A Belated Year in Review

As I mentioned last week, Beth from plasticrosaries.com recently tagged me in her ‘2013 in Review‘ post, and even though I’ve already summed up 2013 elsewhere, I thought I’d play along anyway…

A belated year in review

1. Your top 5 new favourite blogs to read in 2013  (you’re totally tagged if you’re listed here – no pressure of course but putting it out there…)

Satchels and Pearls (ok, I’m biased. This is my friend Michelle’s blog, and she gets bonus points for making me Auntie to the cutest dumpling ever!)

Girl XOXO (I love the combination of bookishness and blogging tips. She takes really great photos too!)

iHanna (Her blog is just full of creative inspiration, and her archives are filled with fab tutorials!)

Rae Missigman (A fairly recent discovery, but now she’s definitely one of my favourite mixed media artists)

The Tangerine (The brain behind the Book Chat)

And of course there are the great blogs I mentioned in my last round up post, and thelovely lady who tagged me in this post.

2. List Your 5 most read blog posts in 2013

The Art of Benin (I still can’t understand why you keep coming back to this one!)

Myth and Magic Notecards (I have the fabulous Julie Fei-Fan Balzer to thank, as she featured my tutorial on her awesome blog)

Documented Life – Staying Organised in the New Year (I’m pretty impressed… this one ranked at number 3, despite being published 5 days before New Year’s!)

De-stressing with Doodles (My oh-so-sophisticated method of stress management…)

{21 Secrets} Doodling Our Way (And the first installment of my 21 Secrets 2013 portfolio)

3. Name one blog you wish you had found sooner

Hands down Jo Gifford a.k.a the Dexterous Diva – I think I’d have mastered the art of blogging waaay sooner! (Plus, she’s lovely!) Did I mention I’m guest posting on her blog today?

4. Your favourite blog post of 2013  

I really loved creating the art for The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and the Giraffe Note Cards Tutorial and I LOVED taking part in Love Triangles 101, check out my review of Before I Met You or When Love Triangles Just Don’t Count for a taster!

5. What would you like to improve (if anything) on your blog next year?

Plenty! I have a list of goals for my blog that I’m constantly adding to. One of my aims for the year is to write 10 guest posts (if you’re interested, let me know!) I’d also love to hear any thoughts you have on how I could improve Doing it the Open Way. Is there anything you’d like to see change?

6. Name one blog you have a blog crush on.

Alisa Burke’s blog is amazing – her outlook, her design, her voice, her imagery, her features…. everything is just gorgeous! She’s currently running a course on blogging if anyone’s interested?

7. How often do you post?  

I go through phases… I vary between every other day and once in a blue moon. One of my aims for 2014 is to become a much more consistent blogger.

8. Share your first post of 2013

Bienvenido 2013 (also known as an introduction to my whimsical reading challenge!)

9. Name one thing you would be doing if you weren’t typing this post right now.

Coffee! And probably working…

10.What have you loved the most about blogging this year?

I’ve loved getting my mojo back – I actually want to blog now! I’m really enjoying learning how to do new things and make little improvements. I know it’s a slow process, but I’m feeling very inspired!

And with that I conclude the looking back, from this very second, it’s all about 2014!

D x

Popular

I cannot deny that I spend FAR too much time perusing my blog stats… not necessarily because I’m obsessed with how many followers I have, but more because I’m baffled by the stuff that interests people. Sometimes my lovely readers rave about posts I blasted out in five minutes, and the ones I adore, the ones that I’ve been thinking about and planning for ages are met with deathly silence.

One thing really surprised me today as I trawled through all those bar charts… my arty posts get all the views, but my book posts get all the comments. So how do you judge which are more successful? The short answer… you don’t. You make yourself a cuppa, you sit back down and you write about the things you love. Most of the time I will so confidently scream that I write for myself and nobody else, but like every blogger out there, sometimes I question myself. It’s completely natural, especially when you’re doing something as public as blogging, and if anyone says different they’re a big fat liar.

