Posted in contemporary, review, young adult

On The Come Up – Angie Thomas

“One song is sometimes all it takes. I’ve got one song.”

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Blurb: “Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.”

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, I’m sure you’re aware of New York Times Best-Selling Author Angie Thomas. Her debut, The Hate U Give is still thriving and even lead to a successful film adaptation.

Her new book, On The Come Up, is an set within the same town of Garden Height as The Hate U Give and while there are many nods to it, this story is its own entity. The reader is introduced to Bri: a teenage girl who is trying to break onto the rap scene. Given all the expectations already placed on her because of her race, music is the one aspect of her life that Bri feels she can fully control.

Bri focuses a lot on the outside elements that directly led to the people in her life being led down the wrong paths. For example, if a drug dealer hadn’t sold to Bri’s mother, she wouldn’t have become an addict. She’s sick of everything already being decided about who she is and what she should do and it takes a while in the story for Bri to finally come out and say it. The moments when she opens up about being a “race poster girl” and being vulnerable are beautiful parts to see.

Angie Thomas has a truly incredible way of writing characters and every single one of them has so much personality that it’s almost impossible to believe they’re not real people. They all have so much energy  and I think a lot of this comes from the brilliant audiobook narration from Bahni Turpin.

My knowledge of rap lies solely in the musical Hamilton so it was really fun and fascinating to see the rap battles (one of which is my favourite scenes in the book) and to learn how rap songs are constructed, especially when it’s on the fly. A big bonus of the audiobook is that Bahni Turpin actually raps the lyrics which added so much to the experience especially when it came to the rhythm which is something I feel is lost to the readers who opt for the book in a written form.

Angie Thomas has delivered another incredible book and I cannot wait to see what else comes from her brain.

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Posted in Charlotte Writes Things

Charlotte Writes Things | The Skeleton

“Overnight sucess is almost always a myth. Half of this industry is luck, and half is the refusal to quit.” – V.E.Schwab

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When it comes to new ideas I always start with what I call “the skeleton.” My stories nearly always begin with an initial concept or a random line; sometimes it ends up being a possible lead character just for my brain to change the game up a little. Slowly but surely, I start to build the framework.

I always focus on populating the world first- from characters to locations- to maybe even a central plot point that I have fully fleshed out in my mind before then moving on to the next stage which I call “the meat” (more on that in another post). I refer to this point in my planning as “the skeleton” because it’s all about getting those bones and putting them roughly in the right place so that everything can function below the surface.

It’s always the longest part of planning for me because I can’t start working on a story until I have enough of the proverbial map filled out to know where I’m going. Sometimes all the framework elements come within a couple of weeks from the initial idea or character motivation, others (like a project I’m currently working on) have taken several years to get to the point where I can even consider writing.

How do you tackle planning? Do you have a particular order things need to be done in? Or do you not even plan and instead chose to wing it?

Posted in children's fiction, review

The 1,000 Year Old Boy – Ross Welford

“Would you like to live forever? I am afraid I cannot recommend it. I am used to it now, and I do understand how special it is. Only I want it to stop now. I want to grow up like you.”

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Blurb: “Alfie Monk is like any other nearly teenage boy – except he’s 1,000 years old and can remember the last Viking invasion of England. Obviously no one believes him. So when everything Alfie knows and loves is destroyed in a fire, and the modern world comes crashing in, Alfie embarks on a mission to find friendship, acceptance, and a different way to live…which means finding a way to make sure he will eventually die.”

The 1,000 Year Old Boy poses the interesting question to the reader of “what would you do if you could live forever but don’t want to any more?” I’ve read so many books over the years that feature immortal characters but never one where the individual really battles with the prospect of giving it up.

The story is told through two perspectives: A 1000 year old boy called Alfie and an 11 year old boy called Adrian. Naturally, Alfie speaks like he’s lived for a thousands years. He’s reserved and mature, speaking with a lilt of sadness. Whereas Adrian is sarcastic and has naivety flowing through his narrative. The use of this format works wonders for the plot as the reader gets an insight into Alfie’s past and how he tackles the modern day, while also getting to see how Alfie looks and acts on the outside through Adrian who doesn’t know him. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Chris Coxon and Luke Johnson, which only added to this distinction.

The side character of Roxy swiftly became my favourite. She is bold, courageous and smart. She reminded me so much of Hermione from the Harry Potter series as she often comes up with plans or points out things missed by Adrian and she was just an absolute joy to read. I imagine if I read this book as a child, she would be the character I’d look up to the most.

The 1,000 Year Old Boy has the regular amount of humour expected from Ross Welford’s work. But it is also littered with sadness as tragic events mean that Alfie has outlived everyone he’s ever known and loved. It’s a heartbreaking read and incredibly understandable that Alfie was trying to find a way to end his mortality by tracking down one of the last life pearls.

This is a tale about facing difficult decisions, learning to do what’s right, and finding friendship in unexpected places.

