‘All The Crooked Saints’ Review

‘All The Crooked Saints’ Review

 

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I was so looking forward to this novel. Maggie Stiefvater does this thing each time she releases a book with one of her local bookstores, where she doodles in each hardcover. I paid £40 so I could have one shipped over here. I was so excited for this book, so was so damn disappointed when I got it through the post and read it.

What really upset me most about this book is I know Steifvater can do so, so much better. If I’d read it before I’d read any other novel by Stiefvater, I would have written it off as gibberish and been astounded as to how she’d done so well for herself. This novel, in a word, was absolute crap. There were so many things wrong with it, I could probably write an entire essay about it.

Steifvater’s writing is normally so beautifully written, with wonderful imagery and metaphors woven in throughout such a lyrical narrative. This was complete and utter rubbish. Steifvater was trying too hard to be clever, and trying too hard to be literary fiction. ‘All The Crooked Saints’ was a mismatch of complete and utter nonsensical prose which fell flat on its face. You would be sat reading, and then realise halfway through the page that you hadn’t actually taken in any of what you’d just read, and it didn’t really matter anyway because absolutely nothing was connected. There was a really naff ‘Alice In Wonderland’ feel to it which I absolutely hated, because it just didn’t work.

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There was a milder version of this nonsensical prose to ‘The Raven Boys’ trilogy, but it worked there because it wasn’t in your face all the time as it was in this novel. Plus it was much more toned down! As such there wasn’t really much plot to it, and the minimal plot that was there, was dressed up in all this frilly nonsense which detracted from anything Stiefvater was trying to achieve. A lot of the useless description was really random and just way too weird, but most importantly served no purpose whatsoever. There would be a paragraph with some weird analogy describing why something in a single sentence in the next few paragraphs’ time was supposedly important, such as where a barn was built or something – but the things that Stiefvater wasted words explaining in great detail had absolutely nothing to do with the plot.

One thing Stiefvater normally excels at is her characterisation. However these characters were really two dimensional, and weren’t interesting in the least – basically, they were really lazy versions of what her normal standard produces. As my friend Reviews Between The Lines pointed out, everything was just really under developed. It’s a real shame because I know Steifvater is capable of so much more, and you can see from the original idea the novel that this could have become, but it was just absolutely dire. It makes me so sad to see such talent wasted!

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I get this was meant to be a palate cleanser for Steifvater after ‘The Raven Cycle’, but it was something I think she should have just kept for her eyes only because it was awful compared to what she normally produces as a novel. I’m really struggling for what to give it, because I normally love Steifvater’s writing, but this doesn’t deserve the same rating that I would give other novels that I would just describe as ‘an alright read’. As much as it pains me to say it, I’m going to have to give it a 2/5!

 

https://www.maggiestiefvater.com/

@mstiefvater

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NaNoWriMo 2017: Week 4

NaNoWriMo 2017: Week 4

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At the start of this week, I was feeling rather panicked. I had set myself the impossible task of writing 22,000 words in a week, because I’d been so damn busy organising stuff that I needed to organise so that I could move into my flat on the 25th. As frustrating as this was, it technically wasn’t my fault. Plus I had the unfortunate bonus of the fact I wouldn’t have internet to distract me (AND STILL DON’T – I’m having to sponge off my wifi at work to post this). So I felt confident that if I sat down to write every day after I moved in, I’d be able to pull it back. I’d come over half way, and really didn’t want to throw in the towel just because I’d missed ten days worth of writing.

So I completely threw myself into my writing. The first day in my new flat I was sat in my chair at my stunning new writing desk (courtesy of my amazing Mum) for at least 5 hours, until I’d clocked in just over 6,000 words. Thankfully that gave me the confidence I needed to sit down every day and just write. That I could accomplish this impossible task. Ironically, these last few days have been the most productive out of my whole NaNo experience. Which was lucky for me, because I don’t think I would have made it otherwise. Then Thursday evening, I finally managed to round it off, and got whatever minute cellular signal my phone could find to work just enough so that I could validate my win on NaNo’s site. I did it! Once again I have proven to myself that I can do this, and that last year wasn’t a fluke.

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Some of my friends tried to attempt NaNo this year too, and while we all fell victim to procrastination, we all agreed on one thing. NaNo taught us that it doesn’t matter how much you write in a day, or a week, or a month – as long as you sit down and write, you’ve got more words coming out of the month than you had to begin with. It makes me feel more than a little foolish that this is the first proper time I’ve actually sat down to write something since December last year. After all, I love writing – this is what I want to do. So why haven’t I done more of it?

