The Autumn Tag

Posted October 9, 2019 by Fictional Fox in Blog Tag / 0 Comments

Today I will be answering the prompts Jenn created for her Autumn blog tag. Check out the link for more info about Jenniely’s Autumn Tag and feel free to respond to the tag on your own blog (or on any other social media space) x

1. Hot Chocolate โ€“ what is your comfort book?

This is a great question. I have a lot of comfort reads that each calm me down in a particular way.

The book that has been on my comfort read list for the longest time, though, would probably be Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. I have a soft spot for time travel story lines. I also loved that Harry’s circle of found family grew in this volume and that he got to reconnect with his parents through the memories of his father’s best friends.

I also have fond memories of reading this book late into the night. I remember being caught by my parent’s and told to go to sleep more than once ๐Ÿ˜› . I’m so glad I managed to convince my mum to buy this for me from Tesco all those years ago.

2. Pumpkin Carving โ€“ what is your favourite creative outlet?

Writing. I love writing stories. When I was a teenager and not enjoying school I spent a lot of time distracting myself by writing radio play scripts, fan fiction, short stories and poems.

I have two writing projects simmering at the moment. One involves faerie court politics and the other is a twist on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

3. Falling Leaves โ€“ changes that appear bad but you secretly love?

Moving somewhere new. On the one hand you have to say goodbye to friends and places but on the other hand you get to start a fresh chapter in your life, make new friends and see new places. You can even use it as an opportunity to reinvent yourself, if you want to.

Moving has always evoked a mix of emotions for me.

4. Pumpkin Spiced Latte โ€“ something you love that others tend to judge

Just staying at home of an evening with my dog and a book . I don’t enjoy parties and I’ve never gone out to get drunk-it just does not interest me. I’m also terrible at small talk and socialising with people I don’t know very well.

5. Bonfire Night โ€“ what makes you explode with joy?

This fluffy face. She’s my little princess ๐Ÿ’™

6. Fright Night โ€“ favourite scary book or film

I do not watch horror films, generally speaking. The only one I’ve watched and really enjoyed is The Woman In Black. I like it because it has a strangely happy ending. I also like how it is essentially a supernatural period drama.

7. Halloween candy โ€“ favourite thing to eat

At the moment I adore Cadbury’s big white chocolate bar. It’s amazingly delicious and perfect picking at on a rainy afternoon, curled up with a book.

8. Scarves โ€“ your autumn โ€˜must haveโ€™ accessory

Easy! My Gryffindor scarf. My mum got it for me when she was working in London a few years ago. I adore it and can’t wait for it to be cold enough for me to wear it more often.

9. Fire โ€“ a book or film that burns your soul

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Honestly, this book burned a hole in my heart. It’s tragic and poetically beautiful.

10. Toffee apples โ€“ a book or film that seems one thing but really has a different inside

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. This book blindsided me. When I read the blurb I assumed it would be a light, fantasy read with a splash of teenage, tragic romance. The key points I picked up on in the blurb were about true love and destiny. It seemed interesting (that’s why I picked it up, after all) but there is so much more depth and quirkiness to it than I picked up on in this blurb.

Romantic love is not really the focal point. It’s more about the complex relationships the titular ‘Raven Boys’ have with each other. They are, in summary, a dysfunctional family on a quest for a dead Welsh king . The Raven Boys is also about what happens when the boys collide with Blue and her tight family of psychic women.

The character dynamics are ๐Ÿ‘Œ. The writing style is quirky and brilliant. I also loved that I could make a lot of connections to The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper (which is one of my favourite series ever).

Have you tried Jenn’s tag? If not, feel free to consider yourself tagged by me ๐Ÿ™‚

Lauren x

Ten Qualities I Love About Maia Drazhar from The Goblin Emperor

Posted October 8, 2019 by Fictional Fox in Top Ten Tuesday / 1 Comment

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

That Artsy Reader Girl

This is posted as part of Top Ten Tuesday, a blog feature where That Artsy Reader Girl provides prompts for top ten lists.

Today’s topic is about top ten qualities/traits we love in a character. I will be focusing on things I love about Maia Drazhar, the main character in Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor.

Ten Qualities I Love About Maia Drazhar from The Goblin EmperorThe Goblin Emperor (The Goblin Emperor, #1) by Katherine Addison
Published by Tor Books on April 1, 2014
Pages: 446

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an "accident," he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naรฏve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend . . . and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throneโ€“or his life.

Katherine Addisonโ€™s The Goblin Emperor is an exciting fantasy novel, set against the pageantry and color of a fascinating, unique world, is a memorable debut for a great new talent.

Kind, Strong and Brave

These traits to me really define Maia as a person.

He has a great capacity for kindness in the face of adversity. And, gosh, does he face a lot of that when he enters the Imperial Court.

Maia has a lot of things stacked against him when he begins his reign. There are people who want to puppet him, destroy him or just plain ignore him. He shows incredible strength to fight on in the name of what he thinks is right and not to let other people’s ambition derail his task of being a good Emperor.

He’s never been brought up to rule and he himself has been shown little kindness by anyone until he comes to court. It would have been so easy for him to take the path of least resistance and let others win. Or, on the other hand, to be vengeful and misuse his power. But he doesn’t and that shows both strength and bravery.

Imperfect and Self-Aware

Maia is not strictly speaking ‘human’ as, after all, this is a book about goblins and elves, but he shows a lot of humanity.

He has moments of selfishness, for example there is a particular episode in the book where he leaves the room with a singer who he likes a lot. The situation escalates into one that goes against all kinds of political protocol. In that moment he’s a young man who is innocent and somewhat out of his depth in the face of someone he likes. He steps out of the shadow of his title briefly to be ‘normal’, although that is soon shattered when he realises that he had the singer’s attention because of his title and nothing more, really.

I like that he shows his vulnerabilities and his truth. He gets frustrated, angry, disappointed. He makes misjudgements at times. All of this makes him more real.

Maia often acknowledges of his weaknesses. The narrative gives a lot of space to Maia’s introspective thoughts. Sometimes he can be quite tough on himself. He often spends time acknowledging and imagining how others see him. He can’t afford to be oblivious to how he presents himself because his whole existence is under a microscope. Nothing is private for an Emperor and this in itself is a big issue Maia has to deal with.

One of Maia’s struggles is reconciling his private and public image. He has to learn how much of his true self he can show and to who and kill people’s preconceptions. His father had painted and promoted a poor image of him that Maia has to tear down.

Listener, Empathetic and Wise

One of Maia’s greatest skills is listening which allow him to be both empathetic and wise. When his father and brothers dies in an airship crash his thoughts go to the family of the airship crew who also lost their lives. When he hears of proposals for a bridge that could help encourage trade and boost the economy, he wants to hear how it can benefit his people.

He’s a hands-on ruler once he’s given the chance to learn more about the system he’s working with and the scope of his powers within that system.

He shows the skills you want from a ruler. He wants to know about problems and is open to hearing ideas about solutions. Maia has a big heart and an eye for the bigger picture. He shows a lot maturity for someone so young.

Loyal and Loving

Maia finds a group of allies in the cold halls of Court. They become like family. I particularly enjoyed the chapters relating to Maia’s birthday and his simple joy at receiving presents.

For an orphan who lost his mother at a young age and was pushed away by his father, it’s so touching to see him find a group of people who love him. It’s key to Maia surviving the dark forces that surround him.

But he does suffer one truly deep betrayal. Yet, he stays loyal to that person. He listens to him explain why and even feels guilt. He watches the consequences of their actions and sees it through to the end. He shows the exact kind of unnerving loyalty that was denied him by this person.

Maia is an amazing character and The Goblin Emperor is a magical character study. If you haven’t read it already I definitely recommend it.

Lauren x

‘I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive’ – Review of To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Posted October 7, 2019 by Fictional Fox in Book Review / 0 Comments

‘I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive’ – Review of To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra ChristoTo Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
Published by Feiwel & Friends on March 6, 2018
Pages: 344
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe mostโ€”a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elianโ€™s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobbyโ€”itโ€™s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, sheโ€™s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for goodโ€”But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankindโ€™s greatest enemy?

A standalone novel about a siren and a pirate prince who are pushed together despite being bitter enemies?

I was sold on this book before I even read the first sentence (which is killer, by the way). To Kill a Kingdom is such a dark, fun and fantastical novel.

While I was reading it I took it with me everywhere. Unfortunately it ended up getting utterly soaked one weekend while I was working at a very damp flower festival. Turns out a story about the fate of the sea kingdom of Keto is at all waterproof ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธ. Thankfully, my dad managed to save my book by re-laminating it. I’ve never been so happy to have a book saved! It allowed me to finish reading this lush tale of a murderous princess and her identity crisis.

To Kill a Kingdom is told via dual narrators, Lira and Elian.

Elian wrestles with two separate personas: one the one hand, he is the heir to the kingdom of Midas and expected to rule after his father. But in truth his heart belongs at sea. His second persona is as the Captain of the Saad. His main quest is to eliminate sirens and the treat they pose to humans at sea.

The ‘Princes Bane’ is the most infamous of these sirens as she rips hearts out of princes. Enter Lira, our other narrator and the Princes Bane in the flesh. She is the daughter of the vicious Sea Queen who has pressured Lira into doing terrible things in order to shape her in her own image.

The plot quickly focuses itself on a quest to find an artefact that could end the Sea Queen’s reign of terror. Elian wants to find it to end things while Lira is tasked with foiling his plans and taking his heart.

What ensues is a story about taking control of your own narrative . At the beginning Elian and Lira seem to already have their paths mapped out for them by their parents. The quest above widens in scope considerably. It takes on the added dimension of searching for a way to define themselves away from their parents shadow. The answers to the latter is what really saves their kingdoms and people.

The found family aspect of this novel also feeds into the ‘control your own narrative’ theme as Elian, and later Lira, find comfort in the devoted crew of the Saad showing that sometimes the best family is the one you choose for yourself.

There are plenty of neatly clever plot twists, betrayals, and double crossings throughout this novel. Which keeps it exciting. So, too, does the satisfying application of the enemies to lovers trope.

One of my favourite aspects of this novel, though, is that it is a standalone story. It is a nice change of pace from my habit of reading lengthy book series to instead enjoy a self contained story.

Lira and Elian’s character arcs felt fully explored within the bounds of this single volume and I found the ending very satisfying. There are just enough enough narrative doors open to allow the reader to run away with their imagination and think of what the future could hold for these characters. I certainly would not be sad if the author chose to write more books in this world but at the same time this ending felt just right.

In summary this book : Is deliciously dark. Features pirates, sirens, found family and the power of the sea. What more could you want for a great read?

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Dear Diary #1

Posted October 6, 2019 by Fictional Fox in Personal / 0 Comments

“The first rash of fallen leaves crackled beneath Hazel’s feet, like a carpet of brittle paper.”

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Autumn is here. It’s getting colder, the trees are changing colour, and the days are getting shorter.

What I’ve been up to so far in October

From the Sunday dog walk.

The main focus of my free time this month has been to create Blogtober posts, where you post every day for the month of October. I didn’t plan any content in advance so I type each post on the fly.

It hasn’t been too bad to come up with things to post because I have a lot of notes for book reviews that can be typed up and edited, so I’m not always starting from scratch each day.

I want to post some more diverse content over the course of the month and expand past reviews, though. I would like to do more discussion posts like my post about opening lines to books. Dissecting language, scenes and characters in books is my favourite hobby. It’s not good from a ‘spoilers’ point of view so I don’t know how many people will read these kind of posts, but gosh do I have fun writing them.

I haven’t been doing a lot of reading so far in October, but once I have finished writing up two more reviews (for Swordspoint and Life and Death ) I am going to get stuck into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. At the moment I am using a TBR jar to lucky dip the books I read. So far it’s been working out really well for me.

A lot of time I would have used for reading has been spent on gaming. My current poison is Sims 4. The new Realm of Magic game pack is super cute. I love having spellcaster Sims. They can now get brooms and wands. It my current obsession. I might do a post about my current Sims family in a future post.

My October goals

My main goal is to successfully post every day this month. I refuse to fail at this. No matter how tired or out of ideas I am, I’m not going to stop. I will find something to post. Even if it’s just a photo with some thoughts.

I also want to read more books and keep my reading journal up-to-date. I got a beautiful notebook from my grandma for my birthday and I’ve been really good so far about writing my thoughts in there. I’m going to stick to my lucky dip method of choosing which books I read because that’s been really fun so far.

My other goal is to get new glasses this month. Not sure what style to go with yet. But I do want to go for something different if I have enough courage to do so. I usually go for plastic frames so maybe I’ll try some metal ones? Part of me wants to go for full on Harry Potter style ones ๐Ÿ˜›

What are your goals for this month?

Lauren x

“Everything is a story” -Review of Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Posted October 5, 2019 by Fictional Fox in Book Review / 0 Comments

“Everything is a story” -Review of Carry On by Rainbow RowellCarry On by Rainbow Rowell
Published by Wednesday Books on May 9, 2017
Pages: 522
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

A #1 New York Times-bestseller

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who's ever been chosen.

That's what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he's probably right.

Half the time, Simon can't even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor's avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there's a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon's face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here โ€” it's their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon's infuriating nemesis didn't even bother to show up.

