30 Apr 2015

The Creative Problem

A few nights ago I watched this video about good creative tools and after the video had finished, I realised something — I don’t have a creative project.

At least not one I’m actively working on. My creativity lies solely in writing — unfortunately I’m not an artist or a graphic designer (much to my dad’s disgust), but lately I haven’t even been writing.

I’ve been doing so much reading this month that I haven’t done anything else. Obviously, reading is a big part of my life but I feel like I’m drowning under all these books. I considered starting to annotate my books just to get more involved in them, but I’m just not sure.

To put it simply, I feel like I’m going through the motions a bit. June onwards will be big for me, and I’ve convinced myself that once that comes around then I’ll be back to normal. As if, suddenly, I’m going to be able to write once I’m Europe. Maybe that’s true, maybe all I need is a change of scenery, but I know that I’m going to be busy.

So why do I lack the motivation to do something now?

Also, I've been finding it really hard to blog lately. Hence this terrible post.

26 Apr 2015

Unhaul vs Bookhaul || BOOKTUBE

Hey fellow blog viewers!

So Ely and I are mostly twinning all the time. We have the same opinion on a lot of books, book characters, both have booktube and we finish each others... SANDWICHES. However, sometimes Ely "Unhauls" her books on her channels while I "Haul" books on my channel. So check them out!

25 Apr 2015

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon TBR

I know this is cutting this a little fine on the account that the read-a-thon starts in less than three and a half hours, but yes — I am participating in Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon tonight and this is my TBR!

Firstly, I'd like to read Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. No, I haven't read it before. I'm pretty sure I can actually speed through this one so it's going to be the first one I start with.

Secondly, I'd like to continue/finish The Mirror Crack'd Side to Side by Agatha Christie. I'm already 77 pages into this so hopefully I can knock it over in an hour or two.

Thirdly, I want to read more of Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas. I've been on page 250 of this since it came out in September last year and I'd actually like to finish it before this September. I'd honestly be happy to just read another 100 pages of this.

Finally, the same thing with The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I've been slowly making my way through this and I'd like to just get another 100 pages read.

I don't have any plans while the read-a-thon is on. I did all of my assignments today so that I didn't have to worry about any of those and I could just spend all day reading. Also, I won't be staying up all night since the read-a-thon starts at 11pm for me and I do really need some sleep!

Who else is participating?

22 Apr 2015

REVIEW: Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky

Title: Suite Française
Author: Irène Némirovsky
Genre: Historical Fiction.
Publication Date: August 4th 2011 (Originally published 2004)
Publisher: Vintage
Format: Paperback
Pages: 416
Rating: 5/5

In June 1940 France fell to the Nazis. The effect of this event on the lives of ordinary Parisians and the inhabitants of a small rural community under occupation are brilliantly explored in Irène Némirovsky's heartbreaking novel. A tragic victim of the Nazi regime, Némirovsky left behind this masterpiece in which she conjures up a vivid cast of characters, thrown together in ways they never expected. Amidst the mess of defeat, true nobility and love exist, but often in surprising places.

Before reading Suite Française, I knew next to nothing about it. I’d seen the trailer more than a couple of times, but that is only half of the novel. I feel like this isn’t talked about nearly as much as it deserves to be.

Suite Française was going to be a five part novel that would explore life in France following June 1940 and the German invasion. Unfortunately, only two parts were completed at the time of Irène Némirovsky's death in August 1942 in Auschwitz. Irène s daughter held onto the manuscript for 50 years, believing it to be a personal diary of her mother’s before it was finally published in 2004.

The first part, Storm in June, looks into the world of various families and individuals as they flee Paris as the German armies advance. Each story is different, despite them all being intertwined in some way. It wasn’t my favourite part because there were very few characters I actually cared for (I believe this was done on purpose).

I absolutely adore WWII novels, so this probably comes as no surprise to any of you that this is a new favourite. The main reason for that is the writing — from the very first page, I was completely in love with the writing — it is absolutely heartbreaking, even in describing the simplest things. I’d already teared up about five times by the end of that first part.

The second part is what did it for me. Dolce focuses on the one little French village called Bussy, which has been occupied by German soldiers. These German soldiers live in with the town people, many of whom have husbands and sons and lovers being held as prisoners of war — you can imagine the tension. The story focuses on a few different women, my favourite of which was Lucile who is living with her mother in law and her husband is one of the captured men. One of the German officers, Bruno, moves into their home and the story goes from there.

The thing is, Bruno is not portrayed as the typical brute, unfeeling German solider. He wanted to be a musician before the war, and he goes out of his way to be kind to Lucile and her mother in law. You can imagine the feels that resulted from that.

For whatever reason, I started part two before bed, which was possibly the stupidest idea I ever had. I literally had to pull myself away from the book so that I could actually get some sleep but I spent the entire night thinking about the book. It’s been a while since I’ve felt that strongly about a book, even in my dreams I wanted to pick up the book.

