storytimewithbuffy

Archive for November, 2013|Monthly archive page

Light of the Kerrindryr

In Book Reviews on November 24, 2013 at 9:46 am
H. Anthe Davis 2013

H. Anthe Davis 2013

I would like to start off this post by stating that I hate living in England in November. December is ok because it’s Christmas and I’ll be taking some time off for that, but November sucks. I don’t mean to be so negative but unfortunately, I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. This will be my ninth winter in this country so I know what signs to look for and it makes it easier to deal with, but it’s still painful. I’m not lying when I tell you that I wish I could just hibernate during this month. January is fine even though it’s colder. It’s the dark I have a problem with. It gets dark at 3.30pm.

This is totally relevant to this post, believe it or not, because it’s affecting my reading schedule. I spend 40 minutes on the underground every morning which means that I can read 60 – 80 pages easily. I should be tearing through books! However, I keep falling asleep on the damn train.

I know it’s not a race, but I like reading books in large chunks because otherwise I feel that the story becomes fragmented. Not through any fault of the author, but this is how I digest books the best.

I guess I just want to say that I won’t be tearing through books this month because I just can’t keep my eyes open.

Anyway, on to the book.

Nutshell blurb: Cob is a slave who is months away from freedom when his bff decides to free him only to later chase and try to kill him.

This is a damn good book, people.

Let me start with the things I had problems with first, though.

I love reading fantasy and sci-fi (this book is fantasy, but I mention sci-fi because sometimes they suffer from the same problems) but sometimes I’m put off by long, unpronounceable names. I am less likely to read a book if I see that it has a bunch of strange names in it. I don’t know if you remember, but in a couple of my posts I’ve mentioned that I like to read books aloud sometimes. That’s my benchmark for good names. They don’t have to be one syllable, but they have to have some form that I recognise that won’t twist my tongue in a knot trying to pronounce. This book has some great names in it: Cob, Lark, Darilan, but equally there were a few names that I would have no hope of saying out loud. I’m not even sure how to pronounce the word in the title. In fact, I would say that most of the names are pronounceable, there were just a few that had me frowning as I tried. (Because yes, I always try to pronounce things. I don’t just skim over the words and hope that they go away.) So, in this book, it’s not a huge problem but it is just a bit distracting at times.

The other problem I had was another problem that I see in sci-fi and fantasy is that I can’t always picture what the author is describing if it’s something that doesn’t exist in our world. This may be a problem with me, however, and not as a result of any deficiency of the author. For example, I couldn’t fully comprehend what an eiyenbridge was. It seemed like some sort of portal, which was fine, but then at one point it had teeth? I couldn’t really wrap my head around it.

Those were my only problems with it. Hard-core sci-fi and fantasy fans will probably not have the same problems so it’s entirely possible that they are subjective.

On to the good things.

Ms. Davis’ imagination is phenomenal and she has crazy super world building skills! I found out about this book because I am a follower of her blog. She puts so much detail into her world. When I see that she has done a blog post, I have to make time to read it. It’s not something that I can just read on my phone. I want to have her posts on my computer screen with no distractions because I know that it’s going to be something really good. She plans her world down to the smallest details. Religion, politics, races; she has even created maps detailing the agriculture of each area. Not all of this information goes into her story but you can feel it there beneath the surface. It makes the world feel real and very rich. I don’t think that some of the ideas in this book would have worked if not for the sheer level of detail that went into the planning. I can’t emphasise that enough. Details are so important!

The characters in this story are fantastic as well. Many of you already know that that’s a deal-breaker for me. If I don’t engage with the characters, I don’t enjoy the book. I like that there isn’t a good side and bad side. The characters fit in various stages between light and dark. Their beliefs and perceptions are constantly challenged and you can see their growth. You might not agree with some of their actions (and you certainly won’t) but you can see how they came to their decisions.

I love a good action scene and there were plenty of them in this book. It was really fun and really tense. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next one!

