Blogtober Day 23: A Day In My Life

Blogtober Day 23

Day One: Spooky TBR    /   Day Two: October Releases    /   Day Three: Bookish Autumn Bucket List    /   Day Four: Perfect Cosy Reading Nook    /   Day Five: Top 5 Disney Villains    /   Day Six: Strong Woman Horror Trope    /   Day Seven: Reading Snacks    /   Day Eight: 5 Autumn Reads    /   Day Nine: Vampires and Werewolves    /   Day Ten: Spooky TBR Update    /   Day Eleven: Witches    /   Day Twelve: Books I Should Have Read    /   Day Thirteen: Review – Under My Hat Anthology    /   Day Sixteen: This Time Last Year    /   Day Seventeen: Reading Drinks    /   Day Nineteen: Paranormal Romance    /   Day Twenty-One: Which Villain Would You Be?

Challenge List – Anniek’s Library 

For this, I’m going to take a weekday, because my weekends tend to be pretty different from one another, depending on whether I’m home or at my BFs, if I need to run errands, what needs to be done etc.

So a typical weekday, for me, then.

I get up around 7:10, have a shower, get ready for work. Sit in front of the TV and watch the news while having a cold coffee straight from the fridge. I then walk to work, playing Wizard’s Unite. For my day-job, I work as an administor, so it’s mostly processing work, auditing it, and filing.

After work, I sometimes go to Tesco with the BF then walk home, get a bus home or up the town centre, or, when I’m lucky, get a lift home from one of the wonderful women I work with. At home, until 6PM, I’ll watch YouTube videos with the BF, before he heads off to catch the train back home.

Some people might be aware I have recently started beta-reading through the website Fiverr. If I have a job on, this is when I’ll get on with it. For longer jobs, it’s mostly all I do in the evening, though I take a couple of breaks here and there, checking social media or playing games on my phone.

If the work is a little shorter, I have more time, then I do what me and my BF refer to as ‘Ellie Things’. If I have no work, I write amongst other things, instead. Ellie Things are a mixture – a bit of time spent on games, such as Sims or Planet Coaster or Jurassic Park Evolution. Games where my brain can shut off and I can listen to podcasts while being entertained and letting my mind fester in whatever story I’m working on.

Browse a few different websites, read an article or two, maybe work on a blog post, then either read a bit of a magazine or graphic novel, research or make notes from books about writing, maybe some colouring instead. Making sure at some point, I read some of whatever book I have to review next, either for this blog or for Dead Head ReviewsThen it’s some time spent on beta-reading or writing my own work.

It’s these parts that make my day – being able to do what I want to do, and if I’m not at my BF’s, it’s what I do mostly on weekends too. Ideally, I’ll be in my pjs at my laptop, maybe with a latte from Greggs – a situation the BF calls ‘An Ellie in her natural habitat.” He knows me very well.

So yeah, that’s pretty much it. Not very interesting, but a quick insight into my day!

Blogtober Day 17: Reading Drinks

Blogtober Day 17

Day One: Spooky TBR    /   Day Two: October Releases    /   Day Three: Bookish Autumn Bucket List    /   Day Four: Perfect Cosy Reading Nook    /   Day Five: Top 5 Disney Villains    /   Day Six: Strong Woman Horror Trope    /   Day Seven: Reading Snacks    /   Day Eight: 5 Autumn Reads    /   Day Nine: Vampires and Werewolves    /   Day Ten: Spooky TBR Update    /   Day Eleven: Witches    /   Day Twelve: Books I Should Have Read    /   Day Thirteen: Review – Under My Hat Anthology    /   Day Sixteen: This Time Last Year

Challenge List – Anniek’s Library 

There’s nothing like setting down with a good book and a favourite beverage. Personally, I love writing when I have a coffee (preferably latte) or glass of Jack Daniels and coke at my side. For reading, it’s not too dissimilar, though I very rarely read with a drink – my main reading time is at work on lunch, or before bed.

But when I go away – for example, visiting my brother in Margate – I love to sit with a coffee and read, as usually it’s one of the few times I’m disconnected from the need to write or work or whatever it is I usually do when I’m in front of my laptop.

And there’s a particular reason coffee and book shops go well together. There’s something lovely about curling up with a hot drink and sinking into a good book. For me, it would have to be a flavoured coffee (I do love Beanies) or latte with some sort of syrup.

If I had the time, the evenings now and then would probably consist of me curling up with a book and glass of wine, or sinking into a hot bath with both of those things. So yeah, my preferred reading drinks would be coffee/latte or a glass of fruity/rose wine.

