Wrapping Up 2019: Two Star Books Part 1

Sorry its been so long since I last posted. Life’s been crazy, but I’m hoping to get a few posts out before the craziness of Christmas sets in. And since its December, I thought I’d take a look over my reading for the last year, since I haven’t done a book post in ages! I’m going to start with my least favourite books this year and then finish on a high note with the books I rated five stars! Only once this year have I given a book one star, because I reserve one stars for books that are deeply problematic and/or disturbing. Two stars is my general “I didn’t like this book at all”. Three or four stars is my usual “average” or “I would definitely reread this”. Five stars describes my favourite books.

So basically, I’m going to walk you through my two star rated books from this year, plus the one book I gave only one star. Let’s get into this.

Hearts Made Whole by Jody Hedlund

After her father’s death, Caroline Taylor has grown confident running the Windmill Point Lighthouse. But in 1865 Michigan, women aren’t supposed to have such roles, so it’s only a matter of time before the lighthouse inspector appoints a new keeper–even though Caroline has nowhere else to go and no other job available to her.

Ryan Chambers is a Civil War veteran still haunted by the horrors of battle. He’s secured the position of lighthouse keeper mostly for the isolation–the chance to hide from his past is appealing. He’s not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who’s angry with him for taking her job and for his inability to properly run the light. When his failings endanger others, he and Caroline realize he’s in no shape to run the lighthouse, but he’s unwilling to let anyone close enough to help. Caroline feels drawn to this wounded soul, but with both of them relying on that single position, can they look past their loss to a future filled with hope…and possibly love?

This book was…weird. It was historical romance, which was probably the majority of my problem with it, since I don’t think I’ve ever read a historical romance that I’ve liked. But my other serious issue with this book was the depiction of PTSD. It was incredibly oversimplified and honestly I thought it was an insult to real people who suffer from PTSD and have experienced combat. I don’t mind if romances decide to tackle difficult topics like war and returned veterans, but if they don’t tend portray these things correctly than I think they should just steer clear of them.

Sorry, I’m a little cranky about this book.

The Armourer’s House by Rosemary Sutcliff

If only she’d been born a boy, Tamsyn would never have been sent away to Uncle Gideon’s – the armourer’s – house when her grandmother died. She could have stayed by the wild sea that she loved with her Uncle Martin, the ship merchant.

But instead, she is bound for busy, bustling Tudor London, and the armourer’s house, far from the coast and far from her beloved ships. Homesick and lonely in the loud family of cousins, it isn’t until she meets the strange old Wise Woman that Tamsyn is finally promised her “heart’s desire”

Rosemary Sutcliff is one of my favourite authors of all time but this book was so disappointing. Nothing ever seems to happen in this book and it was just full of old tropes and clichés. I had high expectations, based on other Sutcliff books I adore, and this let me down badly.

Wait for Me by Caroline Leech

It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?

But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him—from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany—the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate.

Another historical romance. When will I learn? In this case, there was a lot I liked about the book–the setting, for one, and also the love interest. Paul is one of the few YA love interests that isn’t abusive or otherwise problematic and I really liked him.

But overall, I didn’t like the characters, I especially didn’t like Lorna. I really didn’t like the romance, or the way Lorna treated Paul and the other people around her. In the end, the things I liked didn’t outweigh the things I disliked.

Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings

Long ago, the Storyteller claimed, in this first book of THE BELGARIAD, the evil god Torak drove men and Gods to war. But Belgarath the Sorcerer led men to reclaim the Orb that protected men of the West. So long as it lay at Riva, the prophecy went, men would be safe.
But Garion did not believe in such stories. Brought up on a quiet farm by his Aunt Pol, how could he know that the Apostate planned to wake dread Torak, or that he would be led on a quest of unparalleled magic and danger by those he loved–but did not know…

This book was a mess of lazy prose, lazy characterisation and lazy worldbuilding. It just wasn’t my cup of tea at all. It was so derivative of books like LOTR and it was just so boring. So, so boring.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

I know this is a beloved book for a lot of people, but I really didn’t understand the hype. A lot of more knowledgeable people than me have commented on the pseudo-Russian setting and the names, so I’m not going to go into all that here. My personal reason for disliking it so much is that every single male character in this book is emotionally, psychologically or physically abusive. Not a single one of them is good. Which is alright, I guess, except that two of these men are presented as viable, even good, love interests, which I really hated. The Darkling and Mal are both awful, and to be honest, Alina herself was pretty awful.

Anyway, these are the first five! I don’t mean to offend anyone with these opinions, because they’re just that, my opinions. I don’t have anything against anyone who reads and enjoys these books 😀

How about you guys? What are some books that you found disappointing or problematic? Did you make a reading goal this year? If so, have you completed it yet?

Know the Novel: Part 2 Within the Writing of Southern Cross

So…I disappeared for a bit, didn’t I? Well, a lot has happened in the past three weeks and I don’t really want to disclose it all here, but suffice to say that life went mad and NaNoWriMo has gone down the train because apparently personal tragedy must always strike during the month when all I’m trying to do is write.

