Bookish & Writerly Recaps: June 2017

Well, would you JUST LOOK AT THAT. It’s the last day of the month, and we actually have a recap. WE HAVE A RECAP, PEOPLE! Miracles happen, magic is real, goddesses walk the earth etc. etc.

What I have forgotten to mention is that as I get ready to publish this, it’s 11:30 at night on said last day of the month, so I’ve cut it pretty fine and also I’m kinda tired (hence the rambling having already begun). So let’s get this DONE.

What I’ve written…

I’ma be straight-up as always: there’s not much to report here this month. Over on Writer’s Edit, I’ve been writing about character motivations and types of freelance writing jobs, but novel-wise, I’m still working through some stuff.

I will say that the story’s still swirling its way around the back of my mind a lot of the time, and that I even wrote a random little 500-word scene the other night when I got a burst of inspiration. I think – I hope – I’m almost ready to start writing again in earnest.

Camp NaNoWriMo starts on the 1st of July (tomorrow as I write this), so I’m thinking of using that as a tool to help me get back into the swing of regular writing. I might mix up the usual Scrivener sessions with some handwriting and morning pages, and see how I go.

Blank notebookImage via Unsplash.

…Or, more accurately, what I’ve been doing instead of writing

I recently started listening to the podcast My Favourite Murder, and I cannot tell you how glad I am that I did. It’s pretty self-explanatory: two ladies discussing various murder cases they find fascinating. The details of the murders, while super interesting, can get pretty dark at times (which, I mean… duh, they’re murders). But the hosts Karen and Georgia even it out by being so hilarious and wonderful. I feel like I can relate to them in so many ways, and it just feels like I’ve made two new friends who keep me company while I’m doing boring everyday crap.

TV-wise, I’ve been loving the Starz adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American GodsI’m only halfway through, but so far it’s doing an incredible job of bringing that big, complex, intriguing book to life. It’s highly stylised and visceral and funny and full-on, and just really damn entertaining – can’t wait to finish it.

Also, conveniently, the day I got home from the US was the day the new House of Cards season dropped – so of course Nate and I binged it in about a week. A couple of years ago I blogged about my love for House of Cards, and I still dig it. It’s gone in a bit of a different direction than I thought it would, but Frank and Claire are still ruthless as ever and scary AF and I love it.

I also saw Wonder Woman at the movies and damn near jumped in the air and fist-pumped with how much I enjoyed it. What an excellent movie and what a genuinely passionate, strong and emotional heroine at the fore. Along with every woman I know who saw it, I came out with a smile on my face and a sense of goddamn go-getter girl power.

My Favourite Murder-Wonder Woman

What I’ve read

Well. I’ve just checked my Goodreads and realised that, as well as being six books behind schedule on my reading challenge, I only read TWO BOOKS during the whole month of June. :/

I realise this is unacceptable. But as you’ll see, one of those two books was REALLY big and dense and kinda old with tiny type and lots of made-up words and… I’ll just use that as my excuse, and vow to do better during July.

(Actually, I’ve just come back to finish this post on the last day of June, and I ended up binge-reading the last half of another book last night – so let’s make that a total of three for June. Still pretty average, but what are you gonna do.)

Anyway. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

I absolutely loved this. When I read the premise (a Beauty and the Beast retelling) I was kind of like, ehhh, do I really have time for yet another retelling? But I decided to give it a try, and it turns out I have all the time in the world for this gorgeous book.

Hunted is a lovely take on the tale as old as time – original, while still retaining that beautiful fairytale feel. The writing is wonderful and it’s a lot slower-paced than a lot of other YA fantasy, which I am sooo here for. I mean, I love action as much as the next fantasy fan, but sometimes it’s nice to take things slow, you know?

Meagan Spooner paints her scenes with precision and beauty, and her characters with depth and nuance. Elements of Russian folklore are woven carefully into the tale of Yeva and the Beast, both of whom I adored. Plus, the book’s themes of duality and indefinable desire are fascinating in the ways they’re explored.

I’ve seen several people slam it for various reasons on Goodreads reviews (note to self: stop reading Goodreads reviews), but I disagree with all of them. For me, Hunted was completely captivating, and both the style and story couldn’t have worked better.

Hunted

Dune by Frank Herbert

Aaaaand now we come to the reason why I did not read much this month!

Dune is known as *the* science fiction novel, and for good reason. Published in 1965, it’s sci-fi on an epic scale, with as much in-depth world-building as you’d expect from the highest of high fantasy.

I enjoyed this. It’s long and dense and a little bit dragging at times, but it’s wonderful sci-fi. There’s action, technology, politics, prophecy and big ol’ desert worms that’ll eat you and everyone you love.

One thing I found interesting about the writing style is that it’s omniscient third person narration – something you rarely see these days (at least, something I rarely see). It took me a while to get my head around the head-hopping, but it was a little refreshing point of difference that I enjoyed by the end.

Anyway, I liked exploring the planet of Arrakis and watching the destiny of Muad’Dib unfold, and one day – perhaps when I’m not so far behind on my reading – I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel (but never watching the movie adaptation again… I have it on as I write this recap, and good lord, despite being faithful to the book, it is so. Hilariously. Terrible.)

Dune

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Strangely enough, the next book on my reading schedule was another story inspired by Russian folklore, and I enjoyed it just as much as Hunted. All the elements of The Bear and the Nightingale are woven together so beautifully, in such lovely prose, that I’m thinking these awesome ladies are definitely onto something with Russian folklore!

I loved the brave and intuitive protagonist, Vasya, and Morozko the mysterious winter king. I loved reading about the spirits guarding the household and the forest, and the demons threatening them. To be honest, I don’t think there was anything I didn’t love about this book.

