Posted in Charlotte Writes Things, Uncategorized

Charlotte Writes Things | Planner vs Pantser

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” – John Steinbeck

 

20190119_132210It’s a common topic discussed and one that, in fact, I was asked to write about by fellow reviewer Anna. Writers are often asked if they are a “planner or pantser.” Simply put, do you plan or go in with no plan? When I tried to think of what other writers do, I remembered when I went to an event for The Iron Trial with Holly Black and Cassandra Clare and they talked about this very subject. Cassandra Clare has to plan every single detail down to when a character blinks, whereas Holly Black likes to go in with no plan whatsoever because she likes surprises. Naturally, you can imagine this made their partnership on the series a tad difficult.

I have to admit that I’m both a pantser and planner in equal measures. I have the initial concept in mind, along with characters and some understanding of location. When it comes to writing a chapter or scene, I like to have a framework – some idea of where I’m walking – but I never fully know what’s going to happen. I always leave room for things to happen naturally and so that the characters are able to think for themselves. It’s in these moments of no planning where new locations sprout, new characters join the story, and old characters have died. Sometimes I start writing and don’t even have the ending figured out.

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I’m hoping to do a whole seperate post about how exactly I plan a new project. But for now I pose the questions to you:

Are you a planner or a pantser?
Do you have anything you need to do before starting a new project?

Posted in contemporary, lgbt, review, thriller, young adult

The Truth About Keeping Secrets – Savannah Brown

“You really think someone killed him?

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Blurb:”Sydney’s dad is the only psychiatrist for miles around their small Ohio town. He is also unexpectedly dead. Is Sydney crazy, or is it kind of weird that her dad-a guy whose entire job revolved around other peoples’ secrets-crashed alone, with no explanation?And why is June Copeland, homecoming queen and the town’s golden child, at his funeral?”

[AD – Gifted]

Trigger Warnings: Talks of death, depictions of death, emotional and physical abuse.

I’ve followed Savannah with her poetry for a long time so when she announced that she was writing a book, I had mentally signed up for it and waited patiently to finally get the lyrical brilliance from her in a new format.

Rather fitting to her previous work, the central themes of The Truth About Keeping Secrets are quite dark. The protagonist, Sydney, is reeling from the unexpected loss of her father and has taken to devoting most of her time to thinking about death, along with scrolling endlessly through a website called TOD which posts surveillance footage of real life deaths. Her father was a renowned therapist in the town of Pleasant Hills and Sydney also struggles with the fact that people out there had a relationship with a dad in a way that she never did; that he mattered and existed to other people, that he wasn’t solely hers. It’s incredibly easy to feel empathy for this character, especially when the mysterious threatening text messages begin and none of the adults around her take them seriously. She completely regresses into herself until she meets June.

I had a lot of problems with June because for a big portion of the book she trends the edges of the “manic pixie dream girl” trope. Sydney is so fascinated with her and becomes obsessed to the point where she even says that her life could be boiled down to the 20 minutes a day she spent driving to and from school with June. While the big lulling middle of the book focuses so much on establishing their relationship, you learn nothing about her until the climatic end of the books. When the details did arise, they added so much to her character and completely changed my perspective and I just wish they hadn’t been confined to the last few pages of the book. Especially as Sydney and June both express a romantic interest in each other.

The Truth About Keeping Secrets is clearly very well planned and the details that come to light at the big climax left me reeling. However, because so much of the book is focused on Sydney’s obsession with June, there’s a massive lull between the first couple of text messages, the subsequent ones, and the events that ramp up at the end. For this reason, when that big turning point comes it feels like the story has gone from 0-100 because it becomes so dramatic so quick and there wasn’t that natural incline. This really shook my enjoyment of the book because it’s been marketed as a YA Thriller but for the most part it’s not particularly thrilling.

I loved the twist and turns but I just wish there had been more of them.

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Posted in Audiobook Of The Month, Uncategorized

Audiobook Of The Month | The Humans

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After getting into Matt Haig’s books last year, and one of them making it onto my list of favourites for 2018, I’ve decided that I really want to read more of his back catalogue so when I was scrolling through audible desperately trying to find my first listen of 2019, I came across The Humans. 

The Humans is about an alien who comes to earth and takes over the body of Professor Andrew Martin. The unnamed narrator has been sent to stop the humans discovering the answers to a mathematical theory. Initially, this summary didn’t really interest me, but I adored the writing style in How To Stop Time so I took a tiny leap out of my comfort zone and decided to give The Humans a go.

