Posted in fantasy, review, Uncategorized

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them – Newt Scamander (J.K.Rowling)

“I would like to take this opportunity to reassure Muggle purchasers that the amusing creatures described hereafter are fictional and cannot hurt you.”

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Blurb: “An approved textbook at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry since publication, Newt Scamander’s masterpiece has entertained wizarding families through the generations. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an indispensable introduction to the magical beasts of the Wizarding World. Scamander’s years of travel and research have created a tome of unparalleled importance. Some of the beasts will be familiar to readers of the Harry Potter books – the Hippogriff, the Basilisk, the Hungarian Horntail … Others will surprise even the most ardent amateur Magizoologist.”

I originally read Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them when it initially came out several years ago, back when I would happily devour anything else Potter related that I could get my hands on. I still remember the wonder and excitement this tiny book brought me. Now, in the midst of a movie franchise of the same name, it felt like the right time to revisit it.

I chose to experience this book through the audiobook because Eddie Redmayne (who famously plays Newt Scamander) is the narrator. It was honestly the best decision I could have made. He is familiar with the character and therefore able to add the magic and brilliance that Potter fans will be familiar with seeing on screen. When he talked about the beasts in detail I felt almost like I was in a classroom listening to Newt as the teacher. In addition to this, the audiobook features lots of animal calls and atmospheric sounds that do a fantastic job of immersing the reader in the history of various beasts. I felt closer to the Potter series than I have in a long time.

The book features an updated introduction from Newt Scamander and filters in aspects from the movie and its timeline, making it feel more current than the previous edition. The rest is basically an A-Z of beasts featuring facts about them along with an “egg rating” of danger which I really loved because a 1 egg rating simply meant the creature was “boring.”

It was fascinating to be reminded of just how much exists in the Potter universe that we are familiar with, but also are still yet to see.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

A Conversation With K.M.Robinson

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When I was first introduced to K.M.Robinson she was a social media guru teaching classes on the best ways for authors to utilize online platforms, along with growing her photography portfolio. Since then she has not only become a dear friend of mine, but gone on to grow an empire of books. As she continues to grow her fanbase, her knew Aladdin retelling marks the 23rd addition to her catalogue. I had the pleasure of getting to sit down and talk with her about books, advice for aspiring authors, and all things fairy tale.

For those who aren’t familiar with you and your books. Tell us about you!

I’m K.M. Robinson, author of retellings, dystopians, sci fi, fantasy, mermaid, cyberpunk, and steampunk novels. I’m also a social media marketing strategist who teaches entrepreneurs to to build profitable brands through smart social media strategy, and a professional photographer. I’m super friendly on social media and have created an incredible tribe of fans that I like to traumatize with my books. They’ve actually made support groups to get through some of them. It’s pretty awesome!

Your “trademark” has become writing fairy tale retellings. What is is about this genre that keeps you writing within it?

There are so many stories to tell and so many ways to write them. I’ve already written certain characters, but I still have two/three/four more ideas for different versions of their stories with other characters involved. All I have  to do is wonder what would happen if I dropped a certain character in a different setting and suddenly we have a brand new series. It’s an incredibly wide world with so much wiggle room. I can’t get enough! I also really like learning the “true” stories of these characters; the parts history forgot to tell us or flat out lied about.

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3.) You also shoot your own photography for/design your own covers. Was this a conscious decision or happy accident? 

I was a photographer first and many of my photo series inspired my writing, so it’s always something on my list of priorities when discussing contracts with publishers. I’ve taken a lot of time to study the industry and really know what sells for covers and what doesn’t. So when other authors/publishers started asking me to design for them as well, it was a natural transition. I really love being able to do most of my own covers because I can bring my stories to life in a way others wouldn’t be able to.

You’re very active on social media especially with instagram livestreams. Do you feel that social media is a significant tool aspiring writers need to make use of?

Absolutely. Social media is the best way to marker yourself and your products as a brand/business owner. It’s something all entrepreneurs (and that’s what an author is) need to learn as early as possible: Studying the algorithms, knowing what the platforms value to make such we get as much as a reach as possible, learning how to engage with people on the platforms, and studying how to create valuable content is essential. A lot of people see it as work but it’s such a fun way to connect with people and make new fans/friends. I adore studying social media and learning how to work with it. I’ve made so many new fans and great business connections just from being friendly and chatting with people – it’s great.

