April & May Releases I’m Excited About

My TBR is huge but unfortunately, good books don’t simply just stop coming out. Here are 6 upcoming releases from April and May that I’m looking forward to getting my hands on:

release 1This book screams danger and mystery, and I get the feeling there’ll be some morally questionable characters, which is always exciting. The setting sounds compelling too. Fingers crossed it lives up to expectations.

release 2Vikings and fantasy. Now there’s an interesting combination. Throw in strong heroines and exciting battles, and we have something promising!

release 3Yes, I know the plot sounds similar to other stuff out there but sometimes familiar is what you’re in the mood for. Also, I like to try something a little bit dark once in a while – helps me to keep my own life in perspective (Ashley, stop crying about the fact your favourite donut has already been sold out).

release 4Like everyone else, I adored Simon but weirdly, Leah was probably my least favourite character there (okay, correction, no one is worse than Martin). This was mostly because of how she was used and her exposure, but I think this book will give her the chance to shine that she deserves. Plus we’ll get to see all our fave characters again. Yayyyyyy!

release 5As if this one was even a question. I just need to know what happens to all my favourites. Even though it’s only a novella, I’ll take what I can get. Better pre-order. STAT!

release 7If the book has Jay Kristoff on the front, pretty much just take my money because I need it. I’m so excited about this one and if I can make it to a signing, I will. Androids, dystopia, romance, action, oh yes! Sign me up.

Divider

What soon to come releases are you most willing to sell your soul to get your hands on? 

* All images are linked to the books’ goodreads pages if you’re interested in adding them to your to-read shelf or skimming the blurb.

Love Ashley

Advertisements

And That’s a Wrap: March Edition

And just like that one quarter of the year is gone.  *breathes heavily* What have I even done this year???? Ahhhh!!

Books I Read

29594616327685222490934736160193801375225187640

I actually managed 6 books this month! Woo! Go me.

Morning Star – Pierce Brown  ★★★★★ : Such a fantastic end to that trilogy. I loved it so much that I wrote a gushy review about the entire series. Can’t wait to read Iron Gold.

Carry On – Rainbow Rowell ★★★.5 : My first Rainbow Rowell novel and it was definitely a nice, light, amusing read. Simon x Baz were super cute. I’ll look into reading some of her other books – Fangirl and Eleanor and Park potentially.

Obsidio Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff ★★★★ : The end of another sci-fi trilogy. I really enjoyed Obsidio and thought it was an exciting and satisfying end to the series. However, it wasn’t my favourite of the three and there were a couple of things missing this time around. Overall, pretty fab though!

Warcross – Marie Lu ★★★★.5 : Another new author for me and I had a blast with this one! I breezed through, super excited to see where the story would go. The Warcross games themselves were really fun and the characters were good too. Not sure how I feel about the two twists though – one was ridiculously predicable, and the other, hm…. So that’s why I knocked half a star off. Still, very excited for Wildcard.

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows ★★★★.5 : I finally read this! It was simultaneously sweet and sad. The characters were quirky and adorable, and I loved reading their letters, but their recollections of WWII were so heartbreaking. It’s a short read but a really enjoyable one that leaves you with a happy, tingly feeling. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie adaptation soon.

Truthwitch – Susan Dennard  ★★.5 : I had trouble scoring this one because I had high hopes and ended up disappointed. Objectively, it ticks so many boxes but the plot was a bit messy, the world building very unclear at times, and I just couldn’t connect with it. Points for a good female friendship between two strong women characters though.

Divider

Books I Bought

I bought 4 books but I’m ruling out Obsidio because I read it as soon as I bought it. So technically only three books were added to my crazy large TBR. I’ve put myself on a book ban for the next month meaning hopefully this part will be empty for April’s wrap up.  *crosses fingers, prays for strength, visualises goals*

24909347Image result for red sparrow cover3245323733257757

Dividerblog posts

I was actually quite active this month after my dismal Feb effort. Again, go me! Just in case you’re interested, here are my posts for March in lovely nice, neat categories.

TOP TEN TUESDAY

Books that Take Place in Other Countries

Books on my Autumn TBR

Favourite Book Quotes

EXTRA BOOK REVIEW

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

BOOK TAGS

The Unpopular Opinions Book Tag

The Aesthetically Pleasing Book Tag

DISCUSSIONS

Fairies in Fiction

MISCELLANEOUS

Obsidio Book Launch: Q&A with Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Divider

Personal Life

This was a very tame month for me. I had two lovely visits from my friend Megsy in Canberra, one of which was because we went to see Ed Sheeran live in concert on St Paddy’s Day!

IMG_3978

It was fantastic and I’d definitely recommend doing it to any Ed fans out there. He’s an absolutely wonderful performer. The support acts, Ryan McMullin & Missy Higgins, were also amazing. I’ll admit, standing up for about 5 hours and dealing with being surrounded by crowds of people wasn’t exactly easy but it was so worth it. Would for sure do it again.

I got to see Love, Simon at the movies, not once but twice. And I LOVED it. ❤ It was the ultimate feel good movie. I left the theatre so damn happy. There were some changes from the book but the story remained largely intact. If you haven’t already, go watch it! You won’t regret it. Divider

And that’s all for March! How did your month compare? Did you read any amazing books? Go any fabulous places?  Slay dragons, solve world hunger, or perhaps…conquer your TBR pile? 😛 Let me know!