I think that despite how panicked it made me that I might not hit my word count like I so desperately wanted to, the unintentional writing break actually really helped my plot. I had hit a writing wall the week before last, and didn’t know where to go with it. Though it suddenly became abundantly clear how my novel needed to end. What my characters had to go through to get them to that end point. What I find quite strange is this novel is intended to be a sequel of sorts to my first novel which sprung from my dissertation. This concept has been in my head since I was 14 or so, and Richard’s (the protagonist in this novel, Dream Weaver) story actually came into my head before Anna’s (the progtagonist in my dissertation). I really wanted to tell Richard’s story, but couldn’t because the story world wasn’t as developed in my head as it needed to be. I knew that Anna’s story came first, but had no idea what that was. I managed to stumble through it after my dissertation, and in June last year managed to cobble something that resembled a novel together. I need to go back and edit it, but that was the necessary building block that Richard needed to get his story started. And thankfully, I’ve done it!

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So that’s NaNo over for another year. I went into this so determined to prove to myself that I could do this again, and that I could also do it tackling a full time job. Though the thing that I hope I can take away from NaNo is that I need to stop procrastinating, and just sit down and write. Though I make no promises for when I finally get internet.

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‘Turtles All The Way Down’ Review

‘Turtles All The Way Down’ Review

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I love John Green’s books. ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ is hands down one of my absolute favourite novels of all time – when I got it back in uni, I stayed up until 6am the next morning to finish it. I haven’t read all of his novels, but got REALLY REALLY EXCITED when I found out about ‘Turtles All The Way Down’ coming out this year. Talk about a novel that hits you in the feels!

When I first started reading it, I could really feel the overwhelming despair that Aza was shrouded in constantly. At first it was quite depressing, but I really warmed up to her and the events that happened around her. Some of the things that happened to her were absolutely heartbreaking, but Green described these in such a beautiful way that you really can’t fault his skill. This novel wasn’t what I’d expected at all, but I’m so glad I read it. Everything Green describes feels so painfully real, that you really can’t help but empathise with how Aza is feeling. One part in particular I really loved was where Aza is trying to fight her dark thoughts, and Green uses a mixture of plain text and interspersed italics to show her warring with herself. It was painful to read, but in a way that hit close to home for how I’ve argued with myself over certain things.

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I loved Aza’s narrative arc. At first you think there’s going to be this big happily ever after where Aza finds Davis’ dad and her and Daisy share the reward and Aza and Davis ride off into the sunset and blah blah blah… Green wonderfully shoots down this cliche within the first few chapters, which leaves you guessing as to where Aza’s story is going to lead us. It became more about Aza’s battle with OCD, rather than her OCD becoming a quirky character flaw. Aza’s spiral was painfully honest, and you kept wanting her to get better – what I really, really loved was Green’s more realistic approach of her learning to live with it (kind of… I don’t want to give any spoilers!). The direction Green took the narrative in really fitted with the natural progression of the plot, and I’m glad he did it this way.

The friendship between Aza and Daisy was really lovely – the realistic way that Green portrayed this towards the end was really wonderful to read. You got the feel that these were actual people rather than characters on paper – the way they bared their hearts to one another in the car towards the end was heartbreaking, and I was really struggling not to sob at that point! The relationship between Aza and Davis was cute, but wonderfully realistic. What I really bloody love is Green didn’t make it all about the romance! Plus the mystery of Davis’ missing father was tied up all neatly in the end, which again I loved because it showed more of Davis’ character.

When I first started reading this novel, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it all that much. Though the more engrossed I became in Aza’s narrative, the more I grew to love it. There were parts of her thought spirals that hit a little close to home, but I adored the overall message – life goes on! You may be suffering in the moment, but it’s not the end – and there’s nothing wrong with reaching out for help. I’d give this novel a 5/5, because it was brilliant. I know that Green really struggled to write another novel following the massive success of ‘The Fault In Our Stars’, but he has really done himself justice in ‘Turtles All The Way Down’.

Also look at how awesome that dust jacket is! And the cute tuatara embossed on the cover! I absolutely loved the quotes on the inside of the dust jacket; though I didn’t realise until one of my uni lecturers pointed it out in third year that all the quotes you see at the start of a book, have to be paid for to appear there. Just a random useless piece of knowledge for you!

