We Need to Talk About Kevin – a review

Warning: contains spoilers

There are times when you come across a novel that sticks with you, long after you finish it. You turn the final page, set it down, and go about your daily life. But part of you is left in ‘reader mode’, one foot still in the world of the book you just read, a small part of your mind still frantically thinking about it. We Need to Talk about Kevin is that book.

I first heard of Lionel Shriver’s modern day classic while reading Noah Hawley’s novel The Good Father. Several people described ‘Kevin’ as being the superior version, the original and the best. I had been sucked in by The Good Father, and so quickly put Shriver’s novel on my reading list. I forgot about it for a while, but a few months later I came across it in a bookstore, and with a spare hour to kill, I bought it and started to read. Within minutes, I knew I had found something very special.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is nothing short of genius. Honestly, it is one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. Maybe ever. It’s got the sort of plotline that you just want to talk about – need to talk about – with anyone who will listen. I didn’t even care if people had never heard of it, or weren’t interested, I found ways to weave it into conversation. Because it’s just that good; it needs to be talked about. I mean, it’s absolutely stunning. From start to finish Lionel Shriver had me on the edge of my seat.

It’s an incredible novel, on so many levels, and a challenging one – challenging in the sense that it makes you take a step back every once in a while and really think. Eva, the protagonist and narrator of the novel, is a profoundly honest woman, disturbingly so at times. Through her, Shriver brings to the surface subjects that most people shy away from in conversation – dark, unspoken thoughts that you would rather bury away and never mention. Reading it was like watching a horror movie – peering through your fingertips, or past the blanket. Part of me wanted to look away from it all, repulsed by everything Kevin was doing, and even more so by how relatable Eva was as a character. But another part of me just couldn’t stop reading it. It was addictive, a novel that pulled me in and refused to let go.

I think I found We Need to Talk About Kevin even more fascinating and thought-provoking because I am a young woman. As a female, it has always alarmed me that there are still many people in society who think a woman is not fully defined as a woman until she becomes a mother. I myself have seriously considered the possibilities of not having children, picturing a life with and without them in it. Because I have never been fixated on the idea of one day becoming a mother, both paths have merit, and Eva highlights the fact that the path without children is an attractive one. Eva is a strong, confident character before Kevin. After him she becomes nervous, so many of her decisions dictated by a small child. At the beginning of the novel she is bold, successful – someone I think any young woman would admire. She has her own business, travels the world, and has a husband who adores her. What more could anyone ask for? But despite being happy where she is, and almost one hundred per cent certain of her desire to not have children, a small part of her wants to open the box, peek past the door, and lift the lid on motherhood. Which makes me wonder – did Eva consciously make the decision to not like Kevin?

In her letters to Franklin, Eva makes it quite clear from the get-go that children were never in her future. She doesn’t experience that surge in maternal feeling that supposedly plagues all women in their late twenties/ early thirties. She doesn’t start to get all doe-eyed and weepy around children, imagining herself as a mother. Instead, it’s the fact that Franklin is late home from work one evening that pushes her over the edge into wanting a child. She wants a child because she wants a physical reminder of Franklin should something ever happen to him – something more solid than a photograph or an old t-shirt. And there’s also that part of her that wants to become a mother because it’s the thing to do. It’s almost as if she sees it like a novelty, something you just have to do at least once in your life – like visiting the Eifel Tower, or sky-diving. Her desire to have a child is fleeting, and upon finding out she is pregnant she almost immediately regrets her spontaneity, begrudging Franklin and the child every step of the 9 month journey, and the years that follow. Her confidence in the belief that she doesn’t want children was shaken for a day or so, and I think this partly makes her more determined to be anti-motherhood. I think she’s stubborn, and because she has it in her mind that she doesn’t want Kevin, she decides that bonding with him isn’t an option, even though they are alike in so many ways at times. She wants to prove to Franklin that she knew all along children weren’t for her, and it’s his fault they’re now in this mess. The point is made stronger by the fact that she openly loves and favours their daughter Celia when she is born, because she made the decision to have her without Franklin. Celia is wholly hers, in almost every sense but one.

Eva’s inability to bond with Kevin becomes increasingly frustrating; after a few years, she appears to not even try anymore. Her habits remind me more of a jealous sibling than a mother, constantly begrudging of Kevin, angry at the fact that he so easily attracts Franklin’s affections. On the flipside, Franklin’s hero-worshipping of his son becomes equally disturbing, and his inability to notice something that almost everyone in the community does – his precious son has an incredibly dark side – is so frustrating that you want to pull your hair out.

