PROMPT #1: The Egg, Part 2 (Fantasy)

Part One

Vetta lay before the fire, stretched out with her great head on her huge paws, looking every bit the house cat, if she weren’t ten times larger. Shadows flickered across her black and orange stripes, as Kas held up the egg.

Eggs liked heat. So they kept this one as close to it as possible.

The house was small, barely big enough for two people, let alone a man and tiger, but for now it would do. They never stayed long in one place anyway. Too many other places, too many jobs. A lord here needing someone to track down a wayward child, a lady there needing someone to put fear into those who tried to take her land. Rogue vampires who couldn’t seem to remember the agreements, and feral werewolves without a pack.

Dragons.

Nasty creatures with more smarts than Kas liked. But he’d seen plenty of dragon eggs, nests of them at Lyrana’s sanctuary, and this wasn’t one of them. It was too bumpy. Dragon eggs were smooth, and glistened. This…didn’t.

Kas sighed, lowered the egg to the ground and nestled it against Vette. With the fire and Vette’s fur, the egg would be safe enough. He ambled to the back of the small house, to the bed against the back wall, and fell into it. His eyes closed, and he fell asleep quicker than he was used to.

* * *

“Kas! Kas, wake up, you stupid oaf!”

He woke, emerging from a dream in which a child dragon roared and spat fire at him, crying all the while. “You killed my mama!” And, indeed, he had, before taking the boy to the sanctuary and leaving him with Lyrana, despite the boy’s claim he would come back and kill Kas one day. Perhaps when the boy did come, Kas would be ready for death.

Vette tugged on his sleeve. “Kas! You awake?”

“I’m awake. Was going on?” He reaching for the drawers, and his sword on top, fingers clasping around the hilt.

“It’s hatching!” The tiger grinned, turned and bounded back through the door, Kas scrambling out of bed, forgetting the sword, and following.

Vette had gathered a few sticks, placing them around the egg to stop it rolling too far. It sat, nestled before the fireplace, trembling. Kas knelt before it, reached out, and placed his finger against the shell. He drew it back quickly; the shell was not just warm, but hot, hotter than it should have been, considering the distance between fire and egg.

Dragon-egg hot.

Perhaps, really, that was all it was. A misshapen dragon egg, about to reveal the small lizard-like creature curled up inside. They should have taken it to the sanctuary, at least there it would have been properly cared for, and they could have contained the first fire bursts to come from the creature.

Vette padded forward, and Kas grabbed the scruff of her neck, pulling her back.

“Don’t,” he said. “We have no clue what’s inside.”

“It’s a child,” Vette replied, “whatever it is. It’s going to need-”

“It could be a dangerous child, Vette! A dragon, maybe.”

“That’s no dragon egg, you can tell, it’s-”

She fell silent, as a crack appeared in the top of the egg. It shook again, this time so hard it knocked in the makeshift nest. Sticks scattered across the floor and the egg went down, smashing against wood.

“No!” Vette cried, eyes widening. She had never been the maternal sort, but protective? Always. And her tiger form, the form the witch had trapped her in, brought that out even more. She skidded forward, then stopped, looking first at the egg, then at Kas.

He knelt, looking at the crack running along the shell, and gently poked it, before putting his hand over one half, and lifting it up.

“It’s okay,” he said. “It’s okay. I think…” He removed the half-shell, and stared at the stunned, dazed figure lying against the other side. The size of his hand, a humanoid body, arms spread and wings stretching out from a tiny back. They fluttered, and the figure sighed, opened her eyes, and grinned.

“Mummy!”

Kas staggered back, as the small creature threw herself into the air, tumbled, and came straight at him. Vette watched, gaze following the darting, dancing thing as it came after Kas. He knocked into one of the chairs, almost fell, but managed to keep himself upright, as the small, flying girl hit his chest and stuck there, arms stretched out.

“Hello, Mummy!”

