March 2021 Wrap Up

I didn’t read that many books this month but I did read The Priory of the Orange Tree which is super long and I’m actually pleased with how quickly I read it considering how long it is.

Links take you to my reviews!

Gut Feelings by C. G. Moore ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This novel in verse is a really raw and powerful read. It’s an own voices novel in verse based on the author’s own experiences of living with Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). I really related to the depiction of chronic illness and would really recommend.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This book is basically a mash up of Percy Jackson and The Hunger Games and that is a really cool combination. The Greek mythology is worked into the story really well and this book was a wild ride.

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I was a bit intimidated by the length of this book but I am so glad I read it. Even though it was long, I never felt bored while reading it. The world building is so detailed and I loved how all the different characters’ stories weave together.

I got so many books in the post this month, but a lot of them were pre-orders, and a couple should have come in February but were delayed. So many books seemed to come out in March? So here’s a quick roundup – Goldsboro edition of Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse, Illumicrate edition of Red Tigress by Amélie Wen Zhao, A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth (I had an eARC of this and just had to pre-order because it was so good), Waterstones paperback edition of House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas, The Unbroken by C. L. Clark, and Fairyloot edition of Bone Crier’s Dawn by Kathryn Purdie.

I made so much progress with the second draft of my book this month so I’m really pleased with that! I hit 72,000 words at the end of March. Still have quite a bit left to go, but I’m hoping I can keep it under 100k as I don’t want it to get too long.

What books have you enjoyed this month? Chat with me in the comments!

Let’s Talk Bookish: Diversity in Books

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s discussion is all about diversity in books, which is a super important topic.

What do you think is the meaning of diverse?

I think diverse, in relation to the book world, means many different voices from different places getting to tell their stories. But as well as authors, it’s also about having diversity in all areas of publishing, as well as attitudes to diversity, which is something that is still changing and evolving and work still needs to be done so that no one is excluded from these spaces. When I think of diverse stories, I think of books with BIPOC, LGBTQ+, neurodiverse and disabled characters.

Who do you think is qualified to write a diverse book?

I’ve seen a lot of discussions recently about #OwnVoices, especially after several cases where authors felt they had to come out because of questions around their sexuality and whether they were ‘qualified’ to write their books. Although having books by people who have lived those experiences is really important, we also shouldn’t be forcing people out of the closet, or making them disclose details about their physical or mental health, that they’re not comfortable to disclose, or which it’s perhaps not safe for them to.  

Another issue, especially when very few books about something are being published, is that one book and one experience is seen as a monolith for that experience. While people from the same background, with the same sexuality, or with the same disability, might have a lot of shared experiences, each person’s experience and viewpoint is also unique, and we shouldn’t view their books and their perspective as the sole example of that experience. This is why we need lots of diverse books!

As a straight, white writer, I’m not the right person to write a book about coming out, or about the Black experience. But I also think it’s important for books to have a diverse cast of characters. Every book should have BIPOC and LGBTQ+ characters, but stories that are about those identities, are probably best told by people who have lived that experience. So #OwnVoices books are really important.    

How do you find diverse books to read?

Seeing people share publication announcements and cover reveals on Twitter, and reading recommendation lists on blogs mainly.

What are some diverse topics/POVs that you specifically look for when you’re finding books and why?

I think it’s important to read diversely and widely, so I try and read books with BIPOC and LGBTQ+ characters. Recently, I’ve also especially been looking for books with disability (which seems to be a lot harder to find?), as I have a chronic illness myself, and would like to see that experience explored in fiction a lot more. I’d also really like to see more disability in fantasy and sci-fi – I want to see disabled people go on adventures!

How do you decide if a diverse topic/POV is done well?

I think this is difficult to do unless you share the character’s identity/disability/etc. So I try and find reviews by people who have shared the experiences explored in the book to see their perspective. But I think there are some red flags that anyone can spot.

Do you have any thoughts on diversity in books? Chat with me in the comments!

Let’s Talk Bookish: Predicting Trends

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week we’re talking about trends! This is a topic I suggested and now I have to come up with something to say about it I’ve realised it’s quite a hard topic! Though I do find looking at trends quite interesting. I’ll mostly be talking about YA since that’s what I have most knowledge about.

There are some genres that always seem to be popular, like fantasy and retellings, but there can be trends within them. Some genres are really popular for a time, and then fade away as the market becomes oversaturated and readers’ attention move on to something else.

Over the past years, I can think of two particularly big trends. After Twilight came out, there were so many vampire and werewolf books in the YA section. Everywhere you looked, there was paranormal romance. I read a lot of these books because they dominated the shelves when I was growing up, but I wasn’t a fan of a lot of them. Then there was the dystopia faze, with books like The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, Delirium and many, many more. This was more my thing as I love science fiction. But I found a lot of the books in the paranormal romance and dystopia fazes were dominated by the same kinds of tropes and got quite repetitive.

With both of those trends, I think the issue was that a lot of those books were just a bit too similar. And because there were so many of them, eventually people moved on to something else and those genres kind of fizzled out. Dystopian books just don’t seem to get published as much in YA these days, which is a shame because I think it’s a really interesting genre. YA books have changed a lot since the dystopia boom, and I’d love to see what new and diverse authors might do with the genre.

As for future trends, dark academia seems to be coming up big. It’s not a genre I really read, but I keep seeing it popping up on Twitter, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a lot of these. Also, with The Great Gatsby coming out of copyright this year, I expect there’ll be an influx of retellings.

I’d love to see a boom in YA science fiction. Not dystopia, but space operas and other subgenres of science fiction. At the moment, there aren’t loads of YA sci-fi books out there, and it’s hard to get YA sci-fi published. I’ve loved the YA sci-fi I’ve read, like Illuminae, Aurora Rising and Defy the Stars, and would love to see more of it out there.

With the pandemic putting a bit of a spanner in the works for the entire world, it will also be interesting to see how that effects trends. Will we see an influx of pandemic/zombie/apocalypse books? Or do we want escapism? Do we want something fun like rom coms?

Trends can be a great thing, as they can really uplift certain books and put them in the spotlight, but that also means that other books don’t get as much attention. And it can be tempting to read whatever is trending, but I think it’s important we read what we enjoy, not just what’s popular! But if what you love is popular, then I guess it means you have a lot of books to choose from…

What trends have you noticed? Do you think trends are a good thing or a bad thing or neither? Chat with me in the comments!  

February 2021 Wrap Up

This month was pretty good for reading considering I read two 5 star reads! I don’t give 5 stars very often so to have two in one month is pretty amazing. But on the flip side, the other two books I read were quite disappointing which isn’t so good.

Links take you to my reviews!

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This was just the perfect ending to the Young Elites series. I felt so emotional reading the last few chapters.

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead ⭐⭐⭐ – This is the third book in the Vampire Academy series and I found it a bit slow. I’m not sure if I’m still enjoying this series enough to continue.

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This was the best book in the Throne of Glass series so far – I loved it! I was hooked all the way through and absolutely devoured it in hardly any time at all.

The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni ⭐⭐ – I’ve started writing my review for this but I think I need a bit of time to process and think through what I want to say about this one. I found the twist ending very frustrating.

I absolutely love Ancient Greek mythology so I just had to have Lore by Alexandra Bracken and I’m excited to read it soon. I ordered a set of signed / signed book plate editions of the Shades of Magic series by V. E. Schwab from Forbidden Planet but at the moment I’ve only received the second and third books. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever get A Darker Shade of Magic.

I had a bit of a wobble this month and didn’t do any writing for more than a week. I wasn’t feeling so good and just wasn’t feeling like writing. But I’m now 40,000 words into the second draft of my Arthurian retelling WIP so I’m still pretty pleased with my progress. I think this second draft is definitely going to be longer than the first at this rate!

What books have you enjoyed this month? Chat with me in the comments!

Let’s Talk Bookish: Has Blogging Affected Your Reading?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. Today’s topic was suggested by Mini @ Book and Corner and is all about the impact blogging has had on our reading.

Has blogging affected your reading in a positive or negative way? If so, how?

Before I started regularly blogging, I’d find books by browsing my local Waterstones. I wasn’t aware of what was hyped or popular, wasn’t clued up on upcoming releases. I simply went into the shop and browsed and shelves and the tables and picked up whatever I fancied. In some ways, I miss that, because I liked not knowing what I might discover.

Whereas now, I’m so aware of what’s out there and upcoming releases, that when I go in a bookshop and look at the shelves, I recognise all (well, a lot of anyway) of the books, so there’s less surprises. But at the same time, I like the anticipation of waiting for a new book to be released, of being able to get excited for a book to come out. It’s also easier to find books I think I’ll enjoy when I’m more aware of what’s out there, and if I’ve read reviews before buying a book, I’m less likely to end up with books that aren’t for me.

Blogging and reading more about upcoming books, reading more reviews and posts, has meant I’ve discovered some amazing books that I wouldn’t have come across in Waterstones. They don’t stock everything on their shelves. Being part of the blogging community has also made me seek out diverse reads a lot more, and that is definitely a very good thing.

But it’s also very easy to get sucked into the hype around a book, even if you’re not sure it’s for you. Sometimes that means discovering a new favourite, and sometimes it means being disappointed. It can be tempting to always get drawn towards the books that get shouted about the most, when there are other amazing books out there that haven’t had so much attention.

Blogging makes me excited for reading, and so I do feel like I’ve been reading more since I’ve been more actively blogging.

Do you think the pressures to produce content can result in a bad relationship with books?

I love blogging and talking about books. But I do sometimes feel pressured to post consistently. Taking breaks when you need to is important. If you’re in a reading slump, that’s okay, you don’t have to force yourself to blog. Blogging should be fun. So I’m careful to try and avoid it becoming something that’s stressful. But sometimes that’s easier said than done.

How do you balance blogging and reading?

Balancing hobbies can be so hard. I’m currently balancing my day job, reading, blogging and writing, all along with being chronically ill. I feel frustrated when I’m struggling with my energy levels, because I have so many things I want to do. For me, writing always has to come first, because it’s my dream to become an author and I have to prioritise it if I want to reach that dream one day. I read and blog when I can, but I do sometimes wish I had more time and energy for reading, because I really do love it. 

Do you think you would have started blogging if it weren’t for books or vice versa?

As I’ve always loved writing, I think I would have ended up with a blog of some kind. Writing fiction is my passion, but I enjoy writing of all kinds, including writing blog posts. As I love books, whether it be reading them or writing them, it made sense to have a blog dedicated to them.

Has blogging changed your reading habits? Do you read more? Do you read different kinds of books to before you started blogging? Chat with me in the comments!

Let’s Talk Bookish: What Makes a Book Beautiful

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion.

Ahhh book covers! They say not to judge a book by it’s cover, but often the cover is the first thing we see, and does impact our first impressions of a book. There are so many different styles and attractive covers definitely draw the eye. But aside from the aesthetic of the cover, I think it’s also important that it reflects the content and mood of the book as well.

While simplistic covers can be really effective, I do love a cover that has a really striking illustration. I’m really glad a lot of covers have moved away from photographs of people to illustration-based covers. A lot of the photo-based covers just look so similar, and beautiful artwork is so much more eye-catching to me. I remember when YA covers were dominated by girls in dresses. Almost every book had a fancy dress, which was really pretty, but made almost every book look the same, and often they were wearing a dress on the cover for absolutely no reason at all. I much prefer when covers convey what’s inside the book, and to see characters represented more accurately, and with more action-poses (if relevant of course) than just models lounging around in dresses.

One of my favourite illustrated covers is Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim, which was illustrated by Tran Nguyen. The composition of this artwork is simply stunning. The main character’s pose and the flow of the fabric around them just makes it really dynamic. But it also really captures the book as Maia is a tailor. It incorporates her magic scissors, and the fabric Maia is holding is decorated with the sun, moon and stars, which are the materials she must sew three magic dresses from. The more I look at it, the more amazing details I notice which reference back to the book!

I really like it when a book series has a really satisfying set of covers, where you get to see a different character on each one, or which really conveys the evolution of the story and characters over the course of the series. For example, the new Daughter of Smoke and Bone covers with art by Peter Strain that came out last year work really well together as a set. I also really like them because they’re unique and stand out, as well as being beautiful.

Aside from covers, there are other details that can make a book beautiful, such as the finish of the dust jacket / paperback cover. I also love when I take a dust jacket off a hardback book and find there’s a design stamped into the naked hardcover! Books also sometimes get sprayed edges, which look amazing, especially when the edge colour matches the cover really well. 

And I thought I’d end this post with a selection of some other covers I absolutely love:

What cover styles do you like? What are your favourite covers? Chat with me in the comments!

Let’s Talk Bookish: Clichés and Tropes

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s discussion is all about clichés and tropes, and it’s a topic that I suggested, so I’m looking forward to diving in.

A trope is an element that occurs regularly across literature and media, and could be related to plot, character, or setting etc. All books have tropes, but it’s how the author utilises them that makes each book unique. A cliché often occurs when a trope has been overused, or has been used too similarly too often. Clichés can be irritating because we see them so often, they have become something that makes us roll our eyes because it’s become so predictable.

Tropes are the backbone of literature. Identifying tropes can be a great way for readers to find new books they might enjoy, and they are great for marketers too. If a reader knows they enjoyed a trope, they can look for other books that have that trope. Examples of popular tropes include enemies-to-lovers romance, friends-to-lovers romance, the chosen one and the outsider protagonist.

I don’t often enjoy clichés, unless they are done in a tongue-in-cheek way. If I know what tropes I like and dislike, I know which new books to avoid and which to hone in on. Though I think I’m still learning what kind of tropes I enjoy, and some of it can be down to how the author has used the trope. I love it when an author takes a well-known trope and puts a really unique spin on it. But at the same time, the familiarity of tropes can also be very satisfying.

It’s also great to see tropes being told in different ways by diverse authors, whether they are AOC, LGBTQ+ or disabled. Tropes and cliches that we’ve seen told over and over again by straight, white, able-bodied writers can be told a totally different way by other authors who have a different perspective on those stories.  

Another thing I’d like to discuss is another angle to clichés, which lies in clichés/stereotypes around particularly groups of people in society. Some clichés can be harmful for marginalised groups. When clichés about race, sexuality, disability or mental health are used in literature or media, they often present an unrealistic view and can perpetuate harmful stereotypes. It’s important for authors to be mindful about these so they aren’t contributing to misrepresentation and misperceptions, which is just one reason why sensitivity readers are important.

To round off this discussion, tropes aren’t a bad thing. They are a vital part of a book’s makeup. They can be done well, and they can be done badly sometimes, but one thing I’ve learnt is not to dismiss a trope having read one book with it that I didn’t enjoy. Because there are so many ways to write tropes, that even if I didn’t like one book, I might love another author’s take on it.

What tropes do you love? Are there any you avoid? Chat with me in the comments!

January 2021 Wrap Up

So my big news this month is that I’ve had the first dose of the covid vaccine! I’m in the clinically extremely vulnerable category because the medication I take suppresses the immune system, so I’m in one of the first groups to get the vaccine. I’ve spent most of the last 10 months stuck at home so this first step to getting back to some kind of normality feels like such a relief! The vaccine won’t be as effective for me as other people as I’m immunosuppressed so I will still need to carry on shielding for a while even when I’ve had both doses, but it’s reassuring to have some protection at least.

Links take you to my reviews!

A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – It took me a while to get into this one but by the end I loved it! The world is so detailed and the characters are brilliant.

The Frozen Crown by Greta Kelly ⭐⭐⭐ – This political fantasy had plenty of intrigue, and while it seemed like it might be a bit predictable, there were some big twists at the end! Even so, I didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped.

Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Having loved Serpent & Dove, I was a bit nervous about reading this one, especially considering the mixed response, but I actually really enjoyed it.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This book was recommended to me by a friend and I’m so glad I read it! I found it quite easy to read for a classic, and I was totally absorbed in the story of the four sisters.

My first new book of the year was An Illustrated History of Notable Shadowhunters and Denizens of Downworld by Cassandra Clare with beautiful illustrations by Cassandra Jean. Somehow this managed to pass me by when it came out a few years ago? I didn’t know it existed until a few weeks ago! I’m really not sure how that happened. I preorderd Gut Feelings by C. G. More which is a novel in verse about chronic illness, which I am really looking forward to reading, but I have a feeling may be a bit of an emotional read for me. My preorder of A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer also arrived and I’m excited to see how the series ends!

I spent December and the beginning of January doing some planning and worldbuilding for my Arthurian legend retelling. I needed to redraw my map and add in some places. But now I’ve started work on the second draft and I’ve edited 10 chapters so far (out of 52…).

What books have you enjoyed this month? Chat with me in the comments!

Let’s Talk Bookish: Why Do You Blog?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. Today’s topic is all about why we blog, so let’s hop straight in to the discussion!

When did you first start blogging and why?

I started this blog way back in 2012, which means I’ve been blogging for 9 years now, which I really cannot believe! For the first two years I hardly posted at all, but started posting more regularly in 2014. In 2019, I decided to revamp my blog with a new theme and give it a refresh which reinvigorated my enjoyment of blogging.

When I started my blog all those years ago, I think I was just looking for somewhere to share my love of books. I also loved writing and really enjoyed writing reviews, so that’s what my focus was on to begin with.

In the last two or three years I’ve started to get a lot more involved in the bookish community and I think it’s really made my love for blogging grow, as I’ve felt more part of something. For the first few years, I was basically just posting reviews into the void. I honestly actually didn’t realise there were so many other book bloggers out there too and when I started to discover and follow more and more other blogs, it made blogging so much more enjoyable.   

What keeps you motivated to continue?

Writing novels is my greatest passion. But writing of any kind brings me a lot of joy, so I do get a lot of pleasure from writing blog posts as well. Blogging gives me an avenue to flex my writing muscles away from my main writing projects.

I also love interacting with fellow book lovers and I think I would miss the community aspect of blogging if I were to stop. Since I’ve been more involved in the community, I’ve also discovered so many books and authors that I might not have known about if I hadn’t been reading people’s blogs, so I love that aspect of blogging too.

Have you ever thought about not blogging anymore?

I have had some breaks, for example when I was at uni I had periods where I didn’t post much because my coursework had to come first. I’ve been blogging for so long that I can’t imagine not doing it anymore!

What would make you go on a hiatus for forever?

Probably life circumstances. I can’t imagine choosing to stop blogging completely. I can imagine having breaks from it, whether that be because of health, or just needing a rest from it, or having other life pressures. But I can’t imagine stopping blogging forever unless life got completely in the way and it wasn’t feasible to continue.

Do you have any specific plans for your blog this year, and if so, what are they?

Last year I posted way more than I’ve ever done before, so I would really like to keep that momentum up and keep posting regularly.

How long have you been blogging for and what made you start? What do you love about blogging? Chat with me in the comments!

Reading Goals & Books I Want to Read in 2021

It’s a new year so that means it’s time to set some goals! First, I’m going to set myself some reading and blogging goals for 2021 and then talk about some specific books I want to read this year.

Read 40 books

For my Goodreads Reading Challenge I’ve set my goal at 40 books this year. Last year I read 50 books which is a lot more than I’ve read in previous years, and I’m not sure if that’s a level of reading I’ll be able to sustain this year. So, I decided to set my reading goal a bit lower than that this year to something that I think will be a challenge but is also achievable. I don’t want to set a really high goal and be stressed trying to hit it.

Finish some series

I am really bad at finishing series. I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi, a lot of which are series rather than standalones, but in the past, I’ve been really bad at picking up sequels, even if I really loved the first book. It’s something I need to try and get out the habit of! Some series I plan on finishing this year which I only have one book left: The Dark Artifices by Cassandra Clare, Cursebreakers by Brigid Kemmerer, Gone by Michael Grant, Bone Grace by Kathryn Purdie, Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, The Young Elites by Marie Lu, The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman, The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, and The Blood of Stars by Elizabeth Lim.

Discover some new debuts

I started doing this more last year and want to continue. For a long time, I would tend to just read books by all the same authors, which meant there wasn’t really much variety in my reading. In the last couple of years, I’ve been more actively seeking out new authors to discover, and especially debut authors. I plan on seeking out more diversity in my reading as well, and picking up more books by Black, LGBTQ+ and disabled authors.

Blogging goals

Last year I started to get more organised with my blogging and plan out what posts I wanted to write each month. So I want to continue doing that. But I also want to try and get even more organised and get a bit ahead with my posts and schedule them in advance, so if I’m busy or unwell, I know I already have some posts scheduled, and I’m hoping that will make blogging less stressful. I absolutely love blogging, but when I leave things to the last minute I hate feeling pressured to get something posted in time, especially for weekly memes.

Books I want to read in 2021

So in addition to the series I listed above that I want to finish, there are also some series I’m part way through that I want to continue reading – Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Camelot Rising by Kiersten White, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, and Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin.

There are some new series I want to start too that I’ve been meaning to read for a while – Shades of Magic by V. E. Schwab, Empirium by Claire Legrand, Legend by Marie Lu, and Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness.

There are a few books I picked up last year that I haven’t got round to yet, so I’d like to read them this year – The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon, Legendborn by Tracy Deonn, Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer, The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna, The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd Jones, Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar, and Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz.  

I’d also like to read a couple of classics. I really enjoyed Emma last year so I’d like to read another Jane Austen. And I also want to read some more Agatha Christie.

Plus, there are some really exciting 2021 releases coming up so I’d like to read a few books published this year as well.

I’m a mood reader so I don’t really set myself a monthly TBR and if I do make reading plans, they often go out the window, but I’d like to get to as many of these books as I can this year.

Have you set yourself any reading goals? What books are you most excited to read this year? Chat with me in the comments!