Oh, and happy Easter everyone!

Love Ashley

 

Obsidio Book Launch: Q&A with Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

IMG_3865[1755]

On Wednesday night I was lucky enough to attend the Sydney launch of Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman’s new book Obsidio, the final novel in the bestselling Illuminae Files series. Guys, I love this series. I really do. So even though I had to ask to leave work early, basically run half way across the city, and turned up looking like I was the melting wicked witch of the west, it was So. Damn. Worth. It.

I know that a lot of people don’t get to attend these kinds of events, hell, I barely got to attend the event, so I thought I’d transcribe the main part of the Q&A for you guys. I’ve edited some of it for clarity – spoken phrases can sound a bit weird written down sometimes and vice versa. This Q&A was structured by Caz from the booktube channel, Little Book Owl.

Divider

Caz: For those of us who aren’t familiar with Illuminae, would you mind giving us a brief rundown?

AK: It’s only 1800 pages long. *laughs* Look, we like to describe Illuminae as Battlestar Galatica meets 10 Things I Hate about you. It’s about a couple who’s just broken up and thinks they’re having a really bad day, and then that’s put into perspective when their planet gets carpet bombed and they end up on a refugee spaceship fleet.

Book two we like to describe as…it’s like Die Hard meets Alien. And again, it features a couple of teens in space who think they’re having a bad day until their entire space station is invaded by a gang of bloodthirsty mercenaries and they are all that stands between the mercenaries and not only their destruction but destruction of the multiverse. No pressure.

Caz: I do not envy those characters.

AK: I mean, this isn’t a story about the best days of their lives, I’ll be honest.

JK: They’re certainly memorable, if not enjoyable.

Caz: What is your co-writing process from conception of the ideas to who writes what, etc. How do you go about writing these books?

JK: We plot about 100 pages in advance. We found out that if we plot any further than that we tend to think of cooler stuff as we’re writing and it tends to be time wasted so Amy and I will get together, usually at a pub-

AK: …Always

JK: Always at a pub. Amy doesn’t drink.

AK: No. I eat fries. *laughs* He drinks.

JK: Watches me drink and about…drink five is when the magic starts. There was a moment when we’d got together, kicking around ideas for Gemina. We had the setting and knew who the main characters were but we didn’t have what the twist was going to be. I was heading home on the tram and I texted Amy: This could be the Jack Daniels talking, but what do you think about multiverse?

AK: In fact, the exact text was: Am I drunk or genius? And I texted back: Both. Definitely both.

JK: So we write 100 pages in advance and then we break those pages down into characters, who is going to be the POV and we break up writing scenes according to characters. Amy will write Kady, and I’ll write Ezra and so forth.  Then we go away and write our individual bits, send them to one another via e-mail. You guys know the story of the shoe-maker and the elves? The shoemaker puts out leather the night before and wakes up the next morning and there are shoes there. It’s kind of like that. You’d send your bit, forget about it for a couple of days, open up your e-mail, and there’s more book there.

AK: It’s magical. We’re talking every day, we’re on g-chat every day, we’re texting everyday, you know, popping ideas back and forth, checking stuff, and debating what format we should use for each individual section. We were going to do this this way but I’m only half way through what this person was going to do and it’s already three times the size it was supposed to be so we might break this into two bits…Just sort of constantly massaging things.

Obsidio

Caz: You’ve mentioned in the past that you’re kind of the master of spreadsheets…

JK: It’s all Amy.

AK: Hi *waves*

JK: Mistress of spreadsheets.

N: So what kind of things do you include in these spreadsheets? I know you’ve mentioned to the minute timelines of everything.

AK: Yeah, so there’s only two things that go in my many, many spreadsheets and that’s timelines and death.

*Everyone laughs*

AK: No, you guys, this is a real tip. If you’re gonna write a book and kill a lot of people, keep count from the start. Anyone who’s read the Illuminae books knows that there’s a lot of technical detail in there so they won’t say a lot of people have died, they’ll say 27% of our people are dead and there’s another 32% casualties. You can’t just throw those numbers around because the people will do the maths-

JK: Some jerk on the internet is going to do the math.

AK: If only it was just one jerk. They will e-mail you and tell you what you get wrong. So you have to have absolutely everything laid out in spreadsheets.

JK: And the only person worse at math than Amy-

* Both point to Jay*

AK: Yeah, is that guy there. For real, not our strong suit. So we have a spreadsheet. For Illuminae, for instance, it shows everyone in the story and after each major event where everyone is. So you’ve got this many people on Kerenza, then this many people go to the Copernicus, the Hypatia, and the Alexander, and then the Copernicus gets blown up, so we have this many people dead and from there you go to… We talked about the idea that some people got forcibly conscripted so we’ll move this many people across to the Alexander and you know, write down a baby got born. Add one. It was the only time we’ve ever added.

JK: There was actually a moment where we did the math in Illuminae when Kady had come across to the ship, there’s like a blip in the stats which a couple of people called us out on the internet. The internet’s that kind of place.

AK: Ah, internet.

JK: And they were telling us that the math was wrong. The percentage of infected people had gone up when it should have gone down or something.

AK: Nah, other way round.

JK: Other way round. It should have gone down.