Kas sighed, closing his eyes as he exhaled. He’d seen them, before; tricky, nasty, mischievous little beasts, never had a single pleasant experience with one of them. But they’d found the egg, they’d taken care of it, and he’d been the first thing she’d seen when hatching.

She snuggled against him for a moment, before climbing onto his shoulder and settling there, small wings fluttering, a contended smile on her face as Vette bit her lip, suppressing the urge to laugh.

“Well,” Vette said, “go on, Kas. Name your daughter.”

Kas rolled his eyes. Fairies. Of all possible things that could have been waiting in the egg, it had to be a damn fairy.

“Kas,” Vette urged.

On his shoulder, a small voice squeaked, “Kas! Mummy!”

Vette burst out laughing, and Kas sat on the nearest chair, the fairy giggling, like a child who didn’t understand what they were laughing at, but who found the whole thing hilarious, all the same.

END

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PROMPT #1: The Egg (Fantasy)

Prompt taken from website Self Publishing School. More details on why I’m doing writing prompts can be found on this post.

Write about a character who finds an odd-looking egg in the forest. When they take it home, they never could have predicted what was inside it.

Characters: Kas (human) and Vette (witch turned tiger). Hunters for hire.

Vette pounded in the air and landed, paws either side of the misshaped object nestled in tree roots. Kas stood back, watching her as she batted it, leapt away, then crept forward, body low to the ground.

He rolled his eyes, approached, and before she could do anything else, scooped up what he took to be a stone.

“Hey!” Vette said, a touch of a growl beneath her words. “I was going to get that!”

“You were playing with it,” he drawled, turning the stone over in his hands. It was not, actually, a stone. Just a little too light, for starters. Similar colour though – grey, with darker patches across. But it felt warm, and when he tapped the side, it almost sounded hollow.

Vette cocked her head. “Egg?”

“Seems like,” he grunted. “Too small for dragon though. Ain’t anything round here lays eggs like that.” He lifted it until it was eye level, studying it as he frowned. “Don’t seem right.”

To Kas’ eye, it looked too misshapen for an egg. The ones he was used to were smooth, but this had ridges and bumps. Still, he couldn’t see how it would be anything else.

“We taking it?” Vette stepped forward, eyes fixed on the object, and Kas sighed.

“Don’t look like it got no one else.” He looked around, staring at the spot where Vette had found it. “Don’t look like a nest here, either.”

“No. It doesn’t.” She pushed up onto her back legs, staring up into the tree. “Can’t see one up there, either.”

Kas sighed, turning the object over, before shrugging. “Well. We’ll take it back then go see Myri. He might know what it is.”

* * *

Myri cupped the egg in his hands, frowning as he judged the weight, tilted it, then placed it slowly on the counter. His shop was small, but full, a variety of objects stacked high on shelves, squeezed onto every surface. A small collection of books nestled in one corner. A range of weapons hung on the walls. And everywhere else were objects Kas did not recognise, and could not name even if he tried. Long, hollowed out sticks, thin circles of metal, trinkets and jewellery and other assorted goods.

Myri sighed and scratched the back of his neck, flakes of skin drifting off. “I actually have no idea. I think you’re right, and it does seem to be an egg of some kind, but I’ve never seen the likes. You been keeping it warm?”

Kas nodded, glanced down at Vette. “She kept it against her all night.”

“Good idea.” He crossed his arms, leaned back and glanced down at Vette. “How goes the quest?”

“Err,” Vette shrugged her big cat shoulders, rolled her eyes to look at Kas. “It’s…on hold.”

“She doesn’t know if she wants to turn back,” Kas grumbled, and Myri laughed.

“Can’t fault her for that. Imagine having that kind of power.”

“She has more as a mage.”

“Okay, Kas.” Vette rolled her eyes. “I still haven’t made up my mind, that’s all.”

“Well, when you do, let me know.” Myri leaned over the counter, staring down at her. “I’ve been making…enquiries. Getting in touch with some contacts. We might be able to help you with the next steps.”

Kas slid closer to the counter, squaring his shoulders as he stared at the shorter man. “Tell us what you know, Myri.”

