Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Art Tuesday: Manchester Gallery // Inspire Me

Art Tuesday. Remember these? Remember when they were a consistent weekly feature? Remember when I was a good consistent blogger? To be fair to me, I have posted pretty regularly these past two months. In the long haul between the October holiday and Christmas, this will change.

But I digress. 

You may (or probably won't) remember that in my September round-up post I alluded to a trip to the Manchester Gallery when I went to see my grandparents for the September long weekend. Today I'm going to share just a few of the amazing paintings I saw whilst I was there.

view from hampstead heath, looking twoards harrow 1821 j constable manchester gallery - Google Search
View from Hampstead Heath, looking towards Harrow by John Constable, 1821
I confess. I'm a bit obsessed with landscape paintings. They are just gorgeous, OK?? The thing I love about this one is - obviously - the sky. Wow, wow, wow.

caernarvon castle by moonlight - joseph wright
Caernarvon Castle by Moonlight by Joseph Wright c1870-75

jane austen in e17 grayson perry - Google Search
Jane Austen in E17 by Grayson Perry, 2009
This was an extremely cool vase I saw.
I don't know how it was made, but it had these "Jane Austen" illustrations over its surface ...
jane austen in e17 text - Google Search
... with text and photographs and newspaper headlines superimposed behind them. The above pictures may not be the most impressive, but like everything else in this post, it looked way better in real life. It was very clever and interesting, both as art and social commentary.

winter fuel john everett millais - Google Search
Winter Fuel by John Everett Millais, 1873

ophelia 1852 arthur hughes - Google Search
Ophelia by Arthur Hughes, 1852
Seen a few days after seeing Hamlet in the Manchester Round Theatre, this was one of my very favourite pieces in the gallery. This is exactly how I imagine Ophelia and I was still stunned by the amazing performance I'd seen the actress who played at her deliver a few nights earlier.
There is a willow grows aslant a brook
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do “dead men’s fingers” call them.
There, on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke,
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook.

oak trees in sherwood forest 1877 - Google Search
Oak Trees in Sherwood Forest by Andrew MacCallum, 1877
Like everything else in this post, this looked waaay better in real life. It was absolutely gorgeous.

File:John Everett Millais - Glen Birnam.JPG
Glen Birnam by John Everett Millais, 1891

on the tilt, perthshire edwin landseer - Google Search
On the Tilt, Perthshire by Edwin Landseer, 1830-35

girl with beret lucian freud - Google Search
Girl With Beret by Lucian Freud, 1951-52

hylas and the nymphs john william waterhouse - Google Search
Hylas and the Nymphs by John William Waterhouse, 1896
Now this is absolutely stunning. It's very big in real life. The colours are incredible. And their expressions ... the whole mood. Wow. 

paolo and francesca george frederick watts - Google Search
Paolo and Francesca by George Frederick Watts, 1870

man's head self portrait I lucian freud - Google Search
Man's Head (Self Portrait I) by Lucian Freud, 1963

Which of these is your favourite? What kind of paintings do you like best? Have you been to any galleries/exhibitions recently? And please tell me: do you even like picture posts? Do you want some of my Pinterest to stray onto le blog? I want to know these things.

Emily x

Friday, 24 October 2014

Loony Blurbs: Stars, Darkness and Parallel Parking

Is it really almost the end of October?? Where does the time go? Currently exciting in my life:

~ I'm seeing Ed Sheeran in six days.
~ My mum just made a banana cinnamon cake.
~ I'm seeing friends from camp who I've not seen since summer tomorrow.
~ I'm seeing Ed Sheeran in six days.
~ RE the novel, I'm battling through the Saggy Middle Slump.
~ I'm seeing Ed Sheeran in six days.
~ Today I'm linking up with Emily @ The Loony Teen Writer for Loony Blurbs.


But for now, Loony Blurbs!

loony blurbs 4

This is a brilliant link-up involving making up your own blurbs for published books. I've done this once before - I think I'm going to link up every other time, which will be once a fortnight - and I really enjoyed it. You can find that post here.

Did you link up too? Tell me!

