Book reviews, Uncategorized

Bursts of Fire – Susan Forest (Book thoughts in 300 words and 3 gifs)

Three and half ‘Magiel’ stars 🐼🐼🐼🐼

‘Bursts of Fire’ is the first novel of Susan Forest’s series ‘Addicted to Heaven’ where she sets out to explore the complex world of addictions. Using a vast fantasy world as the backdrop, it makes for an interesting read with a unique premise.

The world is built beautifully, with descriptions scattered about the chapters, allowing the reader to put the jigsaw of that massive land of many kingdoms. The world was well-formed in the author’s head before she put it down on the page but I felt like some of the information is a bit too much for a first book – at times it was hard to keep up.

The plot is built well and fits with the overarching theme of addiction marvellously (retrospectively, as I didn’t realise it did until the very last page – in the author blurb). The unique take on the Heavens as a normal destination was refreshing and the whole idea with death tokens and magic being time, and the payment being jumping in your own timeline was simply delicious. So creative! Kudos, Ms Forest.

The pacing was strange – the jumps in time connected to the narrative, were executed poorly, leaving me thinking ‘Wait, what? When did this happen? Oh, it’s been three months.’ It was at times a very confusing read.

The characters are not this novel’s strongest point. There is good selection of different narrators, presenting plenty of different points of view but I couldn’t connect emotionally to any of them but Eamon – and the poor lad wasn’t even a POV character! I struggled with hearing their unique voices and had to frequently figure out who was speaking.

Despite that, it is a good tale of sisterhood. It was beautiful to see the three sisters survive together, grow apart and then find each other in a world that had robbed them of adulthood at their own pace.

Rennika is slightly unrealistic to me because she was such a mature, reasonable character – do 11-13-year-olds behave so well? Maybe. I am not convinced.

The writing style is good. But good means things could be better. There were spelling and punctuation mistakes and dubious grammar. Not too many but enough to make me want to mention them. I liked the extensive vocabulary of the author and her ability to tie it to complement a character’s inner world. Overall, well done.

The Panda Meter

World 🐼🐼🐼🐼🐼

Plot 🐼🐼🐼🐼

Characters 🐼🐼🐼

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Writing Style 🐼🐼🐼

An ARC of this book was kindly given to me by the publisher via NetGalley for a fair review. All views are my own.

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Book reviews, Uncategorized

Tower of Dawn – Sarah J Maas (Book thoughts in 300 words and 3 gifs)

Four ‘Healing’ stars 🐼🐼🐼🐼

‘Tower of Dawn’ is the sixth book in the seven-piece fantasy series ‘Throne of Glass’ by Sarah J Maas. It follows the journey of Chaol and Nesryn as they set off to heal Chaol’s injury and obtain an army to follow them home.

The Southern Continent is a good addition to the world of Erilea and provides an interesting focus on diversity which was strongly lacking in the previous books.

The plot is weaved with care, placing the characters’ journey to each other in the centre. I could see the twist coming from pages away but it did not ruin my experience because as with all other books of Ms Maas’, you’re in it for the banter and the ships blossoming left, right and centre.

I liked the pacing, which is one of Ms Maas’s strong points as a writer – there is good mix of action, romance and reflection time, all of which flow nicely from one to the next, making the story coherent and incredibly easy to read.

‘Tower of Dawn’ does not follow any other of the main characters from books 1-5 which I thought would be a minus but was actually a surprisingly nice change of scenery. Having fallen out of love with Chaol, and never liking Nesryn, I actually adored them both towards the end of this book. It happens rarely with me, so well done, Ms Maas.

The whole plot line about Chaol’s healing process is magnificently written – it is a great description of dealing with trauma and the ending to that storyline is painfully realistic. I will not spoil more but as someone battling with mental health on the daily, I appreciated the care in the depiction of something which could have been easily glossed over for a hearty HEA.

The only issue I have with this book, and the others in the series, is the writing. It is repetitive and too overdramatic sometimes. There is lots of purple prose in the descriptions and while I enjoyed some of them, I found myself scanning paragraphs and skipping ahead, which is never good. The language is conversational and easy to read. YA readers would have no problem with this book. Their parents, however, might not approve of some of the graphic sex scenes inside.

The Panda Meter

World 🐼🐼🐼🐼

Plot 🐼🐼🐼

Characters 🐼🐼🐼🐼🐼

Pace 🐼🐼🐼🐼

Writing Style 🐼🐼🐼

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Book reviews, Uncategorized

The Assassin’s Blade – Sarah J Maas (Book thoughts in 300 words and 3 gifs)

Three and a half ‘Assassin’ stars 🐼🐼🐼🐼

‘The Assassin’s Blade’ is the collection of five prequel novellas to the seven-piece fantasy series ‘Throne of Glass’ by Sarah J Maas. It follows the journey of Celeana before the events of any of the other books unfold and gives insight into some of her personality and reasoning, together with expanding on and introducing some other relevant side characters.

The world of Erilea is well-developed if you look at the series as a whole but if you read the prequels first, it appears scattered and disjointed. These are definitely not standalone novellas. A good addition to the series nonetheless.

The plot and pacing of each novella are well-developed. Those are some tight stories; and compared to the novels are much better in how they were built as a piece of writing. Each having a specific purpose to explain a certain thing, they work really well without wasting too many words on unnecessary descriptions or world-building.

