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March/April book recs

Book recs time, again! I didn’t do a recs post for March, so I’ve decided to do March and April in a single post. So without further ado…

Jupiter Storm, by Marti Dumas 

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Jupiter Storm is a pleasant little kids’ book which made for a fast and enjoyable read. It follows one Jacquelyn (“Jackie”) Marie Johnson, an inquisitive and mature ten-year-old girl who discovers a “chrysallegg” on some snapdragons out in her family’s back garden. Jackie takes the “chrysallegg” into her room and watches it grow, becoming more and more obsessed and protective of it as the creature inside prepares to hatch. And when that creature does hatch, Jackie immediately finds her life changed forever more…
Wonderfully written, and with excellent depictions of familial relationships, Jupiter Storm is easy to recommend for younger readers. I for one loved reading of Jackie’s growing bond with the titular Jupiter, and Jackie’s efforts to hide the truth from her family never failed to keep me turning the pages. Well worth a look, I say.

Stuck On Earth, by David Klass

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Stuck on Earth is another excellently-done kids’ book. Pleasant, though, it frequently ain’t. Our protagonist here is one Ketchvar III, a snail-like alien on a mission to inhabit a human and study the human race, prior to passing judgement on humanity’s future. Other aliens, you see, are in need of a new home – and without all those pesky humans, Earth really would be the perfect place…

Ketchvar ends up in the body of one Tom Filber, but quickly realises that Tom may not be the perfect specimen for such an important mission. Between an unemployed alcoholic father and an angry (and frequently abusive) mother, Tom’s home life is nothing short of horrific. School provides little respite, with Tom proving to be utterly friendless as well as being a magnet for bullies. The only upside for Ketchvar is Michelle Peabody, the girl living next door, who Tom himself has long harboured feelings for.

Though many of the sci-fi aspects of Stuck On Earth are a little weak in my view, I nonetheless found this book to be a deeply engaging read. Ketchvar’s experiences of human life make for interesting story-telling, and there’s a fair amount of action in the book’s latter half that left me eager to keep turning the pages. If you’re looking for something for your kid to read, or else just looking for something a little different to read yourself, then I reckon this is well worth a look.

The Posthumous Adventures of Harry Whittaker, by Bobbie DarbyshireHarry_Whittaker_cover

The Posthumous Adventures of Harry Whittaker is a truly wonderful novel that I would suggest to just about anyone. It centres on the titular Harry Whittaker, a much-celebrated actor who suddenly passes away and finds himself having to navigate a strange afterlife. Ghosts, as Harry soon learns, must always remain close to people or things with which that they made a significant emotional connection. Unfortunately for Harry, the only person he ever truly connected with emotionally…was Harry Whittaker himself.

As well as Harry, the novel follows a number of characters who are affected by Harry’s life and passing. Each one of them is brilliantly realised, their efforts at navigating their lives making for rich and rewarding reading. Those efforts also contrast nicely with Harry’s supernatural adventure, resulting in a novel quite unlike anything else I have ever read. Highly recommended!

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On goal-setting

Eagle-eyed readers of this blog might have noticed that, back when I first came back from my long hiatus, I said I’d be blogging once a week on Sundays. Those same readers might have noticed that this did not in fact happen. And the reason why this didn’t happen is pretty straightforward: I’d made that particular goal and stated the goal, without giving any real thought to how I intended to actually achieve that goal.

When it comes to goal-setting, this is a mistake that is all too easy to make – and it’s not the first time that I myself have made it, either. It’s all too easy to set a goal that sounds (and is) perfectly achievable, without giving any real thought as to how to actually ensure it gets achieved. This, needless to say, generally results in said achievement not in fact taking place. Hence the ever-growing pile of peoples’ abandoned New Year’s resolutions – amongst many other things.

Since I do not want to end up abandoning this blog again, I figure the the aim of one post a week is worth sticking with – after all, it isn’t that much, and plenty of bloggers put out content far more regularly than that. As such, I took a little bit of time recently to consider how to actually go about meeting that goal. And really, the solution I came up wasn’t complicated.

The solution I’ve arrives at is as follows: I have two specific time slots over the weekend now that I have blocked out specifically for working on this blog. On the first slot, I brainstorm what the topic of my post will be on and – if I finish brainstorming early enough – start drafting the post. On the second slot, I wrap up the post and then…well, post. Hence the post you are seeing right now.

Perhaps if I’d set things up this way in the first place, I’d have managed to produce content for this website far more consistently. In any case, it’s the set up I’ll be using now, and I shall just have to see  in the coming months if it continues to work. And if it doesn’t…well, I’ll just have to come up with something else. After all, I did make that one-post-a-week goal, so it only seems proper that I make good stab at actually achieving it. That’s what goals are for, right?

