On 3… Crescent City, House of Earth and Blood.

Can you believe I’m going into this review as a Sarah J. Maas virgin? I know. Crazy. There are a few of us still out there. But we’re like unicorns, or leprechauns, or any other ‘orn’. Tricky to find, and possibly just a horse in disguise.

Anyway…

Sarah J. Maas burst onto the writing scene in 2012 with her Throne of Glass series. It was a good year for YA Romantic Fantasies; Cassandra Clare’s 5th book of her Mortal Instruments series came out the same year, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, plus a whole slew of other sequels. Looking at the list, I’m surprised how few I’ve read, but at least I know I’ve got a back catalogue to while away the hours.

Of course, the most notable works SJM is known for is her Court of Thorns and Roses series, a beauty and the beast retelling with fae, intrigue and a lot of steamy scenes. So I’m told. As I’ve said, I’ve not read it.

No! Don’t leave! I’ve got nice things to say!

Crescent City is written for the adults that grew up with those previously mentioned books. Who loves the intrigue and fascination with fantasy – but won’t settle for ‘just kissing’ anymore.

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It’s also written by someone who has won awards, claimed the best seller, as not just one but three series under her belt, as well as side novels, manga projects… Which means it’s long. It’s thickly packed. And it’s fun!

I always find urban fantasies fascinating because you’re not throwing people into a world they’ll willingly accept, because it borders the real and the tangible. So the opening chapters are thick with description, whilst the action is relatively mundane. We’re introduced to key characters, and given a LOT of information about them to develop them as a character, and the world they live in.

Bryce, our main character, is half-fae. She has pointed ears, long red hair, and a not-so-secret-crush on one of the wolves in her flatmate, Danika,’s pack. The opening three chapters see Bryce navigate the world she lives in, from her job, to her home, to her social life. The f-bomb is dropped a lot! (Not dissimilar to when JK Rowling wrote for adults after 100 years of writing for kids, and she dropped the F-bomb like she’d been hoarding them the whole time for just this occasion).

As for plot, there are a lot of potential avenues, so if the romance element doesn’t hold your interest, the bomb-threatening mystery might. The political intrigue is there as back up, and the banter between characters will certainly see you through if you’re not that fussed.

This is a book written by someone who is wholly comfortable with her craft, her style, and her audience. Books, films, even Youtube videos are getting longer, and as someone who likes to binge on their content – I’m here for it. Crescent City is no different. At just over 800 pages, she’s a doozie and I’m not surprised. How does an editor tell a Goodreads Choice Awards Best Young Adult Fantasy winner, winner of the Publisher Weekly’s Starred Review, Dragon Novel twice nominated winner, that she needs to cut out anything?

*Side note* – I’ve just read some of the reviews on her House of Earth and Blood Goodreads, from people who haven’t even read the book yet. (Which is crazy to me in of itself). And people seem to be expecting smut (I’m sure!) bad writing (which is harsh. Some sentences run on a little long, but she’s trying to build a layered world here people!) and “cliche stereotypical depictions of feminism and strength”.

Feminism is a lens guys, there is no ‘black and white’ way of being a feminist. Although could you imagine how easy life would be if there were?! There are some stereotypes of femininity and femme fatals in the opening chapter, but I’m interested to see how these characters continue to explore the world they’re in, especially as they’re put under pressure and have to make tough decisions. No, I’m not expecting this to be a ‘Booker Style’ literary fest. But to be honest, that’s not my thing anyway.

So as a summary:

Interesting opening chapters, packed full of maybe a little too much information and not enough action for me. But too soon to tell much more. I guess I’ll have to read it to find out!

On Three… Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

For those of you who have not read an ‘On Three’ review before: I review books after the 3rd chapter and determine whether I’m going to continue reading or not. Most agents only give a book three chapters (or the first 50 pages) and I find it’s gauge enough to know whether I’m going to enjoy a book or not. Sometimes I’m wrong but hey – what’s life without a little surprise?