“Nothing yet, my dear friend. I’ve just been…scoping, that’s all.” He tapped the egg. “Take that home. If it hatches, come back and let me know. I’d love to find out what’s in it.”

Before Kas could say anything else, Vette leapt up, putting her great, big paws on the counter and nudging the egg with her nose, before opening her mouth and gently setting her jaw around it. Kas turned and strode of the shop, the tiger following close behind.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

If you’d like to read more of my short stories (unfortunately none feature Kas & Vette, yet…) please check out links and details here.

 

Writing Prompts

I have a stack of books and booklets with writing prompts in. I love them – always have. It’s great to mull on an idea, have a scene sparked off by just a line or image. A good writing prompt can lead to a great story. In a way, it’s always why I sometimes like themed competitions or submissions. Writing to a prompt or theme really gives me a chance to exercise my writing muscles.

Problem is, sometimes the story ends up being a little…long. Which in some cases is fine. But I used to be able to write shorter short stories quite a lot, and I need to try that more, need to try to pin it down.

So, here’s the plan. Now and then, I am going to pick out a prompt, and post it here as a small extract. They might contain characters from current WIPs, or even ‘lore’ relating to those worlds. We’ll see. And if a prompt intrigues you, too, please feel free to use it and let me know how you got on. Once I’ve got a few posted, I’ll  add a page to list them all. And please remember, these will be unedited, rough pieces, but I always welcome constructive criticism! Every post will be prefaced by PROMPT #. Let’s see how this goes. Like my own mini-writing challenge!

That Dreaded TBR

My TBR is way, way too big. I definitely need to cull it down a little and…I’m not even just talking about physical. My Goodreads to read shelf is huge. In the thousands. So maybe culling it isn’t a bad idea?

I saw this over at Becky’s Book Blog, and it seems like such a good idea, so thought I’d give it a go.

Rules

Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.

Order on ascending date added.

Take the first 5/10/however many books books. If done again, start form where you left off.

Read the synopses of the books

Decide: should it stay or should it go now?

Some of these are on my Amazon wishlist, which has basically now turned into my TBR. Taking them off Goodreads doesn’t mean I’m taking it off Amazon, but I’m not checking if it’s on there or not. We shall see. I’m going to do five today, and see it goes.

under the dome

Under The Dome – Stephen King

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as “the dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when—or if—it will go away.

I love Stephen King, and I actually have this book somewhere. I am definitely going to read it, eventually, This one stays, without a doubt.

sweet mercy

Sweet Mercy – Ann Tatlock

When Eve Marryat’s father is laid off from the Ford Motor Company in 1931, he is forced to support his family by leaving St. Paul, Minnesota, and moving back to his Ohio roots. Eve’s uncle Cyrus has invited the family to live and work at his Marryat Island Ballroom and Lodge. 

St. Paul seemed like a haven for gangsters, and Eve had grown fearful of living there. At seventeen, she considers her family to be “good people.” They aren’t lawbreakers and criminals like so many people in her old neighborhood. Thrilled to be moving to a “safe haven,” Eve is blissfully unaware that her uncle’s lodge is a transfer station for illegal liquor smuggled from Canada. 

Eve settles in to work and makes new friends, including an enigmatic but affecting young man. But when the reality of her situation finally becomes clear, Eve is faced with a dilemma. How can she ignore what is happening right under their very noses? Yet can she risk everything by condemning the man whose love and generosity is keeping her and her family from ruin?

This isn’t the type of book I normally read, and I have hesitated over keeping it on the list before. But everytime I read the synopsis, I get enticed all over again. And the reviews sound pretty good, too. This one stays.

the res

The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black – E.B Hudspeth

Philadelphia, the late 1870s. A city of gas lamps, cobblestone streets, and horse-drawn carriages—and home to the controversial surgeon Dr. Spencer Black. The son of a grave robber, young Dr. Black studies at Philadelphia’s esteemed Academy of Medicine, where he develops an unconventional hypothesis: What if the world’s most celebrated mythological beasts—mermaids, minotaurs, and satyrs—were in fact the evolutionary ancestors of humankind?