Had any blogging troubles of your own, lately? Or any problems concerning goal-setting in general? Feel free to comment down below!

February book recs

February was another slow month for me, reading-wise, with most of the time I would have spent reading instead spent on playing YIIK or else reading the 2006 run of DC Comics’ Blue Beetle. The latter, incidentally, is the first superhero comic I have ever read – and is also quite possibly the most amount of fun I’ve had with a work of fiction in ages. As such, I will almost certainly be writing a separate post on that at some point in the future.

Of course, this particular post is my (slightly belated) monthly book recommendations post. So with that said…

The Graveyard Book, By Neil Gaiman

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I mean, it’s a Neil Gaiman book. So you pretty much KNOW this is going to be good, right?

The Graveyard Book follows the early life of a boy named Nobody Owens – generally referred to as “Bod” – who escapes to a graveyard as a small child after the rest of his family are murdered. The various ghosts and spirits of the graveyard take the boy in, giving him his name in the process, and raise him as the graveyard’s only living inhabitant. The book that follows is split in several loosely-connected stories told at various stages of Bod’s childhood, with most of the stories standing on their own while also serving to tell parts of a bigger narrative.

…Oh, and the title is a quite-deliberate reference to The Jungle Book, in case you were wondering.

I enjoyed this book a whole lot, generally reading through a whole chapter/story in a single sitting. There’s a great variety to the individual tales in this book: in one, we follow Bod as he attempts to find a headstone for a hanged witch, for instance, while in another we follow Bod attempting to escape a gang of ghouls after being lured away from the sanctuary of his graveyard home. And over the the course of the book, we see Bod slowly but surely prepare to confront his family’s killer – a killer who still wants Bod himself dead at any cost.

The Graveyard Book is in fact a book written for children, but children are far from the only readers who will enjoy it. If you’ve not read Neil Gaiman’s work before, then this is a good a place to start as any. Highly recommended.

January 2019 Book Recs

Book recs time! January 2019 actually proved to be a pretty ropy month for me, reading-wise. I spent wayyyy too long slogging through a book I just wasn’t getting into, before ultimately DNF’ing after around 3 weeks. I then proceeded to reading whole other book from start to finish on the final week of the month. Which brings me to….

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Adaption, by Malinda Lo

When flocks of birds begin to bring down airplanes across the globe, the world is plunged into turmoil. Caught up in all this is Reese, alongside her high-school debate partner (and secret crush) David. Reese and David find themselves stranded in Arizona following the end of a debating championship. They try to drive themselves home, only to crash after a bird flies at their vehicle. When they wake up in a strange hospital, one month on, they know they are different; what they don’t know, though, is how they are different, and why.

I enjoyed Adaption a whole lot. It is the only novel I have ever read that features a bisexual love triangle, and it’s wonderfully done. Reese’s interactions with her love-interests are excellently written, as are her efforts at uncovering the intrigue that now surrounds her and David both. Reese finds herself dogged by shadowy Government agents, while also struggling to recover her hazy memories of the weeks that followed the crash.

If I have one criticism of Adaption, it’s that it felt spectacularly unfocussed in places. In particular, the tone of the first few chapters – with Reese and David struggling to get home in the aftermath of the bird disasters – is completely different from anything that comes after. I should also note that Adaption isn’t particularly self-contained, with an ending that leads straight into the sequel novel – but since I most definitely WILL be reading that sequel, I do not see this as a particularly problem.

 

On writing prompts

The week before last, I embarked upon a curious writing experiment.

Rather than working towards any of the writing goals I made for this year – not to mention, y’know, this blog – I spent my writing time hanging out on r/writingprompts over on reddit.. I responded to at least one prompt a day, writing and then submitting within a couple of hours of starting.

All in all, it made for a fun little exercise.

Now, this isn’t something I plan to do on a regular basis. After all, I wasn’t working towards my long-term goals while I was doing this. Moreover, the fast-paced nature of reddit means you pretty much HAVE to respond to prompts as quickly as possible if you want anyone to actually notice your work – which in turn means that it’s virtually impossible to fully refine a story before it goes live.

At the same time, though, I do not plan to stop visiting the writing prompts subreddit altogether. The aforementioned fast pace makes for a nice challenge that’s quite unlike anything else I do related to my writing, and it strikes me as a great place to go in the event I get stuck on my longer projects. Certainly, it’s a far superior alternative to not writing at all, should I find myself in that situation.

