body is found and ruled a suicide but Javi and Warren are convinced that actually Lola was murdered.

The first draft was really the bare bones of the story, and I concentrated on getting from A-B, using very simple language of “this is the scene, these are the characters, where they’re going, where they’ve come from, and this is the dialogue”. It was useful to do it this way as I didn’t have to worry about how I wanted to tell the story, but only the story I wanted to tell.

So going forth, I’ll be working from the original draft I did back in April 2016, using the scenes I wrote as a structure and fleshing out my original ideas, adding in a few more and cutting others. I’m feeling confident I’ll achieve my goal of 50,000 words this time as I achieved it with my first draft on not much content.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Or are you taking a break? Let me know in the comments!

Great Reads: Short Stories

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Sometimes, a bite-sized read is just what you need. Whether you’re on the bus or just want to digest something quick before bed, short stories can really hit the spot. Here are a few I’ve read that I think should be recommended!

These books are in no particular order.

1.

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

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Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist, two ranch hands, come together when they’re working as sheep herder and camp tender one summer on a range above the tree line. At first, sharing an isolated tent, the attraction is casual, inevitable, but something deeper catches them that summer. Both men work hard, marry, have kids because that’s what cowboys do. But over the course of many years and frequent separations this relationship becomes the most important thing in their lives, and they do anything they can to preserve it. – from Goodreads.com

The story that inspired the famous film with Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, and coming in at only 55 pages, or just over an hour if you listen to the audiobook like I did. The story of Ennis and Jack is a beautiful one and really makes me love the film even more.

2.

Bluebeard (and other Fairy Tales) by Angela Carter

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Angela Carter’s playful and subversive retellings of Charles Perrault’s classic fairy tales conjure up a world of resourceful women, black-hearted villains, wily animals and incredible transformations. In these seven stories, bristling with frank, earthy humour and gothic imagination, nothing is as it seems. – from Goodreads.com

In this little collection, Angela Carter manages to rework, and reignite, what keeps us going back to the classic fairy tales again and again. This collection includes Bluebeard, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty in the Wood and Cinderella!

3.

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

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If you broke Elena’s heart, Star Wars would spill out. So when she decides to queue outside her local cinema to see the new movie, she’s expecting a celebration with crowds of people who love Han, Luke and Leia just as much as she does. What she’s not expecting is to be last in a line of only three people; to have to pee into a collectable Star Wars soda cup behind a dumpster or to meet that unlikely someone who just might truly understand the way she feels. – from Goodreads.com

Rainbow Rowell wrote this short story for World Book Day 2016. I don’t think it would be selfish of me to ask for a full-length book based on this little snippet, as lots of people seem to love it as much as I do!

4.

Different Seasons by Stephen King

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This gripping collection begins with “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” in which an unjustly imprisoned convict seeks a strange and startling revenge—the basis for the Best Picture Academy Award-nominee The Shawshank Redemption. Next is “Apt Pupil,” the inspiration for the film of the same name about top high school student Todd Bowden and his obsession with the dark and deadly past of an older man in town. In “The Body,” four rambunctious young boys plunge through the façade of a small town and come face-to-face with life, death, and intimations of their own mortality. This novella became the movie Stand By Me. Finally, a disgraced woman is determined to triumph over death in “The Breathing Method.” – from Goodreads.com

My first experience with Stephen King was watching The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me in English class, so when I realised that these films were based on actual short stories, I thought I better get around to reading them. The films captured the essence and tone of King’s short stories perfectly, and these are amongst my favourites!

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Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling

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The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a Wizarding classic, first came to Muggle readers’ attention in the book known as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Now, thanks to Hermione Granger’s new translation from the ancient runes, we present this stunning edition with an introduction, notes, and illustrations by J. K. Rowling, and extensive commentary by Albus Dumbledore. – from Goodreads.com

In the same vein as Angela Carter’s revised fairy tales, JK Rowling has compiled a collection of stories most loved by wizard children, that had been passed down in wizard families from generation to generation. It was interesting to read and compare to our own fairy tales and see their differences and similarities.

So these are some of my favourite short stories that I think you should all read. Got any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

Great Reads: Graphic Novels

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In the last couple of years, I’ve really gotten into reading graphic novels. They’re the perfect hybrid between watching a film or an episode of a TV show and reading a book, and sometimes the illustrations are just gorgeous! Anyway, here are the graphic novels I think are great!

1.

Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer

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When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers’ leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity. – from Goodreads.com

This is a recent read for me, as I was bought Wires and Nerve Volume 1 for my birthday this year. I absolutely loved all of the books in the Lunar Chronicles series, including the companions, Fairest and Stars Above. Although Wires and Nerve is not integral to the Lunar Chronicles timeline, it’s certainly a wonderfully entertaining addition.

2.

Blankets by Craig Thompson

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Wrapped in the landscape of a blustery Wisconsin winter, Blankets explores the sibling rivalry of two brothers growing up in the isolated country, and the budding romance of two coming-of-age lovers. A tale of security and discovery, of playfulness and tragedy, of a fall from grace and the origins of faith. – from Goodreads.com

Blankets was one of the first graphic novels I read and I really loved how big it was. A lot of graphic novels are very short but this one really felt like a novel. It’s also autobiographical so it really tugged at my heartstrings.