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Out of the many books you’ve written, is there a particular that’s your favourite?

My debut Golden, and my second book Jaded are definitely my favourite. I’v also really fallen in love with Sugarcoated. Strong leading ladies, assassination attempts, really cute guys. I love them!

What are some of your favourite fairy tale retellings?

The very first retelling that really stuck with me was The True Stories Of The Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka. It’s a picture book I read back in elementary school that told the story of how the Big Bad Wolf wasn’t actually bad and the little pigs were less than awesome. 

The idea that we might not actually know the true story-or the full story- really intrigued me. What if other stories were told like that? What if the villains weren’t actually villains? What if the heroes/victors lied? The “what if” questions led me to start looking for the second side to every story and really left this burning passion for me to discover more about the fairy tales I knew and loved. They’re directly responsible for me writing Golden, my Goldilocks and the Three Bears retelling. The rest is history. 

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Tell us about your new book!

Lions And Lamps is a steampunk Aladdin retelling. It pulls a lot more from the original Aladdin story (which was Chinese) rather than the version Disney did. My Aladdin lives with his mother after his father was murdered last year. His evil uncle, Kacper, is now trying to drive a wedge between Aladdin and his mother because he wants to look good in front of his sister-in-law now that his brother is dead. 

Cyra was an orphan who was taken in by the Governor seven years ago and trained to steal an airship in a competition that only he had advanced knowledge of. Last year, Cyra stole the airship and won, but this year she’s sneaking into the competition against the Governor’s wishes. 

When Aladdin and Cyra meet, sparks fly but not in a good way. There’s a lot of betrayal and back stabbing and a genie with an agenda. 

I’m so excited that its now out in the world, traumatizing my readers once more. Wait, did I say that out loud? Oops. 

All of K.M.Robinson’s books are available on E-book and from Amazon. She’s also hosting a sale of covers she’s designed for author use which is on until Tuesday 16th April and more information about that can be found here here.

K.M.Robinson can be found at:

 

Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

I Got A Library Card (Again)

“Libaries are the thin red line between civilization and barbarism.” – Neil Gaiman

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So I’ve recently undergone a really big life change. I have now moved out of my parents’ house (for good this time) and moved back to my favourite city. I’m now permanently surrounded about my favourite people in the world, and I’ve started a new job in an industry that makes me a paid writer! Naturally, everything is overwhelming having to tick things off multiple lists and when it came to sorting out what various services I need to register with, the first one that popped to my mind was “libraries.”

I fell back in love with libraries a few years ago when financial pressures meant that I had to cut back on many things that were considered a luxury, and sadly one of those was buying books. I just adore the feeling of being handed that little card that is essentially the key to endless worlds and magic.

Expanding technology means that libraries services now extend to E-Books and E-Audiobooks which is simply mind-blowing to me that now a tiny app can give me access to different formats of books available across all the libraries in my area. E-Audiobooks are sure to come in handy as my switch to full time work means that I won’t have much time to kick back and physically read much anymore. But I love that these new developments also mean I don’t have to worry about rushing to the library before it closes to make sure I return my loans on time. I can just take out my phone, scroll along and pick my next read. Maybe this way I will also avoid those pesky book sales and not end up rebuying the same amount of books that I just donated to charity!

Do you have a library card?

If so, what’s your favourite things about libraries? And have you found any gems recently?

Posted in Charlotte Writes Things, Uncategorized

Charlotte Writes Things | The First Draft

“The first draft is a secret that no one ever needs to see, but it leads to the second draft, where the book really begins.” – Patrick Ness

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I decided that, after another joint winning Twitter poll, my next writing pot would be focused on that dreaded first draft since I’m currently in the middle of one.

No one likes drafting. If even big name, best-selling authors like V.E.Schwab and Neil Gaiman struggle with them, then there’ really no hope for the rest of us. To me, a first draft is like breaking into a run only to collapse in a fit of exhaustion a few feet later. That shiny new idea feels exciting and fun but the second I hit a mental wall it’s far too easy for me to abandon a project; to convince myself that I’m just not ready to tackle it yet and I’ll come back later.