The Resurrectionist offers two extraordinary books in one. The first is a fictional biography of Dr. Spencer Black, from a childhood spent exhuming corpses through his medical training, his travels with carnivals, and the mysterious disappearance at the end of his life. The second book is Black’s magnum opus: The Codex Extinct Animalia, a Gray’s Anatomy for mythological beasts—dragons, centaurs, Pegasus, Cerberus—all rendered in meticulously detailed anatomical illustrations. You need only look at these images to realize they are the work of a madman. The Resurrectionist tells his story. 

This is one of those books that’s always a little too expensive for me to get, but one I desperately want to read. I mean, look at how amazing and unique it sounds. It’s so enticing, and I bet the book itself looks amazing. Argh! Another stay for me.

I’m not doing too good at this, am I? Well, let’s see what happens with the last two…

widdershins

Widdershins – Oliver Onions

A collection of eight marvellous stories of the supernatural. The stories are: The Beckoning Fair One, Phantas, Rooum, Benlian, Io, The Accident, The Cigarette Case, & Hic Jacket.

I love old ghost stories, and I love seeing the way the aspects of supernatural stories have evolved over the years. But every time I’ve seen this pop up, I’ve kind of been hesitant. For now, this goes.

little deadly things

Little Deadly Things – Harry Steinman

When abusive parents raise brilliant children, you might end up with a saint, or a killer…or one of each.

Little Deadly Things is the place where science meets the psyche, where humanity’s future is in the hands of a madwoman and the family that must stop her.

I cut off most of the synopsis because there is a lot of it. Based on that, it does sound sort of interesting, but not enough for me to be certain I’d enjoy this. I checked out some reviews, and made a decision. It doesn’t sound like this book is for me, and would probably be one I would DNF, or massively struggled through. So, this one goes.

And there we have it. Two out of five gone. I don’t think that’s too bad! I might do this more regularly, as it does seem a good way to actually cut down on the TBR somewhat.

Have you tried this? And what do you think of these books? Would you have made any different decisions?

2019: What I’ve Read So Far

2019 books .pngSo,  we are well over halfway through 2019, and I thought I’d take a moment to look back at the books I’ve read so far this year. Currently, I’ve had a really good year when it comes to reading. I’ve read the second books for two authors I absolutely love (Elizabeth Lim and Angie Thomas), I read books by VE Schwab for the first time (City of Ghosts and the Shades of Magic series), and the debut novel from the very talented Elizabeth Macneal, who I also had the pleasure of meeting. Oh! And I meet VE Schwab, too. I started the year with 0 signed books, and now have 7. So far, so good. Out of the 38 books I’ve read, I’ve given 21 5-stars on Goodreads, 6 have had 4-stars and 3, and only 1 each for 2-star and 1-star books. Basically, I’ve read some really good books so far.

I’ve picked out one book from each month so far (January – July), and below you’ll find short reviews of the book, along with links to the full review, if there is one.

January

hill house.jpg

The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson

*****

After the death of her mother, Eleanor is at a loss. She answers an invitation to go the mysterious Hill House, and there she meets Dr Montague, Luke, and Theodora. The doctor searches for evidence of paranormal activity at the house. Luke is set to inherit the ugly building, and Theodora, like Eleanor, has attended out of curiosity. As events unfold, Eleanor struggles with external and internal forces, trying to find her place in the world.

With Hill House, Jackson creates an eerie atmosphere, masterfully painting an image of an uneasy house, but leaving it up to the reader to decide what is actually happening. Questions multiple throughout the novel, leaving us to wonder if there really is an entity targeting Eleanor, or if it is some manifestation of her own psyche. Jackson handles the genre really well, using the tropes to great effect, while making it completely her own.