Are there any particular drinks you like to read with?

 

Blogtober Day 16: This Time Last Year

Blogtober Day 16

Day One: Spooky TBR    /   Day Two: October Releases    /   Day Three: Bookish Autumn Bucket List    /   Day Four: Perfect Cosy Reading Nook    /   Day Five: Top 5 Disney Villains    /   Day Six: Strong Woman Horror Trope    /   Day Seven: Reading Snacks    /   Day Eight: 5 Autumn Reads    /   Day Nine: Vampires and Werewolves    /   Day Ten: Spooky TBR Update    /   Day Eleven: Witches    /   Day Twelve: Books I Should Have Read    /   Day Thirteen: Review – Under My Hat Anthology

Challenge List – Anniek’s Library 

As mentioned in a previous post, I’m going to be more selective with what Blogtober prompts I use for the last few days left of this month, mainly as I was struggling with some of them and I’m already behind, and at least this way I can do posts I enjoy, rather than forcing myself to spend ages stuck on one.

So! Books I was reading this time last year.

I often read graphic novels at my desk, between doing other things, so when I have some, quite often I’m reading them as well as a sort of ‘main’ book, so I actually have two books I was reading around this time last year.

The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening & The Struggle- L.J. Smith

Date Finished: October 14th, 2018

vampire diariesA long time ago, I was in a Very Bad Place. Couldn’t sleep, and when I did, I faced nightmares. So I’d often stay up late, watching TV after my dad had gone to bed, and one day I decided to check out a series I’d been hesitant about until then. I didn’t realise it was a spin-off, but I quickly got absorbed into watching The Originals, and when I caught up, I devoured The Vampire Diaries, catching up with both right before their final seasons. So once they were all over, and I needed some sort of Vampire Diaries fix while waiting for Legacies, I picked up this book. And you know what? It was all right! (In the totally British way ‘all right’ way, imagine it with a certain inflection that indicates it’s somewhere around ‘good’) The writing isn’t amazing, and it kind of doesn’t hold up that well, but the characters were fun and tension ran throughout, and it was nice to lose myself in that world again.

It’s hard to say if you’d enjoy this book if you like the show. Certain elements are completely different, but it’s fun to read and see what the showrunners lifted, and the sort of things they decided (for the better) were best left out. The show remains true to the novel in the best way, while improving on a lot of it, for sure.

Damon is still absolutely drop dead gorgeous in it though.

Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, Volume Two

got graphic novelI’m a big fan of graphic novel adaptations. Actually, I’m just a big fan of graphic novels in general, but when a book is transformed into one, it feels like it adds a whole new layer to the text. And it’s great to see an artist’s view on the characters and settings. One thing I really like about the GOT ones in particular are the fact they can put in so much more than the show could. Everything feels that more accurate to the book – character ages, the size of the Iron Throne, appearances, etc. It works really well, and it’s an absolute pleasure to read. The writers and artists have done an excellent job.

(I would also recommend The Dark Tower graphic novels. They are bloody brilliant.)

I’m kind of surprised no one’s done a Harry Potter one, as it’s a story that could work really well in this format.

Anyway, if you like the TV show and/or the books, I really do suggest picking this up. Overall, it’s a nice addition for any fan’s collection.

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Blogtober Day Seven: Reading Snacks

Blogtober_ Day Seven

Day One: Spooky TBR    /   Day Two: October Releases    /   Day Three: Bookish Autumn Bucket List    /   Day Four: Perfect Cosy Reading Nook    /   Day Five: Top 5 Disney Villains    /   Day Six: Strong Woman Horror Trope

Challenge List – Anniek’s Library 

I don’t tend to really snack when reading, probably because I usually read when I’m in bed, or in work while I’m eating lunch. I also don’t really snack at home. I snack at work, and it’s usually just a packet of crisps or some chocolate, and I snack at lot at the BF’s when I’m playing video games, but not usually outside of that. But I can think of what sort of snacks I’d enjoy if I was settling in and planning on reading for a good few hours.

For reading, I think a hot drink is best, especially on a cold, crisp night. Hot chocolate, or perhaps my favourite – a flavoured latte. (Not even kidding, Greggs do an amazing caramel latte and McDonalds do a good toffee one – I prefer them over Costa and Starbucks!)

Some biscuits as well of course – I love chocolate covered biscuits, but some custard creams would also go nicely, just make sure you don’t get any crumbs on the pages!

