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August Book Haul

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In late August, I went to New York City for the Writer’s Digest Conference (WDC). I had never been to a writer’s conference in my life. It was amazing. Throughout my time at Susquehanna University I heard about AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs). Back in February happened in Washington, D.C. It changes locations every year, and 2017 was one of the closer ones to my base in southwest Massachusetts. In the end though, I decided not to go. I decided it would be too much. In the process though, I discovered the existence of WDC. It happens in New York, a place I grew up going to because of my maternal grandparents and uncle. WDC is smaller, there aren’t near as many people and even though there were about 1,000 people, it was definitely the best way for me to tickle the waters of writer’s conferences.

While at the conference I bought four books. I also took advantage of the Union Square branch of Barnes & Noble to get the new Philippa Gregory novel.

The first book I got at the conference was Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King. I bought it on the way out of the second day of the conference. It is the story of Apicius, a man who wants to be culinary advisor to Emperor Augustus Caesar. In order to get there, he hires a chef called Thrasius. With Thrasius’ help, Apicius finds success, and Thrasius finds a family among Apicius’s own. It’s also a story of what will happen if one is too narrow-mined with one’s goals.

On Sunday, I purchased three more: Against a Darkening Sky by Lauren B Davis, The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig, and Every Day by David Leviathan.

Against a Darkening Sky is the story of Wilona, the last survivor of her people. She is apprenticed to the healer Touilt, but everyone except the warrior Margawn views her with suspicion because of her outsider status. When the king and a monk called Egan arrive in the village, introducing the villagers to Christianity, Wilona and Touilt are put in danger.

The Other Daughter is about a young woman named Rachel Woodley, who’s working as a governess in France when news reaches her that her mother is dead. She returns to the village where she grew up to clean out her mother’s house. While doing so, she finds a photograph of her supposedly deceased father, standing with another girl about Rachel’s age. It turns out her father isn’t dead, that he’s an earl and he has another legitimate family. Furious, Rachel sets herself up in London under a new identity, with the goal of destroying her father’s life.

The third book I bought at the conference is a copy of David Leviathan’s Every Day. Because of the timing of my purchases it’s the only book I got autographed even though the rest of the authors whose books I purchased were at WDC as well. It’s the story of a person who changes everything about themselves every day: sex, age, name, location, everything. Leviathan also wrote a sequel that’s the same story, but from the other main character’s perspective. It’s always intriguing to me when authors do this. Even though I only bought the first one, I’m looking forward to reading both.

The next morning, before I left, I stopped by the Barnes & Noble in Union Square. I have been a fan of Philippa Gregory’s for years. I have all her books either in hard copies or my Kindle. She’s one of very few authors that I have done this with in my life. Her newest one, The Last Tudor, is the story of Jane Grey and her sisters Mary and Katherine. While Jane is the most famous – famous for being beheaded after being queen for nine days -, the reader also hears the story from the other two.  I look forward to reading this not only because of Gregory and the time period, but because of the prospect of seeing the events from the perspective of people not much is known about. I find the idea of placing characters that not much is known about into historical fiction to be exciting. If one chooses it gives freedom in a way the author doesn’t have with someone such as Elizabeth I that everyone is familiar with.

Likely, Gregory’s book will be the first of these books to be read.

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July Book Haul

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Every year at the end of July, the library in my hometown has a book sale. For a couple years I didn’t go, but the last two I’ve given up a summer day of sleeping in. Last year, I had to purchase a bag. This year, I limited myself to the amount I could carry to the car. I still came out with five.

The one I got that I’m still not sure about even months later is The Best American Travel Writing 2007 edited by Susan Orlean. I got it because at the time I was working on the posts for my Europe blog from my trip to England and Scotland this summer. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get around to reading this or if it will stay unread on my bookshelves or floor until I decide to get rid of it.