The big fact I have to constantly remind myself of is that a first draft is only going to be seen by me. Which is important to remember because I am of the firm belief that you need to enjoy your own story before anyone else does and the entire project becomes influenced by what other people think you should do. In this early stage I think it’s also too easy to get hung up on words because you don’t have any to work with yet. It can be very disheartening to work for an hour and find you’ve written 100 words. It’s easy to feel like you’ve not made any progression and completely disregard that you technically spent an hour working. This is where my mantra “we measure time spent not words” comes into play because why should time spent trying to make a chapter work and deleting everything, research, or planning not count as progress? After all, they’re just as important as writing. I tend to use the forest app to mark my progress (more on that in another post).

If I’m really struggling to keep momentum but I can visualise scenes later in the plot then I make that shift and write those. Words are words are words, and I’ll do anything to keep going. Even if I want to give up 90% of the time.

What are your tips and tricks for handling a first draft?

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 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.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings

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 discussion, Uncategorized

Visting Charles Dickens

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Despite holding an English Literature degree, I’ve never really connected with any classic literature. The exception to that rule is Charles Dickens. I can’t quite explain what it is about his writing that whisks me off to another world, or why I find myself so fascinated with his life outside of writing, but it’s the way I’ve been wired ever since I studied Great Expectations in High School for exams.

Recently I took a visit to London for some theatre shows and, of course, I had to take a stop by the Charles Dickens museum at 48 Doughty Street. In 1837-1839, Charles Dickens used this house as a base as his popularity with his writing began to soar. During his time there, he wrote well-known works such as Oliver Twist.

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For £9.50, guests get to explore the various rooms that Dickens, his family, and his servants occupied. While likely biased, I found it well worth the money as you’re given a free guide that gives information and there are plenty of plaques around giving out a plethora of knowledge, a lot of which I didn’t have prior.  I was able to see the reading table Dickens used in his public performances, the desk he wrote some of his books at, the copyright contracts with his authors, what his books looked like in serial form, and some of the belongings from his main residence in Kent.

It was overwhelming to climb the stairs knowing that one of my favourite authors once lived and breathed here and I felt incredibly close to him. It was as if the years were rolling away and I was alongside him in the 1800s, in the hustle and bustle of a middle-class home.

I find these aspects of history so mind-blowing: that we have record, to an extent, of people who lived hundreds of years before we were born and these traces in the present day showed that they once existed. That, even though they have long since left the world, their memories and stories can live on forever; as long as people keep sharing them.

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Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

The Fear Of A Series Reboot…

We all have our series that we love with every piece of our heart. From Percy Jackson, to Harry Potter, Twilight to A Darker Shade of Magic. Ask any reader and I’m sure they’ll be able to name at least one that they constantly revisit. Sometimes, we yearn for the possible day when we might finally get to know what happens after the final book ends, and sometimes the ending is just so perfect that we can move on to the next adventure; satisfied with the outcome.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a book that I never would have picked up if it wasn’t for the announcement of a film adaption which would also be directed by Tim Burton. I was gifted the first book and entered the experience with trepidation because my tolerance for creepy/horror is not good. Frankly, I didn’t expect to fall in love with it the way that I did. The combination of prose and unusual photographs, the depth of the characters and world building had me completely hooked until I moved onto the next installment… and then the next.

While a very emotional reader, I don’t often cry at the end of a series but Library of Souls had me sobbing for an hour as I read the last paragraph over and over. It was perfect. It had the balance between getting answers, but also not knowing what happened next. Stories, just like events in life, are ambiguous in their endings. So when it was announced that Ransom Riggs would be rebooting the series with THREE new books following the same cast of characters I… had a bit of an anxiety attack. Which is really a stupid reason to have one.

For weeks I felt anxious about what this magical new fourth book, A Map Of Days, would be about. I avoided every possible mention of it let alone any snippets. Just the thought of more books genuinely made me sick. I went through the motions of whether I would even be able to read it. I went and bought it on the day of release and it has since sat on my TBR shelf, next to my Miss Peregrine figure, mocking me.

It’s a strange feeling to be so afraid of a reboot. But it’s more the What If’s: what if it’s terrible and runs how perfect the original ending was? What if the actions of the characters don’t marry up to what I expect? What if… What if… WHAT IF.

This is a very long, rambling way of me just putting my freak out into the world and now… I think it’s finally time to dive in.