AK: Cause it was rising. Saying this percentage is infected, then this many infected, and this many infected and then it suddenly went down. And they went, well, people didn’t get unafflicted, did they?

JK: Well they sort of did because…they killed each other.

AK: And I was like, in your face! The math’s right. So many afflicted are dead, Kady represents a larger overall percentage of the population and as the sole unafflicted person, she is now a higher percentage.

JK: And if you don’t believe us, we have the spreadsheet.

AK: Yeah, I have the spreadsheet to prove it! Which is really handy, because when you get to Obsidio and a character says, tell me what you’ve been doing so far, someone else can casually say, we had this many people here and that many people did that. You can’t just go back to Illuminae, you have to have written it down as you went. I’m not a great details person but thank you past Amy. Good job.

Caz: In Obsidio, I spotted a mention of Where the Wild Things Are (To Jay), which is one of your favourite books-

JK: It’s my favourite book of all time.

Caz: Did you sneak in any other references like this, or what other things did you draw upon?

AK: Did we ever. *Laughs* So in Gemina, there’s a line that sounds a lot like a line from Hamilton, and a lot of people said, is that a Hamilton reference? The answer was no, because Hamilton had not yet been publically released when we wrote that book. But when you find the Hamilton references in Obsidio, however, those are all deliberate. He’s never listened to the Hamilton soundtrack so he doesn’t know where they are, and I haven’t told him. He still has no idea.

JK: I mean, we’ve got a Rocky Horror Picture Show quote in Gemina, the line is broken, something about-

Together: Antici…pation.

JK: That’s Frankenfurter from Rocky Horror Picture Show.

AK: We have Seven of Nine from Star Trek, Princess Bride…

JK: Princess Bride, yeah, ‘As you Wish’, which is kind of a running gag.

AK: We have, a leaf on the wind.

JK: Yeah, a Firefly reference, a whole bunch of bands I listen to… Like, one of the lines we use in Obsidio is on the cover, ‘Live a life worth dying for’. That’s from an incredible song called ‘Momento’ by a band I love called Architects. There’s a Sound Garden reference in there…

AK: We could go on and on…

JK: And unless you’re us, and even if you are, you’d have to be both of us to get them all…You may not know it to look at her, but Amy’s not a fan of Suicide Silence, so she doesn’t get my Suicide Silence references.

AK: Heavy metal…not my thing. Which is really hard cause when we go on tour in the US, we often ask if we can get a car because fitting this *gestures to Jay* on an aeroplane is just not anyone’s idea of a good time. So we ask if we can get a car, and the problem is that he drives and the driver picks the tunes.

JK: That’s not a problem. That’s an education.

AK: I spent a lot of time listening to metal music, imagining my happy place.

JK: She made me listen to Taylor Swift the brief moment she got behind the wheel.

AK: Yeah, it was the best!

JK: She’s like: Yep, you know what, I’ll drive to Texas. It’s 12 hours, but I’ll drive to Texas.

AK: Well if you insist. I have other songs than Shake it off, maybe as many as three or four.

JK: They played it like four times. Repeatedly.

AK: He was in the backseat and couldn’t get to the controls. His screaming and thrashing was entertaining to us so we just kept hitting repeat.

JK: It’s an abuse of power.

*Everyone laughs*

Caz: Could you tell us a bit about the inspiration for the concept?

JK: I mean Obsidio’s the new book, so we’ve got to talk about it…

AK: Do we? *smiles*

JK: It’s also probably the one I’m most proud of in terms of the theme we’re exploring. In Illuminae you’ve got the phobos virus that sends people crazy, you’ve got these rage virus zombies running round the ship. So there’s a struggle within the ship as authority figures and people who are trying to do what they think is best clash, but there’s also this external threat of the crazy people. In Gemina there was the same thing, a mercenary band who came on board and there was also the lanima, those creepy, alien, snake things. No spoilers if you haven’t read it.

AK: You know my favourite thing that’s happened this week is Jessica Spotswood – she’s an author and if you haven’t read her stuff, you should – was instastorying as she was reading Gemina to get ready for Obsidio and she sent this picture that was just a big blanket and then her eyes and the book. She was like, I’m reading under a blanket because I’m so afraid of the lanima. I was like, they can find you there Jess. *everyone laughs*

JK: I don’t think that blanket’s going to be enough, but anyway. In the third book there’s no big external threat, no aliens, no rage virus, it’s just people against other people. And people with diametrically opposed viewpoints, people whose mind you’re never going to change. So that to me is the scariest opponent, someone you just cannot convince of the righteousness of your cause. Like if you’re an occupying soldier. From the POV of the soldier, you’re doing your job, you’re defending your country, corporation or whatever.

AK: And this planet you’ve come to is full of criminals. It’s an illegal settlement, let’s be real. These aren’t innocents. Everyone who went there was breaking the law when they went there.

JK: And they chose to do it. But from the POV of someone whose planet you’ve invaded you’re an invader, you’re a conqueror, you’re the enemy. There’s no way those two sides are ever going to see eye to eye.

AK: Everyone thinks they’re doing the right thing and in some cases everyone’s doing the wrong thing. It sounds a little bit like the world we’re living in at the moment, that everyone thinks they’re doing the right thing and imagines the other side of whatever argument they’re in to be simply, completely wrong, I mean, to pull a John Green quote, to imagine the other more complexly, because there’s always more to the other side of the argument. Even if it’s wrong, there’s always a reason that the person has come to that belief…There’s never been a better time to try and have those conversations constructively.