Hmm. What started out as a summary of my most popular posts in July seems to have morphed into a slightly obsessive blog analysis, so let’s get back to it. These are the posts most visited by you guys; you’re all clearly nuts but I love you anyway!

Windows of the Soul

An Octopus's Garden

Honouring Your Feelings

Going to the Zoo

[Click image to visit post]

 These are the ones picked by my stats page, but I also wanted to share a round-up of my Love Triangle 101 posts – these are the ones I’ve had the most fun with recently… so I hope you’ll take a second to check them out, but more importantly, check out the hosts of this great event over at A Novel Idea.

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{Love Triangles 101} An Introduction

Under the Microscope: Before I Met You

{Love Triangles 101} When They Just Don’t Count

{Love Triangles 101} The Formula

{Love Triangles 101} From Story to Screen

Have a browse and let me know your views on love triangles… yay or nay?

And if you’ve written any posts you’ve really loved over the past month, leave me a link below… you know me, I’m always looking for new reading material!

D x

The Sea Sisters

The Sea Sisters, by Lucy Clarke, is one of the books from Richard and Judy’s Summer Book Club (and as such, one of the books I’ve pledged to read by the end of August). I’m also using it to tick off a couple of categories of my Whimsical Reading Challenge – ‘body of water’ and ‘family’.

The novel starts as our protagonist, Katie, is told that her younger sister has died while travelling around the world, (This is not a spoiler, it’s on the blurb!) and after being told that Mia actually committed suicide while in Bali, Katie decides to shrug off her life and follow in her sister’s footsteps, in the hope of proving the police (and everybody else) wrong.

The narrative is split between Katie’s current day perspective, the entries in Mia’s travel journal and the occasional flashback. Sometimes I find this kind of ‘hotch potch’ irritating, but I thought that Clarke managed to weave together a pretty seamless patchwork of events, offering the kind of polarised perspectives only sisters can! (Just ask mine…)

From the very beginning we are made aware that both sisters have done something terrible to the other; we have no details, we just know they’re both crippled by guilt. The mistakes the girls made are not ludicrous, or hard to guess, but by only illuminating the reader as each sister finds out the truth, Clarke helps us to bond with her characters. In fact, even though I knew how Mia’s story was going to end, I was desperate for it to be different. I wanted them living happily ever after in a house full of cats. I pretty much convinced myself that Katie was going to get to Bali and discover that it was actually Mia’s doppelgänger that had mysteriously died.

This book provides a great example of ‘background love triangles’, in other words, love triangles that a merely a sub-plot, not a virus that pushes everything else into the shadows. Clarke made reference to my favourite kind of love triangle (don’t you agree Paola?), the mobile octagon. The overlapping feelings and general confusion were totally accurate representations of actual love and relationships, and really helped reinforce the bubble of intense emotion already surrounding this story. The couples we root for changes multiple times, and there is definitely no clear-cut ‘winner’ from the get go… all made for good reading!

The Sea Sisters is predominantly a story of self-discovery, and how we’re forced into action by life itself. We have no control over grief, betrayal, guilt or love, the thing that creates ‘character’ is the way we deal with all the messy stuff that gets hurled at us. Was it heartbreaking? Yes. Bittersweet? Definitely. More than that, it was just a beautiful, beautiful book. Now go read it.

D x

{Love Triangles 101} From Story to Screen

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I think that the one thing that everyone could say about love triangles, whether they love them or hate them, is that at best, they can be very unrealistic. As a reader, I consider this a capital offence… I want to be convinced by the words on front of me. I want to believe that there are vampires, and princesses, and aliens, and talking bears, at least while my nose is still between the pages. So yes, it infuriates me when an author thrusts a handful of two-dimensional characters into an insipid love triangle, just for the sake of it.

My favourite book of all time (Gone With the Wind) provides an example of a truly phenomenal love triangle. It ticks all my boxes (check out this post for more info on those boxes). Even so, and as a ‘book person’ it truly pains me to say this, but I think love triangles turn out much better on-screen than on paper. Assuming the acting and the dialogue are halfway decent, it’s so much easier to be drawn into a love triangle that can quite literally see before you.

It would take a real effort for me to come up with a list of compelling love triangles I’ve found in books, but in films? There’s a thousand! And such a variety! Is there anything more bittersweet than Juliet and Simon kissing in Love Actually, even though she’s married to his best friend? Or Jules’s hilarious attempts at sabotage in My Best Friend’s Wedding? Has there ever been anything more heartbreaking than the ending of Pearl Harbor or more hopeful than The Notebook? What gives you more tingles than Nicole and Ewan serenading each other in Moulin Rouge? And is there really anything sweeter than Sweet Home Alabama?

pearl harbor my best friend's wedding notebook sweet home alabama moulin rouge love actually

 

[Images borrowed from http://www.imdb.com]

These are just a few of my faves, but what do you think? Are love triangles more addictive in a book or on the box? What a your favourite movie love triangles?

D x

P.S. A post on my favourite TV love triangles will be coming your way soon, so stay tuned!

{Love Triangles 101} The Formula

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I have not had a good week for IT stuff. Today I planned on sharing a hand drawn mathematical formula for creating the perfect love triangle surrounded by annotations explaining each point but, alas, it was not meant to be. This keep freezing, or cropping, or getting blurry, or just generally thwarting me at every turn… so instead I’m going to opt for a list. Lists are good, right?

So here is my little list of things that love triangles NEED if they want me to enjoy them:

  • Characters must all be strong in their own right. Their sole function in the book should not be to add an obstacle the main guy and gal getting together
  • Stereotypes are quite frankly banned. Is anyone else interested in a shy and previously unloved supreme beauty being fought over by two Greek gods (one blonde and friendly, one dark and broody) Give us some imperfection. Let us dream that these things can happen to someone as average as us.
  • The love triangle should be a sub-plot, not the entire focus of the novel.
  • The protagonist’s choice should be a slowly revealed journey – we don’t want to know from page 1 who ends up together.
  • Throw in a few red herrings for good measure – we like it if things aren’t so obvious (and I promise we can handle it…)
  • Know that if you try to weave in any cringeworthy self-analysis that at best belongs on daytime TV, you will lose the respect of readers everywhere.
  • Metaphors are good, and it’s good for love interests to represent something more, but can we try something a bit more original than ‘he represents her secure, domesticated self and he represents her wild child side’?
  • Give the love interests a bond, independent from the protagonist. Nothing makes a love triangle more harrowing, or more complex. Look at Elena, Stefan and Damon from The Vampire Diaries… the fact that the Salvatore brothers love each other more than anything makes that whole storyline more compelling, and more fraught with emotion.

These are just a few ideas off the top of my head, but what do you think makes a love triangle particularly enjoyable?

D x

P.S. Don’t forget to check out LT101’s hosts over at A Novel Idea.

 

{Love Triangles 101} When They Just Don’t Count

Hey, I’m back to talk love triangles again!

Have you been reading any of the other Love Triangle 101 posts? Check out A Novel Idea for Signs You’re in A Love Triangle as well as the Event Schedule.

Today I’ve been thinking about fake triangles… You know what I mean, those relationships that do involve three people, but don’t tick those love triangle boxes. They’re everywhere… books, films, TV…

Here are a few examples of those situations that, to me, just don’t count:-

[A= protagonist / B= love interest #1 / C= love interest #2]

C is a stalker, rapist or serial killer.

Katie meets image of male perfection, Alex, while still entangled with an abusive ex.

A and B are in a forced relationship (due to a threat, blackmail or an arranged marriage).

Lorna is kept captive by her ambitious cousin, Carver Doone, before being rescued by delightful farmer, John Ridd.

B is just an obstacle to A and C being together (an annoying ex, or incompatible other half).

Although it is glaringly obvious that Marlena and Jacob should be together, her schizophrenic lion-tamer husband lingers dangerously between them. 

A has no real interest in B or C, he/she is just a bit of a player.

John Tucker just likes girls. Full stop.

It is likely that A could end up with both B and C (and D, and E, and F).


Bill gets to marry everyone he has interest in, so it definitely does not count as a love triangle… a love triangle implies some sort of choice has to be made.

A is Henry VIII.

That man was a law unto himself. His feelings of love, lust, obsession, hatred and tyranny are so fluid we never really end up with a triangle, more of an irregular heptagon.

B and C have no relationship to each other.

Marianne Dashwood is left heartbroken by Willoughby, in favour of the wealthy but malicious Miss Grey (who Marianne has only seen once, across a crowded ballroom). Each corner of a triangle must be joined by a line. If there is nothing between two of the points it is simply not a triangle.

So tell me, am I wrong? Are these legitimate examples of love triangles? Can you think of any more ‘fake triangles’?

D x

Before I Met You

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I’m writing this review as part of Love Triangles 101, the blogger event hosted by Paola and Alix over at A Novel Idea.

9780099559535

(Image borrowed from Waterstones.com)

Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell tells the story of two young girls from the Channel Islands making their way in London. The first is Arlette, a shop-girl from the 1920’s experimenting with the new fashions and ideas that surround her. The other is Betty, Arlette’s granddaughter, on a mission to track down a mystery beneficiary in her grandmother’s will. This book seems like the perfect on to focus on for LT101, as each leading lady gets embroiled in at least one love triangle at some point.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, then you’ll know that a sprinkling of historical fiction is a particular guilty pleasure of mine, and nothing seems quite so fabulous as the flapper age. Arlette introduces us to a world of Sidecars and cigarette smoke, jazz clubs and artists, all providing a contrast to the slightly grungy world of Betty’s 1990’s Soho. The detailing is impeccable, which is a big issue for me. I like to believe that the novels I read could be true, so if an author researches the minutiae I’m generally a happy bunny.

One of the pro’s of having two parallel stories in a book, especially when those two stories are set in different periods, is that we can see a much wider range of issues. Love triangles have a tendency to be quite generic, so it’s good to be shown a more varied perspective. Arlette for example, is affected by the strict gender stereotypes and racial prejudices of the early 20th century. Her side of the story is also quite heavily influenced by ‘what people think’ and ‘doing the right thing’. Betty, on the other hand, has no such inhibitions. She exemplifies the freedom given to us nowadays, and acts purely on ‘want’. The two separate narratives also give the author a bit more space to explore the characters, I’ve come across literary relationships that have too much crammed into them many a time, but the ones in Before I Met You are allowed to be much more real.

Now, about those love triangles. Betty’s is fairly straightforward. We have a young, strapped-for-cash girl faced with a choice between a Don Juan-esque rockstar who is willing to offer her the future she dreams of, or a grubby, caustic market vendor. I’m not in the business of spoilers, so I’m not going to give the game away, but I found this one pretty easy to predict at the start. However, as you got deeper and deeper into the novel it became increasingly less clear who she was going to pick, if any. A book that makes you question yourself is a good book.

Arlette’s triangle was less of a triangle, and more of a mobile octagon. For the bulk of the story, we don’t know who the main point of the triangle are. Is it Arlette, one her friends and Godfrey? Is it Arlette, Godfrey and Gideon? Is it Arlette, Godfrey and the mystery woman? Is it Arlette, Godfrey and her future husband? Is it Arlette, Gideon and his future wife? This is the kind of love triangle that gets top marks from me. The one that not only provides multiple scenarios and a slowly revealed climax, but actually makes you change your mind… and then once you’ve settled on your dream couple you’re presented with the very real possibility that they might just not end up together… Emotionally wrenching, to say in the least.

Both of these stories are equally compelling, and they are quite seamlessly woven together. Neither of the love triangles involved are too obvious, neither involves a stunning, perfect girl picking between a nice dependable guy (or werewolf) and a dangerous bad boy (or vampire). External factors get taken into account in such a way that you can actually believe in these characters, and you can’t help but genuinely feel for them. I feel that I should also mention that the love stories are not the main focus of the plot, they just add an extra sparkle of human interest.

So have you come across any good love triangles recently? Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Love Triangle 101 posts, click here to see the schedule.

D x