December 2020 Wrap Up

It’s the end of December and the end of 2020! I can’t believe this year is finally over. It’s been, well, not the best year for many reasons. But I can say that I read 50 books this year, which is way more than I’ve ever read in a year before, so at least that’s one plus to having been stuck at home so much.

I had planned to write a lot more blog posts this month but I ended up being super busy at work and had a migraine at the beginning of the month which took out a few days of productivity. But some good blogging news – I now have 400 followers! I can’t believe so many people are following my blog now. Thank you so much to everyone who reads, likes and comments on my posts. I love interacting with you lovely people.

So on to the final monthly wrap up of the year…

Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I loved Aurora Rising so much so I had really high hopes for this one. And while I did enjoy it, I did like Aurora Rising more. I hope we don’t have to wait too long for the next book…

A Storm of Swords Part II by George R. R. Martin ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I read Part I in November and didn’t want to leave it too long before I read Part II as I didn’t want to forget what happened. There was a lot packed into this book and oh my gosh so many characters died. George R. R. Martin is ruthless.

A Court of Frost and Starlight ⭐⭐⭐ – This festive novella was a fun Christmas read but not much actually happened in it. There wasn’t much of a plot. So I didn’t love it as much as the other books in the series. I’m still excited for A Court of Silver Flames though.

I used up the last of a gift card I had to get Empire of Storms and Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas and The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White. The Illumicrate Daughter of Smoke and Bone box finally arrived so I got a beautiful hardback edition of one of my favourite books. I also got some lovely presents for Christmas – Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor, Little Women and a beautiful edition of Persuasion.

As I finished my WIP at the end of November I took a couple of weeks off writing to give myself a break from the project so I could come back to it with fresh eyes. I’ve been working on some world building things and have a few other planning bits I need to sort out before I can start work on my second draft.

Can you believe it’s actually the end of 2020? Did you read any good books this year? Chat with me in the comments!

I realised I don’t follow many of you lovely people on social media. So, if you’d like to connect with me, feel free to drop your handles/links in the comments. You can find me @mtwilsonwrites on Twitter and @m.t.wilsonwrites1891 on Instagram.

Let’s Talk Bookish: Reading & Blogging – Their Effect on Writing

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion.

This is a really interesting topic but I’ll probably only be writing a short post as I’ve had a really busy week and had a migraine at the weekend so I’m feeling a bit behind on everything!  

Have you sometimes felt that as a reader, you should also be a writer or vice versa? Do you think that a desire to write is connected with a love of reading? What motivates you to write?

I’ve actually been a writer way longer than I’ve been a blogger! I started writing short stories when I was about 10 and by the time I was 12/13, I was planning out epic fantasy series! And I’ve never looked back. I’ve written six novels now and I’m hoping to start sending one of them out to agents next year, fingers crossed!

I do think there’s a weird expectation, especially from people who are more outside the book world, that people who read will also like writing too. Which isn’t the case. Maybe people who love reading love writing too, but not everyone.

Most writers probably also love reading. I mean, it makes sense right? I often see advice that says to be a good writer you need to read a lot. And while that is one of those generic pieces of writing advice that doesn’t feel that helpful, I have actually found my writing has improved so much over the last couple of years as I’ve started reading a lot more. Reading more has really helped me grow as a writer.

What I love about writing is getting to use my imagination, to come up with stories and worlds. I love to disappear into the worlds I’ve created. I’m not sure I can say what motivates me to write, I think it’s just that love of stories and using my imagination. When I write I’m transported to another world, and everything around me just fades away, and I get totally in the zone. Writing is like breathing for me, I really couldn’t imagine life without it.

As a book blogger, do you ever feel discouraged about publishing a book because you know how readers & bloggers can react to books/authors?

Like I said above, I’ve been writing and dreaming of being an author since before I became a blogger and part of the book community! So that’s not something that discouraged me. I think it’s important to remember that not every person is going to love every book. Your book might not be for one person, but it will be a favourite of someone else.