February

Hex – Thomas Olde Heuvelt

*****

Another horror, but this one is much less subtle than Hill House. In Hex, we meet the hexresidents of Black Spring, a town with a very unique problem. A witch walks their streets, a woman with sewn-shut eyes and mouth, a woman who has been dead for hundreds of years. The elders use modern technology to track the witch, ensure tourists don’t come across her, and that their people are safe. But the town’s teenagers aren’t happy with the arrangement, or thier forced isolation.

Another 5 stars from me. I really enjoyed this. No character is clearly evil or clearly good, all are a mixture, depending on their circumstances, and the characters felt very real to me, trying to deal with this supernatural event and get on with their lives as best as possible. Hex does something all my favourite horror novels do – shows real reactions to extraordinary events, even when those reactions aren’t exactly morally right. I can’t wait for Heuvelt’s next English-translated novel.

a darker shadeMarch

Shades of Magic – A Darker Shade of Magic & A Gathering of Shadows

*****

Yeah, I know, I’m including two books here. But that’s because I read this trilogy one after another – A Conjuring of Light just slipped into April, so I’m focusing on these two instead. I did mean to write a review for the trilogy, but everytime I did it was hard to avoid spoilers.

In ADSOM, we meet Kell, one of the last Antari, users of magic that allow them to travel between worlds. Kell lives in Red London, but travels to White and Grey London delivering messages between royalty. He also smuggles items, and when a woman begs him to take a black stone from her, he does, setting off a chain of events that quickly spirals out of his control.

In Grey London, we are introduced to Lila Bard, a young thief who dreams of being a pirate queen. Initially, Lila steals the stone from Kell, but soon joins him as they attempta gathering of shadows to stop the magic spreading. The second book widens the scope of the world, as the elemental games approach and Kell finds himself roped into competing. Unknowingly to him, Lila has also found a way to compete, alongside her captain, Alucard, the former lover of Red London’s Prince Rhy.

The writing is beautiful, the settings are vivid, and the plot feels like travelling down a river on a kayak. Sometimes calm, allowing you look around and absorb everything, sometimes throwing you into rapids and occasionally throwing you off a waterfall, leaving you to hope you don’t hit the water head first. The characters are fully realised, enjoyable to hang out with, and drag you fully into rooting for them. If you haven’t read this series yet, I highly suggest you do.

April

On The Come Up – Angie Thomas

*****

on the come upIf you haven’t read either of Angie Thomas’ novels yet, I suggest you get them. Like, now. I was blown away by The Hate U Give, and I was majorly impressed by On the Come Up. If I had a tenth of Thomas’ writing talent, I’d be a happy woman.

On The Come Up follows Bri, a young woman scraping by, trying to look out for her family while all around her, people – including her aunt – are getting involved in gangs. Bri has a talent, the ability to rap, and it could be her ticket out of Garden Heights. Like The Hate U GiveOn The Come Up is about voice, and place, and racism. It tackles the issues young black teenagers face, the way society tries to keep them down, and how they combat it. Like her debut, Thomas gives us a strong, courageous young woman who needs to find her voice, and needs to decide how she’s going to use it. These books are amazing, and should be required reading for everyone.

May

The Queen of the Tearling – Erika Johansen

**

The first book on this particular list I wasn’t really impressed by.queen of the tearling

Kelsea is the heir to the Tearling throne, and on her 19th birthday, soldiers arrive to escort her to the castle so she can take her crown. There’s a lot of travelling, a lot of talk, a lot of…not much really happening.

For the most part, I found this book really frustrating, badly written in some parts, and quite forced in others. The world-building is weak, with implications this is perhaps another planet, maybe? I don’t know. But if that’s the case, apparently the only people they bothered to bring were white. So it’s the future, because there’s references to LOTR and HP and the like, but it’s got the technological advancements of medieval period. It was just an odd read for me, one I struggled with. Read my full review for, err, full Elle-rant mode.