A lot of my pure enjoyment from this audiobook so far comes from the narrator, Mark Meadows. He is simply fantastic. The delivery of the lines and the tonal usage really makes the funny and witty moments land perfectly and I’ve found myself laughing out loud many a time at my desk during a work day. Of course, part of this falls to the clever nature of the narrative constructed by Matt Haig. The narrator talks about walking around naked and being confused about why the police have been called on him, not understanding why on earth someone would have a wife, and learning the human language through magazines such as Cosmopolitan.

It’s a short audiobook – standing at just over 8 hours- so I’m wondering where exactly the story is going to end up given the length.

At the time of writing this I am 29% into the audiobook and loving every minute of it.

What audiobooks are you listening to this month?

What were your favourites of 2018?

Posted in Historical Fiction, review, Uncategorized

Salt To The Sea – Ruta Sepetys

“What a group we were. A pregnant girl in love, a kindly shoemaker, an orphan boy, a blind girl and a giantess who complained that everyone was in her way when she herself took up the most room. And me, a lonely girl who missed her family and begged for a second chance.”

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Blurb: World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.”

Historial fiction is not a genre I actively reach for. In fact, when I think about others I’ve read, the only one that springs to mind is The Book Thief. But like the way I find most of my books, it’s talked about a lot in the community. So when I came across in on the shelf at my library, I scooped it up and went on my way.

I used to love learning about history when I was younger and it’s baffling that this is the first time I’ve heard about the Whilhelm Gustloff which is one of the worst wartime ship disasters. It’s total loss is greater than the Titanic and Lusitana tragedies combined. The event seems to have become a minor footnote amongst everything else that took place during World War II so I’m glad this book exists as a way to counteract that.

Salt To The Sea is told through four different perspectives: Florian who is fleeing from his dark deeds, Joana who is a nurse, Emilia who is a young pregnant girl, and Alfred who is a German solider. Each of these points of view worked perfectly in showing the realities of war and showcasing different stories of civilians just trying to make it out alive. When it comes to stories of war, I feel like it’s too easy to forget the innocent people trapped in the middle. Out of the four characters the reader follows directly, Alfred was the most interesting as he was working for Hitler. He was determined to prove his worth, earn a medal, and genuinely believed that he was on the right side of history.

The book is incredibly brutal. When the plot reaches its climax there is no escape from the death and graphic descriptions of people jumping from the ship in a desperate attempt to survive, no way to get past the images of bodies floating in water. But to downplay those elements would do this book, and history, a massive disservice. While the characters themselves are fictionalised and inspired by Ruta sepetys research, knowing that this tragedy really happened was almost impossible to fathom.

The only real grip I had with this book is the chapters. The reader is following each character for three pages at most before another one steps up which makes it really hard to care entirely for the characters or really get a full sense of who they are.

Salt To The Sea is heart wrenching but shines a light on an important, forgotten part of history.

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Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

A Cover Is Not The Book

Recently, I went to see Mary Poppins Returns in the cinema and I absolutely loved every single second of it. But among all the familiarity, the contrast of colours and the pure magic weaved into its story, one song in particular stuck out to me.

The song is called “A Cover Is Not The Book” and tackles the topic of how really you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover because then you’ll be surprised and find that your preconceptions were actually quite wrong. It got me thinking about some books I’ve come across where I wasn’t that enamored with the cover but, whether through knowledge of the author or hearing many good things, I decided to continue on and see what happens.

So here’s a list, in no particular order, of books where I hated the covers, but really loved the story:

The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

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Did you really think this would be the year where I didn’t mention The Great Gatsby at any given opportunity? One of my favourite books of all time but has a truly appalling original cover. Of course, like with many classics, there are many different editions out there but I chose to stick with the original as this was the cover of the copy I read. It was purely because of the 2013 adaption that I picked this book up so that I could experience the story for myself. Little did I know that the glitz and glamour of 1920’s parties, luscious prose and complex, intoxicating characters would have me coming back for many a reread.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare 

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I promise that this list isn’t going to include all my favourite books! Another book that I picked up because of an upcoming film adaptation, City of Bones was a game changer for me.  After devouring this book and its subsequent partners, I took a shift in my reading life to YA fantasy and also realised it was the kind of stuff that I wanted to write more of. A tale packed full of half angel- half human individuals battling demons in a world of warlocks, vampires and werewolves. There sure is something for everyone.

A Very Large Expanse Of Sea by Tahereh Mafi 

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A Very Large Expanse of Sea made it onto my list of favourite books for last year. It follows a Muslim teenager called Shirin as she tackles school and wider society a year on from the events of 9/11. She is an incredible well-rounded character with so many layers to her than what those see around her, and I actually really liked the romance in it. The cover itself, however, I just found a bit bland. I get the effect of showing the reflection in water but I feel that it’s just too simplistic.