Eva’s ability to tell the story does spiral out of control at times. She wants to paint Kevin as the only bad guy in the story, but how can she tell Franklin the whole truth without admitting the fact that she broke their son’s arm in a fit of rage? But despite this weakness, there are things that Kevin does that you cannot put down to Eva being stubborn or biased.

At the centre of it all is the age-old nature versus nurture debate. Is Kevin just an innately evil child? Or is he incomplete from the beginning in some way? Does he sense that Eva doesn’t love him, doesn’t want him, even from the womb? I reckon it’s a hefty mix of both in the end. The concoction of a lack of connection with his mother, the molly-coddling of his father and the individual personality of Kevin are stirred together to make a devastating end product.

The final chapter of We Need to Talk About Kevin had twists I wasn’t expecting; Eva’s sudden, bumpy admission to herself that she does in fact love her son. The suggestion that Kevin may be beginning to feel remorse for what he did, that some shred of compassion lays beneath that cold, cruel and devastatingly barbaric exterior. But it was the penultimate chapter that truly astonished me, that left me gawping and breathless. Because even though I knew all along that Kevin does something terrible, I never suspected him to be that evil. The course of Thursday is quickly set up as a nightmarish one from the beginning. Kevin brutally murders nine people in his school gym, and you think it can’t get any more horrific than that. But Shriver pulls the rug out from under your feet, and you’re left there suddenly realising why Franklin never writes back, and why Celia isn’t with her. Eva turns the floodlights on, lighting up the family backyard, and in the process shines a light on the sheer depth of the darkness within Kevin.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is thought-provoking, powerful and honest. It’s a story that makes you question the strength of a maternal bond, and if can a child flourish properly without it. It’s a tragic story, wonderfully told and expertly crafted. And it’s a book that should be read by everyone.

 

Happy Reading!

Brianna

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The Fellowship of the Ring – a review

Let me start off by saying that I have been a fan of the film adaptions of J.R.R Tolkien’s fantasy series for years now. I’ve watched them over and over, and rank them as some of my favourites. I have also always swayed toward fantasy novels, finding some of my best reads in the genre. So imagine my dismay when I began to read The Fellowship of the Ring, only to discover that I just couldn’t get into it, or at least until the final quarter of the novel.

It’s the series that every fantasy fan, and indeed every bookworm, needs to read. Wants to read. The Lord of the Rings is a classic, an absolute colossus in the world of literature. Tolkien’s work has inspired so many authors, and brought joy to so many readers. I had started to read the series a few years ago, but I had given up after a few chapters. Back then I put it down to a bad reading environment, but the second time around it felt like something more. I couldn’t connect with the novel for absolutely ages, both with the story, and its characters. I think it was all the songs and poetry that continuously peppered the story. It became draining for me – I’ve never been a massive fan of poetry, and to me it got in the way of the story at times.

The Fellowship of the Ring is my least favourite of the films. It’s the least exciting, and exists mostly to set the scene for the series, and introduce most of the main characters. The Two Towers is my personal favourite film, and so far I’m making good progress with the novel, and thoroughly enjoying it. I don’t enjoy novels that take too long to get their story off the ground, and to me that was a major problem with The Fellowship of the Ring. Don’t get me wrong, Tolkien’s writing is commendable throughout the entire book, with some real cracking lines and pieces of dialogue in it, and his skills at creating lore and backstories are second to none. His writing style isn’t a personal favourite, but then again I’ve read plenty of novels where I didn’t particularly enjoy the writing style, but loved the story itself.

It was the speed at which he got things started that frustrated me. It felt so blasé at times, and lacked excitement for me. Their time with Tom Bombadil was particularly boring, and I was glad when it ended. I began to feel that Tolkien was spending so much time showcasing the incredible world and array of people that he had created during the first half of the novel that it slowed things down too much. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have wanted him to include the lore, just that it could have been done differently. It was only when they met up with Strider, and even more so once the fellowship set out from Rivendell, that I felt the story was beginning to pick up. In a way, it felt like Rivendell was a transitional phase, where they left behind the lazy, nonchalant attitude of the Shire, and finally moved into the bigger picture. I enjoyed Gimli as a character most of all, and found that it was very often him that pulled the story up for me, so I was glad of his arrival in the novel.

The Fellowship of the Ring definitely improved the more I read it. By the time the fellowship had reached Moria I was beginning to find myself reading it because I wanted to, and not simply because I felt obliged to finish it in a way. I actually started to look forward to any chances I had to read it, and that general feeling of has continued so far into The Two Towers.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Tolkien, both as a reader and a writer. He paved the way for so many people, and created something incredibly spectacular. I know my opinion of The Fellowship of the Ring may be a rare and unpopular one, but it doesn’t take away from my general enjoyment of the series, and the world Tolkien created as a whole. Because that’s the best thing about The Lord of the Rings, it’s so strong and well-developed as a series that a little slow-moving story-telling never would have been enough to bring it to its knees. And that’s the genius of J.R.R Tolkien.

Happy Reading!

Brianna.

Robert Jordan’s New Spring – a review

If I had one piece of advice to give to you about New Spring, it would be to make sure you read it at after completing The Wheel of Time series.  You could read the entire series in chronological order, starting with New Spring and moving through fifteen books until you reach A Memory of Light, but I think you would lose something doing it that way. Published fourteen years after the release of The Eye of the World, New Spring brings the reader back to the days before Rand al’Thor, Perrin Aybara and Matrim Cauthon.

New Spring joins Siuan and Moiraine when they are still Accepted, still mischievous and still having to curtsey low to the Sisters in the tower, a far cry from the cool and mysterious women who guide the Dragon Reborn in later years. Early on in the novel, the two young girls, (whose friendship almost mirrors that of Elayne and Aviendha’s in terms of closeness) reach the coveted position of Aes Sedai, with the story mainly detailing how the two Sister’s lifelong journey to find and aid the Dragon Reborn began.

If you have read any Wheel of Time novels, you will be well aware of the typical Aes Sedai traits, and that Moiraine and Siuan both fit this description during their time at Rand al’Thor’s side. So as a reader, it was amusing and charming to witness the two women from an entirely different perspective, to read how nervous they were doing their testing to become Sisters, or how they gossiped just as freely as Egwene does at times. To me, it was as if Robert Jordan had let his readers have a sneak peek into the private lives of his characters – the little snippets of information that authors normally keep to themselves.

Reading New Spring at the end, despite the fact that it is classified as a prequel, gave it a decidedly nostalgic feel for me. Upon finishing the original Wheel of Time series, I took a step back from the world Jordan had created and started reading novels by other authors. But I always had the intention of coming back to visit the story. If read after completing the original series, New Spring adds on a somewhat endearing quality to its characters, particularly in the case of the young Aes Sedai.

Doing things slightly backward also gives the series a feeling of depth that I believe would be missing if it were read chronologically. There are scenes in the novel that gave it this feeling of depth for me, like the one featuring Elyas duelling in the Green Sister’s quarters while Moiraine delivers a message. It’s a sneak peek into the past, and a way of seeing how and why relationships and characters are the way they are in Wheel of Time.

The telling of the story is completed by Lan Mandragoran, who isn’t overly different from the Lan accompanying Moiraine in the later books. He’s still the same sullen martyr, inspiring all the men around him in battle while he tries to convince himself and everyone around him that Malkier is dead. The only real difference is the contempt he has for Aes Sedai, until Moiraine decides to bond him as her Warder. The scenes between Lan and Moiraine are entertaining at times, and it’s funny at times to see how flirtatious the two of them are – separately of course.

A criticism I would have for New Spring is that Jordan once again spends so much time setting the scene and writing detailed descriptions, that the development of the relationship between Moiraine and Lan feels slightly rushed. It would have been better if Jordan had left out something, had them meet earlier, or made the decision to make the novel longer in length. Their time together is so short in New Spring that is doesn’t put the same sort of weight behind their bond that Siuan and Moiraine have.

New Spring is well-balanced as a story. With a great mix of humorous and dramatic scenes, it stands strong as a separate novel from the original series. Upon further reflection, I actually came to the conclusion that reading New Spring at the beginning of Wheel of Time would make it a great gateway novel for young readers wanting to get into fantasy. It lacks the heavy politics and extensive character listing that Wheel of Time has, while still containing the brilliance of Robert Jordan’s writing. No matter when you decide to read it though, one thing is certain – Robert Jordan knows how to write great fantasy.

Happy Reading!

Brianna.

A Memory of Light – a review

Warning: contains spoilers.

Even though I finished A Memory of Light months ago, I’m only getting around to writing a review now. The fourteenth and final book in the series was, as far as I can remember, an honourable enough conclusion to a great series. But I will be honest here and tell you that I am relying heavily on memory and the internet to remind me of the course of the novel.