Do you think that authors can be book bloggers as well, or that they’ve crossed the imaginary line between authors and bloggers and therefore are not like other book bloggers anymore?

I hope authors can be book bloggers as well! I so desperately want to be an author, but I’d love to continue with this blog as well when I hopefully one day reach that dream of becoming an author!

Are you a writer as well as a reader? Have you ever thought about writing a book? Or are you happy to stick with being a reader? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

November 2020 Wrap Up

November ended up being a pretty good month for me. I managed to stay well and got LOADS of writing done! I only read 3 books but two of them were really long so I’m still happy with that.

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This is the second book in the Dark Artifices series and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it quite as much as Lady Midnight which was just absolutely brilliant.

It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Holly Bourne’s books are just so good. This one picks apart clichés in romance films and portrays teen life in a way that was funny but also really realistic.

A Storm of Swords Part I by George R. R. Martin ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I don’t know about other countries, but here in the UK the third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series is split into two volumes because it’s so long! It was really weird how the book just finished in the middle of the story, so I will definitely be picking up Part II soon.

I had two amazing special editions arrive this month. Illumicrate’s book for October was The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and their edition is just so beautiful! I also couldn’t resist a special edition of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo as her Grishaverse is one of my favourite series. I got the Fairyloot edition which has exclusive stencilled edges. As I’ve mentioned before, I LOVE dragons, and I was so excited when I saw the premise for Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz, it sounds amazing!

So… I did it!! I finished my WIP! In my October wrap up I didn’t think I would be able to finish it by the end of November, but I ended up having such a good month for writing. I wrote 22,000 words in November and managed to finish my YA Arthurian legend retelling. I am so so excited to have finished my first draft! The final word count is 75,674 which I am pretty happy with. My first drafts are usually quite short and then get longer as I redraft. Now I’m going to have a bit of a break from it before I start working on it again. But I’m so excited about it, I probably won’t be able to resist coming back to it in a week or two. I’ve just really connected with this project and I’m really looking forward to continuing working on it.

Have you read any good books this month? Did anyone take part in NaNoWriMo, how did you do? Chat with me in the comments!

Let’s Talk Bookish: How Many POVs is Too Many?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s Let’s Talk Bookish is a freebie so I decided to look back at topics I’d missed from previous weeks. Today I’ll be talking about POVs!

I have to say I love books with multiple POVs. They don’t work for every story, and I do enjoy single-perspective books, but I just love getting to see inside multiple characters’ heads. I like both reading and writing multi-perspective stories, especially when there’s a large cast who aren’t necessarily with each other the whole book. Seeing what different characters are up to and how their stories come together in the end is so satisfying to me. It’s also interesting seeing how different characters view situations, especially if they come from different backgrounds, have different morals etc. Especially in fantasy, seeing different perspectives can really build on the world as well.

I wish there were more books with more than one or two POVs in YA. A lot of YA books seem to focus on one protagonist, or switch between two, and I often wish I could go and explore what other characters are up to as well.

I do prefer third person over first person when there are multiple POVs. It’s really difficult to pull off two or more distinct first person voices in a book and it can get confusing and jarring. It can be done really well, but I think it’s quite challenging for the writer.

It is important when having multiple POVs for there to be enough time to properly develop each of the POV characters, and also to make sure each of their stories are interesting and unique and actually adds something to the overall plot. Sometimes extra POVs just don’t seem necessary, but sometimes you really couldn’t do without them and it would be a totally different story without multiple POVs. There needs to be a purpose behind it, and each POV needs to drive the plot. They need to carry the story forward in some way, and also have their own arc. There can be too many POVs if they don’t all have a purpose.

What do you think about having multiple POVs? Do you enjoy these types of books, or do you prefer to have just one POV? Is there such thing as too many POVs? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

September 2020 Wrap Up

Well I managed not to have any new ailments this month so I suppose that is an improvement on the last couple of months. I spent a few days (safely) at my grandparents in Devon and it was really nice to just get away for a bit. Due to being at risk from COVID I’m spending most of my time in the house so it was good to have a change of scene.

I started off the month with an eARC of The Invisible Life of Addie Larue which was absolutely brilliant. I really loved it and I can’t wait to share my review with you very soon!

I joined in the readalong for Fairyloot’s July book which was Shielded by KayLynn Flanders. Unfortunately, I didn’t love this one that much. It picked up in the second half so I am glad I stuck with it, but it was only a 3 stars overall.

I finished Jane Austen’s Emma which I’ve been reading for the last couple of months. I’ve read two other Austens – Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility – and it was the recent adaptation of Emma which prompted me to choose it as my next Austen. I adored the film and I also loved the book.

As Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one of my favourite books, I had high expectations for Strange the Dreamer, which is the opener of Laini Taylor’s other series. It did not disappoint! Strange the Dreamer is so imaginative and lyrical and heartbreaking and I loved it.  

I ended the month with another slightly disappointing one. I was lucky enough to win an ARC of Kingdom of the Wicked. I haven’t read any of Kerri Maniscalco’s other books but I was really excited for this one. As much as I wanted to love it, there were quite a few issues for me and I ended up writing a really long review of it!

This month I bought a few special edition books and also had some pre-orders arrive. Unsurprisingly I pre-ordered Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin. I also pre-ordered Legendborn by Tracey Deonn because it sounds amazing! Plus I ordered The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare. From Fairyloot’s August box I had Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar and Illumicrate’s August book was The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. Owlcrate had a restock of some past books in their shop so I got copies of Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson and The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd Jones.

I’m now halfway through my King Arthur retelling which is really exciting! I took a break from writing for a week when I went on holiday but I’m looking forward to getting back into it at full throttle next month!

What have you been up to this month? What books have you enjoyed? Chat with me in the comments!

August 2020 Wrap Up

So August wasn’t a great month. I had an infection in my eye which got really bad. All one side of my face was swollen and I was in a lot of pain. I also couldn’t see anything. So I had a week off work, didn’t read for a week, didn’t do much of anything actually. Because the medication I take effects the immune system, when I get ill, I get really ill, and it also takes a while for me to recover. So even though my eye was almost better after a week or so thanks to antibiotics, I’m still recovering energy-wise.

I’m really hoping September is going to be a better month because I’ve not been doing great health-wise lately.

Because I couldn’t see anything, I couldn’t read. So I ended up signing up for the Audible free trial and trying out audiobooks. I haven’t listened to an audiobook in years. I chose The Tales of Beedle the Bard and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, both of which I’ve read before. The Northanger Abbey audiobook had a full cast and I quite enjoyed it as it’s one of my favourite Austen novels. I have to say that I much prefer reading a physical book, though I can see audiobooks having benefits.

When I was able to see again, I read Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee which was amazing. It’s a plot-driven YA fantasy with an intriguing magic system. It ended on a cliff-hanger so I’m really excited for the sequel!

A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer was a really anticipated read for me as I loved A Curse So Dark and Lonely, but unfortunately I didn’t like it as much as the first book which was a little disappointing.

Finally, I read Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo which just blew me away. It was absolutely brilliant and I loved it even more than Six of Crows.      

This month I shared my book haul as a separate post because I ended up with so many thanks to winning a massive AtHomeYALC giveaway! You can see what books I got here.

Since I couldn’t see for part of the month and have been feeling pretty rubbish, I’m fairly happy with how much I’ve managed to write. I’ve written about 16,000 words for my King Arthur retelling and I’m nearly halfway through the book which is pretty exciting. My goal, so long as I don’t get ill again, is to finish it by the end of October. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to achieve that, but I’d certainly hope to have finished it by the end of November.

What have you been up to this month? What books have you enjoyed? Chat with me in the comments!