Carry On - The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you'd expect from a Rainbow Rowell story - but far, far more monsters.

Quick note: This is a repost of a review I have posted elsewhere but I wanted to bring it across to Fictional Fox as a point of reference for when I review Wayward Son.

โ€œThis isnโ€™t a story!โ€

โ€œEverything is a story.โ€

(Rowell, 2015, p.507)

The narrative in Carry On has a playful self-awareness. Carry On is not a repeat of the stories you know, Carry On is a play on the stories you know.

The book starts at the beginning of Simon Snowโ€™s last year at Watford, a magic school. There are references throughout to Snowโ€™s previous adventures at his wizarding school but we donโ€™t get those stories in novel form. Honestly, you donโ€™t need them because you already know them. This book interacts with the knowledge you already have of this kind of story, the story of the chosen one saving the world while going to school. Harry Potter ring a bell? The Harry Potter series is a pop culture reference that Carry On has a conversation with, works with, and plays with.

In Carry On  language has power. Having a good turn of phrase on the tip of your tongue is the way to be successful as a mage. Examples include โ€˜Time flies!โ€™ to make the time go faster if youโ€™re having fun, or โ€˜These arenโ€™t the droids youโ€™re looking forโ€™ to get people to turn a blind eye. The more popular the phrase, the more powerful it is.

[An aside: I loved the history of this magic system and the theoretical and political clashes that have occurred during its development. 

Basically: โ€˜Before the Mageโ€™s reforms, Watford was so protective of traditional spells that theyโ€™d teach those instead of newer spells that worked betterโ€™ (Rowell, 2015, p.227). The Mage put a greater focus on looking at language as a living thing by recognising that there is as much, if not more, strength and relevance to new phrases as there is to โ€˜classicโ€™ bits of language.

  The old approach placed language in stasis with cornerstone phrases that should not be interfered with. The current approach is to work with language as an organic and changing thing, with respect for the power of phrases alive and thriving right now. These different approaches remind me of the debate over what โ€˜goodโ€™ literature is. Can our contemporary literature open up and enter the hallowed halls of academia and be discussed with just as much respect and depth as classic literature? I would say yes.]

There is a lot more to discuss about the magic system in Carry On but Iโ€™ve digressed too far already from my point about the narrative. Basically, the novel calls on your knowledge of Harry Potter, and books like it, to lend it strength and power, just as the magic system within the novel calls on phrases you know to produce an effect.

Once this book has you on the same page as it, having invoked pop culture, it starts to dismantle it. The expected narrative fate of the characters and their relationships with each other frays. It frays under the tension of each of the characterโ€™s hyper awareness of how things are meant to go. Baz and Simon should be enemies. Agatha and Simon should ride off into the sunset to their happily ever after. Most importantly, to the Mage at least, Simon should end the threat to the world of mages once and for all.

All the characters know this is how things are meant to be. Some fight it from the off. Others cling to it until they realise that it isnโ€™t, and doesnโ€™t have to be, the story you expect. I think this is best embodied in Agatha and the Mage. Agatha flirts seriously with the idea of rejecting the fate set out for her as the Chosen Oneโ€™s girlfriend. Her end decision made me proud. The Mage, meanwhile, is the one who forcefully snaps people into the available roles within the narrative structure he thinks he is in. Heโ€™s studied the prophecies inside and out and he is sure he knows this story and how it should function. The driving force behind much of the Mageโ€™s actions in this novel is his frustration over the fact this story will not behave the way he expects it to.

All of this playful pop culture work is carried out with great humour, much of it played out in the conversations and the individual point of view chapters quite a few of the characters get. I loved Agathaโ€™s comments on her headmasterโ€™s sense of style when she says โ€˜heโ€™s always dressed like Peter Pan, and he carries a sword. Like, all the timeโ€™ (Rowell, 2015, p.392). I grinned as Baz skipped between a blunt declaration to himself that heโ€™s โ€˜hopelessly in love withโ€™ (Rowell, 2015, p.176) Simon Snow to complaining that โ€˜Snow doesnโ€™t give a shit about waking me upโ€™ (Rowell,2015,p.179).

The characters are written with charm and spark.  Theyโ€™re never too much of a cardboard cut-out of the character stereotypes they are cast as, which gave their struggle to break free of those roles more depth. I enjoyed this novel so much because of how endearing and interesting the characters are. They are, quite rightfully, the main driving force behind the dismantling of the Harry Potter-esque pop culture framework Rowell throws them in to.

Lauren x

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star