JK: There’s no villain in Obsidio. No moustache twirling bad guy that gets killed in the final boss fight. There’s just people. Everyone is a person who thinks they’re doing the right thing and is seen as a villain by the people around them.

AK: Also a cat, there’s a cat as well. People, cat, and one very strange computer.

Caz: So the format of the series is mixed media. Were there any formats you wish you could have included but didn’t work as well as you’d hoped?

JK: There were some pie charts. I remember we did it early on. It was actually a pretty funny gag. Well, it wasn’t my gag, it was Amy’s gag so I can say it was funny. Initially we were talking about doing pie graphs about…it was the percentage of communication Ezra had sent to Kady vs she had sent to him pre-breakup. And it was like, 99% was Ezra and 1% was Kady…but yeah, that gag didn’t make it in. We didn’t have time. We wanted to kick off with more of a bang and start with the invasion so the pie graph gag never made it in.

AK: Ah, I’d forgotten about that! That was fun, wasn’t it? But sometimes you have to give away bits that are really good and funny that you love but don’t fit.

JK: But no, as far as anything else we wanted to do, our publishing house back in America and here in Australia have been amazing.

AK: Enablers, frankly.

JK: There was an incident early on. Cause we sold the book unfinished, we only wrote the first hundred and thirty pages, we thought it’d be too weird for anyone to buy so we didn’t want to write 600 pages of something that was never going to see the light of day. When the book actually got sold and we were finishing off the writing process, we sent an e-mail to our editor saying, we’re thinking maybe we could put in a schematic of the Alexander, the big battle ship in the book, do you think we could do that?

AK: We thought we were being so cheeky.

JK: Cause you need like a spaceship designer. She wrote back to us saying, there’s three ships in this story, shouldn’t there be three schematics? We were like oh, so it’s gonna be like that.

AK: Yep, so if you ever wondered what the moment was that we were completely let off the leash, became very hard to control and started saying things like, what if we had a number 1 New York Times Bestseller as our illustrator, it all goes back to that one moment where we were like, ohhhhh.

JK: Given a blank cheque.

Caz: This is the end of the Illuminae files but not the last collaboration we’re going to see from you. What can you tell us about the next series?

AK: I can tell you book one’s written.

*gasps*

JK: The series formally known as ‘Andromeda’. It’s not called that anymore.

AK: Cause science.

JK: It was originally going to be set in the Andromeda galaxy and then we had a talk with Brian Cox. A mind blowing talk, and he went about explaining the vastness of the galaxy we live in, the Milky Way. The distances will break your brain if you think about it, so putting it in another galaxy seemed a bridge too far for us. So we’ve set it in the Milky Way. Andromeda doesn’t work anymore, so the name has been scrapped and we can’t tell you what the new one is because…of reasons.

AK: You’ll find out.

JK: The new book, we’re pitching it as The Breakfast Club goes to Starfleet academy. Room for losers and misfits, and reprobates, who are at a kind of Starfleet-eque type academy, thrown into the deep end and have to save the universe.

AK: Yeah, so we were kind of tag lining it, they’re not the heroes we deserve, they’re just the only one we could get.

JK:  They happened to be in the room at the time.

AK: That’s taking up most of our time at the moment. We’re editing that as of yesterday…And as I said before, my very first solo baby came out yesterday. I’m really excited and a little bit terrified because I’ve never had anything I didn’t do with a friend before, so that’s here. It’s called Ice Wolves. It’s got wolves, and dragons and shapeshifters and magic and lots of stuff I like. And it’s not in space. We go very high up a mountain but we don’t go into space. You also have a novel coming soon Mr Kristoff?

JK: Yeah, I have a new book coming out in May. It’s called Lifel1k3. I think I’m coming up here for a launch so it’d be great to see you all again…It’s been pitched as Romeo and Juliet meets Mad Max: Fury Road with a little bit of Blade Runner on the side. But I’m talking all the good Blade Runner, not the bad Blade Runner.

AK: I read it in six hours without putting it down, not speaking to anyone around me.  I actually ended up buying airport lounge passes to get people with me into the airport lounge and being like, look there, free food, go away.

JK: Be honest, it was your mum.

AK: It was my mum *laughs* I was trying to make myself sound slightly cooler…At least I took her to the lounge before I stopped talking to her. I mean, she raised me to be a reader so you reap what you sew.

Divider

There was a questions from the audience section after this but to be frank, I just cannot muster the effort required to transcribe it.

Obsidio releases this coming week and Amie & Jay will be continuing their book tour into the US now that they’ve finished in Australia. If you get the chance, I definitely recommend going to see them. They bounce off one another so well and are pretty hilarious, just like their writing. Plus, signed copies of however many of their books you can carry to the signing. Win!

Happy reading!


Obsidio (The Illuminae Files 3#) – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff | Goodreads | Amazon

Ice Wolves (Elementals 1#) – Amie Kaufman | Goodreads | Amazon

Lifel1k3 – Jay Kristoff | Goodreads | Amazon

 Follow my blog with Bloglovin

And That’s a Wrap: February Edition

It’s March already. Like what the actual, flipping hell. How. When. Where did the first two months of 2018 GO?? And what was I doing while they were happening?!