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab 

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Victoria Schwab is an auto-buy author for me so most of the time I pick up her books not really knowing that much about them. City of Ghosts is a prime example of the US cover being infinitely better than the UK cover. I just really don’t like the way the red and black blend together and it makes it actually hurt my eyes to look at. The story, however, is fantastic. It’s about a girl who can see ghosts and sometimes step into the veil to the other side. It will appeal greatly to fans of Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

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Again, another one where I feel that the cover is a bit too simple. But the story is outstanding, and turned into an equally amazing film adaptation. It’s about a boy called August with a facial disfigurement who starts his first year in public school after being home schooled. It’s multiple perspective which works really well to see into the minds of other characters and how they view August. It’s a tearjerker, so make sure you have tissues handy.

So that’s my list! What are some books that you loved but didn’t like the cover?

Alternatively, what are some of your favourite book covers?

 

 

Posted in Non-Fiction, review

Notes On A Nervous Planet – Matt Haig

“I had already written about my mental health in Reasons To Stay Alive. But the question now was not: why should I stay alive? The question this time was a broader one: how can we live in a mad world without ourselves going mad?”

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Trigger warning: talks of suicide

My first exposure to Matt Haig was when one of his tweets about anxiety appeared on My Twitter timeline. I followed him and have done ever since but it’s only recently that I started to delve into his books.

Notes On A Nervous Planet is the second of haig’s books that I have picked up but it is the first non-fiction of his. In this book, Matt Haig talks candidly about his panic disorder, anxiety disorder, depression and suicide attempt. While the he bounces around other topics, these in particular can be quite difficult to read so if you feel you may be triggered, take this book at your own pace.

He focuses a lot on how the modern day world seems to demand more from us and that, as a result, our lives have become cluttered and It’s far too easy to have more things to worry about; especially as the development of technology allows us to stay plugged in to the wider world.

I found it very comforting to read about his struggles with anxiety as it reinforced the knowledge that I am not alone in my own anxiety disorder. He offers lots of tips on how to control negative thoughts and worries in a “nervous planet” and offers metaphors of what he feels like to have this illness which just resonated so well and have given me a way to explain to others exactly what it feels like to have my mind.

He also touches on the pressure of men in society from body image to emotional connection to suicide statistics. It was important to see this highlight as to not be “men too” but… well men too.

Notes On A Nervous Planet has provided lots of food for thought and techniques to try for focusing on what I can control and not getting stressed out over the things I can’t.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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Posted in Charlotte Writes Things

Charlotte Writes Things | An Introduction

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I’ve wanted to start a series about writing for a while but held back for a multitude of reasons. Among them are niggles like: would anyone actually care? Will I bin it off when I burn myself out for trying to do too much on my blog at once? And will people just roll their eyes thinking that I’m another “book blogger turned writer”? But then I sat back and remembered that I’ve been a writer for longer than I’ve been  book blogger, and I’ve been a reader for longer than I have a writer. And also it’s kind of fundamental to be a reader if you’re going to be a writer. So, anyway, I’ve pushed those thoughts aside and I present to you Charlotte Writes Things (yes, very on brand and took me two seconds to come up with).

A lot of my writing journey has been accidental. By that I mean, a lot of how I’ve grown as a writer, minus the University side of things where I did joint honours in Creative Writing and English Literature, hasn’t been planned. I just wrote stories. Ridiculous ones from a young age, writing them more for me than to be read by anyone else (though there was one time I sold copies of my book to people in primary school for a pound each). I just wrote stories more about myself in certain situations and working out how I would handle them before I moved on to characters that had barely any of me in them; those kind of people I only wished I could be. It was only really when my mother approached me during my A-Levels with a list of universities she’d found that did joint honours Creative Writing that I realised that I could actually bring what I loved into the education sphere, but that I also had the support of a parent in what I wanted to hopefully make some money from in the future.

As I’ve said, my own story is littered with accidents. I was still just writing stories and thrown into uncomfortable writing situations at University where I was expected to write in styles I’d never tried and from briefs that didn’t interest me. It wasn’t until someone I knew told me that I had to read this John Green book called The Fault In Our Stars, and I did, that I discovered that I’d actually been writing Young Adult stories without actually realising. So naturally, I threw myself into everything I could find on those shelves in bookstores, desperate to work my way through everything I had missed out on. I’d mainly just read early teen books and Harry Potter over and over up until this point. It wasn’t until I started reading The Mortal Instruments series in preparation for the film adaptation that I discovered that, not only do I write Young Adult, I also wanted to write fantasy as well. See? Accident after accident.