June

The Wicker King – K. Ancrum

****

wicker kingNow, this book, I loved. I got through it in about a day. The Wicker King is the story of two young men, finding their place in the world, and working out if that place involves each other. On the face of it, the novel seems like it could be any coming-of-age fantasy YA, but this goes deeper. I loved the style, the characters, the constant questioning of what was real and what wasn’t, and the formatting. The book combines prose with snippets of letters, mix tape listings, notes, etc. There’s something to discover in all of them, and it’s worth spending a bit of extra time studying them and the way things are written, rather than skipping ahead. The book combines various factors really skillfully, and I was so glad I got to read this.I will definitely be picking up Ancrum’s other books in the future, and I am super excited for her Peter Pan retelling. (Not to mention I got to read her King Arthur short story and was blown away. So yeah. Check out her books!)

July

Spin The Dawn – Elizabeth Lim

*****

I cannot shut up about this book. And it’s my most recent review, so I’m not going recap everything here. But basically, Maia wants to be a master tailor, but, boo, sexism! Master spin the dawntailors can’t be women, because, well, they’d clearly be better at it than the men, like Maia is. She disguises herself as her brother to go to the palace, where a competition is held to find the new Imperial Tailor. Maia faces complications, jealous competitors, and the mysterious enchanter Edan in the palace.

This book is absolutely freaking beautiful. Including the cover. It’s amazing! And the writing? I couldn’t stop grinning throughout. It’s an enjoyable story, with great characters and plenty of twists, and at no point does it feel like it’s moving slowly. It just draws you along, dragging you completely and utterly into Maia’s world. There is nothing not to love about this book.

So there we are. A few of my reads for the year so far. I might do another one later in the year, maybe purposefully mix it up a bit more, but right now it’s hard. I’ve read a lot of great books.

Have you read any of these? What books this year stick out in your mind the most? And how is your reading year stacking up so far?

Circe – Madeline Miller [Books]

circeSometimes, you read a book that is so wonderfully and beautifully written, with heaps of description aiding the characters and plot, that it feels like you really are transported to the novel’s location.

Circe is, without a doubt, one of those books.

Circe is the daughter of a Titan and a nymph, but lacks the power of her father and the beauty of her mother. As she grows, however, it becomes clear she has a different kind of power, one which frightens even the powerful Olympian gods. Circe is exiled, and makes her home on a small island. There, she develops her powers as a witch, and pays attention to the people who wash up on her shore, meeting various figures from across Greek mythology.

This book is vivid. We are taken through Circe’s childhood, flashes coming at us in quick succession (as immortals grow quickly), and get to see the world around her, her father’s palace, as well as her grandfather’s, and the area she and her brother claimed as their own, where Circe would meet her first mortal. Everything is completely and utterly through her eyes, allowing us to see what she sees, feel what she feels, in a truly unique perspective. We get fully inside Circe’s head, but are still allowed a reader’s perspective, reading between the lines and perhaps grasping things more than her, or before she is able to.

There are many characters in the book familiar to those with even a passing knowledge of Greek mythology, as well as characters perhaps not as well know, but still rooted in the sources. We get glimpses of heroes unlike the ones we know from myths, seeing them this time through a woman’s eyes, rather than as part of epic poems constructed by men. Perhaps the strongest achievement of the book is through Circe’s emotions. We feel her sadness, her fury, and her happiness, throughout each stage of her life. And each scene is coloured by this, with language used to its fullest.

Overall, Circe is a beautiful retelling of ancient stories, offering a new point of view on familiar tales, and is an excellent read. I will definitely need to get hold of Song of Achilles, and will be picking up any of Miller’s future novels.

 

Spin The Dawn – Elizabeth Lim [Books]

spin the dawnFirstly, look at that cover. It is absolutely stunning, and I spent ages just looking at both before and after reading Spin The Dawn.

This novel is the story of Maia, a young woman who wants to become the best tailor in the land. However, standing in the way is the fact she is a woman, and so is left to simply ‘help’ her father – despite doing most of the work – while her brothers go off to war. But when her father’s presence is requested at the palace, to compete in the search for an Imperial Tailor, Maia disguises herself as a man, takes her brother’s name, and goes in his place.