And chocolate. My favourite chocolate is Galaxy, though honestly I love trying different kinds, as long as they don’t have nuts in! I also often tend to go through phases with different chocolates. My recent one was Dark Milk, which tastes amazing.

Cake! Of course. Cake is always good, whether it’s a simple Victoria Sponge, or a trifle cake which one of my colleagues makes (any cake she makes is just really, really good). Can’t beat a good slice of cake or a delicious cupcake.

Now, excuse me while I go raid the kitchen for some biscuits!

Do you snack while reading? What  are your favourite snacks?

Blogtober Day 4: Perfect Cosy Reading Nook

Blogtober Day FourDay One: Spooky TBR

Day Two: October Releases

Day Three: Bookish Autumn Bucket List

Challenge List – Anniek’s Library

I’ve always wanted a proper reading nook. It was one of those things I dreamed of as a kid, imagining a large landing in a big house, a huge bay window with a cushioned seat instead of a windowsill. Where I could look out on a large garden, and of course the seat would open, and it would be hollow so I would have somewhere to store the books I hadn’t yet read.

My dreams have changed a little as I’ve got older, but I still like to imagine the nice cosy reading spot I can one day call my own!

My perfect reading nook would be a corner, of course, with bookshelves either side, and a seat in the middle. Preferably something I can stretch out on. I’m very much used to reading laying down now, legs stretched out, so I would either need something like that or a big, comfy armchair and a footrest. A little table where I can put a reading lamp, and a dog-bed at my feet, for my future dog, of course! And maybe a curtain I can pull around the area, something that clearly says to everyone else DO NOT DISTURB.

A little extra wall space would be good too, so I could put up, maybe, full prints of my favourite book covers, or maybe some of my own book covers – or would that be too egotistical? Perhaps the covers of books I’ve edited would be best.

In all reality, one day I’ll probably end up with just a sofa to read on, or just keep reading in my bed. Though the amount of bookshelves I have is likely to grow!

What’s your perfect reading area?

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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 Queen of The Tearling – Erika Johansen [Books]

queen of the tearling.jpgDear friends,

One thing I want you to understand, is I will never disguise my feelings about a book on this blog. I will, however, always try to find the good in something. But if I say I liked a book, I liked it. If I gush about how great it is, I absolutely loved it. If I disliked it, it’s going to be clear. And if you felt differently about a book than I did, I would love to hear from you – I’m always open to discussion.

That said, if you passionately love this book and cannot hear a bad word said against it, it might be a good idea to turn away now.

I did not like this book.

I struggled with this book, and it is one of those rare times I considered rethinking my do not DNF policy.

The Queen of the Tearling is about Kelsea, a young woman in the Tearling, who due to her heritage, has grown up isolated with no one around but her foster parents. One day, a group of men come to whisk her away to the capital and crown her queen. But they are being pursued by the Caden, a group of assassins hired by her uncle, who wants her dead before she can be crowned.

So far, so yeah this sounds interesting, right?

It didn’t take me long into the book to discover I probably wouldn’t like Kelsea. She feels really bland, and makes massive judgements about the people she sees. Speaking of which, the book is very, very focused on appearances. All the men in the guard are handsome and young, despite the fact most of them have been in the guard since Kelsea was a child. People seem to age really slowly in the Tearling, for some reason – actually, almost every man (except the bad guys or slightly-bad-guys) are described as handsome. Kelsa herself keeps moaning about how plain she is, but I really don’t understand how one would think themselves plain if they’ve never seen anyone else? Also she has no mirrors, just sees herself reflected in water, and that’s not really a great one to judge appearance?

I’m not saying Kelsea has to be beautiful, or even ugly. But it just reads a bit odd, and honestly, the plain female hero obsessed with books…it’s been done. A lot. And Kelsea doesn’t really add anything to it at all.

Oh! And one of the men in her guard happens to be black. We know this, because Kelsea seems him and IS SHOCKED. She has (gasp!) never seen a black man before. But…she’s never seen ANYONE before? Like, again, her whole life has been lived in complete isolation. Oh, except in history books. She remembers that.  She has definitely seen black people in history books about…the slave trade.

And (I might be misremembering) I can;t recall anyone else’s race being mentioned again. So either he gets a special mention for being the first, or…no one else in the Tearling is black? I don’t know, but considering it’s the future, and people are descended from the Brits and Americans, it would be REALLY BLOODY WEIRD not to have anyone else who isn’t white. Speaking of which, why British-American? What happened to the other countries? Oh, except Europe. Because they came separately and have a completely different country right next door. Coincidently, all the doctors and medical supplies were on the same ship, which sank. So medicine is poor.

