Book Review. Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson. 5 stars.

Warning: Some reviews contain minor spoilers. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more.

If The Infernal Devices and The Colour of Magic had a baby, Sorcery of Thorns would be it. It’s a fun mystery with quirky magic and curious characters. Definitely one of the best YA books I’ve read in a long time. Also, it’s a standalone which I recommend if you’re like me and binge on too many unfinished series. I need to read a story that has a satisfying ending. 

What I liked…

Elizabeth is a super likeable character. She’s young but not immature. She also puts things together asap rather than flailing about aimlessly and missing the obvious. 

Nathaniel is actually quite funny from a reader’s perspective despite Elizabeth’s previous opinion of him. I loved the flashback to their first meeting at the beginning of the book. It helped set up her ideas of sorcerers. 

Silus was definitely an interesting fellow with being a demon, but also being somewhat different to other demons. And then later… no spoilers on that, but I liked seeing two sides of him. 

The magic is fun and quirky with living books that can turn into weird and scary creatures. The idea of sorcerers getting their magic from demons makes them more unique in this world. And I liked how their powers were obviously limited. 

The plot/character balance was just my thing. 

The plot had twists and turns that made it exciting but was pretty easy to follow. There were reminders of little things in case I forgot, but i didn’t since it was done so well.

The writng was wonderful. Analogies were unique, sometimes I had to think on them, but they made sense and were actually fun to try and visualise. I’m talking a few in the whole book.

What I didn’t like…

I find the “sheltered girl” trope a little borning these days. I felt there was no obvious reason why she was so clueless about the real world since she wasn’t a prisoner or anything. 

Final thoughts…

If you like magical mysteries, plot twists, and loveable characters and a sprinkle of cute romance, then I recommend this book.

Book Review. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. 5 Stars.

Warning: Some reviews contain spoilers. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is the 2nd round of reading this book. I read them when they first came out a few years ago, but I’d forgotten so many details and small story parts that it felt like someone had told me about it and I was reading it properly for the first time.

It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast at its core, but it’s so much more. Feyre causes her own fate rather than being the victim of someone else’s actions. She’s hardened before the story even starts, so I immediately liked that in her. 

The BatB adaptation shows again when she realizes there’s a curse on Tamlin and his spring court servants. But unlike the original, it’s a mystery that nobody talks much about. 

Feyre takes it upon herself to find out what’s going on and do something about it. And the plot thickens when she meets a tall dark and handsome, but dangerous, stranger just for him to show up at the spring court the next day. 

I liked how this prompts Tamlin to take action, and the rest… definitely not what I expected.

By the end, I was emotionally spent even though I knew where the book was going.

Things I liked…

  • I like how Feyre isn’t some weakling from the start. Sure, she’s human, but she’s got skills already. 
  • I like that it’s a “chosen one” that’s earned by her own actions rather than some unseen power that randomly decides.
  • Characterisation. It’s hard to do in a single POV, but Sarah pulls it off.
  • Lots of characters moments between bigger plot moments. It moves nicely without being rushed. 
  • Tamlin and Lucien are curious characters at the beginning. Their permanent masks make for instant curiosity.
  • I liked the tension between Feyre and Tamlin and how their relationship evolved.
  • I love the differences between how Tamlin and Rhys behave towards Feyre under the mountain. 
  • Having already read the books, I saw the wonderful preparation for book 2. I think I misjudged things first time around.

Things I didn’t like…

  • That it ended. 

There’s a reason I reread this series, and I love it even more than the 1st time. 

Book Review. The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen. 4.5 Stars

Warning: Some reviews contain spoilers. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I got serious Pirates of the Caribbean vibes in most of this book, but a completely different story. It’s low fantasy in that it’s a completely imaginary world, but there’s no magic. 

I loved how Lara started off in this book. She has a plan to take down a kingdom in order to save her own. She goes from the dry desert to a stormy group of islands to marry a King she’s never met. 

I also live how we get Aren’s POV too and see how he needs the alliance with Lara to bring trade to his people. Mostly, I love how we instantly see that he’s not what she was expecting and we just have to watch while she works that out.

The details of how Lara adjusts to the weather really brings the world to life. And her slow realization is nicely done. She’s been lied to all her life, and her only purpose is ruining Aren’s kingdom. 

It’s also fun that he learns that she’s a spy and Falls for her anyway, makes the betrayal that much sweeter. 