For me, A Memory of Light felt different to the rest of the series. In the earlier novels of the series, the author focused the attention of the reader on a select few characters. Often, he would stay with one character for several chapters at a time. In previous blog posts where I reviewed earlier books, I wrote of how it annoyed me at times as a reader. To me it made the series feel stagnant at times, and I often found myself losing interest in what was happening in the story. Jordan was so hell-bent on making the politics dramatic at times that he nearly neglected to push the story forward. The last book, however, read very differently. It was fast-paced and frequently jumped from character to character. The intensity of changes in point of view, and the rapid speed at which things happened, gave it a feverish feel.  As the series had progressed, Jordan had shifted more and more to this pattern of writing, and personally, I preferred it. It gave it that page-turner feeling that it had unfortunately lacked at some points in the series.

I think one of the biggest challenges an author must face when writing a novel such as this is picking how many characters to kill off, and more importantly – whose neck to bring to the executioners axe. Fantasy series often hint at terrible battles, and losses of life to come. But often, many authors fall short of delivering on their promises. Perhaps they don’t want to look reckless, or as though they’re killing simply for dramatic effect, but I personally find it refreshing to come across an author who isn’t afraid to just kill off a major character. It’s why George R. R. Martin stands out from the crowd to me, and so many other readers. Books can often be predictable when it comes to guessing who will kick the bucket. But Martin makes everyone a victim. No character is safe, and it makes reading his books exhilarating.

So when it came to reading A Memory of Light, I had pretty high expectations for the death toll – not to sound morbid. But it just isn’t interesting, or realistic, if in a war of such magnitude only two semi-important characters and one main character die. In the end, I found it a little bit disappointing, and somewhat of a let-down. It wasn’t exciting or shocking enough, after such a long build-up. Because of the Aes Sedai  – Warder bond, it was blatantly obvious that Gareth Byrne and Egwene Al Vere would pass, because Siuan and Gawyn did. And in relation to Egwene dying, I was annoyed that she was the only person in the original party to not make it to the end, and none of Rand’s significant other halves perished. Even more disappointing is the fact that Rand didn’t actually die, that it was Moridin on the pyre. Rand gets to ride off into the sunset and start his new life, leaving all the troubles of the world behind him. It just made it all too clean, too perfect. The bad guys get defeated, and all of the good guys minus a select few don’t make it through. To be honest, the deaths felt like token deaths, watered down and placed in the final book simply because Jordan knew he had to kill off someone.

I found myself feeling undecided at how I felt about the ending of the entire series as a whole. A Memory of Light was an interesting enough read, and vastly better than the novels in the middle of the series, but it lacked something. For me, Jordan held back in a way. I also believe that if he left too many stones unturned. How did Aviendha’s visions about the Aiel play out? Where they able to change the pattern? And what about Perrin’s trial with the Whitecloaks? Robert Jordan spent so much time writing such beautifully descriptive language and building up the story that he might have neglected to tie up some loose ends.

I know it sounds as though I have almost nothing positive to say about the final novel in the series, and maybe I don’t. But don’t let that take away from the fact that I did thoroughly enjoy the series as a whole. Yes, it had its flaws, and probably could have been cut well down in size. Nevertheless it is a brilliant series. The sheer scope of Robert Jordan’s imagination, his ability to create such a complex and detailed world, is nothing short of incredible. The Wheel of Time is one of those series that every fantasy fan should read. It’s a long ride, sometimes long-winded, but believe me, it’s worth it.

 

Happy Reading!

Brianna.

Understanding that blogging is a hobby

The two have always been linked for me. As a reader, it was poring over books as a child which made me want to become a writer. And as a writer, it is reading the works of other authors which has encouraged me, and guided me down the path I want to take as a writer. They are my two favourite pastimes – they’re absorbing, pass the time, and present me with a creative outlet. Both are activities that I can completely lose myself in. Armed with a book, pen and paper, I have everything I need to keep me entertained for hours.

The problem for me was always having to balance the two. Normally, balancing hobbies wouldn’t be such a big deal. People move between different pastimes all the time, it’s just a matter of doing it when you’re free and feel like it. But for me, writing is a hobby that I want to turn into career, and so I can’t just do it when the mood strikes me. I have to try and work on it a little bit every day. And sometimes I don’t want to. Sometimes I just want to curl up and read a book until I pass out.

Sometimes you’d think I don’t enjoy writing. I do everything but write, putting it off for hours and days at a time. I do love writing, it’s just that it requires a lot more effort than reading. Reading is an effortless pastime; it requires no intense thought process beyond that of focusing on what’s on the page. Everything’s already done for you when you’re reading – you just need to show up.

But with writing, you actually need to do the work, and recently, I’ve found that I can’t be bothered putting the effort in. I’d rather sit and read my book at the moment instead of writing. The main difference is that this time around, I’m not struggling to write out novel plans. That’s actually going quite well at the minute; I’ve made some important developments in my plans, fixing some problems I’d been having. It’s the blog posts that are presenting me with difficulty recently. I haven’t written a post in nearly two weeks, and this post has been sitting half written for the past week. I’ve been avoiding it, not wanting to look at it. I had said I would try and publish three times a weeks, and that was going well until recently. Then I just stopped. I found myself putting it off, saying I’d do it later. I’d read one more chapter and then I’d start on a new post, and that just snowballed.

It isn’t that I don’t have any more ideas for my blog, I have a long list of potential blog posts on my phone, but I just haven’t felt like writing any of them. None of them are appealing to me when I look at them, there isn’t one that jumps out at me. I’ve noticed that my most popular posts on the blog aren’t book reviews. They’re the ones where I talk about my struggles with writing, or why I love reading. They’re the ones where I open up more as a person. And those blog posts are harder to think of, they’re difficult to develop and build. With book reviews you do just that – you read a book, and you review it. That’s it. And at the minute I’m in the middle of a book, so I can’t really review it. I’d thought about reviewing a book I’ve already read, but because it’s been so long since I branched outside of the series I’m currently reading, I have no other books fresh in my mind to review. And I don’t want to put up a post I’m not proud of, just for the sake of keeping to a schedule.

Maybe this step back was good for me. Losing focus can seem like a bad thing when it’s happening. But maybe I can also see it as a wake-up call. A reminder that I want to write. And more importantly, I need to remember that I created this blog for my own enjoyment. It isn’t where I make my money from. If I want to delay it because I’d prefer to read my book, that’s alright. I don’t have to post on exact days if I can’t think of anything to write. I am allowed to treat my blog like a hobby, because that’s exactly what it is.

Happy Reading!

Brianna.

Inspiration at an inconvenient time.

Last night, when I should have been fast asleep, I decided it would be a good idea to start watching Ted Talks episodes on YouTube. I sporadically watched a few, before stumbling across one that caught my attention, called ‘Your elusive creative genius’. It was a twenty minute talk given by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author who penned the successful novel Eat, Pray, Love. During the talk, she spoke of the link between creativity and suffering that often exists in people that follow a creative path, and how writing is a career that can often be associated with negativity and insecurity. She also spoke about the ancient Greek and Roman idea of daemons and geniuses; how in the ancient times, the people believed that creative talent and inspiration was a gift given by a god-like figure, rather than being a talent that people were born with.

I thought it was a fascinating concept, and one that made perfect sense to me in a way. I wrote in a blog post last week about the significance of inspiration for writers; the importance for us to find that which inspires us to write, and our inspiration for what we write. I ended the post by saying that inspiration can strike at any point in time, and it’s up to the writer to always try and be ready for it. But unfortunately sometimes you can’t be.

I like to imagine that inspiration is like a quiet companion that’s always walked quietly beside me; a constant presence that no one else can see, but I can always feel. They’re the first ‘person’ I talk to about my ideas and plans for writing, and I am grateful for their presence. But inspiration can also be a cruel companion. When I sit down to write, and I want her to have a conversation with me and share her thoughts, she is infuriatingly stubborn. Inspiration mocks me at times, when I want to engage with it. Often, when I’m trying to sit and work on my writing, I am met by the frustratingly deafening silence of my inspiration refusing to speak to me.

There will never be a time when I don’t want inspiration to speak to me, per se. But there are times when I cannot properly deal with what it has to say to me. It could be that I am in work, or out in a social situation. Sometimes I’m in bed, about to pass out for the night. And it’s then, almost always then, that inspiration will sit up beside me in the bed, or stand beside me at the till, and quietly lean in and whisper a new idea that just makes perfect sense. It’s just plain cruel.

Because who wants to stumble out of bed at two in the morning to rummage sleepily through a drawer and find a random scrap of paper and a pen so they can desperately write down what’s in their mind before it escapes? No one wants to be the person on a night out with friends pulling out their phone to furiously type down a new idea, and I can’t just walk away from a customer to make note of what inspiration is giving me. But that is always been when inspiration is at her most active for me. Sometimes I think she is mocking me.

I don’t know how many times I have been stuck in a situation when I think of an idea, and I’m not able to write it down. It could be anything – a new character creation, an idea for some dialogue, a plan for how to carry my story forward. I can guarantee you that some of my most brilliant ideas have escaped me because I wasn’t able to write them down. There was probably a night when a best-selling idea came to me right before I fell asleep, and I was too tired to even register what was happening. And now I’ll never hear from it again.

The only good thing about it all is that inspiration can’t talk back.

Happy Reading!

Brianna.

Towers of Midnight – A review

First off, apologies for the late blog post. I was out yesterday, and was too tired to write one when I got home. I could have rushed writing out one last night just for the sake of keeping to my schedule, but I figured it would be better if I just left it a day late and write something I actually like. Also, I was only a few chapters away from finishing book thirteen of The Wheel of Time, so I decided to read the final few chapters this afternoon and make today’s blog post a book review.

I found that Towers of Midnight, the penultimate novel in Robert Jordan’s massive fantasy epic, had a decidedly different feel to the recent books. It reminded me of the earlier novels, harking back to the beginning of the series, when everything was fast-paced, and everyone was enthusiastic. I know that the novels that make up the middle of the series are important; they are when the bulk of many main storylines stem from, and where many key character developments occur. Even more than the beginning of the series, the middle of it sets up key events and alliances. It’s a valuable point in the series, but it can also make for less exciting reading. But with Towers of Midnight, I feel as though the series has come full circle, going back to a more fast paced, exciting plotline.

As is the case with any Wheel of Time novel, the book focuses on a selection of main characters to make up the bulk of it, and then uses other characters – both major and minor – to fill in the gaps. The thirteenth novel in the series links the journeys of four characters: Perrin Aybara to Egwene Al’Vere – who are linked by their ability to move among the world of dreams; the two friends from the Two Rivers never actually meet in the book, save for a fleeting moment during a battle in the dream world. And then we have Matrim Cauthon and Elayne Trakand, who are more directly tied together with the story surrounding the building of ‘dragons’.

The Ta’Veren: the influence and strength of Rand Al’Thor, Perrin Aybara and Matrim Cauthon continues to grow heavily.

Rand Al’Thor – The mood shift in Rand is astonishing; he is a completely new man following his torment on the slopes of Dragonmount. Refreshed and compassionate but determined to end it once and for all, he is now becoming exactly what I imagined the Dragon Reborn to be. I have to say, I am incredibly interested to see how the prophecies depicting him bowing to the Seanchan will play out. The more temperamental and violent Rand never would have submitted, but I can sort of see the new and improved Dragon doing it.

Mat – if you had said to me at the beginning of the series that Matrim Cauthon would become a firm favourite of mine, I would have regarded you with scepticism. I had a strong dislike of him at the beginning; if he had been a real person, he would have been one that I would avoid. Now, however, I am a changed woman. Mat’s growth as a character is the most shocking, and satisfying, for me. His storyline is intriguing, and has the added benefit of bringing some humour to an increasingly dark world. And his journey into the Tower of Ghenjei with Thom and Noal was a gripping end to the novel. He’s changed from the boy who runs away, to the man that is willing to sacrifice a lot to save others – even if he won’t admit it.

Perrin – the blacksmith turned reluctant lord showed the most ta’veren influence this time around. While Rand, and even Mat, had already understood that their ta’veren nature would draw others to them, Perrin is now only beginning to understand his influence in the world. His growing understanding of his place in the wolf dream and the Pattern, and his confrontation with Galad Damodred’s Whitecloaks, means that his story was the most action-packed one. I was worried at one point he was shifting into a darker sort of character, weighed down by responsibility, as Rand once was. But the gentle giant remains intact.

Egwene Al’Vere and Elayne Trakand – if there’s one thing Jordan never shied away from, it was strong, powerful female characters. Both the Amyrlin Seat and the Queen of Andor fit this bill, although Elayne does it with a bit more sassiness in her walk. At times Egwene annoyed me; power seems to have gone to her head in a way, and often her desire to appear strong and in control made her look stubborn. But she does deliver some brilliant dialogue.

