Jo Talks Books: On Why I Don’t Believe In Guilty Pleasures

Hi all! Since we are now approaching the end of the first full week in June, I figure it’s time for me to do my first discussion post of the month. This month I’m talking about something more general, though obviously as always it does relate to books. I’m going to be talking about Guilty Pleasures and why I think it’s a stupid term.

It’s always something I’ve been uncomfortable with, the term Guilty Pleasure. It just seems like such an oxymoron, how can something that brings you pleasure make you feel guilty (unless it’s illegal, obviously) for liking it?  It’s a term we use to describe something that we like but feel we should be ashamed of, and why? Because other people think we should be ashamed of it? Because some arbitrary person somewhere has decided that what we like isn’t worth liking? It just doesn’t make any sense to me. When you love something, you should love it openly and joyfully and share that love with other people, you shouldn’t feel you can only admit it by saying, “it’s a guilty pleasure”.

This phenomenon is most common with things that have a large, predominantly female fandom (ah sexism, rearing it’s ugly head yet again). In books, we see this a lot with romance novels, they’re dismissed as a genre (despite, I think, being the biggest selling genre), often times, people describe a romance novel as their so called “guilty pleasure” because people have decided, hey women like these, so let’s deride them! YA is dismissed for the same reason, it’s a majority female authorship and readership, so of course people decide to deride it. No wonder we feel like we should be guilty about the things we like when society is constantly telling us that they aren’t worth anything. Look at any list of guilty pleasure reads and nine out of ten times if not absolutely every single one, the books will be written by women. That’s not okay and definitely needs to be more acknowledged.

When it comes to books, the books most likely to be derided as “guilty pleasures” are the ones that are seen as not having “literary merit”. You’ll never see a Dickens, or a Tolstoy, or an Orwell derided as something people should feel guilty about reading, not in the same way that you’d hear something like 50 Shades of Grey or Twilight called a guilty pleasure. And why? Just as many people love stuff like 50 Shades or Twilight as like any of the classics by the famous old white dudes. Now I do not have time to go into all of the sexist stuff surrounding the decisions as to what books are considered to have “literary merit” but whatever your own personal feelings about books like 50 Shades or Twilight, you can’t deny that they were super popular. So why the need to describe books like that as guilty pleasures? Because they were written by women and have a predominantly female fanbase? That is messed up! Besides, who says that books have to have “literary merit” for them to be enjoyed? And who decides “literary merit” anyway? If you enjoy a book, then it has done its job!

Aside from all the sexist bullshit that goes along with the whole concept of guilty pleasures, I have just never believed in feeling guilty about what I like to read, or watch or listen to. I love talking about all the books I read, whether they be YA, SFF, crime, contemporary adult fiction, anything, if I read it, I’m going to talk about it loudly and proudly. I feel like people who look down on certain books as guilty pleasures, are either ashamed that they like something because they’ve been societally conditioned that they should, or because they feel that their reading taste is somehow superior (and yes, I’ve been around a lot of those people). You’re not hurting anyone by liking romance, or erotica, or YA, or any other genre of book that is looked down on, derided as a guilty pleasure, so why shouldn’t you be able to share your love of them openly? Answer: you absolutely should.

I’ve also noticed that when it comes to guilty pleasure reads (or guilty pleasures in general for that matter), it tends to be the lighter, softer, fluffier entertainment that gets branded a “guilty pleasure”. Think books like The Selection, the Georgia Nicoloson books, Bridget Jones Diary, the Shopaholic books. Because they’re books focused on women finding love, rather than death or war or illness or anything like that, they’re branded as “guilty pleasure” books. But what’s wrong with liking something cute and fluffy? There are enough horrible things going on in the world as it is at the moment anyway, reading is a form of escapism, so it makes sense that people might want to escape into something cute and fluffy rather than something intense. There’s this notion that because something focuses on pain that it’s worth more, but I don’t think that’s true. It’s just as important to focus on the light in the world, the stuff that brings us joy, as it is to look at the things which cause us pain.

Guilty pleasures, it seems to me, is yet another way to police what people enjoy. Society tells us that such and such isn’t good for us, that it’s inferior to some supposed superior alternative and so we should brand it as a “guilty pleasure”, as if that somehow justifies our liking it. For books, it’s just another way of enforcing book snobbery, like you can like that lesser book as long as you know that my 200 hundred year old classic is infinitely better than whatever it is you’re reading. By using this term, we justify this kind of snobbery and not just for books, but for any other mass consumed media as well.

So the next time you’re picking up a book that’s maybe a little fluffy, or hasn’t won ten billion awards, or isn’t 200 years old, or is written by a woman, or is enjoyed by teenagers, and you’re about to call it a “guilty pleasure”, don’t! Embrace what you love, loudly and proudly. No one should be able to make you feel guilty about something you love. Guilty pleasures is an outdated, often sexist and just plain wrong term to refer to any kind of media that society has decided isn’t worth consuming. But guess what? If you love it, and it’s not hurting anyone? It’s worth consuming.

There we go, my thoughts on guilty pleasures, books and otherwise! What do you think? Have you ever described anything as a guilty pleasure? What? Let me know in the comments!

I will have another discussion post for you at the end of June, though I haven’t decided what it will be about yet. I’m hoping I will have a Writing Corner post up for you guys very soon, talking about TINALS and the process of editing it, but in the meantime, I’m very close to finishing Crooked Kingdom, so you will probably get a review of that very soon!

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Jo Talks Books: On Bookshelf Organization

Hi everyone! I know the last day of May is squeezing it a little fine to be getting a second discussion post in, but better late than never. This was the topic I was originally planning on talking about at the beginning of the month before I was inspired by all of the talk going on around ACOFAS, as I know there are a lot of opinions around this topic and we all go about it in different ways. So first off, I’m going to start talking about how I organise my own bookshelves, and then I’ll talk about what I found from my poll on Twitter.

So I am kind of old school when it comes to organising my bookshelves, I’ve done it the same way for years and honestly, I don’t see myself changing anytime soon. I organise my bookshelves alphabetically by author last name, but also by size as I have a lot of hardbacks that won’t fit on certain shelves of mine because there isn’t enough space, so I have a special shelf for hardbacks. Now we just moved, and I lost one of my bookshelves in the move because it was too big for my new room, so I only have three bookshelves now. I also have had to split my books between my home and my grandparents’ former house in Stirling (where I go to Uni) because I simply don’t have enough space for all the books I own anymore (a pretty great problem to have no?). I would love to be able to keep all books by the same author together, but since I have some authors’ books in paperbacks and some in hardback, that’s not always possible. Having just moved and not being able to fit all of my books onto my shelves, I have also used a new criteria for sorting out my books, my favourite authors took priority when it came to shelf space, although they are all still sorted alphabetically and once I had put all of my favourite authors books on my shelves, I just went alphabetically from there.

The results of my poll on Twitter were quite interesting. I had expected more people to say they organised their shelves by colour as it’s quite common to see photos of rainbow shelves on Twitter, but that actually only accounted for 15% of the people who answered my poll (granted there were only 13 of them, so I’m sure that colour coordinated bookshelves might have been more common had I had a bigger sample). I love the look of colour co-ordinated shelves, but I have been organising alphabetically for so long that I reckon if I changed things now that I wouldn’t be able to find anything.

The most popular system was actually mine, A-Z by author last name as 38% of the people I polled said they did it that way, I guess because it’s the simplest, and most obvious system, it’s the way they do it in libraries and it’s quite clear and easy. I honestly don’t remember why I started doing things that way, it never really occurred to me that you could organise books by any other method and now I’ve been doing it for so long that it’s kind of stuck.

Sorting books by genre was something that I thought would be more common, given that’s the way that books are sorted in bookshops, but that also only accounted for 15% of the people that I polled. This is one that I have considered doing myself, but honestly I don’t think it would be worth it, given that at least 80% of the books that I own are Fantasy, it would be a very unbalanced way of sorting things.

I was quite surprised that the “Other” option was as popular as it was, as I thought that Genre, Colour and A-Z by author last name were the main ways that people organised their bookshelves, but it turns out that there are myriad ways that people can organise their bookshelves. I got a couple of responses of different ways that people organise their bookshelves; one person said she organised her books by what she had read and hadn’t read, and then within that by genre, with a separate shelf for her favourite books. My friend organises her books based on where she got them, she has a shelf for books she has borrowed from friends (basically me, I’m her own personal library), books she has got from the library (the real one, not me), books she has borrowed from her boyfriend and then her own collection of books.

One person said she does a combination of two of the options I gave, she organises them by genre (like in a bookshop, with different sections for YA, adult, fantasy, Shakespeare, classics) and then within that she alphabetises them, which is an option I would consider were I to change the way I organised my books, but like I said, it wouldn’t be very well balanced as the large majority of my books are fantasy!

The last person had the most original of the responses that I got, which was that she has all of her favourites at eye height so she can see them, and then organises them by favourite author, which is definitely a system that I hadn’t come across before.

So yeah it turns out that we all have very different ways of organising our bookshelves, which is one of the things I love about bookworms, we all love the same thing but we take different approaches to how we display that thing. It was very interesting for me to see how other people organise their bookshelves, especially since I’ve been organising mine in the same way for as long as I can remember!

I thought as a little bonus, to round off this post, I’d give you a little look as to what my bookshelves look like, now that I’ve moved and reorganised everything (I had to tear my shelves apart and start again when I came home as my mum did not know how I liked my shelves to be organised!):

IMG_0195[1]This shelf is my random paperback shelf, those who aren’t necessarily my favourite authors, but whose books I still wanted to display.

IMG_0197[1]

This is my hardback shelf, though there is the odd paperback that I couldn’t fit onto any of the other shelves either because they were too tall, or in the case of Thunderhead, because I wanted to keep the series together.

IMG_0198[1] This is my favourites shelf (still organised alphabetically though), which unfortunately, I couldn’t get a great picture of as its at the end of my bed! You can’t quite see all of it, because one of the shelves is blocked by my bed, but essentially I have four shelves mostly filled with my favourite books, the last half of the third shelf and the fourth is just alphabetical).

So that’s what my home bookshelves look like! I do have a lot more books than these but they are all living in boxes up in Stirling right now. How do you organise your books? Alphabetically? Colour? Genre? Or do you have a different system? Let me know in the comments!

I’m hopefully going to have another discussion post for you soon, talking about Guilty Pleasure Reads and why I don’t believe in them. I also hope that I’ll be able to get another Writing Corner post up very soon as I’ve just finished my first revisions on TINALS, so I’d quite like to talk about that process.

Jo Talks Books: On Buying Books Just To Hate On Them/Their Authors

Hi all! I had hoped to have a second discussion post up in April for you, but since my exams only finished last Friday, I just didn’t had time to write something up before the month ended. I had initially been planning on talking about Bookshelf Organization, which is something I am still planning on talking about, but I’ve seen a lot of the topic that I’m talking about today happening on Twitter and it’s something that I really want to explore, so I’ll be talking about Bookshelf Organization at another date.

This is a phenomenon I’ve noticed most often when it comes to Sarah J Maas books, but I’m pretty sure it happens with other books as well. People who obviously don’t like a book/author/series, will buy said book/series and post threads making fun of it on Twitter. Now, you are perfectly within your rights to spend your money on whatever you want and if someone wants to buy a book just to make fun of it then that’s their decision, but personally it rubs me up the wrong way.

It’s one thing buying a book that you know nothing about, ending up disliking it and making a thread on Twitter about it. I get it, you buy a book expecting to like it and then you really hate it, you want to rant about it and share it with the world. But when you buy a book that you know you’re not going to like, just so that you can be mean about it on Twitter? Quite frankly, I think that’s cruel. You are essentially getting a book so that you can make fun of and be mean about an author’s writing, and whilst I whole heartedly believe in honest reviews, I don’t believe in buying books just so you can make fun of them and their authors. I saw a thread on Twitter recently of someone who bought the latest ACOTAR book and made a thread hating on it on THE DAY of release, posting spoilery excerpts. Not only is that mean to people who haven’t had a chance to read it yet, an author shouldn’t have to see that on the release day of their book (Sarah J Maas isn’t really on Twitter anymore and I would hazard a guess that stuff like this is probably why).

I also don’t really understand WHY you would do this. If you clearly don’t like a book or a series or an author, then why waste your time with them? Book bloggers have A LOT of books to read, more than we can realistically get through in a lifetime. So what is the point of picking up a book that you know you won’t enjoy, just so that you can make fun of it? I understand wanting to warn readers of potential triggers or harmful scenes, but that’s not what I’m talking about here, I’m not talking about getting books to check for problematic content and protect readers, I’m talking about buying books that you know you won’t like, just so you can poke fun at an author. It irritates me when I pick up a book and I don’t like it, because I feel like I’ve wasted time that I could have spent on a book that I enjoyed, so people who purposefully do this? Yup, don’t get it at all. It also makes very little sense to me because people will go out and actually buy these books that they want to make fun of, spending their own money on them and if you don’t like a book or a series or an author, why would you support them with your money? It just doesn’t make sense to me at all.

The internet, and Twitter in particular, have brought us closer than ever to the authors that we love and that’s great, it’s wonderful to get to actually interact with the people who write our favourite books, but I think we forget sometimes that there are people behind those accounts. And whilst you might think it’s funny to buy books that you know you won’t like and make threads about them, there’s no guarantee that the authors that you’re poking fun at won’t see them (and if you deliberately tag authors in them, well that’s just horrible) and feel really hurt that readers have been buying their books in order to make fun of them.

Doing this also makes fun of readers that like particular books. Fair enough that you don’t like a book, that’s fine, but getting a book just to mock it makes fun of the readers who really do like that book and want to share that love for it and perhaps instead of buying a book that you know you won’t like just to get fun of it, we should allow others who might like the series to discover it and move on to books that we actually like. It’s fair enough if you go into a book and end up not liking it, but if you get a book that you know you won’t like and read it anyway, just to make a mocking thread on Twitter? You’re ruining it for the people who are actually fans of that book/series/author.

And do I even need to say why posting spoilery threads to mock a book on release day is wrong? Not everyone has the chance to read a book on release day and not only ruining their excitement for a book but also spoiling the book for them whilst doing it? Really uncool guys, really uncool.

I get that in society we seem to think that’s it’s cool and fun to tear down things that are super popular, especially if those things are liked by teenage girls, but I don’t think that we should be perpetuating that, particular in a community that is meant to be teen-focused. We’re not bound to love everything we ever read, and if we don’t like something then of course we should talk about it, but we shouldn’t be going out there, looking for these books that are super popular, just so we can make fun of them. Stuff like this doesn’t give people outside of the community a very good view us, we’re not going to look like the warm, welcoming community that we are or be very endearing to teens who might be considering starting book blogging, if what they see from us are a bunch of ranty threads about their favourite books which we bought just to tear them down. Life is too short and there are too many good books out there to read for so much pettiness.

I get that we’re obviously not going to be spreading the love all the time, but I don’t think that we should go out of our way to spread hate. If you don’t like a book, an author or a series, no one is forcing you to read them. But don’t ruin the experience for the people that do like them, it’s not fair to you, who has to buy and read a book that you’re not going to enjoy in order to do this, it’s not fair to the people who actually like the book or author that you’re making fun of and it’s not fair to the author and all of the other people who worked insanely hard on the book that you’re tearing down. So let’s not shall we? We all got into this because of the love of books, and whilst it’s not possible to love every book we ever read, it is perfectly possible to avoid the ones that we know we’re not going to like and allow the others who do to share the love.

What do you think? Have you noticed people on Book Twitter getting books just to hate on them? Let me know in the comments!

I will hopefully have another discussion post for you guys very soon, since I am now done with Uni for the summer, I will probably be talking about Bookshelf Organization, unless I have another idea before I write it. I am also hoping to do a Writing Q&A for my writing corner, I have a google form which I will link to below, but you can also ask me anything you want to about my writing in the comments. I just finished Almost Love today, so I will have a review of that up for you guys very soon-I apologise in advance for the likely bombardment of reviews you will get from me this summer!

The google form for my Writing Q&A:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeB6x9FIDByp8_ppv1ejrj8KdHNx3IGGl4GHAcPKgUYUbZlEg/viewform

Jo Talks Books: On Having Different Tastes In Books and Movies

Hi all! It’s a little later than I would have liked for my first discussion post of April, but I’ve been busy the last few weeks, finishing up my last few assignment for Uni (finally done, just exams to go now) so I haven’t had as much time to write as I would have liked. For my first discussion post of this month, I’m going to be talking about having different tastes in books and movies. It’s something I’ve talked about with my friends before and they think I’m really strange, because my book tastes and movie tastes completely contradict each other, so I figured it might make a fun topic to talk about on here.

So those of you who have followed my blog for a while are probably pretty familiar with the types of books I read; largely YA fantasy with as little emphasis on romance as humanly possible, strong female led stories, the occasional historical novel and if I do read a novel in a contemporary, realistic setting, more often than not, it’s either a psychological thriller or something that focuses on tough issues, I’m not really one for the fluffy contemporary romance. You would think that these tastes would translate to the movies I watch. You would be wrong.

Despite trying to avoid romance as much as humanly possible in my books (though don’t get me wrong, I still have my ships and am as much of sucker for a shippable romance as anyone, I just don’t think it’s necessary to have romance in every single YA book of ever), a lot of my favourite movies are rom-coms. I genuinely don’t know why, in theory, I should hate them, I mean they’re incredibly cheesy, totally concentrated on romance and there’s not a whiff of magic in sight. If that was a book, it wouldn’t even make it off the shelf at a bookstore with me. Yet for reasons unknown (trust me, I would tell you if I had figured out why I’m such a strange bundle of contradictions), I love those things in movies. I suppose they give my romantic side a way to let off steam, since I like to refer to myself as a cynical romantic-basically I like the idea of romance but am way too much of a cynic/realist to believe that it will happen in my life (at least not the same way it does in the movies!). Rom-coms are really good for both the cynic and the romantic in me, because they allow me to indulge in my romantic fantasies whilst also rolling my eyes at the cheesiness of it all and knowing that things don’t really happen that way. Hand me a rom-com book though and I’d be more likely that not to throw it at a window. I think because I’m not the most visual reader, romantic books tend to only hit the cynic, as I’m just reading the cheese, without the visuals of the actions to accompany it, so instead of thinking “that’s unrealistic, but I don’t care, it’s so darn cute”, I’m just thinking “BARF”. Also you can actually see the cute guys in movies so you know…..that does help!

Take my favourite movie for instance (Moulin Rouge in case anyone didn’t know). That kind of story in a book would elicit massive eyerolls, barf noises and potentially me throwing the book across the room in frustration, if the book even made it into the house in the first place (which it probably wouldn’t have). I mean if you removed all the music, Moulin Rouge is essentially a star crossed lovers story, with a love triangle at the centre. Not exactly something that screams Jo. But I love it. Yes, the music is a big part of that, but also the stunning visuals (and no, I’m not just talking about Ewan McGregor here), the costumes, the story, the acting, everything. Something like that in the form of a book would just come across as cheesy to me, but when I can see (and hear) everything, on the screen, it captivates me. Again it all comes down the visuals (and audio here!), when I can see and listen to the relationship I am meant to be rooting for develop, then I find it a lot easier to let the inner romantic out! Plus I am a huge sucker for things that hit me in the feels (which is also true for books) and Moulin Rouge definitely does that.

Obviously when it comes to books I tend to go for the more fantastical, but most of the movies I watch are set in our world, although I don’t think this is because I prefer realistic movies (I mean The Lion King is one of my favourite movies and that has singing lions, so clearly not massive on the realism!), I think it’s just there’s more to choose from and if I could find more fantasy movies that I wanted to watch, I definitely would because the ones I have watched I have loved.

There are times when I have liked movie adaptations of books better than the books they are based on, usually because that kind of story works better for me in that format, or I like the story but I don’t like the format of the book. For example movies like The Princess Diaires & PS I Love You, I liked the movies better than the books because those kind of stories work better for me in film format. Perks of Being A Wallflower, I preferred the film to the book because I liked the story, but I didn’t like the epistolary format of the book. I have also been known to watch the movie/TV version of a book, with no intention of ever reading the book because I know it won’t work for me in that format. For instance, I watch the TV series Outlander, but I will never read the books because I know that level of romance will bother me in a novel in a way that it doesn’t onscreen.

Having said that, there are some similarities between the books I like and the movies I like. I love historical movies and TV shows, just like I love historical fiction, although I do have the tendency to rip them apart a little bit more over historical inaccuracies than I do books. I think historical fiction authors are a little bit more pedantic over the details of history than the people who work on historical movies, which I of course love, being a History student. RESEARCH IS KEY FOLKS. I don’t watch them often, but I do enjoy crime/psychological thriller movies as well as books. I’m not keen on horror movies, the same way I’m not keen on horror books, in both mediums, I prefer more of an eerie, creepy vibe (I’m actually slightly worried if they ever do get the Unwind movie off the ground, I won’t like it as much as the book because I fear they might be too graphic, and as we’ve already established, I’m not the most visual reader, so seeing all the creepy stuff I might not have pictured fully in my head in stark detail on the screen might be a little much). I do still also really love female led films as much as I love female lead books, I love films that have a strong focus on friendship (especially female friendship), and I love films that hit me in the feels, although I do love films that make me feel happy and laugh as well.

So yeah, when it comes to books and movies, I’m a bit of a bag of contradictions, but I think it mostly just comes down to the fact that they are different mediums, and what works for me in one won’t necessarily work in the other. I tend to find it’s a good thing though, as I’ll watch films that I never would have even thought of reading the book versions and I’ll still really enjoy the story, I’ll just take it in in a different way!

How about you? Do you have massively different tastes in books and movies? Are there any movies that you’d watch but you wouldn’t read their book countepart? Let me know in the comments!

I am about to dive into exam hell, so I will likely be dipping in and out of the blog in the next couple of weeks (mostly out), which means I don’t know when I’ll have another discussion post for you. Hopefully after my exam is over on the 27th, I’m planning on talking Bookshelf Organization. In the meantime however, I will have a new Top Ten Tuesday for you guys tomorrow!

 

Jo Talks Books: On Reading Gut Instincts

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:

  1. 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.

 

Jo Talks Books: On Needing More Books Featuring Twenty Something Protagonists

Hi all! I had hoped I might be able to get another discussion post up for you in February, but alas, the end of February was super busy with assignment deadlines and work experience and everything, so I didn’t have time! Anyway, as promised, I’m going to be talking about the need for more books with 20+ aged protagonists this week as it’s something that I feel very strongly about and after all of the conversations that happened around this subject at the beginning of the year, I wanted to put my two cents in.

The book world is all about representation right now, and that’s awesome, it’s amazing to get to see people from marginalised communities telling their stories being recognised and finally starting to get the representation they deserve. However in terms of seeing ourselves in books, twenty somethings are the oft forgotten group. We have books for children, books for teens, books for adults (which are nearly always about older adults, 30 or even 40+) but the category for 20 somethings, New Adult, never really took off, so we are left wondering where exactly we fit and barely ever seeing characters our age in the books we read.

For me, I turned 20 two years ago and I am still at a place where I can relate to teens in books, which is why I still love and read YA, but at the same time, I would love to get to see characters who are at my stage in life. Your twenties are a super weird time, because you’re considered an adult, but you don’t really feel put together enough for that, you’re dealing with your first tastes of independence and having to manage on your own, moving away from home and having to make new friends at University, living without your parents for the first time, dealing with living with flatmates for the first time, I mean the list goes on. You have first jobs, first adult relationships, losing your virginity (because not everyone loses it at school), there are so many firsts and weird and different dynamics in your twenties and it seems like a really untapped area.

I know I really struggled when I first came to Uni, having to live away from home for the first time, hating my flatmates, not necessarily enjoying my course, having to deal with the fact that I wasn’t a heavy drinker in atmosphere that is very heavy on drinking. If I could have had books with protagonists who were the same age as me, dealing with the same issues that I was, I think it could have really helped me those first few months at Uni. Being in my twenties sometimes feels like being lost out at sea, but unlike teens, we don’t have as many books about our experiences to help keep us afloat.

At the moment, the large majority of NA books, books for twenty somethings are focused on the sex and relationships part of being a twenty something and whilst of course that is a part of being a twenty something, it is not the only part. I know for me personally, that sex has not been a part of my experience and that my friends have been a lot more important than me than romantic relationships in the last few years. We need more variety, more diversity to reflect the experiences of different twenty somethings.

Also I’d love to see more non-realistic fiction for twenty somethings. At the moment, the large majority of NA seems to be realistic fiction and not everyone wants that. One of the reasons I loved A Darker Shade of Magic so much (though it is labelled Adult Fantasy and not NA Fantasy), is because Lila, Kell and Rhy were all either in their late teens or early twenties and it was like YES, FINALLY, I am seeing characters close to my age, having adventures. A reader’s love of adventures doesn’t stop when they pass nineteen, and it would be great to see more older characters still having adventures! There’s so many options for YA and Adult readers and it would be great to see the same level of options for twenty somethings as well.

Your twenties are a time of massive change, from going to Uni, to getting your first jobs, to potentially having more serious relationships, to moving out and potentially getting your own house, changing relationships with your parents, changing relationships with your friends, balancing friends from Uni with friends from back home, there is so much to unpack there and having books that featured all these things, might make those changes easier to deal with.

There’s so much doubt that comes with being in your twenties, especially when you’re in Uni, because everyone is constantly asking you “What are you going to do next?” and you’re meant to be looking towards your future but everything feels so uncertain. There’s quite a natural evolution from YA into NA I feel, because you don’t immediately become an adult overnight, all of the feelings you have when you’re a teen are still just as relevant when you’re in your twenties, you just add a whole bunch of new concerns and doubts to them as well. YA is about figuring out who you are, and there’s a lot of that when you’re a twenty something as well, but also trying to figure out your place in the world and I reckon there’s some really interesting tension there (and we all know tension is a great foundation for a book!).

From people I’ve talked to though, this seems to be something that we’re crying out for, when I did a post on 20 something bloggers in the book community, everyone I talked to said they’d love to see more characters in their twenties. And I’m sure that people in their late teens would love to see University-set stories, because it would prepare them for going. If anything, I’ve found out more about myself in the three years that I’ve been at Uni than I did during most of my teen years.

Twenty somethings are notorious for being painted in the media as a generation who refuse to grow up, but how can we grow up when we’re being forgotten about and neglected by the books we read? In a year when we’ve been talking so much about representation and having characters in books we can relate to, we should be pushing for that for all age groups. Yes it’s important for teens of colour, LGBTQA+ teens, disabled teens, neurodivergent teens, teens with mental illnesses to have characters that represent them in books, but isn’t it also important than when those teens grow up, they can still see characters of their own ages representing them in books? Because that does not seem to be happening right now. Mental illness among university students is extremely high, it seems to me that not talking about this in books is a missed opportunity to potentially help someone.

Life doesn’t stop after you finish high school/sixth form. In fact if anything, the teen years are just the start of your story. Your twenties are just as turbulent, if not more so than your teens and emerging into adulthood is really hard. It would be wonderful if we could have books, in a variety of genres, that reflect this. No matter what year, or world a book is set in, twenty somethings have struggles that are unique to them and it’s not enough to have books of people close in age to us. Yes, plenty of us can still relate to YA, but it would be lovely to have books that reflected our changing experiences more closely. Considering that a large majority of book bloggers are in their twenties, it seems like publishers could really be missing a trick by neglecting books about characters of our age group.

What do you think? Do you think we need more stories centring around people in their twenties? What would you like to see in that sort of story, would you prefer a more realistic take, a fantastical one, a historical one, a thriller? What can we do to help push those books with twenty something protagonists that do exist (and do you have any recommendations for me?). Let me know in the comments!

I should have another discussion post for you guys at the end of the month, although I don’t know what on yet. If there is anything that you would like to see me talk about then let me know. In the meantime, I will have a new Top Ten Tuesday for you guys tomorrow!

 

Jo Talks Books: Blogaversary Q&A

Hi all! So for those of you who may not know, or didn’t read my Top Ten Tuesday post this week, Tuesday was my fourth blogaversary! Now I don’t usually do anything to celebrate, but this year I felt like doing something a little different, after all four years is quite a long time, I mean when I first started this blog I was doing my A Levels, and now I’m nearly at the end of my third year of University, my life has changed so much in the last four years and so has this blog and I thought it would be a pretty cool time to celebrate that. Now I asked for you guys to submit questions via a Google Form this week, didn’t get too many responses, but that’s okay, I’ll try and think of some questions of my own that might interest you! If there’s anything else you’d like to know at the end of this post then you can leave more questions in the comments. Hopefully this post will allow you guys to get to know me and the blog a little better and it should be a fun way to celebrate my blogaversary!:

  1. How did you get involved with the bookish community? Were you nervous to start?

I think I’ve talked about this a little on the blog before, but I’ll go over it again for any new followers. When I was 17, I saw someone posting book reviews on Tumblr, I thought it seemed like a cool idea, so I started doing them too. Obviously being in Lower Sixth, I was thinking about University and I was looking into ways to get into Journalism. A lot of the websites I looked at suggested that running a blog was a good idea, so I had a google to see how to start one up and came across WordPress. I always knew I would do a book blog, I’ve been a bookworm ever since I was a little kid, so it was a natural fit for me. I was nervous to start with yes, and it took me a good year before I really started to talking to anyone in the community, but the last few years I’ve really started to feel at home and feel like I actually belong here!

2. What do you like to do outside of reading?

I know it’s hard to believe, but I do other things outside of reading! Obviously I write a lot, not just these blog posts, articles for classes and The National Student, but I am a YA Fantasy writer as well, which I have been talking about a little in my Writing Corner and will be talking about more over the next few months. I also watch a LOT of TV, mostly on Netflix and a lot of movies as well. I’ve been horse riding since I was 8 and am a member of my University’s riding club and I’ve been doing Trampolining since I was 11 and am a member of my Uni’s Trampoline and Gymnastics Club as well. I am learning Spanish in my free time, in the hopes of doing a gap year trip to South America when I graduate Uni.

3. Do you find it hard balancing University and blogging?

Yes! That’s the simple answer to that one. I’d love to say that I’m some sort of blogging superstar and can magic up the time to blog between doing a full time Uni course, blogging and the rest of my life, but it’s not true. I’m only human and of course I struggle to fit blogging into my life, heck I struggle to fit reading in during really busy parts of the semester! There’s no magic formula to handling it, most bloggers would probably say that they live by a schedule, but I’ve never been like that, I prefer to be in the moment when writing a blog post. It does mean I have to squeeze writing blog posts into weekends or any smidge of free time that I get throughout the week, but I can’t imagine it any other way.

4. What do you feel is the biggest thing you’ve learned since you started blogging?

I’ve come out of my shell a lot since I first started I think! I’ve got a lot better and talking to people and interacting with people in the community and that’s been really great for me. My content has improved tenfold since I first started, I now take detailed notes for my reviews, I write in depth discussion posts, I’ve done Event Recaps, Read-a-thons, Quarterly Rewind posts, I think there’s a lot more to my blog now than just book reviews like it was when I started. I’ve also learned to open up a bit more and share more with you guys than I did when I first started and although I’ll never be one of those people who wants to share everything about their life on social media, I like to think I’m less of an enigma now than when I started blogging. Sorry I know that was a massive rambly answer 🙂

5. What is your favourite thing you’ve done in your four years of blogging?

That’s pretty tough to decide, I’ve got to write some pretty cool things, go to some pretty cool events, read some incredible books and meet some amazing people! I would have to say the best thing blogging has brought me though is YALC, I never would have discovered YALC in 2015, if I hadn’t started blogging in 2014 and now it’s an annual tradition that I go down to London for YALC every year with my best friend and it’s so much fun.

6. You’ve got to meet some great authors during the time you’ve been blogging, is there anyone you’re still dying to meet?

Well the thing about being a reader and a blogger is that you are constantly discovering amazing new authors, so the list of authors you want to meet changes pretty rapidly! I’ve met a lot of my must meet authors in the last few years, Sarah J Maas, Derek Landy, Maggie Stiefvater, VE Schwab, Jodi Picoult etc, but there is still a few I’d love to meet. Obviously JK Rowling is the ultimate dream-never-gonna happen one, but I am also desperate to meet Rick Riordan (again never gonna happen as he doesn’t tour outside the US) and Neal Shusterman (although again, he doesn’t seem to tour outside the US). I would also love to meet Leigh Bardugo, I know she has done UK tours in the past, so hopefully she’ll come back again and I’ll get to meet her. Ally Carter is another one I’d love to get the chance to meet, who might be a possibility as she has come to the UK before. I missed Stephanie Garber on her last UK tour, so I’m hoping if she tours again for Legendary, I might be able to make it, as it has a summer release date.

7. Has blogging changed the way you read/what you read at all?

Yes I think so. Not in terms of genre, I still primarily read YA Fantasy, occasionally branching out into Historical YA, Contemporary YA, YA thrillers and Adult Fantasy, but it has definitely changed the way I read. I am far more aware of new releases now and go actively looking for certain books, whereas before I would just wander into a bookshop and nose around, I do kind of miss the surprise of not knowing what I am going to find, but it is great to be aware of what’s coming out. Obviously in a practical sense blogging has changed the way I read, because I now make notes on what I read in order to review it and I also obviously have review copies to take into consideration now. I’m a little bit more aware of how much I read now as well, because of having Goodreads and I make more active goals with my reading during the year. I think these are all really positive things though and have improved my reading for the better.

8. Is there anything that you think people would be surprised to know about you that they couldn’t find out on your blog?

Obviously my love for books is pretty obvious and my bookish opinions and everything are quite easily found on here. I’ve talked about movies I like quite often as well, and TV. I think people would be surprised to know how big a part of my life music is, I don’t necessarily mention it all that often on here, but I absolutely love music, I listen to my IPod every day and am constantly adding new stuff. Music is a massive part of my writing process as well, as I have a Writing Playlist, it’s also a big part of who I am as a reader as I am never without my IPod when I’m reading. I’m a massive fan of musicals, like half of my IPod is musical soundtracks, be it TV, film or stage musicals.

9. What would your biggest piece of advice be to new bloggers starting out?

Get involved! The blogging community can be scary and intimidating to start off with, especially if you start as a teen like I did and it seems like everyone around you is older and more experienced than you are, but we’re all in the same boat, and we’re more than willing to help new bloggers out. It can be kind of lonely, just sitting behind your laptop, talking into what seems like a void and you think that no one can hear you, but connecting with other bloggers has given me a great bookish Internet family, so whatever you do when you start out, talk to other bloggers, they’re your one stop advice shop, support system and most importantly, friends in this community.

If you want more tips though, then I have a couple of posts, one for new book bloggers in general and one for student book bloggers so you can check those out here (small shameless plug!):

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/26/jo-talks-books-tips-for-student-book-bloggers/

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/jo-talks-books-tips-for-new-book-bloggers/

10. How do you take your tea?

This one is from my friend Hannah, she thinks she’s being funny, since she knows very well that I don’t drink tea! Or coffee!

So there you have it, a little bit more of an insight into me to celebrate my fourth blogaversary! Here’s to hopefully many more years to come. Any other questions for me, about blogging, books, writing, life in general? Leave them in the comments!

I will hopefully have another discussion post for you later this month, though I’m not promising anything, as it’s nearly the end of the month anyway and I have an essay due on 1st March! My next discussion post, whenever it is, however, will definitely be about the need for more stories featuring twenty somethings, be they university related or not. In the meantime, I will be fairly busy next week with work experience, so don’t expect many posts, but I will have my Top Ten Tuesday post for you all as usual on Tuesday.