Art by theclever.crow

Things I liked…

  • Lara and Aren were fun to read as they slowly fall for each other.
  • The love scenes were nicely written. A perfect balance of emotion and explicitly.
  • The world was fantastic with the bridge and islands and swashbuckling theme.
  • Lara was likable despite being pretty cold from the start. She has her reasons.

What I didn’t like…

  • I’m being super picky with this, but some small technical things in the writing bugged me. But not really enough to bring down my rating. 
  • Despite really enjoying the book, it didn’t 100% captivate me, but that’s a personal thing that I can’t really explain, hence the 4.5 stars and not a full 5. 

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes low fantasy and romance with kingdom politics and trained assassins.

Shadows

I once walked in the dark, a shadow of the woman I used to be.

More shadows followed me, fears and unfulfilled desires.

I became the shadows, chasing what I thought I wanted.

Time taught me to let go and stop chasing.

But now you’re my shadow, watching when I no longer want you.

You pushed me over the edge and watched me fall.

But I didn’t hit the ground. 

I flew despite everything.

You have no right to watch me soar.

This is my flight, not yours.

And my shadows are far below me as the glorious sun warms my wings.

So to you, my darkest shadow, you no longer darken my flight.

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay 

Shadows

I once walked in the dark, a shadow of the woman I used to be.

More shadows followed me, fears and unfulfilled desires.

I became the shadows, chasing what I thought I wanted.

Time taught me to let go and stop chasing.

But now you’re my shadow, watching when I no longer want you.

You pushed me over the edge and watched me fall.

But I didn’t hit the ground. 

I flew despite everything.

So you have no right to watch me soar.

This is my flight, not yours.

And my shadows are far below me as the glorious sun warms my wings.

So to you, my darkest shadow, you no longer darken my flight.

For more pieces like this, check out my Embracing Darkness collection.

Epilogues Are NOT the Same as a Final Chapter!

I recently did a post on prologues, and a writing friend (check her out here) asked about epilogues. So here are my thoughts…

Epilogues are no different than prologues, just at the end. They need to serve a purpose outside the main story otherwise they might as well be the final chapter. Like my prologues, I don’t write epilogues for the sake of it.

I recently read a super long epilogue that should have been the final chapter. It followed directly on from the previous scene with all the usual characters. So why did the author feel like it needed to be an epilogue? To be fair, there was something new for the MC, but it didn’t mean anything new for the story since the reader already knew of its general existence. 

One of the best reasons for an epilogue is when we see the MC months or years after the main story. They’re settled in a new life, good or bad, and maybe have some thoughts on how they feel about what happened to them. This works best with a few pages, a sneak peek rather than a lengthy chapter.

Flipping to a random POV is also a good one if it’s done well. It gives the reader a new perspective on the MC and what they’ve been through. They might even know a little secret to entertain readers, something the MC couldn’t figure out in the main story. 

I like teaser epilogues in sagas and series. Books in a series still need to be independent stories but leave enough open so the reader wants more. Whatever you tease the reader with, make sure you drop it into early chapters of the next book. 

If the final chapter ends abruptly but isn’t a cliffhanger (I hate cliffhangers), an epilogue might work to show the characters a few days later. This needs to be short and sweet so it doesn’t look more like a final chapter.

Your final chapter should tie up your story in a neat little bow. Your epilogue should either tie it tighter in a standalone or loosen it in a series. 

If you want to rant about writing with others, contact me about my writing group on Discord @LoveFantasy#0367.

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay 

Planner or Pantser?

There’s this age-old argument over planning and pantsing a novel. Honestly, who cares? What’s more important is that writers find a balance that suits them. I keep saying that writing is your creativity in words. Sometimes, you gotta let the words flow until a story takes shape. 

It’s easy for many writers to say “Plan and outline your novel.” But they’re planners, so it’s obvious to them. I’m NOT saying this is good or bad advice for all new writers. I fully understand why the most common advice out there is to outline before you start writing. What I mean is… there’s a small group that actually work better by sitting down and just writing. Yes, the plot might look and mess, and the character goals might be all over the place, but at least they sat down and fleshed it all out. Then they can work on those issues after. It’s like a really detailed outline. 

This is basically what I did with my first project. It had been a long time since I’d done any real writing, and a long time since I’d studied story structures. I was desperate to get the words down, not thinking too much about structure and fluff and a tight plot. Now, before you ask about the state of that project, I should mention it’s a pentalogy pushing 600k words, so it’s still a WIP in need of serious attention. It looks way better than the first draft, and I’m not sorry I wrote it the way I did. I learned as much about writing as I did about my story as I went along. 

However, my second project was a standalone (now part of a trilogy) that got a rough synopsis before I started writing. It helped a lot, and by the end of act one, my story became more real to me, so I wrote my outline before I got too deep into the story. I changed very little in act one based on where I wanted the story to finish, and certain characters and events were much easier to visualise having written a little of the story already.

These days, I plan as much as I possible before writing. Then I let my growing world help me plan the rest. If I have to rewrite a few chapters, that’s okay. That’s exactly what first drafts are for. My latest WIP had a pretty decent start and is now close to my final draft before I send it out to agents.

While I do recommend writing a synopsis of your story before starting, I don’t think every writer needs a full outline before they get to typing. Set your creative side free, then come back and start structuring it.

Don’t forget about my “Writing Ranting with Others” Discord group for confused writers. Message me at Lovefantasy#0367

Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay

How’s the Violin Practice Going?

Original Photo of my shiny violin. No, I can’t play the Indiana Jones theme, but I had a good laugh trying. 

Awesome. Like, seriously. I sound terrible, but I’m having soooooo much fun with it. I think I missed my musical calling with this one. Lol. Maybe not quite. I bought it back in September but didn’t really start regular practice until mid-December, so it’s been a month of more dedicated practice.

I started off with learning a bad bowing technique for me, even though it was from a professional violinist. But I watched a great video just after the Christmas break, and I found that technique much better. Or maybe it was how the violinist described it. It’s hard to know with online videos. Anyway, it worked in the sense that I can hear an instant difference in my sound. 

Here’s the video by Lindsey Stirling. I came across one of her Christmas songs a while back, but didn’t think to check out her other stuff. A couple of friends were into her, and I kinda dipped in and out of listening to her music. But since I started wiring Out of Ashes, about a struggling violinist, Lindsey’s on all my writing playlists along with The Piano Guys who I’ve been listening to for a couple of years now. They have something for each WIP’s mood.

The inspiration for my opening scene in Out of Ashes.

I’m not new to music, so playing a new instrument isn’t like starting from a complete beginner. Sure, it’s a new technique and entirely new sound and motions, but I understand enough about using your body to make sounds from playing my flute. This time, it’s not with my breath, but with sliding a bow. 

The finger placement, however, is much harder. With the flute, you place one finger on one key, and it doesn’t need to move to any other key. But like the piano, my fingers jump about. They jump strings as well as notes within the section for that finger. I mean, it’s like 3 notes on each string for each finger, but it’s still super hard for a beginner to remember which section is for which finger and how to move long the string or jump strings for the next note.

I’m figuring it out surprisingly quickly now than I’ve got the hang of what goes where. But… there’s the bow. Even with my more fluid technique, I’m forever catching the adjacent string and messing up the sound. Why they have to be so close, I will never know. Stupid bridge needs to be more curved for a bigger arc between strings, if you ask me. 

Anyway, I’m doing well with my progress. I can play Silent Night and Oogway Ascends from Kung Fu Panda, which is originally by Hans Zimmer, but it was the Piano Guys who inspired me to try this song on my flute. I can’t hit the two highest notes on my flute, but I’m doing much better with the top notes on my violin.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this creative breakthrough since this website is all about creativity. Maybe I’ll share a very screechy snippet soon, purely for a progress report.

Danger and Disappointment

I tremble from rage. My eyes burn with tears that drown me on dry land. Screaming in my head at the world, and him, I wonder how I could have been so stupid, so naive. Love does that to a person, at least the idea of it. It twists and taints what should have been so simple. 

The victim or the culprit? Maybe both.

I am Danger, yet I didn’t know my own name before now. 

Loneliness might have suited me for a time. Solitude had been my friend for so long that I’d found comfort in the silence. Surrounded by voices of those who spoke through me. When dusk came, I relished in the stillness and let my mind take me elsewhere. I heard music of far off lands, of power and victory, and dreamed of new worlds. It spilled out of my fingers and onto the keyboard like ink onto a page. Words came. Words I didn’t know I could mould together. They took shape and sculpted a world in which I believed more than my own. 

One day, I shared the story I’d written. Someone shared back.

I didn’t learn Disappointment’s name at first. Inspiring. Patient. Perfect. That’s what I called him. That’s how I saw him. Real but not real, ones and zeros on the screen I poured my heart into. Fun. Easy. Perky. He called me these things, and I felt them all.

