Top Ten Best & Worst Unique Titles

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted over at The Broke and Bookish. This week’s prompt is all about titles!

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you probably know I’m a writer. Well, I’m working on my seventh novel (for NaNo!!) and I have to confess I haven’t titled a single one. I don’t know maybe I am just too much of a perfectionist and still await That Dream Title that’s unique and just captures the book completely.

Because of that, I wanted to dedicate this Top Ten Tuesday to those that managed to find a good, special titles (and those that came up with one uniquely horrible). They are all memorable though! So you won’t find The + Adjective + Noun or The Noun of Something, or its dread YA fantasy counter Noun of Noun & Noun, not even Participle, the first book to a Paranormal trilogy. Those can be both good or bad, but they’re also pretty generic

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Best

1. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

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Comma! Also fits tone perfectly

 

2. Negotiating with the Dead by Margaret Atwood

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Such a striking title for a book about writing

 

3. We Have Always Lived in a Castle by Shirley Jackson

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Ominous… also a sentence!

 

4. I, Claudius by Robert Graves

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Hints at the “autobiographical” Romanness to come

 

5. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making By Catherynne M. Valente

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This one is just awesome

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Worst

6. A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas

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okay I broke my own rule… but I’m pretty sure this title was chosen because of the acronyms, a uniquely bad choice

 

7. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

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This grammar a headache 

 

8. I’m the King of the Castle by Susan Hill

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THEY DON’T EVEN PLAY THAT GAME (I hate this book with a passion)

 

9. Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

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Also known as the pirate book in my head bc I can never remember the title

 

10. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

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All the other books in the series are The Adjective Noun, so why Maggie? Why?

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Book Review: Between Shades of Gray

12913325Title: Between Shades of Gray

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Genre: YA Historical Fiction, WWII

Release Date: April 3rd, 2012

Publisher: Speak

Rating: ★½☆☆

It’s 1941 and fifteen-year-old artist Lina Vilkas is on Stalin’s extermination list. Deported to a prison camp in Siberia, Lina fights for her life, fearless, risking everything to save her family. It’s a long and harrowing journey and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?

So conclusion reached: Ruta Sepetys is not for me.

I want to start with the positives.

The piece of history that this book tackled is the deportations of Baltic citizens to the USSR which is barely talked about. I honestly only knew them because of this book. I commend Sepetys for discussing these injustices because what these people went through deserves to be told. The novel was clearly well researched. Also I really appreciated how nuanced Sepetys’ portrayal of the events were. There were some (really bleak) details that just punch in the gut as there is no sugarcoating. The themes of hope and solidarity were well handled and those sections were where the book moved me the most.

That is to say I really like what this novel was trying to be. The execution just lost me.

There is something just so readable about the style. The chapters are really short, the sentences simple. I just glided through this whole novel. And yet… I thought it was kind of weak. Don’t get me wrong, there were some sentences that were incredibly lyrical, but they were sparse. The protagonist is really young (15), so maybe that’s why Sepetys decided to write so simply, but it just didn’t work for me. The dialogue was also very generic.

The pacing was also very wonky. Sepetys is a very moment-to-moment writer, kind of like Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. But she doesn’t have the style to pull it off, so it came off as dull when it shouldn’t have. The first third of the book looked only at a couple of weeks, but then months go by in a page. It’s so uneven… Also the ending felt abrupt and unearned.

What I struggled the most with were the characters. Lina was the most developed character out of them all, and it still felt like tell rather than show. We were told she was headstrong, but there were very few occasion where she actually did something that could be considered even stubborn. The side characters were even flatter. Jonas, the little brother, was often the motivation behind most of Lina’s actions, but I couldn’t tell you a single thing about his personality besides the fact that he looked up to Andrius. And the rest of the cast never felt real; they were but a couple of repeated traits. (This was also my main problem with Salt to the Sea, Sepetys’ other WWII book.)

Overall, I really wanted to like this just like Salt to the Sea. Stories like this deserve to be told, and I really appreciate the amount of care Sepetys put into this book. I just didn’t connect with the actual storytelling. 

Stray Observations

  • The cover is just gorgeous.
  • Also the romance was bit unnecessary? I would rather have had a strong friendship… but then again I nearly always do.
  • I actually thought the flashbacks added to the story and often drew interesting parallels. They rarely felt obtrusive.
  • Also that’s an unfortunate title… even though thematically it fits 200% better for a book like this than 50 shades….

 

Top Five Wednesday: Creepy Settings

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Top Five Wednesday is weekly meme hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes over at Goodreads. So, I’m late with this. I know, I know, but this topic was just too good to miss. I adore atmospheric books with creepy, ominous settings that are almost a character onto themselves. These are my favorites.