The characters are well-written and well-placed to provide Celaena with a bouquet of life experiences that made her the fearless warrior queen that she is. When reading the series, I did think there were times Calaena behaved oddly, without any good reason backing her actions. This book provides that additional insight into who this character really is.

The side characters are really strong. My favourites were Yrene and Sam – well done, Ms Maas. In contrast to the more explicit love scenes in the other books, the innocent love between Sam and Caleana was refreshing – both beautiful and sad, as the readers know the outcome. I felt genuinely heartbroken every time they would talk about the future.

The writing is good. It made me turn the pages without thinking too much about sentences and word choice despite some repetitions. The language is conversational and easy to read. YA readers would have no problem with this book.

The Panda Meter

World 🐼🐼🐼

Plot 🐼🐼🐼🐼

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Pace 🐼🐼🐼🐼

Writing Style 🐼🐼

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Writing exercises

Exploding Bakeries

A good writing exercise will boost your creativity – it will open up your mind and let you experience a heightened sense of flow. Flow is considered the state where ideas emerge freely, undisturbed by the mundane.

This exercise is what I call ‘Stress Speed Writing’. It puts you on the spot, makes you think quickly and change direction all the time. If you want to do it easy mode, start the exercise now with a blank page and blank mind; if you want to try a harder version, take one of your existing stories or characters and keeping them in mind, try to stay true to what they are, no matter what I throw at you next.

This exercise will take 15 minutes.

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1. Start your writing with the sentence: “There was nothing better than the truth.”

Write without stopping for 3 minutes.

2. Add a rose somewhere in the next two sentences.

Write without stopping for 1 minute.

3. Start the next sentence with: “However, something …”

Write without stopping for 2 minutes.

4. Add an explosion.

Write without stopping for 1 minute.

5. Introduce another character.

Write without stopping for 3 minutes.

6. Change the weather.

Write without stopping for 2 minutes.

7. Add a bakery.

Write without stopping for 2 minutes.

8. Review and edit

Do this in the final 1 minute.

~~~

This is the end of this exercise. I hope you enjoyed it and I hope it sparked some creativity in you and hopefully gave you some ideas for future projects.

I would love to read your story so please leave it down in the comments or link me to your blog.

Feel free to use this exercise in your writing group.

Writing exercises

We need to write about Alex

This exercise helps you practice your scene setting, dialogue and monologue writing skills. It has been designed to challenge the way you write as writers naturally prefer to write mostly using one of the three forms, frequently leaving the other two partially unexplored.

 

The exercise will take a total of 25 minutes writing and 3-5 minutes reading.

Have fun and do post your writing and thoughts in the comments section. I would love to hear what you thought!

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1. Pick a number from 3 to 100.
2. Pick a country or a city.
3. Pick an object (something real, tangible, not an abstract concept)

Let’s meet your character Alex. They can be anyone and anything. Their age is the number you picked. The place they grew up in is the country/city you chose. And your object of choice represents the character quirk of your Alex.

Now, come up with a profile of your Alex. Write about their physical characteristics, how their quirk affects them and maybe how others perceive them. But use no dialogue, only descriptive speech.

Write without stopping for 5 minutes.

4. Pick any colour.
5. Now pick a famous person or a character.

The colour you picked represents an emotion. Look at the table below and find the meaning of your colour.

Red Anger Orange Optimism
Yellow Caution Light green Content
Green blue Relaxation Dark green Jealousy
Dark blue Sadness Light blue Hope
Blue purple Tiredness Pink purple Compassion
Pink Love Brown Comfort
Grey Hopelessness Black Power
Other warm colour Curiosity Other cold colour Paranoia

Your Alex and the famous person you picked are having a conversation somehow related to your Alex’ quirk. The emotion you have is the undertone of the dialogue and has to be present in the way the two characters interact. Write only in direct speech, avoid any descriptive text.

Write without stopping for 5 minutes.

6. Return to the number you picked in the beginning.

If you picked an even number, after the conversation with the celebrity character, your Alex finds out they have a deadly disease. If your number was even, your Alex finds out they won the jackpot from the lottery. How do they react and what happens next? Write an internal monologue about this. Do not use direct speech or descriptive scene setting type of text. Use the first person.

Write without stopping for 5 minutes.

7. Look back at the three pieces of text you wrote.

Try to link them all together into one coherent story. Cut, add, edit freely.

Do this without stopping for 10 minutes.

~~~

This is the end of this exercise. I hope you enjoyed it and I hope it sparked some creativity in you and hopefully gave you some ideas for future projects.

I would love to read your story so please leave it down in the comments or link me to your blog.

Feel free to use this exercise in your writing group.

P.S. My Alex is a fourteen-year-old candle addict from Coventry. She loves burning candles despite her mum not allowing her to. Born with a silver spoon, she is the only daughter of a rich family. She finds out that Beyoncé has a special golden candle she uses in every performance and wishes to take it for herself. Alex gets into an argument with Beyoncé sparked from jealousy. Alex later finds out she has won the lottery. She thinks about buying her own candle-making factory and finally breaking free from the influence of her mother.

As you can see, the results are random but this is what I like about writing exercises. You never know what will pop up on the page. 🙂