 

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Raven: Blood Eye

In Book Reviews on November 20, 2013 at 6:00 am
Transworld Publishers 2009

Transworld Publishers 2009

Nutshell blurb: Osric has been living in Abbotsend for two years. He has no idea where he came from. One of his eyes is blood-red and he’s looked upon by the villagers as the spawn of Satan. Some Norsemen come along, sack his village and take him prisoner. They also rename him Raven. What follows is his story as he accepts his fate with the Norsemen.

I was debating whether or not to write a post about this book. My reaction to it was ‘meh’ through most of it until about three quarters into it when it turned into a blinding, seething hatred. Unfortunately, this book has invoked my ire and therefore must pay for the complete waste of my time.

Please be advised that this post will be super-duper spoilerific.

Right, so the main problem that I had with this book before what we shall henceforth call “The Incident” is that the characters weren’t likable at all. “But they’re vikings, Buffy. Of course they weren’t likable,” you might be saying. And you would be right to do so.

However, I only agree with that to an extent and say that we have to be able to relate to some of the characters in the book. They don’t necessarily have to be likable. I’m thinking about The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric. The main character was evil incarnate but you knew that he was. It wasn’t sugar-coated. He did horrible things and it was amazingly chilling.

The problem with this story is that by the end of it we were meant to think of the main character as being noble and heroic but I found that he was pretty much the opposite of that. He started out being extremely wishy-washy and annoying. He didn’t know who he was, which is a fair point, but he was so tedious about it. Once he was captured by the Norsemen, things got worse. He cringed at a lot of the things that they did but at the same time he idolised them. It seemed to me like a classic case of peer pressure and going against your nature in order to fit in. As someone who constantly swims against the tide, this concept does not impress me. By the end of the book, he classified himself as a Norseman but there was no growth in his character. In fact, he got worse as the book went on. I wouldn’t have actually thought that was possible.

The one good thing about the book was that there was a strong female character in it. Unfortunately, she doesn’t show up until the last quarter of the book. Then the main character falls in love with her and he turns super creepy.

But let’s talk about “The Incident” and how Mr. Kristian broke my trust.

So, three quarters of the way into the book, the Norsemen and our ‘hero’ attack a fortress and take it. Once they’ve captured it, they celebrate. One of his mates drags a sixteen year old girl to him and tells him to take her and have fun. You see where this is going, right?

But of course, he’s not going to do it, right?  Heroes don’t do that kind of thing, especially that far into a book and especially after he’s just fallen in love with a different chick. RIGHT??

Well, guess what. He totally does.

But don’t worry because after he rapes her he totally feels bad about it. So obviously that makes it ok. Also, she was a no-name character that we don’t hear from ever again. So that makes it all better.

It’s such a cliche to say that I almost threw this book across the room…but I almost threw this book across the room.

Yes, I realise that vikings raped and pillaged across all the land but in terms of storytelling this doesn’t work for me. If you’re going to paint your main character as being heroic, he has to grow throughout the book. I don’t care what part of history we’re in.

The only reason I read that far was because the writing was excellent and I though that the story would improve as I went along. I was horribly wrong. The characters all sucked. (Except for the really cool, strong chick.)

There was an interview with the author at the end of the book and he mentions that he doesn’t plan his writing. He just comes up with it as he goes. I think  that some people can get away with it but in this book his lack of planning was evident. The story was all over the place and seemed to have no real purpose.

It has a pretty good rating on Goodreads which is probably because the writing is so good. Mr. Kristian definitely has talent.

However, I feel that he has betrayed me. He made his main character commit this heinous act FOR NO GOOD REASON! It didn’t serve the story in any way.

Frankly, this book pissed me off and I shan’t be reading any more from this author.

He Blinded Me With SCIENCE!

In Uncategorized on November 17, 2013 at 11:43 am
The Science Museum in London

The Science Museum in London

Hello there, bloggy friends! Hope your weekend is going well. My weekend has been really nice.

Just a bit of background before I tell you about it. Mr. Buffy is a freelance cinematographer, so when work comes along, he pretty much has to take it. Well, work has been coming a long quite steadily (which is good) but a lot of that work has been happening on weekends (kind of sucky). With me working a 9 to 5 Monday through Friday job and him working something like 18 weekends in a row, we haven’t seen each other much lately. Ok, I’m being dramatic. It has only been 4 or 5 weekends in a row. It feels like a lot though.

