Saturday, 30 August 2014

Titles on the brain.

Recently, I've had titles on the brain. I'm (allegedly) writing a novel, and one thing that strikes me when I hear you guys talk about your own WIPS is this: you all have titles. I am increasingly wishing I had one of my own, and this has led to the question: what makes a good title? More than ever in friends' houses, holiday homes or libraries I scan the bookshelves, mentally rating the strength of each title I see, so today I thought I'd share some of my title turn-offs and turn-ons. (Basically, I want any excuse to talk about books and make lists.)

Title turn-on #1: Long titles. Just read these titles and tell me they don't make you want to know more. Long titles are always unique and unforgettable, and often promise an amusing or at least unusual read. 
[The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared review here; The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil review here.]
Title turn-on #2: Titles in reference to something. Whether it is a poem, rhyme or saying I always love a title that references something.
By Light Alone by Adam Roberts is a book I'd never heard of before seeing it in the charity shop, but as soon as I saw the title I knew it was in reference to the Bible verse "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word from the mouth of God." Reading the blurb I saw that it was a book about a society in which humans can photosynthesise light through their hair, in place of food, showing that they live "by light alone".
The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer references the nursery rhyme "Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater / Had a wife and couldn't keep her / He put her in a pumpkin shell / And there he kept her very well". This rhyme is in the inside cover of the book, and is an interesting choice because being a children's rhyme it is deceptively simple, but it also shows the misogyny prevalent in the book.
The Cuckoo's Calling by JK Rowling (writing as Robert Galbraith) also has a poem in the inside cover, 'A Dirge' by Christina G. Rossetti, and "the cuckoo's calling" is taken from this poem. I've not read the book yet but I'm excited to see how this will tie in!
Come to the Edge by Joanna Kavenna (review here) also has a poem at the front of the book, which I currently can't find, but it sets the tone for the all book. It's a good poem, too. I'm annoyed I can't find it on the interwebz.
[The Pumpkin Eater review here; Come to the Edge review here.]

Title turn-on #3: state of being titles. These titles always fill me with questions about the past and present state of being of the characters! How green was his valley? What colour is it now?? Were they liars?? When?? What did they lie about?? Aren't they liars anymore?? When he was Joe?? Isn't he still Joe?? What's happening??
^^ These are all questions that spring to mind when I read this titles. They make me want to know more. Even now I can't wait to read We Were Liars or When We Were Orphans! (I've read the others. They are all AMAZING. Read my review of How Green Was My Valley here and How I Live Now here.)

Title turn-on #4: the names of institutions/similar.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is, of course, a book that got major hype in both the real and book-blogging worlds, and I'm sure you already have a firm opinion of the trilogy. But just imagine you've not read it or heard of it; isn't The Hunger Games a great title? Contained in the words "hunger" and "games" the scene is set for the poverty of Panem, the brutality of the Games and also the idea that the death involved is no more than a sport to many. 
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: can you hitchhike around the galaxy?? Is this an amusing manual-style sci-fi novel?? Answers: yes and yes. 
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a great title; not only is Miss Peregrine a fantastic name to begin with, the idea of "peculiar children" hooks the reader right in.

Title turn-on #5: Alliteration. I do love some alliteration! For purely phonetic reasons it makes a title sound good. (Notice, though, that these titles are all classics. I'm running a mental blank on contemporaries with alliterative titles; can you think of any? Or are today's author missing out on this title turn-on?)
[Pride and Prejudice review here.]

But, for all the great titles out there, there are many that I view as boring and unattractive. These are my top five title turn-offs.

Note: I've not read all the books in this list, and mean no offense to the authors, publishers or fans of any of these books. In fact some of these books are brilliant; it's just the titles I'm not overly keen on.

Title turn-off #1: Flat, boring one-word titles. There's nothing especially wrong with these titles, but in my opinion, calling a book about the First World War Remembrance and a book about the French Revolution Revolution deserves no prizes. [Reviews here and here.]

Title turn-off #2: Just the MC's name?? This title trend is a by-product of the "flat one-word titles". I'm sorry, but it's not very imaginative to just name your book after your MC. Again there's nothing wrong with this, and I still really enjoyed these three books, with Emma being one of my very favourite books ever, but it just seems like another title could have been more wow-worthy.
[Review of Emma here.]

Title turn-off #3: Super-obvious romance. Whilst the first two title turn-offs in this list are pretty innocuous, this is where I get more judgemental. I know that the covers of these books make it obvious that they are romances, but even the titles in isolation make it clear that romance is the central theme. I can't buy into a book like this, as it seems to me like the female MCs are defined only by their relationship with boys.

Title turn-off #4: Super-obvious crime titles. On the flipside of romance we have these overly dramatic crime titles. Yes, yes, yes, crime, murder, blood, detectives. I get it. Yawn. I'm really not into crime fiction anyway, but these titles are about as subtle as a brick and ensure that these are books I will not be reading.

Title turn-off #5: THE DREADED 'DAUGHTER' TITLE. THIS is by far the BIGGEST TITLE TURN-OFF for me, as you may have guessed by my EXCESSIVE USE OF ALL-CAPS. A Clergyman's Daughter by George Orwell was published in asdfasdf, and since then the ball has just not stopped rolling. In my opinion this is the biggest cliche of them all for a title, and I'm not quite sure why contemporary writers still haven't got the message: this trend is so overdone that it can no longer be taken seriously.
Well, that was some insight into the (questionably sane) zone of Emily's brain. What are your title turn-ons and turn-offs? Do you agree with me? Or do you wildly disagree? Let me know!

Emily x

Monday, 25 August 2014

Back // Beautiful People Link-up


I have been away for three weeks, but now I am BACK! Camp was amaaaazing, likewise my holiday, but now real life must kick in again as school starts back on Wednesday. This is my Higher year - ie, the BIG ONE.


~runs and hides in corner~

Frankly I am not ready to take exams that will decide whether I get into uni or not and basically the rest of my life. But hey-ho. They're not for a while.

Life is currently pretty frantic: my mum has gastroenteritis, Psycho Puppy is biting everything (and pooing everywhere), the dishwasher is broken ... in general, life in my house has run more smoothly than this. However I am taking a very brief few moments, now that the washing-up is finally done and the puppy is asleep, to grab my laptop and seek internet solace. The marathon of replying to comments and reading all the lovely posts you've written while I've been away will come, but right now I'm going to be participating in the August edition of the Beautiful People link-up!

Thanks to Cait and Skye who host this meme!

I am pleased and proud to say that I have actually written quite a lot this month-- ah dear the puppy just ran off with my sister's underwear in its mouth.

*some time later*

OK I caught it and retrieved said underwear. It's now chewing the stairs with extreme ferocity. Ah, what a happy picture of man's best friend in the peace and tranquility of the home .... not.

Anyway, as I was saying, I've written quite a lot. I decided that after doing two posts on my MC Corrie - find them here and here - I'd introduce you to one of my other characters. Corrie has three best friends, and I decided that this month we'd feature - drumroll please - Freddie! "Hurrah!" I hear you cry. "Who the heck is Freddie??"

Before I tell you, I'll paste in my (mildly pathetic, but basically functional) synopsis-thing, as seen in previous posts:

Every seven years in the country of Ivaria, a process known as the Gleaning takes place. Thirteen to eighteen year olds are able to showcase their skills and talents to a delegation of four Selectors, and three from each village are Selected to be taken to the capital city of Teyvanidan, where they are trained and educated to become members of the royal court. Corrie Thrace is a writer (and totally not a self-insert), and .... I am sure you can guess what happens to her. The story begins with the Gleaning and soon she is off to Teyvanidan to have a host of daring adventures .... or something like that.

As you see, Corrie was Selected from her village, and Freddie was one of the others Selected with her. They had never met before but become friends after they reach the city.

What to say about Freddie? He's sixteen, a gypsy, and has magic, which is why he is Selected. He wasn't even meant to be a character at all, but he strolled into the manuscript a few days after I began le novel (for Camp NaNo last year) and suddenly became one of the main characters. Writers will know that characters have an annoying habit of doing that. But now it is time for the questions.

1) What does your character regret the most in their life?
Freddie has a little sister, Vetch. Now, Vetch has magic, like her brother, but it is strange and uncontrollable. Their mother, Rosa, had no magic herself, but she feared it in her daughter. In the end she forbade her to use it. Vetch still did it, in secret, and Freddie used to help her, but it grew and grew and eventually he too thought it was too dangerous, and told her to stop. She wouldn't - she couldn't - and in the end, that's why she ran away from home. Freddie regrets that he didn't support her more, and stand up to her mother, and that's why he's disgracing his family and going against his wishes by being Selected. He never wanted to be Selected, but he needs to find his sister. 

2) What is your character's happiest memory? Most sorrowful memory?
Happiest memory: playing with Vetch and one of their brothers, Iestyn, when they're little. Freddie remembers playing a game with Vetch when they went swimming in a lake together, bouncing the water back and forth with magic. His most sorrowful memory is of the day he woke up to find Vetch gone; worse even than her disappearance was the look on his mother's face when she said that Vetch could do what she liked, but she would not be welcomed back to their family.

3) What majorly gets on your character’s nerves?
He doesn't like people who are fake or falsely obsequious. He likes people to be frank, like him. Girls being coy/coquettish is something else that annoys him. And he can't stand people breathing loudly/sniffing.

4) Do they act differently when they're around people as opposed to being alone? If so, how?
Freddie is a very open person so he never lies to people to change the way they think of him. However he doesn't like to show or sadness or what he perceives as weakness apart from to his friends.

5) What are their beliefs and superstitions? (Examples: their religion or lack of one, conspiracy theories, throwing salt, fear of black cats.) 
OK, so this is a tricky question. On the one hand, as someone who knows the saving grace of Jesus Christ I want my characters to know it too .... but on the other, in my fantasy alternate universe I'm not about to be like "and then they found a Bible, ooh plot twist!" I suppose I look to CS Lewis for inspiration, as someone who puts religion v. perfectly into the Narnia books.

Anyway, I don't think Freddie is very superstitious but in a world where magic exists I think he believes in a higher power, without having a fully formed sen
se of belief.
6) What are their catchphrases, or things they say frequently? 
He doesn't have a catchphrase ... yet. Such things tend to spring up in the writing, in my experience.

7) Would they be more prone to facing fears or running from them?
Facing, I think. Freddie's main fear is that he'll never find his sister, but that's something he's trying his hardest to do.

8) Do they have a good self image?
I guess so. I don't think he thinks about it much. He doesn't have low self-worth, but he doesn't really think about it. 

9) Do they turn to people when they're upset, or do they isolate themselves?
Depends on the people. Freddie is very quick to spot a friend and to put his trust in someone, meaning that he will turn to someone even if he's not known them for long. However he will also isolate himself when he feels like he has no friends in the people around him.

10) If they were standing next to you would it make you laugh or cry?
Laugh, definitely.

Have you participated in Beautiful People? Tell me so that I can find you in the link-up! And don't forget to fill me in on whatever news there is from the past three weeks. Giveaways, blogoversaries, novels, pet alpacas ... I want to hear about them.

Emily x

Friday, 22 August 2014

September - May: A Bookish Tour (Part 4)

Hi everyone. This is the final post in my epic review series (maybe a slight exaggeration) of what I read during my hiatus. I like to think that with this post behind us, we can forget that the hiatus ever happened! For the first three review posts, click here, here and here.

The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

"Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie."

A quest. A ring. Courage and bravery in the face of evil. Possibly the most famous work of epic fantasy ever.

And yes, Emily the Major Fantasy Fan only read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for the first time this spring. Better late than never, right?? What can I say? I LOVE these books. Just everything, the characters and the humour of The Hobbit, and the beautiful lyrical writing of The Lord of the Rings and the amazing epic scale. I love quests. I love high fantasy. The scope and breadth of it was incredible - and I know that, having not yet read The Silmarillion or the Histories of Middle Earth, I've only scratched the surface of Tolkien's incredible world. These book sky-rocketed to be some of my favourites. I am in awe.

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins

"The job of the skin is to keep things in ... "

On the island of Here, everything is controlled and contained; the neat, ordered houses line up together using their conformity to block out the terror of the Sea and the distant whispers of a place called There. Dave is content with his job and his life - until one day, strange things begin to happen.

The second I saw this in the library, I was of course hooked. Who could possibly resist a book titled The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil? Certainly not me. I don't read graphic novels very often but I do enjoy a good one, and the pictures in this did not disappoint:

They were really beautiful in style and very detailed - you could look and look at each page, seeing all the little touches added by Collins.

This book was really unexpected. From the humorous title I was expecting a light-hearted read, but in fact I was presented with a strange and quite depressing story. The social commentary was very interesting as Collins tackled the conformist mindset of our society and the slow deadening of our minds.

Specifically, there was a really interesting portrayal of everyone being constantly on their phone - which as I'm sure you know is an accurate depiction of the general public, whether on the train or walking down the street, and even in social situations.
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil gave me a lot more to think about than I was expecting - but I did enjoy it, and would definitely recommend it.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zaf√≥n 

Daniel has grown up surrounded by books, and when he is ten, the ultimate heritage of a book-lover is passed onto him by his bookshop-owning father: he is taken to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where he must trawl the dusty archives to find one book to "adopt", thus saving it from oblivion. He finds The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax, a mysterious author of whom he has never heard before, and stays up through the night reading  a breathtaking story. Growing up in twentieth century Barcelona he is pulled into the book's gothic world, and he is drawn deeper than he ever imagined as he tries to unravel the mystery surrounding Julian Carax.

I loved this book. It is written in true gothic style with lyrical, beautiful prose and a fantastic plot that twists between dark and light, past and present, and the people both in Daniel's life and in the novel he becomes immersed in. It was a really compelling read and I would definitely recommend it to any fans of historical fiction, those who enjoy a complex plot and lovers of beautiful prose.

Black Angels by Rita Murphy

For Celli, growing up in America's South in the 1960s, the difference between black and white is ultimate and unquestionable; she loves her black nanny Sophie, but believes that what society tells her about racial differences is the truth. Despite her missing father and the growing racial tensions of her country, Celli's life is settled - until one summer, when Sophie becomes increasingly involved in the Civil Rights Movement and the truth about Celli's parents is slowly brought to light. That is the summer when she begins to see angels in the back garden - angels that she never imagined to be her age, or black.

This was a pretty interesting book. The truth is that books like this, set in 60s America, are ten-a-penny; like the world wars, a focus on the Civil Rights Movement and the black quest for equality is a popular theme for contemporary authors. This book was certainly set apart by the angels it featured - these were symbolic, I think, of equality, though I can't say I entirely bought into them. But despite this rather strange aspect of the book, it was well-written with an interesting plot. It was a quick read and I would recommend it, I think, if you have a particular interest in this time period and its racial issues. 

So, have you read any of these? What did you think? (I'm especially interested in the last three, because the likelihood is you have read LotR.) On the topic of LotR, though: what's a book that's really famous but you didn't read for ages? Or maybe you've still not read it?!

Emily x

PS I'm back from holiday tomorrow! As I type this right now, on July 31st, about to hit the "schedule" button, I can't believe that when you're reading this I'll actually be almost back to school. Ugh. Scary thought. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Art Tuesday: Poetry.

Hello there. How's everyone's August going? Today I'm going to fangirl over Ted Hughes share some more scrapbook pages with you (but I am also going to fangirl over Ted Hughes).

Do you remember this post, where I shared some pages of cards, tickets, drawings etc.? Well, also in my scrapbook I write out poems and quotations that I like, and that's what we've got today.

September by Ted Hughes - one of my favourites of his, which is saying something. I love Ted Hughes a lot - his work is absolutely stunning and perfectly captures so much.
Sorry if this is too small - click here for a web version.
My favourite lines: Behind the eye a star / Under the silk of the wrist a sea, tell / Time is nowhere.

LOVE THIS POEM. So insightful!

Another Ted Hughes favourite. THIS. 

This is more of a fragment than a poem, but all the same I love this two lines - I think they're very evocative.

OK, I know this is too small (without zooming in) but I wanted to give the scrapbook aesthetic. Here is the poem:

tarmac and dark grey cement flowed over her skin
and her hair was the colour of street lights
and when he looked at her,
the cars rushing past seemed only to be going
at 60 miles a decade.

her mouth tasted of newsagents when he kissed it
her lips smudged his.
eyes like rusty metal,
he kissed her.

and she didn't understand half the words he said
but she liked the feel of fabric softener
on her naked skin as she pulled off his shirt.
she liked the smell of expensive aftershave
and she reminded him of bubblegum machines
in fairgrounds.

their hearts were covered in grass stains;
the mud of trampled feet in the corner of a city park
when stars aren't visible under city smog
and the moon seems too old to care.

she could not even spell his surname
but when she danced she danced dark and 
she was no longer lit by neon,
her skin no longer uncovered in public bathrooms
and he was traversing unknown territory
when she let him wander through her memories.
when he kissed her, he kissed privileged.

she spoke in plurals
and he breathed the words from her mouth
and smoke from her cigarette
and wine from her own breath.
her hands wander through the grass
to find her jeans’ pocket
to pick up a mobile to talk to a friend
he watches her, without moving.

and oh, what loves these be,
overlooked by tired moon and old trees
and the scream of rough kids far away
skin rough, soul rough
but his touch smoothes it away
and his chest is like marble in a Parisian museum.
his eyes are silver coins
and he kisses by the public school book.
The girl who wrote this, Hattie Gruneworld, wrote it to enter the Foyle Young Poets Award (she was one of the winners, needless to say). Which is awesome for her (but depressing for other teenage poets, who read this and think "oh. And then there's me.") Isn't it incredible that a teenager wrote that beautiful poem? It blows me over.

So, what did you think of these poems? Do you have a favourite poem/poet? Tell me your thoughts!

Emily x

Friday, 15 August 2014

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine ...

Hi everyone! 

Love this song! ~hums along~


The point I'm trying to get to with this sunshine talk, is that I got the Sunshine Award! I first got it a while ago - for my first post, click here - but now I've got it again, from Marian and July. Thanks very much, ladies!

First up, July's questions.

1. What is your favourite summer activity?
Can I say "not going to school"? No? No, OK. Well ... probably eating outside in the evenings, or going off with a book or notepad to a quiet spot in the sunny grass to read or write. Fun fact: the latest chapter of my novel was written outside.

2. Would you prefer lemonade or soda?
Neither, really. But if forced, lemonade.

3. Out of the following, which would you most enjoy visiting for the day - the beach,  the pool, the ocean, the swimming hole in the woods?
What's the difference between the beach and the ocean?? In terms of swimming, I love swimming the sea best, however the "swimming hole in the woods" sounds fun because it calls to mind this amazing quotation from How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (one of my favourite books, as you followers must know by now):

Eventually everyone came out of the water and for hours and hours and hours we lay under the tree and talked and read and occasionally someone got up to throw a stick for the dogs and Piper played with Ding and made tiny woven wreaths of poppies and daisies to decorate his baby horns and Isaac whistled back and forth to a robin and Edmond just lay there smoking and telling me he loved me without saying anything out loud and if there ever was a more perfect day in the history of time it isn't one I've heard about.