June 2020 Wrap Up

This has not been a very good month unfortunately. A couple of years ago I hurt my back, it took months to recover, and a couple of weeks ago I managed to twinge it again. I’m in pain all the time and had to take a few days off work because I just couldn’t sit at my computer. That also means I’ve not been able to do as much blogging as I had planned and missed several posts that I had planned to write. It’s slowly getting better and I am able to spend some time at my computer now so will be back to blogging a little more regularly again, though I am still in pain.  

At the beginning of the month I finished The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins, a prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy. I was excited to return to this world and it was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. While it was good, I didn’t love it as much as the original trilogy.

I also read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, which I have had waiting on my shelf for several months, as I don’t read much contemporary fiction. I’m very glad I finally read it as it’s a very powerful novel. I had no hesitation giving it 5 stars.    

Fear is the fifth book in Michael Grant’s Gone series. I have been working my way through this series quite slowly, though that’s more a reflection on my reading than enjoyment of the books! This book was good but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous ones. I’m still excited to read the final book though.

I just had to read The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White as I love King Arthur legends. This retelling has a really interesting concept that Guinevere is not the real Guinevere, but has taken her place as fiancé to King Arthur so that she can use her magic to protect him. Although I enjoyed it, I only gave it 3 stars. I think perhaps the style was not quite to my taste and there were a lot of unanswered questions still at the end of the book. But I liked it enough that I will definitely be reading the sequel.  

I absolutely adored Autumn de Wilde’s adaptation of Emma, so decided to read the book. I’m only a little way in but loving it so far.

This month was quite a quiet book buying month for me, which is probably a good thing as I have many already on my shelf that need reading! I received a Word Cloud Classics edition of Emma for my birthday. And bought The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle as part of my research for my next novel. It’s a lovely leather-bound edition with illustrations.

My back pain also put my novel planning on the back burner for a bit unfortunately. But I am still ready to write my King Arthur retelling for the July edition of CampNaNoWriMo! I’m excited to get writing as I am so excited for these characters and this story.  

What books did you enjoy reading this month? Let me know in the comments!  

Writing Corner: Planning

In my last Writing Corner post I discussed Planners vs Pantsers so today I’m going to focus on planning. There are so many ways to approach planning a novel. You need to find a process that works for you, but in this post I’ll give you some ideas and tips on what and how to plan.  

I’m a planner and do quite a bit of preparation before I’m ready to start writing. How you organise your ideas and plans is up to you. I use Microsoft Office OneNote, but there is other writing and planning software you can use such as Scrivener and Dabble. Do research to find out what’s best for you. You can usually get a free trial too so you can try before you buy. I found Scrivener to be quite daunting, so for now I’m sticking with using OneNote to organise all my notes.

There are five main areas I look at when I approach planning a novel – ideas, research, world building, characters and plot. My ‘Ideas’ tab allows room for splurging ideas and brainstorming my thoughts. I’ll come back to those later and filter them through to my ‘Plot’ tab when I’m ready.

Whatever genre you’re writing, you will inevitably need to do research. Whether that’s into a historical setting, types of weapons or how security cameras work. If you’re writing historical fiction, you’ll need to do a lot of research. But even if you’re writing fantasy, research can help you build your world. I recently wrote a fantasy novel inspired by Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. I did quite a bit of research into the ancient world, and then drew inspiration from that research to build my own world. There’s research you can do in the planning stage and some things you will only need to research as you go.

On the subject of world building, you need to understand your world because setting interacts with plot and character. Your setting (whether that be an invented setting or a historical period) will affect how your characters behave and interact with each other. But there is always room to develop and discover more about your world as you write. If you’re writing fantasy, world building will probably be a big part of your planning. Keep your notes organised into sections (e.g. magic, customs, clothing, religion) so it’s easy to refer back to and find those details when you’re writing.

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Let’s Talk Bookish: Should We Read More Serious Books?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s topic is ‘Should We Read More Serious Books’.

