Books Read So Far In 2017 • #30BOOKSCHALLENGE

When it comes to writing these kind of blog posts, consistency is key. Well, consistency hasn’t exactly been my strong suit lately. I have read books this year just as I planned, but it’s hard to remember exactly what I read and what I finished reading because my mind has been all over the place and I haven’t thought to write it down.

It’s June now. It’s halfway through the year and I should have 15 books under my belt. I don’t think I’ve read 15, but bear with me while I try to figure out exactly what I’ve read.

Carve the Mark

books read in 2017This is one of the books I read nearer the start of the year and although it had a few problems – you can read my official review and opinion piece on how it is NOT racist here – I really enjoyed it. I’m invested in the characters and I’ll definitely be buying the sequel to see what happens.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone 

This book by Laini Taylor had a really rough start; I went from thinking ‘Oh my god this is the worst thing I’ve ever read’ to ‘Damn this writer is talented’. It was a weird mix of emotions for me until I got halfway through the book when it really started to grow on me.

It’s essentially a Romeo and Juliet re-telling (or just inspired by the star-crossed lovers motif, really) about angels and demons except the angels are the bad guys. I was craving

books read in 2017

more when I finished this book and immediately bought the sequel.

Days of Blood and Starlight

This is the sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone and it had me floored. I absolutely loved it and I was fairly heart broken by the end of it. Like, what are you doing to me Laini Taylor?! I’m totally invested in this series and before I even finished this book I bought the final one. It still hasn’t arrived but I’m going to absolutely devour it when it arrives!

Binti

If you haven’t read anything by Nnedi Okorafor, what are you even doing with your life? I picked up Binti because I’d heard it was fantastic (and it won a Hugo Nebula Award as well, which is always a good indicator of quality!)

books read in 2017

I’m so glad I gave it a go because it was so unusual and unique and it really left a lot of other sci fi books I’ve read in its dust. The sequel, Binti Home, arrived a few days ago and I can’t wait to get stuck in.

Akata Witch 

This is another book by Nnedi Okorafor and I loved it even more than Binti. Like, it’s really incredible. I’ve never been to Africa and I don’t know very much about African countries but I learnt so much about Nigerian culture and myth from this book. Okorafor has the effortless ability to weave information into her story so that you get a vivid visual of what she means. This book is wonderful – pick it up!

Shadow and Bone books read in 2017

I read Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows series last year and it was the best thing I’d read all year. Her characters have stuck with me even months later and I still find myself thinking about them.

So of course I picked up her other series about The Grisha, who are magical beings living in Bardugo’s fictional world, Ravka. The series follows Alina Starkov’s journey through the strange and mysterious world of the Grisha. Great writing and a great plot – what more can we ask for?

books read in 2017The Spire 

I wanted to try this graphic novel out for a really long time but it was so difficult to find an issue 1 to start with. I ended up finding it on Book Depository and ordered it straight away. It’s about a woman called Sha, the last of the Medusi, who is commander of the city watch, in keeping the citizens of The Spire in check.

However, she isn’t exactly respected due to her race. A new Baroness of the Spire is about to be sworn in but a string of gory murders mars the city, so Sha must find the killer and bring them to justice. It’s a surprising and intriguing book and it’s up there with one of my all-time favourites.

The Space Between books read in 2017

This beautiful LGBT book by Irish writer Meg Grehan blew me away when I first read it. It’s about the life of a girl called Beth as she deals with chronic anxiety and depression. I wrote a full spoiler-free review of the book for The Arcade (which you can read here) but I can tell you here that it is a must-read. Written in prose, it’s rhythmic and heart-wrenching and it allows you to see into the mind of someone with mental illness.

Saga Volume 6 

I’ve loved Saga since the first time I glimpsed the cover. Where have you ever seen a woman with wings breastfeeding her child on the cover of a major book? Never, that’s when.books read in 2017

It follows two soldiers from totally different planets and cultures who fall for each other despite their differences and create a child, an impossible child whose very existence could end their planets’ war or start a new one. Exciting stuff, right? Well volume 6 is no less wonderful than the volumes before it! It’s pure quality.

What have you read so far this year? Let me know in the comments!

Writing People of Colour & Irish Culture • Inspiration Wall 01

I’ve decided to do a weekly Inspiration Wall so that I can talk briefly about writing resources I’m using, pictures that inspire me, books I want to read, things I’m listening to etc. during the week, so read on if you want to know what I’m up to in between writing sessions!

Firstly, a few inspirational quotes for the week!

writing quote writing quote writing quote

Writing people of colour

In my novel for NaNoWriMo – which I’m currently still working on (note to self: must come up with title) – one of my main characters is a black girl with natural afro hair. One of the things that’s always made me a little nervous about writing is how to describe different ethnicities, particularly East Asian and black characters.

Obviously I don’t want to write characters in a way that’s offensive (not only is that insensitive, it takes away from who the character is rather than what they look like) so I decided to search online to see if there were specific words that were particularly frowned upon to be aware of when I’m writing.

I found a great site called Writing With Color, which discusses different suitable and unsuitable words used to describe people of colour. One of the words in particular that I had intended to use was “kinky” to describe my character’s hair. I thought it was a good descriptor but the people who run the site aren’t super fond of it, and I actually picked up much better suggestions while scrolling the site.

writing people of colour

Other words not recommended for usage included “nappy”, which is a derogatory word for natural afro hair, and “wooly” due to the animal connotations. Needless to say, I learnt a lot on the site and I’m glad I checked it out as I feel much more confident about writing people of colour now.

There are so few people of colour in fantasy books that I don’t want to create a black character and then describe her in a problematic way. Quick research like this is so easy to do and can make a big difference to readers who don’t often see themselves represented in fiction; there’s really no reason not to do it.

Main character inspirations 

I have certain ideas in my head of what my characters look like, but I love searching for models/pictures of people who resemble them so that I can properly visualise them as real people.

I’ve finally found three girls that look very similar to how Anika, Neave and Thea look in my head. Thea is the girl with long black hair, Anika is the red head and Neave is the girl with natural afro hair that I spoke of above.

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I’m currently about 60,000 words or so into my story and I know I’m nearly through the tunnel (and into the trenches for the many editing sessions that are coming my way!) Here’s to the next 60k for book 2!

As well as looking for character inspiration (I find that sitting in a café and people-watching is a fantastic way to round out existing characters – the mannerisms and habits and flaws of real people can help make your character seem more 3D) I love checking out aspects of different cultures that I could weave into my stories. I’m Irish myself and we have a very rich cultural tapestry spanning thousands of years, so I’ve been looking into Celtic myths and legends lately.

Irish myths and culture irish culture

One thing in particular I’d like to add to my current story is the style of Irish dancing dresses. If you’ve never seen one, they’re quite short and covered in triple spirals and Celtic-inspired designs. They’re also usually very colourful and bright (and topped with a curly wig). I wish I was any good at art as I’d love to draw out my idea for traditional dresses worn by the women of the country I’ve created in my novel. Basically the colours will be muted in comparison to the loud and proud hues of traditional Irish dancing dresses, but they’ll still feature the heavy spiral designs and they’ll be floor length.

Music to set the scene 

I’ve also been taking some inspiration from sean nós singing – which is a very old, traditional style of singing as gaeilge (in Irish) – as well as Enya (pretty much her entire body of work) and choir music. I don’t know if you write while listening to music, but I’ve recently gotten into it and find that it can really help set a scene in your mind.

Wish listbook wish list

I’ve heard so many good things about ‘Binti’ and ‘Akata Witch’, both written by acclaimed writer Nnedi Okorafor, but I’m not exactly flush with cash right now so I’ll have to wait to buy them.

What has inspired you this week? Let me know in the comments!