In the week just gone, I went back to working on my writing goals: I did some work towards finishing my current big project and started a new short story, while also catching up a little on reading. I plan to do similar things this week, as well as for the foreseeable future. But the next time I find myself grinding to a halt on the writing front…well, I know which website I’ll be visiting.

Ever tried the writing prompts subreddit yourself? Or else tried writing to prompts in general? Feel free to comment down below!

My writing goals for 2019

Writing-wise, 2018 was very much a good year for me. I got back into writing following a long slump, did my first short story submission in years, and learned to write at a far quicker pace than I ever used to manage. I’m still tinkering with my exact writing routine – I’ve gone back to mostly writing before work, since making that last linked post – but it’s safe to say that writing is now a pretty significant part of my life.

So, if 2018 was the year I got back into writing, then I’m thinking 2019 should be the year I really start to develop myself in the craft. With that in mind, I’ve decided on the following goals for the year ahead.

1: Finish my current big writing project.

Or rather, finish the project that broke my slump in the first place. I initially started this project thinking it would be a short piece of a few thousand words, to help ease me back into writing fiction. Naturally, it is now running at over forty thousand words, with the ending still a fair way off.

Truth be told, this project has mostly worn out its welcome by now, and I plan to move on from it as soon as I finish the current draft. I do feel I’ve learnt a fair amount from writing it, though, so it’s been time well spent as far as I’m concerned.

2: Continue to write and submit short stories.

Having finally received my first post-slump rejection, it only seems reasonable to go ahead and accumulate a whole lot more. Plus, short stories strike me as a good way to generate fresh ideas, which could potentially be used in longer projects further down the road.

3: Read at least twenty novels over the course of year.

Part of being a good writer is being a regular reader – hence, this goal. I actually hope to read rather more than twenty novels this year, but twenty strikes me as good minimum number to shoot for. Most of these will be YA and/or science fiction, given that those are the genres I write in, but by no means all.

4:  Begin drafting my new YA novel.

Last month, I came up with an idea for a YA science fiction novel. More than one month on, I continue to have a really good feeling about it. As such, I intend to start drafting this pretty much as soon as I produce a satisfactory outline – while employing any and all lessons learned from earlier writing projects.

5 (BONUS): Get a piece of fiction accepted for publication.

Because, let’s be honest here: that would feel pretty darn good.

What are your writing goals for the coming year? Feel free to comment down below!

December book recs

Another month, another recommendations post! It’s been a relatively slow month for me in terms of reading, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have recs to share. So without further ado…

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Rights of Use, by Shannon Eichorn (Project Black Book #1)

I felt I pretty much had to read Rights of Use the moment I read about its central concept: namely, a civil war between body-possessing alien symbionts over the fate of humanity and of Earth. Kemtewet infest and wipe the minds of human hosts, viewing them as bodies and nothing else; the opposing Gertewet view humans as friends and partners, meanwhile, and share the body between the two of them.

Sarah Anderson and Maggie Rockefeller are two ordinary teenage girls who find themselves thrust into an alien war after being abducted as potential hosts for an alien Kemtewet queen. Sarah and Maggie simply want to go home and resume their normal and quiet lives; instead, they quickly find themselves at the centre of the conflict between Kem and Ger.

What follows is a story with plenty of viewpoint characters – Sarah and Maggie among them – and it takes some time for the characters’ individual plot threads to truly come together.  It was once those plot threads did come together that this book truly clicked with me. Rights Of Use is a novel with believable protagonists and plenty of twists and turns. It contains action, spying, a good amount of character development, and a pinch of political intrigue for good measure. I found myself warming to Sarah and Maggie, as well as to the two Gertewet symbionts Vinnet and Katorin, and I ended up reading the whole thing in just a handful of days.

Fans of sci-fi and of space opera should check this out – along with anyone who’s interested in these sorts of aliens, of course.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeymoon

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Ever watched Big Bang Theory? Remember watching Sheldon’s and Amy’s various antics? Now, imagine a character like them, but played for the sake of drama rather than the sake of comedy. That, right there, is Eleanor Oliphant in a nutshell. The titular Eleanor is a poorly-adjusted, socially-oblivious individual with a multitude of demons from her past. After unexpectedly befriending a work colleague along with an elderly gentleman, she finds the opportunity to move forward that she didn’t know she needed.

Filled with moments of tragedy along with moments of great comedy, this is a novel quite unlike anything else I have ever read. Eleanor makes for a well and truly unique narrator, and Gail Honeymoon captures her voice beautifully.  I really found myself wanting the best for Eleanor, as well as for the various individuals she ends up letting into her life. Well worth a read, I say.