Thursday, 26 February 2015

Bookish Loves & Bookish Qualms

Hello, hello. Have a seat.

How are you? Currently in my life:

~ finished The Count of Monte Cristo. Still processing.

~ stRESSED about school – there are essays left, right and centre and I am not enjoying!

~ started Anna and the French Kiss. I’m already half way through, and …


It’s pretty perfect. But more on that another time.

So, because I love LISTS, I am making one for you today. Recently on Paper Fury Cait has done a couple of posts on her bookish turn-offs and turn-ons and I’m going to share a few of mine.

I love lists.


Bookish Loves

1.      Books about books / books about writers

I love reading. I love writing. I love reading about characters who love reading and writing. (I also love writing about these characters, too, hence my novel MC is a writer …)


The Book Thief, amongst its multiple perfect qualities, is all about a girl who loves books (and, later, a man who writes them). It exudes its love of books from every pore. Rose Under Fire, meanwhile, is narrated by a writer (Rose) and filled with her favourite poems, and the ones she has written. It is fantastic to read. The verse in some places tells the story. As for Inkheart, it’s a book about reading yourself into books’ worlds. Count me in.


2.     Amazing friendships


Friendships make the books go round. I am as much a Platonic shipper as a romantic one – nothing invests my heart more than a brilliant friendship. I hate, hate, hate when the romance takes precedence over the friendship in a novel with teenage protagonists. Love between friends is uncomplicated, and it’s abiding, and this is what I need in my books. See those four little figures at the bottom of the Skulduggery cover? Friends. I love them.

3.     All about the writing

I am an absolute addict when it comes to beautiful prose, and for me, the quality of the writing is one of the most important things about a book.



4.     Coming-of-age

Don’t we all love a good coming-of-age novel? I don’t know if it’s because I’m an angsty teenage that I enjoy reading about other angsty teenagers, but these are the books that affect me the most emotionally. What a book needs, in my opinion, is for the MC to come out the other side a changed person.



5.     Worldbuilding win

I’ve talked about this before, and (lucky you lot) I’ll talk about it again.


I kinda idolise George RR Martin.

Not the sex scenes. But the scope of his worldbuilding is absolutely stunning. He creates races, cultures, cities, customs; languages, people, religions, ways of thinking. From the first chapter of A Game of Thrones you’re pulled into the incredibly complex and real world he is creating, and he never lets you go. If I could build a world half as convincing as the Seven Kingdoms, I would consider myself a master.

Bookish Qualms

1.      “It’s a children’s book, so who cares about the writing!”

As I said, writing is very important for me, and what infuriates me is when writers/editors/whoever decide that the quality is not significant for the book.


I recently read both of these – children’s fantasy. I enjoyed The Cry of the Icemark very very much (Eragon much less). What they both had in common (Eragon far more so) was the occasionally sloppy writing, the too-many-adverbs, the general laxness that, I believe, came from an editor who was yawning their way through the manuscript because they thought that children’s books didn’t need good quality writing.

Yes, OK, so maybe a nine-year-old isn’t going to notice it the same way I do. But there is no way that that takes the pressure off the writer to make it good.  

2.     Love Triangles

I am really, really, really not into love triangles.

Sometimes, they work. (Anne of the Island practically has one.) Sometimes – don’t I know this – us female lot are confused. Sometimes we like two guys at once. Sometimes authors do it really, really well (like I said, Anne of the Island, as well as Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle, and also Anna and the French Kiss which I am currently reading, all feature various males).

But oftentimes, they don’t.

We end up with a relationship-obsessed, whiney and sometimes needlessly cruel MC who can’t see the dystopian government she’s battling / family crisis she’s facing / quest she’s on / whatever because she’s so busy moaning about all those guys who are in love with her. I am left holding the book and thinking “gee. You are not one bit relatable.” All in all, it’s a bit of a mess.

3.     Women as Goddess

This is what you might call a classics-specific Bookish Qualm.


I read both of these recently (Count I just finished on Tuesday) and I really loved them: they were beautifully written, great plots and characters. But this is my problem: the young female characters are all the same. Beautiful, sensitive, pure-hearted. The ideal of virtue.

*cue vomiting*

Right, OK, I have no problem with sweet teenage girl characters. They – Lucie from A Tale of Two Cities, and Valentine and Haydee from The Count of Monte Cristo – are great, and I love them both. But can we stop with the fainting, the blushing, the white shapely arms and cloud of hair, the screaming at every moment. Cast your eye over this description of Haydee:

The extreme beauty of the countenance, that shone forth in loveliness that mocked the vain attempts of dress to augment it, was peculiarly and purely Grecian; there were the large, dark, melting eyes, the finely formed nose, the coral lips, and pearly teeth, that belonged to her race and country. And, to complete the whole, Haydee was in the very springtide and fulness of youthful charms -- she had not yet numbered more than eighteen summers.