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Posted in children's fiction, fantasy, review

Percy Jackson & The Sea Of Monsters – Rick Riordan

“Family are messy. Immortal families are eternally messy. Sometimes the best we can do is remind each other that we’re related for better or for worse… and try to keep the maiming and killing to a minimum.”

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Blurb: “Starring Percy Jackson, a “half blood” whose mother is human and whose father is the God of the Sea, Riordan’s series combines cliffhanger adventure and Greek mythology lessons that results in true page-turners that get better with each installment. In this episode, The Sea of Monsters, Percy sets out to retrieve the Golden Fleece before his summer camp is destroyed, surpassing the first book’s drama and setting the stage for more thrills to come.”

The Percy Jackson series is one that I’ve gone back and forth on for the longest time because my knowledge of Greek mythology is limited very much to musical numbers from Disney’s Hercules. Just over a year ago I listened to the first installment on audiobook and thoroughly enjoyed it. So it feels only right to finally make my way back to this world under the same format.

It’s not often in these kind of stories that the protagonist becomes my favourite characters, but I absolutely adore Percy. He has the right kind of fight and stepping up to the legacy of his father who is a literal Greek god, along with having these perfect moments of sarcasm when he finds himself in ridiculous situations. I think a lot of this has to do with Jesse Bernstein’s narrations which really do wonders for bringing him to life.

I continue to marvel at the way this world has started to branch out and flesh out the surrounding characters while also giving Percy that room to feel a little lost: he may know who his father is now, but that doesn’t mean his father wants to be around him. When Percy has the opportunity to solve the problems in Camp Half Blood by going on a quest to the sea of monsters, of course he puts himself forward for it. Naturally, any place called the “sea of monsters” is not a fun walk in the park and I loved seeing all the different threads that Rick Riordan filtered into this story.

I loved seeing the alliances start to build and the rivalries that I can see causing a lot of problem in the future books as everyone was trying to track down this fleece that could restore Camp Half Blood to its former glory.

The only part where I really struggle with these books is my lack of knowledge when it comes to Greek mythology. While brief explanations are given, I still find it hard to keep track of everything. I also feel that if I knew a lot about the subject I would get a lot more out of this series. However, that doesn’t stop me finding this world compelling enough to venture on, no matter how scared I am about what might be waiting around the corner.

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Posted in Charlotte Writes Things

Charlotte Writes Things | Writing Playlists

“There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.” – Doris Lessing.

writing playlists

When it comes to sitting down and committing to writing sprints, silence is my enemy. That seemingly never-ending quiet just makes it all too easy for my mind to drift, for me to pull open a window and call down the internet’s many rabbit holes, and make me feel almost uncomfortable. I can’t pinpoint the how or the why I work better with some sort of background noise (often I multi-task and catch up on my TV shows/ movies while working away at my laptop), but it’s always been the way and so I decided to embrace it many a year ago.

Joining the online book community and seeing how many of my author inspirations  created playlists to act as the soundtrack for their books was really interesting. It had become a norm. While I’ve recently gone down the same route for my own projects to help me get into the right mindset for the varying narratives, my absolute gem for writing sessions is my generic “writing playlist” which is a compilation of my favourite score music from films.

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Backed up by Harry Potter, The Book Thief, The Maze Runner, How To Train Your Dragon score tracks, I am able to become fully immersed in the worlds I’m creating and treat it as something serious that I’m working on rather than just a cute little hobby (but of course there’s nothing wrong with that)! It helps to block out everything around me while I weave the various threads of an every changing world together. And that is its own form of magic.

Do you have any special requirements in order to write?

Do you indulge in music or is silence golden?

Posted in contemporary, review, young adult

Girls With Sharp Sticks – Suzanne Young

“You are perfection personified,” she continues, “and we must ask that you act like it.”

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Blurb:”The Girls of Innovations Academy are beautiful and well-behaved—it says so on their report cards. Under the watchful gaze of their Guardians, the all-girl boarding school offers an array of studies and activities, from “Growing a Beautiful and Prosperous Garden” to “Art Appreciation” and “Interior Design.” The girls learn to be the best society has to offer. Absent is the difficult math coursework, or the unnecessary sciences or current events. They are obedient young ladies, free from arrogance or defiance. Until Mena starts to realize that their carefully controlled existence may not be quite as it appears.”

[AD – GIFTED]

Trigger Warnings: Violence, emotional abuse, gore.

Innovations Academy requires girls to work towards being the perfect sponsorship investment upon their graduation. Their diets are strict (no additives in their own meals but they must learn how to cook a hearty flavourful meal for a future husband), dating is strictly forbidden, no access to the internet because their future sponsor/husband will give them all the relevant news information they need. They’re not allowed to leave the property except for the very rare trips to the town where their movements are carefully monitored.

