November Wrap Up

So I am now back from Australia and if you would like to read all about my travels you can read my holiday post. When I came back from Australia I had a bunch of parcels in the mail, most of which were expected apart from 1 which was a random package from Hodder and Stoughton which was a few merch-y type things to promote Laini Taylor’s upcoming release Strange the Dreamer. Sadly something happened in transport because everythng was sticky but I’m still super happy that they sent it to me.

After last month’s Fairyloot (follow me on instagram for fairyloot unboxings, make up hauls and my everyday life) I ordered a bunch of Meraki Candles, which are book inspired. They all smell so good, I got Jamie Fraser, Rowan, Rhysand, The Burrow and Draco. Apart from Draco the male fragrances are all quite masculine scents which I’m normally not a fan of but they smell so perfectly like the character that I love them. Draco is a mint chocolate smell which is just so Draco and also yummy at the same time. And I don’t want to talk about how good The Burrow smells.

 

A few days ago I hit 250 followers which I’m of course buzzing about, I can’t believe all of your follow my posts and like my posts and comment. I can’t thank you enough. I wasn’t sure if anyone would care when I started a book blog but here we are.

If you’ve watched Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, HOW GOOD WAS IT, I was crying a lot of the time. And I just saw Fantastic Beasts and adored it. I originally wasn’t interested in getting the screenplay as it’s a bit of a money grabbing ploy but I want it. Eddie Redmayne was so perfect, I adore him.

How was your November?

This month I read:

Sugar Free by Sawyer Bennett
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
All The King’s Men by Alex Powell
Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin
A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Bernard
Christmas at the Little Wedding Shop by Jane Linfoot
Fifteen Words by Monika Jephcott Thomas
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Kill the Boyband by Goldy Moldavsky 

Books I bought:

The Distance Between Us by Kaisie West
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Lady in the Van by Alan Bennett
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi

I posted reviews for previous month’s reads:

You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
We Were on a Break by Lindsey Kelk
Half Bad by Sally Green
Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz
Cress by Marissa Meyer
The Bronze Key by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

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The Bronze Key by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Again this felt very similar to the previous 2 novels in the series. They’re so short though that it’s not boring. Everything was moving super quickly in this book that I really wasn’t sure with pacing and timing and just when things were happening.

Like with the previous books there is a lot of thought about good vs. evil and thinking about how your actions define you as a person. I think this discussion is really important for younger readers, it’s an imperative thing to learn as a kid, I believe, knowing that one wrong decision doesn’t make you evil, who your parents are doesn’t make you a bad person.

With this book the series has became a lot darker, there is death very close to the main story line right from the start. I like when books for younger markets grow darker as I feel like kids can be a bit too sheltered. This book is aimed at 11+ and so many kids even at that age have experienced loss and whilst it’s important for kids to read books getting away from those experiences it’s also good for them to find comfort in other people going through the same problems.

The way this book ends is just a huge shock, like I don’t know what direction the series is going to go in now after that and I’m excited but also scared. I don’t know how the events in this book are going to change the characters I know and love.

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Fifteen Words Blog Tour | Monika Jephcott Thomas Guest Post & Review | The Difficulties of Researching for History Novels

If you’ve read my reviews of Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys and Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin you will know that I have a keen interest in Nazi Germany and the time surrounding the second world war, so when I was contacted to see if I would be interested in taking part in this blog tour I replied very quickly. Thank you to Rachel Gilbert at authoright and Clink Street Publishing for arranging this and for sending me a copy of the book. And thanks to Monika for writing this post for me. 

Summary:

Two young doctors form a profound and loving bond in Nazi Germany; a bond that will stretch them to the very limits of human endurance. Catholic Max – whose religious and moral beliefs are in conflict, has been conscripted to join the war effort as a medic, despite his hatred of Hitler’s regime. His beloved Erika, a privileged young woman, is herself a product of the Hitler Youth. In spite of their stark differences, Max and Erika defy convention and marry.

But when Max is stationed at the fortress city of Breslau, their worst nightmares are realised; his hospital is bombed, he is captured by the Soviet Army and taken to a POW camp in Siberia. Max experiences untold horrors, his one comfort the letters he is allowed to send home: messages that can only contain Fifteen Words. Back in Germany, Erika is struggling to survive and protect their young daughter, finding comfort in the arms of a local carpenter. Worlds apart and with only sparse words for comfort, will they ever find their way back to one another, and will Germany ever find peace?
Fifteen Words is a vivid and intimate portrayal of human love and perseverance, one which illuminates the German experience of the war, which has often been overshadowed by history.


One of the main difficulties of researching for historical fiction is just that – the research! Or more specifically getting bogged down in the research. Research is important of course and reality is so often stranger than fiction, which is why history provides such good fodder for novelists, but at the end of the day we are writing historical fiction. As a reader, if you want to read a history book, I would suggest you don’t pick up a novel. As a writer, I would suggest, that as soon as something you research sparks your imagination, get writing and stop researching. I often have blank spaces in the pages I write; spaces where a fact or detail needs to be added, but it is not so vital to keep me from actually writing the drama my characters are going through. Later on, after the writing is done, I can go back and fill in the blanks. The internet, being just a click away, is a very tempting and useful tool, but it can lead you down labyrinths that are a massive distraction sometimes. It’s better not to go there until after or before your actual writing time.

