Book Review: This Really Happened by Annmarie McQueen -No Spoilers-

Thank you Katelyn for the lovely review!

From Cover to Cover

34438098This Really Happened by Annmarie McQueen

Published: February 25th, 2017

Source: Kindle Edition, 250 pages

Summary:

I felt like I was seeing it all in slow motion; the car, sleek and black, careening around the corner, the sound of wheels skidding. Headlights illuminating her dazed expression like a spotlight as it made contact. Then I heard screaming, distant and muffled, as if I was underwater. It took me a long time to realise that I was the one screaming.

Six University flatmates.
A girl learning what freedom feels like.
A boy with a past that won’t stay buried.
One night, one mistake, that changes everything.
Let’s play a guessing game. Two truths and a lie.
Which is which?

Rating: I gave this 4/5 stars on Goodreads!

Thoughts:

**I received a digital copy of this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are…

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5 Biggest Cliches in YA Romance

Recently, I’ve spent some time working my way through the bestseller list of YA romance fiction – everything from John Green to hit debuts such as ‘Everything Everything’ by Nicola Yoon, which was recently made into a movie.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book. But for now I’m done with YA fiction and going back to my usual genre of world lit, classics and general gritty depressing stories that leave me in existential doubt for days afterwards. As charming as it sometimes is to indulge in the idealistic world of manic pixie dream girls (MPDGs), deep conversations under the stars and passionate, obsessive love affairs, it’s all starting to feel a bit fake. Here are the 5 biggest cliches that I think have been way overdone in YA these days:

  1. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She’s beautiful. She’s deep. She’s probably a metaphor. She’s ‘broken’ but ‘strong’ and wants to make cryptic remarks about the meaning of life on a rooftop at 3am. She’s ‘not like the other girls’ because she’s a special snowflake and apparently has the ability to understand life better than everyone else, despite being a teenager with no actual life experience. Most likely she has a mental illness that’s probably being romanticised by the male love interest. Examples: basically anything written by John Green, pretty much ever.
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  2. The MPDGs favourite activity? Astronomy of course. Because relating everything in your life to the workings of the universe automatically makes you deep apparently. Sorry, no. It doesn’t make you deep. It makes you sound kind of egotistical and occasionally like a bad science textbook. Example: Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
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  3. The dead parent/sibling/relative trope. Quite often it just seems like a lazy attempt to remove the adults from the story so the author doesn’t have to write them. In reality, family relationships are a pretty damn huge part of teenager’s lives. It’d be nice to see some more YA novels accurately reflect that.
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  4. Romanticising mental illness. This one worries me. While I have read some books which have given the topic the gravity it deserves (Laurie Halse Anderson does this excellently) I’ve also read many more that treat it as ‘teenage angst’ or an interesting quirk to make the character seem broody, mysterious and ultimately more attractive. Yeah, no. Just don’t. Being depressed isn’t sexy, it’s just extremely unpleasant and soul-destroying really.
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  5. Instalove! Because why spend valuable pages on having the characters actually get to know each other when they could be discussing the stars and their undying love instead.

What tropes and cliches do you hate in YA fiction? 

On a side note, if you want to make me super happy please go download my new novel ‘This Really Happened’ here

Top 5 Halloween Reads

Happy Halloween! To celebrate my favourite time of year, I’ve compiled a list of my favourite creepy, hair-raising, spooktacular reads that will give you chills and get you into the holiday spirit.

  1. We have always lived in the castle by Shirley Jackson
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    Merricat lives with her sister in the house where her entire family was poisoned. When their uncle visits, their fragile peace is shattered and revelations that will change everything come to the surface. Isolation, superstition and witchcraft are major themes of this horror classic. While not heavy on action, this creepy novel is all about atmosphere, creating tension and leaving just enough hints to let your imagination do the rest.

 

 

2. The Wasp Factory by Ian Banks 

TheWaspFactoryA first-person narrative told from the point of view of a boy who murdered three people, including his own brother, and then stopped. Psychologically shocking and terrifying, with a great twist at the end. Definitely worth a read.

 

 

 

 

 

3. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

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From the author of ‘Gone girl’ comes an even more gruesome psychological thriller and murder mystery, as Abbie Day confronts her past and tries to solve the murder of her family to prove her brother innocent. Like Flynn’s other novels, this had a well-structured plot, well-developed characters and a surprising twist at the end that I didn’t see coming.

 

 

 

 

 

4. Angel blood by John Singleton

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A massively under-appreciated YA dystopian novel with some really interesting ideas about how disability and outcasts are treated in society. It follows four children, who are failed biological experiments and suffering strange physical disabilities because of it, and their lives in a type of Asylum called ‘The bin’. Creepy but also incredibly sad, this one is definitely one of the most well-written and unique dystopians I’ve read.

 

 

 

 

5. Birdy by Jess Vallance

1e370c96-2f43-41d2-b24e-9d75fcbfc51b-bestSizeAvailableThis one’s not that well known, but I thought it was a great YA example of the unreliable narrator. I really liked how most of it seemed like pretty normal high school stuff, but with sinister undertones that gradually became more obvious towards the end. They always say that the key ingredient of horror is turning the mundane into something scary, which this book does very effectively.

 

 

 

 

What’s your favourite spooky read? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: Stick Out Your Tongue by Ma Jian

I don’t know where to start. This book is fascinating, perverse, gritty and realistic, though it  probably falls more into the magical realism genre. I don’t really know how to classify it or describe it other than ‘strange’ but in a good way.

The book is essentially a short memoir of Ma Jian’s travels through Tibet, with a fictional twist. He dives into the stories of the locals he meets on the way, infusing his charismatic writing style with a stunning insight into human nature.

The Tibet he introduces us to is a dark place, a region ravaged by conflict and the Chinese government’s brutal campaign against it’s unique way of life. He completely destroys the fantasy that Tibet is a spiritual haven, free of corruption and sin. In his short stories men sleep with their mothers and daughters, a woman who died in childbirth is hacked to pieces and fed to vultures in a sky burial, and a young girl dies in a frozen river during a Buddhist initiation rite.

His stories are not pleasant to read, nor do they end happily. There is no satisfying conclusion at the end of them; they’re just a mosaic of different lives, all connected by the physical and cultural setting of Tibet. Ma Jian is a brave writer. He’s unafraid of shying away from the truth, no matter how gruesome and horrid it may be. Through his vivid descriptions he recreates his own authentic experience of Tibet as a region being suffocated by the tight grip of religion, corruption and political upheaval.

As he explains in the afterward, “westerners idealise Tibetans as gentle, godly people untainted by base desires and greed. But in my experience, Tibetans can be as corrupt and as brutal as the rest of us. To idealise them is to deny their humanity.” Perhaps that is the most important lesson of this book. To romanticise another culture and its people is a form of self-delusion, one that leads to stereotyping and wrong assumptions.

Another interesting fact about this book is that it was actually banned in China, which of course led to it becoming incredibly popular on the black market as it had the appeal of the forbidden! Ma Jian later moved to the U.K and currently lives in London with his wife who is also the translator of his books.

I would highly recommend this book, and Ma Jian’s other travel memoir ‘Red Dust’. He writes about China with a chilling honesty that makes him, in my opinion at least, one of the most interesting Chinese writers alive today.

Who’s your favourite Chinese writer? Comment below!

Announcing A Writer’s Path Writers Club: Creating Benefits For Writers

A Writer's Path

I’m happy to announce our new initiative: A Writer’s Path Writers Club.

After looking at the writing market for years, I noticed a need for a Writers Club of this kind. Sure, there are Facebook groups, writers groups, etc., but there aren’t many associations that are more than just a gathering of writers.

I wanted to create a club where the sole purpose of it is to solve headaches for writers. Here are some of the headaches I’m looking to solve:

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Happy October! Autumn photoshoots

Happy October! Only 30 days to go until Halloween! Ah I’m so excited, this is definitely my favourite time of year. I love the bittersweet nostalgia of autumn, how serene and calm and beautiful it is. The trees are all Gryffindor colours, the evenings are dusky and spooky, the cafes are selling pumpkin spice lattes. There’s nothing better than crawling into bed and getting cozy with a good book and a scented candle. What could be more hygge than that?

To celebrate this beautiful season, here are some favourites from a recent autumn-themed photoshoot I did with my gorgeous friend Emily.  You can see my full portfolio here. 

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What’s your favourite thing about autumn? Let me know in the comments! 

River Currents

Sometimes I think of what we could

Have been

And in my fantasy it’s always

beautiful

But in reality

It may not have been

And the most beautiful thing of all about this

Is that you can be whatever you want

But my love for you is mine alone

Impervious to change

And it’s something I can hold onto

Because fantasies can never be broken

In the same way reality can

So my love can stay pure and innocent

In the same blossoming form it started out as

And I will never learn to hate you

Because a love that never truly happened can never truly die.

 

Tried out a new style of poetry today inspired by some of the instapoetry accounts I’m following at the moment. The fluid, undulating structure is meant to represent river currents and the fantasy, dream-like atmosphere of the poem. What do you think? Let me know!

On a side note, my novel ‘This Really Happened’ is free on amazon until 30/09. Would love it if you could download it! Thanks!

This Really Happened: Kindle countdown deal

I felt like I was seeing it all in slow motion; the car, sleek and black, careening around the corner, the sound of wheels skidding. Headlights illuminating her dazed expression like a spotlight as it made contact. Then I heard screaming, distant and muffled, as if I was underwater. It took me a long time to realise that I was the one screaming.

Erin has never really known who she is or what she wants. That is, until she meets her new University flatmate Allen.

Reckless, eccentric and creative, Allen is everything Erin doesn’t have the courage to be and she’s immediately drawn to him. She’s sure he feels it too, until he starts dating their mutual friend Charlotte.

Then one night changes everything.

When a drunken mistake leaves Charlotte fighting for her life, the victim of a hit-and-run, there’s only one question everyone’s asking: what really happened? Erin has an answer to that, more than one in fact, but running from the truth is far easier than facing up to it…

 

My latest New Adult novel ‘This Really Happened’ will be available at the special reduced price of $0.99 for the next 7 days on the Kindle countdown deal! Get it now while it’s cheap!

 

Neuschwanstein castle, May 2017

Fireborn, I imagine you in these rooms
Chandeliers like caves, like crowns
Marble floors made for waltzing
Dancing through the endless night.

You painted stories on the walls
With your clairvoyant fingers
Tales of chivalry and romance, an
Echo of something better, a past
Preserved in pastel colour dreams.

This was your escape, wasn’t it?
This castle with its spiral towers
Gleaming white, a diamond in the
Forest of your heart.

I wonder where it went wrong.
You are a mystery that time has
Swallowed, a secret kept safe
Beneath the lake’s calm surface.

I imagine you walking along that shore
A century before me
And plunging into those
Murky depths.

 

A few weeks ago I travelled to Munich alone with the goal of finally visiting the fairytale castle on the mountain that inspired Disney’s ‘Sleeping beauty’ castle. It was just as beautiful as I’d imagined. I brought my notebook along and wrote this poem about King Ludwig II – the owner of the castle – and the strange mystery surrounding his untimely death.

It’s said that one day Ludwig and his psychiatrist were taking a walk around the nearby lake. A few hours later they were both found drowned. Though there are many theories about how he died, none have been confirmed. 

Seeing this castle in person was a sublime experience for me. It was the realisation of a dream I’d harboured for a very long time, but lost sight of last year when I was in a dark place. Being able to make this trip to see it has reminded me of the person I used to be and has given me hope that one day I’ll be that person again. I found that poetry was the best medium to try and capture that feeling and channel the beauty of the place into language, and I hope you agree.

Have you visited Neuschwanstein castle? I would love to hear your thoughts!

 

May the odds be ever in your favour

Last weekend I took a trip down to Cardiff to visit my friend Rhi and her boyfriend Connor, who recently started up their own film production company called Cinemerse. They’ve been making some super cool, creative shorts lately for a company called ‘Escape Reality’ that runs escape rooms all over the UK. Their latest trailer was for a Hunger Games themed escape room.

I was lucky enough to be the photographer on set, which was an illuminating experience.  I’ve always wanted to work in film, but never realised how much time and energy goes in to it. Our two shoots, which lasted a total of about 12 hours, translated into 2 minutes of screen time. The first took place in a grassy field, with the four tributes jumping off their metal podiums and running for the Cornucopia in the middle. The second took place in a martial arts studio, with the tributes training with their weapons. Cato with his spear, Peter with the daggers, Rue on the ropes and Katniss on her bow and arrow of course!

Props to Rhi and Connor for getting some fantastic shots and remaining incredibly professional throughout. If anyone in the South Wales area of the UK is looking for film services, I can highly recommend Cinemerse. You can find their Facebook page here and see more of their Escape Reality trailers – would recommend the Games of Thrones one in particular! To see more of my photography, head on over to my portfolio.

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