Personal wise, no bloody clue. But in case you were interested (and you clearly are cause you clicked on the link *winks*)  here’s what happened book wise:

Books I Read

Image result for call me by your name bookRelated imageImage result for The cruel prince cover2928388415839976

I had a fantastic month of reads in February. Four stars or higher for everything. Like, WHAT? That never happens!!! Ever. I even managed to read three adult books and one I could label literature. Look at me branching out. Here’s hoping it continues on into March. I definitely need to catch up on my book reviews though. I’m beginning to understand why people do this whole mini review thing but considering I have a hard time just keeping my normal reviews under 1000 words, my faith in my own ability to manage that is VERRRRY low.

Call Me By Your Name – Andre Aciman: ★★★★

Golden Son (Red Rising 2#)  – Pierce Brown: ★★★★★

The Cruel Prince – Holly Black: ★★★★

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – Mackenzi Lee: ★★★★

Red Rising (Red Rising 1#) – Pierce Brown ★★★★.5

Books I Bought

Image result for the upside of unrequited18966806Image result for the princess bride cover black and whiteImage result for call me by your name bookImage result for The cruel prince coverImage result for scythe coverRelated imageIMG_3775

I have tried not to go overboard guys. Really, I have. But it just doesn’t work. So I’m embracing it. Will I ever get to the end of my TBR? Nope. Will I continue to buy copious amounts of books until I have no more room for them and actually start to disappear underneath them all, never to be seen again. Probably.

blog posts

I was a bit slack with my posting at the start of this month but I promise to be on top of it for all of March (I’ll believe it when I see it, I hear you saying). I’m starting to find a bit of a rhythm and sense of relaxation in my writing nowadays, particularly my book reviews, which is helping a lot. Just in case you missed them and are interested:

Top 10 Tuesday

Reviews

Miscellaneous

Yes, a pitiful effort. I know.

Personal Life

  • After taking an enormous five month break, I’m now back bookstagramming! It’s a very time consuming hobby but I’m hoping to manage it a lot better this time around. Plus, new theme.
  • At the beginning of the month we put a deposit down on a kitten! It’ll be a British shorthair from a registered breeder and we’re going to call him Archie. Kittens need to be 10-12 weeks before you can take them home so we won’t get ours until late April which feels like AGES away right now, but I’m so excited!!  I mean look at this gorgeousness…

*DIES*

Overall though, it’s been a bit of a laid back month with not much to report. So here’s to a fabulous March and happy reading every one!

Love Ashley

Let’s Talk: Bookish Merchandise

One of the best (and possibly worst financial wise) things bookstagram has introduced to me is bookish merchandise. Who knew there was an even greater way for me to prove just how big a nerd I am? Now that I’ve started, it’s almost impossible to stop! If I’m being honest, I really don’t need any of the stuff I’ve bought under this heading and yet, to sound like an angry two year old at Toys R Us, I WANT it. So, for fun, here are some of my favourite kinds of bookish merch.

Bookmarks

This one’s kind of obvious and at the very least they serve an actual, functional purpose. Do I need millions to choose from? Probably not. Do I collect them anyway and then proceed to stare at them adoringly, why yes, yes I do.

One of my fave types of late are the magnetic character ones. They’re just so damn cute. I don’t even actually use them. Firstly, because I’d want to use all of the main characters at once and who has the time to move six bookmarks at a time, and second, because I’m terrified of tearing my pages . I just stick them on a string across my book case and once I run out of room on that string, I’ll start another one. There’s so many different sizes and designs, and they’re really fun to collect. Plus they don’t take up too much room. Two of my favourite sources at the moment are Nerdygrldesigns and Designs by Theia, both of which can be found on etsy.

The other category of bookmarks that I’m super in love with are wood marks. To be brief – they’re like bookmarks…but made of wood. Whoa. Out there man, I know. They’re gorgeous designs printed onto thin, lovely slices of wood and because of this, every bookmark is unique. They’re light, don’t get turned up at the corners and fit nicely inside the book itself. My supplier is Ink and Wonder Designs. The shipping is super fast and also ridiculously cheap (free in Aus!).

Bookish Candles

I don’t understand my fascination with candles. They burn. That’s it. And yet, they’re just so pretty…(there’s clearly a repressed arsonist buried deep down somewhere). I especially love scented candles. There are so many companies out there now that make scents inspired by different characters, locations and events from popular books. Want something that reminds you of Outlander’s Scottish highlands or The Raven Boys’ Cabeswater? There’s a candle. Always wondered how the mix of smells Feyre attributes to Rhysand comes together? There’s a candle for that. Want to make your room smell like HP’s The Three Broomsticks? Well, you get the point. My go to shop is Burning Page Candles. The products are great but honestly, it’s one of the few bookish candle shops in Aus. Want to see something scarier than a horror movie? Check out shipping rates for candles from the US to Australia. Absolutely terrifying.

Candles

For other Aussie bookworms, there’s also Kool and Co in Perth. US & UK book lovers, the world is your oyster – there are HEAPS of companies – Reverie Library, Meraki Candles, Flickering Tales, Novelly Yours, A Court of Candles, and so on…

Art Prints

Another fairly obvious one. There are some absolutely amazing and talented artists out there that manage to bring life to fictional locations and characters in ways you can’t even imagine. I discover new artists on instagram all the time. The problem is holding myself back from going shopping crazy. You have only so much wall space, Ashley. Society6 is my go to place for prints. You can get them in a number of different sizes and the site often has promotions with free shipping. WIN! So if you’re keen for a couple of Kaz and Inej pics or maybe some fabulous A Darker Shade of Magic quotes, this is the go to.

Tote Bags

I bought a bookish tote a few months back and it’s become one of my favourite buys. There’s nothing better than popping it in my handbag, knowing I’ll be bringing it home full of brand new books. Looks awesome AND I’m helping the environment. Woo! A lot of designers will translate their art print designs onto things like tote bags so places like Red Bubble and Society6 are great for finding these but there’s also individual designers’ etsy pages. I thank EvieBookish for my gorgeous tote! However I’ll continue to sit here patiently until Charlie Bowater’s fabulous Six of Crows tote is available for general purchase… *twiddles thumbs*

Jewellery

I absolutely adore my golden snitch and Arwen Everstar necklaces. I really should branch out and find some more bookish jewellery – people on Insta keep making me jealous! You’ve got your direct examples like Hunger Games Mockingjay pins or Mortal Instruments angel necklaces but across Etsy you can also find some more subtle examples like pendants and earrings. A popular style I’ve noticed lately is those with cut outs from book pages to highlight a few words or a phrase. Desperate for a pair of earrings which show off your true love of Sherlock Holmes or the fact that you’ll never ship anyone as hard as Elizabeth and Darcy? Well, Etsy is the destination for you.

Pop Vinyls

Custom pop figurines for book characters have seemingly become a massive thing all of a sudden. The quality varies from site to site and they’re usually not cheap (understandably of course) but some of them are absolutely awesomely done. I don’t own any custom pops – I own a lot of regular ones (especially Harry Potter ones) but I have been tempted in the past by the occasional well put together one.

And that’s quite enough for now I think! Before you ask, no I don’t rep for any of these companies – just thought I’d share some bookish merch love.

Do you collect any bookish merchandise? If so, what’s your weakness? Shirts, mugs, perhaps tea (yes, it does exist)?

What are some of your favourite online stores? Air hugs and rainbows if they have good Aussie shipping rates *winks*. 

8 NaNoWriMo Takeaways from a First Timer

You guys may or may not have noticed that I haven’t posted anything for a good long while. Fear not, I’m not dead. Well, only slightly. Of exhaustion. And that’s because I’ve been doing the crazy feat that is national novel writing month. Why, you ask? 1) I’m insane and 2) I have a tendency towards masochism.

Just kidding. Mostly, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for years but never managed to find the courage to attempt, and also because I’ve had an idea for a particular story rumbling around inside my head since I was about fifteen years old (get out already). Now, November is over and I hear you asking, did I actually manage to do it? Did I write 50,000 words in the space of one month?

You bet I did.

But holy hell batman, was it HARD.

There were days when I managed 5,000 words, I was on top of the world, and it felt as easy as pie. Then there were others, the ones where I’d look at the word count thinking, ‘sweet Jesus, I’ve definitely hit 600 words,’ only to realise I actually had 200.

lisa simpson writing GIF

It was a month of ups and downs, and a major learning experience. So for posterity’s sake, and anyone who’s interested, here are 7 random things I learnt from my first Nanowrimo experience.

Back Up that Novel

You know how everyone’s always says, if it’s something important you should back it up? Yeah, about that…Let me start by saying that on at least six occasions before all this went down, I heard a nagging voice inside my head tell me to save a copy of my work somewhere other than my laptop. In hindsight, the universe was trying to tell me something. Did I listen to it? Of course not. Next thing you know, one ordinary Wednesday night, just over a week before the end of nano, I open my word document, type two words and…

BLACK SCREEN.

Dead. Actually dead.

panic omg GIF

And that boys and girls is how I ended up having to spend more money than I’d like to admit buying a new laptop and tracking down methods to get files off the hard drive of a dead computer. I managed it, but let’s just say that there were several points in which I wanted to collapse into a puddle on the ground. So kiddies, learn from my failures. Back it the hell up.

Create Achievable Goals

The average word count if you write the same number of words every day over the course of the month is 1,667. In my case, I knew right from the beginning this wasn’t going to be the best method for me. I work full time but as I work in real estate, my hours are a little odd sometimes – late some days, early others. In order to determine achievable word count goals for myself I worked out how many words I had to write each week of the month to finish on time. I then determined how many hours I would have available to write during the week by looking at my schedule for each day. From here, I was able to work out how many words I needed to write per hour and thus my word goal for each day of the week to reach the weekly target. This ended up being a perfect way to keep me on track. Especially since I often ended up writing much more on my days off than the word counts I allocated.

Life Will Get in the Way

No matter what you do, it’ll happen. So make sure you can adapt. In my case it was the realisation that I had only two weeks left to complete the course work for a certificate I had to do for work. And let me tell you, there was A LOT of work for it. Suddenly, I had to find time in my evenings to not only work on that but my novel too. On the social side of things, one of my closest friends decided to come and visit me for a weekend, covering two of my biggest writing days, which meant I had to spread those counts across other days. I managed it and got to spend a great weekend with my friend, win-win! Then there was my other friend who also wanted to spend time with me and jokingly claimed I was ditching her for my novel. I hit two birds with one stone by going to dinner with both friends at the same time.