Preamble: 

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Sometime between Christmas 2019 and New Year’s Eve of 2020, I went to see The Rise of Skywalker. And let me just tell you, weeks later, I have absolutely no idea how I feel about it.

  • It’s beautiful – sure.
  • Great Characters – obviously.
  • Pacing and structure? New Phone Who Dis?

I watched the first three films when I was six years old. My Grandparents only had three videotapes for kids. Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back, Free Willy, and The NeverEnding Story. So whenever we visited, this was all I could watch.

And if that doesn’t deeply explain my psychosis nothing will…

Anyway – because of this, I’ve always held a warm, safe place for Star Wars in my heart. Or so I thought. I wasn’t amazed by the prequels, but I’ve come to appreciate them for developing the world. Wasn’t a fan of Rogue One (don’t @ me) and let’s just pretend The Solo Story didn’t happen… and I’ll die on the hill that The Last Jedi is wonderful because it actually attempts a slightly different narrative than a simple rehash of old storylines.

Was I secretly a Star Wars snob? Was I unable to enjoy anything except the original trilogy?

My best friend is the complete opposite – the Star Wars franchise can do no wrong (except for Last Jedi, he hates that film). And it amazed me we could both love a Franchise, for completely different reasons. At completely different ends of the spectrum. I asked him if he’d read any of the Star Wars books. He said no.

Time to test my snob hypothesis then – I bought Star Wars Aftermath. And my journey began…

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Aftermath opens straight after The Return of the Jedi, and the second Death Star is destroyed. But there’s no time to celebrate. The Empire still has factions of power, and as the statue of Palpatine is pulled from its plinth, Imperial Police (Stormtroopers in black) arrive and a battle breaks out in the middle of the square.

Nothing like throwing us in amongst the action. The characters, even though barely introduced in this opening scene, are empathic and real. Families protecting themselves. An angry mob fighting back against a cruel establishment.

The next three chapters cover a range of characters, and interestingly for me, hover over the perspective of an Imperial Admiral – Rae Sloane. Ambitious, tempestuous, strong and flawed – I love her already. And whilst I know I shouldn’t want her to win, her motives are clear and reasonable. Which makes her a fantastic antagonist. The world-building and settings are tangible and I’m really enjoying the pace of this narrative.

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I don’t tend to read a lot of Scifi – for reason’s I’ve explained in this tweet:-

But! Aftermath’s pivoting between perspectives, the soft references rather than heavy-handed ‘remember this guy from the first film? We brought him back! Even though he’d definitely be dead! HAHA!’ – It all works.

So if you’re worried that you might be a Star Wars snob – which might be true for me – give this book a read. I’m really glad I chose this to be my first read of 2020. I just hope it ends in hope because – with the world as it is outside, I need my Star Wars escapism safety blanket.

 

#Gothtober – Gothic Listening

Gothtober

Back in July I wrote a blog post about music being influential on writing, explaining that writers craving silence and solitude was a stereotype and ABSOLUTELY NOT how I like to write. Click here if you want a little slice of recap.

But a TLDR is: Some writers finds the blank page daunting, and music can help break numerous barriers.

And whilst music and literature might not seem synonymous, they both have tangible effects on us as human beings. When you’re a child you learn to sing along to music, keep to a beat and co-ordinate through music, whether that’s through music lessons or simply conditioning within the home. For example, my dad loves The Squeeze, so I know all the words to Up the Junction. (Test me). Equally, your parents might have read to you as a child, instigating your journey to reading and writing. Both are creative outlets developed and intrinsic to the person developing them. They’re large parts of everyone’s lives, whether they realise it or not, and the wider you explore both subjects the more you’ll get out of life and the wider cultural world around you.

The music I play when I’m writing is always curated to suit the mood of my writing.

So, with that in mind. I’ve created a playlist for you to listen to. Check it out on Spotify (not a spon – I don’t have NEARLY enough followers for that yet) and let me know what you think. What music do you listen to when you’re writing?