My general feeling is that people should read whatever they enjoy. But does that mean we should never stray from our comfort zone? No, I think it can be good to read a variety of genres and types of books. However I very rarely read nonfiction or biographies. I don’t generally enjoy reading this kind of book. I find they don’t hold my attention. I just can’t get in to them. Fiction is definitely what I enjoy.

One of the questions posed in the prompt is ‘Should we read more serious books as a result of COVID-19?’ Right now, I feel like we’re all just trying to get through this difficult time. Right now, I want to read books I know I’ll enjoy because I need to find an escape from all the stress and anxiety of the situation we find ourselves in. For me, this doesn’t feel like the right time to start looking for ‘serious’ reads. But for people who find themselves with more time on their hands, taking the opportunity to discover something different, whether that be serious books or something else, might be a great thing.

Sometimes I do feel like I should try and read more nonfiction. The problem is I don’t really know what to choose! I’ve yet to read a nonfiction book I have actually liked. So I’m not sure exactly what kind of thing I might enjoy. The only time I read nonfiction is for research for my writing. At the moment I’m reading a book on Arthurian Literature and Legend but it’s for research for a retelling I’m planning more than enjoyment, I’m doing a lot of highlighting and note taking! I’m also reading The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook Guide to Getting Published for when I’m ready to start submitting my book. But I wouldn’t choose to pick up a nonfiction book to read for fun. Maybe I just haven’t found my nonfiction jam yet!

Do you read nonfiction? Do you have any recommendations for me? I’d love to know what you think about this topic so chat with me in the comments!  

Let’s Talk Bookish: What Makes A Good Villain

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s topic is ‘What Makes A Good Villain’!

Villains are an important part of any story. Our heroes have to face obstacles to achieving their goal and there is almost always a villain standing in their way. But what makes a good villain? I like to see villains that are just as fleshed out and developed as our protagonists. Cardboard cut-out villains just fall flat. I want an antagonist who has motivations, wants, desires, a back story (be it tragic or not so tragic).

Good villains can fall into different categories. There are the evil for the sake of evil villains, who I find very rarely work effectively. A baddie with an evil cackle is just cliché and boring. I like to see complexity in villains. Yes they might well be evil, but why? Is there something in their history that made them that way? Even the pure evil kind of villains can have layers and complexity to them. For evil villains, I want them to genuinely scare me. I want to be scared for my favourite characters. An example that springs to mind is Amarantha from A Court of Thorns and Roses. She’s evil, twisted and sinister and I found Maas’s depiction of her character utterly chilling.

Alternatively, the villain could believe their actions are justified, genuinely believe that what they’re doing is right or for the greater good in some way, but their choices to achieve their goal are morally wrong or result in the deaths of innocents for example. Or the antagonist could be conflicted, fighting between the dark and the light inside them, and maybe they have a redemption arc. Maybe the antagonist isn’t evil at all, they’ve just fallen in with the wrong crowd in an attempt to fit in or have been blackmailed. Can they be redeemed? Or do they succumb to the darkness growing inside them? An interesting angle is having morally grey antagonists (and even grey protagonists too). When the lines between good and evil are more blurred, that can make for a really captivating story.   

I also enjoy books where we have more than one antagonist. There might be a main villain, the evil person who the hero has to defeat at the end of the book/series, and then other antagonists whom the protagonist comes into contact with more frequently and provides a more direct and personal conflict. For an easy example, I’d categorise Voldemort as the main villain in Harry Potter, but Draco is an antagonist who Harry comes into direct conflict with more often as they have an ongoing rivalry.

But how does the story end for the villain? Many books end with the downfall or death of the villain. In order for the heroes to succeed, they have to vanquish the antagonist. However, sometimes an antagonist gets a redemption arc. I do like a good redemption arc but it has to be done well in order to be a satisfying conclusion to that character’s story.

What do you think about villains? Who are your favourite villains from book or screen? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!