Anyway, I thought I’d duck in at the end of the month to do the next part of Christine Smith’s Know the Novel Link up. Even though I’ve given up on NaNoWriMo I’m still more than happy to chat about my current project, Southern Cross.

1. How’s the Writing going overall?

You’ve had the low down on this already. I got to 11,000 words and then life struck and I’ve only written 1,000 words since then.

So, Not great but that’s how life is sometimes.

2. What’s been the most fun aspect of writing this novel so far?

Ooh… I’ve loved writing about Charlotte! She was a surprise favourite character for me and she’s just been so much fun. She’s a nurse and I have so much respect for the WW1 nurses and everything they went through and I love not only Charlotte but also all the research on nurses that I’ve done for her chapters.

3. What do you think of your character’s at this point? Who is your favourite to write?

I just answered this! I love Charlotte. I also like Curt and Andrew and Charlotte’s “boyfriend”, Sydney Black. They’re all fun!

4. Has your novel surprised you in any way?

Not really? I can’t think of anything at the moment.

5. Have you come across any problem areas?

I’m having real trouble moving from the set up into the actual story. It’s just dragging a lot and also I didn’t write much of an outline so all the pacing is out of whack. Those are my problem areas at the moment.

6. What’s been your biggest victory with writing this novel at this point?

Being able to use literally years worth of knowledge and research about the war has been hugely rewarding. I hope I’m doing it at least a sliver of justice. Definitely finishing it and being able to hone the information and fact into a readable, believable and entertaining story will be a huge victory for me.

7. If you were transported into your novel and became any of your characters, which one do you think you’d be? Would you have taken any different actions than they have?

Hmmm…this one’s difficult. I’m a lot like most of my characters, but if I just randomly became one, it would probably be Amy. Amy and I have a different approach to life, though we’re both pretty humorous (I think?) And self-depreciating with a healthy disregard for authority unless they’ve earned our respect. If I was Amy I’d probably be doing even more worrying than she is at the moment.

8. Give us the first sentence or paragraph and then 2 (or 3) favourite snippets!

First paragraph:

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A few snippets:

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9. Share an interesting tidbit about the Writing process this far! (For example, have you made any hilarious typos? Derailed from your outline? Killed a character? Changed projects entirely? Anything you want to share)

I decided to change the format, tense and person of my story 11,000 words in, just on a whim. Originally, I was writing in first person present tense, and then I decided to change to third person past tense. I also decided to make letters from the boys who these girls love–Amy’s brother, Curt, Charlotte’s brother, Andrew and Pearl’s friend, Frank–the opening for the chapters. I like this format and it promises to be fun.

10. Take us on a tour of what a normal writing day for this novel looks like. Where do you write? What time of day? Alone or with others? Is a lot of coffee (or another drink) consumed? Do you light candles? Play music? Get distracted by social media? Tell all!

I haven’t really had any normal writing days. But on a general normal writing day for a generic novel, I’ll procrastinate for some time, then finally drag myself to my desk, light one of my scented candles and write for ages. Or at least spend ages on the computer 😛 I’ve had some great word wars with the folks at Story Embers too! Those were great fun.

What about you guys? How did NaNoWriMo go for you? Did you win? How’s your novel going?

NaNoWriMo 20 Questions Tag

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NaNoWriMo is upon us! In Australia, we’re five days in, and so far its been going splendidly 😀 So today, I’m here to bring you a fun tag that Jenna tagged me for and then I’m going to get back to writing!

01. Tell me about your NaNoWriMo project this year! Give me a blurb!

My blurb is kind of dodgy, but here it is anyway!

The war has raged for three years…and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing up. The boys are dying like flies in the trenches, and Amy’s brother Curt, previously declared medically unfit, is suddenly accepted into the fledgling air force.

Pearl has German heritage–a fact that never bothered anyone until the declaration of war. Now, three years later, she knows her time is running out before she is arrested and placed in an internment camp. 

Amidst a world brimming with blood, death and chaos, two women must find a way to hold onto peace, no matter what it costs them. Continue reading

Some Idle Thoughts on the Original Star Wars Trilogy

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I’ve been saying for months now that I planned on watching the original trilogy of Star Wars…and I’ve finally done it! I’m ridiculously proud of myself for finally watching such an iconic, classic piece of storytelling.

And look, I’ll be honest with you guys, it wasn’t my favourite thing ever. None of the movies are going to make my top ten. But it was pretty satisfying. The storytelling of the trilogy is solid and I can see why its used as a classic example of a lot of tropes. Star Wars basically embodies the coming-of-age story.

Anyway, I thought I’d do a casual, conversational post in which I list, in bullet point form, the good, the bad, and the I-really-just-didn’t-understand-please-someone-explain, of the original trilogy. Continue reading