On 3… Review of The Rabbit Girls

IMG_20190909_083536_264Usually, I preface these reviews with the intro about how I only read three chapters being interrupted by my mum… yada yada. But today’s review is part of a #BlogTour for Anna Ellory and I’ve decided to take a slight detour – so, if you’re ready for the emotional rollercoaster, sitting comfortably etc, I’ll begin.

Storytime: (If you’re not interested and want to just read my review, feel free to return at the **)

Five or six years ago, I was an ad-hoc daytime companion for a lady named Erna. She had dementia, was bedridden, amongst a long list of other ailments. She couldn’t watch television for more than five minutes without changing the channel a hundred times, unable to concentrate on anything, distracted or irritated. She hated having a pillow under her knee, but the nurse insisted. She’d try and trick you into moving the pillow, but you had to stand firm against her wily fragility. And she would scream or cry if left alone for more than two minutes, even if she’d asked you to make her a tea or fetch the paper.

But I sat with her, for hours, days, because I loved her husband, John Kidson, like an adopted granddad. And if he needed me to sit with Erna whilst he went to the rugby, Tescos or any other reason – I would be there for them.

At around one o’clock, the nurses would come. They’d always politely suggest I go have something to eat or leave the room so Erna could be bathed, changed and everything else. In my young and selfish mind, I was really glad I wasn’t the one who actually had to care for Erna. That I could walk away.

Stories about anyone in this position always make me uncomfortable, because books are an escape for me. A separate world from my own which is – hopefully – slightly less tragic than the Brexit hellscape we’re currently living in.

But with Rabbit Girls… I didn’t feel I could put it down. Not just but because I’d agreed to do this blog (I was actually two-thirds of the way through it when I was asked) but because the writing begged to be read. The story deserved to be told. And I’d agreed, whether consciously or not, to keep my promise and find out how it ended.

** The Review.

 Speaking of hellscapes… In half the story, the Berlin wall has fallen and in the other half, the Holocaust plagues our charming and compassionate characters as they’re tortured, experimented on and systematically destroyed. Both stories are intertwined by family, hope in the darkest of times and rebellion. Miriam Winter is caring for her dying father, Henryk, when she discovers an Auschwitz tattoo under his watch strap. Miriam, needing to understand more about her father’s past, discovers an inmate’s uniform which has letters smuggled within it.

What you should expect before going into this is:

  1. You’re going to cry. A lot. Have tissues etc prepared.
  2. You’re going to question yourself, whether you’re a good person. Whether, like me, you’re selfishly hiding from cruel realities others have suffered.
  3. You’re going to be in awe of the writing. It’s incredible, there’s no denying that.

Anna Ellory is a master (with a Masters) craftswoman of literary fiction, historical realities, and intriguing characters and narratives. It feels authentic, and it hurts. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

And I’m really excited to say this, to Anna’s face (potentially in an aggressive-loving-kinda-way) next week when I see her.

100/10 would recommend. Thank you for letting me be part of your Blog Tour!

 

#SWGD – Sweet Freedom

Sugar, We're Going Down bannerDay 5.

Okay… I’ll be the first to admit Day 3 was tricky. Some (my family) might even go as far as to say my mood was ‘extra’ or ‘aggressive’. (There’s no might, those are the actual words my family used to describe me.)

But I can confirm that Day 5 finds me in a much better mood. I don’t know if it’s because the withdrawal symptoms have subsided, or the lack of caffeine and sugar has left me with a broken soul and no will to go on (the positive bean in me wants to think it’s the former) but I woke up feeling happy. Good. Not quite healthy, bouncing full of life; but not murderous any more so I guess that’s a plus.

I want to take a moment to thank those who reached out to me after the last post. Tentative as you were. To those who called, commented, messaged to make sure I was okay. Yesterday was pretty difficult in that so many people have told me ‘just have a cup of tea… who’s going to know? Who’s going to care?’

No one. You’re right. But I don’t want to give up on something I’ve told myself I’ll do. And I don’t want to let down those who messaged saying, ‘you’ve got this,’ ‘stick at it.’ ‘You’re nearly there.’

They might be massively misguided, but it’s kind of them to care about me and I’m grateful for that.

I’m still at the torn stage where I wouldn’t recommend giving up sugar cold turkey to people, but I’m still acting like it’s the best thing for my body. I’ve started calling it a ‘cleanse’ to people who ask about it, and I’ve never felt so pretentious in my life.

I’ve got these sunglasses with reflective lenses. They’re huge and they’re gorgeous and they’re still not as pretentious as telling people you’re ‘on a cleanse’. Just a little PSA.

I thought the answer to giving up sugar would be to find alternatives. Trick my brain (and my mouth apparently) into thinking that I wasn’t giving up sugar so much as replacing my favourites with other things.

Image result for fruit infusers sachetSo I tried teas without sugar (a bust, as day three proved) and I tried fruit infusers in cold water. Essentially squash, but with no added sugar.

These fruit infusers were an abomination. The label suggested leaving the little teabag looking sachet in the water for five minutes and then removing. I tried the apple and blackcurrant flavour first, not wanting to risk the more precarious flavours of mango and pineapple, strawberry and kiwi. After five minutes, the water was pink, and the blackcurrant smell was really strong. I could almost taste it.

And that’s pretty much what happened when the water touched my tongue. I could almost taste it. You know when you finish a squash bottle, and you fill it with water, and there’s that little residue taste – like the ghost of blackcurrant past?

That’s what this tasted like.

No worries, I’ll try leaving it a little longer. Maybe I’ve put too much water in it. Maybe it needs a few more minutes. It didn’t. The colour of the water got darker, more pink. The taste stayed the same. Disappointed, I just had a glass of water. Left the bottle to soak in it’s own misery.

Came back two hours later to see if it was any better now. That was my mistake.

It tasted like mould. The fruit or flavourings or whatever had been left in the water had massively soured. It was gross. I immediately spat out the water, poured the rest down the drain and eyed the teabag looking sachet to see if there was actual mould inside. There wasn’t, but there was also no colour in it either.

10/10 would not recommend. Avoid. Avoid.

Dejected, but still too stubborn to admit I’d have to cut sweetness out of my life if I wanted to cut out sugar, I took to Sainsburys again. I sent a sad post of minirolls, flapjacks and cookies to my family on the group whatsapp, and thought about giving up.

Image result for sweet freedomAnd then I spotted this tiny little bottle with a badger on the front.

Something you might not know about me – I’m a Hufflepuff. (Unless you ask my flatmate, family or anyone who has seen my temper and then I’m a Slytherin.)

So seeing a badger on a label caught my eye almost immediately. Then, the price did. £3. That’s a lot for this piddly bottle, but I picked it up anyway.

‘No added sugar, natural fruit sweetners, perfect on porridge or for making hot chocolates with.’

Come. To. Mama.

I won’t say it’s the best £3 I’ve ever spent. That honour goes to the big mac I bought a guy called Alex  (who I thought hated me) nearly ten years ago and thus secured our standing friendship. But this was the second-best £3 I’ve ever spent. 

Three dollops of this in warm milk, bam. The sweetest hot chocolate I’ve had since I tried a ‘true Belgian hot chocolate’ in, unsurprisingly, Belgium, which was essentially just warm melted chocolate in a cup. Nearly half the bottle to make it, but, when I’m feeling sad now on my little journey to not have refined or added sugar – this bad boy is coming out of the cupboard.

The true hero of this week. Definitely recommend.

On 3… The Night Manager

51p5pzv02HL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgHow do you create tension in the opening chapters of a book, without giving the game away? Without over-egging the pudding and making the tension unsustainable? Without boring your audience into early retirement.

Well,

You start by using present tense. If everything is happening in the moment, how could you not be caught up along for the ride? But then you juxtapose it with past tense, develop the story, the narrative and the characters. Their motives and motivations are in their pasts, their personalities and choices will be defined by those pasts and you’ll have to read more to see if they surprise you. They probably will.

The dialogue within your tense narrative should be strong. Almost script like. A complete contrast to the heavy setting description. It should flow like a real conversation, jar in the right places. Pause for reflection. Counter. And one person should always know more than the other.

For this, you need to have a compelling protagonist. Someone who is both relatable and ready for the action ahead of them. Possibly you might have an ex-military man turned night manager. Perhaps, there’s more to this mild mannered, well dressed individual than meets the eye.

‘Tentative, with a smile of apologetic self-protection.’

Of course, if you’re going to describe your characters this way, with a ‘mildness of manner and a fighter’s frame,’ you should also – and I cannot stress this enough – hire Tom Hiddleston to play him in the television series adaptation.

Mum: “The fatal thing about watching a film or tv series before you read the book is that you know what the character looks like. In the book, Le Carre is beautifully descriptive of Jonathan Pine but his description bears little resemblance to the gorgeous hunk who played him.”

Okay, you can stop dribbling now.

Mum: “The conversation between Pine and Madame Sophie was lovely, flirtatious. I could imagine myself with Tom Hiddleston… but that’s irrelevant really.”

I’m going to be sick.

I watched the series of The Night Manager before I read the book, which was definitely the wrong way around. When you know how this book ends, every sentence is edged with a tenacity for the final battle – which you obviously don’t get in the first three chapters. You do get a lot in the first three chapters, but your never satisfied. Always hungry for more.

John Le Carre has created a modern story in a classic style. His Fleming-esque characters are picture perfect for their seduction, mystery and cruelty. And of course, missiles and other nasty things are put on the table in chapter one.

Mum: “Excellent writing. It really captured my imagination. For some reason, I forgot that Hugh Laurie played the baddie (Roper) and had a completely different, horrible, obnoxious actors face in my head.”

Hitchcock once said of film, ‘if you have a gun on the wall in the first act, then it must go off in the second.’ Tension is then increased because we already know the stakes. This man, the one Pine (our protagonist) fears, is working with weapons that could kill thousands. Any additional stakes throughout the story will drive the plot but eventually these ‘Chekov’s gun’s must go off. And our Jonathan Pine is the only person we know in the way to stop him.

If you’re looking to develop your writing skills, read The Night Manager.

If you want to enjoy a spy-thriller with teeth, read The Night Manager.

If you want to imagine a world outside your mundane, read The Night Manger.

Basically what I’m saying is –

Well I don’t think I need to repeat myself. Do you?

#SWGD – Give Me Something To Break

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Day 3. (SUPER Explicit.)

At this point, I’m wondering if giving up added sugar for my health is worth the health of those around me. Because, and I cannot stress this enough, I’m ready to straight-up fucking murder someone.

IMG_20190831_193748_513My week started with a food shop, where mum and I sought out sugarless or ‘no added sugar’ alternatives to things like breakfast cereals, tea, and juice – as these were going to be the three key things my life was going so to suffer without.

So let’s have a little run down of the products I got:

Puffed Wheat – AKA Sugar Puff’s snotty younger sibling who is trying too hard and basically tastes RANK.

Porridge Oats – not the same without a dollop of jam.

Freefrom Pasta – So far the only team player I’ve encountered. Tasted the same in a Pasta bake on Day 2. Good work.

Sugarless Greek Yoghurt – Not usually a fan of Greek Yoghurt, but with the Tikka Cod we had for dinner Day 3, not bad!

Juice Infusers – You’ll get your turn you abominations.

Maryland sugarless cookies – which taste like cardboard dipped in bitter chocolate. Yummy.

