Hello world

Hi everyone! So I’m in a fair bit of pain, having just done a practice DofE (Duke of Edinburgh) expedition at the weekend. However, I have finally submitted an article to my work after taking April off for emotional stuffs, so that’s making me feel a lot better.

How are you at the moment, dear reader?

Have a nice week, everyone!


Using Music For Inspiration

Music! Hans Christian Anderson famously said, “Where words fail, music speaks.” I agree, in some respects, but disagree wildly in others.

Music has been a source of inspiration for me for, well, as long as I can remember. I have songs downloaded onto my iPod which were used to inspire some of my earliest works. I still use music now, to accompany my writing, set the tone, inspire me, give me a time scale to stick to when I’m getting my stories from brain to paper.

Have you ever tried using music as you write? Some find it distracting, but that’s probably to do with the lyrics. Why not find a sound you like – white noise, 3 hours of jazz music (actually very relaxing), dolphin sounds – and listen to that as you write? It can block out other sounds as well.

If you’re stuck for what to write about, why not listen to a song? Lyrics alone are usually enough to inspire something, but set against the melody of the song can make them mean something else entirely. Perhaps it stirs a memory you can harness and put into words.

Now this point deviates away from “music” and goes to “why Hannah shouldn’t have YouTube”. If you need a sound effect of something you have never heard before in your life, it can be quite hard to write about… so search it. Search “machine gun fire sound effect” or “knitting needles” or “sound of a tattoo” (yes this is actually a thing and it made my brain hurt). Then put what you hear… into your writing! Simples! – well, simpler than making it up and it turning out you think getting a tattoo sounds like a lawn mower instead. Which, I think we can all agree, would be much more terrifying as it came into contact with your skin.

Perhaps it has never occurred to you to use music, or perhaps you didn’t like it. If you’re either of the two, I urge you to just try it once more. If you get distracted by lyrics, try an instrumental. If you’re still distracted, try listening to it before writing and then writing after. Music will probably relax you, so you might even find writing easier!

Music is a great source of just about everything: love, sex, hate, death, war, life, soul, animals. There’s something out there for everyone, and according to this website, around 2,100,000 songs have been released since 1940. That’s a lot to choose from – and that’s released. You may find your new favourite song from a teen artist who just stuck it up on YouTube to see what would happen. And perhaps that’ll be the story of how you’re next best seller was born: a musical prodigy.

Using Images For Inspiration
Using Words For Inspiration

Talk To Me, People?

Hello everyone!

Well, I have done it: reached 200+ followers on this blog! What an achievement! Can you believe I only started it in October 2013?! Thanks to each and every one of you for following, liking and, occasionally – wink wink – commenting! (Shout out to wildbaugh (or Jake w/e) for being the latest commenter! And of course to Herminia for being around a lot. Phew, this whole thing has got me being quite sentimental!)

I’d love to be able to reach out to you more – hence the title. Is there anything I can do for you all to help to interact? Goodness knows it’d help me, but I want it to help you, too! Any topics you want covered, books reviewed etc? Would you like more posts, posts about books vs. writing, more about writing life and less about writing technique?

I basically really like writing articles and want to write more, but – as you can probably tell from the mountains I’ve written here – I love to chat as well, especially about things I love. So………………. what can I do for you all?

I think that basically concludes today’s Monday post… Fun times, eh?

I’m going on a Duke of Edinburgh hike this weekend so won’t be online for the Friday post (though it’ll be posted – I’m about to get onto writing it, actually)! 🙂

Have a nice week all!

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett

Monstrous Regiment

Borogravia is at war – again – this time with the Zlobenians. Polly Perks has lost her brother, Paul, so she does the only logical thing: cut off all her hair, learn to belch and fart and join the army. How hard can it be?

But war is a deadly thing, and all they have on their side is a infamous sergeant and a terrifying vampire with a lust for coffee. The Monstrous Regiment have to use all their wits – and, of course, the secret they share – in order to survive.

This was the first Terry Pratchett novel I have ever read. I know, I know, shoot me, I haven’t lived, haven’t had a childhood etc. Well, at least I’m reading them now.

The first thing that struck me, which none of my friends who also read this for our club noticed, was that Pratchett doesn’t use chapters. Although this wouldn’t work for every novelist, it really does with his novels, and it made it read so, so well – in fact, I think chapters would have ruined it. I also found it interesting how no one noticed this: perhaps, if he had, we would have commented on how it broke up the writing. Just a small, writerly observation there.

I was about to move onto characters, but another thing I noted was the fact it was ‘aesthetically pleasing’. The actual lay out of the words on the page does, in some places, actually add to the reading of the novel and if it was just written plainly it would absolutely not have the same effect. Perhaps something to think about when writing my own…

Moving on to the characters. Each one of them had their own voice, from Polly to Wazzer to Jackrum to Maladict. Pratchett is incredible at bringing each one to life in their own way too: Lofty’s pyromania, Polly’s protectiveness, Maladict’s wittiness and all of their humour. I had different feelings for all of them, too: hate for Strappi, admiration for the Monstrous Regiment, even a slight wariness of Maladict!

Pratchett is famous for addressing issues in his writings, and I think Monstrous effectively addresses the issues of war, religion and feminism, through a satirical yet firm way. The topics provided a great source of debate for our group of readers, too. I really enjoyed his real life views in a fantasy world, and thought it worked incredibly effectively.

The subplots (I wrote ‘mini plots’ in my notes because I couldn’t remember the correct term of use…) were also effective in adding to the novel, but not taking away from the main plot. That’s how they should be done. I also loved, ironically, how there was no love interest for the protagonist, and instead for minor characters. Perfecto. A novel which doesn’t actually revolve around romance, but still has strong, independent, feisty, fantastic characters and a strong, main, brilliant plot! This is starting to sound like the ideal for #VeryRealisticYA. Except for the fact it’s a world on a turtle and four elephants. But there you go.

The next paragraph has spoilers so click if you dare/skip if you don’t.

One thing I wasn’t too keen on was the fact that so many of the ‘men’ turned out to be women. I would have liked some of the Monstrous Regiment to be, and one or two of the officers would have been nice, but it seemed almost too perfect that the entirety of the Regiment and many of the officers were. Even Jackrum (although that was a sweet twist). I understand what Pratchett was trying to show, but I don’t know how effective it was: certainly, all of my friends at the club didn’t like the vast amount of girls. As a specific example, I preferred Maladict as a boy!

[End of spoilers.]

Overall, I gave Monstrous Regiment 5 stars on Goodreads and I would definitely recommend it to any fantasy lovers! I’m definitely going to try and read some more Terry Pratchett novels, so expect to see some more recommendations in the future!

TITLE: Monstrous Regiment
AUTHOR: Terry Pratchett
PUBLISHER: Corgi Books
PRICE: £6.99
ISBN: 9780552149419
PERSONAL SOURCE: Borrowed from the library

Monstrous Regiment is the 31st in the Discworld series.

Monstrous Regiment is a book for my 2015 reading challenge: non-human characters. 

Using Words For Inspiration

So last week I did a post on Using Images For Inspiration. This week, however, I’m using words.

Obviously, words are the things that we use in novels (aside from Chopsticks, which, by the way, is very good (although I guess that raises the question of if it is a novel, but that’s for another time)). But some people do overlook them as a source for inspiration, especially in interesting ways…

Writing Magazine has a competition where they give you the first and last line and you write the end of the story.

You could always be given the plot and fill in the gaps?

Perhaps if you invent a lot of prompts, whenever you feel your writing pool becoming dry, you can just use one of those!

Listen. Listen around you, write down conversations. Something someone says, even in passing, may set of a spark in your brain. You never know, it could be the next best seller and you could be thanking the woman who stood behind you in the queue.

Google is, once again, your best friend. There are plenty of writing prompts on Tumblr, especially!

Ask people. Say, “hey, tell me something to write a story about.” Ask a few different people and mash them all together.

And I promised you guys last week a word generator, and here it is! (warning, contains flashing images) Have some fun with it!

Another thing you can try is the NaNoWriMo YWP front page and press ‘Dare Me!’ on the Dare Machine. Such fun!

Have fun with your words, guys!

(Next week… writing and music?)


Hello everyone!

Well, I haven’t written a Monday post for a while, but I have done Friday and Sunday ones so I’m proud of that. Same this weekend, although maybe I’ll do a Camp NaNoWriMo one to cheer on all those people who are doing it (sorry, I completely forgot last week!).

I feel like I don’t interact with you guys much any more though, so if there is anything I can do then please feel free to leave a comment below! 🙂

Have a nice week, all, and if you’re a student and back at school (I still have another week (but you guys did finish a week earlier than me, so…)) then I know it’s getting close to exam period so just remember you can do it! Work hard, play hard, though: have plenty of breaks and work in moderation. There’s no point in burning yourself out before you can be super awesome and get that A. 🙂

The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera

The Whale Rider

Kahutia Te Rangi didn’t wish to be a girl, but lo behold she was born one. She was named after the famous whale rider, who brought the Maori people to the East Coast of New Zealand. But Kahu longs for the love of the one person who refuses together: her grandfather. The Whale Rider is an exquisite tale of how one girl stands against the traditions of her tribe to reconnect them with their spiritual past.

The Whale Rider was the first book focused around the Maori culture and by a Maori author. I travelled to New Zealand in December 2013-January 2014 and was captivated by the culture, so of course I was eager to learn more and therefore read a book which had the centre point was tradition.

The first thing I realised I had to do, however, was take a note of the time period. I don’t know why, but I kept assuming that this book was set within the present day – ie, with high-tech computers and mobile phones etc. But no, it was actually written in 1986! Just something to look out for – especially as it explores the topic of racism in brutal detail (based in Papua New Guinea).

Okay and now onto the actual novel. The ‘main’ character in this, Kahu (it’s not told from her POV, but more on him later), didn’t actually seem to be in it much, in detail at least. Her actual story was scattered throughout. Now, this works in both ways: in one, it meant that her story was told in an interesting way with detail about the MC’s life, but Kahu’s story was still told in enough detail to understand that it was about her. However, it also meant that the focus was taken off her, despite everything that happened being related to her in some way. Anyway, I liked her nevertheless.

Onto the MC – although the story was about him, I felt that we learnt more about the characters around him that him himself (I should stop using the pronoun ‘him’. His name is actually Rawiri).This is the type of book I have wanted to find for a long time: one in which the main character isn’t actually the main character. If you get my drift. I really liked it, actually.

To the writing style now: which I loved. It was humourous (such as Nanny Flowers and Koro – a comedy duo if I have ever read about one!). There were just quite a few lines which genuinely made me laugh out loud (I got a few odd looks from busing companions). It’s a genuinely funny book. The style was also catchy, and the short chapters (well, some were) made it quite quick to read (especially as it is novella length). However, the author incorporates Maori language into the text, which, while being different and interesting, can be a bother if you’re constantly flicking back to the glossary (not to mention the fact that some words aren’t in there). Still, I have learnt some of the language, which is actually rather beautiful.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Whale Rider – it’s an interesting read (although the film adaption looks TERRIBLE!) and I would recommend it for children and adolescents. It’s not a jump-in-your-face kind of read, more laid back, but perfectly for a chapter or two before you turn the light out at night.

TITLE: The Whale Rider
AUTHOR: Witi Ihimaera
PUBLISHER: Reed Publishing
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 1987 (this edition 2007)
PRICE: £6.99
ISBN: 978-0-7900-0868-4
PERSONAL SOURCE: Borrowed from my mum’s shelves

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

If I told you that Ava Lavender was a family history novel, you would probably turn away in disgust and look for a more exciting book, filled with action and adventure. What if I told you it was told in such an entertaining, gripping way that you wouldn’t be able to put it down? It includes the supernatural? People die in gruesome manners? Now do I have your attention?

To me, this book was the brain child of Walton and was an amazing idea: it’s inventive, imaginative and completely different to anything else I have ever read with hypnotic, lyrical prose and a gnawing in my stomach to keep turning the page. The characters were each to their own as it were; vivid, unique and completely 3D. Essentially, it contains the stories of Ava, her mother and her grandmother (there’s even a handy family tree in the front of it) and branches of their history (such as Ava’s brother or her grandmother’s loves). The stories are fascinating, new, and utterly gripping.

I seem to be using the same vocabulary over and over again. Maybe that tells you something.

The main story…well, as aforementioned, there wasn’t one: there was three. But you could so clearly tell they interlinked that it seemed as if there was only one overall. Other stories branched off, and although they didn’t always add to the plot, they always added to the story and enhanced it for the reader.

The awesome main character, Ava, was just cool in my book. She has wings, she is kept locked up but she is very intelligent. I thought she was the perfect persona for the novel and really enjoyed reading in her voice. However, this MC did raise a few unanswered questions, the biggest being: how on earth did she know all of this about her mum, grandmum and other characters? I think the author’s response would be something like, “Well, she’s magical. She just does,” but I would like to know.

Something else I liked about this novel was the fact that it was spiritual but not religious. It was a personal enjoyment to not be lectured about God (I don’t mind if people believe in Him, but I don’t want to be lectured into why I should/should not as I have yet to discover for myself) and to have the spiritual side described and explored in a new way. Certainly, even the descriptions of death were tragically astounding.

And now we get onto my completely personal notes. In my review notes, right after I had finished the book, I wrote, ‘AMAZINGLY HAPPY ENDING WHOOP WHOOP YIPPEE DI DOO DAH FANTASTICAL LOVE [THE] TWIST’. I think that just about sums up Ava Lavender for you: a fantastically beautiful tale of love and loss and all of the things in between as Ava discovers how to understand the world in a world that doesn’t understand her.

Basically, just read it.

TITLE: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
AUTHOR: Leslye Walton
PUBLISHER: Candlewick Press (Walker Books)
PRICE: £7.99
ISBN: 978-1-4063-5773-8
PERSONAL SOURCE: Borrowed from the library

Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen by Sophie Hannah

Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen

Chloe hasn’t had much luck with men, so when the enigmatic Tom saves her and her daughter, she may or may not fall the slightest bit in love with him. He dashes off again, and afterwards she decides she has to thank him, but instead of finding Tom she finds a woman called Nadine Caspian who warns her to stay away from him. He’s dangerous, she says: don’t tell him anything. Chloe thinks she probably should walk away, but, well, she doesn’t.

Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen was the first work by Sophie Hannah I have read, and I was inspired to pick it up when I saw a man before me in a library queue return some books by her, so I headed off to find her Quick Read (ok, so I already knew she had written one). Although  I only gave this Quick Read 3 stars on GoodReads, I think I might try reading some of her others; 123 pages of large fonted text doesn’t exactly give you much to flesh out a novel, and I think with another subplot or two, this work would have been better, although it was a nice, short, quick read (puns!) and I finished it in a day.

Was it a crime, or a thriller? Not really. I was expecting more excitement and tension: the main plot wasn’t exactly to my liking. Lies? Sure, they can be exciting and can make for a good plot, but I didn’t really like how they were written in this book. I would love for Sophie Hannah’s other novels to be more blood-rushing.

Onto the characters. The protagonist, Chloe, seemed a bit slow on the uptake to me: I guessed whodunit way before her. She also didn’t really stand up for herself, which I didn’t take to. Lorna, her “best friend” was, to be perfectly honest, a bit of a bitch. If this had been a longer work, I would have loved for Hannah to sort out their friendship and explore Lorna more. Tom, the love interest, was an enigmatic, attractive character. He might have been a bit forward, and I think that if I had met someone like that in real life, I would have asked him to steady himself up! Another character I really liked was Simon, who comes in later in the story, because I think he was rather like me to be honest.

The romance aspect of this short was also something I liked. A love interest always gives readers something to root for, and it did once again in this case!

Finally, the ending of the novel (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it) was, whilst resolved, unsatisfying for me, personally. I felt like Hannah rushed the final page or two, and therefore it wasn’t my favourite ending ever. Even just an extra paragraph would have made it more satisfying.

Overall, I would recommend this to readers looking to try mystery/thriller books but aren’t sure. I like the Quick Reads series, but sometimes they are too short to be good for me. Still, it’s a nice little read and I’ll be trying more of Hannah’s in the future, I think.

TITLE: Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen
AUTHOR: Sophie Hannah
PUBLISHER: Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN: 978-1-473-60353-0
PERSONAL SOURCE: Borrowed from the library

Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen is a book read for the 2015 Reading Challenge: a book published in 2015.