Anyway, I was thrilled to find out that he was finishing up some work on Thursday night and would then have three days in a row where he didn’t have to work. Three days, people!

The obvious thing for me to do was to take Friday off so that we could spend them together. So I did. And we decided it would be fun to head into London for some sight-seeing and shopping.

Our first stop was the Science Museum. It’s been a few years since we last went there so off we went.

My favourite part was the space stuff. There were lots of rockets and space shuttle parts. There was even a small piece of the moon. There was a floor dedicated to genetics and what makes us who we are. There were a lot of interactive booths, mostly for kids, but we pushed them out of the way. We got to see what we would look like as elderly people. The software wasn’t really great. They pretty much just put lines on my face and gave me kinky grey hair.

I'm going to relish my role as a grumpy old lady!

I’m going to relish my role as a grumpy old lady!

The hubs pressed the button to see what he looked like as a baby and it was super creepy because it didn’t edit out his beard. I wish we had gotten a picture of that!

Anyway, after the museum, we went for lunch and then we went shopping and ended up at my favourite store: Forbidden Planet!!! I bought Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer because it’s gorgeous.

A must have for anyone who writes sci-fi or fantasy. and it was £2 off!

A must have for anyone who writes sci-fi or fantasy. and it was £2 off!

Like I said, it was a good day.

We spent Saturday at home together. We had a massive cleaning session and then chilled out. Oh and FYI to my male readers: DO NOT underestimate how attractive you are while you are cleaning the house. I’m just putting that information out there, free of charge. Do with it what you will.

So, that was my weekend. I hope yours was nice too!

Oh and here’s the video that inspired my blog title. This song runs through my head any time I think about the Science Museum.

Come back on Wednesday as I’ll have a book to talk about with you!

Book Bloggers Holiday Card Exchange 2013

In Uncategorized on November 16, 2013 at 10:09 pm

I’ve just signed up to do this. Any other book bloggers out there interested?

Leeswammes' Blog

Book Bloggers Holiday Card Exchange

The Book Bloggers Holiday Card Exchange is organised by me at Leeswammes’ Blog and by Courtney of Stiletto Storytime. Last year, Anastasia of Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog passed the baton on to us. Anastasia is the originator and ran this very popular event for two years. Courtney and I took over last year and had another very successful event in which 80 people took part. (See here my “cards received” post from last year).

The Book Bloggers Holiday Card Exchange is an event in which book bloggers send each other a holiday card around the Christmas period (the end of December). This isn’t just for people that celebrate Christmas, though! Everyone is can join in the fun.

Info

1. Sign up for the exchange by November 29, 2013.

2. Emails with partner info go out December 4, 2013 (please check your spam folder if you didn’t get the email…

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On Character Interviews and Family Relationships

In My Writing on November 13, 2013 at 8:00 pm
My family members have asked that I not post their pictures on the internet so here's a picture of the Celestial Turtle Pond in Wilmington. We went there as a family on a day trip once.

My family members have asked that I not post their pictures on the internet so here’s a picture of the Celestial Turtle Pond in Wilmington, NC. We went there as a family on a day trip once and I was bemused by this bit of randomness.

Hello there! As you may know from a previous post, I’m editing my first manuscript. It’s slow going as I’ve decided to interview all of my characters about things that happen within each chapter. This is a really great way of filling in the oh-so many plot holes that will inevitably occur in your writing. As I reread my manuscript after letting it marinate for about a year, I often found myself wondering “why the heck would he/she do that??”. I honestly don’t remember what was going on in my head at the time. I’m sure I had reasons for some of the things I wrote, but I really wish that I could remember them.

If you don’t know why your characters are acting a certain way, it’s best to ask them. And yes, I realise how ridiculous that sounds, but it’s a really cool way to get to know them. You’d be surprised about the ideas you can come up with if you pretend that they are real people. We’ll see how it all works out in the rewrite.

But man oh man! It is time consuming! I’m working on my cast in Chapter One now that I’ve filled in the plot holes of my Prologue.