Reflection, the Mulan book for Disney’s Twisted Tales, was written by Elizabeth Lim, and as it is my favourite of the series, I had extraordinarily high hopes for Spin The Dawn. These hopes weren’t just met – they were exceeded, far beyond anything I expected.

Maia is a strong, young woman, willing to do anything for her family, but keen to achieve her own goals as well. She’s determined, ambitious, and resourceful, and though she starts a little naive when she arrives at the palace, she soon proves herself among the other tailors. As if Maia herself wasn’t enough to draw the reader in, from the moment she arrives at the palace, the mystery and intrigue surrounding the competition, the other tailors, the Emperor and his bride-to-be all work to keep the reader engaged throughout the first half of the novel.

And then there’s Edan. The court enchanter, Edan keeps a particular eye on Maia, and perhaps doesn’t fully believe her disguise. She is determined to avoid him, but keeps finding herself in his path.

Spin The Dawn is a romantic fantasy, combining various elements to create a rich, beautiful, and enthralling tale, one that proves absolutely impossible to put down. I, for one, cannot wait for the sequel.

GOODREADS

AUTHOR WEBSITE

AMAZON UK AMAZON US / BOOK DEPOSITORY

 

Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds – Gwenda Bond [Books]

Suspicious_Minds_Cover.jpg

Suspicious Minds is the first Stranger Things tie-in novel, and as such, I was really excited to read it. I love the Netflix series, adore the characters, and was eager to find out more about the Stranger Things universe, prior to the events of the TV show. Especially as this novel focuses on Terry, Eleven’s mother.

And boy, was I disappointed.

[MILD SPOILERS AHEAD]

I read this book prior to the release of season 3, and it honestly managed to drain my excitement for the upcoming season. (Luckily, excitement was full-blown shortly into the first episode)

It is so difficult to write a novel. It’s even more difficult when it is a novel based off an existing property, where fans are already going to have their own ideas about events, especially in a prequel book.

The writing wasn’t bad. But the way the events of the novel pan out just really did nothing for me. The characters surrounding Terry felt flat, including her boyfriend, especially her sister, and even the others going into the lab. The doctor is supposed to be the big bad, but he doesn’t feel anywhere near as scary as he did in the series. And Kali…

God, Kali was so badly used in the novel.

There are references literally every page, either to 60s events or, repeatedly, LOTR. I get that LOTR is important to Stranger Things, as much as D&D is, but almost every character in here references, persistently, and it just feels forced. I could have a checklist of 60s events next to me, and have ticked them all off within the first few pages. Moon Landing. Manson Murders. Woodstock. Vietnam. Etc etc etc.

It just got a bit boring. And the ‘Fellowship of the Laboratory’ all come up with different ways to try to stop Dr Brenner, but way too often their schemes come down to

-Use Kali

-Hope she doesn’t tell

And, oops, she’s a kid! A kid who gets punished for lying to Brenner, yet these ‘adults’ put it on her over and over again.

I wanted to find out more about Brenner, and Terry, and the experiments conducted at the lab and maybe some of the other kids involved. Instead, we get very little of that. Just Terry and friends running around like the Scooby Doo gang, peeking behind doors and DETERMINED to bring down the lab. There’s no tension with this, because having seen season one of Stranger Things, we know this doesn’t happen. We know the experiments continue and Brenner takes Terry’s child and Jane becomes Eleven. It’s the same problem many sequels have – trying to build tension from events where we already know the outcome.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work.

I think, even for diehard Stranger Things fans, it might be worth passing over this book. Nothing gets added to the wider world of the series, and personally, it left me feeling a little cold. Hopefully the other tie-in novels will be better.