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

On the edge of perfection lurks darkness.

In Wintonland, society has been perfected. Suffering has been eradicated and unhappiness is a thing of the past - at least, that is what everyone is told. However, a price must be paid for this utopia, and every year darkness comes to cast its shadow of one of the provinces. Howl's Moving Castle arrives, and with its eponymous howls plunges the region into despair. In privileged Mondor it is almost taken for granted that Howl's Castle will not darken the city's perfect streets, and the residents live their lives in complacency. But for Hanna, the Governor's daughter, there is something missing in her utopian life. Only when the shadow of the Castle falls on her city can she confront her fears and find her way to a better life - but danger will stalk her at every turn, and she must question everything in which she trusts and believes.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

To park is human. To eleanor is to touch the divine.

Parallel parking, three point turns and the science of reversing. In Autotown they thought they had it all. The gleaming cars line the streets, the drivers park and turn with grace and finesse. But rumours of Eleanor still haunt these streets - Eleanor of the Shining Volvo, the one who perfected parallel parking with a glorious beauty seen neither before nor since. A young couple, Eric and Penny, are making it their quest to find the Way of Eleanor and learn once more the secrets of cars lost to Autotown. But in this journey they will learn more about themselves, each other, and parallel parking then their relationship is ready for ...

A glorious tale of first love, quests and the art of navigating a car park.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Textbook to notebook, novel to anthology. No book is safe.

In the streets of Literaturi, a terrible evil walks. The book thief comes; the book thief goes; and the life is sucked out of the book-loving land. The Book Savers, an underground organisation, is formed; risking life, limb and the pages they hold dear, this intrepid band of heroes fights undercover to take back Literaturi's books. But whilst victory seems possible, they cannot know where the Book Thief will next strike. No one has seen him. No one knows his face. No one knows where he lurks - or if it is not in their very midst. 

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Wishes unlocked by love; secrets mapped out by destiny.

Proud, beautiful and haughty, the Princess Lavinia of Lucrandelle has decreed that she will give her hand only to the man who can number the stars and unlock their wishes for her. Seized by deep love, peasant boy Arrin battles to seek the answer; meanwhile city girl Jayn disguises herself as a boy in the hope that she can complete the quest, reveal her true identity and win money for her starving family. Jayn and Arrin must work in tandem as, through conflicting motives, each tries to unlock the mysteries of the cosmos. But neither knows what secrets Lavinia - or the stars - are hiding ...

The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket

He fixed his eyes on the juicy femur on his plate. He was ravenous. He picked it up, moving it towards his lips ... and dropped it, eyes transported. Across the lunch hall was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Everything about her was perfect. Mikael's heart thudded in his chest as she walked towards him. 
   "H-hi," he managed to stutter as she approached. "Femur?"
       She looked at him with cold disgust in her eyes. "I'm a vegetarian."

Mikael is your average member of the tribe of the Carnivores. He loves the taste of human flesh - of course he does - and life is simple. That is, until the day he falls in love. Sapphia is everything he ever dreamed of, but Mikael knows he can never impress her with his carnivorous ways. He goes on a health kick and gives up meat -- but it's going to take a spectacular time at the annual Carnival to win Sapphia over ...

The Eighth Day by Dianne K. Salerni

The day when time stands still.

Max is privy to a dangerous secret. Every week has eight days, but for most time stands still, and they go through life never knowing what they have missed. The Eighters are an elite group born different, the ones who don't freeze but continue to live, and Max is one of them. In that day they can move around righting wrongs so that the world can keep going; but what about when a group of Eighters decide that the role as the unthanked ones who keep the world ticking over is no longer enough? An uprising begins, and only Max and his friends have the power to stop it. After all, most of the world doesn't know what is happening whilst they are frozen in time ...

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

"The prince. I want him." Lady Tashana steepled her long white fingers and looked at Rump. "And you, Rumpelstiltskin, will help me."