Yes, people. I had plot holes in my Prologue.

Anyway, it’s going pretty well. Slowly, but I’m happy with my results.

My writing has been slowed down somewhat by some personal things that are going on in my life (that I don’t really want to go into). My confidence was knocked and I wasn’t feeling very good about myself.

What does a girl do when she’s in this situation? Obviously, she emails her mom.

I must say that I am so fortunate to have amazingly supportive family members. My parents are fantastic. I’ve always been fiercely independent and I’m sure that sometimes makes them think that I don’t need them, but it definitely isn’t the case. We live over 6000 miles away from each other and I’m not always the best with constant communication, but their moral support is crucial to my happiness. I also got really lucky with my in-laws. My father-in-law and his partner are also very supportive of me and my husband. How many people can boast having great parents AND in-laws?

Anyway, my mom’s reply to my email was rounded out with this:

I love you lots & think you’re great!!!  What more do you need?!?!?  🙂

And then I got a further email that said this:

I meant to tell you…I’ve been reading your blog & you are a wonderful writer!!   I guess I’ve not read a lot of your writing before but am enjoying!!  I love you!!

She pretty much made my day. I even teared up a little bit. I’m not lying. My mom reads my blog. She and I have very different tastes in books, yet she reads my blog. And thinks that I’m a wonderful writer. I can’t even begin to tell you how much that means to me.

I realise this post is all over the place, but I really felt like writing what was on my mind tonight.

I hope you have  a great evening. If you can, go call your mom.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

In Book Reviews on November 10, 2013 at 6:00 am
Constable & Robinson Ltd 2012

Constable & Robinson Ltd 2012

‘If you don’t mind my asking, Sir Wind,’ said September after a respectable time had passed, ‘how does one get to Fairyland? After a while, we shall certainly pass India and Japan and California and simply come round to my house again.’

The Green Wind Chuckled. ‘I suppose that would be true if the earth were round.’

‘I’m reasonably sure it is…’

‘You’re going to have to stop that sort of backward, old-fashioned thinking, you know. Conservatism is not an attractive trait. Fairyland is a very Scientifick place. We subscribe to all the best journals.’

This book has been on my tbr list for quite some time now. I saw in the online catalogue that the Barbican Library had it so I looked for it every time I went but could never find it. I looked in all of the children’s sections, even the 10+ section, cringing as I did so. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t care if people see me perusing the children’s section. There are some really good children’s books that adults can enjoy. However, for obvious reasons, they become a lot simpler by the time you get to the 10+ section and I was wondering if I would consider a book to be good that is written for that young of an audience.

Because I’ve been looking for it for such a long time, I decided to ask the librarian in the children’s section if he could please help me find it. ‘Oh yes,’ said he. ‘It’s in the 5+ section.’

Me: ‘…’

Now things were just getting silly. Am I open-minded enough to read books from the 5+ section? I tried to ignore his amused look. He got the book for me and, thankfully, declared that it shouldn’t have been filed in that section.

I walked out of the children’s library and immediately picked up a Stephen King novel to balance out the awkwardness.

Nutshell blurb: 12 year-old September catches a ride with the Green Wind to Fairyland. There she has many adventures because she decides to meddle in other people’s affairs. It’s helpful, well-meaning meddling, but meddling all the same.

For those of you who are well past the age where you would consider looking for books in the children’s section, don’t let this deter you from reading this book. It’s a trippy, charming, mental story that enchanted me from the first few pages. It’s quite similar to Alice in Wonderland in that nothing makes sense, yet at the same time it does. There were so many strange and wonderful things that happened to our heroine and her companions. She befriended a Wyverary (a wyvern whose father was a library) and a marid whom she rescued from enslavement. There was an island of antique household items who were bitter about not being treasured and a herd of wild bicycles.

There was no way to even begin to predict the things that would happen to September. The book takes us from one mad situation to another with no way of knowing how she’s going to handle it.

The cover is gorgeous and that is part of the reason I was drawn to it. Yes, I do judge books by their covers.