Like most unfinished books, when I got to the end I just stared at the final pages for a while in disbelief. No, it couldn’t end there. Luckily, in my edition, they’ve included notes that Némirovsky made so you could see where she was planning to go with the other three novellas. Oh god, you don’t understand how much I wish she’d lived long enough to write them. Again, luckily, this isn’t her only novel — and yes, I have already added all the others to my wishlist on the Book Depository.

Now, if you excuse me I’m going to go back to crying about this book in my University café.

19 Apr 2015

INTERVIEW: Stormy Smith

How did you come up with the idea for Bound by Duty? Was there something in particular that inspired you?

Bound by Duty was the result of a series of thoughts I believe every avid reader has when they finish a great book. In this case, I had just reread a great series – the Star-Crossed series, by Rachel Higginson – and I was asking myself, “What if this would have happened? What if she would have had these powers instead?” The questions, and answers, kept coming and suddenly, Amelia, Aidan and their story started weaving itself in my mind. The first chapter came to me, and it was all I could do to stay focused on the road until I got to my destination and could sit down at my computer. I wrote the first four chapters that night and have never looked back. I didn’t know I wanted to be an author until that day, and now I know I never want to be anything else.

Bound by Duty is a bestseller on Amazon. Do you have any tips for other authors who want to do well on Amazon?

The easiest part is writing the book and writing the book is hard. Marketing is really the hard part. Everyone has different goals and levels of success they want to achieve, so being a best seller may not be on your list. If it is, I would say that as a newbie it takes a sale and a coordinated plan of attack. The first time I hit number one in new adult fantasy I placed Bound by Duty on sale for 99 cents, I submitted it to a barrage of both paid and free newsletters and I scheduled a book blitz with a great publicity agency (Xpresso Tours). They had sixty bloggers blasting out about my sale in the same week and that combination meant I sold almost 1000 copies in seven days. You need to build the biggest buzz possible and use all your resources to sell enough books to get to number one. But, it is totally doable if you’ve got a great story, a great cover and the right people behind you.

Do you have a favourite character to write? Or least favourite? Is there a reason why they are harder/easier to write?

I have a few favorites. Bethany is one of my favorites to write because she is the sassy, Southern best friend to my main character Amelia. She is every one of my favorite friends from my life wrapped into one amazing girl. She snarky but honest, sweet but strong and just as willing to go to bat for you as she is to put you in your place. I write her and see the women who have shaped me throughout my life. That’s what I love about Bethany!

My second favorite is Charlie. Charlie is a Great Dane. But, he’s special, and he and Amelia have a really unique relationship. He was hard to write at times, because I’ve never really had a big dog, but at the same time, I loved to write him because he was everything I would want if I had a magical pet. ;) Charlie has come to be one of the fans’ favorites, and I was thrilled to bring him into the second book, Bound by Spells.

What is the best advice you’ve received about writing? Is there any other advice you’d give to aspiring authors?

The two best pieces of advice I’ve been given were first, to write the book you want to read, and second, to write the book before you worry about anything else. It’s easy to get sucked into worrying about how you want to publish, how you’ll market, how it will sell, what people think and on and on. But, if you start out writing the book you would love to read, and then you just sit down and write the best book you can, then you’ll have something worth people’s time and the rest will come together.

Also, I would add that you should ALWAYS pay an editor. ALWAYS. You will always be too close to your own manuscript and your friends are not typically the people you want to entrust your baby to. They are great people, but you need someone who isn’t afraid to slice and dice your work to make it better.

Tell us a little about your books.

The Bound series currently has two books that are available for purchase, with a third in the works.

Bound by Duty is where the story begins. Amelia Bradbury is the last living Elder. She has power she can’t control, a betrothal she can’t stop, a prophecy dictating her fate and a heart lost to a human. The question is, will her head or her heart win the battle?

Bound by Spells is the action-packed continuation of the story, picking up the moment Duty leaves off. You’ll hear from two points of view through the story and find out how our main characters are fairing after Amelia makes her choice. You’ll meet new friends and new enemies, while realizing that the truth isn’t always as clear as it seems.

I’m excited to share that Bound by Spells was recently recommended by USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog as “paranormal gold” that was “even better than her [my] debut.” Link to full recommendation.

Bound by Duty Synopsis: Amelia grew up in a world of half-truths. She knows she's an Elder, but has no idea what that means. Her father reminds her daily that she must maintain control, but he refuses to explain why. Even worse, she's betrothed to the prince of the Immortals and doesn't even know his name.

Finally breaking free to live a few normal years at a community college, the last thing Amelia expects is to find her best friend in a cheeky southern girl, or fall for a self-assured human who sees her for who she is, not what she will become.

As she learns more about herself, Amelia realizes the line between love and duty is a thin one. As her power continues to increase exponentially and her questions are slowly answered, Amelia must make the ultimate choice. The question is, will her head win the battle, or her heart?