There is another difficulty with researching history and that is the history books themselves. As we all know, history can be a very subjective thing, open to interpretation and manipulation by historians, depending on their political and cultural bias. Every few decades, top secret documents are released to the public under the Freedom of Information Act, the 30 year rule, etc and we find ourselves a little closer to the truth; a little more aware of how history is not as black and white as we might have thought.

That’s why I think some of the greatest tools for research are photographs. During the research for my novel Fifteen Words, set in Germany during the last days of the Second World War and the few years after it, I would pore for hours over photos found in archives, on the internet and in my families own collections. Luckily, the age of photography was still reasonably young in the early-mid twentieth century, so the photos I saw could not have been doctored; and as such they are often the most honest and objective interpretation of the past we can find. Photos are so full of stuff to inspire your imagination; full of details that can populate your descriptions. Use them!

Private letters are similarly useful, as they can help you imagine the voices of your characters, the vocabulary they might use, the turns of phrase they might employ. Private letters often can tell us what kind of issues occupied the minds of people during the eras you are writing about. For example, nearly all of the letters in my novel Fifteen Words are near transcriptions of genuine ones I found in archives. I would match a letter to the appropriate character, or sometimes a letter I stumbled across inspired a whole new turn of events in the book.

So while the details are important, getting inside the characters is so much more important. And the best research you can do for this is to look inside yourself because, although there may be many decades or even centuries which separate you and your characters, human beings are, and always have been, very similar, beneath all the wonderful and incredible cultural and physical differences we possess. That is why if, as a writer, you can set down emotions that you have felt in a clear and honest way, readers from any part of the globe and from any epoch in the future should be able to relate to and be moved by them.

Review

This was a really interesting book. It had similar experiences in into Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, being put in POW camps by Russians for long periods of time. However this is a different novel, it follows Erika as well who remains in Germany and it was good to read about someone remaining in Germany and seeing what happened when the Americans took control of it.

Throughout the book there is the recurring theme of “Fifteen words” and how important a simple 15 words are which I thought was an important subject as people forget how important words are, how much can change with just a few simple words. It was a good reminder to watch what you say.

Overall I found this a fairly slow read, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it is a heavy read and something that really needs to be paid attention to. You can’t just gloss over pages in this book like I occasionally do as it’s a difficult subject. Something that hit me with this book is that there’s a couple of mentions of one of their friends having same sex relations down back alleys and the like which I thought was a really good addition to the story because obviously being gay isn’t a new thing and I think it’s often glossed over in history.

We get to see from the POVs of Max and Erika and on the whole I didn’t really like Erika. She makes some decisions that I wasn’t a fan of and I found it hard to like her after that, especially when I’m reading from Max’s POV every other chapter. I got really attached to Max actually, like I really looked forward to his chapters.

I wish there was maybe 1 or 2 more chapters more for this book but that’s just me. I felt like it just ended and I just wanted that little bit extra after the ending. All in all this was an eye opening read.

Fifteen Words by Monika Jephcott Thomas published by Clink Street Publishing, out now

 

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Cress by Marissa Meyer 

Honestly I don’t feel like there’s much I can say about this book without posting too many spoilers. I feel like The Lunar Chronicles has hit it’s stride with this book. I was on the edge of my seat for the majority of reading this. With previous novels in the series I found them slow occasionally but I didn’t find that at all with Cress.

Throughout the series I have really enjoyed the way Meyer has interwoven the fairytale elements within the sci-fi story. As I was reading I would find myself going “ohhhh yeah that happens in the original” and appreciating how it was written to fit in. On top of that there is your classic YA fantasy shocks from characters that you have known for 2 books now and didn’t expect them to do. Most of the novel is set in Africa which I enjoyed as Africa isn’t a common setting.

Cress is a lovely character, she’s sweet and naive without being annoying. I thought she worked perfectly in the group, she brings something new as both Scarlet and Cinder are loud personalities and are confident in themselves whereas Cress who has been living in a Satellite most of her life doesn’t really know much about life and has problems with her self esteem.

My one issue is that everyone is pairing off and they’re all straight pairings. Though they are all sweet I know that these are all fairytale retellings of straight stories but I feel like Meyer maybe could have put a little twist in there with some sexuality diversity.

I’m really excited to read Winter but I’m going to put it off for a little while just because it is fucking huge. It’s like 850 pages or something like that and I’ve read a few big books lately.

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Australia Holiday Post

So I mentioned it a couple times but if you didn’t know, I just came back from a 3 week holiday to Australia. I wanted to go to Australia because 2 of my closest friends live there and obviously I don’t get to see them much so I thought as I was taking time away from my studies when is a better time to travel to the other side of the planet?

I stayed in Brisbane for the majority of the time because that’s where my friends live but we went to Melbourne and Sydney for 3 days each. It was so hot but it was manageable for the most part, I was glad that I went in late Spring instead of Summer because damn I couldn’t deal with it any hotter than it was.

On the third day of my holiday we went to Movieworld for Fright Night just outside of Gold Coast and on the first and only ride we went on, a kids coaster, my phone fell out. So we went to guest services and they told us to come back when the rides shut, so we did that and every single time we went back they said they hadn’t searched yet and postponed it. Then I kept phoning them the next day and they kept saying they hadn’t looked yet. Then finally 2 days later I phoned and they’d found it but because we were going to Sydney we couldn’t go pick it up so they shipped it by courier. Then it didn’t arrive before going to Melbourne because the postman literally didn’t even deliver one day mysteriously. Eventually I got my phone back in perfect condition which was a complete shock as we were all expecting it to have smashed.

We went to 2 zoos when I was there: Australia Zoo in Queensland, which is the zoo that Steve Irwin was involved in, and Taronga Zoo in Sydney. I’ll be honest and say there was only one reason I wanted to go to Taronga and that was to see Quokka, they’re one of my favourite animals. I want to go to Perth one day just so I can get selfies with Quokka. As you can see from my pics I got to chill with some kangaroos and koalas.

It was honestly just so great spending time with my friends, I’ve known Brigitte since 2009 when we started speaking thanks to Camp Rock fanfiction. Of course it was sweet getting to go to Australia but it was just cool to see them.

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Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz 

Thank you to Netgalley and Mira Ink for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review. Something in Between was a very hyped up book that was definitely on my radar because it’s about a family in the US facing deportation, not a subject I read about in books regularly. There are mild spoilers in this review.

Jasmine is a Filipino girl who dreams of going to Stanford, when she finds out she’s on a list of top students across the whole country she’s obviously jazzed. However when she goes home to tell her parents they break the news to her that she can’t accept the scholarship that comes with this prize as they are living in the US illegally. She goes on a trip to Washington as part of the prize to meet the President and whilst there she meets Royce, a dyslexic boy who sweeps her off her feet, but then everything comes crashing down.

For the most part I liked this book, at times I felt like things that happened were a bit expected or ridiculous or just a bit off but the overall themes themselves were just super important. The glimpse into the the troubles faced by people living illegally in the US was something that I hadn’t seen much of anywhere. Of course there are documentaries but those aren’t mainstream.

One thing that really bothered me was that when Jas’ family made it to their trial everything that happened felt like a snipe at Jas. She’d just found out that Royce might have been able to help her so everything the judge said seemed to be like telling Jas she should’ve asked Royce for help. It all just felt a bit contrived. Which I seemed to find in a lot of moments in this book, like Jas was being prosecuted just for her mistakes.

Jas is part of the cheer team on her school and they have a really good team spirit. The girls support each other and don’t hate each other just for the sake of being catty like in so many books and movies with cheer teams. Jas has a female best friend who means a lot to her and helps her out a lot and I’m so happy that this book has positive female relationships because I think that’s very important for young girls to read. As I mentioned previously Royce is dyslexic but apart from a couple of moments it’s not a big thing. It’s not ignored but it’s also not a big deal, he just is dyslexic. 

Honestly I wish this book didn’t have the cringey moments that it had because it let down the plot and themes. I hope there are more books like this one so that young people know about what happens to immigrants, obviously there has been a lot of immigration talk over the last few years but people who are already in the countries they’re illegally in aren’t talked about as much. 

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Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

This was my first Colleen Hoover book and I completely understand why everyone loves her; her writing is so addicting.

Tate moves in with her brother to try and get herself back on her feet after breaking up with her boyfriend. She meets her next door neighbor on her door mat who she instantly has this weird love/hate chemistry with. They start up a friends with benefits relationship

This book is told in 2 POVs and 2 different timelines, we see the modern day story from Tate’s POV and 6 years ago from Miles’ POV. It was really interesting to read it this way, I’ve not really read stuff like this. It really helped with the build up, not only was there a build up in the modern day to the big fight, and then there’s the bid build up to the past for the big heartbreaking event which made Miles the guy he is.

I read this book so fast, I could not put it down. I read romance novels so quickly when they’re good, and this one was really good. There were some really sweet moments. There was also some really hot moments as there is sex in this novel, however of course there were some bits where I cringed. I don’t know what it is about novels but I always find book sex a lot more cringey than fanfiction sex. I will actively search smutty fanfictions but in books I don’t mind if there is no sex, though I do enjoy when they start getting a bit hot and heavy when kissing.

I loved that Miles was an airline pilot, mostly because I love the idea of shagging a pilot whilst on a layover. It was a different career for me to read as I mostly read YA and you aren’t going to find 16 year old pilots anytime soon.

Can we just talk about covers for 2 seconds? The British cover is so damn ugly and makes it look like a really awful romance novel, the American cover looks so much better and also goes with the plot, though I can’t discuss that because spoilers.

After reading this I am desperate to read more Colleen Hoover but there’s only one other book by her in my library and her books are super expensive in the UK for some reason.

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