There’s not much else I can say about this book without spoiling it. If you enjoyed reading Alice and Wonderland, this might just be the book for you. If you have read it, I would love to know what you think about it.

I shall definitely make my way to the children’s section to get the next one.

The Art of Thinking Clearly

In Book Reviews on November 6, 2013 at 7:53 pm
Sceptre 2013

Sceptre 2013

This is not a how-to book. you won’t find ‘seven steps to an error-free life’ here. Cognitive errors are far too ingrained for us to be able to rid ourselves of them completely. Silencing them would require superhuman willpower, but that isn’t even a worthy goal. Not all cognitive errors are toxic, and some are even necessary for leading a good life. Although this book may not hold the key to happiness, at the very least it acts as insurance against too much self-induced unhappiness.

Soooo…self-help books, eh Buffy? Yes indeedy. I tend to sprinkle them into my reading between the zombie, fantasy and sci-fi books. This is just the first time I’ve ever told you about them.

I really put the ‘anal’ in analysis when it comes to looking at my own behaviour and I frequently think about why I do the things I do. I don’t always change things about myself but I try to be really honest when I look at who I really am. It’s a difficult thing to do because a lot of times I see more flaws that strengths. But let’s not call them flaws, dear friends. Let’s think of them as ‘ways in which I can improve’. One of my strengths is that I’m always looking for insight on ways in which I can become a better person.

Thus my interest in self-help books.

One must take these books with a grain of salt, however. I always try to remember that a person wrote whatever self-help book I’m reading and he or she will not always have all of the answers. The contents within the book are based upon the author’s experiences and they might not match up with mine. Some of the things that the author writes about may not apply to me at all.

I think it’s important to be able to pick and choose what’s applicable, especially since many of these books have conflicting views.

I was drawn to this book because of the title. Thinking is important. I like doing it and thinking clearly is an attraction for me. (This all may seem obvious, but I come in contact with people who don’t think. Daily.)

The author doesn’t claim to be an expert in psychology and he references other research to back up his statements. This actually started as a list he created of various cognitive errors and he didn’t originally intend to publish it. There are 99 errors listed in this book (insert inappropriate Jay-Z song quote here) and I found many of them to be very interesting. There were some that blatantly apply to me (such as procrastination) and some that I’m not really guilty of (such as social proof. eg. if everyone is looking into the sky, I won’t look to see what they’re looking at).

I liked the format of this book. Approximately 2 1/2 pages is devoted to each error. It’s a brief overview of each one, but I feel that I could do further research if I ever feel that I need to read more about a particular one.

One of the common things he writes about is how our behaviour is influenced by our hunter-gatherer past.

…activity paid off more often than reflection did. Lightning-fast reactions were vital and long ruminations were ruinous. If your hunter-gatherer buddies suddenly bolted, it made sense to follow suit… if you failed to run away… the price of a first-degree error was death… It paid to be wrong about the same things. Whoever was wired differently exited the gene pool after the first or second incidence. We are the descendants of those homines sapientes who tend to scarper when the crowd does. But in the modern world, this intuitive behaviour is disadvantageous. Today’s world rewards single-minded contemplation and independent action.

Those last two sentences are beautiful to me. I’ve always been a loner. I (sometimes stubbornly) avoid bandwagons and do my own thing with very little care about what people think about me. We all care to some extent, but I’m pretty immune to peer pressure and pretty much do as I please.

The one thing that I didn’t really like about this book is that it’s a bit cynical. In fact, that was the overall tone of the book. I actively rebel against my cynical nature and am trying to be more optimistic about things, so that aspect didn’t really appeal to me. I believe that we should question what we think and why we think it. We should be our toughest inquisitors when it comes to our values and beliefs. If something stands up to my own questioning, then I feel that it’s worth keeping. He encourages us, in this book, to do that very thing. However, I don’t believe that to be logical means that I have to be cynical.

While this book has many useful things in it that will refer to from time to time, I haven’t come away from it with a list of things I want to do immediately. What I’ve come away with is the even stronger realisation that I am a creature of emotion. I’m not always rational or logical (my husband would be more than happy to confirm that) but I am a woman of many passions who feels things intensely. I would never trade my fire for stone-cold logic. It would make me much less Buffy.