This is a beautiful piece of writing, and of course physical perfection is a trait that some women, and thus some female characters, possess. But do you know what else? They’re almost utterly two-dimensional. They have no flaws, it would seem, apart from the girlish frailty and over-tenderness of heart. WAKE UP, WORLD! WOMEN AREN’T LIKE THAT!

This does not come up in the modern fiction I read and, interestingly, it’s only the classics written by men that present this idealised view.

Annoying.

4.     Parents Take the Backseat

How many parents are there present in YA/children’s fiction?

Harry Potter – parents murdered.

The Hunger Games – no father.

Icemark – no mother.

Inkheart – no mother.

Septimus Heap – an orphan.

Parents are a rare breed! Of course it’s often necessary to the plot – Harry’s parents need to be dead, we know – but I do like to see a parent now and again. They are pretty necessary, you know.


So tell me: what are your bookish loves, and your bookish qualms? Do you recognise any of mine? And have you read any of these books I’ve mentioned? If you’ve done a post vaguely similar to this, link me up. (If you haven’t, link me up anyway. I’d love to visit.)

Emily x

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Do You See Me? // Emily's Bright Idea

Do you see me? 

I very much hope that, post url change, this post appeared on your feed - if this is the case, please please leave a comment (even just a small one) to let me know that I'm appearing.

Also:


It would really be v. v. great if you could take 6ish seconds to vote in the poll on the left-hand sidebar. I want to make this blog as reader-oriented as possible, and this involves hearing your views.

Moving on: who wants to hear what I've done today? 

I'm not normally one for OOTD (Outfit of the Day) or similar posts, but I currently feeling pretty proud of my DIY/innovation skills and desperate to share. 

Emily's Bright Idea

This is a top I have had for a looong time - about four years, I think, since I was around twelve. It was originally from Matalan, chosen by my mother.

When I was twelve or so I thought it was pretty suave, but recently I found it in a dark recess of my wardrobe, tried it on and came to the realisation that I do NOT like it any more. It is shapeless and, in my opinion, pretty blech
So I took in the neckline to make a waistline, tucked in the sleeves and sewed up the cuffs to make pockets, and voila! Instant skirt!
It has a sorta dip hemline going on. I'm on trend; who knew?
Ignoring the frankly embarrassing dirtiness of the mirror, I am very happy with this! a) I think it is pretty and b) there is no satisfaction liking taking something old and horrible and making something new, for free!

If you have any old tops like this, do investigate making a skirt: zero dressmaking skills required! And if you have posted anything DIYish recently, link me up. I am always in the mood for crafty things.

Please take a second to vote in the poll, and if you have any general comments RE what kinds of posts you like, etc., let me know below! Also, if you got here via your Blogger Dash/Bloglovin' feed, please tell me so that I know the url has worked. If you found this post by coming direct to this blog, then you may need to refollow to ensure that subsequent posts appear on your feed.

Emily x

Monday, 16 February 2015

AHOY THERE! URL IS CHANGING!

^^you see what my title says. 

My basic problem is that my url is frankly stupid. "wishingiwasnorthern"?? I don't wish I was northern! I'm from the Midlands, and proud! I made it in what was obviously a fit of delusion, and have long wished to change it - and now that day has arrived.

My new url will be

sparrowsflysouth.blogspot.co.uk

This is indeed a fandom reference, so please nod sagely (in the comments) if you get it! I'll give you one clue, which is that contrary to the rest of my life, it's not Harry Potter related. If you've read the book please tell me (silent followers, that means you!). 

I'm going to set up a url redirecting thingy, which hopefully will have redirected you here in the first place. If necessary you may need to refollow me, though I'm not sure. We'll work it out.

Not quite knowing how to end this post, have some amusing pictures (they amused me, anyway).





Hail and farewell.

Emily x

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Back On Active Roster

Hello to you.

Yes. Right. I know. I've not posted since 8th January. But hark, what is that? Unlike following normal hiatuses, I have a valid excuse.

Shocking, yes, but listen: I've not had internet for a month.

I hear the sound of your jaws dropping. It has been a struggle, certainly. I missed blogging, and you (and Pinterest and Spotify), but here I am, back. What has been going on in the blogosphere/your life? Please share! 


I have not done any reviews for a while, so ... quick sharp!


Book #4 in the Department 19 series. Followed in the footsteps of its predecessors: gripping, thrilling, brilliant.

Have you read this?  I know no one else who has, so if you're fangirling along silently out there 
(and noticing my sneaky fan reference in the post title), please tell me! This is in fact a call to all silent followers. I want 2015 to be the year where my followers are vocal, so if you're there, say hi ... please?
So, Zero Hour. The character development ticked along nicely. The plot was superb. I nearly had a heart attack several times.
That twist, though. Will Hill, what are you doing to me?? I also developed a huge crush on ancient and kinda evil vampire Valentin Rusmanov (appropriate for Valentine's Day, I think as I type this ... cause his name is Valentin ... get it?). There was also a definite, frightening sense of things reaching a head. I don't know how many more books there are going to be. Excitement is reaching breaking point.
The bottom line:
I really, really recommend this series, and if you've read them, please share!