Towers of Midnight continues on the theme of great writing from both Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. While it does remind me of earlier novels in the series, it has also shifted to something completely new. The series now hangs on the edge, and there are so many pathways the final book could take.  Will Aviendha reveal what she saw in Rhuidean? How will the Seanchan’s plan to seize the White Tower work? And will Rand break the seals? As is the case with any book series I have enjoyed, I both cannot wait to get to the end, while simultaneously dreading the end of it all. It has been a great read so far, and I have the highest hopes for what is still to come.

Happy Reading!

Brianna.

Closing the door on a story

It’s something every reader has to face every time they finish a book or series. Saying goodbye to a story and its characters is something that occurs each and every time you close over the final page on a book. You’re not just closing the physical item, you’re also closing the door on yet another fictional world. I know anyone reading this post who isn’t a bookworm like me will probably consider me overly sentimental and slightly crazy; but if you love reading as much as I do, you’ll understand exactly what I mean.

The thought for this particular post has been popping in and out of my mind for a month or so now, but tonight felt like the right night to write about it. I’m currently nearing the end of the penultimate novel in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. I’ve waited for this moment for quite some time now: to finally discover how such a massive epic will be finished. The stories of its many characters have dominated my reading attention for quite some time now, longer than any series before it. A part of me is dying to find out how it will all end, but another part of me feels saddened knowing that in a few weeks the world of The Wheel of Time will no longer be laid out before me. It will be yet another world I have to leave behind.

Because when you’re reading a novel or series, the world and characters within it become part of who you are. Other readers will understand what I mean when I say that the characters in their favourite stories are more than just a figment of some author’s imagination. They become like friends to the reader. It’s why developing the right characters is so very important when you’re writing a novel. They carry and guide a reader through their story, so they need to be appealing.  Readers look up their favourite characters, often aspiring to be like them.

I think finishing a book is similar to the feelings you get on Christmas morning – that initial anticipation of wondering what waited for you under the tree. The rush of excitement while opening them, and then the quiet, satisfied atmosphere that settled over the house, the one that’s always tinged with a little bit of sadness that it’s all over.

To me, closing the door is always that little bit more difficult when you’re reading a series. I’m a massive fan of book series, preferring them over single novels. But the downside is that finishing them is even more bittersweet. It was why finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was wonderful and difficult for me in equal measure. It’s why I eagerly and impatiently await the next book in A Song of Ice and Fire, while feeling upset that when I do read it, I will be closer to being finished with a world I have loved to fall into. Saying goodbye to beloved characters becomes more and more difficult the longer the story goes on, because of the fact that you had more time to develop a relationship. It seems foolish, in a way, to mourn a book character, but people latch on to fictional characters every single day. Some choose to idolise television characters, I choose to become fascinated by the lives of book characters.

It’s difficult saying goodbye to a story. Every time you read a new book, you take on another world, you bond with it – no two readers see a story in the exact same way. If it’s a good story, then its characters and places will stick to you and become part of you as a reader. I think you become moulded by what you read in a way. It is an inevitable part of being a reader, saying goodbye to a beloved journey. The only good thing is that there will always be another, new world waiting for you.

Happy Reading!

Brianna.

My inspiration

Inspiration is like the life blood of a writer. Aside from my own imagination, the inspiration I get from outside forces is the most important weapon in my arsenal as a writer – without inspiration, I am essentially nothing as a writer. Your imagination and inspiration share a very important partnership, feeding off of each other. Without inspiration, your imagination will fade away. And without the creativity of an imagination, moments of inspiration will fail to flourish and become unimportant. They need one another, so finding who or what inspires you quickly is incredibly important as a writer.

Inspiration takes two main forms in my opinion. The first is what or who inspires you to write in the first place. It can have little or no effect on what you actually end up writing about. Rather they are the things that inspire you to initially pick up a pen or open up a word document. The second is what or who is your inspiration for what you end up writing. The two can be often be similar or the same. Normally they differ for me.

More often than not I am inspired to write by people rather than events, places or items. It’s the idea of people reading my work and enjoying it which inspires and pushes me to write. I’ve spoken often on my blog about the influence and inspiration that my old English teacher has been to me as a writer. She herself has never really inspired any particular thing I’ve written – I have created no characters based on her. But it was her consistent encouragement during my time being taught by her that constantly inspired me and pushed me to write. At dinner with friends recently their questioning about my novel idea made me want to go home and throw myself into my work. People inspire the idea of writing in me.

