Tag Archives: Fiction

Loving the end of the world

This week I have got firmly back into my groove of reading (I always think I’ll have loads of time to write at holiday time, but somehow, it’s much easier when I’m back in a routine of work/school).

I was helped by already being mid-way through Megan Crewe’s brilliant Fallen World series. As mentioned last week, I moved straight on to book two, The Lives We Lost, and because that was so entirely excellent I had to put all my other waiting-for-review books on hold so I could gobble up the finale, The Worlds We Make. Fallen World book 3 by Megan CreweOh my giddy aunt, I feel like I barely breathed while I was reading that. It was so tense I was constantly on edge in case Kaelyn and her friends didn’t make it. The resolution was utterly stupendous. I recommend you read this series even more now I’ve reached the end.

Because I’m eschewing my Kindle for late-night reading-in-bed, alongside Fallen Worlds, I also read Nicholas Bowling’s Witchborn. That was fabulous (catch my review).

Sea and Sand by Alex LidellAnd then yesterday I got back into my review reading and caught up with Nile, Dominic and Prince Tamiath in Alex Lidell’s Tides series. Sea and Sand is the third in the series and it’s out – wowzers, today or tomorrow, I think. It’s another glorious fantasy and while I didn’t warm completely to new-girl Kyra, I am now YET AGAIN waiting impatiently for the next instalment. If you haven’t read these books, you should check them out IMMEDIATELY.

Phew, back to normal has never felt so good!

Check back next week to see what I’ve been reading – and please do let me know if you try out any of these books. I’d love to know what you think.

Shattered Worlds Challenge: Curse Breaker

My blog is late this week, because I only finished Curse Breaker last night (not a slow reader, I’ve been taken up with lots of non-fiction reading this week, all about marketing, social media and advertising, yawn). Curse Breaker is just as lovely as I hoped it might be: a beautifully-realised fantasy world with some fabulous characters, a kickass heroine, heartbreaking prince and page-turning abilities that reminded me of Michelle Madow.

And do you know what, I’m more than halfway through my Shattered Worlds challenge, and I am so impressed by what a fabulous group of writers I’ve joined with. I only knew a couple of my fellow contributors before getting involved in Shattered Worlds (and them only through Facebook), but everything I’ve read so far is creative and powerful and well worth reading. When people are still blowing the tune that indie-published books are in all ways sub-standard I’m proud to be a part of a group blowing that myth out of the water.

Check back next week, I’m jumping into Elizabetta Holcomb’s time slip next.

O is for … Only knocking me sideways, blimey!

So, my “O” selection was Only Dancing by Jan Jones. Now, I love Jan’s novellas (An Ordinary Gift is actually extraordinarily fabulous, imo) as well as her Regency novels. So, I started with high expectations.

Cover of Jan Jones' Only Dancing
Click for the preview

Well, Only Dancing started out nice enough, a nostalgic little tale of lost friendship and how life conspires to not be quite what you expect when you’re young and it feels as though the world lies before you.

… But then it got all twisty and dramatic and people who’d seemed largely harmless turned out to be nothing of the sort! I can’t say much more without blurting spoilers all over the place, but, my word, my heart rate speeded up towards the end! I can safely say I wasn’t expecting that!

If you like getting not quite what you expect, try this!

My free reading challenge: I bought a book – but I can’t read it yet

This week I have something a little different to report because I have pre-ordered a book which costs actual, real money. It comes out before Christmas (so, while my free reading challenge is on-going), but it also comes under my exception of buying a book by a friend to support their launch.

Unbearable suspense

It also comes under “I couldn’t bear to wait for this one”. It’s out on 31st October and, frankly, even that’s an unbearable level of suspense. Especially since I’ve now read the start. I should know better (I deliberately didn’t pick up a preview of Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo when I was at YALC, because what was it going to do other than drive me mad over a book I already know I want to read?), but I couldn’t resist.

Snark-filled prose

As is always the case with Kate Johnson, it’s a stunner. My favourite snort-aloud line was:

“Hell of a day to have fallen out the window with no clothes on.”

Now I’ve just got to wait to read the rest of it, which is tedious in the extreme, and I feel definitely sufficient punishment for anyone who feels I’ve broken the terms of my free reading commitment.

Cover of Kate Johnson's Max Seventeen
Click to pre-order

Take your pick

If you want to pre-order Max Seventeen just click on the cover. If you want the preview (you masochist, you), you can get hold of one by signing up to Kate’s newsletter. If you can’t wait to read something by her, I’d suggest starting with The Untied Kingdom, which is my favourite.

Disclaimer: they aren’t YA books, so if your eyes are likely to bleed at bad language, sex and violence you may need to walk on by – but do come back when you feel strong enough for some of the best fiction you’re going to find anywhere.

