Hi everyone! It’s the last day of March and I’m just squeezing in this post before April, so that I can say I actually got two posts in this month, after the business (and shortness) of February meant I could only do one! So this month I’m going to be talking about, as you can see in the title “Reading Gut Instincts”. Now I know it’s probably a strange way of phrasing it, but what I’m talking about is really quite simple. As readers and bloggers, most of us will have been reading for so long that we have innate likes and dislikes and can probably tell from just a few words of a blurb or even a short sentence descriptor whether we will like a book or not. That’s what I’m talking about. When you just know, without needing to need reviews or anything extended about a book that you will love/dislike a book.
It takes a long time of reading to hone your gut instincts, after all, you do have to try a lot of different stuff first to work out what you like and don’t like, but you do get to a point, where you know instinctively when you pick up a book whether you’re going to like it or not. By this point, I can be pretty sure I will like any fantasy book I read, because you know magic. But to put it over the top, to become a fantasy book I LOVE; it will usually have one of the following things: Feisty women who take no crap, sassy characters, a fair degree of stabbing, some form of royalty (and preferably with masquerade balls and castles going along with that), a unique world and a strong friendship group at the centre. If a fantasy book has one or more of those things, alongside the magic, then it’s pretty much guaranteed to become a book I love.
For instance, I knew pretty much before I had even read a single word of A Darker Shade of Magic that I was going to love it. Feisty female, sass, stabbing, royalty, a unique world, it ticked so many boxes, so I didn’t need too much persuading to pick that one up. Same goes with Percy Jackson, I knew it had Greek mythology, and a healthy dose of humour and that was all I really needed to know about it to know that I was going to love it. I took little to no convincing to read The Book Thief, historical fiction in Nazi Germany about a girl who steals books? Yes please. Skulduggery Pleasant, a magical, talking skeleton detective, I really didn’t need to know anything more about the plot to know that I was interested in and would likely love that one and like Percy Jackson and the sequel series, Heroes of Olympus, Skulduggery Pleasant ended up being one of the defining series of my teenage years. The Raven Cycle, all I had to read was the first line, “Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she had been told she would kill her first love” and I knew that I was going to end up loving it (and I did, even though there were some rocky moments along the way). I hadn’t even loved The Scorpio Races that much and I’m pretty sure I picked up The Raven Boys mostly based on the cover, but after that first line, I just knew I was going to love the series. Throne of Glass, I picked up on a whim in a Waterstones one day and as soon as I read that it was about an assassin, I knew I was going to enjoy it. Unwind literally came up on my Amazon recommendations, which I usually don’t pay attention to, because they’re nearly always wrong, but I read the synopsis and was like “yup, gonna love this one”. More recently, I had this feeling with The Exact Opposite of Okay, all I needed were the words “humour” and “feminism” and I’m like, yup, that’s a “Jo book”.
So as you can see, a lot of my favourites have come from just that gut feeling that I knew I was going to like them. Sure, I may have heard hype about them from friends or other bloggers etc, but for the most part, I picked them up because I had that feeling, I just knew that I was going to love them. For me, a sign of a book I’m sure I’m going to love is that I just can’t stop thinking about it, I’ll see it every time I go into a bookshop and not be able to put it down, till it gets to a point where I’m like, “right, I have to buy this now”.
It does work the other way as well though. The Fault In Our Stars, I pretty much knew even before going into it that I would hate it, it sounded like the exact sort of cry-fest that I usually despise, filled to the brim with romance and just generally not my cup of tea at all. Had it not been for all the hype, I never would have picked it up at all, and I wish I’d listened to my gut on that one. With most classics, I have the same gut feeling, because I’ve been burned so many times before, that I pretty much know there’s no point me picking up anything like Pride and Prejudice or The Great Gatsby because I know that I won’t like them, I don’t like the style that all the classics I have read (mostly through being forced to at school) have been written in. Basically if it’s on a list of “Books You Should Read Before You Die”, I’m like no thanks. One of my very few exceptions to the “no classics” rule, is Black Beauty, which I loved, but I think my love of horses (their inclusion is another gut instinct indicator that I will like a book) overcame the distaste for the Victorian writing style there!
It’s not that I don’t occasionally get surprised by the books I read though. I mean none of Jodi Picoult’s books exactly scream “JO” and yet My Sister’s Keeper is still one of my favourite books I’ve ever read. It probably shouldn’t have been as much of a surprise as the relationships between sisters are at the centre of it, and as a younger sister, sisterly relationships have always meant a lot to me, but everything else about it didn’t exactly scream “Jo” and yet I still really loved it. There are certain books that I loved when I was younger that I’m really surprised by now, because they so wouldn’t be my jam at all anymore, like The Princess Diaries (apparently young Jo was not as opposed to romance stories as older Jo). I have found though, that I tend not to be as surprised by the books I read now as I was before I started blogging, as a) I am much more set in my ways and know pretty much exactly what I like to read now and b) it’s very hard for me to find books I haven’t heard of anymore!
To take a look at my reading gut instincts in practice, I thought I’d share with you guys a few of the books I’ve added to my TBR recently (of authors that I haven’t read before because obviously once I read and like an author, I’m likely to add more of their books to my TBR), and share why I added them:
- Sherwood-Megan Spooner
I have Megan Spooner’s book Hunted, but I haven’t read it yet. I added this one because it’s a female retelling of Robin Hood, with Maid Marian filling the role of Robin Hood and I wrote in a TTT almost 3 years ago that I really wanted to see a retelling with a female Robin Hood, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to love this one!
2. Fawkes-Nadine Brandes
I have this one on Netgalley and I requested it because basically it combines two things I love, history & fantasy and not enough books focus on early modern history, so I’m pretty sure that me and this book are going to be a match made in heaven.
3. Shatter The Sky-Rebecca Kim Wells
Can 2019 come sooner please? Literally all I had to read was dragons and I knew that this book was going to be a “Jo” book. Also it’s f/f and since I will likely still be writing Underground Magicians next year, it would be quite nice to have more examples of the sort of thing I’m going for!
4. The Blood of The Stars-Elizabeth Lim
I’m still not entirely sure what this is about, but I saw the words “magical tailor” and I was like, yup, yup, this is a “Jo” book.
5. All The Stars and Teeth-Adalyn Grace
I saw the words pirate, magic, bloody and feminist, I was in. Why does 2020 have to be so far away??????
6. A Place For Wolves-Kosoko Jackson
Okay, this is kind of a weird one, but I saw Code Name Verity in the comps for this title and that automatically made me want to read it because CNV is one of my favourite books. It’s CNV but with gay boys, like what about that doesn’t sound AMAZING?
7. The Devouring Gray-Christine Lynn Herman
I saw The Raven Boys in the comps for this title and I absolutely loved that one, so I’m pretty sure, without knowing much more than that about this one, that I will like it too.
8. A Court of Miracles-Kester Grant
I saw Les Miserables meets The Jungle Book and was like, yup, this could be potentially weird enough to work!
9. Descendant of The Crane-Joan He
I saw Chinese Game of Thrones and I swear nearly broke my mouse by pressing on Want To Read so hard on my Goodreads!
10. Rise of The Dragon Moon-Gabrielle Byrne
Once again, I saw dragons and immediately had to add it to my TBR. I just LOVE dragons.
So there we go, that’s some examples of my reading gut instincts in practice, though I’ll have to wait a year, or even two, to see if my instincts about these books are right! By this point though, I trust my gut more than anything else when it comes to choosing a book to read. If a book is right for me, I’ll just feel it and more often than not, I am right, and I do love the book (it makes it all the more infuriating if my gut instincts are wrong)!
How about you? Do you get a gut instinct that a book is right for you? Are you like me, are there certain things that you’ll hear and you’ll just know that a book is right for you? Or do you need more guidance as to what to read, do you read a lot of reviews? Let me know in the comments!
I don’t know when I’ll next have a discussion post for you, I’m going to be quite busy for the next week or so, with assignments and everything, but I’m going to try and squeeze one in before my exams start at the end of April! I don’t know what it’s going to be about though, so if there’s anything you’d like me to talk about, as always, let me know! In the meantime, I will have a new Top Ten Tuesday for you guys on Tuesday.