The Catcher in the Rye

What is
The Catcher in the Rye? The ultimate coming-of-age novel, some say; one of the great American classics, up there with Gatsby. I'd been told this book "would change my life" and that wasn't half wrong.
Catcher was a portrayal of adolescence beautiful and heartbreaking by turn. There was so much to relate to in the character of Holden (the seventeen-year-old narrator): he was a confused teenager, always grasping for truth and integrity, obsessed with the idea that the world he lived in was a complexity of layers and shallow falsehood, drowning in his own attempts to work out what he believed and who he was.
If you've not read this book I urge you to do so now (don't wait until you're an adult!). It will stay with you. 

I think that this picture sums up my feelings:


A Song of Ice and Fire book 3, part 1. 

It's no secret how I feel about this series. The intensity has been gathering. I am traumatised. And obsessed. 

This book was incredible in its scope. Without hesitation I give to GRR Martin the award for worldbuidling: the complexity of the world, the universe he has created, surpasses anything I have ever read (and that includes Tolkien). He has dreamed new countries, cultures, religions, dialects, and still the thread of humanity glares full throughout his books, making them always relatable, keeping the reader's interest gripped from page to page. His characters quiver on the page, absolutely 3D and wonderfully developed, and the themes of the series are so so interesting: a quest for honour, an exploration of rights, the search for what is and isn't true.

There were plot twists that floored me and action that stunned me and deaths that broke me, and generally I was left parched and enraptured and desperate for more. I've not yet read book 4, but soon. It is always Game of Thrones time in my life.



The Raven Cycle, book #3

Right, because I just needed another book in another fantasy series that would also slash my feels and generally be amazing.

The truth: Blue Lily, Lily Blue was wonderful.

What did we expect though, really? This series. This series is incredible. Have you read this series? You should have read this series. What did I love? I loved everything.

The plot, the characters, the magic. The bromance and the romance and everything to ship. The stunning writing (Maggie Stiefvater is basically a prose genius). Blue's extreme shortness. Jesse Dittley. The Pig, the Dog. The way that Adam became loveable again after his Dream Thieves low point. You know what? I want to write an entire post about this book. Would you like that? Would you read it? Please tell me. If even one of you wants my (developed thoughts) I will give them.



The Cry of the Icemark

OK, so, I have a lil bit of a Christmas tradition of fantasy rereads (dear new followers, I love fantasy. Can you tell?). The Icemark Chronicles by Stuart Hill are a trilogy I loved when I was younger, and I revisited the first one.

Initially, I was dubious. I was noticing the flaws in the writing - the extreme adverbs, mainly, the things that should never have got past the editor - but then just like that, I was utterly gripped. 

I'd forgotten most of the plot (it has been a few years) and it swept me up. There were so many things that shouldn't have worked - the slightly implausible magical creatures, MC Thirrin's exceptionally bossy and annoying personality - but somehow, they did.

Also: I was shipping so hard. The first time I read this - a pre-teen sprog - the romance failed to have an effect on me (no romance had an effect on me) but this time? Wonderful. Perfect. All in all, Icemark is sort of a book for children but very much enjoyed by me (a so-called Young Adult), and I would thoroughly recommend.

BUT TELL ME: what have you been reading? Any of these? Please tell! What is the best thing you've read so far in 2015?



Pretty well, thanks. Guess what! Pretty soon after this hiatus began, I reached 50k - so that's official novel territory. Exciting, right? Right.

Unfortunately, I'm literally losing the plot. Like, I'm writing this scene at the moment and I know what's going to happen for about the next day (novel time) but after that? Who knows what's happening?? I certainly don't! Oh well. Impromptu plot twists, let's go. 

As for you, how's your novel going?


This is the bit where I coast for things I've done outside of reading, school, church, and realise that in fact, I've not done many. 

I saw the Punch Brothers! They are an INCREDIBLE five-piece bluegrass band from New York. Every member is an amazing virtuoso player and seeing them live was actually stunning. They were great at playing to the crowd, if you know what I mean (I feel a bit in love with the lead singer, Chris Thile), and just, ugh. 

My favourite song from the new album.

There's another new world at the top of the world for the first one to break through the ice.

Apart from that, I've generally been doing school - I made it through my exams! - and lifey stuff. 

Films? I saw The Theory of Everything, which was really brilliant; Into the Woods, with which I was unimpressed; Boyhood, which was fantastic. You should definitely see it if you can. In my opinion, well deserving of the Bafta. 

And that, friends, is a potted history of my life in the past month. See, it's like I wasn't even gone. I am anticipating some changes on this blog: namely, changing the url (I need to think of something good!), designing a proper header, and hopefully doing some polls and working out what you actually like to read/see on here. I'll keep you posted! (A pun, haha.)

So, please tell me: what have you been up to? Books, films, writing, life? Spill. I've missed you. 

And also: happy Valentine's Day!*

Emily x

*did you know that 14th of February 273 AD is the day St Valentine was imprisoned and tortured? If you didn't ... you're welcome.