Mid-Year Update (Books, Video Games, & Writing!)

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If there’s one thing I love about autumn/fall, then it’s most definitely the bright foliage!

Hello, everyone! It’s been awhile, and with everything that’s going on in the world right now, I hope you’re all staying healthy and safe. I’m writing this at the very end of May–and can you believe we’ve already made it to the middle of the year!? So I wanted to sit down and draft a post on writing and reading updates, with some of my favorite books I’ve read this year, as well as all the other things I’ve been up to since my last blog post (which was…February. Oof. Has it really been that long!?)

It’s pretty much winter here in Australia, and my fingers are almost numb writing this…but let’s dive into the post! (and, also, this is going to be a bit of a longgggg post, considering I haven’t blogged much lately! Apologies!)

Books + Reading

The last books I chatted about on my blog were mentioned in my last post (read it here!), so for the sake of not being repetitive, I’ll only mention books that I’ve read–and LOVED–since. I’ve included the Goodreads link in the title, so if you want to find out more about them, then feel free to check out the link!

Inspired by Asian mythology, this is a gorgeous, dark book–yet still full of hope–that I loved every moment of, with some seriously stunning writing at times. I’m itching to get my hands on the sequel!

Teeming with tension on every page, I loved the carefully thought out politics, characters, and writing. I especially appreciated the head-strong female protagonist, and I’m so curious to see how she’ll develop in later books. Despite being a fairly large book with small-ish print, I blazed through this Adult fantasy (though could also be read by older teens, I think!) and really, really enjoyed it.

Magical and fairytale-ish, this book is exquisitely well-written. It follows the story of a tailor with Mulan-ish elements–and I especially loved the tailor/sewer aspects, as it’s not a trait I’ll commonly see in YA books. If you’re looking for a book that’s seeping with magic, I cannot recommend this one enough (and I’m super excited for the sequel, UNRAVEL THE DUSK, out July 7th.)

Based off West African mythology and culture, I really, really loved this book. Told with multiple point of views, the richly-drawn world drew me in straight away. Despite the length of the novel, I managed to read it all very quickly, thanks to the addictive plot, characters, and writing. Its sequel, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, is also a fabulous follow-up, and I’m so curious to see how the author will pull off the third in the series (which I don’t believe has a title/cover release date yet, but hopefully we’ll get some more info on it soon!)

This book came out a couple of years ago, and I honestly cannot believe that it took me THIS long to get to! I was hooked from beginning to end in this. Tight writing, pacing, and fabulously engaging characters, I loved the adventure-ish, almost archaeology feel this book presented. and. that. ending! I need the next in the duology ASAP.

Another book based off West African mythology, and this was excellent too. What I loved most about this (and trust me–there was LOTS) was the focus on the price of magic, and the consequences of those decisions.

I admit I haven’t yet read Lynette Noni’s YA fantasy series yet, and I picked this book up on a whim–and I’m SO glad that I did. I got to the ending and my first thought was, “I need the sequel NOW.” Which, in my opinion, is the mark of a good book. I won’t say too much about this book without delving too much into spoilers, but it’s definitely worth your time. A mysterious facility, a silent protagonist, a dash of romance & tension, sci-fi esque powers… yep, I loved this book.

Vikings! Is there anything more I need to say? It’s a subject that’s almost universally loved (also, I just need to say that I am so freaking excited for Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, OMG), so I knew I had to pick up this book. For YA, it definitely doesn’t skimp on the blood and violence, indicative of Vikings culture, which I really appreciated. That and we have enemies-to-lovers, great writing, and works as a standalone. Again, this was another book I read only in a couple of sittings.

I think, honestly, An Enchantment of Ravens might just be my favorite book on this list–and that’s seriously saying something since I’ve read some exceptionally wonderful books lately. But you know what? I’m a total sucker for fairies, especially when written in such an exquisite, glorious way. Basically, this book ticked all my boxes in things that I love, and I’m really looking forward to picking up Margaret Rogerson’s second standalone novel (which thankfully I have!)