Smoothie Mix you add water to – the only bit I’ve not tried yet, so they’ll inevitably get their own post.

And now we come to my ultimate disappointments. The shitcreek of saviors. The ones who promised it all and delivered diddly-squat.

Earl Grey Tea with a Zest of Orange and Yorkshire Biscuit Tea.20190903_100942

So I’ve tried both of these before, and had convinced myself they’d be perfect alternatives to a breakfast tea. The Biscuit tea is super sweet, I’ve only ever needed half a tea spoon to take away the bitter aftertaste – but that bitter aftertaste has only increased since I’ve been denied sugar.

As for the Earl Grey, the Zest of Orange promised a soft, floral alternative that was still FUCKING BITTER. The last mouthful of this is actual hell. I don’t know how people drink tea without sugar. I fucking love tea with sugar. But the bitterness can only be compared to reporting your Ex’s New Girlfriends bikini photos on Instagram as ‘pornography’.  Which I’ve totally never done… honest…

When I agreed to give up sugar, I knew the whole ‘no cake, no sweets, no chocolate’ part was going to be hard. I did not expect to have my favourite drink, and about 80% of my personality DESTROYED by not being able to have tea.

I’ve been in a foul fucking state all day. And all I get ‘yeah, you’re going through withdrawal’

NO FUCKING SHIT SHERLOCK! HERE I WAS THINKING I’D JUST HAD A PERSONALITY OVERLOAD AND TURNED INTO THE FUCKING SHE-HULK ON A WHIM!

People have always told me I can be aggressive and angry – which I am. But this is next level. My sister in law actually backed away from me the other day. People are responding to my texts like I’m their boss with a harsh deadline.

‘Well if that doesn’t work for you…’ ‘are you okay?’ ‘Is something the matter?’

Yes. Something is the matter. I’m juggling sugar withdrawal AND caffeine withdrawal and I’m fucking miserable.

‘It only lasts three days.’

Well I’m on day three, and you better HOPE it finishes soon or you’ll see my face plastered on the six o’clock news because I ran into my local Costa like I was robbing a bank, shot up the ceiling, and insisted they pour Peach Iced Tea straight down my gullet until I either died or the police arrived.

Also – before you repeat my mum’s advice of just having normal tea without sugar – get out. Just get the whole way out.

And have a nice day!

Sugar, We’re Going Down…

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It’ll be no surprise to most, if not all, of those who know me –

I hate my body.

This will have a positive outcome I promise! Just keep reading…

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Trying to find a photo from my size 12 days that wasn’t blurry or weird was really hard… 

There’s a lot that frustrates me about my physique, which goes beyond not being as ‘skinny’ as I’d like to be. As you know, I used to play rugby. I was a healthy size 12, I trained three times a week, I ate what I liked, and I could run up my four flights of stairs without being out of breath.

None of those facts have been true for about eight years. I’m now a full hour glassed size 20, I go to the gym when I can but not as often as I should, I punish myself with my eating habits, and thanks to my recent cold I have to stop halfway up the stairs to catch my breath before carrying up the rest. 

Added to this: I’ve got polycystic ovarian syndrome.

It’s an interesting little dysfunction, my ovaries cling on to eggs to create cysts. I can’t have kids, and I gain weight like crazy. My size 12 to size 20 slide didn’t take the full eight years, it’s just taken me this long to admit it. I went from a size 12 to a size 16 in months, whilst at university, and everyone told me it was Fresher’s bloating. All the alcohol and cheap pasta. But then after uni, I kept ballooning. I went to see my doctor, and she reminded me that weight gain is a side effect of POS.

‘How can I stop the POS?’
‘By going on the pill.’
‘Can I go on the pill?’
‘I can’t put you on the pill until you lose some weight.’

You see my conundrum? A cruel Catch 22 of needing to lose weight and control my body so that I can lose weight and control my body.

There are other psychological factors for me hating my body but if you need to know those, my ‘Did I let anxiety win?’ blog covers most of them.

