Jo Talks Books: On The Perception of Readers As Anti-Social (9th Blogaversary Post!)

Hi everyone! A little later than usual for my first discussion post of the year, but as I mentioned in my goals post at the beginning of the year, I’m trying out a new schedule this year to see if it’s more sustainable, as I’ve been finding it difficult to keep up with the monthly discussion posts on top of reviews and everything else over the last couple of years and as a result have been posting these very sparsely as and when I find the time. I’d like to get back onto a more regular schedule this year, so I thought I would try a bi-monthly schedule this year and see if that works out better for me as I think six rather than twelve of these a year, given how long they tend to be will be more manageable for me. This would mean that, depending on how busy I am of course, you could expect discussion posts from me in April, June, August, October and December this year. If I find I have more ideas, and the time to do them, then you might get extra Jo Talks post, but for the time being, bimonthly is the plan, and if I find that it works for me this year, then it’s something I’ll look at keeping up in future.

Anyway, that’s the admin stuff out of the way for today, onto the post! My 9th blog anniversary was on Monday, which is honestly a little mad to think about! I was 17 when I started doing this, still in Lower Sixth, I hadn’t even done my A-Levels yet and so much has happened in the past nine years both for the blog and in my personal life, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind and this blog has been there through it all. As usual, I massively want to thank everyone that has been reading and following this blog over the years, however long you’ve been here, I really appreciate you and I’m so happy that you still want to read my ramblings about books nine years later.

Which brings me to this week’s post. It wasn’t something I was initially planning on talking about for my blogaversary celebration post, but I realised when thinking about it, that the blog actually tied quite well into the idea.

There’s a perception of readers as a somewhat anti-social group of people, given that reading is by nature a solitary activity, and there’s plenty of memes and merchandise out there saying “Leave me alone, I’m reading”. I know personally that when I was at school, a lot of my teachers discouraged me from reading during my free time before registration and at breaks and lunch, because they felt I should be socialising more. Quite ironically, these teachers would nearly always be English teachers who would then turn around and say to my parents at Parents Evening that it was great that I was such an enthusiastic reader (seriously what did they want from me? Definitely felt like I could never win on that front!). But anyway, there was always this element of judgement that I was being anti-social because I preferred to sit and read by myself in my free time, at least some of the time, than be constantly socialising. There’s probably a whole separate discussion I could have about the value of alone time, but I won’t get into that today.

Obviously the act of actually reading a book is generally going to be a solitary experience and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having hobbies that you can do on your own. I think sometimes that as a society, there’s an expectation that you should do everything with someone else and that doing things like going to a restaurant, to the theatre, to the cinema is something you should do as a group, or at least with another person when there’s nothing wrong with doing those things by yourself if you want to. Society at large definitely doesn’t seem to value alone time anywhere near as much as it should, and whilst human beings are social creatures, it’s not a bad thing to spend some time alone on the odd occasion. I think it’s one of the reasons why I love reading so much because it does give me my much needed time alone in order to be able to recharge!

However, I would strongly argue against the perception of readers as anti-social in general. Do we like being interrupted whilst reading? No! But as with anything, there is a social element around books and reading, even if the actual activity itself is something that you do alone. For one thing, I have met my closest friends through a shared love of reading. I’ve mentioned my best friend from school Hannah on this blog many times over the years (she’s the friend I go to YALC with every year). We were both new at our school in the same year, and we bonded through a shared love of the Percy Jackson books, which then led to me lending her my copies of the Heroes of Olympus books as they came out, endless discussions of the books we were reading and us becoming firm friends. To this day, I still lend her books, push all of my favourite authors on her and we can chat for hours and hours about books. At university, I met my flatmates Rebecca and Nicola through the Creative Writing society and we also bonded over our shared love of books and writing, and Nicola and I have been to several author events together over the years. In fact one of the quickest and easiest ways for me to bond with people is being able to talk about books with them. Readers may not want interruptions when we’re actually reading, but if there’s one thing I love almost as much as actually reading books, it’s talking about them with other people. So I would argue that reading has actually facilitated me being more social, as it’s given me something that I actually really enjoy talking about with people!

Author events are another good example of how a shared love of reading can be an activity which brings people together. I’ve been to many author events over the years, both with friends and alone, and the number of people I’ve met in signing queues in that time, I genuinely could not count! Readers are genuinely some of the nicest and friendliest people I’ve ever met, I only have to think back to YALC last year and meeting Heather in Neal Shusterman’s signing line and then ending up spending much of my two days at YALC hanging out with her. Even just last month, at Leigh Bardugo’s event in London, I met and ended up chatting to two other readers in the signing line. These events really do facilitate meeting people because you’re all there because of a shared love of books, and often the same author, so you already have something to talk about and it feels far less awkward making conversation with strangers!

Then there has of course been this blog. I first set this blog up in sixth form because I was looking towards a future career as a journalist and the tips I read said that setting up a blog was a good idea. Writing about books seemed like a no-brainer for me because they’ve always been the thing I loved the most in my life. But if it had just been about getting into Uni, I wouldn’t still be here nine years later. No, the reason I’m still here nine years later is because of the community. I have loved being able to “meet” and chat to so many other bloggers over the years, I have loved being able to share my love of books with you all and to hear your thoughts about the books I’ve been reading. Through blogging, I’ve been able to connect to so many more readers than I’d ever thought I would be able to and have developed this wonderful online community of people who all share the same passion for books that I do. I feel like anyone who has ever been a part of the online book community would not be able to argue that we’re an anti-social bunch of people, because the shared love and enthusiasm and engagement of the book community is truly astonishing. Blogging has allowed me to share my love of books with more people than I ever thought possible and it still astounds me that people from all over the world read this blog, and that so many of you are interested in what I have to say! The ongoing passion and connection with other bloggers is what has kept me going over the past nine years, what has made me enjoy blogging so much and why I still love doing this so much almost a decade in.

Reading also doesn’t always have to be a solitary experience, in fact when we all first start learning to read, it generally isn’t! When I was a kid, the thing that first got me into reading, was my dad reading to me and my sister. I still fondly remember sitting on the sofa with him and my sister and listening to him read us the James Herriot books and doing all of the accents for the Yorkshire farmers. Listening to him read us these stories was what made me fall in love with books, and I don’t think I would have become the voracious reader that I am without having those initial experiences as a kid. I think it’s also one of the reasons why I love audiobooks because it does remind me of being read to as a kid! So many cultures have a really long history of oral storytelling, coming from times before people were able to read or write, so it seems odd that reading would ever be considered anti-social given the deep roots in many cultures of storytelling being something that was shared.

Book clubs are another way that reading can be a social activity as people come together to read and share their thoughts about a shared book they are reading. I’ll admit, I’ve never been a part of any in-person book club, but I have been a member of a book club on Goodreads for the past few years, which has given me yet another outlet to chat about books with people. I’ve done buddy reads with other members of the group and we’ve shared our thoughts on the books as we’ve gone along, which has allowed me to experience reading in a different way than before, and the online book group has been yet another way for me to make reader friends as we chat quite a lot, not just about what we’re reading, but also more generally about what’s going on in our lives. Once again, through a shared love of reading, I’ve been able to make social connections with people that I otherwise wouldn’t have.

There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to socialise all of the time, in fact, I personally think it’s really healthy to be able to enjoy your own company and take some time for yourself. It’s something that I really need as an introverted person, I love spending time with my friends and family for instance, but I do always need some time alone afterwards to recharge my social batteries! However, the perception of readers as a purely anti-social group of people as I’ve explored in this post is just plain wrong.

Reading is actually far more of a social activity than people give it credit for, because it creates a common connection between people through which we can bond. Storytelling in general is one of the main ways that people connect with other people, whether you consume those stories in books, through TV or film, video games, theatre etc because it gives people a shared experience to talk about. One of the very best things about reading for me, and storytelling in general to be honest, is that so many people can consume the same story but one reader’s experience will never be exactly the same as another’s. It’s why I love talking about books so much because even if you’re two readers who have read and loved the same book, chances are there will still be different things that you loved about it and it’s why I think the social aspect of reading is so special because you can have consumed the same story and had a completely different experience of reading it and yet still come together through a shared love of that thing. It may be quite easy to see people who enjoy sitting alone reading a book as anti-social, but I think to do that is a serious discredit to the very real bonds that can be formed through a shared love of the same books, and it’s a perception that lacks nuance of all the different ways that reading can actually be a very social activity indeed. Sure you’ll still get a serious glare if you interrupt a reader mid-sentence, but you’ll find if you start chatting to a reader about our favourite books, we can be very difficult to shut up!

So there we go, that’s just some of my thoughts about how reading can actually be more of a social activity than many would give it credit for! What do you think? Have you bonded with people over a shared love of books over the years? (if you’re reading this blog in the first place, chances are you have!) Is there an unfair judgement placed on readers as being “anti-social”? Did you ever get told off at school for spending too much time reading and not enough time socialising with other kids? Let me know in the comments!

As I mentioned at the top of this post, this was my ninth blogaversary post, which means that *gasp*, my 10th anniversary is coming up next year! Someone asked me on Tuesday if I had any plans of what to do to celebrate it and I honestly hadn’t really thought about it yet, so I wanted to throw it out to you guys, is there anything in particular that you would like to see me do for it? I thought I could maybe do a special Top Ten Tuesday and talk about my ten favourite books that I’ve read over the years I’ve been blogging, as the anniversary will fall on a Tuesday next year? And then possibly a special giveaway on Twitter, if Twitter hasn’t completely imploded by then? But I’m open to any and all suggestions of things you might like to see, as it’s a special anniversary, I’ll probably do more than just the one post celebrating it.

I’m planning on having another discussion post up for you guys in April as I trial this new bi-monthly schedule, though I’m not quite sure what that will be yet. In the meantime, my regular Top Ten Tuesday will be up on Tuesday and I’ve got a book event next week to, so should have a new event recap up for you fairly soon as well, so hopefully lots to look forward to!

Jo Talks Books: On My Changing Genre Preferences

Hi everyone! I totally meant to get this discussion post up for you all in August, but between my sister visiting and catching up on reviews I was behind on due to moving in July, it just didn’t happen! I’d like to try and keep to a monthly posting schedule with these through to the end of the year, but we’ll see how busy I am.

Anyway, my reading habits have been going through a lot of changes in the last couple of years, I’ve talked a bit about format changes and how I’ve transferred more into listening to audiobooks than reading paperbacks or hardbacks (though never in a full discussion post, so maybe that’s something I will do in the future!) but I’ve not really talked in much detail about how my genre preferences have changed, especially over the past two years, so that was something I really wanted to explore today.

As you’ll all probably know if you’ve been following me for a while, I’ve always been a big fantasy reader. It’s been my favourite genre since I was a kid, and always the one that’s dominated my reading lists. It encapsulates so much of what I love about reading, that sense of escape and wonder, and of course magic. The idea that you could open the pages of a book and travel to places that didn’t exist in your own world, but for the hours or days you were reading a book, they felt absolutely real to you? It was always something that was incredibly appealing to me, and honestly, it still is.

However, over the last couple of years or so, really since the pandemic, my relationship with fantasy has been changing slightly. I don’t think that Covid had anything in particular to do with it, after all, I read the most books I ever have during 2020, and that year was pretty much completely dominated by fantasy because if there was one year where we all desperately needed the escapism, that one was it!

But in 2021, and now in 2022, my reading preferences have been wandering away from fantasy a bit more. My reading in 2021 was still mostly fantasy, but it was a much more even split that it has been in previous years, usually I would read about 75% fantasy and maybe 25% other genres (though even that is probably a stretch), where in 2021, it was almost a 50/50 split, with just over 58% of my books being fantasy reads and just over 41% being from other genres. That might not seem like a lot, but for me, it’s definitely a big transition. Then this year, granted, I’ve not read as much as I would have liked to anyway, but only 4 out of the 14 books I’ve read so far this year have been fantasy, and the books I’ve planned to read for the rest of the year are largely from other genres as well.

So what’s prompted the shift? And what are my genre preferences now, if not fantasy? Well, I think a lot of the shift has come down to my changing relationship with YA. Almost everything I’ve read this year has been adult fiction, and I’ve previously written a few years back about feeling like I was starting to grow out of YA, which is definitely a feeling that’s only grown over the years. I’m now 26, a good ten years older than most YA protagonists, and even in fantasy, where the heroes aren’t dealing with school and exams, I definitely still feel the disconnect in their ages and mine. After so many years of reading YA fantasies, they’ve all started to feel quite same-y to me, I don’t find the same excitement in them as I used to, and tropes that I used to enjoy as a teenager now make me roll my eyes in exasperation (though I will admit, I used to roll my eyes in exasperation at a lot of romance tropes as a teenager too!).

But Jo, you say, there’s a whole wide world of adult fantasy out there, just because you’re not as keen on YA fantasy anymore, doesn’t mean you can’t still read fantasy? Well correct, but as someone who has been primarily a YA blogger for many years, I find it much harder to find adult fiction recommendations, and though I have some adult fantasy authors I like, I’m just far less familiar with the world of adult fantasy as I am to YA. Though I always check out the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section when I go into bookshops, I never know what to get, as aside from Samantha Shannon and VE Schwab, the names generally aren’t all that familiar to me! I would definitely like to expand my pool of adult fantasy author options, and thankfully, quite a few of my favourite YA authors have started venturing into adult fantasy as well, so hopefully over the next few years, I will be able to build my list of adult fantasy authors a bit more but it does feel a little intimidating when you have all these options but you’re not really familiar with any of them.

I also think after so many years, I may have just got a little burned out on fantasy? Whilst I’ve always dipped my toe into other genres, fantasy books have dominated my reading life pretty much ever since I could read. When you spend most of your life reading one thing, you do start to wonder what else is out there, and I’ve found with audiobooks that I’m more willing to try books that I otherwise might not have done, which has meant exploring different genres that I’ve not read as much of over the years. I will always love fantasy, but it’s felt like the right time to expand my genre pool a bit, and explore some of the genres I’ve liked, but not read as much of over the years.

So what are my genre preferences now then? Well, over the past couple of years, it seems to have come down to two: historical fiction and non-fiction. I’ve always liked historical fiction, but it’s always been something where I’ve just read the odd one here and there, enjoyed it and then shifted swiftly back into fantasy. But after reading The Rose Code by Kate Quinn last Spring, I just felt this urge to read more historical fiction, and the more I’ve read, the more I’ve enjoyed and the more I’ve wanted to read, so it’s been a kind of self-fulfilling cycle. I’ve found so many really great options of books in the historical fiction genre that fit where I am now, with young women around my own age. I’ve always loved history and it’s been great to indulge that a little more over the past few years. It also felt like quite a natural progression, as I’d been reading more and more historical fantasy in the years leading up to 2020, so switching from that to straight historical fiction, didn’t feel like a huge stretch.

I also just really, really love how many options there seem to be out there of books about real-life historical women who did these incredible things but just didn’t get the recognition they deserved, and that’s something I’ve loved having the opportunity to explore. Historical fiction for me is a great happy medium between fantasy and contemporary, because you’re reading about things that actually happened and places that really exist, but historical fiction books tend to have a lot more action and adventure in them than contemporary (particularly if you’re reading about something like wartime spies) so I get the excitement I want, but in a more realistic setting.

There’s also just such a wide range of options with historical fiction: obviously I’ve read quite a lot of WWII fiction because that just seems to be endlessly popular, but there are so many different time periods to cover and this year alone, I’ve covered WWI, WWII, the inter-war period and the rise of the Nazis, everything from the 1910s to the 1960s in Life After Life and currently the 60s, 70s and 80s women’s movement in Canada with Looking For Jane. I do tend to read a lot of WWII fiction and I would like to try and expand a bit more out of that, but the point is, the options are out there and so far, I’ve not found the historical fiction I’ve read as same-y as I found a lot of YA fantasy.

And then we have non-fiction. This one I will admit was kind of a surprise to me, because I’ve never really been a huge non-fiction reader (and fiction is still making up the large majority of what I read and probably always will) but after reading Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming back in 2019, I started to seek out more non-fiction to read. It’s been a bit of a slow building process, but I’ve steadily been reading more and more of it each year. I find that non-fiction actually always ends up being amongst my highest rated books, so it’s something I’ve been actively trying to seek out more.

I’ve been leaning mostly towards memoirs, as they’re generally narrated by the author themselves and I really love it when authors narrate their own audiobooks, especially when they’re telling their own story. I was always under the misconception that memoirs were boring, but over the last few years, I’ve found some really fantastic ones, and naturally when you enjoy something, you want to seek out more of it. Chanel Miller’s memoir, Know My Name, which I read earlier this year hit me harder than I think any fictional book ever has.

I’ve also want to educate myself more on topics that I’m interested in, so non-fiction is perfect for that. I’ve read a couple of Laura Bates’ feminist non-fiction books over the past couple of years, and really loved those, so I want to try and get through more of the feminist non-fiction on my shelf in the next few years. There’s so much out there to learn about and non-fiction definitely satisfies my curiosity, I’ve always liked learning new things, just not necessarily in an educational setting!

Non-fiction I think has also provided me a nice break from fiction, they tend to be shorter (not always but generally) than most of the fiction books I read, and something for instance, like Lauren Graham’s Talking As Fast As I Can provided some much needed levity after a few quite heavy going books! I’ve been trying to switch up my genres more in the last couple of years, not read too many of the same genre in a row and I think it’s really helped me enjoy what I’m reading more than when I would read the same genre back to back.

I’m sure I will always love fantasy, and don’t get me wrong, there are so many fantasy books still on my TBR that I’m really excited to read. But I’ve found it quite exciting after all these years of mainly sticking with one genre to try dipping my toes into different ones and seeing what I like. I want to continue experimenting with my reading tastes, and seeing what I like in different genres, especially genres like mysteries which I’ve always liked but not really read much of. I did a post earlier this year about wanting to move away from planned TBRs and just read whatever I’m feeling like, and I think a large part of that is leaning into different genre choices and if I like something different to what I “normally” read, then just going with that. I do wonder if because I’ve been reading and enjoying YA for so long, that I haven’t really got to know what my reading tastes as an adult are like, and I think over the past two years that I’ve been starting to do that, it’s just had slightly different results that I’d expected!

So that’s a little insight into how my genre preferences have changed over the past couple of years, though if you’re a long-time reader of my blog you maybe might have noticed that I’d been reviewing and talking about slightly different types of books than I had been previously, and I just wanted to talk a little bit about that, as it’s been a bit of a shift in my reading life over the past couple of years. Have you found own genre preferences changing as you’ve got older? Do you have any recommendations of good adult fantasy books for me (preferably by female authors)? Or any good historical or non-fiction books, since that seems to be what I’m favouring at the moment? What’s your favourite genre at the moment? Let me know in the comments!

Jo Talks Books: On Online Book Events In A Post Lockdown Era

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve had a good month since I last did one of these, mine has been fairly packed with various events like YALC and the Commonwealth Games this month.

Being able to go to in-person events though, after so long without them because of the pandemic had me thinking about the online book events that I attended during the lockdowns, and I wanted to talk about online book events and their place in the world now that we’re all doing more things in person again.

Now personally I wasn’t a huge fan of doing book events online. I did go to a few during the pandemic, and don’t get me wrong, I was very grateful that authors were still doing events and I could hear about my favourite authors’ new books, and the online events were slightly cheaper than in-person events normally are, so that was a fringe benefit. However, my favourite parts of author events are generally getting to meet the authors and getting my books signed: whilst I obviously enjoy listening to authors talk about their books, just that part without the rest of it definitely felt like something was missing. I also really missed the camaraderie of in-person book events, you’re all there because of a shared love of the same author and it’s hard to recreate that feeling when you are sitting in a room by yourself, watching people talk on a computer screen! Online events also did start feel somewhat same-y after a while, whereas when you’re in the room with people for an event even though all book events tend to follow a similar format, I’ve definitely felt like the authors feed of the energy of the room and the events are more animated and interactive.

Having said this, there are definite benefits to online events. For starters, accessibility is a major one, it means that anyone anywhere can attend an event, you don’t need to live locally or pay extortionate prices for train or plane tickets to be able to see your favourite authors. I’ve been fairly lucky in where I live that I’ve always lived in close proximity to either London, or Edinburgh or Glasgow (whilst at Uni) which are generally always stops on tours for authors, and that the U.K. is really good for book events, and as well as our own British authors, a lot of American authors also come and tour here. I can only really speak for my own experience here, but from what I’ve heard from other bloggers online, it’s much harder to access big English-speaking authors in places outside of the U.K. and U.S. Having online events means that less people have to miss out on being able to see their favourite authors, which can only be a good thing.

On the point of accessibility, online events also mean that those who are disabled and perhaps aren’t able to make it to an in-person event can still be included. It was quite disappointing that YALC, the biggest YA book convention in the U.K. didn’t seem to make much of an effort to make the first in-person event since 2019 accessible online this year especially since the actual event itself has been criticised many times for not being accessible enough for disabled attendees. I was able to attend in person, but I know many people weren’t, and though there was some content available online, it would have been great if they’d been able to livestream the panels as that would have been a fun way of enabling people who weren’t able to make it down to London for whatever reason to still be able to be involved in the event. When I went to VE Schwab’s launch event for Gallant in London earlier in the year, I know it was livestreamed as well so people who couldn’t attend in person were still able to see it, it would have been great if YALC had been able to sort something like that out.

There’s also the fact that Covid is still a consideration, and some people just don’t feel comfortable attending events in person, whether that’s because they’re clinically extremely vulnerable to covid or some other reason, no one should have to be excluded because they can’t or don’t want to risk catching the virus. Many workplaces have adopted hybrid working since the pandemic, so why can’t book events do the same, be a hybrid of online and in-person, after all, with the technology we now have, livestreaming events is much easier than it once would have been.

Waterstones has been offering both in-person and online events since big events started back up again in the summer of last year, and this seems like a really good option as it caters to both groups, people who prefer to go to in-person events have the option to do that, but people who prefer the online events still have something for them as well. People will still miss out if the author they really want to see is only doing an in-person event rather than an online one, or only doing an online event if they’d rather see them in-person but having the options for both at least means that people have a choice.

I’ve also seen quite a few authors announcing tours recently, both in the UK and the US, including at least one online option for their events, which seems like a really great idea as if the author you want to see isn’t doing a stop near your city or state then there will be at least one event that will be accessible to them and gives people who may not have had the chance to see their favourite author otherwise that opportunity.

Given the cost-of-living crisis that has hit many countries around the world in the past six months, online event options also provide a cheaper alternative to in person events. For instance, I love going to YALC, but it is a very expensive weekend: I’ve been fairly lucky that I’ve always lived close to London (and now live in London) so travel to the event has never been too bad for me, and I’ve only ever had to pay for overnight accommodation once, so my main expense from the weekend aside from travel has just been the books I bought at the event. But for those who live far outside of London, or even come from further afield, between the tickets, travel costs and accommodation, it’s a very expensive weekend. Online events generally only have a very small fee, I’m not sure I’ve ever paid more than £10 for them, and when I have, it’s been because the book has been included in the price of the event.

Ultimately, however, you personally feel about online book events, they have made them more accessible to people and it can only be a good thing if more people are able to attend events with their favourite authors. One of the few benefits to come out of the pandemic was the increase in people being able to access things like book events, theatre, music, comedy etc due to things taking place online. I obviously understand why places have been so desperate to push for the return of in-person events, and I was super excited to be able to get back to things in-person but I do feel like we shouldn’t forget the improvements made in access for people who were previously unable to access large events and that big events should still try and offer some kind of online access where possible so that people who cannot access events due to disabilities, cost, location etc don’t return to being shut of events just because in-person is now an option again. The key here is options: we need to give people options for book events (and other types of in-person events too) so that they can decide what works best for them, rather than going back to shutting people out of events just because for whatever reason they are unable to access them in person.

What do you think? Did you attend any online events during the lockdowns of 2020-21? How did you find them? What can we do to help push for events to be more accessible? Let me know in the comments!

I will hopefully have another discussion post up for you guys next month, though again, I’ve not decided what I’m going to be writing about, so you’ll have to wait and see when I post it! In the meantime, I will have another Top Ten Tuesday post for you guys up on Tuesday, so keep an eye out for that.

Jo Talks Books: Why TV Adaptations of Books Are (Generally) Better Than Films

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve had a good month since I last did one of these, I did totally mean to get this up earlier so it was out in May, but I just didn’t get around to it, so it’s going to be your June discussion post instead. I have been much better at getting these out regularly this year as compared to last, and did fully intend to have one out every month, but sometimes life gets away from you!

Anyway, as I mentioned at the end of my discussion post in April, today I’m going to be talking about Book To TV Adaptations and why I generally think they work better than films. In the last few years, I’ve definitely noticed there being a bit of a swing towards more books being adapted for TV rather than film, so I wanted to talk on here a little bit about why I think that might be and why I’ve enjoyed the recent spate of TV adaptations more than the long line of book to film adaptations which have come before. I did an article about this for The National Student about five years ago, but I wanted to talk about it again here as I figured I could expand on some of my feelings a bit more!

With TV budgets getting bigger due to the rise of streaming services and the development of increasingly better special effects technology, you can do just as spectacular things on the small screen as you can on the big screen these days, so there’s no reason why big budget epic fantasies for instance, need to be purely the purview of the big screen anymore.

The episodic nature of novels means that they naturally fit better with TV, a serialised form of storytelling, as opposed to films which are meant to tell a singular narrative in one sitting. A TV series can focus on a single book over the course of the series without the limit of a two-hour runtime like a movie, meaning that TV can get into the depths of a novel in a way that movies just can’t. You get more time to explore supporting characters, more time to delve into more minor storylines of a story that might be considered unimportant in a two-hour movie but are very important to fans and more time to establish the world which is especially important for big sprawling fantasy stories. Having a story told over episodes also means you get the same kind of “one more chapter” energy that you get when reading a book, you can have episodes end on cliff-hangers, the tension created is just that bit greater than a movie where you have a singular uninterrupted narrative.

The best example I can think of for this as there is actually both a TV series, and a movie to compare and contrast, would be A Series Of Unfortunate Events. The 2004 movie with Jim Carrey tried to do far too much, combining the first three books into one movie which meant that a lot of the smaller details from the books got missed.

The TV series on the other hand, dedicated two episodes to each book, which allowed the storylines to be developed more fully and to cover the entire book series as opposed to just the first three books, which considering that the book series is so long (13 books in all) could be much more easily covered in a TV format, which lends itself better to long book series than film does: had the film series taken off and they had followed the same format of 3 books for each film, it would have taken four films at least to cover the same amount of material and in much less depth.

With film adaptations, there is really only enough time to focus on the main characters, and the side characters, who we so often love just as much as the protagonists, don’t really get a look in. With TV shows, especially those with a reasonable episode count, or that go on for multiple seasons, you have the time to potentially take an episode to dive into some of the side characters. This is seen in the TV adaptation of 13 Reasons Why, which for all its many flaws, does expand the story beyond Clay’s limited POV in the book. As with the book, the first season (which really should have been the only one, but that’s neither here nor there) dedicates an episode to each tape, but whereas in the book, we merely see Clay’s reaction to events and the scope is very limited, the TV series delves much further into the other characters’ on the tapes. Had it been a film, I doubt this would have been the case, the focus would have largely remained on Clay with the other characters in the periphery because there wouldn’t have been the time to explore each tape in detail.

Some books are also just too big to be given justice in a film. I’ll use Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix as an example: it’s a nearly 900 page book. It’s also somehow one of the SHORTEST of the films. How does this make any sense? Now granted, I actually didn’t mind it being compressed because that book was WAY TOO LONG, but the parts they chose to cut made no sense! Cutting the bit with Neville’s parents in St Mungo’s when when find out what happened to them? That was actually a pretty critical part in the book, especially when it came to the whole prophecy thing and the fact it could have been Neville instead of Harry, but all we get in the film is a short scene of Neville explaining what happened to Harry.

I feel like as a general rule of thumb, any book over about 500 pages or so, is going to be too compressed as a movie, and needs the extra screen time that a TV series will offer. This is especially true for fantasy books where there is so much detail and world building crammed in there, that try as they might, filmmakers are never going to be able to translate all of it to the big screen. This is something that despite all of the flaws of the later series, the Game of Thrones producers understood well: that series would never have worked on the big screen because there would have just been so much that had to be cut in order to meet a 2 to 3 hour running time.

However there are of course, like with films, negatives to TV adaptation. For me, the main one is that a book tells a singular story. TV shows generally are intended to last for multiple seasons and that works out fine in adaptation if the source material is a series of novels, like for example, the Grishaverse, which has many stories to tell and Shadow and Bone could easily run for at least seven seasons if they adapt every single novel in the Grishaverse, and even if they only do the original trilogy + Six of Crows duology, that’s still five seasons. Something like Outlander, again, huge book series, there are apparently ten books planned in all, so that’s a guaranteed ten seasons worth of material.

However, there can be cases where a series is so popular that the show keeps going despite outrunning the original source material. Now I love The Handmaid’s Tale, don’t get me wrong, but it long ago outlived the source material of the book (which I will admit I have not read, but I know that it’s a fairly short book!) and whilst in some ways that’s a good thing (more development for the characters, the world etc), it has resulted in a strange catch-22 situation in the last few seasons where we were stuck in this vicious cycle of June attempting to escape Gilead but then having to be brought back because of plot. I hope that the events of Season 4 mean that we have finally broken out of that, but even then, it doesn’t feel like there’s a planned ending in sight. This is a major pitfall when you drag a book out past its source material: 13 Reasons Why suffered from it too, continuing on because the first season was successful, but without having the material to justify it. A single novel will generally only have enough material to justify a limited series, or a mini-series if it is a particularly short book, and continuing on past the natural endpoint can mean a decline in quality.

Some books are also just really difficult to film well no matter what the medium is. They were intended to be consumed in their original format and they just don’t translate well to the screen, despite the efforts of those involved. For me, The Time Traveler’s Wife is a good example of this, though I admit, I haven’t yet seen the new TV series, so maybe that works better (although most reviews I’ve seen indicate that isn’t the case) but the complicated interconnected timeline of the book (Henry travels back and forth within his own timeline a lot) is difficult to translate well on screen and the whole he goes back in time to visit his future wife as young girl, telling her that she is destined to be his wife, is uncomfortable to say the least). That’s not to say that time loop stories can’t work well, I recently watched Life After Life on BBC iPlayer and it was so good that I’m going to read the book, but Life After Life does take a fairly chronological approach to proceedings, Ursula is born, she lives a life and then at some point she dies and the whole thing starts over again. The Time Traveler’s Wife is very a-linear, it jumps around in various points in time and whilst of course not impossible to do on screen, it is far more difficult than chronological time loops. The story works on the page as there is infinite space to explore the complexities of a relationship between two people who are literally never quite in sync with each other, but translating Henry and Clare’s out-of-time relationship onto the screen is always going to be a challenge, no matter who adapts it.

Ultimately, whether a book works better as a film or a TV adaptation depends a lot on what the book is and who adapts it. TV adaptations can go wrong just as often as film ones can, and ultimately any on-screen adaptation is probably going to lose something in translation. But I do think TV has certain advantages over film in terms of storytelling format and more time and space to be faithful to a novel’s story, as well as to be able to explore both major and side characters in more depth than is possible in a two-hour movie. I’ve very much enjoyed the new trend of books being adapted to TV more frequently, and hope that we continue getting more great TV adaptations of novels for years to come.

What do you think? Do you prefer TV or film as medium for adapting books? Would you prefer that books were never adapted for screen as they inevitably end up disappointing? Any book to TV adaptations you are particularly excited for (fangirling about the upcoming Percy Jackson Disney+ series is not only allowed but highly encouraged)? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll have another discussion post up for you guys next month, though I’m not sure what I’ll be writing about just yet. In the meantime, I will have my regular Top Ten Tuesday post up on Tuesday, and I’m hoping to have my Spring Quarterly Rewind up at some point next week too, so plenty to look out for!

Jo Talks Books: What Makes A Good Audiobook Narrator?

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good month since I last did one of these, April has been super busy for me, with work picking back up again due to the Spring Booster vaccine programme and 5-11 year olds being offered the COVID vaccine now here in the UK, hence why this post is coming right at the end of the month.

Anyway, as I’ve been reading mainly audiobooks over the past year and a bit, I wanted to talk a little about what I think makes a good audiobook narrator, now that I’ve sampled a wide variety of different audiobooks with different narrators.

I started properly listening to audiobooks on a regular basis since 2019, and since then it’s become one of my go-to ways to consume books. But the narrator of an audiobook can make or break your listening experience: I’ve had some audiobooks where I really wish that I’d just read the physical copy because the narrator has detracted from my experience of the book and I’ve had many where listening to the book has really made the experience for me and I couldn’t have imagined consuming the book any other way.

A good example of narration that I’ve found has worked really well for me, is memoirs where the author reads their own work. I’ve not read all of the memoirs out there, and I’m sure not everyone who writes a memoir would necessarily be a fabulous narrator, but by and large, I’ve found authors reading their own work to be a really good experience. Sometimes it’s because the author themselves is a performer, like Trevor Noah, he does a great job of narrating the audiobook of his memoir Born A Crime and I would largely put that down to him being a comedian: he already knows how to tell a story in an engaging way which is vital for audiobook performances.

Sometimes it’s because the author themselves is the only one who can tell that story authentically. For instance, I read Chanel Miller’s memoir, Know My Name earlier this year and listening to her tell her story of sexual assault in her own words, not only made the experience more powerful for me, but I also couldn’t imagine anyone else doing the audiobook narration, it just wouldn’t come across the same way if it had been someone else reading her words, especially as the memoir is so much about her reclaiming her voice. I would guess that’s why the large majority of memoirs seem to be read by the author in the audiobook version, after all, who can do more justice to your life’s story than you?

Generally, though, most fiction audiobooks are read by voice actors. After almost three years of listening to audiobooks, almost fifty different audiobooks and various different narrators, I’ve had my fair share of narrators. Some have been really fantastic and I’ve gone on to seek out audiobooks narrated by them specifically because I enjoyed their performance so much, and some…..well I’ve not listened to anything by them again. By and large I would say my experience with audiobook narrators has been overwhelmingly positive, there are very few that I have flat out hated, but certain audiobook narrators definitely stick in my mind more than others.

For me the narrators that stick out the most generally have one or both of two traits: they are excellent at accents and make each characters’ voice memorable and distinct, or they really capture the atmosphere of the book and make the story come alive, so you don’t just feel like you’re listening to words on a page, you really do feel like you’ve been immersed in the world of the story.

My two favourite audiobook narrators I’ve discovered since I started listening to audiobooks, Saskia Maarleveld and January LaVoy, do both of these things brilliantly. Saskia Maarleveld is fabulous at different accents, and in all the books I’ve listened to her narrate, seems to do about twenty different accents over the course of the book (I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea), and even narrates entire audiobooks in an accent that isn’t her own. This really brings all of the different characters to life for me, and allows me to keep everyone straight in my head which I really appreciate.

January LaVoy narrates the Diviners series (and I’m sure a lot of other things that I’ve yet to listen to her in) and she MADE those books for me. Obviously they’re good books anyway, but January LaVoy captures the atmosphere and creepiness of the story so well, that it really brought the stories to life for me and honestly, if she’d not been the narrator for the first book, I’m not sure if I’d have carried on reading as I was kind of unsure about the first book but I loved her narration so much that I carried on, which I’m really glad for as I enjoyed the rest of the series much more. January LaVoy definitely made the stories feel like a performance, each character has such a distinct voice (no mean feat with such a large cast) and she even sings in places, the whole listening experience was almost like having a theatre show playing in your ears!

AJ Beckles and Jordan Cobb who narrate the A Song of Wraiths and Ruin duology also do a fantastic job in creating the atmosphere of the world, oral storytelling traditions are huge part of the ASOWAR world so it felt very fitting that the narration of the audiobooks lent into that a lot, Beckles and Cobb were so good at creating the atmosphere of the world of Sonande, and it really added that extra level to the stories for me.

Narrators really capturing the characters personalities is also really important for an enjoyable audiobook experience. Both of the narrators I just mentioned are great at doing that, but I also wanted to mention an audiobook where I didn’t like the story as much, but the narrator’s portrayal of the character really made it. That book is Caroline Kepnes’ You, narrated by Santino Fontana (yes, Hans from Frozen, or OG Greg from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend). The actual book I could kind of take or leave, I’ve actually found the Netflix show much better, but Santino’s performance was really fantastic. He captures Joe’s creepiness so well, it’s almost hard to listen to at points, he’s that convincing!

Christian Coulson in The Nobleman’s Guide To Scandal and Shipwrecks is another one who captures the personality of the narrator really well. He brings Adrian to life so completely that you almost forget that it’s a narrator reading the story and feel like Adrian is actually telling his own story to you. Adrian’s book was the only one of the Montague Siblings books that I listened to and I was so glad I did in the end because Christian’s performance just made it so enjoyable.

So then we have the ones that fall into the not so standout category. My problems with audiobook narrators tend to stem from a couple of key issues. The main one is that I just don’t like the voice, which is obviously not really something that anyone can change, some voices you gel with, some you don’t. This happened to me with The Poppy War, and whilst the narration was not the only issue I had with the book, it did kind of put the book on the backfoot right from the off. I just didn’t find Emily Woo Zeller to be a particularly engaging reader, and as I mentioned above, I really need character voices to have a clear differentiation and hers just didn’t.

I also found this with The Song of Achilles, Frazer Douglas just had a very flat and monotone style of reading, and I’ve found that for me, I need quite animated voices to keep me engaged. His voices for the female characters were also not great, which is something I’ve found to be a bit of a reoccurring problem with male narrators (at least the ones I’ve listened to), their female voices tend to be a bit too high pitched and it just irks me!

This also happened with We Were Liars, Ariadne Meyers had kind of a grating voice, and she just wasn’t all that enjoyable to listen to for almost seven hours!

Other issues I’ve had is that the narrator is just too quiet and I can’t hear what they’re saying properly, so I have to turn the volume up too loud just to hear them speak. Granted, that could be an audio quality issue rather than a narrator issue, but it definitely does pull you out of the listening experience because your ears start to hurt after too long listening on full volume! This was a big issue I had with Sky Breaker when I listened to it last year, both Caitlin Davies and Natalie Naudus seemed to be incredibly quiet speakers!

Then there’s those narrators who just don’t differentiate enough between characters’ voices, this was one of my big problems (among many) with Dangerous Remedy. The narrator, Flora Montgomery, really didn’t differentiate between the characters’ voices much at all, so it was hard to tell who was speaking when and that made the story so much more difficult to follow than it really needed to be. Differentiation between character voices is so important in audiobooks, it really brings me out of the story when I can’t tell who is speaking in which part because I find it hard to follow.

I had the same issue with The Bear and The Nightingale, Kathleen Gati also really didn’t differentiate her character voices enough and there are 10,000 characters with seemingly 10,000 different names between full names and nicknames, so I really needed more distinct voices to follow what was going on.

There’s also some narrators who do different accents for the characters but do them so badly that it becomes super grating. I love listening to different accents, and when people do them well, it can be brilliant but when they do them badly, it can be super cringey. This was a big problem for me when listening to the audiobook of Lore, Fryda Wolff’s reading voice was fine, but her accents really took me out of the story. She did a really terrible French accent for Iro and then her British accent for Van was the kind of really hammed up posh British accent for an American audience that just grates on me.

So to summarise, the best audiobook narrators for me have a combination of: impeccable and distinct accents for all the characters, an ability to capture the atmosphere of a book and they capture the personalities of the characters well. But most of all, I think what I find with the best audiobook narrators, is that I’ll finish reading the book and feel like I couldn’t possibly have consumed the story in any other way. If I finish and think, eh, I might have liked that better as a physical book, then the narrator hasn’t done their job properly (for me anyway!). If when I’m done, I think, wow that was amazing, the narration really added something to the story that I don’t think I would have got in the physical copy, then that’s a fantastic narrator and those are usually the ones that I go on to read multiple books by.

What makes a good audiobook narrator for you? Is there anything that I didn’t touch on that you think is really important for your listening experience? Do you have any recommendations of really good narrators for me? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll have another discussion post up for you next month, and in a rare turn for me, I actually already know what I want to talk about! This may change, but at the moment, I’m thinking I want to write about the recent trend of Book To TV adaptations, and why I enjoy TV series adaptations of books more than films (generally!). In the meantime, I’m hoping to get up my review of my latest read The Diamond Eye up at some point during the week, so keep an eye out for that, and I will of course have my regular Top Ten Tuesday post up on Tuesday.

Jo Talks Books: On Moving Away From Planned TBRs

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good month since I last did one of these, March has been really quiet for me, both in terms of work and stuff outside of work, so I’m hoping that April will be a bit busier.

Anyway, for this month’s post, I wanted to talk about something I’m planning on changing in my reading habits, I’ve been feeling like doing this for a while now with having a rather slump-filled year last year, and though this year has got off to a better start, I’m still not getting through as much of my physical TBR as I would like, so I’ve decided I’m going to try a new approach to my reading and see if it helps.

Since I started blogging back in 2014, I’ve largely relied on a planned TBR. I liked having some semblance of structure to my reading, and found that it saved time when it came to picking new reads if I had a planned list of books for the month to choose from. I also really like reading challenges and found that doing the #RockMyTBR challenge (up until last year), really did help me focus on reading books from my backlist and not get constantly distracted by shiny new things.

I’ve never been massively strict about my TBR, I’ve always liked to build in consideration for the fact that I might not necessarily be in the mood for whatever books I’ve picked for a particular month, and if that happens to be the case, then I’ve gone with something different. I usually (last year and the beginning part of this year not withstanding), read two physical books a month, so that would generally be one book from my TBR challenge list and one “free” read, ie whatever I happened to feel like reading after that. This has worked very well for me for the past five years or so.

However, I no longer feel like having a planned TBR is working for me in the same way that it used to. Last year, try as I might, I just wasn’t feeling in the mood for any of my TBR challenge books and it was taking me forever to get through anything, so I largely stuck to audiobooks, as I generally have a more free approach to them. I think because there is a much wider choice of audiobooks, I’m not only restricted by what I own, and I’m more willing to try things I wouldn’t necessarily get a physical copy of, so I tend to explore a bit more and just go with whatever takes my fancy.

I never used to feel like having a planned TBR restricted me in any way. I was always fairly loose about it, and the books that I’d chosen (or in the last few years, had chosen for me by Twitter) were always books I was genuinely excited about reading, so it’s not as if I’ve been tying myself down to books that I just don’t really want to read. But every time I’ve picked up a book from my planned TBR over the past year or so, it has either taken me forever to get through, or I’ve just put down because I’ve not felt in the mood for it. It’s started to feel more like a chore to get through my planned TBR books, which it never has before.

Basically, I guess what this comes down to, is I’m becoming more of a mood reader than I used to be, and I’ve been struggling with my physical TBR because I’ve been trying to fight that and stick to what I’ve become used to.

But no more! I’ve decided that for the rest of this year, I’m going to try and embrace mood reading, and see where that takes me. Much as I do love a seasonal TBR, and will probably still make them when they come up on our Top Ten Tuesday topics, I’m not going to worry if I’m just not feeling in the mood for the books I’ve “planned to read”.

Honestly I feel like this a trap I’ve slightly fallen into because of blogging. Pre my blogging days, I was very much a mood reader and would just read whatever was most appealing to me at the time, but back then I was only reading books for pleasure, not for content. That’s not to say that I’ve been picking my reads over the last eight years only thinking about what’s best for content, no, but I definitely do feel like some of my need to have my TBR planned out comes from feeling like I need to know in advance what my next review will be. I want to try and move away from that, and back to what I had before I started blogging where I would just read whatever took my fancy when I’d finished my current book.

I also feel like having a “planned TBR”, either working from a TBR challenge, or a seasonal TBR, is one of the reasons why I end up with so many of my “anticipated releases” still sitting on my shelf at the end of the year. There have been so many times when I’ve thought “ooh yeah, I’m really in the mood for reading this”, or “I really want to read this book this year” and then I’ve put them off because they’re not on my planned TBR for the year or that particular season. I’m hoping that by going off a more mood reading approach in future, I’ll actually read the books I want to, when I want to read them and not leave them sitting on my shelf for months on end and then by the time they come up on a TBR list, I’m not actually in the mood for them anymore!

I do worry that by doing this, I’ll end up reading all my shiny new books and not paying attention to some of the books that have been on my shelves for years. After all, that’s why I started doing the TBR challenge in the first place, to actually pay attention to my backlist books and the books that tend to be foremost in my mind are usually the ones that I’ve got most recently. However, if it gets me back into reading more of my physical TBR, then so be it. The beautiful thing about books is no matter how long they are sitting on your shelf, they’ll always be there when you want them!

I’m also hoping that by moving away from the planned TBR, I might find more books that I enjoy? Last year was a fairly disappointing year for me in terms of reading, I read less than I’d intended and found fewer favourites than I usually do. I’m hoping that by reading what I’m most in the mood for, I’ll enjoy what I read more and find more four and five star reads this year than I did last year.

In this vein, I’ve also not requested anything from Netgalley this year, nor do I plan to. Much as I love being able to have access to anticipated releases before their release dates, it caused me a lot of stress last year when I was in a reading slump and was just not finishing anything I started that wasn’t an audiobook and feeling the pressure of having to finish a book by a certain date and nearly always not managing it, is just very stressful. So this year, I’m going to take a break from Netgalley. I’ll read my anticipated releases eventually, whether I do that two months before the release date, or two years after, it doesn’t matter and I should stop putting pressure on myself to read books to a deadline (one that I almost never manage to make anyway!).

I’d also just like to have a little bit more spontaneity in my reading. It’s something I do miss from my pre-blogging days, I love that blogging has opened me up to books that I probably never would have found without it and that I know about a lot more upcoming releases and interesting books now than I did before I started blogging, but I do miss the joy of discovering something completely brand new. I’m hoping that by moving away from a planned TBR list and just going where my reading mood takes me, I’ll end up reading some books I might not necessarily have expected, and discover some surprise favourites.

I’m hoping that this foray into mood reading will not mean me ending up picking up and putting down a whole load of books, as this has been my problem over the past year, I’ve started to read so many books and then put them down because I’ve just not been in the mood for that particular book at that particular time. However, I do think a lot of that came from still trying to stick somewhat to a plan, whether it was reading a book for a buddy read with my Goodreads Book Club, or picking up and putting down books that I’d planned to read for my #RockMyTBR Challenge this year.

I’d also be interested to see where my “moods” take me, as I have found over the past year or so that I’ve been drifting away from genres I used to really love, for example, I read much less fantasy last year than I have in previous years. I still enjoy fantasy, but I’ve been finding a lot of YA fantasy in particular really same-y, so I’d be interested to see if that holds up throughout the year or if I find myself going back to fantasy a bit more. I’ve also found myself reading a lot more historical fiction and memoirs over the past year or so than I did previously, so again, I’d be interested to see if this holds up for my physical TBR now that I’m going purely based off my mood, or if I largely stick to those genres on audiobook.

I don’t know if this is going to help the difficulties I’ve been having with my physical TBR this year, but I’m excited to try something new with my reading. I definitely feel like I’ve got into a bit of a rut with my planned TBRs and I’m hoping that by switching out my style, I will read more this year than I did last year, and enjoy a little bit more freedom and spontaneity in my reading. Either that or I will be struck down with indecision as to what to read next!

How do you approach reading? Are you very much a planned TBR person, or are you more of a mood reader? Any tips for someone trying mood reading again after years of planned TBRs? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll have another discussion post for you next month, I’m not sure what it will be yet, so you’ll find out when it goes live! In the meantime, I was at VE Schwab’s London book tour event last Friday and I’ve been writing up my recap of that, I’m hoping that will go live over the weekend, so keep an eye out for it.

Jo Talks Books: Eight Posts I’m Most Proud Of (8th Blogaversary Post!)

Hi all! So last Sunday was my eight year blog anniversary, this post is a little later than usual as I had a job application that needed to be finished last Sunday, but I didn’t want to let the occasion pass without marking it, so I thought better to celebrate late than never. As usual, I really want to thank all of my readers and followers for supporting me over the years, whether you’ve been here since the beginning or have only recently found my little corner of the internet, I appreciate all of you, and I wouldn’t still be doing this without you.

For this year’s anniversary post, I took some inspiration from a YouTuber I follow, Hannah Witton, who recently did a video about her 30 proudest moments for her 30th birthday. I thought that was a really cool idea, and thought I’d do the same, but looking back on some of the posts I’m most proud of from the past eight years. It’s going to be tough picking just eight from over 1000 posts I’ve published in the past eight years, but I’ll do my best:

8. Writing Corner: On Being Critique Partners With My Best Friend

I wrote this post at the end of 2020 after several months of swapping chapters of my novel with my best friend Hannah, and it was just really fun to write about the process as it’s such a different experience critiquing one of your friends than it is when you’re working with a stranger.

7. Writing Corner: Q&A With Author C.G. Drews

This was my first ever author interview on the blog so naturally I was incredibly proud of that anyway, but it was also really fun to get to work with C.G. Drews, aka PaperFury, because she was one of the first bloggers I started following when I was a new blogger, and I so admire her blog, so the fact that she was willing to collaborate with me, a much smaller blogger, was really a great honour!

6. Top Ten Tuesday #310

I always love doing book posts where I have the chance to get a bit salty, as much as I love sharing the love for books, there are plenty of books I’ve read that have given me less than lovely feelings. Sometimes you just need to rant a little, or in my case for this post….quite a lot. Anyway, I found it super fun to do this post about Books I’d Gladly Throw In The Ocean, it was nice to let the rant out!

5. Writing Corner: Q&A With Author Amanda Foody

This was the first time a publicist approached me for a blog tour, which five years into blogging felt like a big milestone! It was also so great to have the opportunity to interview Amanda for my blog as I absolutely love her books (and had, I think, fairly recently finished King of Fools when I sent over the questions to her, so had to stop myself from asking super spoilery stuff!). Her answers were so wonderful and detailed and it was such a fun post for me to do.

4. Jo Talks Books: A Bookworm Christmas Shopping Guide For Non Bookworms

This was such a fun one to do, I love Christmas and I love books so it was everything I love combined into one post. I even ended up using it as inspiration for a similar post I did for the Indiependent, a website I write for, last year.

3. Jo Talks Books: I’m Not A Visual Reader And What That Means

I really loved doing this one because it felt like quite a different one to do, it wasn’t something I’d seen a lot of other bloggers talk about, and I really wanted to explore it in more detail as it’s something I’d mentioned in reviews before but never really expanded on. This was me talking about how I don’t picture images in my head whilst I read, and how I experience reading slightly differently because of this. It was so nice reading some of the comments on this post, and realising that I am not alone in my lack of visualisation, since so often it seemed like all the other bloggers I came across pictured books like mini-movies in their heads and I’ve never been like that.

2. Jo Talks Books: Tips For Student Book Bloggers

This one I actually ended up doing because I felt like it filled a gap that I needed when I first started University (and to be honest when I first started blogging as I was still a student, just an A-Level student then rather than a University one). I had no idea how to balance Uni and blogging initially and it took a while to find out what worked for me, so I wrote this post in the hopes that it could help some student bloggers coming up, and was so grateful at the response I received from people saying that my advice had helped them!

  1. Jo Talks Books: Where Are All The Single Characters In YA?

This was a no brainer for the post I’m most proud of, it’s still to this day the post that has received the biggest response outside of my Top Ten Tuesday posts, and it’s definitely one of the most personal things I’ve ever written. I was really worried that this one wouldn’t be well received, and that I’d be seen as an angry single girl ranting, but the response was far beyond what I ever imagined. The discussions in the comments were so lovely, and it was so nice to see how much this post resonated with people, as I’d honestly anticipated putting it out there and no one really getting it given how much romance is a focal point in the YA community.

So there we have it, those are the posts I’m most proud of over my eight years of blogging! I do realise that all of them are from 2017 onwards but to be honest, I was still finding my feet a lot in the early years of my blog, and it was only really around 2016 where I felt I had really established what I wanted this blog to be, hence why all of the posts are from the last few years. If any of you are bloggers, how long have you been blogging for? Are there particular posts you are very proud of? Let me know in the comments!

I’m not sure what I’ll do for my Jo Talks post next month, so I guess you’ll find out when I post it. In the meantime, I’m going to have another Top Ten Tuesday post up on Tuesday, so make sure to check that out when it arrives.

Jo Talks Books: On Year 4 of My Bechdel Test Experiment

Hi everyone! I’m so sorry that this is my first discussion post in ages, time honestly just really got away from me, I was so busy at work towards the end of last year with the booster programme rollout and so behind on my reviews that they took priority over my other content (since I am ostensibly a book review blog!). Still, I want to go back to doing these discussion posts monthly this year, so ideally you’ll be having them more frequently this year than you did last!

Anyway, enough of my rambling, this is an annual post I’ve been doing since 2018 (barring 2020 where I did my wrap-up in 2021), when I first started analysing books to see if they passed the Bechdel Test, a test of female representation in media, though admittedly a very basic one, that is usually used for films. At the end of each year (or beginning of the next one in this case), I like to wrap up my thoughts and compare the results to previous years to see if I can find any patterns emerging in the books I’ve read. For anyone who may not be familiar of the criteria for passing the test, they are as follows: a) there have to be two or more female characters, b) who talk to each other and c) about something other than a man.

Last year was admittedly a slower reading year for me than usual, I only read 24 books where I usually read upwards of 30. Of those books, I analysed 14 of them, which I will admit is my lowest number in the four years I’ve been doing this. This is largely because I read most of my books via audio last year and I just find it harder to keep track of incidences which pass the test when listening, and you can’t check back the same way as you can with a physical book, so five books were excluded that way. The other five were either non-fiction (which I’ve never included in my results) and two comics which I suppose I could have analysed but didn’t because I don’t review comics on the blog.

Of these, 12 passed the test & 2 failed. This is another downward trend on 2020, where I had 4 books failing the test. However, I did read significantly less books in 2021 than in any other year of doing this, so it does mean that the number of books passing the test fell as well, 12 this year as compared to 35 last year. I also had more books excluded from my results than I have done before, 10 as compared to 7 in the previous two years and none in my first year. This means it’s difficult for me to directly compare numbers from this year to any other year I’ve done the test as the sample size was just so much smaller!

Again, almost all the books I read were by female authors, but this is pretty standard for me as the majority of the books I read are almost always by female authors. I did actually read more books by male authors than usual last year, with a grand total of 5, but 4 of them weren’t included in the stats due to either being non-fiction, or me not being able to keep track of Bechdel Test passing content because I listened to them. All but one of the books that passed the test this year were by female authors, but again, both books that failed were also by female authors, so I still don’t have any conclusive results on whether books by male authors are more likely to pass or fail the test, but it doesn’t seem like it from the small pool I’ve read over the past few years (and a lot of the books I’ve read by male authors have been by the same ones, I really don’t have a wide range of male authors to pick from here!).

I once again had the same issue of male narrated books not passing the test last year as this is due to the in-built bias of the test (if a book is from a sole male character’s POV, it automatically fails because that character is present for all conversations, books from a female or mixed POV don’t have that problem), however interestingly I would say one book did better than the other in terms of female representation, though both failed. The Song of Achilles had a lot of issues around treatment of women, with women being sacrificed, raped and abandoned and whilst all those things did happen in Greek mythology, it’s a retelling, you don’t have to be 100% strictly true to the myths! Also the female characters didn’t have a great deal of depth to them either, and I was kind of disappointed, as I expected better from Madeline Miller after reading Circe (though admittedly, that was published later, so she could have honed her development of female characters between books).

The Nobleman’s Guide To Scandal and Shipwrecks on the other hand, whilst it also failed the Bechdel Test, had a much better representation of women (though admittedly there are still very few women in the book, I would have liked more), Felicity and Lou, the two main female characters both have agency and are presented as confident, capable women who are respected by the men around them. I’m not going to say that Nobleman’s Guide is perfect in this, but compared to The Song of Achilles, I felt it did a much better job of presenting complex, developed women.

However, on the upside, no books failed last year due to lack of female characters which was lovely to see! I read a mix of books from 2021, and backlist books from previous years, largely from 2017-2020, though a few were from before then. One of my goals from 2020 was to have no books failing due to lack of named female characters in 2021, and on that I definitely succeeded.

So onto the books that passed! Once again there was a fair bit of variation in the amount of passing content in the books, and I will say that I don’t think I had as many strong passes last year as I have done previously, though that may just be down to reading less books. The best author I found for focus on female characters and their relationships this year was definitely Kate Quinn, both of her books, The Alice Network and The Rose Code, had a strong central focus on the relationships between women. The fallout of the friendship between Osla, Beth and Mab is the major focus of The Rose Code, and it says a lot that Quinn managed to get me so invested in their friendship that I was devastated when it fell apart, even though I knew it was coming as we start the book when their friendship has already broken down.

The Alice Network is also really brilliant with its female friendships albeit in a different way, I loved how Quinn showed an intergenerational relationship between a young woman and a middle aged one, as that’s something that we rarely ever get to see in books. I also really loved how both The Rose Code and The Alice Network push forward sexual agency and allowing women to make their own choices in that regard as I think that’s so important to see especially in historical fiction. I don’t mean this all to sound like an advert for Kate Quinn’s books but if you want historical fiction that really centres women, hers is so good!

However this year I did find that I had more books that barely passed, or did pass but had a lot of other issues that I would say didn’t make them massively feminist even if they were perhaps intending to be. Given that Bechdel Test is a measure of quantity not quality, there literally only needs to be a couple of sentences interaction in a book between two female characters and as long as the conversation isn’t about a man, it passes.

This year, for whatever reason I seemed to read quite a lot of books that I would say weren’t necessarily the most feminist in their content. The most glaringly obvious of these for me would probably be The Poppy War, as I think this was probably the one I read that was most intending to be feminist and I felt fell short. Rin has no female friends and sees all other women as her competition which is not a great message to be sending to female readers to start with, and then we have the whole, Rin basically nukes her uterus because you can’t possibly be a good warrior and have a period at the same time. Then of course there’s Venka who disappears after the first half to then come back and recount her brutal rape, only to then never be heard from again. I feel like this book wanted to send a message about strong female characters but ended up playing into a lot of toxic messaging around women instead.

The Silvered Serpents, the second Gilded Wolves book, also falls into some harmful messaging about women being pitted against each other just because they like the same guy. It’s right out of the playbook of every teen drama EVER, and whilst the book does get some props for acknowledging that this is a problematic pattern, it still falls into the trap quite heavily and Laila and Eva hating each other because they both like Severin adds precisely nothing to the story. It also means that Eva isn’t developed beyond “mean girl” and I thought that was a real shame because she could have been a really interesting character, given her unique forging ability.

Then there were the books which weren’t necessarily problematic and still passed the test but only barely. As I’ve talked about before with VE Schwab books, The Unbound continued (or I suppose started as it was one of her earlier books), her trend of having one main female character who doesn’t have meaningful connections with other women. Mac’s only real connections were with the two boys she was in a love triangle with, Wesley and Cash, all of her female friendships were either superficial (like her friendship with Amber, who she was just using for information) or they hated her for no reason like Sako and Safia.

The Last Bookshop In London had a similar problem with Grace and Viv, Grace and Viv are ostensibly best friends, but we hardly get to see this because Viv was hardly developed at all and missing for most of the book. It still passed because of some brief exchanges between the two girls about their war work, but Grace actually has more meaningful conversations and relationships with two women who aren’t given a first name (Mrs Weatherford, her landlady and Mrs Nesbit, a rival bookshop owner) than she does with the one named character that means the book passes the test.

We Were Liars was another one that rather tenuously passed the Bechdel Test, there’s one conversation right at the end of the book where Cadence and Mirren are talking about a bikini of Mirren’s that means the book passes but it’s really the slimmest thing and Cadence and Mirren spend most of the book talking about the other men in their lives, Gat and Mirren’s brother Johnny.

So there we go, those are my Bechdel Test results from 2021! My results from this year should probably be taken with a pinch of salt considering how small a sample I had, but I do find it interesting that four years into this, I’m still learning new things. The only books that failed this year were due to having male narrators, rather than a lack of female characters which is definitely a step in the right direction, and I definitely feel like doing this, even though the test doesn’t measure it, has made me notice books with problematic issues around their female characters even more than I did previously. I do wonder how some of the books that I just couldn’t keep track of test passing content would have fared, as two I can think of in particular, Lore & The Bear and The Nightingale had some very misogynistic content, but alas I shall never know!

I’m hoping that for my five year anniversary of doing this (which is this year) I will be able to read many more books than I did last year, as I do think that hindered me slightly in properly analysing my results this year!

I’ll have another discussion post for you next month, it’s going to be my 8th (8TH? I CAN’T ACTUALLY BELIEVE IT) blogaversary on the 13th February, so I will probably do something in conjunction with that, though I’m not sure what that will be yet. If anyone has any ideas of things that they’d like to see me do to celebrate my eighth year, then let me know. In the meantime, my much neglected Book Vs Movie feature will be back on Monday, another thing I’m hoping to keep up doing monthly posts for this year.

Jo Talks Books: On What Makes A Good TV/Movie Adaptation of A Book

Hi all! I’m so sorry I’ve not had one of these for you in the last couple of months, honestly, time’s just kind of got away from me in the past few months with lockdown easing and seeing friends, starting my new job and of course working on job applications, it’s been a busy few months.

Anyway, this month, inspired by watching Shadow and Bone in April, I wanted to talk a bit about book to screen adaptations as I think so often as book lovers, we complain about bad screen adaptations of our favourite books, but don’t necessarily talk as much about what makes a good one? Now this is understandable to me as it is infuriating when we see our favourite books torn to shreds on screen, but I wanted to take today to talk about what I think makes a good screen adaptation of a book. Now, disclaimer before I start this: these are all my personal opinions, book lovers don’t all want the same things from book to screen adaptations, and I’m sure if you asked someone else, they would give different answers than me!

In general, I have found that I prefer TV adaptations of books to films. For me, I think that’s because TV feels like a more natural fit than film: books and TV both have a more serialised, episodic format, and TV allows for characters and stories to be explored in more depth because of this. TV also allows for more of the little details that fans of books love, that sometimes get missed in movies because of the restricted running times. That’s not to say that movie adaptations are bad, I’ve loved plenty of film adaptations, but in general I think TV as a format lends itself more naturally to book adaptations than films do.

The best example of this for me in recent years was the A Series of Unfortunate Events adaptation. That novel series got two different adaptations: first a movie adaptation, which focused on the first three books and then a Netflix TV show, which had three seasons covering the whole series. The reason that the movie adaptation didn’t work for me is because it crammed so much story into a two hour movie and didn’t really do justice to any of it (even with the first three books in that series being fairly short). The Netflix show on the other hand, took their time, had two episodes for each book, which allowed the story to be explored in much more depth. It’s all about choosing the right format for the material: something like Outlander (though I will admit, I’ve not read books, only seen the show) could only ever have been a TV show because there’s just too much material for a two hour film. Whereas a relatively short book, like for example Matilda, could be made into a film pretty easily because there’s not as much material so you don’t have to massively condense the story to fit into a restricted running time.

I’m maybe somewhat strange as a reader in that it doesn’t massively matter to me whether the actors look exactly the same as the way the characters are described in the books? I think this comes from not being a visual reader, I don’t have a picture of the characters in my head already, so whoever plays them in the screen adaptation will usually just become how I think that character looks. Obviously there are some major caveats to this: I wouldn’t want a character who is described as non-white in a book to be played by a white actor because that’s just…..a big no. Appearance details that are intrinsically important to who the character is should be kept on screen. But in general, it matters more to me that an actor is able to get across a character’s personality, that they feel like the character they’re meant to be playing, than that they exactly match the description given in the book. An adaptation is not going to fail if the actor has a different colour eye than stated on page for instance.

For example, Annabeth in the first Percy Jackson film having brown hair rather than blonde was annoying, yes, but that’s not to say that an actress with brown hair couldn’t have played her well. But the actress is the wrong age for the character (who should have been 12 rather than 16) and doesn’t capture Annabeth’s character from the books well: Annabeth in the films isn’t as smart as she is in the books (which is pretty integral to her character, being a daughter of Athena) and they take away all of her emotional moments (like when she tells Percy about her issues with her Dad and growing up with Luke and Thalia) so she seems to lack depth. She’s also completely devoid of any humour, and whilst Annabeth in the books is more serious than Percy, she has a sense of humour and enjoys poking fun at Percy which doesn’t come across at all in the films. If the actress who played Annabeth had looked different but portrayed her personality well, then I think it would have come across better, but as it stood, she had no resemblance to Annabeth in either look or personality.

However, when actors do a really good job capturing a character’s personality, it don’t necessarily matter if they don’t look exactly the way the character is described in the books, at least to me! For instance, Alina in Shadow and Bone deliberately doesn’t look the way she’s described in the books as the writers chose to make her part Shu in the show. I’m not going to talk about the show’s handling of Asian representation because it’s not my place to do so and many Asian women have already spoken about it with far more depth and eloquence than I would be able to. But that’s a side note, my main point here is that Jessie Mei-Li does a great job of bringing Alina to life on screen, she really embodies her character and I actually liked her portrayal more than I liked Alina in the book, which just goes to show how important casting can be!

I understand that both film and TV adaptations aren’t able to include absolutely every single detail from the books they’re based on because of time constraints. But I want the essence of the book to be there, I want to see that the filmmakers or TV show producers have understood what the fans love about the book and translated that to the screen. I mean someone has to read the book in the first place for the film rights to get optioned, you would think, so at some point someone has read a book and decided that it would make a great film. I don’t want the film to be completely unrecognisable from the book that it came from (I’m looking at you Percy Jackson film), otherwise they’re not worth watching!

The Hunger Games film series is a pretty good example of this done well for me, there are changes from the books, but generally the films are very faithful to the plot and capture the essence of the characters and the stories well. I think that’s one of the reasons why The Hunger Games did so much better than any other dystopian franchise that came after: for both Divergent and The Maze Runner, the filmmakers didn’t stick close enough to the original plot of the books to please book fans and the films just weren’t really good enough in themselves to please non-book fans.

I don’t mind if the writers add details that weren’t in the books if it works to enhance the film or TV show: for instance, adding the Crows into the plot of Shadow and Bone and essentially creating a prequel for the Crows in Shadow and Bone, actually worked really well and enhanced the plot of a book that I honestly hadn’t been that interested in when I read it. However if they add new plot points or change things massively and it actually detracts from the story, that’s when I get annoyed. The film adaptation of My Sister’s Keeper was really bad for this, in changing the ending of the book for the movie, it detracted from the whole point of the story and made it feel really cliche.

I also think it’s really important that the author has some involvement in the adaptation: though I am aware that the authors themselves have little say in how much involvement they get. But generally, I’ve found that the best book to movie or book to TV adaptations are that way because the author has been involved in the process. As a reader, it’s always quite reassuring to hear when an author is involved in the adaptation process, either writing the scripts, or as a producer or just being consulted, because you know that author will push for the adaptation to be as close to the book as possible.

Take for instance The Perks of Being A Wallflower. Author Stephen Chbosky was director and screenplay writer for the film version and the resulting film was incredibly faithful to the book and for me personally, I actually enjoyed it more because I thought the story worked better in that format. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is another example where authorial involvement made for a great film, she again wrote the screenplay and the resulting film was incredibly faithful to the book, with Rosamund Pike being particularly memorable as Amy.

I know that not all authors will want or be offered the opportunity to write the screenplay for their novel, but I have liked the trend towards authors getting more involvement with their screen adaptations in recent years (being executive producers or producers for instance) because I think adaptations tend to work out better when the authors are involved in some capacity. For example, Rick Riordan has been pretty clear that he wasn’t involved much in the Percy Jackson films and didn’t like the decisions that the filmmakers made for them, such as aging the characters up and changing a lot of the source material. These were both decisions that were also disliked by fans: authors know what their fanbases want to see so it stands to reason that having their involvement in screen adaptations can only be a help!

That’s not to say that all movies where the author isn’t a screenplay writer or executive producer turn out badly. As far as I’m aware, Markus Zusak didn’t have a massive role in adapting The Book Thief for film, and it’s a beautifully done film, it captures the same feel of the book, it’s wonderfully cast and amazingly acted and it’s largely faithful to the plot of the book. However, it seems to be one of the exceptions rather than the rule.

Ultimately it’s going to be very difficult to please everyone when it comes to a book adaptation. Readers all interpret different stories in different ways and have different ideas of what a story will like on screen, which makes it very difficult for filmmakers/TV show writers to bring a story to life in a way that will please absolutely every fan of a book ever, and attract non-readers as well. I do think though, in general, if you manage to stay true to the spirit of the story and the characters, then you will by and large be able to create a satisfying adaptation for both readers and non-readers alike.

How do you feel about book-to-screen adaptations? What do they need to be good for you? Any favourite ones? Any that you feel were particularly awful? Let me know in the comments!

I don’t know what my Jo Talks post for next month will be, or if I’ll even have one, it depends how busy I am at work, so I guess you’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I will have my regular Top Ten Tuesday post up for you guys tomorrow.

Jo Talks Books: On My Favourite Authors I’ve Discovered Whilst Blogging (7th Blogaversary post!)

Hi all! So yesterday was my seven year blog anniversary, which is honestly quite incredible to me. I started this blog as a seventeen year old in Lower Sixth to help me get into University and honestly I didn’t really expect it to last much beyond a year, let alone to still be doing it at 24! As always, I want to thank everyone who has followed me, or viewed my posts over the past seven years, I really appreciate you guys and all the support you’ve given me.

So I thought for this year’s blogaversary post, it would be fun to talk about my favourite books and authors that I’ve discovered whilst I’ve been a blogger, as in the past seven years, I’ve found so many amazing books and authors through the blogging community, it’s my favourite part of blogging and I wanted to celebrate that today!

I’ve reviewed quite a lot of really big authors since I started blogging, but not all of them have been ones that I’ve found directly through my blog. For example, Sarah J Maas. Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight were two of the earliest books I reviewed for this blog in March of 2014, and I hadn’t actually heard of her when I picked up her books! I ended up picking up Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight as part of a 3 for 2 offer in Waterstones, had no idea what they were about, I just needed to make up the offer and they sounded good and she’s ended up becoming one of my favourite authors. Surprise favourites have been one of the things that I’ve missed since I started blogging, as now I’ve usually heard of most of the books I pick up, so it was nice to have Sarah’s books be a surprise discovery to start my blogging career.

Another really great surprise who ended up becoming a favourite author was Neal Shusterman. I only picked up Unwind because it was recommended on Amazon when I was buying something else and it sounded just strange enough to be up my street, so again, in my early days of blogging, I picked it up. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know how much I loved the Unwind series, it’s such a weird, unique dystopia and it led me to many of Shusterman’s other books, which I’ve also enjoyed. I know we all rag on Amazon (and rightly so) but it does occasionally do some things right!

Then we have the authors that the blogging community themselves led me to. The most notable of these is probably VE Schwab, who yes, I know you have all heard me go on and on (and on) about over the past five years, but I really couldn’t do a post talking about my favourite authors I’ve discovered whilst blogging without mentioning her. VE Schwab was one of those authors who came up a lot in Top Ten Tuesdays and everyone was talking about A Darker Shade of Magic so much in 2016 that I just had to try it and see what all the fuss was about. Of course I loved it and have proceeded to devour almost all of her back catalogue plus new releases in the last few years. Getting into VE Schwab’s books also had another unexpected benefit for me, after largely writing fanfiction, news articles or blog posts for several years, I got back into fiction writing the same year that I read A Darker Shade of Magic, largely because it reminded me of why I wanted to be an author in the first place, to write stories that would transport people to another world.

Leigh Bardugo also fits into this category. Since I started blogging just before Six of Crows came out, and joined Top Ten Tuesdays in 2015, Leigh Bardugo was everywhere when I first started blogging and naturally because I’m curious, I wanted to read the book that everyone seemed to be talking about. But since I am me, of course I bought it in 2015 and then proceeded not to read it until 2017 because I am the queen of procrastination! However it was worth it in the end because I ended up loving Six of Crows and went on to devour all of Leigh’s other Grishaverse books. I still kick myself that I didn’t take my friend Nicola up on the offer to go to one of her events in 2016 because I’ve yet to actually be able to meet her in person!

I’ve also discovered a lot of great authors I’ve loved through blogging because of my use of Netgalley. Netgalley can be great for getting to read new releases by your favourite authors early (which I have also used it for) but because it’s free, I’ve also taken chances on authors that I’ve not necessarily heard of before and ended up finding ones I’ve really loved because of it. One of the best examples of these for me is Amanda Foody. I was approved for her book Ace of Shades on Netgalley (I was actually approved for Daughter of The Burning City as well, but it ended up being archived before I could download it) and was on her street team for promoting that book as well. Since reading it, I’ve read all of her other released books and am impatiently waiting for her next on but without blogging, I probably never would have read her books! Tara Sim is another author whose books I love but I never would have read without Netgalley, I requested Timekeeper on a whim in 2016, loved it and ended up devouring the whole series. Her books aren’t available in the UK, so without Netgalley (and blogging) I never would have known about her books!

The final way I’ve discovered books through blogging is YALC. Now you don’t have to be a blogger to go to YALC, but I probably never would have found out about it if it wasn’t for Book Twitter as I just wasn’t as tuned into things from the YA book community before I became a blogger. Several authors I really love I’ve found through YALC: one is Alwyn Hamilton, who Hannah and I met at our first year of YALC. She was doing a lucky dip to win manuscripts of Rebel of The Sands (which was as of then yet to be released) and though we didn’t win, we remembered the book and I ended up buying it and loving it! Hannah bought it at YALC the following year, and every year since then we’ve had our picture with Alwyn, she’s so lovely and she always remembers us (it does help that we go together every year!). Another was Laura Steven, in 2017, Hannah was desperate to pick up all the ARCs possible, of which Laura’s was one, which worked out really well for me as I ended up loving her book and we’ve since met her at YALC in 2019.

Then there was Stephanie Garber, I was desperate to win an ARC of Caraval at YALC in 2016, but was thwarted by my lack of throwing skill. Still I ended up requesting Caraval on Netgalley and loving it so it wasn’t a total waste. Alexandra Christo was another author I love whose book I got at YALC, I had heard of To Kill A Kingdom before and even requested it from Netgalley but that was another one that got archived before I downloaded it, so I finally bought and read her book because of going to YALC.

I’ve also been really lucky to get to meet a lot of my favourite authors since I started blogging, now of course you don’t need to be a blogger to go to book events, but I’ve definitely been more aware of author events since I started blogging (and using Book Twitter), which has meant I’ve been able to go to some really cool events over the past few years. There are also some events that I’ve been able to go to specifically because I’ve been a blogger, like Headline’s New Voices’ events, a Hot Key bloggers’ brunch and a HQ showcase event in London last year. Obviously we can’t go to in person events right now because of the pandemic and whilst I’ve attended some really cool virtual talks over lockdown, I’m definitely looking forward to book events starting back up again.

So those are just some of the authors that I’ve discovered whilst I’ve been blogging. Obviously I wasn’t able to include all of the authors that I’ve found in seven years of blogging, as there are so many of them, but this should have given you guys a pretty good picture. Who are your favourite authors that you’ve found whilst blogging? How long have you been blogging for? Let me know in the comments!

I’m not sure what my Jo Talks post for next month will be, so I guess you’ll find out when I post it. In the meantime, I’ll have another Top Ten Tuesday post for you guys on Tuesday.