The protagonist, Philomena, is coming to the end of her time at the academy but feels her opinions of the teachings she’s been given start to waver after bumping into a boy called Jackson at a gas station. He’s completely different to what she’s been trained to believe boys and men act like and suddenly everything is under a magnifying glass. For the majority of this book, Philomena was difficult for me to get behind because she didn’t have much personality. However, I think this is more the fault of the situation she’s in than her exclusively as a character because once she starts to pick apart what’s really going on she becomes a much more well-rounded character and I was rooting for her by the end.

It’s a very quiet, slow book but when it hits that climax I was unable to process what was happening. The inner workings of this place are something I never saw coming and it was refreshing to read a YA book of this ilk that had something completely different in that big reveal.

There’s some LGBT representation as two of the girls are in a secret lesbian relationship and while this is mentioned briefly, it’s more of a sideline thing to show some girls doing the opposite of what they’re being told and it would have been nice to see this get played out more.

My favourite scene in the book was when the girls get their hands on a women’s magazine and start reading an article about how to work out if you’re good at oral sex or not. It was a little bit of exposure to a world they didn’t know existed and it was so funny.

Girls With Sharp Sticks shows the importance of friendship, the power of literature and taking back what was once taken from you.

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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 fantasy, review, young adult

Every Heart A Doorway – Seanan McGuire

“Hope means you keep on holding to things that won’t ever be so again, and so you bleed an inch at a time until there’s nothing left.”

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Blurb:”Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children. Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.”

Nancy is one of many children who have opened up doors and found themselves in another world. After being spat out out of a universe in which death surrounds her, she is now expected to return to life as normal and forget everything she uncovered. Sadly, it’s not that easy and her parents ship her off to the Wayward Home for Children; which is basically a sanatorium for girls in similar situations.

Every Heart A Doorway has incredible set up and the information being delivered through dialogue not only prevents heavy exposition dumps, but gives room for readers to feel out this new place along with the protagonist. As children start to turn up dead I was just hooked on all the possible ways this story could go. It does have very gory moments that feel played up very much for shock value until the threads start to tie together and the relevance of the horror emerges.

This book gave me serious Coraline and Miss Peregrine vibes because every girl in the home is adapting to the “real world” again after coming back from a door, and it had this creepy air of mystery and dark magic to it.

The only grievance I really had was that the story is too short. It feels almost like a short story than a full length book and it reached its peak just as it ended. I would have liked more time to flesh out the surrounding characters and learn more about them as the ones that were given backstories were super interesting.

Every Heart A Doorway is equal parts creepy and intriguing but will keep you in its clutches until the final page.

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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 poetry, review

Date & Time – Phil Kaye

“every moment trips
over its own announcement
again and again and again
until it just hangs there
in the center
of the room as if what you had
to say had no
gravity at all.”

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Blurb:”Phil Kaye’s debut collection is a stunning tribute to growing up, and all of the challenges and celebrations of the passing of time, as jagged as it may be. Kaye takes the reader on a journey from a complex but iridescent childhood, drawing them into adolescence, and finally on to adulthood. There are first kisses, lost friendships, hair blowing in the wind while driving the vastness of an empty road, and the author positioned in the middle, trying to make sense of it all.”

I discovered Phil Kaye, like coincidentally all my favourite poets, through the Button Poetry Youtube channel. Continuing to blossom on the American poetry scene, Phil Kaye now presents his debut collection to the public.

Date & Time focuses on… well exactly what it says in the title. The concept of time is explored with Phil Kaye sharing small moments from his life in a non-linear sense. This is because while time passes by chronologically, we, as humans, are constantly looking back on significant moments in our lives or looking forward to the future with fear and uncertainty in our hearts.

This is also shown through the clever arrangement of the the book as it is split into three parts: End, Beginning, and Middle. I really loved taking this idea as the essential idea of this debut and it feels like the perfect fit given the many poems I’ve seen Phil Kaye perform in the online spaces. The “end” opens the reader to a life lived, waiting for that moment to fade away while taking time to notice in passing the events and relationships that ended long before this one.  The “beginning” depicts Phil Kaye’s early life and the childlike wonder and hope that feels all consuming before adulthood snatches them away. The “middle” represents the fork in the road: we know where we have been, but not exactly where we are going just yet.

My favourite poems from Date & Time are as follows:

“Internet Speaks Back To The Author, 2018” looks at what has been physically lost from loves to forgotten memories, and shines a light on loneliness and how the internet can reinforce that feeling.

“Repetition” is one of my all time favourite poems from Phil Kaye. It focuses on how repeating certain actions or words can cause them to lose their meaning: how if you are always up to see the sunrise then it just becomes morning, or saying “i love you” too much it becomes a hello or goodbye in a rush to somewhere else.

“My Grandmother’s Ballroom” depicts a family member’s mind as a ballroom full of people representing their memories and how they all fall apart as illness strips the mind apart.

“Yellow Bouquet” is about a boy in an arcade turning the money he’s made from the machines into a collection of rubbish with no value, but it makes him unable to wait to grow up.

Date & Time is a strong debut from Phil Kaye and I cannot wait to see where he goes next.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings