Giveaway Winners Announcement!

celebration monkey

Just a quick post to announce the winners of my giveaway (before I totally forget). Massive *CONGRATULATIONS* to… Briana @Pages Unbound and Roberta @Offbeat YA

pages unbound

Briana runs an incredible blog, alongside Krysta, over at Pages Unbound. You might have heard me rave over the years about how good their blog is- because it’s amazing! Their discussions are always fascinating- covering a wide range of topics, but most notably on classics and libraries. And their reviews are top quality, on all sorts of genres, from MG to YA to classics and even non-fiction!

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Roberta has been such a lovely person to get to know- she’s super friendly- which you’re sure to notice from her terrific series “tooting your trumpet”, where she shares posts from around the blogosphere. Her reviews are so in-depth and compelling as well!

So what are you waiting for? You *need* to check them out right now!!

Sunshine Blogger Award #5

 

I haven’t done one of these in two years- SAY WHAT?! And since I was recently nominated by a couple of people, I figured it was about time. Thanks so much to the lovely Keira @Headphones and Hyperbole– who talks a lot about music and books- what could be better? And thank you to the awesome Rachael @Dogearedpages– whose enthusiasm comes through in her wonderful book blog 😀 Definitely worth checking both of them out!

Rules


  1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to their blogging site.
  2. Answer the questions.
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 new questions.
  4. Notify the nominees about it by commenting on one of their blog posts.
  5. List the rules + display the sunshine blogger award logo on your site or on your post.

Keira’s questions…

1.      You have been arrested. What is the crime you are most worried about being falsely accused of?

Gosh- what a question! I’d hate to be falsely accused of anything- but I figure going down for a murder I didn’t commit would be pretty awful… especially since I don’t have the brains of Andy Dufresne to get myself out of that situation.

chocolate2.      What is your favourite type of chocolate? (Can you tell that it’s Easter…)

Oh man I love ALL THE CHOCOLATE- but if you really want the way to my heart, you’ll get there with a Ferrero Rocher

3.      Highlighting or underlining?

Probably underlining cos I get lazy/don’t colour code things properly… but that doesn’t usually stop me trying.

4.      What is your favourite fantasy creature?

rhaegal dragon

Dragons!

5.      What is your biggest pet peeve?

(Oh boy, you’re going to wish you never asked…)

Hypercorrection. Every time someone uses a reflexive pronoun incorrectly, I wince. Every time I see an Oxford comma, I die a little inside. In fact, I was reminded of this recently when #OxfordComma was trending on twitter and *a lot* of philistines *ahem* misinformed souls were using examples that weren’t just grammatically incorrect, they also created the very problems they sought to avoid. Observe this sentence without hypercorrection:

“Highlights of Peter Ustinov’s global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800 year old demigod and a dildo collector.”

And now with hypercorrection:

“Highlights of Peter Ustinov’s global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800 year old demigod, and a dildo collector.”

This actually *creates a subordinate clause*- meaning you have now unequivocally called Nelson an 800 year old demigod- meaning this has obscured rather than clarified the intended meaning (and the same is true for the much touted dedication example). Ironically, there was no confusion in the sentence before BECAUSE THE RULE OF NOT PUTTING EXTRA COMMAS IN LISTS ALREADY WORKS!! This entire rule was invented for people who don’t know how to read properly to begin with… and makes a mockery of people with basic literacy! *slow clap for stupidity ruling the day*

(see, bet you regret asking 😉 )

6.      Do you prefer sparkling water or still water?

Still water- I *hate* sparkling water cos it makes me thirsty- what is the point in water that makes you thirsty?!

7.      Are you the type of person to make decisions with your head or your heart?

thinking monkey

I’m the kind of person/monkey to make decisions with my heart and then second guess them until I end up more or less making them with my head 😉

8.      What do you do when you are stuck on something and need an epiphany?

I work on something else or just write in circles until I come up with something.

9.      What is your happy place?

Bed, surrounded by books 😉 Then I can be *anywhere*…

book bed

seriously wish this was my actual bed…

10. Do you have any strange or unexplainable fears, and if so what?

*Coughs awkwardly* yup- I’m mortally afraid of doctors… 

MonkeyNurse

11. Where would you least like to go on holiday and why? (Real life, or fictional).

westeros

Westeros wouldn’t exactly be the best place for a holiday, would it? I mean, you’d be strolling along in King’s Landing, when HOLY SHIT WAS THAT A DRAGON WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE…

Or you’d be chilling out in Winterfell when OH MY OLD GODS AND THE NEW- IS THAT AN ICE ZOMBIE- ARYA COME SAVE ME!

Or you’d take a nice boat trip to Essos when WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THAT PERSON’S FACE? Oh, it’s called Greyscale, IT’S HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS? WHY AM I NOT COMFORTED BY THAT?

You get the idea. It would be a very stressful place to go on vacation.

Rachael’s questions…

  1. What’s your favourite lesser known book or series and why?

all that still matters at all

All That Still Matters at All is by a Hungarian poet, which doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves in the English speaking world.

  1. Describe the best food you’ve ever read about in a book.

That has to be one of those delectable scenes from Harry Potter:
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He had never seen so many things he liked to eat on one table: roast beef, roast chicken, pork chops and lamb chops, sausages, bacon and steak, boiled potatoes, roast potatoes, fries, Yorkshire pudding, peas, carrots, gravy, ketchup, and, for some strange reason, peppermint humbugs.”

  1. Would you rather be a character in a whimsical magical tale or an epic space opera?

Whimsical magical tale- far less drama, a lot more peculiarities.

  1. If you could change something about your favourite book, what would you change?

Well, nothing, or it wouldn’t be my favourite book 😉 The thing is, one of my favourites is the Idiot by Dostoevsky and is largely thought to be a bit of a flop… but I somehow ended up loving it, imperfections and all, so I wouldn’t change a thing. I might like a Smaug spinoff from the Hobbit though 😉

  1. Why did you start blogging?

Honestly? To rant about Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. I really didn’t like that book and no one wanted to hear me vent about it (anymore) in real life 😉

  1. What is your most controversial bookish opinion?

Well, I was just reminded recently that I really don’t like Handmaid’s Tale… That thought’s not gonna win me any friends 😉

  1. Personal library or public library?

Tough question! I mean, there are more books in a public library, but I guess I end up more attached to the ones in my personal collection.

  1. What is your favourite thing about yourself?

Posable thumbs- useful for turning pages in books 😉 (also self-deprecating humour 😉 )

  1. What book character would you name a pet after? (and what kind of animal is the pet?)

Ooh hard question! I don’t have a pet, so you’re going to be in for some wish fulfilment. I love literary names for cats: Lila Bard, Kaz Brekker, Raskolnikov… Today though I feel more like a dog person and think Paddington would be a fun name! Also, I can’t take credit for this one, cos was in Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, but Winnie the Poodle is the best fictional dog name ever! (let’s be real though, if I ever was lucky enough to get an actual dog, I’d call it something silly like Mr Snuggles Fluff Monster the Third… poor imaginary future pooch 😉 )

confused dogs

10.      Where would you go if you could go anywhere within driving distance (like 5 hours max) right now?

land's end cornwall

Hmm right now I think I fancy going to Cornwall, cos I’ve not been in a while and the last series of Poldark is doing a wonderful job of selling the place (I’m really impressionable 😉 )

11.      Who is your book boyfriend (or girlfriend)?

vicious

Gonna go with an oldie but a goodie (sorta): Victor Vale! 

My questions:

  1. Where’s the best place you’ve ever been on holiday?
  2. Do you have any favourite fictional (or non fictional) libraries?
  3. What’s your guiltiest pleasure read?
  4. What’s your most unpopular bookish opinion?
  5. Do you have a bookish pet peeve?
  6. What book character gets on your last nerve?
  7. If you could wear any item of clothing from a book- what would it be? (magical or not)
  8. Who would you rather kiss/marry/kill when the choices are Lord Voldemort, Sauron and Iago? (meanest question ever, I know 😉 )
  9. Who’s the best bookish baddie you’ve read about lately?
  10. Would you rather be the villain in a story or the hero? Why?
  11. Do you have any exciting upcoming reading plans?

Tagging: Sam @Rivermoose Reads, Zezee, Journey into Books, Hammock of BooksSophie Li, Laleh Chini, Crystal @Lost in Storyland, The Crooked Pen, Crazy Cat Lady, Fadwa @Word Wonders and the Reader’s Bay

And that’s all for now! What fictional place would you least like to go on holiday?  And what bookish names would you/have you called your pet? Let me know in the comments!

Plotting Vs Pantsing – Differences in Style #9

 

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“Outlines are the last resource of bad fiction writers who wish to God they were writing masters’ theses.” – Stephen King

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” – Terry Pratchett

“If you do enough planning before you start to write, there’s no way you can have writer’s block.” – R L Stein

Well, if the title plotting vs pantsing hasn’t stoked a few fires, those quotes surely will have. For those of you unfamiliar with the terms, plotting is planning your books before you write them and pantsing is “flying by the seat of your pants” aka winging it. However, whether you’ve been in the writing community long or only had a casual glance at authortube, the first thing you’ll notice whenever this discussion comes up is the (unnecessary) divisiveness of the debate. Many writers often feel attacked by the other side and can get super defensive… which is why I’d like to have a chill discussion about what the differences are and why both processes are equally cool. Now, I usually talk about outcomes rather than the actual process- which is why this is such a unique topic for me. Because I don’t think you can tell the difference just from observation. Let’s have a look at some famous examples of both and you’ll see why…

(NB I had a great deal of fun researching this, but a lot of these came from various sources/interviews/quotes, so forgive me if I’ve got any wrong- I’ve tried to include as many of these as possible at the bottom of the page so you can check for yourself)

Famous plotters:

J K Rowling

John Grisham

Sylvia Plath

Arthur Miller

Leigh Bardugo

R L Stein

Rainbow Rowell (semi-plotter)

Hilary Mantel (likes to storyboard)

Kazuo Ishiguro (hardcore plotter)

Ken Follett

Virginia Woolf

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Vladimir Nabokov

Joseph Heller

William Faulkner (go figure- you can’t achieve that level of obscurity without planning)

Marcel Proust

Famous pantsers:

George R R Martin (though famously coined the term gardener)

Laini Taylor

Stephen King

Tim Bowler

Margaret Atwood

Ray Bradbury

Pierce Brown

Neil Gaiman (prefers the gardener term)

Maas (natural pantser, but has had to plot)

James Joyce

Mark Twain

Ernest Hemmingway

If you can tell the difference at a glance, you must be a savant. Personally, I found a few surprises (some plot-light authors are on the planning side and there are most certainly complexly plotted stories on the pantser side).

Really though, the thing that came up a lot of the time during my research was “eh I kinda plan” or “eh I sorta wing it”. Schwab, for instance, referred to herself as a “connect-the-dots-er”. George R R Martin, one of the world’s leading “gardeners” famously gave the notes for his ending to showrunners. Joyce was a self-proclaimed pantser and yet he too did extensive research. And I read a fantastic post about all the ways plotting and pantsing overlap. This makes the most sense to me. I for one consider myself a hardcore plotter… and yet this is only true up to a point. Beat sheets are a joy-killer for me, I’ve pantsed a novella and I usually leave subplots/romances unplanned (which helps keep some parts a bit more dynamic). That’s why I think drawing a clear-cut line between the two is a little rigid. Especially as there are pros and cons to both…

Plotting upsides

One of the best things for me about knowing an ending is that it gives a clear goal for you to write towards. Personally, I find it keeps characters consistent, whilst also allowing for growth. If you know where a character has to end up and how it’s different from where they came from, you can chart a clear course. This also may allow for a smoother plot and maybe even a cleaner drafter (maybe). The genres I’d say this is ideal for is thrillers, mysteries and epics- because a pre-planned plot can help you weave interesting setups and even red herrings organically into the narrative. Though foreshadowing in tragedy doesn’t go amiss 😉 I’d also say, as Stein pointed out, it’s a great way to prevent writer’s block and can sooth any nervous starters. 

One of the misconceptions of plotting is that it doesn’t allow for deviation- therefore sucking all the creativity out of the project. Now, this obviously isn’t true in the sense that creativity and imagination has to happen at some stage in order for the story to work- it may just happen in the planning stage. However, I’d say for me (and many other plotters) I tend to think about it more as adding complexity- you haven’t taken anything away by putting a plan in place- you’ve just laid the foundations for you to build on (we’re back to that awesome architect metaphor!) Also, frankly, I’m pretty sure even the most diehard plotters deviate at some point. I don’t think anyone can get away without some aspect of discovery writing.

Plotting downsides

Unfortunately, though, there is the danger of pre-plotted stories becoming predictable. There is also the argument that it doesn’t leave room for inspiration (which I’d disagree with as a plotter- having a roadmap doesn’t ruin my enjoyment, especially since the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry and you never really know where you’ll end up. Plus, creating plans can be a lot of fun in its own right). The most serious argument I have heard is that planned endings give you the danger of veering into propaganda- since you know exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it (though, looking at the authors above, I think it’s fairly safe to say the danger is no stronger whichever path you choose). I’d say the biggest cause for concern is that sticking to a planned ending may not always be in the story’s best interest, as a narrative might shift organically over time (the best example of this being HIMYM’s forced ending).

Pantsing upsides

I do definitely see the upsides of pantsing (even if it fills me with utter dread). Because countless pantsers will tell you how thrilling this method is, how much fun they have and how it helps them keep their ideas fresh. It’s known for being open to the imagination and giving the writer as much of a wild ride as the reader. And the results are telling- there are some stellar authors who swear by pantsing. For some people, this invigorating process is certainly the way to go, which can give raw and powerful results.

Pantsing downsides

Not knowing what’s going to happen can certainly have its issues though. The fear would be that after a stellar opening, the story can fizzle out (I know I’ve read a few of those). I also think there is the potential for plots to come out of nowhere or feel random (the upside of this being that the universe is pretty random- so that gives it something of an edge in terms of realism over a heavily constructed story). There is a potential to come unstuck as well (although many plotters will tell you they have the same issue- *raises hand*- and there is always the option to plot/feel/stab your way out of any writing corner you’ve backed yourself into). I think the same final issue of forced endings comes into play- because this seems to be a pitfall for pantsers as well.

Ultimately, it’s not so important which method you choose, because the process doesn’t mark out the end result for greatness. These discussions always allow for the basic truth: all creatives have a different process. No two writers work the same. And, even more importantly, we must take stock of this simple fact:

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Sources:

https://themillions.com/2016/07/planners-pantsers-write-novel.html

http://www.amreading.com/2016/09/18/what-are-plotters-and-pantsers-hint-j-k-rowling-is-one-and-stephen-king-is-the-other/

https://www.goodreads.com/blog/show/549-plotters-vs-pantsers-can-you-guess-which-side-stephen-king-and-j-k-ro

https://thethousandlives.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/fierce-reads-san-diego-stop-leigh-bardugo-ava-dellaira-emmy-laybourne-and-jennifer-mathieu/

http://bookandlatte.com/2012/11/sarah-j-maas-how-i-write.html

http://www.lainitaylor.com/2013/07/

https://yawednesdays.com/2015/11/16/10-things-we-learned-about-rainbow-rowell-and-david-levithan/

Other posts in the series:

Pared down vs Purple prose – Differences in Style #1

The art of Intertextuality vs Innovation – Differences in Style #2

*ALL the Viewpoints – Differences in Style #3

Coherence Vs Incoherence – Differences in Style #4

Telling Vs Showing – Differences in Style #5

Unreliable Narrators – Differences in Style #6

The Art of Fragmentation – Difference in Style #7

Subverting Expectations vs Wish Fulfilment – Differences in Style #8

What do you think? Do you think there are any upsides/downsides that I’ve missed? If you’re a writer, do you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – August

 

monthly mini reviews version 2

Well somehow we’ve managed to whizz through July- the month Wimbledon and strawberries and cream!

tennis monkey

(obviously, this is not an accurate portrayal: if I’d been at Wimbledon, especially if I’d been playing, I think people might have noticed the giant orange primate 😉 still sometimes these cartoons act as wish fulfilment and it was a great tournament!)

I did take a step back from the blog last month, for some not-so-serious-but-still-a-pain personal reasons. But I’m happy to have squeezed in my giveaway– if you haven’t seen it yet and would like to enter there’s still time!

mythos

Mythos– wow- Fry has a real way with words- no wonder he’s such a national treasure! He awes you and makes you chuckle and delights you with his stories! It was a pure pleasure to read and appealed to my classicist heart. He knows so much, about so many topics- which I’ll admit at times was a bit of an *information overload*. But that’s not a bad thing- it gave me plenty to think about. I loved how the myths were woven together- he drew connections wisely, teases more to come, and ultimately entraps you in his wondrous tales. Whether I agree with every take is somewhat irrelevant, cos as Fry states, retellings shift the narrative to suit the teller. No two people will come away with exactly the same impressions from the originals- and so each telling is recreating them from scratch. And I love that idea as a basis for this project. Plus, I believe he leaned on Ovid, so I can hardly complain 😉 Mythos was a real treat and I’m very much looking forward to the sequel.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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behind her eyes

Behind Her Eyes- oh the mixed feelings!! I was initially really taken in by this story. I liked the clean, easy writing style. I appreciated the switching timelines to create interest and tension. The jagged edges of secrets were poking through the narrative from the start. I guessed only bits and pieces of where it was heading. BUT- and here’s the kicker- there’s a reason you won’t be able to guess it all. Because the twist breaks all the rules of a thriller by being completely unbelievable. Maybe it’s the fault of knowing genre conventions to well, or maybe it’s just knowing enough about the topic of astral projection that this was wayyy too far beyond the realms of plausibility for me. So, sure, they were right to market this as #WTFThatEnding, because you’ll never get it before the end- but that’s because it doesn’t have a logical answer (I saw the most brilliant review on GR if you want an edgier take) I’m trying to avoid being spoilery, because I feel like this is something I could have done with knowing before getting into the novel. My warning to future readers is: don’t go into this book looking for realism. There’s a chance you might like this if you’re expecting something a bit more paranormal. You might find it fun if you’re along for the ride and don’t think too much about it (or secretly believe lucid dreamers have superpowers- fun fact: I’m a lucid dreamer, so unless I missed that day “in training”, there’s no magic to it 😉 ). Personally, while I was gripped throughout, I ended up feeling cheated, which is why I only gave it a slice of banana over 3*:

Rating: 3¼/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana slice of banana.jpeg

the marriage pact

audiobook2The Marriage Pact– this isn’t the worst book ever and would understand if people enjoyed it… that said I’m about to do nothing but bitch and moan about it. For starters, I listened to this on audiobook and my enjoyment was somewhat impacted by the fact that the voice actor did made every female character sound super cringey. A slightly bigger problem, however, was that THE CULT ASPECT MAKES NO SENSE. And that’s not a spoiler, because a) it couldn’t be anymore stereotypically cultish if it tried and b)  they jokingly call it a cult when it’s introduced. What’s bizarre about that is they pretend to have a back-and-forth debate over whether it is in fact a cult throughout the book- as if there’s any room for disagreement. What’s EVEN MORE bizarre is that, though they know it’s a dodgy organisation from the off, they join anyway?! Why would anyone want to be part of a club which dictates the minutia of your relationship? Exclusive or not, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to sign up. Aside from the odd party (emphasis on the odd- cos you can expect to be weighed, measured and found wanting at one of these auspicious events). I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure cults are sneakier at getting their claws into people and I’m baffled that this wasn’t more thought through. Anyway, as you might expect from their jumping headfirst into this shitshow, the main couple is a pair of bloody idiots. I particularly hated Alice- especially as she was so often framed as “perfect” and then falling short of that perfection (obviously). Add in antagonists who are all “the ends justify the means” clichés and you have a truly terrible cast. Yet the thing that really lost me was when this got faux philosophical- I mean, this is a silly thriller about a highend cult- call me crazy but I’m not looking for deep discussions about the “purpose of marriage” here. It didn’t help that the whole premise of what makes a good marriage came from a flawed vision of the unattainable Hollywood-style romance and I couldn’t help but think of Dr Jordan Peterson saying “what makes you think you want a relationship so you can be happy?” (it’s far more fascinating what he has to say on the matter, I can assure you, but the gist being research indicates relationships fail if they’re too negative BUT ALSO if they’re too positive). Anyway, back to this bonkers book, the ending was also spectacularly stupid: simultaneously predictable and underwhelming. There were a lot of more interesting places this idea could have gone. I did agree with the choice they made- which (since we’re getting all faux philosophical) basically came down to “do you want to be powerless and free or powerful and authoritarian”. For me, the answer’s a no-brainer. Just like my rating:

Rating: 2/5 bananas

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magic bites

Magic Bites– I enjoyed this, though I’m not sure it was totally for me. I can say for certain that it’s really well written and I get why people love it. Kate Daniels was a very cool character, with lots of personality in her voice. The story really came to life for me when Curran was introduced. The one thing (that I noticed) as a flaw was that there’s a lot in this world to get your head round and it’s kinda all dumped on your plate at once. Still, I had a great deal of fun with this:

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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summer of impossible things

The Summer of Impossible Things- what exquisite writing this has! And what a concept! There’s a mysterious film to this story, which had me turning page after page with increasing intrigue. The magical realism aspect totally worked for me as well. I’m not sure that I can pin down the wonder of the story in words. I will say, some of the subject matter weighed heavily on me and I guessed where it was going- but it was worth the journey regardless. It also had a surprisingly happy ending. Ultimately, it may not have been a story built on entirely possible things, but it was beautiful.

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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the flatshare

The Flatshare– I wasn’t sure about this at first, but I ended up loving the quirkiness and ENJOYED THE HECK out of the story! I particularly loved how they bonded through notes- it was such a clever idea and gave it a modern love story feel (whilst buying into the age-old romance concept of having people fall in love through the written word and loving each other for who they are inside). For that alone, this was utterly heart-warming. It helped as well that the subplots were deeper than I expected. In terms of character, I wasn’t sold on Leon’s choppy voice to start with- yet found it grew on me and characterised him well. It also did a great job of contrasting Tiffy’s bubbliness, which came across in every bouncy sentence. Their meet-cute was hilariously sweet as well. The only real downside for me was that Justin was a little cartoonishly evil. Other than that, this was an entertaining summer fling- definitely recommend for romance lovers!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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the woman in black

The Woman in Black– this was deliciously creepy and compelling. Mysteries unfurl in the misty atmosphere as Hill draws us through her wickedly dark tale. Be warned: there’s no great twist or trick, just tragedy. Still, while this is not the most shocking story- it is the telling of it that makes it special. The writing was impressive: all the work was being done under the surface, legs kicking where you can’t see and all you have is the impression of floating through this magnificently drawn setting. The voice was like an apparition, thrilling and powerful throughout; the descriptions were vivid and tinged with horror. I lived in fear of each turn of the page and fresh encounters with her. I’ll admit I had trouble reading this one at night; I can safely say the Woman in Black had me thoroughly spooked- so job well done!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Phew, that was a little longer than usual. Some of those reviews definitely got away from me! So have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Or do you plan to pick any of them up? Let me know in the comments!

More Endings That I LOVED!

 

orangutan list

A while back, I did a little piece about some of my favourite endings and I thought it was right about time for part 2- because everyone loves a sequel 😉 Which is why I’m kicking this off with…

carry on

Carry On– speaking of sappy endings, this one makes my heart melt!! I don’t have much more to say about it than I CAN’T WAIT FOR THE SURPRISE SEQUEL COMING OUT THIS AUTUMN!!

Emma_Jane_Austen_book_cover

Emma– I mentioned Persuasion last time, but Austen deserves another shout because she is the queen of happy endings. The reason I chose Emma this time is because it culminates in the perfect character journey- Emma has changed so much from the beginning, but in a completely organic way that stays true to her generous heart.

secret countess

The Secret Countess– let’s be real: Eva Ibbotson = ultimate wish fulfilment. With her fairy tale style stories, it is entirely appropriate that she gives all her heroines the happily ever after they deserve- and none more so than the lovely Secret Countess!

daughter of smoke and bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone– I absolutely adore the twist at the end!! And it sets up the rest of the trilogy perfectly.

vicious

Vicious– I mean, this was the book that sold me on Schwab!! Originally a standalone, this has all the right twists and turns and surprises to bring everything to an epic conclusion. What’s even better is that it closes off the story, whilst still working as a series opener.

one word kill

One Word Kill– I really feel like Lawrence sticks his landings, just sayin’. I chose this one, because while I love his series enders, I am also a massive sucker for mushy endings (and I just love the last line!!) It definitely got me excited for the sequel as well!

crooked kingdom

Crooked Kingdom– now, this is what I’d call “bittersweet”. But somehow the fact it’s not entirely happy suits the story Bardugo was telling better- after everything the characters went through, there’s often a temptation to give them everything they desire, and yet it makes so much more sense that not everything is smooth sailing. It’s the proper finale for an wickedly dark duology.

1984 book

1984– because truthfully I think dystopias should end on a dark note. Sure, this depresses the hell out of me, but what do you expect from a book about a totalitarian government?

sadie

Sadie– I am going to sing the praises for this book (and audiobook) forever! Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say you will be simultaneously satisfied and heartbroken.

words in deep blue

Words in Deep Blue– this is such a powerful novel about grief and recovery. Admittedly, I spent most of this book’s journey in tears (a trend for some of the books on this list) but the part about this book that really worked is how everything comes together at the end and the reader is given the catharsis they truly deserve.

A thousand perfect notes

A Thousand Perfect Notes– on a slightly lighter note, this was a tough book to get through for all the dark subject matter, BUT stick with it because the way it plays out in the end is its own reward.

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Circe– this is one of my favourite new endings- there is no ending more beautiful, more poignant, more powerful. It takes my breath away how perfect this is.

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A Thousand Splendid Suns– this is one of those books written on such an epic scale, it’s hard to know if everything will come together by the end. And yet, for all this made me cry, by its final pages it had my heart uplifted and that cemented it as one of my favourite modern reads.

So have you read any of these? What did you think of these endings? And do you have any favourite endings of your own? Let me know in the comments!

 

Subverting Expectations vs Wish Fulfilment – Differences in Style #8

 

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Normally, I do these posts because I’ve read a cool book recently or been writing something related or seen a craft video- not this day! For a change, I was inspired (and challenged) to do this because of my recent TV watching habits. Thanks to the shocker of an ending for Game of Thrones and the contrastingly amazing finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender, I’ve been thinking a lot about how story may (or may not) stick the landing.

So what do I mean by wish fulfilment? Well, in the case of a comedy, this is when characters get exactly what they want/deserve. The baddies are punished, the goodies are rewarded. In a tragedy, the heroes suffer too, but we’re okay with that cos readers are masochists it’s *cathartic*. Basically, if a book does what it says on the tin, chances are it fits into this.

The only rare cases when this fails is in satire or if there’s been an implied twist on the tropes. A good example of this for me was in Shadow and Bone, which I felt held promise as being a fresh take on the fantasy genre, but ended up being conformist. That said, a lot of people loved that very traditional ending, so you can see how that gets subjective pretty fast 😉 There is also the issue of predictability- which I find a lot of readers are forgiving of- even in the thriller genre. What I will say is when this veers off into really dodgy territory is when a choice is made for “fanservice”- where the creator makes a decision purely to please fans- which ultimately backfires spectacularly. I often imagine misguided producers shrieking: “I was doing this to please you! I thought it was what you wanted! LOVE ME!” Let’s just say, I’m not a fan.

Moving on, I think we’ve heard a lot about subverting expectations lately because of Game of Thrones royally screwing up its ending. However, it might surprise non-fans to hear that Game of Thrones actually used to be the *BOMB* at this (back when the show was following GRRM’s books, that is). Spoilers if you plan to watch/read it, the Red Wedding in particular is my favourite example: yes, there was misdirection upto this point, but when you looked back you could see exactly how this was set up and how it was secretly the logical outcome for Robb’s story arc. Sure, it was a shock, because the characters involved didn’t see it coming, but a clever reader could’ve seen the writing on the wall. And yes, plotlines were abandoned because of it, but it not only made logical sense, it left you with an even greater sense of longing for what might have been AND managed to create dramatic consequences for the other players in the story. Essentially, subverting expectations enhanced the story in every way!

Sadly, subverting expectations won’t always work and the final season of Game of Thrones proved this unequivocally. There was very little setup in order for there to be payoff, often plotlines came out of nowhere, and there appeared to be times when the writers pivoted direction mid-story.

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But of course, as George R R Martin says:

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One of the biggest components for this failure is that the building blocks of character and story have to be in place in order for this to work. Sometimes you can get away with this in terms of tone, as with Carry On, indicating through jokes that this is a parody of Harry Potter; sometimes you have write hundreds of thousands of words before you can twist the story on its head. Point is, readers/viewers will be unhappy if a plot thread comes out of nowhere. Plus, there has to be a reason for doing this: humour is a good reason, challenging convention is another, entertaining the viewer also works… to an extent. Because if the audience suspects this is purely for shock value, they’ll ultimately be dissatisfied. Again, it all comes down to delivering that longed for catharsis.

Most of the time, things fall in the messy middle though. Endings that are bittersweet- like the emotionally charged victory of Lord of the Rings– can be equally as satisfying. Even things we think of as classic tragedies, like Romeo and Juliet, play into comedic tropes in order to subvert them (and ultimately ends up conforming to tragic conventions). Narrative arcs will generally allow for characters to rise and fall (in tragedy allowing for a moment of bliss and in comedy giving a time for despair). Very few books “flatline” (a distinct example being City of Dreadful Night– where the narrative remains bleak throughout). For instance, this is a useful source showing the rise and falls in six basic plots. And here’s my (entirely subjective and unscientific) graph of where a story might fall in terms of subverting or fulfilling expectations:

(where tragedies end in death and comedies end in marriage)

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Whether you entirely agree or disagree with where I’ve placed certain stories, hopefully you can see the difference in endings. And even after we’ve considered all of this, sometimes an ending can deliver for some fans and not others (as is the case with Harry Potter). Chances are there will be dissatisfied parties and I will say that there’s no pleasing everyone- and that’s not a bad thing! Really, there is no one way to stick the landing and we always have to consider that taste plays a part. And I haven’t even covered the difference plotting vs pantsing makes when it comes to endings… that’s a discussion for another time.

Pared down vs Purple prose – Differences in Style #1

The art of Intertextuality vs Innovation – Differences in Style #2

*ALL the Viewpoints – Differences in Style #3

Coherence Vs Incoherence – Differences in Style #4

Telling Vs Showing – Differences in Style #5

Unreliable Narrators – Differences in Style #6

The Art of Fragmentation – Difference in Style #7

So what are your thoughts on the differences? Do you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said here? Let me know in the comments!

Monkey at the Movies: Avatar the Last Airbender Television Show

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*Wow*- I waited wayyy too long to watch this, didn’t I? Let me back up a second. It’s no secret that after Game of Thrones ended (in the worst possible way imaginable) I was feeling pretty distraught and uninspired by TV. So I settled down to watch a classic… and I was not disappointed.

monkey avatarFrom the opening visuals, I knew this was going to be quite the experience. The artwork is literally stunning and the set up incredibly promising. With these gorgeous images, we’re thrown into a fascinating fantasy world, where people have the power to control the elements. Not to get too in depth about the premise (because a lot of people will know it) but essentially it’s set after the Avatar who can control all the elements disappeared and the Fire Nation took control. And let me be the first to say, that simple sentence could never do the world building justice. This not only has one of the most intricate magic systems imaginable, as the story goes on, it develops a deep mythos for each location it explores. Having watched this now, I can safely say I have no idea why anyone would try to reduce all this down into a (terrible) movie- it was always doomed to be a mess.

But this is all just background- I haven’t even got to the plot yet! While episodic in the most rewarding way imaginable, each season builds upto epic conclusions. In a ride as wild as soaring on a flying bison, we’re lifted off the ground and taken to new lows. There are times when the audience is rewarded for their patience; there are times when expectations are subverted- in the best kind of Empire-Strikes-Back way. The characters win and lose- keeping you on your toes! And I mean really lose- because it often feels like victory comes at great cost (and let me remind you this is a kid’s show!!)

In terms of individual episodes, it’s hilarious at times, devastating at others. Having mentioned all the fantastic finales, you’d think they’d be my favourite episodes- not so! The one that stands out to me the most (and a fan favourite) is the Tales of Ba Sing Se- an intensely character driven episode which will make even the most stone-hearted of earth benders tear eyed. I also thought Ember Island Players was one of the best recap episodes in the history of TV.

zukoAll of this said, I haven’t even mentioned the best part of the show: the characters. From Katara to Toph to Sokka, it has a strong cast of supporting characters. There are amazing villains; there is a hero you can root for- one whose struggle to be the Avatar ties in with the fate of the world. I loved how he had to make sacrifices in order to reach the end of the story and it was never an easy path for him. On the subject of difficult journeys, my favourite character (perhaps predictably) was Zuko- I found him fascinating from the off: his backstory intrigued me, the promise of a potential redemption kept me hooked and every choice the character made had me on the edge of my seat. And I especially liked Azula as his foil. It’s because of characters like him that this show has such a reputation for amazing character development.

I’m also delighted to say this show had a beautiful ending! The justice meted out certainly gave balance to the magic in this universe. I will quickly say that the only thing in the entire show that I had an issue with was how the relationships turned out. At the risk of annoying old fans of the show (who are no doubt still licking their battle wounds from shipping wars of a bygone age) Aang/Katara *at all*. This isn’t just because my ship didn’t sail (le sigh) it was because I thought it came across as forced and I disliked such an awesome female character being reduced to the hero’s reward… But I don’t want to bog down the end of this review with this- though I’ll definitely get into it at a later date- because this wasn’t ultimately detrimental to my enjoyment. There is so much to this show that I loved that I simply can’t cover it all. I wouldn’t feel reasonable giving this masterpiece of television anything less than:

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So have you seen this? What did you think of it? And when did you join this party? Let me know in the comments!