Getting Figures in Silk by Vanora Bennett was inspired by the fact that I bought and read Blood Royal two years ago. I thought it was good, and I’ve been wanting to read more of her books since. Figures in Silk is the story of sisters Jane and Isabel Shore. Jane becomes the mistress of Edward IV and Isabel is married into a silk dynasty. I am also a Philippa Gregory fan, so hearing the story of the Wars of the Roses from a different perspective than the nobility sounded interesting to me. I’m also writing my own historical fiction novel of the time period, and am constantly on the look out for both historical fiction and nonfiction that tells the story.

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer is the story of three Jewish brothers in Paris in 1937. One is an architect, one is an actor, one is studying to be a doctor. All are professions that will be forbidden to Jews when the Nazis take Paris in May 1940. It’s mainly about Andreas Levi, the architect, who arrives in Paris with a letter for a man he doesn’t know. Throughout the novel, Andreas gets to know the letter’s recipient, while World War II hovers in the background. I don’t know why I was drawn to this book because there’s a sense of mystery when one reads the blurb, and that’s not a genre I’m naturally drawn to.

Apparently, I was going through a mystery phrase in July because the next book is also a mystery. The English Monster by Lloyd Shepherd is about the aftermath of two families being murdered and left in the streets of Regency London. The public want answers for why and how it was allowed to happen. The search for answers however, starts two centuries earlier with a sea voyage and a young man who was on one of the ships owned by Elizabeth I, and how the ship was the first in England to trade in human souls. I don’t know much about Regency London, but I’m always looking for ways to spread my knowledge of London, and England in general, into the Regency period. This seemed like it would have a lot about how the commoners felt, so I decided to pick it up. I wasn’t sure what “human souls” referred to. Whether it was slavery or something else, but it intrigued me.

The last book I chose was Dark Angels by Karleen Koen. It turns out this is a prequel, so I don’t know if I’m going to read the rest of the Tamworth Saga or if I’m going to start with this. In any case, Dark Angels takes place in France and England in the seventeenth-century. It’s about Alice Verney and how she returned to England after two years in France and the mess of England in the world of Charles II betraying his own country. Alice retakes her position as lady-in-waiting and marries a duke. As a duchess, she’s at the centre of everything when a member of the royal family dies and poison is suspected. While Dark Angels doesn’t take place in a world I would usually read, the character of Alice Verney has many of the qualities I enjoy in a female character: brains, loyalty, and acting outside of what was expected for her as a woman in the 1600s.

Banned Books Week

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In countries across the world, books are banned for a variety of reasons. Many of the books seen on these lists are ones I’ve read, and some of them are favourites of mine. Many of the reasons why books are banned seem crazy to me, but I was also raised in a household surrounded by a love of books and I was never limited in what I could read. I often found myself ahead of my class in terms of my reading level. I ran into a teacher whose particular interpretation of the rules was to chastise me for reading the Little House books a grade early when my school had suggested them as third grade reading. I didn’t tell the school my parents had already read the entire series to me.

As children, these are the things we don’t understand. We don’t understand the other side of an issue. We call however we grew up “normal”. It’s okay. We’re children. We don’t have to understand.

As adults, we form our own opinions about things, spread them around. We start to understand the world. Even if we don’t agree, we learn different positions on topics we’ve heard of all our lives.

Books. It’s a way of opening the world of a child’s mind. They open children up to different ideas. There have been several studies that say children who read Harry Potter are more accepting of people from the LGBT+ community and other ideas that are typically associated with liberalism.

One of my favourite books from childhood is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? While I was doing research for this post I discovered it on a list of banned books along with titles like Moby-Dick, Persepolis and Harry Potter: books I had expected to be there. What didn’t shock me was that the Texas Board of Education was behind it. It was banned because Eric Carle’s co-author had the same name as a Marxist theorist, and no one bothered to find out if they were the same person. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent much of the last five years reading and writing about British history, but to me, when something like this appears, it seems obvious to do research.

In 1996, both Moby-Dick and Twelfth Night were banned. Both of these are books I’ve become passionate about. While Twelfth Night isn’t my favourite play by Shakespeare, the way Shakespeare wrote and put words together is beautiful to me. Part of why they banned Twelfth Night is because of the cross-dressing Viola does to keep herself safe for much of the play. To me, being familiar with much of the Shakespeare canon it begs the question: why not ban As You Like ItThe Merchant of Venice, or any of the other plays by Shakespeare that have cross-dressing? The other part of the reason schools in Merrimack, New Hampshire banned it was because of the fake same sex romance, but that still doesn’t answer the question of why not As You Like It. As with Viola and Orsino in Twelfth Night, there’s a similar relationship between Rosalind and Orlando in As You Like It.

The reason behind Moby-Dick being banned by a Texas school district was that it “conflicted with their community values”. Some websites describing what happened in 1996 said it encourages people to start whale hunting and it’s about obsession, vengeance and violence. I can’t argue that violence, obsession and vengeance are in the story. I can argue, however, that there’s more to it. It’s about a world entirely different from the one we know. It’s about what ordinary people had to do to help the rich keep the lifestyle they’re used to. It’s about how people survived, built livelihoods around it. There are twenty-first century correlations. Ones we don’t think about because we are used to it, we accept it. This is what whaling was for the people in the nineteenth century who lived in Nantucket, New Bedford, and other whaling towns across the world. Their lives were built around it. The twenty-first century correlations usually aren’t as violent, as hard as whaling was, but the concept isn’t different.

Other favourites of mine on the list include: Harriet the Spy, Harry Potter, and Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. I don’t like that these books are banned, I think there are important lessons or things a reader can take away from them, but at least I understand the reasoning. There are stories of Harry Potter saving people’s lives because of a terrible situation they found themselves in. In my mind, the fact that a book can be powerful enough for someone that they don’t do something drastic, that surpasses any reason why a book should be banned.

Books have power. They have the power of influence. The reasons behind banning every book comes down to a version of that. People believe communities should shape the person a child grows to be. That isn’t a bad theory. I think community and the people who surround a child still have that power. That piece of how children grow up isn’t going anywhere. It’s been there since before literacy was something all classes had access to. It’s something I believe will always be there. For me books supplement this.

People are afraid though. They’re afraid of the power books represent. They’re afraid of their children being corrupted by novels. Embedded in history is the idea that reading corrupts a woman’s soul. Now, with women making up a majority of MFA writing programmes it doesn’t make sense. The fear though is still out there. It’s why Harry Potter and Harriet the Spy were banned. People are afraid that spying, not being sorry for one’s actions and elements of witchcraft will corrupt children. No one is perfect. Everyone does things at times they are not proud of. Children and parents disappoint each other all the time. It’s nothing new. It’s been happening for centuries, and it will continue. Books are not the only reason for this to happen, and there are more serious things out there that are going to destroy people’s lives more thoroughly than reading a book ever could.

Banning books is never going to be the solution to the problems of the world. To my mind, it’s taking something away. Reading should be a freedom. People should be allowed to read whatever they want. Controversial I can understand, I can even get behind the discussions, but what is there to be gained from banning a book? My answer is nothing. I know others may reply to this question differently, but saying certain ones will corrupt children, that they’ll change who people are, that doesn’t make sense. I don’t think reading a book is going to change who someone is. They are going to stay the same person they’ve always been.

I will never limit my children or any young person in what they can read. Surely even the people who think banning books is the way to go don’t want more destruction. With the violence that appears so often in the news now, there needs to be more good in this world. Books have been one of those things for me and it is my hope that it continues.

 

Why I Write

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Writers get asked this all the time. Some might think the answer is simple, that it’s something we all know and have a prepared answer we can slip you. For me it’s not. I  never know what to say.

To escape. That’s the simple answer. I write to get out of my own head, to get my anger at the world, at certain people, at whatever out without yelling, without doing something I’ll regret.

Throughout elementary and middle school and into freshman year of high school, my anger would come out verbally. I couldn’t control it. There are actions that were results of these moments that I regret. Sometimes it still feels out of control and the worst of that period of my life was a decade ago.

Now, most of the time, I feel in control. I figure out what would make my character angry, and that is the scene I write then. It helps. I become immersed in the world, in the characters, in everything. I allow myself to disappear into the story. I let the anger flow through me, through my characters.

I write to escape the years of medical decisions made for me because I was too young, because it was the best thing to do. The ones I had no control over fixing. The reasons why it was done, that I understand. I understand it was done to avoid issues in the future. I’m happy in general. It probably made me stronger. It doesn’t mean that over nearly twenty-five years I’ve enjoyed spending about two months in hospital between check ups and overnights. It’s made me realise I want to avoid them as much as possible. That I never want to be involved in that world.

When I write, what I write, usually comes out of whatever emotion I’m feeling in a particular moment. When I’m fine, normal, I can write from any emotional state, it doesn’t matter, but when I’m angry, anxious, something else, I have to write from that place or nothing will get written that day. If I don’t write, I may back to lashing out at those around me, regretting it later. I write my own feelings, my own life, into my characters.

Some people can pinpoint the moment they decided to be a writer. I can’t. I fell into it at the age of thirteen and fell in love. Now it’s a hole I never want to leave. I began with fiction. Writing long stories where characters would die twice and others would become angry for no reason. I was writing to do it. I didn’t know where it would lead me.

I didn’t know I would graduate ten years later with a B.A. in Creative Writing.

I didn’t know I had found my niche, my clan in this crazy world we live in.

Writing’s hard and you have to build a skin over time to be successful. Sometimes it feels like I have to regain control of my brain, tear it away from external forces and force my fingers to type one word after the other. There are other days where it’s all I want to do, when I have to ignore the want, the need, to work on grad school applications or go to my current job. Those are the days when I usually end up taking advantage of the fact I’ve graduated from uni and can stay awake until 03:00 most days.

Sometimes I try to act like my mood doesn’t have an influence on my writing; sometimes I have no one where an idea has come from. It’s a lie though. Not the second part, the first. My mood does influence my writing. If I tell you it doesn’t, it’s a lie. My writing is affected. It turns into sentence fragments and becomes choppy. It forms sections of its own that could be taken out context and applied to me. I like it though. It’s helpful, therapeutic.  It becomes more powerful. I can feel the anger running through the story like wires through a wall.

The hard work is worth it. It takes time and energy, but I’ve always known this. I am prepared. I will never stop.

Scotland and England Book Haul

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Before I left for Great Britain this summer, I decided I was going to buy a book in each city. It went a bit haywire in Oban, and again in London, but I’m happy with the books I picked.

I don’t have a problem with the large chains like Waterstones and Barnes & Noble. They have their place in the world, but when I don’t know what I’m looking for or I want to wander, I have a tendency to search for the independent bookshops. Find one that maybe not everyone would bother looking for.

When I was in London two years ago, I went to both independent bookshops and several branches of Waterstones. This time I limited all my Waterstones shopping to Oban, where I couldn’t find an independent one after a fare bit of research. I was able to return to Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street, one of my favourite bookshops in the world.

The first book is Katherine by Anya Seton. It’s the book I bought in Edinburgh at Golden Hare Books. It’s about a girl named Katherine who comes to the court of Edward III at the age of fifteen. She falls in love with everything about the court: the entertainments, the feasts, the jousts. It’s also about the relationship Katherine has with Edward III’s son, John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster. They fall in love, but Lancaster is married. When they met again, they don’t deny themselves what they’ve wanted and she becomes his mistress. It caught my eye because I like historical fiction, and especially historical fiction that has to do with English history. I also know a lot about Edward III’s descendants, but not a lot about him, so this seemed like a good way to start learning about a new period of English history.

The next one is Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary by Anita Anand. This was one of the books I picked up in Waterstones Oban. I was waiting for my parents, I’d already picked out my book from Oban, which I’ll talk about in a minute, but I was still wandering, still looking, seeing if I had missed anything. I came across this one. It’s about a girl named Sophia Duleep Singh, and she’s one of Queen Victoria’s god-daughters, her father is a maharajah and she was raised as an aristocratic Englishwoman. She ends up leaving Britain for India, and throws herself behind the Indian struggle for independence and woman’s suffrage. It stood out to me because I know nothing about the woman’s suffrage movement anywhere aside from the U.S., but I am a British history nerd, and I decided I wanted to know more about it.

My original pick for a book from Oban was Lady of Hey by Barbara Erskine. It’s one of those books at takes place in one century and partially in another, and I will be the first to admit I’m a sucker for that type of book. This one is about a London journalist named Jo Clifford who wants to debunk the belief in past-lives. Her mind starts to change when a hypnotist forces her to relive the experiences of Matilda, who lived during King John’s reign. My opinion about this topic is very much like Jo’s at the beginning of the novel, but I like the idea, and it partially takes place in Scotland, and I was there at the time of purchase, so that also was a piece of the inspiration.

In York, I managed to stick to one book, but the decision about the book wasn’t any easier. I walked into the Ken Spelman Bookshop the first day we were there. I originally picked England, Arise by Juliet Barker, about the 1381 peasants’ rebellion. I wasn’t one hundred per cent sure, so I decided to come back. When I went back two days later, I decided I had changed my mind. That’s when I came across The Watchers by Stephen Alford. The Watchers is about the spy network Sir Francis Walsingham and Sir Robert Cecil ran during Elizabeth I’s reign. While spy networks were important for every monarch in the 16th century, they were even more important for Elizabeth I. Her mother was Anne Boleyn, so Spain, France, the Holy Roman Empire, and many other countries, considered the marriage between her parents to be illegal and Elizabeth herself to be illegitimate. Because of her parentage, Elizabeth had more concerns about assassination attempts, etc. than most even for the prevalence of them during the time period. I’d found it through book research on Goodreads, so decided to get it even though it was breaking The Rule*.

I wasn’t able to keep myself in check in London. Part of it was London. Part of it was what I found. Part of it was the bookshop. I had already decided I was going to go to Daunt Books for my London book purchase a couple days before. When I started looking, I found several things that looked interesting. I ended up selecting one, then after a lot of back and forth after we’d paid and left, I returned and bought the other one.

The first book I picked up was The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas. It’s the story of a girl named Eliza and it takes places in 1885 London. At the time, women didn’t have many choices with what to do with their lives, but Eliza is determined to forage her own path. She ends up in the circle of a showman and master of illusion named Devil Wix, but she becomes a catalyst for change for the rest of the group. In the end, she has to choose a path of where she’s going to go in life.

The other book, the one I went back for, is called The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor. It takes places during the Great Fire of London in 1666. Even though I know what happened to the city during the Great Fire, I’ve never read anything about it nonfiction or otherwise. I don’t know the story of any of the people who lived through it, so I thought it would be a good starting point. There are two murders, and no one knows anything about either one. The person who’s hunting their killer is the son of a traitor, and he runs into a woman who wants to get out of her current situation. It isn’t necessarily what I immediately go for in a novel, but I thought it could be interesting, so I decided to give it a shot.

*The Rule: one of the ways I select books when in Great Britain is selecting books I’ve never heard of before. Sometimes I’ve heard of the author, but at times not even that. The book I bought in York was the only exception to this rule.

If you want to read about what I did in Great Britain other than buy books, click here to be taken to my Europe blog where I wrote a post about each day of our trip.

Currently Reading… Saigon

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On 9 March 2015 I walked into the Prince Edward Theatre in London to see the revival of Miss Saigon knowing hardly anything about Vietnam except that we’d fought a war there and many had disagreed with the decision that got the U.S. involved.

Since then, I’ve learned more. I’ve gone back to see Miss Saigon on Broadway where it’s running until 13 January 2018 and watched documentaries on Netflix and YouTube. After I saw the Broadway revival on 5 April, I was looking at Amazon and I discovered a book about the history of Vietnam from 1925-1975: Saigon by Anthony Grey. At that point I hadn’t learned anything about Vietnam by reading books it was all from documentaries. While documentaries are good sources of information, they do have a narrator’s bias attached. I jumped at the chance.

In some ways, the book is different than what I expected. I expected it to be a nonfiction book along the lines of Edward Rutherford. Instead, there’s a fictional element where you get to inside the heads of characters and see what the different sides were like. I’m not sure if it’s actually fictional or if it’s along the lines of what Philippa Gregory does where the characters are historical, but the reader is still going inside the heads of the characters.

Despite the way not lining up with my expectations it’s in no way diminished my enjoyment.

I was expecting to gain knowledge from this book, but as with the Chernow biography of Alexander Hamilton I recently read, I’m learning more than I thought I would. There were bits of Miss Saigon that were blurry in terms of my understanding, and by taking the time to read this book, I’m both enjoying it and getting those bits cleared up. Before, I understood the basic gist, but I didn’t understand how Vietnam moved from being a French colonial power to where they were in the 1960s when the U.S. got involved. While on some level it’s a depressing story because of the colonialism aspect of it, it’s also helped me to understand the perspectives that are on display throughout Miss Saigon.

Saigon, at its heart, is a book about the people, about their way of life, the way it’s changed because of Western influences from France and the U.S. as well as influences from Japan during and after World War II. It’s a story of the lives of families from different backgrounds, who end up on different sides of the story as their lives continue to overlap.

Currently Reading… Alexander Hamilton

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I will be the first to admit I don’t read a lot of American history. I’ve read bits and bobs throughout my life, but nothing major. The last thing I read was 1776 by David McCullough. I was fifteen, recovering from surgery, about to start a new school, and I had to read a book I wasn’t very keen on. I proceeded to not read very much about American history for eight years.

I am a writer from Massachusetts though, and I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a novel about the early days of the American Revolution in Boston. As I’ve said Massachusetts is known for three things: starting the American Revolution, the Kennedys, and whaling.

Fast forward to the summer of 2016.

I was home alone for a couple days because my parents were at a funeral and a burial. I was catching up on a TV series or reading or something, and I got to talking on Skype to a friend I met while I was studying abroad in London in early 2015. During that conversation, we talked about musicals, and I don’t remember how we got on the topic, but somehow Hamilton came up. I’d heard of it, but for whatever reason I’d been avoiding it. Maybe it was because of all the hoopla that was surrounding it, maybe it was because I usually avoid things are the major success stories of theatre. (Then again I’m obsessed with Les Miserables and that’s a huge deal in its own way.) For whatever reason, I had yet to listen to any of it.

My friend talked me into buying it, into listening to it, into having a dance party to it over Skype. I fell in love. I played the soundtrack on repeat for weeks. In August, I broke down and bought a copy of the book. Even before I had finished it, I was sitting in my dorm room at uni listening to it and watching interviews with the original cast and the creative team.

Now, I’m grateful to her. I’ve done a lot of crazy things. I’ve used the soundtrack to quench anger, to help clean, pack up my dorm room at Susquehanna University for the final time. I’ve watched another friend write out lines from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acceptance speech at the Tonys across the sidewalk in chalk the day after the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. I’ve participated – and held – dance parties in my dorm room and outside the campus centre. I’ve sung “One Last Time” in the Starbucks on campus earning looks of glee and looks of outrage in equal measure. I’ve filmed my friends and I performing bits and fooling around.

I’m not sure if what I’ve discovered through Hamilton and Chernow’s biography could be called love. What I do know is that I have a new found appreciation for the history of my country. There are still moments where I think I was born in the wrong country. I still feel like I have a stronger connection with British history than American, but I know part of that comes from having more knowledge and time to learn about British history. I don’t know if it’s ever going to switch. I don’t think so, but now I have an appreciation for what has happened in my birth country.

Before I read this, I knew the basics. What’s interesting about this is at the heart it’s Hamilton’s story, but Chernow also works in what happened to the people who surrounded him for much of his life. As a reader I have an insight into what is happening even with people who are far away geographically. I found the way Chernow worked it in was interesting. I’m a writer, so when I read, I’m not only reading for fun or a course, I read to see if I can get anything out of the book that would help me in my own writing.

Reading this made me want to read 1776 again. I know there will still be some details I still won’t care about, but I think in general I will enjoy it more now than I did at fifteen. The thing about the way Chernow wrote the book is that there was never a point where I was bored or thought it was getting into too many details the way McCullough does in 1776. The reason why it took me so long to read it was because I loved it, I wanted to savour it. I didn’t want to rush through it and be done with it. I wanted to take my time, soaking in a story and a history I don’t know much about.

It made me realise American history isn’t what I thought. There were interesting bits and stories in there and that I’ve learned through watching interviews, that I never would’ve learned otherwise. I’m glad I took the leap. It was something I had ignored for so long, but I did it. And now I can say that I am not only the American girl who knows very little about her own history and a lot about Britain’s. I have expanded my historical knowledge into other countries, and it’s something I hope to continue doing.

March Book Haul

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I’m a book nerd.

There, I said it. It’s out in the world, and there’s no going back.

Aside from buying books for university, March 2017 is probably the month I’ve bought the most books in a couple years. I received Throne of Glass and A Court of Thrones and Roses as gifts back in December. I read them both in about three days and decided I had to buy the rest of both series.

I was going to buy them all from Amazon, but then through social media I discovered a website called Book Outlet. It’s a Canadian company, but they have a warehouse in Buffalo, New York. They have many different genres, they stock is always changing and the books are priced well. The only two books from either series were Queen of Shadows and Empire of Storms. So I added those to my cart, then I made the discovery that they were having a sale on women’s novels because International Women’s Day is in March. So I also bought Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff and An American in Kabul: A Memoir by Phyllis Chesler.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t read of a lot of memoirs nor do I read a lot about history that isn’t British. I’ve been fascinated by the story of Cleopatra since I saw a production of Antony and Cleopatra in 2007 when I was fourteen. I’ve never read a biography of her though. I know her basic life story, but the details one gets about historical people and events from biographies is something that I’m lacking about a woman who had children by two of the most powerful men in the Roman Empire and who killed herself rather than be dragged through Rome as a prisoner.

I was drawn to An American in Kabul because of reading The Taliban Shuffle by Kim Barker and through getting to know a group of Saudi Arabian students at my university the last two and a half years I was there. I like learning about different cultures, and Chesler’s memoir sounded like an interesting way to continue learning about the culture of the Middle East.

I hadn’t heard about the novels of Sarah J Maas until I started watching Sasha Alsberg’s YouTube videos – she’s known as abookutopia on there – and she kept talking about them. They sounded interesting to me, so I did a bit of research on Goodreads and Amazon and they still sounded appealing. It took me a couple months after reading Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses to decide to bite the bullet and purchase the rest. I bought Crown of Midnight, Heir of Fire, The Assassin’s Blade and A Court of Mist and Fury from Amazon because of Book Outlet’s limited stock.

I’m currently re-reading Throne of Glass, so I can continue with the series.

 

 

 

2017 Writing Plans

Originally posted on Blogger on 3 February 2017

If you’ve been reading this blog for the last few months, then you’ll know that 2016 was my sixth year doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and that I “won”. I got 60,000+ words.

I didn’t come anywhere near to finishing the novel though, so my current writing project is finishing it. I hope to be done with the first draft at the end of March, but I’m also realistic when it comes to writing, and I know there are going to be days where it doesn’t happen. Hence, continuing into April – or longer – wouldn’t be the end of the world. I’m still going to be aiming for 31 March as a finishing date. We’ll see how that goes. I also might aim to get a first round of edits done, but I think I’m going to take a break from it after I finish the first draft.

Hopefully I’ll be able to finish it and finally get around to working on the backlog of writing projects I have this year.

On the other hand, I’m enjoying the story I’m writing and I don’t want to rush it, but I’m also looking forward to getting back to some of the writing projects I’ve started and haven’t worked on any of them in at least a year. I have bunch of started works and a bunch of planned works on my laptop, so maybe I can make a dent in those as well. Not sure what I’m going to work on after I’ve finished my first draft of my project from NaNo 2016, but being that I’m still several chapters away from the ending – I have a vision of what I want the last scene to be – I have time to figure out what I want to continue/start writing.

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