Cursed as a baby, Rump is irrevocably bound to the evil Lady Tashana, compelled to do her bidding. When she commands him to steal the crown prince, he has no choice but to comply, and raises the prince as his own for many years while Lady Tashana extracts money from the king and queen for their son's wellbeing. Rump long ago gave up hope of extracting himself from Tashana's web, but as his love grows for the young Prince Arthur, he begins to see the world through the eyes of the spirited young boy who dares to dream that both he and Rump could escape. But danger lurks in every path, and secrets in every shadow ...

Have you read any of these books? I haven't (apart from The Book Thief, obviously). Tell me what they're actually about! And like I said, please do let me know if you've participated in the link up and I'll stop by.

Emily x

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Beautiful Books: Plotting (ahahaha)

My favourite thing about being a writer is you can talk about "plotting", meaning totally innocent working-on-your-story, and it sounds like you're an evil genius masterminding world domination.

OK. Maybe not my favourite thing. But close.

Today I'm linking up with Beautiful Books, the special NaNo edition of Beautiful People. I'm not participating in NaNo (I have homework, OK?! And I'm mildly pathetic) but if you are I'd love to hear about it!

1. What came first: characters or plot idea? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Like all great ideas, the premise for my WIP came in the shower. I'd signed up for Camp NaNo, July 2013, with only 11 days to go and no novel idea. 2 days later, I was frantically coasting for a premise, and in the shower I was thinking about fairytale retellings. Thus, the Thrace family:
George, father: a merchant; his beloved wife died when their only daughter was a baby.
Aurelle, 17: George's very beautiful and talented daughter.
Patricia, mother: George's loud, avaricious second wife; after her first husband died she married George for money/security, whilst he married her as a mother for Aurelle.
Varissa, 18: Patricia's older daughter. Overshadowed by her younger, prettier stepsister.
Corrie, 15: Patricia's younger daughter. Likewise overshadowed by her older, prettier stepsister.
Do you recognise this fairytale?? This was my starting point, though after that there are no similarities to Cinderella. Anyway, to answer the question: characters came first. I am both a plotter and a pantser. I make extensive notes, but a lot of my ideas come whilst I'm actually writing.

2. Do you have a title and/or a “back-cover-blurb”?
No and no. I am pathetic.

3. What wordcount are you aiming for when your novel is finished?
I want to get to at least 80k; I'd be happier with 90, or 100. I don't know. Fantasy is a genre best served long, in my opinion.

4. Sum up your novel in 3 sentences.
Corrie, a teenage writer, is trying to escape to a better life when she enters the Gleaning to go to the capital city and the court of the Queen. But more is brewing in her country than she can imagine, and she is going to have to get some perspective as she realises that she is part of something far, far bigger. This is (hopefully) a kinda coming-of-age-ish story, with (hopefully) themes of the progression from naivety to understanding, and the development of empathy.

5. Sum up your characters in one word each.
I am rubbish at this question. How does one condense an actual human being into one word?? Corrie, Freddie and Jem could probably all be described as "searching" - they're all searching for something, for someone, for a different way. Not sure about Mel, though.

6. Which character are you most excited to write? Tell us about them!
JEM! He's not easy to write - unlike Freddie and Mel, who are a breeze - but I love him. He's a messenger in the city. He does wood carvings. He is angry and damaged. He is kind and open and grounded. WE ALL LOVE JEM.

7. What about your villain? Who is he, what is his goal?
Oh-ho, SPOILER TERRITORY. There's a reason I didn't do BP last month, when it was the villain edition.

8. What is your protagonist’s goal? And what stands in the way?
At the beginning, Corrie's long-term goal is to be a writer; then, in the short term, to be Selected. Now her short term goal is to find Vetch - read about that here. Standing in her way is, uh, the fact that Vetch is one fourteen year old girl in a big city and she's really difficult to find. 

9. What inciting incident begins your protagonist’s journey?
Well, the Gleaning. This is the seven-yearly competition in which teenagers can enter to be Selected, taken to the capital city and educated in the court of the monarch, to grow up to be members of the elite coterie/high society. This is where the novel begins.