Support is Important

There are days where writing 50,000 words in a month seems impossible but having people who support you and offer advice is such a big help. My friends and sister were wonderful during November. They asked about my word counts, cheered me on, and got me snacks to keep me going (Mars Bar Pods are love, Mars Bar Pods are life).

excited jennifer aniston GIF

There was also the Sydney Nanowrimo community. I really wanted to attend events but with my weirdo schedule, this was made a little hard at times. However, the Facebook group never let me down. We sent words of encouragement, offered advice, shared photos of cats sitting on laptop keyboards, talked about killing off characters, and so much more. There are some days where you just need someone to tell you that they find parts of their story a slump to get through too. I was lucky in that I didn’t really have to deal with any naysayers but to those who do, tell ‘em to shut their faces, because you’ve got this!

Set Yo Scene

In my case, it was scented candles and more snacks that you can count. For some it’s coffee and loud music. Whatever it is that helps you do your best work, go for gold.

Some Planning Necessary

I’ve come to realise that I am a Planster. In other words, I need some pre-planning but with enough room to grow. I only fully committed to doing Nanowrimo in mid-October, meaning I was in full panic mode regarding planning. I write fantasy so there’s a heap of planning involved – magic systems, environments, religions, races, characters, and in my case, time and dimensional travel, timelines, bleh.  You get it. Before November, I had an idea about certain parts of my plot but the middle was bit of a blank void. The problem was I happened to hit this point right when I was struggling to write the last several thousand words and after my schedule had gone to crap following the death of my laptop (RIP). Plus there was the fact that there were some major questions about my novel as a whole that I glossed over answering in October and hoped would just resolve themselves in November (spoiler: they didn’t). I’m now stuck with a partial first draft and some serious things to address before I even think about writing any more. To sum up, if you’re someone who needs some degree of planning to write, do it. Don’t put it off, you’ll regret it later.

Finding the Right Beginning

When you start planning you have a great idea about where your story will start. I know I did. I’ve read so many advice articles concerning opening scenes, advocating for starting right in the middle of the action. So I sat down, thought about my plot and determined exactly where would be the right place to begin. I imagined the scene in my head, quietly confident, and finally sat down to put fingers to keyboard.

Was it the right place to start? Nope, definitely not.

You think you know, but it’s hard to actually know until you start writing. In my case, this means I’ll be deleting about two thousand words already just to get rid of the unnecessary rubbish from the beginning but hey, it’s a learning experience.

Writing Trumps Character Profiles

When I was younger I used to spend ages doing super long character profiles – because clearly all writers need to know if their character is a cat or a dog person. If there’s anything this experience has taught me (and it should have been obvious), it’s that writing is the best way to get to know who your characters are. You learn about their voice, their mannerisms, their sense of humour, their way of thinking – all things that are difficult to grasp until you place them in a situation and write how they act in it.

Image result for understand me gif

There were some characters that were tricky to grasp and others that just clicked into place. What’s even more exciting is that I have so much more still to discover as I keep writing, and I’ll then bring this knowledge to my edits of the beginning.

And that’s about it, my eclectic mess of thoughts to take away from my month long crazy writing fest. Nano was a challenge to be sure, but I certainly learnt a lot from it. If you’re someone who’s been trying to find the motivation and push to sit down and write, I’d definitely recommend it. Whether I’d do it again is still questionable but I guess we’ll just have to see. Never say never.

As for now, it’s editing time.

Did any of you guys do nanowrimo this year? If so, how’d you go? If not, are you thinking about doing it at some point?

Let’s Talk: Books vs E-Readers vs Audiobooks

In the land of 2017, we bookworms are extremely lucky to have so many different mediums through which to enjoy the wonders of books. While some people argue strongly for sticking to the good old fashioned physical copy, many others have happily gotten on the technological bandwagon in favour of electronic reading devices and audiobooks. But pros and cons considered, which is the one medium to rule them all? Let’s discuss shall we…

E-books

 reader ebook shelf GIF

Pros

Portability

E-readers are so light and compact it’s ridiculous. For less than the weight of one paperback you can carry thousands of books around with you. As someone who’s been hit with a heavy tag on their suitcase before while travelling, I cannot tell you just how amazing it is to have an e-reader.

Cheap!

A lot of the time e-books are significantly cheaper than actual books. What’s even better is that sites like amazon will often do special sales and promotions which might mean you manage to grab a book for a crazy cheap price. I managed to score the entire Percy Jackson and the Olympians series for the price of one paperback, while last month I bought the first in Elise Kova’s new series for $5!

Immediate Purchases

Ever started a series and been so captivated that you just had to have the next book then and there? Yep, I feel ya. Well, with an e-reader, you can! As long as you’ve got an internet connection and the money to burn, you’re mere taps away.

No Spoilers!

Okay, so I have a bad habit of occasionally flicking through my books to see if certain names pop up any time soon (*cough* Edward in New Moon *cough*) or even just accidentally opening the book up to a spoilerific page. My e-reader has fixed both of these problems. I don’t even have to flick to the last page (and risk MAJOR spoilers) just to find out how many pages there are.