Bound by Spells Synopsis: Aidan Montgomery hadn't been prepared for Amelia Bradbury to walk in and then out of his life. He also hadn't expected to find the powerful magic hidden deep within him for the last nineteen years, but he's embracing it -- finding more control and more answers every day. Now, with the help of Amelia's best friend, Bethany, Aidan is on a quest to understand his destiny and find Amelia.

Amelia decided to stand by her duty, which meant walking away from her first chance at love. Trapped in Cresthaven at the Queen's mercy, she spends her days with Micah -- an ally she still holds at arm's length -- struggling to manage her heartbreak while keeping her mind focused on the task at hand. As she continues to unlock the secrets of the Keeper power, Queen Julia's true motives reveal themselves, forcing Amelia to decide, yet again, how much she's willing to sacrifice.

Will Aidan get to Amelia before it's too late, or will the very power that sustains them keep them apart?

Endorsement for Bound by Spells: "Featuring a cast of mages and shapeshifters with unique magical abilities, one destiny-shaping prophecy, a genocidal megalomaniac, and a budding, heated romance (or two!), this book is paranormal gold! Read the first book in the series first, of course, but once you finish this one you're sure to be salivating for the next release in this not-to-be-missed romantic paranormal series." 
-- Serena Chase, USA Today's Happy Ever After blog

About the Author: Stormy Smith is the author of the Amazon best seller, Bound by Duty, and Bound by Spells. She calls Iowa’s capital home now, but was raised in a tiny town in the Southeast corner of the state. She grew to love books honestly, having a mom that read voraciously and instilled that same love in her. She knew quickly stories of fantasy were her favorite, and even as an adult gravitates toward paranormal stories in any form.

Writing a book had never been an aspiration, but suddenly the story was there and couldn’t be stopped. When she isn’t working on, or thinking about, her books, Stormy’s favorite places include bar patios, live music shows, her yoga mat or anywhere she can relax with her husband or girlfriends.

18 Apr 2015

REVIEW: The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna

Title: The Eye of the Sheep
Author: Sofie Laguna
Genre: Adult, Literary Fiction.
Publication Date: August 1st 2014
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Format: Paperback
Pages: 308
Rating: 4.5/5
Challenge: Stella Prize 2015

"Ned was beside me, his messages running easily through him, with space between each one, coming through him like water. He was the go-between, going between the animal kingdom and this one. I watched the waves as they rolled and crashed towards us, one after another, never stopping, always changing. I knew what was making them come, I had been there and I would always know."

Meet Jimmy Flick. He's not like other kids. He finds a lot of the adult world impossible to understand - especially why his Dad gets so angry with him. Jimmy's mother Paula is the only one who can manage him. She teaches him how to count sheep so that he can fall sleep. She holds him tight enough to stop his cells spinning. It is only Paula who can keep Jimmy out of his father's way. But when Jimmy's world falls apart, he has no one else to turn to. He alone has to navigate the unfathomable world and make things right.

Sofie Laguna's first novel, One Foot Wrong received rave reviews, sold all over the world and was longlisted for both the Miles Franklin and Prime Minister's Awards. In The Eye of the Sheep, her great originality and talent will again amaze and move readers. In the tradition of Room and The Lovely Bones, here is a surprising and brilliant novel from one of our finest writers.

This is the third book in my read-through of the Stella Prize 2015 shortlist nominations. If you want to learn more about them, please click here.

Okay, wow. I’m going to be completely honest here when I say this was probably the book on the shortlist that I was probably least interested in. I listened to Sofie Laguna read an excerpt of this as part of the Digital Writers Festival and I thought it was amazing, but I wasn’t sure that it would be my kind of book.

Oh, past Ely. How ignorant you were. So far, this is my favourite Stella Prize nomination. I do have three more to go, but this — wow.

It was a little slow to start of with, and Jimmy’s voice is kind of hard to get used to it — really is the mind of a little boy so I struggled for the first 100 pages or so. I still flew through those pages though. I absolutely loved Jimmy from page one — how could you not? He’s this gorgeous little boy who has a pretty horrible life at times, I just wanted to wrap him up and give him a big hug.

This wouldn’t be nearly as powerful without Jimmy’s voice. You read everything from his point of view, so there are things that he doesn’t understand and it makes it confusing for the readers too. I loved how this was done. I’m not always a big fan of confusing narratives, but this was executed so unbelievably well. I felt like Sofie Laguna was actually Jimmy, or maybe that Jimmy was actually Sofie Laguna.

The thing is… my heart is now in pieces on the floor before Sofie Laguna has torn it out and stamped on it so many times. I don’t remember the last book that made me cry this much. I didn’t even cry, I literally sobbed. Sometimes I couldn’t even read the words on the page through my web of tears. I just love that feeling, don’t you?

So yes, favourite Stella Prize nomination so far, lots and lots of tears. I would absolutely recommend it to every single human being of this earth, because pain.