Why My Current Favourite Book Is A Twitter Thread

I love Twitter, I really do. Some of my favourite books in recent years were ones I picked up because people were raving about them, or I followed the author on Twitter and became interested in their writing. If you’re looking for a community, guarantee you’ll find one on there, just by looking at hashtags like #amreading, #amwriting, #WritingCommunity, etc. Twitter, I think, can be one of the most useful tools for an author who wants to connect with their audience, and Susan Dennard has done this in a really interesting, unique way.

For those unfamiliar, Susan Dennard is the author of two series, Witchlands and Something Strange and Deadly, and of course more information can be found on her website. Recently, she posted something intriguing on Twitter, something that read like the opening to a novel told in second person, including a poll at the end, indicating it would be down to followers to choose what the MC did next.

Choices were made and the story has advanced. With every step, the options get more difficult, with consequences becoming more, well, dire, and potentially disastrous. But take a quick look at the replies and it’s easy to see how invested people – including me – have become in Winnie’s story, and the world of The Luminaries.

And a whole fandom has built up around this. Susan does an excellent job of drip-feeding information to people hungry to find out more, leaving people speculating. What is the locket? Which family would I belong to? Why did this thing happen?

What choice is least likely to get me killed?

There is a fandom and community, people sharing theories and trying to persuade others to pick the right choice, lest we end up dead. And avoiding death seems to grow more and more difficult.

Thanks to the brilliant Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style thread, there is now a hungry, waiting audience, ready for when Susan Dennard decides to release a book about these characters. There are teams, there is speculation, there is a love interest that has a fanbase completely divided. To me, seeing this story unfold feels like being part of e-mail groups as the Harry Potter books were being released, but even better thanks to us, the fans, being able to control the story. And I think many people are going to feel worse now about screaming at characters for making ‘stupid choices’, after seeing what sort of trouble a character can get into when a collective group is making the decisions.

Overall, I am thoroughly loving The Luminaries, and eagerly await every daily installment (usually when I’ve just finished work – it feels like a reward for a hard day!), wondering what sort of mess we’ll be in now, hoping it’s something we can recover from. And if you haven’t joined us yet, it’s not too late! Go check out the thread, catch up, and cast your vote.

We could seriously do with all the help we could get.

The Wicker King – K. Ancrum [Books]

wicker kingReceived this as a gift from my lovely boyfriend, because he heard me raving about The Wicked King  (which he got me for Valentine’s Day) and got confused. But this was on my wishlist, so I still really wanted to read it.

And, you know what? I loved it.

August and Jack have been best friends for years, and remain so, despite their vastly different friendship groups. Jack’s memories aren’t always real, and he relies on August to confirm events, but it soon becomes apparent that Jack is seeing something else, experiencing hallucinations that are now intruding on his day to day life. He enlists August’s help, in order to fulfil the prophecy of The Wicker King, and the two try to prevent Jack’s ‘other world’ from being destroyed. But August is torn, unsure if what Jack is seeing is real or not, only knowing that what they are doing is dangerous.

I read this book in two days.

Even for shorter books, that’s unusual for me. But the book itself was easy to read, flowed really well, with chapters broken by images, letters, notes, or mixtape lists.  They all added in some way to the plot, or gave deeper understandings of the characters. I read this book so quick because it was, in some ways, an absolute joy to read, with the relationship between August and Jack, and the people around them. In others, I was desperate to find out what would happen next, if they would be okay, if something was about to happen to disrupt their world/s.

The book focuses on these two characters, but there’s a lot of people around them, too, fully fleshed, fully realised people who pop in and out of both August and Jack’s lives, including absent adults, and well meaning teens who don’t really know what they’re doing.

The question of whether Jack’s visions are real is present, subtly, throughout, and handled really well. I found myself honestly wondering about them, even when August didn’t, and at some points, I had as much faith in Jack as August did, though I also kept hoping both sought extra help, outside of each other.

Overall, this is a really well written, fast paced book that explores mental health and relationships in an engaging way, drawing you completely into the world Jack and August inhabit. Strongly recommended by me.

Any books you’ve enjoyed recently, that explore similar themes? Or have you read The Wicker King? I’m always happy to see what other people thought!