My free reading challenge: pay with a review

My challenge to keep reading without paying for a book for myself until Christmas continues…

This week I have been mostly fighting my TBR pile, which – even containing only free books – has reached teetering levels. I’ve spent this week reading, reading, reading in a vain attempt to slim down my teetering TBR pile (it’s okay, I love it really – if my TBR pile ever ceased to be dangerous I’d start to get worried about running out of things to read).

As a writer myself, I do feel a little guilty at getting free books, but as a writer I also know the value of getting an honest review from a reader, so I’ve promised myself that I’ll write a review for every book I finish – at least while this challenge is on, but I do try to review books I read under any circumstances.

Drowning in books

This week I’ve written and scheduled reviews for two books I got as free review copies, cross-posted blog reviews to Goodreads and Amazon, and I’m also working my way through (reading and making review notes) my downloaded giveaway books from a fortnight ago, with one of those reviews live this week, another scheduled, and another partway through reading. Phew.

All my reviews can be found on the Paisley Piranha blog site. The Paisley Piranhas are a group of four YA writers who review YA books (and the occasional film) on our site, as well as hosting book blitzes, cover reveals and author interviews. If you’re looking for something good to read, check it out.

I’ll be back next week with more on my free reading challenge. It’s midway through September – can I last until Christmas?

Some of my bookcases

Lie to me!

I write (and read) fantasy, which is perhaps the most obviously “made-up” of fiction genres, and suspension of disbelief is key to spinning a successful fantasy tale.

Suspension of disbelief can perhaps be summed up as ‘don’t allow a little reality to get in the way of a good story’, but it’s more subtle than that. From my experience, fiction contains big lies and little lies and strangely enough, it’s the little lies that trip up a reader (well, if that reader’s me, it does) and cause disbelief to come crashing back and destroy the writer’s hard work.

A couple of examples: in the first episode of the BBC’s Merlin (set in some kind of medieval-ish Arthurian Britain), our young wizard spends time in the stocks being pelted with rotting veg. He also spends a while hearing the disembodied voice of a dragon and then speaking to said dragon in the flesh.  The BBC received far more complaints about anachronistic tomatoes being used in the stocks scene than it did over the existence of a TALKING DRAGON.

Or take the current series of Doctor Who (please, take it away and bring it back when you have some credible storylines which ENTERTAIN). Space travel, time travel, monsters and aliens are all fine by me. What I can’t accept is that Clara gets left in modern Britain for two weeks and becomes a teacher with a permanent job.  Criminal records check, anyone?  Even if she had a stack of psychic paper there’s still a recruitment process to go through.  We might be short of teachers in some areas, but I don’t think we’re yet so desperate that people can walk in off the street and be allowed responsibility for our children.

And the thing is, it’s sloppy.  Whatever fiction you write, you need to check your facts.  So check your facts, and if they’re wrong, change them.  The good thing about little lies is that they usually aren’t integral to the story (Merlin could be pelted with squashy apples; Clara could have become a waitress at a corner cafe) so they’re easy to adjust.

Big lies are part of the contract of fantasy. They’re the dragons and aliens and paradoxical time machines which are needed to capture your reader’s imagination and sweep them into your fictional world. Little lies, on the other hand, are little traps for unwary writers which can catapult your readers back to reality.

Do you agree?  Do you struggle with big or little lies in the books you read or write, or can you suspend disbelief to Olympic level?

It’s all a matter of taste…

The thing that fascinates me most (maybe – books are endlessly fascinating) is the question of taste. I’ve lost count of the number of award-winning, rave-reviewed books that I’ve thrown across the room. Whatever the award judges found in the book eluded me entirely.

Meanwhile, books that I love and praise to the skies and push on friends and relations with the assurance that they, too, will adore it come back with a pulled face and a lukewarm, “It was all right, I suppose…” (words intended to spare my feelings rather than provide a genuine opinion, I’m sure).

A lovely pile of novels
Which would you rather? These …

I suppose this is no different from taste in other areas – we don’t all like chocolate (really?), or brussel sprouts (quite) or the colour indigo, after all. But I am fascinated by how these preferences come about. Science has discovered why some of us love brussels and some hate them (it’s genetically dictated by the number and type of taste buds you have, apparently), so I wonder if one day we’ll know why I sighed and tossed aside that Waterstones’ Prize-winning novel while my friend has read it seventeen times (and counting).

Picture of brussels sprouts
… or these? (Picture courtesy of porbital via freedigitalphotos.net)

Am I alone – or does anyone else scratch their head at what other people saw in an awful book, or why no-one else adores your all-time favourite novel?