Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Top Ten Tuesday :: Most Recent 5 Star Reads

There's something very satisfying about this week's Top Ten Tuesday post in rounding up the cream of the crop of books I've read most recently. While I'm not 100% sure I gave these books 5 stars each, they certainly all tick the boxes for some of the best books I've read recently!

Emma by Jane Austen :: Witty, charming and hilarious, matchmaker Emma causes more trouble than she bargains for when it comes to meddling in her friends' relationships. Jane Austen's classic was hard to put down and I think I found some new favourite characters in Emma and Mr Knightley.

After You by Jojo Moyes :: The follow-up novel to Me Before You, I really enjoyed picking up again with Louisa who was struggling to move on from her relationship with Will. Sad, funny and hopeful, I thought this book dealt realistically with the struggles of moving on from grief and Lousia's struggle to discover what she really wants out of life.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor :: I wasn't expecting to enjoy this fantasy novel but something about the setting of Prague combined with the mystery of Karou's origins (blue hair, tattoos) and what all those teeth are for really struck a chord in my imagination. I can't wait to read the second installment.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins :: While I can't say this book lived up to the hype of Gone Girl as so many people were tauting it to, The Girl on the Train was a very solid thriller, mysery which had me addicted to finishing it as fast as possibly.

What book have you read recently that you would highly recommend?


Thursday, 17 March 2016

Things I've Learnt About My Writing Process

I've been a little bit absent on the blog this month due to the fact that I've been focusing on my work in progress! Last year I had a goal of getting a first draft of a novel off the ground but it never really took off due to procrastination. This year I've taken a slightly different approach to writing and I've found some tips and tricks that have really worked for me!

Planning, Planning, Planning!
Planning is an interesting one as I think how much you plan your novel varies from person to person. In general most writers are either planners or pantsers (where you make it up as you go along), but I've found a combination of the two works best for me. I need to know my characters goals and key events in the timeline but I don't like to restrict what happens too much as I find as I write, things can change and new ideas develop along the way.

Mini-word Goals
I decided to make life easier for myself by giving myself 2000 words per week goals. It's so much more manageable and takes the pressure off the 80,000 word finale that I'm aiming for by the end of the year. Writing a whole book seems like such a daunting task, but cutting it down into a few chapters a week suddenly becomes not only manageable but aspirational too.

Just Get Started
Oh lordy, how many times I have started and rewritten and jumped between my book ideas, deleting entire pages and giving up before I've even started. Just starting writing is all you have to do. You don't have to start with the first scene of the book, just write something down. I've also fallen into the trap of struggling to work out ever single finer details of the plot in the first draft but have since decided that's exactly what second drafts are for!

Act on Positivity
Writing is an incredibly emotionally draining hobby, in the best way possible. But, that also means that as writers we can be ecstatic with our work one minute and beat ourselves up the next. I think I actually understand the plight of the tormented writer since I've begun consistently writing this year. Acting on positivity means I like to start writing when I'm in a good mood so that the confident vibes are flowing. It also means I finish writing when I'm still feeling inspired and happy rather than completely at my wits end.

Take On All Of The Advice
I'll be the first to admit I am an amateur when it comes to creative and fiction writing but soaking up as much advice, finding what works for you as a writer and chucking out the rest is a great place to start. I've read lots of advice on planning and developing your book, some of it which works for me and some of which doesn't. One thing I've found really helpful is to have a really good idea of who your characters are. Answering simple questions about what they like, how they react to certain situations and what their goals are, are great ways of clarifying their personalities in your mind.

Are there any things you have learnt from starting a work in progress?

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Autumn TBR

While the rest of the world welcomes the first petals of Spring, us Southern Hemisphere lot are looking forward to the colder weather if only because it removes any sort of guilt associated with not being outside and instead we can reserve every right to get snuggly with a good book. This Autumn I'm hoping to tick off the following books:

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell :: My current read, (is that cheating? nope, okay then) which started off fantastically but halfway through I'm feeling a little bit defeated by the length. I'm going to carry on and hope that future chapters pick up the pace that this novel started off so strongly with.