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If you liked ‘Turtles All The Way Down’, you’d really like Holly Bourne’s ‘Am I Normal Yet?’, which is about a similar subject of OCD, but told in just as real terms and with quite a bit of humour thrown in for good measure too.

NaNoWriMo 2017: Week 3

NaNoWriMo 2017: Week 3

 

Well, this whole writing diary is seeming a bit pointless now. I thought last week’s lack of writing was bad enough, but this week I’ve been so damn busy that I’ve literally only managed to write for two days. I’m literally about to move into a new flat in two days’ time, which is really, really exciting, but it’s meant I’ve had literally no time to write. The two writing sessions I have had were quite good, and I got a decent amount of words down on paper, but it didn’t make up for the words I missed out on last week.

Now I’ll have five days or so to write the last 20,000 words I’ve got left! Though I’ll be stuck without internet for four of those, so hopefully I can knuckle down and catch up on the words I’ve missed. BRING IT ON!! I’m just over halfway now, so it seems a waste to just sit back and not at least try.

On a postive note, I was running out of the steam with the plot before this unintentional break, and inspiration came flooding back when I sat down two days ago to get stuck in with the writing. I’m still not sure if it’s going to end the way I want it to, or if I even know how to end it yet – but that’s the whole point of NaNo, right? Trial and error! Hopefully I can make the most of the time I’ve got left and finish this thing!

‘Tarnished City’ Review

‘Tarnished City’ Review

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I think I’m in love with this series. I loved ‘Gilded Cage’ which I read earlier this year, and when I found out its sequel was out in the past month or so, obviously I bought it to continue the story. Sometimes, a sequel can struggle to live up to the reputation of its predecessor – thankfully, this wasn’t the case with ‘Tarnished City’. What a novel! Vic James throws you right back into the action, and doesn’t stutter for a moment.

One thing I did find with the first novel, as much as I loved it, was it seemed to drag a little in the middle. This novel was boom, boom, boom! Every little plot point fit so neatly together that the minute you were getting over one plot twist, James blindsided you with another juicy little titbit that had you wondering how the characters could possibly escape the situation.

James’ characters are a joy to read about. She clearly has a good feel for who they are, and her writing really makes them come alive on the page. It wasn’t hard to fall in love with Abi and Luke’s stories in particular, because you can’t help but root for the underdogs. It was interesting to gain an insight into characters like Gavar and Silyen too, as these were characters which we would think to be really horrible. James doesn’t just stick to this 2D characterisation, and gives them really interesting points that make them act like normal people. For example, Gavar’s love for his daughter is absolutely adorable and is definitely a redeeming quality for his character! What I also loved about her characters was James didn’t shy away from more morally complicated characters like Bouda and Whittam Jardine. James constantly keeps you guessing – some of the characters who I thought were black and white bad guys, or good guys, have shocked me by proving themselves the opposite. You never know what’s going to happen next!

This plot was phenomenal. James’ career as a political journalist has definitely helped her out with the attention to detail – the sheer minute details that James has included are absolutely bullet proof! James’ novel carried on with the same theme from her first novel – un-skilled versus skilled (people with amazing powers). I can’t go into too much detail without spoiling the plot, but it was bloody brilliant. Everything just escalated further from the previous novels’ events, and you just know the last novel in the trilogy is going to be phenomenal. There’s just so much going on in this plot, that you’ve got no idea which way this is going to go. The suspense is built up so well – just as you think the characters are going to succeed with their goal, something else comes to smash it to pieces.

I would give this novel a 5/5. If you haven’t started this trilogy yet, pick up a copy as soon as you can! There is just so much stuff I love about this whole idea that I literally cannot put it all into words.

 

http://www.vicjames.co.uk/

@DrVictoriaJames

NaNoWriMo 2017: Week 2

NaNoWriMo 2017: Week 2

Well, I spoke too soon. After a pretty damn good first week, I shot myself in the foot with all that postive “I can do this!” crap. This second week hasn’t gone so well, surprise, surprise. Last weekend I ended up not writing much at all because I was so busy, and ended up being about 4,000 words behind where I should be.

I spent the whole week trying to catch up, but found it really hard to summon the energy to do it all so late in the evening. I’m still behind now, (by about 2,000 words) but I’m telling myself that at least if I write a little bit each day it’s all counting for that 50,000 words at the end. Plus I can write loads this weekend, right?