Katherine Arden’s prose is as beautiful as the story she tells, and the magical atmosphere running through the whole story makes it feel like a folktale in its own right. There are also some scary, almost nightmarish moments, which adds just the right amount of excitement to this slow-burning tale (another winner for slower-paced fantasy, woo!).

P.S. I usually only include the cover of the edition I actually read (hence the six-dollar-paperback Dune cover above). But for The Bear and the Nightingale, I had to include both the UK/AUS (left) and US cover (right). Our version is so colourful and unique and lovely, but the US cover just looks like the story in visual form – wintry and mysterious and beautiful.

Bear and the Nightingale

You’ll notice I was correct last month in predicting that, no, I would not venture beyond my horizons and read something other than SFF anytime soon.

BUT: both Nate and I are currently reading a FINANCE book (I know, wtf, right?), so hopefully that’ll be in my round-up next month to break up the ever-present slew of otherworldly tales. ;)

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Happy July, everybody – hope your month is full of warmth and wonderful things. (Also, for any Murderinos who might be reading: stay sexy, and don’t get murdered. Elvis, you want a cookie?)

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Bookish & Writerly Recaps: April & May 2017

Look, I just thought things were getting a little too predictable over here, what with me actually scraping in with a **somewhat** timely recap each month. So, surprise – I’ve saved April’s and May’s recaps to combine into one ultra-late, ultra-exciting double recap post! Yay! *Uncertain, unenthusiastic smattering of applause*

For real, though, I started a new job in April and went on an overseas trip in May, so that’s kind of my excuse for missing one recap and being late with the other.

Due to that overseas trip, I thought it was fitting to expand this double recap to cover not only what I’ve been writing and reading, but also where I’ve been…

Where I’ve been

At the time of my last recap, I was getting ready to go on a mini-getaway to Melbourne with Nate to celebrate our five-year anniversary. Well, after returning from that, life was all about getting ahead with my new job and getting ready for my next trip – a ten-day venture through California with my sister Liv!

Liv’s a travel agent, and through an industry trivia night last year, she managed to score herself a free flight and some accommodation in California. And being the wonderful sister she is, she invited me to come along with her (and offered to go halves in my ticket seeing as hers was free – again, best sister ever, right?!).

Of course, I took her up on her offer, so halfway through May, we set off on a trip to Sacramento, LA, Anaheim and San Francisco.

I’ve never been to the US before, and even though we only visited a small portion of it, I loved it and can’t wait to go back. San Fran was my favourite of the four cities we visited, but I was surprised by how much I also liked Sacramento (it’s California’s capital, but when you tell people you’re going there they’re like, ‘Why tho?’).

Our time in LA and Anaheim was mostly spent at Universal Studios and Disneyland, respectively – and you can imagine how exciting that was for this Disney freak and lifelong Harry Potter-lover.

Overall, it was an awesome (if not slightly whirlwind) trip, and I loved every minute of it.

What I’ve written

Hahahahaha, hahaha, haha. Writing. Yeah. That’s totally a thing I do.

I don’t know if it’s post-holiday blues or just a continuation of the feelings I’ve been having about writing recently, but I’m still just not really… feeling it.

TBH, it was a struggle to even sit down and start writing this blog post. I just feel like there’s something missing – some magical blend of inspiration, motivation and creativity that’s so vital to writerly types.

But I know as well as any other writer that the key to solving this kind of problem is usually just to sit down and do some goddamn writing. To shove all that doubt and uncertainty and negativity aside and put some words – any words – on paper.

So, once again, with hope for a much more productive second half of the year, I’m going to try.

A few times in the last couple of months, I tried out the concept of morning pages, and was quite pleasantly surprised by the results. So I might try that again, or at least give some kind of free-form handwritten exercise a go.

Hopefully I can work my way back up to actually progressing on my novel, which is sitting long-neglected in its Scrivener file but always buzzing around in the back of my head.

I might even try writing something apart from (late) monthly recaps on this blog every now and again! (Plz don’t hold me to that, my internal life narrator is already laughing and laughing at the very idea.)

Somewhere I’m always happy to put words down, though, is Writer’s Edit. Over the last couple of months I’ve penned a few pieces branching out into areas of freelancing and self-publishing:

Wish me luck for a renewed sense of writerly vigour throughout the month of June.

Image via Unsplash.

What I’ve read

Since I’m doing a double recap this month (and, as I mentioned above, not really feeling it on the blogging front), I’m just going to list what I read in April/May, rather than writing a mini review for each book.

Even though I won’t be reviewing them, I really did enjoy all of the last two months’ books. Unsurprisingly, it’s been the usual fantasy feast, with a drop of dystopia and a single dose of straight-up fiction thrown in for good measure. ;)

Here’s what’s been occupying my lunch breaks and plane rides for the last couple of months…

  • Red Rising by Pierce Brown
  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
  • A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
  • Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb
  • Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
  • Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

My two favourites out of these were definitely Strange the Dreamer and Royal Assassin. Laini Taylor’s beautiful words and magical story had me practically glowing with delight, and the more I read of Robin Hobb’s incredible Farseer series, the more I fall in love with Fitz’s story.

I’m thinking that this month I need to change it up a little and read some more non-fiction. But to be perfectly honest, it’s hard when there’s so much amazing fiction already on my TBR… I’ll make an effort to expand my horizons, though! (Narrator, next month: ‘She did not make any effort to expand her horizons.’)

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Well, that’s all from me on this sunny winter afternoon. Here’s hoping the second half of the year brings plenty of happiness, inspiration and generally wonderful things.