Some things have obviously been more planned. Such as this blog to try and create a presence online, finding the online YA book community and, while I promise that I do try to write my stories following a plan, I often stray off the path and barely recognise them by the end of it.

So I’m starting a new series and I plan to cover a whole range of topics from planning to drafting, authors that inspire me, and querying as I plan to bite that bullet in 2019. If there’s anything you’d like to see me talk about to do with writing, please let me know!

Here’s to another long writing year!

Posted in fantasy, review, young adult

The Witch’s Tears – Katharine & Liz Corr

“There was a photo of Merry and her brother on her bedside table. In the photo, Leo was smiling. She tried-failed to recall the last time she’d seen him look that happy. Today was the first morning of the summer holidays. But the brighter the sunshine, the more they both seemed to be lost in the shadow.”

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Blurb: “It’s not easy being a teenage witch. Just ask Merry. She’s drowning in textbooks and rules set by the coven; drowning in heartbreak after the loss of Jack. But Merry’s not the only one whose fairy tale is over. Big brother Leo is falling apart and everything Merry does seems to push him further to the brink. And everything that happens to Leo makes her ache for revenge. So when strangers offering friendship show them a different path they’d be mad not to take it…”

After reading The Witch’s Kiss, I knew that I had to jump into the next book immediately, and thankfully I was smart enough to buy the whole series because I was that sure I’d love it.

The Witch’s Kiss takes place shortly after the events of the previous book and the emotions are still raw. Merry and her brother, Leo, become divided as they try to process what happened: Merry is embracing her powers and getting trained by the coven and her Grandma, while Leo – who has become resentful of witches – is mourning the loss of someone close to him and starting to explore his sexuality more. This book is a slow burn as it focuses more on shaping the characters and feeling into their development than overwhelming the reader with plot and not giving the characters that much needed time to recover. In fact, this book isn’t what I expected at all and that is a good thing. I feel like I left the reading experience knowing much more about the characters and how their minds work and feel closer to them for it.

As the story muddles through the recovery process, Leo meets a wizard called Ronan who he feels connected to and begins to explore the possibility of a romantic relationship. Merry is naturally suspicious which only furthers the gap between them. He was a really interesting addition to the series and gave me certain vibes and had me almost giving the side-eye as I continued through the plot. However, it was nice to see someone appearing to care about Leo and take the time to get to know him.

When witches begin to disappear without a trace and it appears to mimic something that’s happened before, the plot takes a direction I never could have prepared myself for. Katharine and Liz Corr do a fantastic job of planting the little seeds along the way in those quieter moments to the point where the story hits its climax and I was left cursing myself for not working things out sooner.

The Witch’s Kiss is a fantastic sequel and I cannot wait to dive into the next one.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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Posted in discussion

Favourite Books Of The Year | 2018

The arrival of a brand new reading year means that it is time to reflect back on the many stories I consumed in 2018. Sadly, it is not a year will miss as I spent most of it in a big old slump. More often than not, I’d find a gem I adored, finish it and be left thinking “now what?” So, while those standouts were few and far between, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t worthy of a place on this list.

The Extinction Trials: Books 1 &2 by S.M.Wilson

Yes, it’s cheeky to start my summary with two books not only from the same author, but from the same series. But it’s my list and I make the rules!

The Extinction Trials tells the tale of two continents: one inhabited by humans and the other by dinosaurs. The human continent is vastly overpopulated and vital supplies such as healthcare are in short supply. Every year citizens are invited to volunteer to take part in a series of trials to prove that they are worthy of being sent to the dinosaur continent, Pilora, in search of more sustainable resources. Stormchaser and Lincoln both have their reasons for joining the cause.

This book is just so vivid and well written with an incredible cast of characters, all of which you can sympathize with. Oh, and of course dinosaurs. Lots and lots of dinosaurs.

How To Stop Time by Matt Haig

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A book that would have completely passed me by if it wasn’t shoved into my hands by a friend, How To Stop Time follows a man who has a rare condition meaning that he has been alive for centuries. Every few years he is forced to change everything in his life in order to avoid detection, while also searching for his missing daughter who also has the same condition.

A beautiful, though-provoking read that tackles history and importance of identity, wrapped up in breath-taking prose.

The Loneliest Girl In The Universe by Lauren James 

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Sci-fi is a genre that I have tried many times to dip my toes into but just don’t get on with. However, I kept hearing a lot of buzz in the YA community about this book. So I went into the reading experience hoping it would prove me wrong, and boy it did.

The Loneliest Girl In The Universe follows teenage girl Romy as she flies a spaceship to a new Earth in the hopes of starting new life. Besides the mundane ship maintenance she carries out every day, her existence revolves around the emails she receives – a year after they were sent- from a woman at Nasa.

