7 Quick Takes: A Recap of the Vanished

I know I’ve been absent from 7 Quick Takes Friday for a while now. Some of it has been out of my control – moving and all that jazz – but some of it, I must admit, has been laziness on my part. So, of all the things, this is a Friday catch-up, I suppose.

Seven Quick Takes

~1~

Oh, September, how you are a tricksy month, particularly for someone like me who took a rather distended break from blogging and writing et al, and whose mind now is struggling to settle back into routine.

~2~

I think I will relish returning to the normal routine of student work getting in the way of writing work, though. Giving myself a reason to get out of bed will surely aid my brain into inspiration during the day.

~3~

Speaking of which, that’s coming up soon. I get enrolled soon, and then lectures after that, though it still feels like a lifetime away. I know it will pass so quickly; and part of me wishes so, whilst the other is perfectly happy to freeze time in the here and now.

~4~

alexb_bookskindle1

What am I reading? Oh, wow, what a question, since, if one goes by my Kindle app, I am reading quite a number of things at once. For my own amusement, I recently stumbled back into reading THE SECRETS OF GHOSTS by Sarah Painter and published by Carina, a small press that has impressed (!) me with its selections of titles and way with voices.

~5~

Image result for heart of brassThere are a few books I’m reading for writing style inspiration:

THE DARK DAYS CLUB by Alison Goodman; HEART OF BRASS by Kate Cross; A GATHERING OF SHADOWS by VE Schwab.

A theme, right? Well, I have to read up in my fields. 🙂

~6~

On the writing front, I’m slowly rewriting my novel H, a historical fantasy that floats about from New York to Italy. Here, our plucky young heroine, Cathleen ‘Cathy’ Cattoway, returns to New York in the dead of night to question the man who last saw her betrothed.

~7~

When they docked unceremoniously in New York—Cathy’s boots slid her across the moisture-sleeked deck like untethered weights—the morning hung dark and heavy over Ellis Island, mist-less yet crammed with whispers of forbidden conversations out of their reach. Even the residue of last night’s Passing made Cathy’s hair stand on end. Out here the air was a mixture of gaslight fumes, the smell of bitterly cold air, and fouler scents, too…

Photo of the Week: Curious Is the Cat

It’s another cat photo, yay! Haha, I met this fluffy long-haired fellow at the weekend in Reading for the Swing Dance exchange. They needed some persuasion, but eventually I coaxed one cat over, where they suddenly showered with me attention. I took a number of this beauty as they walked the garden fence following me, and I decided to share this one because of the character in the cat’s eyes. What a poser!

alexb_curiouscat1

Everybody needs a photo of a cat on their blog, right? 😀

HOUR OF MISCHIEF Review

(What’s this? Another review? Well, I read on the way to work, okay.)

InstagramCapture_9fbdf9dc-316c-4081-88fd-53253677edb7_jpg

Born in a whorehouse in the slums of Fortuna and burdened with a prosthetic arm, seventeen-year-old JANET REDSTONE doesn’t think she owes the Clockwork Gods anything—which is why she makes a living stealing from their temples. But when she lands her team in prison, making a pact with the God of Mischief, ITAZURA, is the only way to right her wrongs and free her friends.

Janet doesn’t trust Itazura as far as she can punch him, but with her soul in his hands, she has no choice but to do what he says. The clockwork gods and the bad-tempered elder gods of the ancient past are locked in a game of cat and mouse and the human realms are caught in the middle. If Janet can’t somehow convince the gods to step in a save the world, humanity is in an abyss of trouble.

Using her unconventional wits, an impressive tolerance to alcohol, and a strong right hook, Janet has to convince the gods that humanity is worth saving. Unfortunately, it’s a lot more difficult to stop an apocalypse when you’re slowly being driven crazy by the Lord of Mischief, especially when he starts growing on you.

(Also, yay, an excuse to use Steampunk gifs!)

Author Aimee Hydman is someone I admire, having acquired an agent and deal during college/university. So, I was eager to get my teeth into her debut, particularly as it’s Steampunk right off the bat.

It’s hard for me to pick a favourite element of the book. The setting was luscious but not over-described – Fortuna, Janet’s home city lies on part of a clock-shaped world. I am rather jealous, actually, of how Hyndman incorporated her world-building into the Steampunk aesthetic of the novel and explained through it the human characters’ relationship with the clockwork gods.

Speaking of the characters, they were also engaging. Janet’s the kind of spunky heroine that my teen MC, Agnetha, would hate and be best friends with. It wad great to have the book narrated by Janet; she makes a number of questionable decisions – yet, one understands her reasoning and even supports her. Not only because we see it through her eyes, but also because she is fearlessly faithful to her friends.

Speaking of which, I was sad we didn’t get to see more of the Pendulum Thieves, but, again in retrospect that the is a book1, My favourite character, however, was the goddess Laetatia. Despite being world-weary and as assertive as Janet, she is a foil to Janet with her femininity and elegance. She combines Janet’s strong qualities with a softness that makes her an appropriate companion/big sister figure in the novel.

There was also a lot of set up for later, with hints of foreshadowing here and there that I appreciated. Got to love some subtle foreshadowing (though, Shakespeare does tend to ram it in your face…). Granted, I didn’t realise this was the first of a (potential) series until the final chapter, so I was expecting the mysterious elements to be wrapped up by the end. Okay, I’ll admit that I was a little disappointed they weren’t, but at the same time, I liked that they weren’t all solved. Hyndman avoided rushing the reveals with some deus ex machina explanation or the old “as you know, Fred…” trope. (You can tell I’ve been editing the end of my first-draft novel, cant you? *grin*)

I planned not to be interested in any potential sequels (I have too many books on my to-read list to be involved with series at the moment) but the cliff-hanger-esque feeling to the ending meant that there are so many questions still unanswered in the novel that I want to snatch up the sequel if it’s published.

4 Steampunk pieces out of 5.

TableClock_AlexB2

I took a star off for the typos I noticed. I consider this not the fault of the author but of the editor, who I would expect to have caught these things before publishing, and whilst I do admire Curiosity Quills Press, I have heard of a few editorial problems from them.

Would I recommend the YA Steampunk novel? Absolutely. It’s an adventurous quick read with a take-no-trouble-from-anyone heroine and, yes, a somewhat dreamy god who’d rather give you a trick than be a hero.

~

About the author:

Aimee Hyndman, by Aimee HyndmanAimee Hyndman has been writing ever since her toddler fingers could grasp a pencil. A lover of all things speculative fiction, she spent many a night penning the beginnings of novels that would never see the light of day. Now attending college in Iowa, double majoring in Creative writing and English, she has clearly never lost her love of the craft.

When not writing and avoiding her school work, Aimee enjoys reading, singing, and acting at her school’s theater department. She is also a lover of anime and all things Disney.

Her area of specialty is fantasy of all sorts but she dabbles in many genres— whatever she feels compelled to write at the moment. The plot bunnies are never ending but, luckily, so are the words!

 

Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Book

I missed the chance quite a while ago to write about the finesse of mystery accompanying the Five Nights at Freddy’s game series by Scott Cawthon that has almost haunted me since I learnt about them. Never played, but always fascinated.

The thing is, it didn’t translate well to book form. Don’t get me wrong: I wanted to love it and I did, but…there were some things I couldn’t overlook and that I still questioned once the novel was over.

It’s been exactly ten years since the murders at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, and Charlotte has spent those ten years trying to forget. Her father was the owner of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza and the creator of its four adult-sized animatronic animals, and now Charlie is returning to her hometown to reunite with her childhood friends on the anniversary of the tragedy that ripped their town apart. Curiosity leads Charlie and her friends back to the old pizza place, and they find it hidden and sealed, but still standing. They discover a way inside, but things are not as they once were: the four mascots that delighted and entertained them as children have changed. The animatronic animals have a dark secret, and a murderous agenda.

(blurb from Amazon)

As the premise is based on the (not so secretive) reveal in the games that it’s not only the animatronics coming alive but also that the pizzeria has a deadly history of child murder – of the thriller of a past murder and the paranormal element that surrounds the automatons – this was the appeal to me at first, but then the story itself caught my attention.

I liked the characters; although they were mostly stock characters: the love interest, the popular girl, the smart one, they still helped to aid the story forward with their own qualities, and I think that is what made this big cast effective. I liked Charlie, and I appreciated that we saw from her perspective, as she seems to be the most sensible of the characters.

The setting, too, was well brought out. The sleepy town still reeling in the wake of the murders. The residents there, who still have their theories and hold their guards up. And, especially of course, the dark mall built around the remains of the pizzeria. I lost track of some of the rooms and the layout of the pizzeria, as the characters all darted around them repeatedly. And whilst this was disorientating – and I’d say the layout of the pizzeria should be obvious, as it’s the main location of the inciting incident and the present of the plot – it’s not that important to reading the story, as long as one knows the main rooms.

On the other hand, some turns of phrase jarred with me, or read as if they could have done with more polishing. I think the problem partly comes from the high standard I set myself for writing and precise syntax. I tend to expect it from all I read, which is no fault of the authors themselves. High expectations = being letdown somewhat.

So, 3/5 stars because it was a great story, a little roughly written at times, and missing just that added sparkle to make it a great novel. I can’t say what it was, but I expected something more from the surprises and so the reveals weren’t that dramatic to me.

That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, though. If you like teen voice and tense storyline that can be read quickly, I’d say give Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes a peruse.

Photo of the Week: Afternoon

Keeping with my Easter head and revision plans – regrettably, I don’t have time to really blog for the next month or so until after my exams are done and dusted – here’s a Photo of the Week from, well, a couple of weeks ago. But a Good Friday photo in Reading town centre on the Forbury Gardens hill, looking towards St. James’ Church. It was about quarter to 5 at this time, and many people were gathered in the gardens to catch the cool afternoon sun. It’s still rather chilly during the day in England, but it’s nice to see the world coming to life in the beginning of our climate’s Spring.

AlexB_landscape2

Rain and Cherry Blossoms

I think it’s fair to say that it’s spring. Granted, the clocks don’t spring forward until the end of March, but the English days have been getting warmer (even if the nights haven’t), to the point that it’s awkward to where loads of layers. In fact, as I remarked recently, it’s almost cardigan weather again. Good for me, as I recently bought a new CollectIf clothing jumper in the sale. It arrived today, the cute little thing, gold and apt for Spring, though it was first in the AW/15 collection.

It’s been raining on and off. Mostly on, but there are days where the sun makes it unbearable to wear a coat – and days where one must travel with enough piece of wear to change if necessary. But speaking of which, the change of weather heralds the change of season.Even if it isn’t really Spring, I think it will be in my mind, because of the showers. That, and this:

AlexB_cherryblossoms_3_16

This shot I spotted on my walk into town. I go a variety of ways, but this is the crossroads of smaller roads. Sometimes it’s nice not to have to walk next to the main road. And then I come across this. Almost walked past it. But the blossoms called to me, with their lovely dappled heads. Against the sky, they were so vibrant and noticeable.

It’s not the best shot, but it’s something I rather like. Spring is on its way, with a flourish, and hopefully better spirits.