Reading the work of other authors is also a great source of inspiration for me. Of course, there are times when I will become envious of authors. Often, I am envious of the actual idea of their novel. Who doesn’t become a little bit annoyed at themselves for not penning the goldmine ideas for Harry Potter or The Hunger Games first? Other times, I get annoyed at an author because they were able to publish a novel before I could. The audacity of it. But then I take comfort in knowing that if so many before me have been able to do it, then why wouldn’t I be able to? Every time I walk through a bookstore or pick up a book, it is proof that the task of writing a book can be achieved, even it seems impossible to do at times. And that inspires me to write.

The notion of where I get my inspiration for my actual writing from tends to be a different story. Very few of my ideas have come from people. I rarely receive inspiration from a person; most characters I have created are made solely in my imagination. If they are inspired by people I know or strangers that I walk past, then it is done subconsciously. The only people I would maybe draw inspiration from would be other writers. I think writers bounce ideas off of one another without ever having to meet, and unintentionally most times. I write mostly fantasy because that’s what I mostly read, so that is what I know. Any science fiction I would write would end up being ridiculous because I don’t read sci-fi.

Instead, I am inspired greatly by objects, or events, or places. On one Sunday visit to TK Maxx I found myself drawing inspiration from a small, ornate wooden trinket box. By the time I had gotten home, a partially formed idea had planted itself in my mind, based solely around that little box. I have done nothing with the idea ever since, but it’s there if I ever want or need it.

For some reason, I almost always have a peak in creativity while I am on holiday. Something about the change in scenery and weather encourages me to switch my time beside the pool between reading a book and writing one. It’s why I wish I travelled more often, to get a bigger influx of inspiration. New places inspire locations in my writing, which in turn inspires the cultures and people that I will create.

Inspiration can strike at any time. Sometimes I see it coming, and I almost expect it. And other times it hits me like a punch in the dark, although perhaps that is an unsavoury and violent comparison. But inspiration for me does normally come out of nowhere, bursting onto the scene without warning. It’s why having a pen handy at all times is absolutely crucial for me. Far too many ideas have been lost because I couldn’t find one in time, and inspiration is something that doesn’t tend to stick around for very long.

Happy Reading!

Brianna.

Guardians of Time – Marianne Curley

I’m going with a really old favourite for today’s very short blog post. I read Marianne Curley’s Guardians of Time trilogy when I was around thirteen or fourteen, and I loved it. It incorporates two of my favourite things in life: history and fantasy. I don’t know how famous or popular it is as a trilogy, but it is a brilliant young adult series in my opinion. Like so many of my favourite books, there have been times when I have been tempted to go back and re-read it. I think it will be difficult to convey how good I found this series is through a blog post. Also I’m a little bit sketchy on the details; I haven’t read it in many years, so you’ll have to forgive me if I seem a little vague at times. But it is a brilliant series that would definitely appeal to both sexes, due to the fact that it has both strong female and male leads.

Set in a fictional town in Australia named Angel Falls, it follows a group of young teenagers who each possess certain magical abilities, such as truthseeing, healing, agelessness and the ability to animate objects. They, along with others, make up a group of individuals known as The Guard. Tasked with the job of defeating another group called the Order of Chaos, the teenagers are each part of an ancient prophecy. In addition to their own individual powers, the group are also capable of time travel – more specifically, travelling back in time.

The Order of Chaos is determined to rule by using the past as a weapon; they attempt to alter events in the past, so it will have a catastrophic domino effect that will rule in their favour. It is the duty of The Guard to observe the past, and look for any signs that the Order may be attempting to change the course of history. When a disturbance is noted, a group of the Guard will have their appearances altered, and be sent back to prevent any changes from occurring.

The narration of the series moves between five of the main characters in the series: Ethan, Isabel, Matt, Rochelle and Arkarian. The first four are from the town of Angel Falls, while Arkarian is one of the more senior members of the Guard who guides and instructs them throughout the series. Their relationships range from siblings to old friends to love interests. Throughout the series, their lives constantly overlap and affect one another, along with the lives of minor characters also. They also make up the bulk of the prophecy.

I loved the idea of the Guardians of Time trilogy right away. It was unlike any series I had read prior to it; I found it to be an original and thought-provoking idea. It’s fast paced, filled with action, and has more than one good plot twist. The author’s idea of using the past really intrigued me. Add in an ancient prophecy and some magical abilities into the mix and I was sold on the idea of Marianne Curley’s books. It’s an interesting series, and a good one to read if you’re looking for a young adult series that’s a little bit different.

Happy Reading!

Brianna.