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray :: I feel bad even talking about this book because I bang on about this series so much (The Diviners, it's ammmmaaazing!) and yet I've been slacking on reading the second one. Maybe I have THE FEAR? either way it needs to happen.

Under the Spanish Stars by Alli Sincair :: I was very kindly gifted this book from Harlequin Aus a while back and have been meaning to pick it up. All I know is that it looks exactly like the kind of wunder-lust inducing read that I love so much.

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby :: One of my favourite funny authors, I have had this book reserved at the library to read and then promptly forgot to pick it up for weeks.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness :: I've really enjoyed getting into more YA last year and this book about finding the extraordinary in ordinary lives sounds like a something I would very much enjoy.

The Drop by Dennis Lehane :: I feel like it's been too long since I've picked up a crime read and indeed the last book I read from this genre was The Girl on the Train last year. Dennis Lehane is one of my favourite authors for crime fiction so any of his books will do but in particular I really want to read this one that tells the story of a 'drop bar' in Boston.
I'd love to know what books you are itching to read this season?!

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Reading Classics Shouldn't Be A Chore, Right?

Twitter is a great tool for many reasons, I often find myself caught in the act of never ending scrolling until my thumb hurts just looking for interesting links and blog posts to catch up on. Well recently a great piece in the Guardian caught my eye about how reading Classical books is so often treated like it's a daunting and difficult chore. Classical fiction has become this BIG DIFFICULT THING that's scary and hard for lots of readers and then every time we hear someone talking about how they trudged through Dickens or Hardy all the rest of us shudder and decide to just steer clear.

The whole time I was reading the article I was like 'aha' 'yeah', when did reading Classics become somthing we were supposed to do because we felt guilty or like 'I'm a smart sophisticated person so I should probably give Pride and Prejudice' rather than 'ooh how about that Mr Darcy?'

I'm totally guilty of doing this too. I put off reading Pride and Prejudice for years because I thought I wouldn't get the language and it would be more of a trudge through wordy literature than an enjoyable read. But you know what? It's turned out to be one of my favourite reads and I can't wait to read more from Jane Austen. That's not to say all Classics are going to be enjoyable, I've tried three times to read Great Expectations and it just isn't working for me, but I do agree that sometime the fear of these books is offputting rather than giving them a go.

I think if there is one thing I took away from the article and from my own Classical reading experiences it's that not all Classics are created equal. You might fancy your Bronte sisters but loathe picking up anything by James Joyce (I don't know why but I've never wanted to read Ulysses for this very reason, maybe I should give it a go?) but if you've never actually picked up a copy then how will you know?

I'd love to know what your thoughts are on this article? Have you put off reading any Classic books because they seem too daunting?

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Ten Books To Read If You're In The Mood For...Wanderlust

For today's Top Ten Tuesday post I thought I would put together a collection of books that have really given me a bad case of wanderlust. Some of these books have inspired me to go to specific countries while others just invoke a sense of adventure through their writing. Either way you're sure to get a feeling of itchy feet after reading them!

African Dawn by Tony Parks :: South Africa. I loved reading this book after my trip to Botswana and the imagery it evoked of everything from the animals to the dusty sunsets made for a truly immersive experience.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts :: India. This is an epic book (it's huge) but so worth it for all the colourful, vibrant and noisy descriptions of India.

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver :: Mexico. I absolutely adored this book especially the beachside setting of Mexico to begin with.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon :: Spain. I love the descriptions of the Spanish architecture and winding cobbled streets, not to mention that amazing secret library!

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier :: United States of America. The descriptions of travelling through Virginia in this book are so beautiful it really appealled to me.

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy:: Mexico. One of my favourite books ever Cormac McCarthy is a master of creating evocative landscapes and this book about two brothers who travel from Texas across the Mexican boarder is beautiful.

The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C Morais :: India/France. Not only did this book conjure up beautiful images of India but the food, ohhhh the food!

Chocolat by Joanne Harris :: France. Cobbled streets, a quaint French village and sumptuous food make this book one for all of the senses.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres:: Greece. I loved how descriptive the island setting of this book is!

Let me know which books you love to read to give you a feeling of wanderlust?!
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