4. What is your summer song?
In general, I'd have to go with Feel So Close by Calvin Harris, it's so .... ZINGY. You know? This summer specifically, I've been loving Scouting For Girls, who are a very summery band. I love She's So Lovely (who doesn't?) and I Need a Holiday.

5.  What is your opinion on old Disney movies?
Well. I've not seen many of them. What does 'old' mean anyway; obviously the old Snow White and Cinderella etc. are old, but what about Mulan, Pocohontas, The Lion King? If it's not made with Pixar, does that mean it's old? I have no idea. Let's just say "I LOVE MULAN" and be done with it.

6. Would you eat cookies if I baked them?
Definitely! :3

7. If you could travel anywhere this summer vacation with no cost to you, where would it be, why and what would you do there?
Ooh ... well ... I really want to go to Paris, but one feels that August might be too hot? Maybe I'd go to London and see the V&A's new wedding dress exhibition, as well as stalking the charity shops and Camden Market. Why see the exhibition? Because I love FASHION and FASHION HISTORY, and because the Ballgowns exhibition I saw in 2012 was AMAZING AND GORGEOUS (see a post on that here).

And now, Marian's questions!

1. What is your favourite colour (be specific)?
I hate this question. Red. Green. Pink. Purple. Orange. I LIKE ALL THE COLOURS!!!!

2. If you could live in a world from a book, which would you choose?
I would love to live in Narnia ..... but really, you know I'd have to go with the world of Harry Potter (if I was magic, that is. Imagine I wasn't. Imagine I got one wish and wished to live in the world of HP and when I opened my eyes, nothing had changed. I would know it existed, but I couldn't get in. I'd spend my days trawling the Internet for leads to magic, probably wearing a tinfoil hat and forgetting to eat. I'd likely be institutionalised, all the while screaming "BUT IT'S REAL!! MAGIC'S REAL!! I'LL FIND YOU, HARRY!!"). 

3. What are top 3 favourite places in the world?
~ The field behind my house - like I managed in my answer to July's question 1, I can go there and sit in the grassy quiet to read or write. It's a gorgeous spot.
~ The island we go on holiday to each year. A tiny, beautiful island in the north of Scotland ... I love it.
~ Buchanan Street, Glasgow city centre. Whilst the other places on this list are tucked in the wilds of the countryside, I also love cities and the centre of Glasgow is a great place: lively and vibrant, it's fantastic to sit with a book (and, of course, a snack) and feel the atmosphere. There are always buskers and musicians on the streets, and I love to see and hear them, to people-watch, and to see the gorgeous outfits of some of the suave city dwellers.

4. Who was your first favourite singer/ band?
The first exposure to pop music I got was when my sister bought her first two albums, Let Go by Avril Lavigne and Insomniatic by Aly and AJ, which to this day are I think are great albums. Here are a couple of other songs I loved aged seven or so:

Don't we all love this song?? I know I still do!!

I'm not ashamed (well slightly ashamed) to admit that my deep love for this song continues to this day. 

5. Pick a number any number?
NOT THAT NUMBER -- the first thing I think when I see that question.

6. Tell me three things on  your bucket list?
I don't have an official bucket list - it's barely something I think about - but OK:
~ go to Paris! I mentioned this already. I would LOVE to go there: the art, the fashion, the culture, the FOOD.
~ Finish a novel. May seem like nothing to some of you lot, but that is a massive ambition for me!
~ See Les Mis on stage - like, properly. I love this musical a lot, but I've only seen a school performance (and the film, of course).

7. Are you a morning or night person?
Neither. My bed is my true love. 

8. What is the first thing that just popped into your head, right now?
Um well, I was thinking about "my bed is my true love" and I started thinking about a Tumblr post I saw once, let me see if I can find it ...
That's all from me today, because I did already do this award once and I'm not going to nominate anyone else! I hope you enjoyed this - and tell me, what's on your bucket list? I am interested in other people's bucket lists.

Emily x