Which brings me to some other points. They made a crossing, from somewhere, but to WHERE, EXACTLY? Is this a different planet? Or did they find some other continent, and kill whoever lived there? None of this is explained or hinted at, and there’s really not a lot of indication as to why things have regressed so much. Don’t get me wrong – I love when worldbuilding makes you think you’re somewhere else, but it turns out (GASP) it’s the future! The problem is, this doesn’t do that. There is literally no reason to not explain these events, or where they are. It’s outright stated – not even hinted at – that this is in our future. There’s mention of Harry Potter and The Hobbit. Revealing that this was another planet would have made it more interesting, I think, but maybe that was revealed and I missed something? I dunno.

And why do people live for so long?

The book builds up the mysteries of who is Kelsea’s father and who is The Fetch but there is literally no pay off to these. To any of these! Three huge questions and by the end of the novel none of them were answered. If one of them was, I’d have found that mildly satisfying, but them all being left makes me feel like it’s a ploy just to get people to read the next one.

Honestly I could rant about this so much more, but I’m not going to. I wanted to like this book. I really, really did, but I struggled so much and as you can probably tell from the above, there were a lot of things that just nagged at me.

I would definitely not recommend this book, unfortunately. But that’s just me, and looking on reviews, it seems to be a book you either love or hate, and of course this is all just completely and utterly my own opinion.

Still, if you have read this book, I would absolutely love to know what you thought. And I promise my next review will be less ranty.

The Fever King – Victoria Lee [Books]

 

the fever king

Before I get into this, I just want to mention I received this book from Ashleigh (@edwardanddamon on Twitter), after winning it in one of her monthly giveaways. You should definitely go check her out because she’s awesome.

In a future version of the USA, Noam, the bisexual son of undocumented immigrants, survives an outbreak of a disease that leaves some survivors with the ability to do magic, although what kind of magic varies from one person to another. He is taken to a training centre, and put under the watchful eye of the charismatic, mysterious Calix Lehrer, former king, alongside Calix’s ‘son’, Dara.

I wanted to like this. Maybe my expectations were a little bit too high, but the premise sounded brilliant, and the writing itself is good – certain sentences were a joy to read, and some scenes were really gripping. But by the end, it just felt like there was too much crammed in, too much going on. The cast of characters is a little too big, filtering in and out, the other students a little flat compared to the actually well done characterisation of Noam and Dara.

Calix himself just read as untrustworthy, and it was hard to see why Noam trusted him so much, why he felt so willing to go along with everything.

Plot-wise, again, there were some really good elements here, but a lot got crammed in, and the moment one thing picked up, the plot seemed to take a sharp left turn into something else. There were some confusing moments, some really ‘huh?’ moments, and the ending…the ending to me just felt a little contrived, a touch rushed, with everything being a little too coincidental at certain points, and confusing at others. More than once, I found myself going back to reread a paragraph or two.

This is definitely not a bad book, nor is it badly written. The fault – to me – lays in too many ideas jammed into a fast paced scenes, with slower, meandering interruptions throughout where the students do nothing but sit around, repeated quite often, when it feels like the pace should be faster, coupled with too many characters. I really would have liked to have seen more of their training, maybe an example or two of their classes, and what life was really like for the students in this school, rather than just skipping over the interesting parts to show them in the same room or in Calix’s study.

Now, the important question. The Fever King is the first in the series, named Feverwake, and at the end I had to ask myself – will I read the next one?

The honest answer is… (drum roll please) probably yes, actually. Like I said, Lee isn’t a bad writer, and I think the next book will likely show lots of improvement, plus, by this point, I do feel invested in the story. So maybe, despite the things I disliked about it, the book has done its job, after all.

The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School – Kim Newman [Books]

drearcliffAfter Amy Thomsett’s mother finds her floating on the ceiling, Amy is shipped off to Drearcliff Grange, but rather than squash this strange ability out of her, Amy learns more about her abilities, while her and her new found friends are tested in various ways.

They face off against The Hooded Conspiracy, before a new girl arrives at the school, bringing with her a strange new way of doing things.

I thoroughly enjoyed Kim Newman’s novel, about strange, powerful girls who can do strange, wonderful things in a strange, creepy school. The book reads very much like the old pulp novels, mixed with the great British boarding school novel tradition. The characters are likeable, though a bit numerous, and it was fun to read the clever ways the girls came up with to get themselves out of dire situations.

