Happy New Year!! End of 2012 round-up

Before I move on to this wonderful new year, I thought you might like to know what I’ve been up to since my last post (the one about NaNoWriMo not the one about being hacked!). Well here’s part one of what I’ve been doing:

NOVEMBER: Failed NaNoWriMo, Read the Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare Instead

At the end of October, my wise sister told me that if I spent half the time I spend reading writing instead, I’d be able to bash out 10 novels before the end of the year (or words to that effect). She was right. I do spend a ridiculous amount of time reading and not doing anything else. Not just books either, I trawl the internet every day for hours reading articles and blogs. It’s getting out of hand. I am the master of procrastination, and reading allows me to tell myself I’m achieving something as I can pretend to myself that I’m doing some form of “research”. 2012 was the year I pushed the definition of research to its very limits.

Anyway, when Anna said this I did feel a little guilty and decided to attempt NaNoWriMo 2012. What better to get me to start writing? I even blogged about it to make sure I actually stuck to it (LOL). It was all going so well, in two days I’d written 2000 words and had a pretty fun love-at-the-end-of-the-world type plot planned.

After the first two days things began to unravel. I went to three different bonfire parties in four days which meant, naturally that I’d left my novel temporarily and promised to catch up in the week. I wrote a little more on my phone after a drunken night out (totally illegible drivel) but after that I had lost the drive to forge on. I told myself I was too busy, I’d catch up next week when I had more time.

The following week, I discovered the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. I’d seen them before but The Mortal Instrumentsthought they looked a little too childish, even for me. However when I saw them recommended on another blog by a grown up man, I thought I’d give them a go. Plus they’ve made the first book into a film and I wanted to check out the books before the films release later this year. NaNoWriMo was a lost cause after that.

I’m not sure why I was worried about the Mortal Instruments series being too young, as they’re similar in feel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Divergent, The Hunger Games trilogy, and many other YA books I have read and enjoyed. I suppose I don’t want to be that person who only reads YA, so I try not to limit myself to it all the time. I enjoy reading all sorts and don’t want to be defined by one genre. Having said that, YA fantasy and Sci Fi is always what I feel like writing about when I sit down to blog. It is an exciting genre that’s getting better and better and I don’t feel as wary of writing critically about it as I do with classics and literary fiction.

Anyway, I read the first three books in the Mortal Instruments series in about a week and a half. The books are City of Bones, City of Ashes and City of Glass, and all follow Clary, a girl who has her world turned upside down after finding out she is a shadowhunter, a demon killer. Clary meets other shadowhunters her own age: Isabelle, Alec and the rather lovely Jace. When her mother goes missing in mysterious circumstances, Clary needs the shadowhunters’ help. Her search for her mother and missing childhood memories takes her all over New York, with her geeky and sarcastic but loveable friend Simon dragged along for the ride. As the books progress, Clary learns more about her past, her parents and the world of shadowhunters, downworlders and demons.

I liked these books because they were plot-driven, super exciting stories with a cracking forbidden love story

Image from imdb.com

Image from imdb.com

(although I did start shouting in frustration by the middle of the third book). What’s more, Simon, who should just be the annoying friend, turns out to be an excellent character. In fact, I’d say that Clare found the perfect balance between keeping the plot moving and exploring and developing the characters. All in all, I bloody loved these books! Even if I am indulging my inner teenager.

The Mortal Instruments series will eventually be made up of 6 books but only 5 have so far been released. Because the third book ended in such a wonderful place I told myself I would leave it there and resist the temptation to pick up the other two until the series had been completed (in 2014!!). Clare has also written another trilogy of books set within the same world but set in Victorian times, these are called The Infernal Devices. Only two of the three have so far been released, so I told myself I would wait until the third book came out before picking up the third. We’ll see how far I got with all this temptation-resisting when I recap on December!

So, that was my disastrous November. Failed NaNoWriMo, went to a lot of parties and read a few books. Any time I wasn’t reading/partying I spent helping my sister photograph a school and generally panicking over my lack of a serious job. But hey! It’s a new year now, so moping is strictly forbidden. Bring on 2013!