The Thrill of Editing One’s Work

In My Writing on November 3, 2013 at 9:59 am
My manuscript.

My manuscript.

Hello there! I would like to start this post by saying, yes, I changed my blog theme. I know that it’s a bit jarring when one changes the look of one’s blog but it had to be done. I’ve recently come upon a few blogs with the same theme as mine. I know that there are a limited amount of free Word Press themes and that it’s bound to happen, but it somehow leaves me feeling somewhat less special. I think I’m actually following one of the people so I felt that it was time to change. I don’t want to be distracted from someone’s content by such a niggling little thing. Also, I really like this theme as it makes much better use of the space. We’ll see how it goes. I like to change things up from time to time.

Anyway, today I’m going to talk about my writing. You might remember from one of my posts that I am going to start working on revising a novel that I finished last year. I sent it off to a competition back in December and haven’t touched it since then. And then, all of a sudden, the urge came upon me to dust off the latest draft (Draft 5, that is) and see if I can make it readable. When that urge hits, as my writerly friends will know, it just cannot be ignored.

I’m not sure what your editing process is like, but I must have paper. I write things out long-hand and then type them up. I print out my draft and then scribble scrabble all over it and then add the changes to my Word document. It’s just the way I roll. The words flow from my brain, down the right side of my neck and shoulder and then all the way down my arm, past my fingers and into the pen which then puts it on the paper. Screens intimidate my words. They flee to the farthest reaches of my person and will not be coaxed to where they’re meant to be. I’ve tried so many times. Sometimes I even write my blog posts out on paper before committing them to technology. Usually those are my best and most well-thought out posts. (If this one sucks, I blame it on technology and the fact that the words are shooting from my brain to splat onto the screen in real time.)

Therefore, I needed my novel printed out so that I can work on it. I contacted this lovely company in Essex called Acors Press that we use for our printing needs at work and they have printed my manuscript for me. I would like to give them a little shout out here because I love them so much. I work in London and as you can imagine, people can be quite cold and distant in the city. I can’t remember how I happened upon this company, but a few years ago we needed something printed and I found them because they had the best rates. But they’re also the loveliest people. They are so friendly and their work is of the highest quality. If you are in England and need a manuscript printed out please do consider them. They are super nice and that makes a huge difference.

So, I received my manuscript in the post on shiny, high-quality paper and I had to show it to anyone who would look because it was fantastic to see it printed out like that. I felt like I was showing people my new baby. They oohed and aahhed appropriately.

And then I started reading it and realised why I didn’t win the competition. Oh my days…

That’s ok, though. I’ve got a plan. I’m going through chapter by chapter with a notebook in hand and writing down questions for myself to answer. For example, in one chapter I’ve got a character who isn’t good at lying. One of the other characters says so. Then a few chapters later, he can lie effortlessly. Also for each chapter, I’m making a list of characters who feature in that chapter and I’m going to re-interview them.

This is something that I really love doing. As you may know from earlier posts, character development is really important to me. I want to read about characters who seem like real people. Some authors are able to do this really well and some aren’t. I once read some advice from someone about interviewing characters to see what they’re really like. It sounds really silly and a bit mental, but it works really well. You probably won’t use the stuff that you get from the interview but it will help you to get a better sense for what they’re like and you’ll be able to convey that in your story a lot better. I interviewed my characters back when I first started editing the first draft, but the story has changed so much since that draft and as I’m reading draft 5, I’m finding a lot of character inconsistencies. It will be time-consuming, but I want to get it right so I’m willing to put in the time.

Another thing for my notebook is that I’ll have a list of items that the characters have in each chapter as well as key points to remember from the chapter. ie. So-and-so isn’t a good liar. One of my characters produced a rope from Lord-knows-where in chapter 10 or something. It was pretty interesting (and jarring) that he produced this thing out of thin air.

So, yes, this is going to be a painstaking process, but I think that it will be worth it to finally have this thing finished. After 3 years. It will probably be 4 years before I fully finish it. Oh dear… I need to wrap up this blog post and get editing!

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