Monday 15 January 2018

The House of Mountfathom - Book Review

The House of Mountfathom
Nigel McDowell


The House of Mountfathom. A place of wonder, magic and mystery. A house with doors that lead to faraway places, where shape-shifting and smoke-summoning are as commonplace as the rising and setting of the sun.

Luke is the son of the noble house with a magical education to fulfil; Killian, a sharp-tongued street urchin with an agenda of his own. Together the pair will have to tread a unique and brave path if they are to save the House of Mountfathom and preserve the very peace of the land…


This book was more unique than most. I throughly enjoyed the enchanting descriptions that contributed to the world building, as well as the author’s choppy yet poetic writing style. However the story itself was nothing like I expected, and while I can’t say I loved the plot, it did strike a chord that left me thinking about it long after the last page was turned. 

Luke is the only child of Lord and Lady Mounthfathom, one day to inherit the family’s magical mansion, along with the responsibility to remain a peace keeper for the realm. But as Luke’s training progresses, unrest and uprisings break out across the country, and suddenly he and his family are stuck between two warring sides - both of whom thirst for the destruction of Luke’s family, and all who wield the power of magic… 

 I found this a very difficult book to review.

The opening prologue is rather confusing (although you will get an “A-HA” moment near the end of the book) but that, mixed with the clipped writing style makes the first few pages difficult to navigate. However I soon found myself really enjoying the choppy writing. It keep’s you present, allowing you to live in the story alongside the characters, and I felt it really enhanced the descriptions.

However while the writing felt quick, it also helped balance the slow unfurling of the plot. And by slow I mean crawling. You literally follow the main character Luke from cradle to mid-teens, and while I wasn't bored reading through his childhood, after I finished the book I couldn't help but wonder WHAT the point of it all was - other than a chance to enrich the world. 

Mid-way through the book though, we are introduced to a new character, Killian, who spices things up as he is the opposite to Luke in every way. From Killian’s point of entry, the story is then split into Killian and Luke’s dual narratives, which really helps up the pacing. 

By the time you are two thirds into the story, the action really begins to snowball, faster and faster… until it suddenly stops. Not just stops, but the action literally disappears, and the story takes a sudden new route. As a reader this really threw me, and left me completely baffled with the ending. 

However, what kept me reading was throughout the book there was an underlying theme surrounding Luke, centring around his fear of stepping away from his sheltered life into the unknown - in this case - a magical void of darkness in which lurks a monster.

Is that monster death? Life? Fear itself? In many ways - this sudden philosophical turn in the story is left to the readers imagination, but this was the moment I found Nigel McDowell’s writing truly beautiful, and extremely deep. I also felt like the book was trying to send some kind of message or life lesson, and unfortunately, I hate when books do that. 

Therefore somewhat disgruntled by the ending, I then went on to read the authors Bio as I usually do, only to discover that Nigel McDowell passed away at the age of 34, shortly after completion of this novel. 


I’m not sure why, but suddenly I appreciated this book a lot more. I’m only surmising, but I felt this story was very personal to the author and is perhaps even a echo of his thoughts and what ifs. 

It turned what I thought was a preachy ending, into a story that required some more time for contemplation and quiet reflection.

Even so, I don't think this book is for everyone. Sold as a middle-grade novel, I think children will be ensnared by the magic and imagination of the world and characters, but regardless of age - I think most readers will still find the story itself somewhat flat. All in all, I’d give this book 3 stars. However I will most definitely be reading Nigel McDowell’s other two books, THE BLACK NORTH, and TALES FROM PITCH END. 

RIP Nigel McDowell. 

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Have any of you read this book? If so what were you're thoughts? Or did you prefer another of the authors books?

Monday 8 January 2018

Sticking to your Goals!

(New Years Eve Bonfire in Allendale - warm and toasty!)

Sticking To Your Goals (Writing Edition!)

Hey everyone. HAPPY NEW YEAR! I wish you all health, happiness and the best of luck for achieving everything you want in 2018 :) With a clean slate ahead of us, I hope we can all make this year a memorable one!

So today I wanted to talk about methods that help me stay on track with my goals. I’m sure many of you have written lists, set new year’s resolutions, and made plans about all the things you want to achieve… but while the good intentions are always there, I for one find sticking to my goals super difficult.

After doing lots of research into the habits of successful people (I found many of them do very similar things) here are the tips and tricks that help make me more productive.


If you google this term, so many things will come up, but the basis of the idea is to HANDWRITE three pages by letting everything that comes to mind spill out onto the page. Don’t worry if it makes no sense - just write it down - even if your writing, “I don't know what to write.” Sit there for five minutes and something will come... Probably.

I like morning pages because while I only write them every other day, they leave me clear headed and with a much better grasp of exactly WHAT is going on in my brain! It allows me to see any obstacles, making morning pages my peak problem solving time. 

My pages tend to vary day to day. Sometimes they are more like diary entries, often recounting things I did the previous day, other times they focus on my future goals and dreams. For the most part though, they give me the opportunity to brainstorm ideas (without feeling guilty that I’m cheating on my current project), even if the ideas are only half formed. 

Sometimes I jot down my frustrations at myself, my characters, my story in general, and more often than not, solutions soon present themselves.

I would really, really recommend giving morning  pages (or nighttime pages  - time doesn't really matter) a go. They have helped not just with my writing, but often with my day to day life as well.


Another trick is to use writing prompts. Even five minutes spent on a fixed task can loosen up those writing muscles and get your creativity flowing! 

You can find plenty of story prompts online, but some books I would recommend are:

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott 
Anything written by James Scott Bell
The Magic Words by Cheryl B. Klein 


I love t0-do lists. I'm always making them... and until a few months ago, nearly always ignoring them. Yet I found early on, if my list looks like this:

  • Make Doctors Appointment
  • Write 1000 words
  • Write a Book Review
  • Critique 1 Chapter for X

….. NOTHING EVER GETS DONE! Not only would my list just grow, but I would procrastinate the day away! However when I write my list like this, everything seems so much more achievable:

  • Ring Doctor’s on 0123456789 at 9.30am to make an appointment. (+ set a timed reminder on your phone)
  • Write Classroom scene:

       - Introduce Will-o-the-wisp teacher + Petey & Ajax. 
    - Rin gets bullied (stings, bites, raised hand)
    - Explain magic system of the school x 3 types of monster

  • Review Wendy Darling Book 3: Spend 30 minutes 
  • Read & Critique 3 pages for X: Spend 30 minutes

Don’t just write down WHAT you need to do. Write down HOW these things will be done, and WHEN they will be done by. Bigger tasks you can break down into bitesize chunks, for example rather than just writing 1000 words, my target is a specific scene, and from that scene I have three smaller goals which can be tackled one at a time.

If you can’t break your workload down physically, then I suggest cutting it into chunks of time. Often if I set myself 30 minutes to do something, I often find that I will actually sit there for an hour or more. It’s all about getting that momentum going.

EXTRA TIP FOR WRITERS: I mentioned in a previous post, WRITING HACKS AND TRICKS, that one of my favourite tools is an App called WRITERS BLOCK. Like it says on the tin, it blocks me from doing anything else on my computer until I hit my word count goal. 

If I’m being extra tricksty with myself, I load it up the night before. That way, when I open up my computer the next day, writing is literally the only thing I can do! The other option, to sit and type a_space_a_space a thousand times over to clear my screen - is oddly - not that appealing. This is a good trick to get your fingers typing at the start of the day!


We will always have a 101 things to do - that’s life. However each week I write out all my upcoming tasks, then every night I pick no more than FIVE THINGS  that I definitely want to get done the next day. 

However my GOLDEN RULE is this - Every day, at least ONE item on that list needs to help me work toward a LONG TERM GOAL. As an aspiring writer - usually that thing for me is writing, or reading about writing, looking for critique partners, or even attending a writing class. I’ve even written down “movie marathon” on my list once, while I was in search of inspiration. Hey, it all counts! - though try not to cheat too often :P

DON’T CONFUSE ERRANDS WITH GOALS! You will always feel better about yourself if you do one thing that will bring you closer to fulfilling your dreams!

(Only 8K into edits - I really need to push on....)


I know many bloggers who are really into bullet-journalling, and while I love seeing the creative spreads that people do, for the most part, I’m quite happy with a plain old diary.

However when it comes to hitting word counts (and oddly - meeting my financial goals) I love creating pretty trackers that I can colour in at every milestone (or stepping stone) I reach! Much like the STICKY STAR SYSTEM I use for writing - (Writing Hacks & Tricks) -colouring in a tiny square in my bullet journal gives me the same sense of pleasure and achievement. 

However if you can TURN A TASK INTO A REWARD than even better! Right now I’m trying very hard to knit a patchwork blanket. I’m slowly getting close to finishing, but rather than write: Knit one Square onto my to-do list, I keep this project off my list entirely. Instead, this is my reward for completing the day’s tasks. When I tick off my five to-dos, then I get to knit one square, put my feet up and listening to an Audio Book. Win win for me :)

Other Self-rewards:

  • Bullet Journaling - like I said, I enjoy creating my tracker pages, so this is an end of day reward (again while listening to an Audio Book).
  • Cooking - I love trying out new recipes or baking things.
  • Writing - Yes, you read that right! Sometimes when I’m really in the flow of my story - or have left off in an exciting place - I can’t wait to get back to my book! If that’s the case, writing is my reward for completing the more boring tasks like laundry and admin.

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What methods do you use to stay on task? Do any of these methods work for you? I would love it if you could let me know in the comments. I’m always on the look out to try new things that will help me boost my productivity!