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I’m Back! With a Review of Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Hi folks! Sorry it’s been a while (well a very long time), but I’ve been on holiday and after that, dealing with post-holiday blues, and after that, sunbathing a lot in the garden. And now there’s all the excitement of the Olympics! But I’m going to try really hard to catch up on the blogging at the same time as watching the sport (it’s already proving tricky, I meant to blog this on Sunday but I have been too preoccupied with the gymnastics/swimming/diving/equestrian).

The last few weeks have been good for me to catch up on lots of reading (and I’ve read A LOT) and also for thinking up exciting new ideas for the blog! They’re not quite ready yet though, so I thought I’d keep you going by reviewing my summer reads.

Quick note: This post was originally intended to be a summary of all my summer reading so far, but I wrote 700 words about these books without even thinking about it! And I am fully aware that I said a while back I was going to focus less on book reviews, oops! Oh well… here you go:

Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth

These books blew me away. In fact, as soon as I finished them I nagged my friend Olivia into reading them immediately. She loved them so much she nagged her sister into reading them immediately… and I expect it will carry on like this until the whole world has devoured them (a feat nearly accomplished, if the internet hype is anything to go by). The amazing thing is, I picked up Divergent just after Ready Player One, and I never thought I would find a book as good as that one for a long time!

The books are set in a city post-mysterious war where society has split into five factions in order to maintain peace. The factions are split according to what people believe is to blame for conflict in society. The Erudite faction blame ignorance, and therefore they prize knowledge above all else. Amity blame aggression so they value kindness and peace. Abnegation blame selfishness, so they value selflessness. Candor blame dishonesty so they value the truth and finally Dauntless blame cowardice and therefore they value bravery and courage. Those who do not belong in any of these are the Factionless, and are doomed to a miserable existence on the outskirts of society. Each faction performs a vital role in society, for example Amity run the farms which provide all food for the city.

Tris is born into Abnegation but when she turns sixteen and has to choose a faction, she leaves her family to join Dauntless. However, she soon realises that becoming one of the Dauntless is a tough process, and only a few of the initiates who chose it will make it into the faction. Tris has to learn how to fight and also confront her greatest fears in order to become part of Dauntless. Much of the first book is about Tris being a Dauntless initiate, about the challenges she faces, her new Dauntless friends and her mysterious trainer Four. Insurgent follows straight on from the first book, and follows Tris, Four and co. in a nail-biting sequel which had me in tears at parts. I don’t want to say much more though, as I will totally ruin everything! And I reeeeaaaally don’t want to spoil it for anyone, as part of the joy of these books was not knowing what was going to happen.

I really liked the concept of these books, and I have spent many an hour thinking about firstly, which faction I would choose (I think Erudite, but secretly I’d like to be Dauntless) and secondly, what my greatest fears are (spiders, sadly, would definitely make an appearance). Initially I thought the idea of such rigid factions was a little odd, but as I read more I began to think about how they made sense. For me, good science fiction is all about making impossible futures and worlds believable and tangible and I think Roth has done this excellently. I was totally immersed in Tris’s story and felt the familiar stab of sadness when I’d finished the books.

The reason I loved these books so much is because not only were they exciting and totally gripping, but the relationships in them are truly wonderfully crafted. Veronica Roth has achieved what Suzanne Collins could not; she has created a post-apocalyptic, plot-driven novel which also has believable characters who interact with each other in a realistic way. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved The Hunger Games, but I thought it was lacking something in the character development department. I wasn’t always clear about why Katniss acted the way she did and it frustrated me. With Divergent and Insurgent, however, I was totally convinced and moved by Tris and her relationships with Four, her Dauntless friends and her parents. The books are also touching without being overly soppy or sentimental. I would recommend them to all who liked The Hunger Games, and anyone else!

What will the third and final book be called?

Here’s the downside: Divergent and Insurgent are part of a trilogy, and the last book isn’t set to be out until late next year! However, let me assure you that the second book ends quite satisfactorily, so I wouldn’t bother putting off reading these until the last book comes out. Read them now! A fun game you can play until next year is “guess the name of the third book”. My friend Olivia’s bets are on “Emergent”, whereas I am going for either “Convergent”or “Detergent”.

Also, predictably, the rights for Divergent have been bought by Summit, so I expect this will blow up Hunger Games-style before long. Watch this space!