Newman has a gift for immersing the reader in the time period, as evident in Anno Dracula and Drearcliff, and a solid love for whatever literature he is using as a base for his work. Drearcliff isn’t Hogwarts, Miss Peregrine’s or Xavier’s School. These girls aren’t witches, Peculiars or mutants. Some of them don’t have abilities, but may have other skills. Some just have interesting family backgrounds, but a few, like Amy, are Unusual. In the girls of Drearcliff, Newman has created a brand new batch of teens with abilities, with his own twists. The main core all feel fully fleshed out, though when it came to some of the more background characters, I did find myself losing track of who was who, now and then, especially as a couple of the girls had similar sounding names.

But overall, I really did enjoy this, including the more Lovecraftian aspects filtering in throughout the novel. The novel is set in the 1920s, with the girls using exclamations such as, “Crumpets!” and with that time period in mind, there’s an interesting parallel as the Black Skirts slowly infiltrating the school, mirroring the rise of fascism in Europe.

Some things aren’t as clear as they could be, and some of the characters can get a touch grating, but the clarity feels like a purposeful choice, and Amy Thomsett is enjoyable enough to counter the others.

The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School is a fun, creepy, enjoyable read, with masterful use of language and a solid sense of place and time. Definitely one for fans of more subtle but fantastical horror, and a good twist on the British school literary novel.

Star Wars: Tales of the Bounty Hunters [Books]

c_tales_bhuntersI like Star Wars, and have done since seeing the original films as a teenager. I was excited when the new films were announced, loved TFA, TLJ, and Rogue One, sort of enjoyed Solo (I guess), but it was only in the last couple of years I watched the prequel films. (Which kind of left a bad taste in my mouth)

But until now, I had never actually read a Star Wars book.

My BF has an extensive library, including quite a lot of the Star Wars novels. He did want me to read one originally linked to the prequel films, but I shot him down, pointing out if I didn’t like the first one I read, I likely wouldn’t pick up the others, because life’s too short to waste on books I don’t enjoy.

Anyway, I ended up reading Tales of the Bounty Hunters, and it was actually a good place to start. Even if some of it is now invalidated by both the prequels and sequels, but even though it’s no longer ‘canon’ to Star Wars, it was still enjoyable.

The collection of short stories, edited by Kevin J. Anderson, was released in 1996. Before the prequels, before the Disney films, before…well, before I’d ever seen Star Wars. (It was a simpler time) Each story focuses on a different bounty hunter, but all contain one key scene – the moment when Darth Vader sends the hunters out to find Han Solo.

Bounty-Hunters

Therefore I Am: The Tale of IG-88

This was a good story to start the collection. It’s not the best, but it’s compelling enough, watching the assassin droid advance and ‘evolve’.

Payback: The Story of Dengar

I really liked this one, and it had me completely rooting for Dengar, wanting to see him succeed in some way, though not in the way he wanted to.

The Prize Pelt: The Tale of Bossk

First things first, Bossk is not a likeable character. So it’s good that this story gives us two completely new characters – a human and a wookie, who offer to help Bossk hunt down Solo and, more importantly, Chewie, as Bossk desperately wants his pelt. Works nicely, and I think I’d have rather seen a film with these two characters than Solo.

Of Possible Futures: The Tale of Zuckuss and 4-LOM

I found this to be kind of sweet. Zuckuss is gravely ill, and 4-LOM is constantly trying to learn new skills – the latest being that of ‘intuition’, which he hopes to learn from Zuckuss. But the bond between them, I think, also teaches 4-LOM a bit of empathy, as they try to gain enough credits to pay for Zuckuss’ treatment. This and The Prize Pelt are my two favourite stories out of this collection.

The Last One Standing: The Tale of Bobba Fett

Maybe because there’s so much ‘weight’ to the character of Bobba Fett, but this, to me, was the weakest story. Not because it contradicts anything that came after (I am more than happy for that to happen) but because it just felt at odds with what little we knew of Fett in the original films, and parts of it felt a bit…mundane. I think I would have preferred to see Fett continuing from the end of Payback, but instead we get a short story that spans decades, jumping forward to relevant points. This version of Fett is obsessed with ‘justice’, but that justice seems awfully dependent on the Empire’s view of black and white, rather than any internal moral compass. It felt a little weak.

bounty-hunter

Overall, I really would recommend this book, if you like Star Wars. If you’re a fan of the prequels OR don’t want to get into the now non-canon extended universe, however…maybe give it a miss? All I can say is, I really enjoyed it, despite knowing nothing about these characters except their brief on-screen appearances in the original films.