Here comes the positive bit –

My flatmate Lina and I are going to do a ‘No Sugar for September’ challenge. 30 days of zero refined or added sugar. I really struggle to diet, I get bored easily and the moment someone tells me I can’t have something then that’s all I want. But we’re hoping that by doing this together we’ll be able to cut out sugar for a month.

I don’t expect this to be easy, I’ve got the biggest sweet tooth ever! And sugar – as I discovered when shopping yesterday – is in EVERYTHING! But I’ve got the support of my flatmate and my family, and a game plan. I’ve found replacements for the sugary things I have daily, such as tea, breakfast and lunch. And sugarless alternatives to snacks and other things like that.

I’m not entirely sure what I hope to get out of this. I’ve spent a long term trying to train myself to like my body, even a little bit. But considering I’m the only person I allow to see it in the harsh light of day – maybe I need to stop fixating and starting ‘fixing’ the problems I think I have. And this can’t hurt, right?

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No, but seriously, why hasn’t vogue called yet? 

I’ll try to update the blog every day so you can see whether the alternatives are worth the money, how the lack of sugar impacts my mood, weight and mindset, and please – for me – treat yourself today. 

Just don’t tell me about it…

 

 

‘We don’t just tolerate dogs, we’re dog friendly’

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This is Zoe, and she hopes you’re having a good day. 

We have a new addition to the family. Zoe O’Donnell is a gorgeous springer spaniel puppy, and she’s the light of my life. Admittedly, she’s not my dog – but my brother and his girlfriend are proving to be great dog-parents.

They want to take her wherever they go but, unfortunately, that’s not always possible. Whilst there is a growing number of coffee shops and pubs that say, ‘dog friendly’, my brother is discovering this actually means ‘we’ll tolerate your dog, but…’

Which seems so strange to me. Is there anything better than being in a public place and seeing a dog? Really? Our pets are part of the family. They bond strangers, they’re excited to see you at the end of a long day.  They comfort us when we’re sad, they do that cute head-tilt thing when we talk to them, and if kicking you in the face to get more comfortable on the sofa isn’t love then I don’t want it!

 

Which is why I’ve got to tell you about this amazing wedding venue I’ve found. (Preface, this is not sponsored, I just really love this venue!)

I visited Bilsington Priory, (St Augustine’s Priory) to discuss potentially hosting a writing workshop at their gorgeous historical venue. I was greeted by a gorgeous pack of good boys and girls, who licked my hands, my ankles, and eventually fell asleep at my feet. Throwing back to a paragraph when I said there’s nothing better than spotting a dog in a public place well – a whole pack is the only thing.

Whilst enjoying tea with Libby and Zena, the team that run the beautiful estate, the door bell rang. A flurry of barks erupted, and I forgot for a moment that I was in a meeting trying to be professional. I got excited along with the dogs and when they were told to be quiet, I had to restrain a laugh. I loved it. I asked if people were allowed to bring their dogs to events, and Libby assured me that all dogs were welcome.

‘We don’t just tolerate dogs, we’re dog friendly. In fact, we’ve had a few brides walk their dogs down the aisle of the chapel.’

And she’s got the photos to prove it! In fact, because of the space and the facilities, dogs aren’t the only four legged friends welcome on your wedding day.

So next time you see a sign saying, ‘no dogs,’ don’t be disheartened. Because there’s a little spot in the middle of the countryside which would be perfect for your special day.

The Book Junkie Trial’s Readathon – The Reading List.

I’m taking part in a readathon.

Did I know readathon’s existed before last year? No. Was that because I didn’t watch enough Booktubers? Probably.

I’m 27 years old – and I’m not going to lie, I had to think about it for a second. Time was people would read a book, and then find a select group of friends you could talk about that book with. These people would be the bread and butter of your recommendations and book chat. Without them, your creativity might starve. Or you’d spend a lot of time at the library skimming through things you may or may not actually enjoy reading.

