Let’s Talk Bookish: What Makes a Book YA?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. Today’s discussion topic is ‘What makes a book YA?’ which I think is quite an interesting topic at the moment. YA is very popular and has evolved a lot over the last 20 years. The age range for YA is generally described as 12-18. In the UK you tend to see a bit more of a divide in bookshops, where there is a ‘teen’ section which would be books aimed at 12-14 year-olds and a ‘YA’ section which is more 14+, with YA dealing with more mature subject matter than teen fiction.

So what makes a book YA? Well, some of the things that seem to be common across most YA is that they explore the lives of young characters finding their place in the world or discovering something about themselves. While plot is important, characters are vital to YA. There is usually romance (though I would happily see more YA focusing on friendship than romance) and the pacing is often faster than Adult titles.  

Then there is crossover. Crossover can go two ways. It can be a YA novel that has appeal for adults so is published as YA but also marketed to adults. Or an Adult book that has appeal to a YA audience so is published as Adult but also marketed to YA readers. I don’t think there’s any problem with this when utilised appropriately. It’s a great way for books to reach more hands of people who will enjoy them. But I think it can become confusing for people in relation to the what’s YA and what’s Adult debate.

There are definitely issues with how women authors are categorised, particularly in the fantasy genre. I see time and time again novels by women that are labelled as Adult fantasy still ending up in the YA section of the book shop or with a YA label on Goodreads. For example, I always see some V. E. Schwab books in the YA section of the bookshop even though they are Adult. From a reader perspective this makes it difficult to know what you’re reading. I’d like to know when I read a book whether it’s YA or Adult (or crossover) so I can have appropriate expectations of what to expect when I read it.

One issue with this is that books aimed at adults, potentially with adult content not suitable for younger readers, ends up in the YA section and being unknowingly picked up by readers at the younger end of that age category.

A series that often gets discussed with regards to this issue is the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas. The series has been categorised as YA but has a warning about content not being suitable for younger readers on the back cover. If you haven’t read it, there are some seriously steamy sex scenes that are much more graphic than anything else I’ve read in YA. But at the same time, I think this series does appeal to a YA audience. So I can see why it was put in the YA category, since Maas’s first series, Throne of Glass, was YA as well. But with this amount of sexual content, especially later in the series, it probably should have been shelved as Adult. Fortunately, I picked this series up as an adult, but if I’d read it as a younger teen…hmm…well…it probably wouldn’t have been appropriate and I would have been surprised to find that content in a book I’d picked up in the YA section.

There seems to be an issue with fantasy being edged towards the YA category rather than Adult because it’s been written by a woman, when it would fit better in the Adult category. Adult science-fiction and fantasy is full of amazing works by women, but it still seems to be a genre dominated by men.

Attitudes towards female sci-fi and fantasy authors needs to change. It’s completely ridiculous that fantasy by women so often gets pushed towards YA purely because of the author’s gender.

What do you think makes a book YA? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

June 2020 Wrap Up

This has not been a very good month unfortunately. A couple of years ago I hurt my back, it took months to recover, and a couple of weeks ago I managed to twinge it again. I’m in pain all the time and had to take a few days off work because I just couldn’t sit at my computer. That also means I’ve not been able to do as much blogging as I had planned and missed several posts that I had planned to write. It’s slowly getting better and I am able to spend some time at my computer now so will be back to blogging a little more regularly again, though I am still in pain.  

At the beginning of the month I finished The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins, a prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy. I was excited to return to this world and it was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. While it was good, I didn’t love it as much as the original trilogy.

I also read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, which I have had waiting on my shelf for several months, as I don’t read much contemporary fiction. I’m very glad I finally read it as it’s a very powerful novel. I had no hesitation giving it 5 stars.    

Fear is the fifth book in Michael Grant’s Gone series. I have been working my way through this series quite slowly, though that’s more a reflection on my reading than enjoyment of the books! This book was good but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous ones. I’m still excited to read the final book though.

I just had to read The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White as I love King Arthur legends. This retelling has a really interesting concept that Guinevere is not the real Guinevere, but has taken her place as fiancé to King Arthur so that she can use her magic to protect him. Although I enjoyed it, I only gave it 3 stars. I think perhaps the style was not quite to my taste and there were a lot of unanswered questions still at the end of the book. But I liked it enough that I will definitely be reading the sequel.  

I absolutely adored Autumn de Wilde’s adaptation of Emma, so decided to read the book. I’m only a little way in but loving it so far.

This month was quite a quiet book buying month for me, which is probably a good thing as I have many already on my shelf that need reading! I received a Word Cloud Classics edition of Emma for my birthday. And bought The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle as part of my research for my next novel. It’s a lovely leather-bound edition with illustrations.

My back pain also put my novel planning on the back burner for a bit unfortunately. But I am still ready to write my King Arthur retelling for the July edition of CampNaNoWriMo! I’m excited to get writing as I am so excited for these characters and this story.  

What books did you enjoy reading this month? Let me know in the comments!  

Mid-year Reading Round Up 2020

I have had a really good year for reading so far! I’ve had more time for reading than usual since I’ve not been able to go anywhere, so I am going to smash my reading challenge goal this year. I set a goal of reading 30 books which at the beginning of the year I thought would be a hard target since I only read 20 last year, but I’ve already surpassed 20 and it’s only halfway through the year!

So far I have read 23 books this year with the following ratings:

5 stars – 3

4.5 stars – 1

4 stars – 7  

3.5 stars – 3

3 stars – 8  

2 stars – 1

I’ve read quite a lot of 3 and 3.5 star books. Hopefully the second half of the year will have more higher rated ones!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – This was one of the first books I read this year and it blew me away. It was so unique but also gripping. I also read the sequel, Gemina, which I also loved, though I only gave it 4 stars as I enjoyed Illuminae more.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – This book is just so good. I had to give it 5 stars. I couldn’t think of anything negative to say about it. It’s so well written with great characters and an important message. 

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare – I love Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters world and I can’t believe it took me so long to start the Dark Artifices series!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – As I loved Illuminae, I decided to pick up another of this writing duo’s sci-fi novels and was not disappointed!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I have to mention a few of the 4 star reads that particularly stood out.

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas – This book was a great finale to the main trilogy. The stakes were high and I was hooked all the way through!

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin – There was so much hype for this book so I was worried it wouldn’t live up to that but it really surprised me and I actually loved it. I can’t wait for Blood & Honey to come out in September!

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer – This is another one that surprised me. I wasn’t sure it would be for me but it was so good!

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller – This book wasn’t on my radar at all but I got it in Fairyloot’s February box so decided to give it a go and really enjoyed it. It’s a short, fun, standalone fantasy romance.

What are your favourite reads of 2020 so far? Let me know in the comments!

Let’s Talk Bookish: How Do You Feel About ‘Strong Female Characters’?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. Today’s topic is ‘How do you feel about strong female characters?’ and I think there’s a lot to say about this subject! But what do we mean when we say ‘strong female characters’? The phrase has come to mean female characters who are basically badass at fighting, smart etc. These characters are great, but that’s not what the phrase ‘strong female characters’ should be about. The ‘strong female character’ has become as much as a cliché as the damsel in distress.    

To have a strong character, you don’t have to have female characters who are epic at fighting or who are tough. They don’t have to be physically strong to be a well-developed character. A strong woman doesn’t have to be a woman with all the attributes typically given to male characters. What we actually want when we talk about strong female characters is female characters who are developed as much as male characters. We want complex heroines as much as we want complex heroes.

So I’m not keen on the phrase ‘strong female character’ because it doesn’t really convey what I actually want from my characters as the word ‘strong’ is so loaded and misleading. I want to see realistic, well developed characters. I don’t want to see female characters who are ‘strong’ but lack depth. I want to see a variety of personalities in the female characters I read in books and see in TV/film.

A strong female character should have depth and development, strengths and flaws, and have a role in the story which is important for the plot.

One measure for the portrayal of female characters is the ‘Bechdel test’ which is not a perfect measure but I will mention it for the purposes of this discussion. In order for a book or film to pass the Bechdel test there have to be at least two female characters, who talk to each other, and who talk about something other than a man. When you look at books and films it’s shocking how many fail on something so simple.

I want all characters to have depth and development. Unfortunately, in books and film it’s most often male characters who have depth and development and female characters are just two-dimensional. This has been changing in the book world. I’m reading so many great books with good female characters, particularly in YA. But there is still a way to go with how female characters are represented in books. Then there is the problem with films. Why are there so few female-led films? We need more movies with developed female characters!

Do you have any thoughts on strong female characters? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

2020 Releases by Black Authors

It’s just heart-breaking watching what is happening in the US right now and what has been happening there for so so so many years. It’s also important to remember that there is racism all over the world as well, including here in the UK. As a white woman I am not in a position to understand what black people are going through right now. And I don’t want to take away from black voices, but I can’t remain silent either. All I can say is that I stand against racism and I stand with you. No one should live in fear because of the colour of their skin. You can find information, resources and links to places to donate and petitions to sign on the Black Lives Matter website. If you’re a white person, educate yourself on racism and consider what you can do to be an ally.    

One thing we can do is to support black authors and creatives. I have to acknowledge that in the past I didn’t take enough consideration into to what books I was reading. The problem is that it’s always books by white authors that get pushed to the front by publishers etc (which is definitely something that needs to change). Looking at my bookshelf, I realised I haven’t read many books by black authors. This is something I want to rectify so going forward I’ll be paying more attention to what books I’m reading. We need to support black authors and creatives ALL THE TIME, not just now.

So today on my blog I’m going to be sharing some 2020 releases by black authors.


Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash. Separated by distance – and Papi’s secrets – the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

In a dual narrative novel in verse that brims with both grief and love, award-winning and bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.


A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

The first in a gripping fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore in which a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction-from debut author Roseanne A. Brown. Perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi, Renee Ahdieh, and Sabaa Tahir.

For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts his younger sister, Nadia, as payment to enter the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal-kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.

But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.

When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a heart-pounding course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?


A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

Legacies meets Nic Stone’s Dear Martin in Bethany C. Morrow’s debut YA, A Song Below Water, about two best friends discovering their magical identities against the challenges of today’s racism and sexism.

Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Nevermind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes.

But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.


A Phoenix First Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell

Evoking Beyonce’s Lemonade for a YA audience, these authors have woven worlds to create stunning narratives that centre Black women and gender nonconforming individuals. With fantasy, science fiction and magic at their core, the stories are sharp, atmospheric and visual explorations of histories, relationships and alternate universes that you can’t help but to get lost in. It will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, trauma and heroism, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines of A PHOENIX FIRST MUST BURN are unforgettable and shine brightly.

Authors include Elizabeth Acevedo, Amerie, Dhonielle Clayton, Jalissa Corrie, Somaiya Daud, Charlotte Davis, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Justina Ireland, Danny Lore, L.L. McKinney, Danielle Paige, Rebecca Roanhorse, Karen Strong, Ashley Woodfolk, and Ibi Zoboi.


Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

From Stonewall and Lambda Award-winning author Kacen Callender comes a revelatory YA novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time.

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve.


Black Girl Unlimited by Echo Brown

Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side, where apartments are small and parents suffer addictions to the white rocks. Yet there is magic . . . everywhere. New portals begin to open when Echo transfers to the rich school on the West Side, and an insightful teacher becomes a pivotal mentor. Each day, Echo travels between two worlds, leaving her brothers, her friends, and a piece of herself behind on the East Side. There are dangers to leaving behind the place that made you. Echo soon realizes there is pain flowing through everyone around her, and a black veil of depression threatens to undo everything she’s worked for.

Heavily autobiographical and infused with magical realism, Black Girl Unlimited fearlessly explores the intersections of poverty, sexual violence, depression, racism, and sexism—all through the arc of a transcendent coming-of-age.


Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles

In his first contemporary teen novel, critically acclaimed author and two-time Edgar Award finalist Lamar Giles spotlights the consequences of societal pressure, confronts toxic masculinity, and explores the complexity of what it means to be a “real man.”

Del has had a crush on Kiera Westing since kindergarten. And now, during their junior year, she’s finally available. So when Kiera volunteers for an opportunity at their church, Del’s right behind her. Though he quickly realizes he’s inadvertently signed up for a Purity Pledge.

His dad thinks his wires are crossed, and his best friend, Qwan, doesn’t believe any girl is worth the long game. But Del’s not about to lose his dream girl, and that’s where fellow pledger Jameer comes in. He can put in the good word. In exchange, Del just has to get answers to the Pledgers’ questions…about sex ed.

With other boys circling Kiera like sharks, Del needs to make his move fast. But as he plots and plans, he neglects to ask the most important question: What does Kiera want? He can’t think about that too much, though, because once he gets the girl, it’ll all sort itself out. Right?


Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

It’s 200 years since Cinderella found her prince, but the fairytale is over. Sophia knows the story though, off by heart. Because every girl has to recite it daily, from when she’s tiny until the night she’s sent to the royal ball for choosing. And every girl knows that she has only one chance. For the lives of those not chosen by a man at the ball … are forfeit. But Sophia doesn’t want to be chosen – she’s in love with her best friend, Erin, and hates the idea of being traded like cattle. And when Sophia’s night at the ball goes horribly wrong, she must run for her life. Alone and terrified, she finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s tomb. And there she meets someone who will show her that she has the power to remake her world … An electrifying twist on the classic fairytale that will inspire girls to break out of limiting stereotypes and follow their dreams!


Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Filled with mystery and an intriguingly rich magic system, Tracy Deonn’s YA contemporary fantasy Legendborn offers the dark allure of City of Bones with a modern-day twist on a classic legend and a lot of Southern Black Girl Magic.

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her previous life, family memories, or her childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at a local university seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure reveals Bree’s own, unique magic and unlocks a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that she knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, Bree will do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn by becoming one of their initiates. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur and his knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.


Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Nothing is more important than loyalty.

But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself? With extraordinary world-building and breathtaking prose, Raybearer is the story of loyalty, fate, and the lengths we’re willing to go for the ones we love.


If there are any other 2020 releases by black authors you want to shout out about, share them in the comments. Or if you have any book recommendations please share those too!

May 2020 Wrap Up

This month has been really warm here in the UK. It’s felt like summer not spring! I’m still working from home full time which provides some structure to my days. I’m happy with the amount of reading and writing I have managed to do this month during my down time.

Reading

My first read of the month was The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. This book was okay but I didn’t love it. I don’t think it was for me. A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas was such a good conclusion to the original ACOTAR trilogy and I’m excited to read more books in this series. I took part in the readalong for Fairyloot’s delayed March box which was for Bone Crier’s Moon by Kathryn Purdie. It’s a really imaginative YA fantasy but I didn’t love it as much as some other YA fantasy I have read. 

I’m currently reading The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins which I had pre-ordered! The Hunger Games is one of my favourite series so I couldn’t wait to return to that world. I won’t say more until I’ve finished reading it, expect a review in the next few days!

Book Haul

My copy of Illumicrate’s special edition of Aurora Burning arrived and it’s gorgeous. The original cover is orange but their edition has a blue cover and edges and it looks amazing. The other exclusive edition I received was Bone Crier’s Moon in Fairyloot’s March box. Burn is one of my anticipated books of the year. I’m really curious to see what Patrick Ness does with dragons! I also got A Darker Shade of Magic on my Kindle because I’ve been meaning to try a V. E. Schwab book for ages so now I’ll hopefully actually get round to reading it.

Writing

I’ve been doing more research and planning for my King Arthur retelling. It’s going well so I will be continuing planning in June with the idea of hopefully taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo in July, but more on that nearer the time.

What books did you enjoy reading this month? What have you been getting up to? Let me know in the comments!  

Let’s Talk Bookish: Subscription Boxes

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s topic is ‘Subscription Boxes’.

I only discovered bookish subscription boxes last year but they’ve been around for a little while now. The basic idea is that once a month you get a box in the post that includes a new release book and a few bookish items. Some companies also offer book only or item only options. Sounds appealing right? That’s exactly what I thought when I discovered book boxes existed. It’s super exciting waiting for the box to arrive and then the surprise of opening it since you don’t know what’s going to be inside! Plus, they often do special edition boxes for big new releases in which all the items are themed around that book/series e.g. Chain of Gold, Queen of Nothing.

So far, I have tried Fairyloot, Illumicrate and Book Box Club which are all UK based. I haven’t tried any US based ones yet as shipping is really expensive. I’ve only had one box from Illumicrate so far and while I liked it, I didn’t feel there was as much included as the Fairyloot boxes I’ve had. Literally just this week I had my first Book Box Club box. The May theme was around dragons which I absolutely adore so this theme was just perfect for me. However, it didn’t feel like there was much in the box, there were only a few small items. Unlike Illumicrate and Fairyloot who offer exclusive editions (usually with sprayed edges, exclusive cover design etc), the books included in Book Box Club appear to be just the standard editions. What Book Box Club does offer though is a member-exclusive book group with the author of the featured book which sounds really cool, though I haven’t tried it out yet since I only just got my first box from them.

In comparison, the three monthly Fairyloot boxes I’ve had so far (October, February and March) seem to offer better value for money than the Illumicrate and Book Box Club ones I’ve had. They were full to the brim with a mixture of great small and larger items. So out of the three, Fairyloot stands out to me as the best in terms of their monthly boxes.

I recently received the special edition boxes for Chain of Gold from Illumicrate and Fairyloot. In this case, I think it was the Illumicrate box that was the best. All the items worked really well together and were unique and interesting. I was blown away by how amazing their box was. From looking at their past special edition boxes, Illumicrate seem to be really good at these.

I don’t think I will become a regular subscriber to a book subscription box as much as I would love to.  They are quite expensive. By the time VAT and shipping is added the monthly boxes come to roughly £32. The other problem is that the kinds of items included do seem to be a bit repetitive, so I can imagine ending up with lots of similar items that I don’t know what to do with. I would be more likely to subscribe if there was less repetition and more unique items in each box. Also, as the contents are a surprise (which to be fair is part of what makes receiving them exciting) there is the potential to be disappointed so it can be a bit hit and miss.

As I have a lot more time for reading at the moment due to not being able to go anywhere, I will probably get a few more boxes this year. Plus, I need something to look forward to right now. I’m in the at risk group so I can’t go anywhere, not even to the supermarket! Receiving book boxes will provide some much-needed bright spots in what is quite a difficult time right now. When things get back to normal though I will probably go back to just getting the occasional box as a treat.  

How do you feel about subscription boxes? Are you subscribed to any? Which would you recommend? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!   

Let’s Talk Bookish: Should We Read More Serious Books?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s topic is ‘Should We Read More Serious Books’.

My general feeling is that people should read whatever they enjoy. But does that mean we should never stray from our comfort zone? No, I think it can be good to read a variety of genres and types of books. However I very rarely read nonfiction or biographies. I don’t generally enjoy reading this kind of book. I find they don’t hold my attention. I just can’t get in to them. Fiction is definitely what I enjoy.

One of the questions posed in the prompt is ‘Should we read more serious books as a result of COVID-19?’ Right now, I feel like we’re all just trying to get through this difficult time. Right now, I want to read books I know I’ll enjoy because I need to find an escape from all the stress and anxiety of the situation we find ourselves in. For me, this doesn’t feel like the right time to start looking for ‘serious’ reads. But for people who find themselves with more time on their hands, taking the opportunity to discover something different, whether that be serious books or something else, might be a great thing.

Sometimes I do feel like I should try and read more nonfiction. The problem is I don’t really know what to choose! I’ve yet to read a nonfiction book I have actually liked. So I’m not sure exactly what kind of thing I might enjoy. The only time I read nonfiction is for research for my writing. At the moment I’m reading a book on Arthurian Literature and Legend but it’s for research for a retelling I’m planning more than enjoyment, I’m doing a lot of highlighting and note taking! I’m also reading The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook Guide to Getting Published for when I’m ready to start submitting my book. But I wouldn’t choose to pick up a nonfiction book to read for fun. Maybe I just haven’t found my nonfiction jam yet!

Do you read nonfiction? Do you have any recommendations for me? I’d love to know what you think about this topic so chat with me in the comments!  

Let’s Talk Bookish: What Makes A Good Villain

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s topic is ‘What Makes A Good Villain’!

Villains are an important part of any story. Our heroes have to face obstacles to achieving their goal and there is almost always a villain standing in their way. But what makes a good villain? I like to see villains that are just as fleshed out and developed as our protagonists. Cardboard cut-out villains just fall flat. I want an antagonist who has motivations, wants, desires, a back story (be it tragic or not so tragic).

Good villains can fall into different categories. There are the evil for the sake of evil villains, who I find very rarely work effectively. A baddie with an evil cackle is just cliché and boring. I like to see complexity in villains. Yes they might well be evil, but why? Is there something in their history that made them that way? Even the pure evil kind of villains can have layers and complexity to them. For evil villains, I want them to genuinely scare me. I want to be scared for my favourite characters. An example that springs to mind is Amarantha from A Court of Thorns and Roses. She’s evil, twisted and sinister and I found Maas’s depiction of her character utterly chilling.

Alternatively, the villain could believe their actions are justified, genuinely believe that what they’re doing is right or for the greater good in some way, but their choices to achieve their goal are morally wrong or result in the deaths of innocents for example. Or the antagonist could be conflicted, fighting between the dark and the light inside them, and maybe they have a redemption arc. Maybe the antagonist isn’t evil at all, they’ve just fallen in with the wrong crowd in an attempt to fit in or have been blackmailed. Can they be redeemed? Or do they succumb to the darkness growing inside them? An interesting angle is having morally grey antagonists (and even grey protagonists too). When the lines between good and evil are more blurred, that can make for a really captivating story.   

I also enjoy books where we have more than one antagonist. There might be a main villain, the evil person who the hero has to defeat at the end of the book/series, and then other antagonists whom the protagonist comes into contact with more frequently and provides a more direct and personal conflict. For an easy example, I’d categorise Voldemort as the main villain in Harry Potter, but Draco is an antagonist who Harry comes into direct conflict with more often as they have an ongoing rivalry.

But how does the story end for the villain? Many books end with the downfall or death of the villain. In order for the heroes to succeed, they have to vanquish the antagonist. However, sometimes an antagonist gets a redemption arc. I do like a good redemption arc but it has to be done well in order to be a satisfying conclusion to that character’s story.

What do you think about villains? Who are your favourite villains from book or screen? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

April 2020 Wrap Up

April has been a strange month. Adapting the way we live has been a challenge. It’s been strange getting used to working at home all the time and not being able to meet and see people. NHS and key works are all doing such an amazing job right now keeping us alive and keeping the country moving. These are hard times but we will reach the other side eventually.

Since I’ve not been able to go anywhere, I have found more time for doing things I enjoy like reading and writing, which is one plus of this situation. Always look for the positives!

Reading

I finally started Cassandra Clare’s The Dark Artifices series. Lady Midnight was such a good book. I just loved getting to know this new cast of characters. I was one of the lucky people to get an eARC of The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant which was one of my anticipated reads for this year. Unfortunately it wasn’t as good as I was hoping. It was a good read but I didn’t love it. Since I loved Illuminae, I decided to pick up Aurora Rising, the first book in Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s new series. I adored this book so much. It was fast paced and I was hooked all the way through. Finally, I just finished reading Caraval by Stephanie Garber and will be posting my review for that soon. Sadly, this is another book I found a tad disappointing. I think perhaps this book just wasn’t for me.

Book Haul

I’m so missing being able to go into bookshops and browse! I pre-ordered The Deck of Omens by Christine Lynn Herman. The Devouring Gray was one of my favourite books from last year, so I had to get my hands on the sequel. More people need to read this book, so if you haven’t picked up The Devouring Gray yet, I’d recommend it! I also received my Fairyloot and Illumicrate copies of Chain of Gold. I won’t post photos of their exclusive editions here as I don’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone who hasn’t had their box yet!

Writing

It’s been full steam ahead for my Arthurian legend retelling idea. I’ve been doing lots of research around the legends and also getting to know my characters through making character charts. I’m having lots of fun planning this one!

What have you been getting up to? Are there any books you read this month that you absolutely loved? I hope you’re all managing to stay safe and well!