Reader Friendly Features

E-readers are full of amazingly user friendly quirks. First, they allow the reader to adjust the size and font of the text which is great for those with sight problems. Second, they always remember exactly where you are in the novel so there’s no need to worry about losing your place or scrambling around in search of a bookmark. Third, they allow you to highlight your favourite quotes for future reference. And lastly, there’s an info database for each book so say you’ve forgotten a character or place, just tap it and the reader will remind you!

Cons

Upfront Expense

You have to be prepared to pay the upfront cost of actually purchasing the e-reader. There are a number of different brands but most of the time, the middle of the range models are above $100 each. In Australia, they’re closer to the $200 mark. On top of that, you’ll also likely  need to buy a cover to keep it safe (that is, if you’re like me and clumsy).

Book Lending

So, even though I’m a crazy person about my books staying in good condition, I love encouraging other people to read things I love and I do this by lending them out. With a paperback, the process is quite simple – hand it over. With e-books, not so much.

Sterile & Electronic

If you’re someone who loves the feel and look of a book, then you’re bound to be a little disappointed with an e-reader as these things disappear. Page turning becomes tapping, the feel is very different in your hands, and there’s certainly none of that new or second hand book smell.

Audiobooks

Related image

Pros

Multi-tasking

Audiobooks are fantastic for people who love books but still want to be able to do other things at the same time. Got some household tasks you need to get out of the way? Pop on an audiobook. Long drive ahead of you? Audiobook to the rescue. Want an alternative to music while exercising? Audiobooks!

Easy on the eyes

When I was a kid I used to visit the optometrist for eye check-ups and every time he’d ask me whether I was remembering to take regularly hourly reading breaks to give my eyes a rest. “Sure,” I’d say, trying not to look guilty as I remembered my 8-hour Harry Potter bender culminating in an eyestrain headache… This is one thing you most certainly don’t need to worry about with audiobooks because there’s no visual element involved!

Great Narrators

There are some audiobooks out there with absolutely fantastic narrators. For those who often have difficulty visualising or imagining certain elements of a story, a good narrator can really help with this. What would the Harry Potter audiobooks have been without the dulcet tones of Mr Stephen Fry? With first person novels, the right narrator can also really help you in getting a better sense of that character. A great example of this is Alana Kerr Collins and her narration of The Bone Season books in which she even manages Paige’s Irish accent.

Cons

Expensive

Depending on where you buy them, audiobooks can be a great deal more expensive than regular books. Sites like audible offer you a free book when you first sign up but buying from sources such as amazon or itunes can mean your books end up costing almost double (or perhaps more) a paperback. Eek!

Time

Reading a book isn’t a flash bang quick process, particularly if you’re a slower reader, but it’s still faster than an audiobook. Even something as reasonably sized as Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones has a run time of over fourteen hours. And if you’re someone who enjoys lengthier novels, something like American Gods clocks in at about twenty hours. Game of Thrones is over 33 ½!

Distraction

Following an audiobook requires you to maintain focus on what you’re hearing for extended periods of time. As a result, there’s always the risk of your mind becoming disengaged and wandering off to other things. I don’t know about you, but I find that my brain tends to do this more often with audio than it does for visual mediums.

Books

 life book books jane austen elizabeth bennet GIF

Pros

They’re just so…nice

The feeling of a book in your hands, there’s nothing like it. The most wonderful thing in the world is curling up under the covers with a book, turning the pages and breathing in that new book smell. And after reading and re-reading it, your copy becomes personalised especially to you.

Appearance

One of the things you don’t get with e-readers or audiobooks is the ability to appreciate a beautiful book cover in all its glory. I love being able to look at my paperbacks sitting on my bedside table and seeing the combination of wonderfully colourful spines in my bookcases. Their physical presence in my room and the rest of the house adds more of my personality to it and makes it feel more welcoming.

Book Signings & Dedications

There’s something amazing about getting your physical copy of a book signed by an author. Plus, it’s lovely to receive a book as a gift from a friend or relative with a personal dedication on the inside cover that you can look back on in the future.

CONS

Hard to Hold

This is the only real thing that bugs me about my books, especially if they’re large ones. There are only certain ways you can lie on the bed and still easily see the pages. In some of my favourite positions, my wrist tends to start aching after a bit. Then there’s the moment where my hand slips and they either slam shut or land on my face. Also, as I said before, I ride the train a lot and during peak hour I have to stand up with one hand holding onto something. Holding a heavy-ish physical book with one hand is not exactly fun after about 20 or so minutes. And every time I need to turn the page, it feels like mission impossible – how quickly can I do this before a bump in the tracks rocks the train carriage and I go flying?

I think I’ve covered the rest under the previous sections.

VERDICT: Physical books (but Kindle for holidays!)

Disney disney books beauty and the beast beast GIF

Seems like a pretty illogical verdict based on the pros and cons above but the emotional side will always win in this instance, I think. I just love actual books. I get such a rush of happy feelings when I bring a new book home with me and when I first crack that cover to start reading. I think a lot of you guys probably feel the same way and it’s for this reason that I’m sticking to the opinion that I don’t think physical books will ever die out, regardless of the technology to come.

What’s your favourite way to read? Why?

Love ash 2