1. Sorry-In-The-Vale from The Lynburn Legacy

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Small English town with fog, secrets, mansions, and magic? Even if the characters weren’t delightful, I would have fallen in love with this trilogy for its setting alone. If I remember correctly you even get a map!

2. Cabeswater from The Raven Cycle

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I read the entire series, and I’m still not sure of what Cabeswater even is. All the scenes that take place there are eerie and wonderful. Because of spoilers, I don’t want to go too deep into it, but I’m amazed at all the types of magic that come out of Cabeswater. There’s nothing quite like it.

3. Koschei’s country from Deathless

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This book is like a twisted fairytale that just won’t leave my mind. Koschei’s Country, despite being basically the country of life, is sooo creepy. Almost as creepy as the country of death. This whole damn book is creepy in the most wonderful way.

4. Hailsham from Never Let Me Go

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For the entire book, you can guess there is something nefarious going on in this English boarding school. The characters realize this to different degrees, but never quite like one does as the reader. It’s not creepy in the traditional sense perhaps, but I got a sinking feeling in my stomach while reading this entire book.

5. The Moors from Wuthering Heights

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I had to finish with a classic. The moors are as vivid as any other character in this novel. They shape the story and characters in such a unique way, that this novel couldn’t have been set anywhere else. And wow, does Emily Bronte know how to build an atmosphere.

Beautiful Books: NaNoWriMo edition!

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I’m so happy to be doing this meme again! And about NaNo aka the worst best time of the year!  If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’m a writer. I’ve actually been participating in NaNo for years, although I won for the first time last year. All of us sensible writers decide that November (aka exam time for me) is the best moment to try to write 50k in one month. It is truly a fool-proof idea!

I’m not a fast writer, but I am steady one. I regularly write from 25k to 40k words a month, so does mean working more. It also means actually being held accountable for writing everyday, which I sometimes struggle with. I’ve also been writing a lot more slowly this year…

No, but seriously, I love watching everyone getting pumped about their projects (and the commiserating together when it all goes to hell) . And ooohhh those pinterest aesthetics are a wonderful thing to behold.

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Now onto the questions…

  1. What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

A Harry Potter re-read, if I am being honest though its taken a life of its own (and stolen my life as well) since then. I got the idea OVER A YEAR AGO, and have been dying to write ever since. I’m glad I waited though, because it’s turned into something far more complex (the most complex thing I’ve ever tried to write). IT IS TIME AT LAST.

2. Describe what your novel is about!

It is about magic and language. Also about friendship, grief, and secret cities, and what happens when the world is changing faster than what people keep up (though politics take a backseat for much of the book). Also in this first book (out of a planned four or five), there are a lot of ghosts.

3. What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

My aesthetics game is improving a bit!

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You can find my pinterest board here (though it is very incomplete still).

Also since music has been key to the whole development (and I already have over 140 songs for just this book), here are a few songs that reflect the core of the novel:

4. Introduce us to each of your characters!

At the end of my last series, as I struggled to wrap up all the main arcs for my four main PoV characters, I vowed to never have as many main characters again. Now I have six… this is going to kill me.

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Aventine, mainest of the mains (in book 1). Resident ghost girl on a quest.

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Tommy, male lead. Charming overachiever with a penchant for danger. MoC.

 

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Roskva. Tiny ball of anger and inappropriateness with nebulous past.

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Lochlan. Living personification of a puppy (also lives in books). He’s biracial.

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Elsie. The fashionable witch of the group, also very gay. WoC.

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Rik. Rich asshole who is having a hard time adjusting. The one no one likes.

5. How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

Outlines save lives, people. I literally cannot live without them. Also I’ve bought a ton of folktale books for research and read none so far (kill me). There has been a ton of fretting and thinking done over the last year. Also I need to buy more chocolate.

6. What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

The magic! It actually takes place in the same world as my other series, but the magic system has evolved a ton and will now carry all kind of metaphorical weights. It’s a more intangible sort of magic.  I can’t wait!

7. List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

  • There is a secluded centuries-old college, which means tons of books and chalk.
  • Beneath it, the ruins to a lost city (or are they?)
  • Have I mentioned the mossy woods that surround the college?

8. What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

Well, Aventine is looking for a very specific ghost, but gets caught up in something far more ancient and unknown, not to mention people which remain eternally challenging. There is a murder mystery in this first book, but there are far more things at play. (Also the rest of the main characters get their mini-arcs or not so mini).

9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

I would love for the change in all main characters to be somewhat noticeable by the end of the book and  to set up their personal arcs, but they still have a long way to go. The real core of this book is their burgeoning friendship (or enmity as the case may be). But, oh, I have plans.

10. What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

Is saying the power of friendship too cheesy? Because honestly that is my favorite topic to write! That is really half the core of the entire series. The other half is probably language and the power to create. In this world, language can literally alter reality so… #metaphor #ain’tIclever

As far as this book, it deals heavily with different kinds of grief. Every character has lost something and is still struggling to come to terms with that, in very different ways. Their ghosts are both literal and metaphorical, but they all have them. Tied to that, it is also about how important it is to let yourself be vulnerable sometimes, to trust that your people will catch you.

I hope that if anyone reads this, they leave with some sense of hope. Yes, life comes with a lot of pain, but also the good things are there to be found and claimed. That a little kindness can go a long way.  Also I hope that they cry at some point because that’s the sort of writer I am.

Book Review: The Final Empire

68428Title: The Final Empire

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Series: Mistborn #1

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: October 1st, 2009

Publisher: Orion Publishing Group Limited

Format: Audiobook narrated by Michael Kramer

Rating: ★★½☆

Synopsis

In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with colour once more?
In Brandon Sanderson’s intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage— Allomancy, a magic of the metals.

So, I have mixed feelings.

First of all, the worldbuilding is probably the best aspect of this book. Sanderson creates a very vivid atmosphere for the world, and well, his magic systems are famous for being intricate and fun. I was not disappointed on either count. The violence against women, though, that I always hate. Like in so many books, here it is used to make the world grittier and not much else. Well, it is used for the backstory of many of the male because of course.

Also, even though one of the two leads is a teenage girl, there are barely any female characters at all. Aside from Vin, we have the dead wife, the scorned ex-fiancée, the wily women of the court (only one of which gets a vague-ish personality), a bunch of nameless dead moms, aaaand that’s pretty much it. Vin doesn’t bond with a single woman in the whole book. Everyone else, every rebel soldier, important noble or character with dialogue is a dude. Honestly, I expected better. Like, I’ve criticized The Lies of Locke Lamora for its treatment of women too, but at least there were women in the background in all sorts of jobs. Lynch made his world brutal without having to recur to this tired way of treating women which rarely gets truly challenged. I’ve heard that Sanderson gets better in later books, and I truly hope that he does because I don’t know how much more I can take.

My other main problem was how repetitive the prose could get. You know those first few chapters of books where every other sentence is dripped in exposition to remind you of what had happened? Well, this book felt the necessity of reminding you every chapter. Like, in the climax itself, the narrator would remind you of what iron and steel do, stopping the momentum of the scene on its tracks. Even though, you know, by then you’ve read about a half dozen fights where iron and steel are used. Overall, the prose was mostly utilitarian and unobtrusive, not the kind that draws attention to itself, and that’s not my favorite thing but I’m fine with that. However, this needless repetition just made me snap out of the story every time.

But, I swear I didn’t hate this book.

There are good witty characters and a ton of banter which I always love (even if you know, they’re all men except for Vin). I listened to audio, but even without the voices you could tell who said each thing. Kelsier in particular won my heart from the start. This book reminded me of why I love reading about crews and the like.

The book is pretty slow, too. I struggled through the first third but once I was in, I was really in. Watching the plan unravel and come together definitely made the build-up worth it. Sanderson manages to weave everything together only for it to come back in unexpected ways. I get why it is so hyped in that sense. I did see many of the twists coming, but there were still a few moments that left me going oooh that was clever. And I admire how Sanderson makes the most of his magic system. Also many other author would use the ending of this book as the ending of a trilogy, which was also why I didn’t expect for Sanderson to take things all the way there.

It sounds like I disliked more than I liked, but that isn’t true. It was just that the good elements were consistent throughout the book that the bad one jumped out to me all the more. I will be continuing with this trilogy as I’m eager to see where Sanderson takes things after that ending.

Stray observations

  • The audiobook narration was really good!
  • I did cry at certain points, which is a good indication that I’m invested in a story.
  • Omg Sazed was the best out of the crew, though I have soft spot for Ham too. And Elend was my favorite non-crew member.
  • Well, Kelsier was my favorite overall.
  • I don’t think this, a six-hundred-page book, passes The Bechdel Test.
  • There were soooo many training montages… though Sanderson did manage to make most interesting enough.
  • I’m not invested in the main ship though I do like both characters separately. I don’t know hopefully The Well of Ascension will change my mind.