Honestly, these are just a fraction of the books that I’ve read and loved lately, and I’ve only chosen to list fiction here. As for non-fic, some of my favorites I’ve read thus far this year include SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL by Jessica Brody (more on this one later!!!) THE MABINONGION, translated by Sioned Davis (a collection of old, Celtic tales), and ART AND ARCHAEOLOGY IN THE GREEK WORLD by Richard T. Neer (I CANNOT recommend this one enough if you’re interested in looking at the Ancient Greek world from both an artistic, historical, and archaeological point of view. Well-written & informative with plenty of diagrams, photographs, and illustrations.)

Games I’ve been playing lately

As you might know, I’m an avid gamer, (I often talk about what I’m playing on my Instagram Stories, so feel free to follow!) so I thought it would be fun to run through what I’ve been playing this year.

  • Red Dead Redemption II: Admittedly, if this game hadn’t come free with my new laptop…I don’t think I’d have picked it up, ever. It just didn’t appeal to me, really. But I’m glad it did, because I had a blast playing it. Gorgeous open world (like, seriously, it’s beautiful), PLENTY to do, and engaging stories and characters. It’s a story that’s told a lot through dialogue and conversations, which while can feel frustrating, the voice acting is incredible.
  • Mass Effect Trilogy (+ ME: Andromeda): I…can’t believe it took me so long so play these games, honestly. I had so, so, SO much fun. I’m a huuuuuggeeee fan of BioWare’s Dragon Age series, and these offer a similar experience: an emphasis of player choice, clever characterization, creative worldbuilding, and some stunning atmospheres. (In terms of atmosphere/aesthetics, ME3 and Andromeda are both the winners for me. Also, before anyone asks, YES, I am a HUGE fan of Garrus, because let’s be honest: who isn’t?) And, despite all the criticism surrounding Mass Effect: Andromeda, I must admit that in terms of sheer enjoyment, it might actually be my favorite of the series. (don’t even get my started on how unfair, I believe, some of the criticism of this game is, gah. I’m crossing my finger so hard we’ll get a sequel, because damn, it deserves it.)
  • Fallout 4: I’ve been a huggeeee fan of Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls franchise for many, many years now, but the post-apocalyptic setting of the Fallout series was definitely what kept me from playing. I’m glad I (finally) put my misgivings aside and gave it a chance, because I had an incredible amount of fun playing the Sole Survivor and traversing the Wastelands. (also! that soundtrack! both FO4 and the ME games are so brilliantly scored.)

Writing

Writing these days has been tough, I’ll admit, and I’m definitely going to blame that on the world’s current pandemic/crisis. Sometimes it’s so freakin’ difficult to block out the world and focus on a MS. I’ve been finding it so, so, so difficult to be able to concentrate–but I’m attempting to push through. In saying that, I still have several WIPs (as well as some shiny new ideas!) in the works, one of which I’m hoping to have some critique on soon, and I’m VERY excited to dive into revisions.

Above, I said I was going to talk about SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL by Jessica Brody, so here I go. Honestly–this book is a GAME CHANGER for me. I know, I know. That sounds a little dramatic, but I genuinely do mean it, considering how much it’s changed my writing, and how I’ll think about it going forward. The book is actually an adaptation of one intended for screenwriters, but as most of the concepts used can be applied for novels as well, the author chose to write a book aimed for books. I admit I’ve never been much of a plotter (and, let’s face it, I probably won’t ever be one of those hardcore plotters who outline every detail of their book beforehand, and that’s fine) but with the tips and suggestions given in this book, I’ve found myself thinking a bit more about my process. Which is, I think, ultimately, a good thing. Especially when tackling revisions. It’s forced me to think a lot more about character and motive in particular, something which will only make novels stronger. Curiously, I found a lot of what Jessica Brody wrote quite familiar: beats of a story that I knew were there, yet couldn’t really grasp enough to consider. Having Jessica Brody break down these concepts in easy to understand, bite-sized explanations is so valuable. (I also found it immensely helpful that the author used several examples from popular literature that most people would’ve read, such as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games; it really helped to drive home their point.)

Please, please, please, if you’re a writer, then you MUST pick up this book. I regret that it took me so long to get to, because it’s changed so much about the way I approach both beginning to write a novel, and revise one. It’s already become a staple in my writing resources: my eBook version on hand when I write, revise, or simply when I just feel like I’ve lost my way.

So, that’s all for today. Chat with me below!


Currently reading: THE RUIN OF KINGS by Jenn Lyons

Currently listening to: Fallout 4 OST by Inon Zur

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