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Manga Classics: Les Miserables

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Adapted for stage and screen, loved by millions, Victor Hugo’s classic novel of love & tragedy during the French Revolution is reborn in this fantastic new manga edition! The gorgeous art of TseMei Lee brings to life the tragic stories of Jean Valjean, Inspector Javert, and the beautiful Fantine, in this epic adaptation of Les Miserables! – from Goodreads.com

Les Miserables is one of my favourite books, but to say it’s long is an understatement! In this version, Manga Classics, Stacy King has taken the best bits of Victor Hugo’s novel and strung them together, illustrated by the wonderful TseMei Lee, making this one of the best adaptations to read if you want to get to know the story of Les Miserables.

4.

Sherlock: A Study in Pink

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Sherlock Manga – printed in English in the US for the first time! Adapting the episodes of the smash-hit TV series starring worldwide superstars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Holmes and Watson tackle brain-teasing crimes in modern-day London in this stunning Manga, presented in its original right-to-left reading order, and in the full chapters as originally serialized! Meet Holmes and Watson for the first time… all over again! – from Goodreads.com

This edition of Sherlock Manga is adapted from the TV series Sherlock, not the original stories from Arthur Conan Doyle. The characters, brought to life by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, have been perfectly memorialised in this Manga collection. It also adapts the first episode, A Study in Pink, really well and keeps all the elements of the episode that we love.

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Murder on the Orient Express: Agatha Christie Graphic Novels

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A snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is full at this time of the year, but by the morning, is one passenger fewer. An American lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Hercule Poirot must identify the murderer – in case he or she strikes again. – from Goodreads.com

One of the problems with classics is that they can be quiet dense, so to have them in a bite-size graphic novel form can make them much easier to consume. This is the case for Murder on the Orient Express and other crime classics, as there are usually lots of threads that make up the final mystery. Having classics as graphic novels also brings the stories to a wider audience.

So these are my top five classics that I think are great. Have you read any of these? Or are there some you’d like to recommend to me? Let me know in the comments!

Most Read Authors

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Ever since I started reading independently, and choosing books for myself, I’ve racked up quite a few books by the same author. In my opinion, there’s nothing better than waiting with bated breath for an author to release their new book and sliding it onto your shelf alongside their others. So over the years, here are the authors I’ve read (and loved) the most.

These books are in no particular order.

(Disclaimer: I’ve tried not to include authors whose series I’ve read)

1.

Dorothy Koomson

 

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Fiction and storytelling were still a HUGE passion of mine and I continued to write short stories and novels every spare moment that I got. In 2001 I had the idea for The Cupid Effect and my career as a published novelist began. – from Goodreads.com

My sister bought me The Cupid Effect when I was a teenager and I gobbled it up. Luckily, Dorothy Koomson is one of those authors than manages to release a book every year, so I didn’t have to wait long for my next read. I got a bit out of sync with the releases whilst I was at university, but so far I’ve read eight of her twelve books!

2.

Jacqueline Wilson

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One of Jacqueline’s most successful and enduring creations has been the famous Tracy Beaker, who first appeared in 1991 in The Story of Tracy Beaker. This was also the first of her books to be illustrated by Nick Sharratt. – from Goodreads.com

I, like most young kids, was introduced to the world of Jaqueline Wilson thanks to the TV show of Tracy Beaker on CBBC. Cue me reading every single Jaqueline Wilson book ever released! I don’t think there was a kid in my school who didn’t read and love JW books. They became a cornerstone of a 90s kid’s childhood!

3.

E Lockhart

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E. Lockhart is the author of Genuine Fraud, We Were Liars, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, The Boyfriend List and several other novels. – from Goodreads.com

The Boyfriend List was gifted to me when I was 14 by my Mum and I absolutely adored it. I didn’t read another E Lockhart book until We Were Liars, released in 2014, but I made the effort to go back and read all of the books I’d missed. I haven’t caught up with the Ruby Oliver series yet, but Lockhart’s latest, Genuine Fraud, is down to be one of my favourites of the year!

4.

Roald Dahl

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His first children’s book was The Gremlins, about mischievous little creatures that were part of RAF folklore. The book was commissioned by Walt Disney for a film that was never made, and published in 1943. Dahl went on to create some of the best-loved children’s stories of the 20th century, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda and James and the Giant Peach. – from Goodreads.com

All of Roald Dahl’s books were published before I was born, so after reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory first, I methodically went through and read all of Dahl’s books throughout my childhood. I haven’t read all of them, but some of his stories are my absolute favourites, and I hold a soft spot for Dirty Beasts and Revolting Rhymes. I think it’s where my love of poetry was born!

5.

John Green

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John Green’s first novel, Looking for Alaska, won the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award presented by the American Library Association. – from Goodreads.com

John Green’s Looking for Alaska really kick-started my love of YA when I first read it in 2011. I didn’t actually get into YA properly until 2014 but this book always held a special place in my heart, and still does! Then, when The Fault in Our Stars was released in 2012, I quickly ordered the rest of his books and went on a binge reading spree to get caught up. I’m so excited for Turtles All the Way Down to be released this October!

So these are the authors whose books I’ve read the most! Are any of these authors on your list? Or do you have different authors whose books you’ve read the most? Let me know in the comments!