Then came the internet, and an inter-galaxy of opportunities to give your opinion and share reading experiences. And, unfortunately, until now I’ve not had the time to enjoy this outside of ‘reading for half an hour before going to bed.’ But since I’ve become self-employed and I’ve developed a Book Review Blog with my mum, I’ve made the time to read more. Which is why I’m taking part in a readathon.

Last year I set myself the goal of reading (and actually finishing) 12 books. One a month. Shouldn’t have been too difficult except it was. Whilst I was teaching, I couldn’t scrape five minutes for a smoothie let alone the hours it would take for me to enjoy 12 books. I’m by no means a ‘speed-reader’ and it blows my mind that there are wonderful people out there who ‘read the whole of the Harry Potter series in a weekend.’

Just know I’ve seen you. I respect you. I also kinda loathe you.

So I didn’t reach my target. Not even close. But it’s a new year, and I’ve got a new job that works to my own schedule. So I’m taking part in a readathon.

Scribes Map

Naomi (@TeatimewithNaomi) suggested The Book Junkie Trials, which was going to be a fantasy style readathon run by her majesty, Rachael Marie. It was the perfect choice. Her majesty organised a quiz to put you into a team, and I became a scribe. She created a map for each team and little additional ‘trials’ like sharing photos of your TBR and tweeting about your Daemon. Before the readathon had even started, I’d found a thousand new people to follow (only slight hyperbole) and all these like-minded, wonderful people wanted to talk to me about books! Dream accomplished. 

So I thought I’d post this before the readathon starts, because I’m going to be posting more blogs as I work through my reading list. Below is what I’ve chosen and why:

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The Prompts

1. Dwarf Mount: You spot a fair tavern wench, however, the Dwarf Mines, grimey and dusty, didn’t evoke a very romantic feeling. Read a book with a hint of romance to get you in the mood.

I chose Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman. It has been on my general TBR list for a while, and promises passion and pirates! Seemed like the perfect place to start.

2. Apothecary Towers: Where the wizards dwell. Tricksters. They have blind-folded you and randomised all your books, choose a book at random from your bookshelf.

Technically, I didn’t choose this, but Scarlet by Marissa Meyer was recommended to me by a friend after I threatened to give up on the series after thinking the first book, ‘Cinder’ was meh. Nothing wrong with Cinder, it just didn’t hold my interest as much as I wanted it to. And my two favourite characters died so it left me with very little root for. I’ve been promised book two in the series is worth going back for.

3. The Great Library: Ahh the great archives, find and read a book that has been on your TBR forever.

I bought Cruel Prince during the great hype of 2018. Which might not seem like forever ago, but we’re five months away from 2020. Just give yourself a minute to let that sink in. I avoided reading it because those who read and finished it before I could get my hands on a copy did not review it highly. So I kept putting it off and reading other things. So I guess it kinda counts.

4. The Drowning Deep: The Whirlpool… is so…. mesmerising. Read a book with rich world-building that will suck you into its own world, instead.

Because I’m a Scribe, the weakness attributed to me was ‘I spend too much time documenting my findings, so my challenges take longer. I must read a book over 500 pages.’ Turns out I’ve read quite a few books over 500 pages, but not within a month. I needed something with incredible world building and staying power. So I chose The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson. Whilst I was on my MA course, I joined a creative writing group which focused on Fantasy called Moonrakers. So I got to spend a lot of time talking about fantasy with other fantasy nerds and just generally living my best life. Brandon Sanderson was quoted on a regular basis and even though I’ve read hundreds of fantasy books, I was promised by all that this was the author I needed to sink my teeth into. The hype is real, so I hope it delivers.

5. The Bookie Grail: Here you find a lost manuscript, delivered on this forgotten island by a fallen star. Read the group book: Stardust.

So, that’s my reading list. I’ve got 31 days to complete it. Wish me luck!