10. Where is your novel set?
A fantasy country called Ivaria.

11. What are three big scenes in your novel that change the game completely?
1. The one I'm writing right now - oo-er - in which Corrie has a bit of an anagnorisis ..... OK OK I'll stop showing off fancy vocabulary. I'm studying Macbeth, OK?? He has a moment of anagnorisis. It means epiphany, or a moment of clarity/realisation. Technically they're for tragic heroes and they only have one, so it's not really relevant to this context, but whatever. In this scene, Corrie has a revelation about the state of things in her country when she sees a dying woman in the street.
2. The Scene in the Cabin in the North (not yet written). In this scene, Corrie further realises that things are not what she thought - that someone she thought was her enemy wants to help her, and someone she thought was her friend really doesn't. 
3. The Last Dramatic Cliffhanger Scene. Final anagnorisis for Corrie (in this book, at least) as a very big secret is revealed to her.

12. What is the most dynamic relationship your character has? Who else do they come in contact with or become close to during the story?
Ooh. That's an interesting question, because "dynamic" is not the same as "close". Corrie has three best friends, Mel, Jem and Freddie, all of whom she meets in Teyvanidan. However there is also her relationship with the Queen, Jacinthe; she kind of idolises her. Then there is her relationship with her stepfather, stepsister and sister. Whilst she doesn't get on very well with her sisters, these family relationships have definitely shaped who she is. 

13. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
WELL. Her perspective changes a lot; she loses a lot of her naivety/self-absorbedness that she has at the start. She realises that there are more important things in life than the things that used to preoccupy her, and she becomes a lot more comfortable with herself a) as influenced by her friends and b) because she realises that actually, it's not all about her and other people aren't judging her nearly as much as she used to think.

14. Do you have an ending in mind, or do you plan to see what happens?
I do. Mostly. Um. Sort of. There's a big reveal (as mentioned in question 11) that takes place, but there's this other big reveal, and as yet I've not worked out whether it's even coming in this book or (whisper it) the sequel.

15. What are your hopes and dreams for your book? What impressions are you hoping this novel will leave on your readers and yourself?
Obviously my hopes and dreams are that it will one day be published, fangirled over, shipped, reviewed with ALL-CAPS because I have fans who just TOO EXCITED and use extreme reaction gifs like


I want to see my books on "best books I read this year list"; I want them to be listed among favourites and displayed on bookshelves. Hopefully, I want to, just a little bit, change my readers' view of the world.

However, these are the wishful longings of every author-in-training. Realistically, my goal for this book? Get it finished. I don't know how this will affect me as a person (this is my first novel, so I don't know what it's like to finish one) but that is the plan.

SO: did you participate in Beautiful Books? Tell me, and I'll find you on the link-up! Now, check out my new way of ending posts .... by talking about books! (New on this blog, eh? Not.)

Emily x

PS I am aware that my fonts don't match. These things will be fixed. 

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Let's Talk About BOOKS ...

... because we don't do that enough on this blog.

 A while ago, the lovely Lauren from Always Me tagged me for the Book Life Tag and the Book Cake Tag. So without further ado ...

What would my book life be like? The one rule: you can't take your answer from the same book more than twice.

Who would be your father?
Atticus Finch.

Who would be your mother?
Molly Weasley, gotta be.
"I don't blame you, dear," she assured Harry, tipping eight or nine sausages onto his plate.
Who would be your sister?

Nubia from the Roman Mysteries series by Caroline Lawrence. Who else has read this series??
Who would be your brother?
I wanted to say Fred Weasley, but I can't since I'm only allowed to mention each book twice (curse you, tag rules). After giving this a bit of thought, I'm going to go for Tyrion Lannister; judging on his relationship with Jaime, I think he'd be a good brother, and I think we'd get on pretty well.

Who/what would be your pet?

Toothless would be my pet! Not film-Toothless, but original book-Toothless, from How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell. He is v. adorable. Plus, he's a dragon. Need I explain how cool this would be??

Where would you live?

I'd get a nice dam, like the beavers' ... 

... or else I'd hang out in the palace with High King Peter and co.

Where would you go to school?
I would go to Hogwarts.

What would be your fictional job?

Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, please. (Not as an Oompa-Loompa, though.)
Who would be your best friend?
Skulduggery Pleasant! He is my favourite. My FAVOURITE. I've just started The Dying of the Light (ie book 9 THE LAST ONE I CAN'T DEAL WITH THIS) and my heart is already breaking. Skulduggery, I love you.

Who would be your significant other?
Hem-hem well, I am hopelessly in love with both Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series and Dave the Laugh from the Georgia Nicolson series ... but I don't want to break up my OTPs, you know? Tough one.

Now, to combine two of my favourite things:

A book that was a little bit slow to start off but really picked up as it went along.

It took me a little bit to get into this book but after that, HECK I LOVED IT. 

A book that had a really rich and great plot.

A Suitable Boy was sooo long, so it had a heap of main characters and a hugely complex plot. That is no doubt part of the reason why this is one of my favourite books.
A book you thought was going to be bad but actually turned out really enjoyable.

OK, so I didn't think this book was going to be bad ... but a little-known minor classic about singing and mining and Welsh people? Meh, thought I. But how I was proved wrong .... ~quiet fangirling~

I won this book in a giveaway, but when it arrived I seriously did not have high expectations. Clairvoyants? A character called Blue? And my copy has the tagline "If you kiss your true love, he will die", which honestly put me right off. BUT I read it ... and the rest is history.
~continues to quietly fangirl~
A sugary/sweet book.

I really don't read books that could be described as "sugary". Contemporary romance? Not my scene. However, a sweet book ....

This was a really sweet book. Review here.

A book that covered every single element that you enjoy about a book (funny moments, action moments, sad moments, etc.)

I was thinking about this one, and wondering about the criteria, or rather, what is every single element that I enjoy about a book. This is what I came up with: fantasy/magic, funny bits, sad bits, action bits, romance, a good plot, great friendships ... basically, Harry has all of these and that's probably why it's pretty much my favourite series/favourite books. Come to think of it, though ...

LotR also contains all of these aspects. Hence why it's another of my favourites.
A book series that you can kind of turn back to for a little pick me up when you're feeling down.

I mean really, we all know that the answer is Harry Potter. But to shine a light on some of my other favourites: Georgia Nicolson. This books make me literally gasp with laughter, so they can never fail to cheer me up.

The Cherry on Top
Your favourite book this year so far.

This is a horrible question. You know I can't answer this question.
I refuse to narrow it down.
And with that final typical bookworm answer, we are done. 

I tag:

Marian @ Ivory Clouds
Carly Meyer @ Books and Etc.
Seana @ The Totally Insane Writer
Ashley @ [insert title here]
Aliyanna @ Anna's Notebook
Chelsea @ A Wee Bit of Madness
Am I getting better at not always tagging the same people? No? Well, Seana and Marian: I solemnly swear not to tag you next time.

Right, tagees, choose a tag - or choose both, I dare you! - and if you do it, don't forget to pop by and link me up! If you're doing the Book Life Tag, remember the rule: you can only answer from the same book twice.

Everyone else, I tag you in spirit if not in reality. Go on, answer the questions in the comments. Or at least answer these ones that I'll choose:

1. Who would be your best friend?
2. Who would be your significant other?
3. Choose a book that covered every single element that you enjoy about a book (funny moments, action moments, sad moments, etc.)
4. Your favourite book this year so far.

Emily x

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

At laaast // a little haul, and more than a little fangirling.

I'm finally sixteen! Hooray, hurrah and cake for everyone! As you may know I'm currently in Singapore and was able to spend my birthday (Monday) very enjoyably: first I went with my brother to the Bras Basaar (not a shop specialising in odd underwear but a retail complex) and did some secondhand book shopping, and then we went to Singapore's famous Raffles hotel for afternoon tea. 

Tiffin Room
Picture of the Tiffins Tea Room taken from the hotel website. [I do not own this picture]
I'm glad to be sixteen at last - I've not noticed this in previous years, but for the last few months I felt like I'd been fifteen for about 3.7 years. I cannot believe that only 368 days ago I was fourteen. This seems crazy. But maybe that's just me ... does anyone else get this? Anyway ...

Presents! Clockwise: Toblerone; Miranda series 1-3; SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT BOOK 9 ASFKAJSDFKASJ WHAT WHAT WHAT; book bought secondhand with my brother (thanks HHL); watercolour pencils; Lush bath bombs. I am v. happy and grateful for all these presents; cap locks probably indicates which I'm one I was most excited to unwrap.
I also scored some money from other relatives and book tokens from my always-reliable-for-a-bookish-present aunt. As you will know if you ever read any book-rants of mine, Blue Lily, Lily Blue is coming out on October 28th and despite my aversion to paying full price for new books, I may have to go right into Waterstone's and translate my vouchers into a shiny new book.

Dog cards - a staple of any of my birthdays. From my aunt/uncle/cousins; from my other aunt and uncle; from my other cousins.

Classic granddaughter card (we've all received them); surrealist but beautiful card from my brother in Norway; card from my other brother/sister-in-law. It's meant to be ironic, I promise.

My two favourites: gorgeous illustration card from my parents; card from my nephew! We were all forced to agree that it's not a masterpiece of graphic or artistic design, or originality - I'm told that the card selection in Singapore is not fantastic - but it is of course my first ever card received as an aunt! 

Now, wouldn't you like a closer look at my book stacks? (I knew you'd say yes.)
Series collection: I am a fan of series collection, though for once this stack is not predominated by books I've already read. (I have a penchant for buying my favourite series secondhand, even when I've read them.)
Magyk by Annie Sage -- OK, so this is the one I have read. The Septimus Heap series is one of a few series which I loved but managed to fall off the end of -- as in, they were coming out once a year, and if the library didn't get it in, I ended up losing track. For this reason I never finished this brilliant series, but now I can reread the first one, and hopefully then all the rest!
Sequins, Stars and Spotlights by Sophia Bennett -- #1 example of times not to judge a book by it's cover or title. This is the third and final book in the Threads trilogy, and can I see I was inwardly squealing when I found this is in the secondhand shop. I read the first two books a while ago - maybe eighteen months - but the library didn't have the last one, so sadly I never finished this powerful, amazing series - but now I can!!!! ~dancing~

Anne of Windy Willows by LM Montgomery -- Anne of Green Gables #4. This is exciting because the pathetic library only has the first 3 books out of 10 of the Anne series, so once I finish the third one (which I'm reading very soon) I'll be on my own. Now I have the fourth once at least. I love this series.
Skulduggery Pleasant: The Dying of the Light by Derek Landy

closely followed by

with a good dose of


I mean, I've not even read the book yet. I know nothing that happens. (Translation: spoil and I'll kill you.) But I know enough about Derek Landy's evil mind to know that TERRIBLE THINGS ARE GOING TO TRANSPIRE.

Also, that cover, though.

Is anyone else thinking what I'm thinking???

~hysterical gaspy breathing~ IS ANYONE?????


Maybe I won't read it. Maybe I'll just sit and hug it for a while.

I mean, of course I'm going to read it ... I'm worried, though. I will no doubt have a major book hangover. I can't believe that after five years of waiting excitedly for the next Skulduggery book to come out, it's going to be over. I will need to do some serious comfort reading afterwards - Anne of Green Gables and Georgia Nicolson are lined up for the job.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro -- I've heard this praised very highly so I was happy to snap it up. I know own two Ishiguro books, though I've still not read When We Were Orphans. So many books and so little time ....
Inglorious by Joanna Kavenna -- I'd not actually heard of this, but I have read Come to the Edge by Joanna Kavenna, which was absolutely stunning and beautiful and ugh. No words. It was also soul-destroying. No words, no words, no words. Review is here. So, anyway, when I saw Inglorious I had to pick it up.
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters -- never heard of this; picked up purely because the spine and then the cover and then the blurb attracted me. 
All in all, a pretty good collection! Tell me: have you read any of these books? Do you like them? And what is the last book you received that you fangirled excessively over, like me and The Dying of the Light? If you've had a book haul post recently, link me up!

Emily x