The getting behind on my word count isn’t the only thing that’s been bugging me this week. Whenever I sat down to write, I had the opposite problem that I’d had last week – I constantly felt like I was running out of story. True, I did only have the bare bones of the thing before I started, but I thought it would have dragged out a little bit longer before I ran out of where to go with it to hit the 50,000 word mark. Plus I’ve hit this writing wall waaaay earlier than I should have done!

Hopefully I can catch up on the missing word count this weekend, or some other evening next week. Everything’s all been a little hectic at the moment in my personal life, what with trying to find a place to live and what not, so I haven’t had a lot of free time to play with so far. Plus I think I need to have a day when I brainstorm where I’m going with it so I don’t fall flat on my face before I reach the 50,000 word mark!

Onwards and upwards, I guess!

‘It Only Happens In The Movies’ Review

‘It Only Happens In The Movies’ Review

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I bloody love Holly Bourne. Seriously, if you haven’t read anything by this wonderful woman yet, you need to. She hasn’t let me down with this wonderful novel either. What I absolutely adore about her books, is the way she tackles tough topics using humour. Seriously, one minute you’re laughing your ass off, and within the next few pages she’s got you blubbing away.

Where do I even start with this glorious novel? Obviously, one of the main themes was the romance. Not just between the protagonist, Audrey, but also her parents and her relationships with those around her. The minute you were introduced to Harry, you knew what was going to happen. Though Bourne doesn’t disappoint and DOESN’T MAKE IT ALL ABOUT THE ROMANCE. In a way the overall theme is romance, but Bourne makes an effort to point out the flaws between life on the silver screen, in relation to what happens in reality.

The premise is absolutely bloody right – the kind of romances you watch on screen (or read in ridiculous novels!!!!) literally never happens in real life. Bourne made an interesting point, in reiterating that you never see the happy couple progressing through their relationship. The film always ends at the start of their whirlwind romance, or a similar situation where the characters realise how perfect they are for one another and blah blah blah. You never see what happens afterwards. The arguments, the getting used to having one another there 24/7… Bourne counteracts this using the protagonist’s parents. Her father ran away with another woman to start an entirely new life, leaving that of his old one to come crashing down around the family he left behind. These parts of the novel were sometimes painful for me to read, as it hit a little too close to home with the awkward relationship Audrey had with her father. I really loved this, though, because Bourne was saying “This is real life! It doesn’t always stay as a happily-ever-after!” Which is a really, really important message to send to young girls who are expecting this unrealistic thing from a romance. I could talk about that all day, but I’ll leave that point there – A+ for Bourne empowering young girls with a positive, realistic way to approach relationships of their own.

How Audrey approaches life after her first boyfriend was SO FRUSTATING. She gives up things she loves, like taking drama, JUST BECAUSE SHE KNEW HE WOULD BE THERE. A+++ to Bourne for having Audrey point out how stupid she felt about this halfway through the novel – I mean, it would be tricky emotionally if you knew they were going to be there, but you should never give up doing what you love just to try and avoid someone else!

What I absolutely bloody loved was the ending. That ending was heartbreaking, but so, so perfect – it imitated real life, not some fictional perfection. Audrey definitely made the right decision, and as I’ve learned personally by this point, you should never just carry on as you were in the hopes things will get better. With that whole shit storm that went down towards the end of the novel, I wholeheartedly approved of how Audrey handled those various situations. Can I also just give a shout out to another Bourne staple – how she plays with the narrative form! I loved the interjection of Audrey’s media studies project at the start of some chapters. This is a technique Bourne has used in other novels I’ve read, and I really love it. It’s a way to show what’s happening in Audrey’s life, without telling you in detail what’s going on. There was one chapter in particular where Bourne described a good few weeks of Audrey’s life like this, to skip to that brilliant ending. I really loved it!

This novel was brilliantly equal in humour and heartbreak, and was an absolutely wonderful read. I just love anything that comes from Bourne’s pen!! Or computer, I guess – not everyone is an old school notebook hoarder like me. I’d give it a 5/5, because it was brilliant even before Bourne did the most beautiful thing ever and subverted the romance genre. SUBVERTED THE ROMANCE GENRE!! This woman is a literary genius, I’m telling you.

 

http://hollybourneauthor.tumblr.com/

@holly_bourneYA