We locked together in intangible bindings, but distance always tore us apart with a click. 

Truths gushed in geysers. Confessions flowed in torrents. Realisations flooded rivers of two lonely lives running towards the same ocean from opposite directions. I thought the ocean had to be nearby as I sailed downstream. If I could just reach that ocean, I could reach him.

Every truth was another step closer. And I let him in, gave away pieces of myself I’d never given anyone until he had almost everything. He gave so much back in return, and I’d fallen in love. No, flown in love. I soared on his every word, clung to him for untouchable comfort. 

His light brightened the darkness that hovered over my life. He gave me joy and music and laughter. But it was his mind, his inspiration and creativity that bound me to him.

Sharing more with him was easy as breathing. He inhaled and exhaled with me, and I took all of it. Used it for myself, stole secrets from him and gave him all of mine. I became Danger and knew the pain behind the truth, yet I let us both hurt over our past torments and fed off his attention. Not once did he stop me. He fed off me too.

Our lives overlapped in pastimes and passion, old and new. Music was his passion, as it has once been mine. I’d been a dancer and played a little, but I’d stopped many years ago. I grew away from it and let so much go for no apparent reason other than I’d lost my spark. He gave it back to me. I danced and sang and made music in an entirely new way. 

So close, I could hear his heart, feel the vastness of possibilities. I revealed my true self, a painful thing to do when one doesn’t like what she sees in the mirror. But he said nothing to make me feel hideous the way so many others had. Visions of a life full of love bloomed in my mind. He wanted what I wanted, loved what I loved, needed the way I needed. 

But it wasn’t me he needed. And he told of another in his life without sparing a thought over how I had already admitted my feelings for him. There was no delicacy in his admission. His truth slapped me worse than any blow over how he let me think I was enough for him when all along I was nothing more than a distant thought, someone to listen at his leisure.

Broken, I fell and crashed and burned in raging flames. Confusion consumed me, lies sounded over and over. Truth was lost to his poisonous words. I wished he’d never existed while longing for him to turn back to me. 

I had nothing and no-one, and he had someone better than me. She fed off his attention while I scrambled for whatever scraps he threw my way. He turned back occasionally for a time, sparking the false hope that he might keep me in his life in some small way. But in time, I finally saw him for what he was. Disappointment after disappointment. 

Those pieces of me are still with him, and I can never get them back. I mourn a life that was never mine, one I never should have imagined. Letting go is impossible when I have no answers as to why he left me ruined, why he didn’t ask me to cross that ocean, why he used me for his own ego. 

Walking away was not an option. I tried. So this was my own torture, to be unwanted as I watched from a distance, for the other woman, she was a friend, one who saw his perfection just as I did once. 

Ultimately, he made her soar just to let her fal…l and crash in those familiar flames that still burn me. And now there is another, a third, or fourth. I’ve lost count. But the one I knew best, she is the one he hurt the most and forced me to watch him repeat his mistakes. Yet he keeps her to boost his ego as I once did. 

I was nothing to him. 

I fell in love with a disappointment that left me emotionally battered and bruised. I lost my inspiration, my creativity and my self-worth to him. 

Now, I live with pain and hatred and worthlessness. This is my danger, my lack of control, and the grief I can’t reconcile when I am grieving someone who isn’t dead. He haunts me and won’t leave me be event though he said he was going to disappear. He lied. 

What’s one more disappointment?

Broken Valentine

Red cards, glitter glue, and heart stickers litter the table before me. I smile, watching the children make their Valentine’s day cards. It’s been a few days since I smiled. Dad’s heart attack still haunts me, but he is recovering well at home, and I am making it through as best I can.

I never much liked Valentine’s day, content to keep to myself and not fall victim to consumerism along with the ridiculousness of flowers and chocolates. It’s just another day, and I refuse to acknowledge it beyond the classes I’ve planned. 

A thrill runs through me at the notification that pops up on my phone. Until I cringe at the thought of messaging him on Valentine’s day. I had every intention of avoiding the possible awkwardness of it, but there was a little message. 

Naughtily, I turn away from the students and open the message. I wish I hadn’t as I skim down and see the mention of a woman. My heart stops and breath halts. Did I read that right? 

I reread the message slowly and carefully. Yes, I read it right. I lean on the table, gripping the edge as spots flash before my eyes. How could I have been so stupid? How could I have not seen it coming? Why did I think he would want me?

But I was stupid, naïve, unwanted.

If only that was as broken as my heart became.