It’s isolating, character driven brilliance and I found myself sharing Romy’s excitement every time she got the notification that a new message had arrived. I still think about this book every day.

Paper Girls: Volume 1  by Brian K.Vaughan and Cliff Chiang 

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Another genre I’ve always struggled with is graphic novels. It’s such a big intimidating corner of the bookstore and I always feel like other shoppers can tell that I clearly don’t know what I’m doing or looking at. But one day I noticed this face out on the shelf and something about the cover just made me go “yes please!” I started reading and knew I had to buy it; despite being skeptical that it was by the same writer of Saga which I hated.

Paper Girls is… well about a group of paper round girls in the eighties who come together on a night when all manner of weird things begin to happen. I love all their different personalities and the artwork is simply gorgeous!

A Very Large Expanse Of Sea by Tahereh Mafi 

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Tahereh’s step into YA contemporary sees her putting a lot of her experiences as a fashion obsessed, breakdancing muslim teenager into the character of Shirin. The story takes place a year after the events of 9/11 and documents the shift in how she is perceived in the world.

Shirin is an amazingly well-rounded character and while I can’t relate directly to her story, I felt so hard for her when she opens up to the reader about what she expects from those around her. So imagine her surprise when a rather attractive boy called Ocean (yes, Ocean) starts paying an interest in her.

It’s been such a long time since I’ve felt such a weight of emotion in my chest finishing a book. I can’t remember the last time I finished a book and wanted to read it again straight away.

So there you have it! That’s my round up of 2018.
Did any of your books make my list?
What were some of your standouts?

Posted in contemporary, fantasy, review, young adult

The Witch’s Kiss – Katharine & Liz Corr

“Witches do not kneel. They do not grovel. They do not beg favours from any creature, mortal or immortal. At most they bargain.”

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Blurb: “Sixteeen-year-old Meredith is fed-up with her feuding family and feeling invisible at school – not to mention the witch magic that shoots out of her fingernails when she’s stressed. Then sweet, sensitive Jack comes into her life and she falls for him hard. The only problem is that he is periodically possessed by a destructive centuries-old curse. Meredith has lost her heart, but will she also lose her life? Or in true fairytale tradition, can true love’s kiss save the day?”

The Witch’s Kiss is the first instalment of a trilogy by sisters Katharine and Liz Corr, and it’s a book I fell in love with instantly.

Set in modern day, readers are introduced to Meredith (Merry) who is a witch but does a very good job of not embracing this. She beats herself down a lot when she does have a momentary lapse of control and internalises her emotions in a way that makes her a character readers can really relate to. As she learns of the enormous task that faces her, naturally she wants to run in the opposite direction but then approaches the situation with a kind of “well if it has to be me then I guess I will” attitude. Unlike a lot of YA books, she was a character that read like the age she is supposed to be so a lot of her choices made sense.

Another great addition to this story is the brother, Leo, who becomes Merry’s partner in crime. A lot of the time in “modern day fantasy” siblings are often brushed aside so it was wonderful to see her have this family support system who wanted to keep her safe but also stood out on his own. I just loved every single scene he was in and it was clear that he was willing to do whatever it takes to protect his sister but also allow her that room to do things on her own when required.

The Witch’s Kiss blends the present and the anglo-saxon period in which the reader learns of an enchantment put in place to keep the evil wizard, Gwydion, and his servant, The King of Hearts, in a deep sleep. But this enchantment is soon to end and it falls to Merry to be the one to stop the wizard before the curse takes hold. Viewing stories through an adult lens meant that when the mother puts her foot down, I could actually understand the reasoning behind her actions, whereas teenage me would have probably screamed at her. It was nice to see how the bubbling drama was affecting those around Merry rather than solely focusing on her. The blending of timelines was done in an interesting way: rather than resorting to info dumping to fill the reader in, they are instead taken through the history in a series of chapters, getting to know the old faces and their motivations which add that further weight in the present. It works wonderfully but my only wish is that it had been threaded a lot more through once it had all been revealed.

The King of Hearts, also known as Jack, is a truly tragic character and my heart just ached as I began to learn more about him. The story does lull a bit around the middle but it allows that room to understand who he actually is compared to the history and, again, I loved that little way of blending two time periods together.

That tension build at the start and the bubbling danger throughout leads to a dramatic conclusion which had me shielding myself with my blanket as I fought my way through alongside Merry.

The Witch’s Kiss is a breath of fresh air with magic, a brilliant cast of characters and a test of morals.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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For my videos, check out my Youtube

For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings