Jo Talks Books: On Rediscovering Audiobooks

Hi everyone! I’m back with another discussion post for you this month, which I had intended to post in October, but sadly I just didn’t have the time, so I saved it up for this month instead. One of my resolutions I made for the year, back in January was to read more audiobooks, and though I put off on starting it until July, I’ve really enjoyed my adventure into audio and definitely plan on continuing reading audiobooks for the foreseeable future.

I actually have kind of a strange history with audiobooks, because I did used to love them when I was a kid. This is really going to age me, but when I was a kid, I used to listen to audio books on cassette tape (yes, I know, when I was young cassettes were still a thing), and I really enjoyed them. I remember I used to have the physical book, and the cassette and I’d read along whilst listening and it was something I always used to enjoy, I especially loved listening to the Sophie books by Dick King Smith.

But then I stopped. I can’t even remember when and I don’t know why but I just stopped listening to audiobooks. Maybe because cassettes weren’t really a thing anymore, maybe¬† I didn’t know where to get them from, maybe it was just easier to get my hands on physical books from the library? Honestly I don’t know, but past the age of about 8 or 9, I didn’t really read audiobooks anymore, and the years passed and they kind of fell off my radar.

When I joined Book Twitter in 2015, and in the years since, I noticed that a lot of people were talking about audiobooks, audiobooks that they’d enjoyed, whether audiobooks counted as reading or not (they do) and various other things. I wanted to get involved in the discussions, but at the time, I wasn’t having the greatest reading year & I didn’t really want to try and dive into a whole new format.

Flash forward to four years later and I still hadn’t tried any audiobooks, despite my friend Nicola, and the entirety of Book Twitter talking about how much they enjoy audio as a format. I don’t know if the fact that I like to listen to music whilst reading meant that I put off trying audiobooks, because obviously you can’t listen to two things at once, or if it was just my natural procrastinating instincts, but either way, I still hadn’t tried them. Finally after a post-Christmas meal with some family friends, where someone once again told me how much they enjoy audio, I decided to make it a resolution for this year to try some, and see if I enjoyed them.

I’d already asked Twitter to recommend me some audiobooks, as I had no idea where to start, so armed with my list, I finally took the plunge and subscribed to Audible in June. I wasn’t really sure what to pick as my first book, but thankfully, a Goodreads book group I’m part of (YA Addicted Book Club) were planning to read Priory of The Orange Tree in July, and as I wasn’t entirely sure about lugging the 800+ page hardback around with me, I thought that book would be a great way to kickstart my audio experience.

And it was! The narrator for Priory, Liyah Summers, was great and it definitely helped diving into audio again after such a long time away from it with a book from an author I already knew I liked. Whilst I had always read physical books on public transport, audio actually worked even better for me for this purpose because the chapters are all split into 20-40 minute chunks (some are more, some are less, but generally this seems to be the case), so I could listen to them without having to leave off in the middle of a chapter, because they usually lasted the length of my bus journey.

I’ve also mentioned in these discussion posts that I’m not the most visual reader. Now, reading audiobooks hasn’t meant that I picture things in my head more, but I have found that it has enhanced my reading experience, I feel even more immersed in the worlds, and the characters through hearing the stories as opposed to reading them myself. This is not to say that I don’t still love physical books, because of course I do, but there’s something about listening to the story that just makes it feel even more alive for me. This is particularly true in the case of The Diviners audiobooks, January LaVoy is such a good narrator that you really do feel the creepy, supernatural, 1920’s atmosphere of the books come to life.

I’ve found that I can get through audiobooks a lot quicker than I can read physical books, I’m not entirely sure why that is, maybe the narrators just speak faster than I read, but I can get through a good 3 or 4 chapters on the bus on the way to work listening to the audio, where before, with a very similar commute, I would have only got through one chapter of a physical book.

As I mentioned with Priory, the audio split what was a incredibly large book into much more manageable chunks, so I definitely think for people who are intimidated by large books (like me), audio is a really great option. I’ve done the same thing to finish Kingdom of Ash, I was really struggling with the physical book, because it was just SO LONG, and switching to the audio made it far, far easier to get through.

I think the snobbery around audiobooks is somewhat strange, because in addition to the fact that its ableism, don’t we all start out our lives being read to? Before we learn to read, we are read to, when I was younger one of my favourite things was my dad reading me stories. How are audiobooks really any different? It’s literally just someone reading you a story, the same as many of us experienced when we younger, and it’s been great to come back to that, listening to audiobooks has definitely made me really nostalgic for that!

Audiobooks have also allowed me read books that I might not necessarily have considered buying physical copies of, like You or the Diviners, books that I’ve wanted to try but didn’t necessarily want to sacrifice the shelf space for, and since I obviously have limited shelf space, it just generally is another way for me to read MORE.

Blogging has really helped me in terms of diving into formats that I wouldn’t necessarily have considered before, both with e-books, and now with audiobooks (though I have to say, I actually do prefer audio to e-books, as I’m not a massive fan of reading on a screen, I spend so much time doing that anyway, it’s quite nice to get a break) and this has definitely expanded my reading horizons. I can’t wait to hopefully discover more amazing audiobooks in the near future!

So what do you think? Do you love audiobooks? Do you have any favourite narrators? Did you take a while to fall in love with audio like I did? Let me know in the comments!

I doubt I will have another one of these up this month, given my work schedule, but hopefully I will have another one up next month, talking about the second year of my Bechdel Test reading experiment. In the meantime, my next post will be my regularly scheduled Top Ten Tuesday post.

Jo Talks Books: On Growing Out of Books/ Authors

Hello everyone! I’m back with another discussion post for you guys, the first of two I have planned for this month, time depending, as I obviously still have other posts to come before the month is over.

This month I’m talking about something that I’ve been thinking about quite a lot lately, and it’s something that I feel like doesn’t get talked about as much as it should in the book community because we spend a lot of time advocating that people read whatever they like regardless of the intended age range (something that I also completely believe in, age range is just a guidance, not a strict rule that must be adhered to). This is that our reading tastes do change as we get older, and though of course you can read YA, or any other age category of books at any age, the further away you get from the target age range, the less you are able to relate to the main characters and their stories, which is a crucial part (at least for me) of enjoying a book.

Despite the fact that I was always an advanced reader for my age, I struggled with “moving up” in age categories, though I could quite easily read at the higher age bracket than the one I was in. I got comfortable with the books in whatever section I was reading from at the time, and although I did yearn to explore more, I also didn’t want to feel like I was leaving the books I loved behind. So I did spend a lot of time reading books that were perceived as “young” for me, and it took a while to admit that I was bored with these books and wanted to try something new. But of course I did, I found more books in older genres that I wanted to read. I also realised that it didn’t have to be either/or, I could enjoy books in my target age range, and also still find the books that I had previously read in a lower age range, fun. And this is how it’s been for most of my life, I’ve straddled age ranges because why not? Who’s to say you can’t find a book written for a 9-12 audience, enjoyable at 13 or 14?

I started reading YA when I was 11, my first ever YA read was Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses (though I suppose it could be argued that the later Harry Potter books are YA, but they were marketed for children) and fell in love pretty instantly. I was still reading books from the 9-12 section of the bookshop at that time, but reading Noughts and Crosses opened up this whole new world of books to me, and I started devouring anything and everything YA pretty quickly. When I was younger, there were far more books that straddled the MG/YA divide than there are now, so you didn’t necessarily have to pick either/or, you could read a series which started as MG and then grew with you, like the Harry Potter series, or the Skulduggery Pleasant series.

Once I found YA, I got pretty settled there. I still read the occasional 9-12 book, but less and less frequently as time went on, it was pretty much solely Rick Riordan by the time I was 18. I also ventured a little into adult books, but not very often, Jodi Picoult was pretty much the only adult author that I read as a young teenager.

It’s only really been in the last few years that I’ve felt myself starting to disconnect from YA. I do still love reading YA books, and there are so many YA authors that I really love, but I definitely don’t feel the same connection to the characters as I did when I was younger. And I think that’s understandable. I’m 23 now, the things that mattered to me when I was 16 or 17 don’t anymore, I care about different things now. The romances I loved when I was a teenager, feel cliche to me now. I’ve also found as I’ve got older that a lot of YA feels quite samey. I can feel myself growing out of authors like Rick Riordan, whose books I loved when I was 14, but are starting to feel quite childish to me now.

However, at 23, unlike when I was 9 or 11, there’s nothing for me to move on to? There’s so much focus when you’re growing up of reaching the next target, moving up to the next step, moving on to the new thing but once you’re an adult, there’s nowhere new to go. I want something more than YA, but I find that there aren’t many adult books that actually interest me? I like the pacey stories, the coming of age, the smart dialogue, that can be found in YA, but I want more stories from people in the same stage of life as I am. Unfortunately, it’s not all that easy to find stories that centre protagonists of my age, in any genre really. And so I feel like I’m stuck in this kind of purgatory, where I want to branch out of YA somewhat and find books with characters who are at an age I can relate to more, but I just don’t feel like those books are there, in any genre of fiction.

I think as adults reading YA, particularly YA book bloggers, there’s a feeling of needing to justify our place in the community, because we’re not the target audience for YA anymore. And whilst I do truly believe that you can enjoy YA at any age, I think, at least for me, I’ve felt somewhat of a reluctance to admit my growing disconnect with some (not all, there are still YA books that I really love) YA books and with the category as a whole because it feels almost like you are betraying the idea that you can read what you like no matter what age you are, something I firmly believe in.

I don’t think it’s wrong, or shameful however to admit that you feel like you want to move on from something, or that your tastes have changed as you’ve grown up. I don’t want to move on from YA completely, there are still plenty of YA books that I’ve loved over the past few years, and plenty more that I’m excited for in the years to come. However I do feel like I want to find more books that speak to the place in life that I’m at now, I want to branch out into more adult fantasy, more adult fiction and being more selective about the YA I read, so that I read the books that I’m pretty certain I’m going to enjoy. I know my reading tastes pretty well by now, so I want to find YA that I know I will enjoy, as well as YA books that push boundaries and do something different.

I want to embrace my changing reading tastes as I get older, I’ve learned over the years that it’s no bad thing to feel like you are growing out of a genre, or author, or age category, it just means that you are at a different stage in your life and that different things speak to you now than they did when you were a teenager. I’ve also learned over the years that growing up doesn’t mean that you have to close yourself off to younger age categories of books completely, in fact just the opposite: it’s a chance to discover a whole new world of books. I think sometimes there can be this fallacy that as you get older, your selection of books has to narrow, and I don’t think that’s the case. Sure, you can feel as if you’re growing out of a certain category of books, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I think if anything, your pool of books widens as you grow up, not narrows and that is a wonderful thing.

So what do you think? If you are an adult that reads YA, do you feel as if you’ve been growing out of/feeling disconnected from YA as you’ve got older? Do you find it difficult to find adult books that speak to you? Let me know in the comments!

I will hopefully have another one of these up before the end of the month, talking about my experience rediscovering audiobooks. In the meantime, my next post will probably be my regularly scheduled Top Ten Tuesday post on Tuesday, unless I come up with something else I want to post before then.

Jo Talks Books: Why We Need More Platonic Friendships Between Male and Female Characters In YA

Hi everyone! I’m back with another discussion post for you all, earlier in the month this time, so hopefully I might be able to do my regular two discussion posts this month as opposed to the one I’ve done for the last two months.

This month, I’m talking about something that’s really important to me, and something that I definitely think needs to be seen more in YA: platonic friendships between boys and girls.

The main focus on relationships between boys and girls in YA always seems to be the romance. That’s not to say that there aren’t platonic relationships between male and female characters in YA, but overwhelmingly, the focus still seems to be on the romance. I’ve spoken before about my issues with romance being overly prevalent in YA, and friendships being overlooked anyway, but I wanted to talk specifically about platonic relationships between girls and boys because I think it feeds into a bigger societal issue.

Society, and especially media, constantly reinforce the idea that men and women cannot be friends with each other, that the natural relationship between them should be one that is romantic. Obviously this is a ridiculous result of our heteronormative society, & it is perfectly possible for men and women to have platonic relationships with each other.

If the message that YA books are sending to teenagers is that the only way girls and guys can be friends is if one of them is gay or lesbian, then that’s not a great one for teens to be receiving. It reinforces the toxic messaging to straight teenage boys that girls are something that they are entitled to, that they are objects for their sexual pleasure and not other human beings worthy of respect. It doesn’t send a great message to teenage girls either if the only way that they see boys in the media is as potential boyfriends because it makes it seem as if the only way that we can be worth something is if they are in a relationship.

I’m obviously focusing on heterosexual characters here, but the same goes for queer characters, the only relationships they have with other queer people can’t just be romantic relationships, it’s so important to get to see those characters having friendships, as well as romantic relationships with other queer people. Society is so used to making romantic relationships the be-all, end-all of all relationships, that we forget how important friendships are, and fiction is a great place to highlight that importance.

Centring platonic relationships in fiction would also go a long way in making it a more friendly place for people on the aroromantic and/or asexual spectrum. Of course people who are aro/ace can have relationships of a romantic or sexual nature, but by placing less importance on romantic relationships and showing more platonic relationships, both between people of the same sex and people of opposite sexes, it will allow for a wider range of experiences to be represented in fiction & de-normalize the idea that the only relationships men and women can have must be romantic.

I can genuinely think of very few genuinely platonic relationships between male and female characters in fiction. It’s one of the reasons why the suggestion that Harry and Hermione should have got together in Harry Potter annoys me, because it’s one of very few examples in YA fiction of a girl and a boy who have a purely platonic relationship.

If you introduce a male and female character of a similar age in a YA book, it’s expected that the two will eventually get together, and because of this expectation, a lot of the time authors try to force a romantic relationship that just shouldn’t exist. So often I find in YA books that I don’t feel the chemistry between the love interests, and that they would have worked so much better as friends. I understand that it’s difficult because an expectation does exist for readers that a YA book will contain romance, but it’s so important to challenge this expectation because the more normal that platonic friendships between men¬† and women are in fiction, it will go a long way towards reducing the expectation for platonic friendships in real life to turn romantic as well.

I’ve been attempting to challenge this particular problem in my own work, my first novel, This Is Not A Love Story. I wanted the central relationships in my book to be friendships, and particularly show that if you have a male and a female character narrating your book, then it doesn’t have to turn into something romantic between them. Tiffany is pretty clear from the start that she doesn’t have any romantic feelings towards Cam, and though Cam initially does, it never turns into anything.

The frustrating thing, particularly about YA is that it usually starts well. There are lots of male and female characters that are friends initially, but then it’s revealed that one had feelings for each other all along. Think Katniss and Gale from The Hunger Games, that could have been a really great platonic friendship, but of course, in order to create tension, he had to have feelings for her. There’s nothing wrong with people who were originally friends falling in love, I actually really enjoy relationships that start that way, but it doesn’t have to be true for every friendship between a male and female character in fiction!

We need to tackle this whole idea that “just friends” is somehow a bad thing. That there has to be some kind of a justification for men and women to not be romantically interested in each other. It demeans friendship to put it down as something “lesser than romance” especially when friendships can be some of the most enduring relationships of our lives. This starts by showing children, and teenagers, that friendships are just as, if not more important than romantic relationships by featuring platonic relationships more heavily in the books they read.

The friend zone is a classic myth that is used by men who are rejected. It’s used by men who believe that being nice to women means that they are entitled to have sex with them. If our media, and literature, showed more platonic relationships with men and women, and didn’t perpetuate the idea that men and women can’t be friends, then perhaps myth of the “friend zone” would not exist, because the expectation wouldn’t be that the only relationship men can have with women is a sexual one.

Overall, it is SO, SO important that platonic relationships are highlighted in fiction, both between heterosexual men and women, but also between characters on the LGBTQ+ spectrum as well. We need to show the importance of friendship in fiction, to tackle this idea that romance is the only kind of relationship that really matters, and especially to tackle the idea that men are somehow entitled to romantic relationships with women. I definitely think that having more platonic relationships in literature would contribute to a more healthy understanding of platonic relationships in society as a whole.

So there we go, my two cents on the need for platonic relationships between male and female characters in books. Anyone have any favourite platonic m/f relationships? Let me know in the comments!

I will hopefully have another one of these up at the end of the month, though I haven’t decided what it will be about yet. In the meantime, my next post will be my regularly scheduled Top Ten Tuesday post, which will be up tomorrow.

Jo Talks Books: I’m Not A Visual Reader and What That Means

Hi everyone! I’m so sorry that this post is so late, I’d intended to get it up earlier in the month but August just completely ran away from me, I’ve been working so much during August that I haven’t had as much time for blogging as I’d have liked to.

Anyway, with all that being said, I am here with an August discussion post for you guys, and this month I’m talking about something that I think I’ve mentioned in my reviews in the past but I wanted to explain a bit more about what I mean by it today.

I’m not a visual reader. I know that sounds super weird, but by that, I don’t mean that I only read books in audio form (though that is of course valid). Instead I mean, that when I’m reading, the words don’t form a picture in my head. I can’t see everything like a movie, I don’t have exact visions of what the characters and the world look like. The words are just words. I don’t know why this is, it’s just been the way that my brain has always functioned. It’s strange because I’m very much a visual learner, I’ve always learned things by reading them, but it doesn’t really translate into being able to picture stories in my head.

This is one of the main reasons I think, why lengthy descriptions and purple prose aren’t really for me. I know that a lot of people really love authors who have that kind of writing style and whilst I do appreciate the beauty of the prose, I just can’t connect to it, because I can’t really picture the descriptions in my head. When I talk about loving world building in books, it’s not because I can picture every aspect of a world, it’s more of a feeling I get of being immersed in the world. This doesn’t mean that I like books that have no description at all, I have to have some idea of what the world I’m in is supposed to be like, but books that double down on every little detail? Yeah that’s lost on me.

It also means that when it comes to movie adaptations, because I don’t necessarily picture the characters or world in a certain way, I don’t get annoyed so much when they don’t match my particular vision, because I didn’t really have one. I get annoyed if they are very obviously not the way that they were described in the text, but I don’t have a specific picture that I am measuring them up to. For example, I got annoyed when Annabeth didn’t have blonde hair in the first Percy Jackson film, not because I had a specific picture in my head of her, but because that was they way she was described in the book.

This doesn’t mean that reading is any of a less enjoyable experience for me, obviously it isn’t, it just means that I enjoy different aspects of the reading experience. I really need some kind of emotional connection with what I read, whether it makes me happy, or excited, or scared or whatever, because I don’t “see” the book in my head, but I feel all of the emotions quite intensely. I don’t necessarily need to know exactly what the characters look like, but I need to be able to connect to how they are feeling or the book will not work for me. I actually really enjoy action sequences, not because I can picture every little moment in my head, but because when an author does them well, I can feel the intensity and am on the edge of my seat wondering what will happen to the characters.

It also feeds into why dialogue is one of the most important things for me in any book. Whilst I may not be able to see the words on the page in my head, when characters have conversations, I can actually hear them quite vividly. Granted, without fail, every character has an English accent, which has caused some quite amusing moments in book adaptations of films where I’ve been “but that wasn’t how they sounded in my head” to books that I knew were set in the US, because everyone has an English accent in my head, but I digress. When I’m writing, I often hear the characters speaking in my head, long before I have any idea of what they look like, or what the world is going to be like, or anything like that. As a reader, this means that I really need dialogue to feel authentic because if it doesn’t, I will hear it in my head and find it really jarring.

I think this is also why on page romances don’t work as well for me as on screen ones. When I’m watching a film, I can see the chemistry of the main characters right in front of me (or at least I should, if the actors are good!) but when I’m reading, I don’t have this. I have to feel the chemistry, and that’s a lot harder to do. Again, this comes down to dialogue for me, if from what I can hear in my head, I can feel chemistry between characters, then I can really get on board with a romance. If not then, I can’t because I don’t see it in my head.

This is actually a more common thing than you would think, it’s called Aphantasia, which is otherwise known as mind blindness. It affects one in 50 people in the population and basically means exactly what I’ve talked about experiencing in this post, you can’t visualise images in your head. It doesn’t mean that I’m any less creative than people who do visualise these things, I can still come up with ideas for stories and write them, I just don’t necessarily picture what I write in my head.

What this means for when I write is that I tend to focus less on the description of places and characters and things and more on dialogue and character relationships. I do have an idea of what I’d like characters and places in my books to look like but it’s relatively vague and honestly I’d rather let readers (if one day I hopefully get published!) fill in the blanks for themselves. It’s a lot easier for me when I’m writing, or reading about real places, especially places that I’ve been to, because I have more of a frame of reference about what those places are supposed to look like.

So there we go, that’s a little insight into one of my experiences as a reader. Is anyone else unable to picture things in their head when they’re reading? Does anyone see everything like in a film? Anyone in between? I’d love to hear from you guys about your reading experiences, so let me know in the comments!

I will be back next month with another discussion post, though I haven’t decided what it will be about yet. In the meantime, I will have a new Writing Corner post for you guys tomorrow, all about writing modern fantasy vs second world fantasy.

 

Jo Talks Books: What Makes A Five Star Read For Me?

Hi everyone! We’re back to our regularly scheduled book posts after my little detour at the end of last month talking about graduation, and this time I’m going to be talking a little about my rating system for the books I read, focusing particularly on what makes a five star read for me as I know I tend to be a bit more stingy with my five stars than other bloggers, or at least it seems that way to me sometimes, so I wanted to explain, as much as I am able, since rating books it such a subjective thing, what makes a book a five star read for me. Though honestly it’s not always the same thing, of all the books I’ve loved over the years, I can’t say that I’ve loved exactly the same things about each one of them.

The biggest thing for me with five star reads, isn’t really a tangible factor, like oh I love great worldbuilding, or great friendships, or a fast paced interesting plot. Yes, those are all things I love and will contribute to me giving a higher rating to a book, but it’s not the most important thing.

For me, what differentiates a four star read from a five star read is that feeling of immersion in a world. When I read a book, and forget for hours where I am or what I’m doing and I’m only focused on that world and those characters, that will instantly be a five star read for me, no matter if the writing could be better or the plot better paced. It’s why I fell in love with reading in the first place, it’s what made me want to be a writer, and it’s something that all my favourite books have in common. This is why world building is so important to me, because only when a world has been fully developed can I feel properly immersed in it.

I also obviously need to have a really strong connection with the characters in a book. I say I prefer plot driven books, and I do, I often find that character driven books somewhat lack in plot, but characters are obviously really important for me too. If I feel no connection to the characters in a book, if I don’t care about them, then that book is never going to be a five star read. Five star books for me are books where I find myself thinking about the characters long after I’ve read the last page, and am desperate to know more about them, what they are doing in the future etc. All my favourite books and series have characters that I have fallen in love with pretty much from the very start of the book.

I don’t know if this is important for everyone, but it definitely is for me, I love dialogue. Dialogue is my favourite thing to write and it’s my favourite thing to read, I think because I’m not a massively visual reader, so I don’t really picture places or people in my head, but I can hear them speak (if that makes any sense at all!) so natural dialogue is a must for me. It’s also a really good way of establishing character dynamics, if the dialogue feels natural and fits the characters then I will be much more likely to believe and enjoy their dynamics with the other characters in the story. I especially love humourous banter though I know that doesn’t necessarily fit in every book.

I also have personal preferences when it comes to writing style, I know a lot of people enjoy very descriptive, purple prose but personally, because of the type of reader I am, intensely descriptive prose is kind of lost on me, therefore those types of books tend not to be favourites for me (with some exceptions). It’s quite hard for me to describe the kind of writing style I do like, because it varies so much from book to book, and none of my favourite authors have very similar writing styles but generally the writing I like will do all of the things I’ve mentioned above, make me feel immersed in the world, connected to the characters and establish believable dynamics. That doesn’t always need to be done the same way, which is why I can’t say that there’s a specific kind of writing that I like and there are many ways for authors to convey the things that I have mentioned in this post.

Romance is also a big one for me in terms of whether I rate a book five stars, because I’m incredibly picky about the romances I like, I need the couple to feel believable and not just like the romance has been shoehorned in because it’s a YA book and therefore “must have romance”. I don’t think romance is needed in every book and a lacklustre romance is enough to ensure that I won’t rate a book 5 stars, even if it does have a strong plot. Though often I find that romance impinges on the plot, there is too much focus on that, and not on what’s happening in the book and that’s a surefire way to ensure that I won’t rate a book five stars. A convincing romance, that adds to the plot and drives the story forward however, can add to my enjoyment of book and push it further towards a five star rating, so it really depends.

Obviously being a plot driven reader, plot is really important to me, but obviously none of my favourite books have exactly the same plots, though they do share similar tropes that I love (and those tropes will also contribute to my rating a book five stars). No the most significant thing for me in terms of plot, is pacing. I need a book to capture my interest and hold it for however long the book is, which could be anything from 300-700 pages (and very rarely more than that) so pacing is vital. A poorly paced book will never get a 5 star rating from me. That doesn’t mean it has to be non stop action all the way through, it just means that I want the right balance between quieter moments and more exciting moments. I don’t want all of the action to be right at the end, and the rest of the book be slow build up because that’s very boring for me. Pacing is a really tricky thing to get right, and it’s quite subjective, so it’s difficult to explain what I mean, but all of my favourite books have kept me engaged throughout with both faster paced sequences, and slower, quieter moments.

Ultimately though, I can say that all of these things will make me more likely to give a book five stars, and they will, but it all comes back to what I said at that start: a feeling. A feeling of “Wow, I can’t get enough of this world”. A feeling of “I love these characters”. A feeling that when the book is over, I want to go back and pick up that book again. A book can be technically the best book in the world, but if I don’t get that feeling, it’s not a five star for me. Reading is such a subjective thing, and it’s hard to explain exactly what that feeling is for me, but I hope this post has given you at least a little insight into what contributes to it!

What makes a five star read for you? Any of the things I’ve mentioned here? Let me know in the comments!

I don’t think I’ll have another discussion post for you this month, since I’m super busy with work, but I will be back next month for another one, though I’m not sure what it will be about yet. In the meantime, I will have another Top Ten Tuesday for you tomorrow, so keep an eye out for that.

Jo Talks: Thoughts on Graduating

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Hi everyone! So as you might have noticed from the omission of the “Books” from the title of this post, and the picture above, I am not actually talking about books today! I have a good reason for that though, as my graduation was on Tuesday! I’m not going to be doing a recap of the day or anything like that, because graduation ceremonies aren’t exactly the most interesting thing to read about, instead I’m just going to be talking about some of my thoughts on graduating, and sharing some pictures.

My relationship with the idea of graduating has changed a lot throughout Uni. When you start, graduating seems like this far off thing, that you kind of vaguely know will happen at some point in the future, but in the immediacy of starting Uni, settling in and attempting to make new friends, the idea of what happens when Uni is over is pretty far back in your mind.

I also, though I haven’t talked about it in any great depth here, had a pretty difficult time when I started off at Uni. I was hundreds of miles away from home, and even though I was in a city that was very familiar to me, given that I’d been coming to Stirling since I was a child (my grandparents lived here), getting used to being on my own for the first time was no easy task. So I was feeling quite homesick for the first few months of Uni, and I found it very difficult to make friends, as I always have done. For the first semester, though I’d joined clubs that I enjoyed, I was really quite lonely. The classes were all introductory modules that I wasn’t feeling that engaged with and I wrote off a lot of my loneliness as “Oh I’m introverted, I like to be alone” which probably wasn’t the best idea. I also didn’t really get on with most of my flatmates, and that definitely didn’t help matters. At that point, graduating didn’t only seem like a far off future, it felt like something that might never happen because I honestly couldn’t picture making it to the end of first year.

Thankfully, things picked up in my second semester of first year: I joined Creative Writing and met Nicola and Rebecca, who became my friends and flatmates for the rest of Uni, which meant I got out of my horrible first year flat more often, and rather than watching Netflix in my dark room, alone, I had people to do that with.

Once I’d got through first year, Uni actually passed far more quickly than I ever expected it to. It’s really hard to believe that it was four years ago that I started Uni, because it doesn’t feel at all that way. In the moment, I remember thinking that I had so much time, seeing people I knew from Equestrian and Trampolining graduating and thinking that it would be ages before that would be. It only really hit me in third year that it wasn’t really all that long before the person graduating would be me. It’s quite strange, because you go from wishing graduation would come sooner, in first and second year, to not quite wanting to admit that it’s all almost over. I certainly had a lot of that in the months leading up to graduation, as excited as I was to finally get a degree, it’s hard to say goodbye to something that has basically been my life for the last four years.

When I first started Uni, I fully intended to use this blog to talk about it, I thought I’d have a whole section of posts dedicated to talking about my Uni life, I really wanted my blog to share my journey through Uni. It didn’t end up working out that way, for various reasons, but even though I haven’t talked massively about my Uni experience on here, my blog has still be a massive part of that experience. I was so worried when I started, that my blog was just going to fade away whilst I was in Uni, when in actuality, it has grown more than I ever could have imagined. My blog turned five this year, and four of those five years have been spent at Uni, so even if I haven’t talked about the experience much, it has been inextricably bound to my blog’s identity for the last four years. Of all the things that graduation marks for me, it’s also kind of the end of an era for me. Ever since I started, my identity as a blogger has been tied up in my status as a student, I was a sixth form student when I started and a Uni student for the last four years, so it’s going to be quite interesting for me to see how BookLoversBlog changes now that I am no longer a student and it’s hopefully going to be quite exciting as well.

In my first year, I honestly couldn’t have imagined being sad at the thought of the end of Uni. But here I am now, and though my overwhelming feeling at the moment is joy and pride, there are definitely things that I am going to miss about Uni. I’m obviously going to miss living with my friends and seeing them every day, though I am sure we will still remain friends for years to come, I know it’s not going to be the same as the last three and half years. I’m going to miss the clubs that I was a part of, that were such a massive part of my Uni experience and I’m going to miss living in Stirling, a city that I have come to appreciate so much more over the last four years than I think I ever did when I came here visiting my grandparents as a kid.

I don’t want to end on a sad note though, as graduation itself wasn’t a sad day. It was actually a really joyous day. I’m so proud of what I’ve accomplished over the last four years, especially of my final project which I honestly think is some of the best writing that I’ve ever done and I’ve come out with a degree that I know I really earned and I can look back on the stresses of third and fourth year as completely worth it. As much as I am sad about leaving behind certain aspects of Uni, I have to say that I am definitely glad to be officially done with education!

As for looking forward, whilst I don’t know what life has in store for me in terms of my future career, I do know what my next adventure is going to be: South Africa in January. I’ve been wanting to do this trip since before I even started Uni, and I am so ridiculously excited to spend three months out there, developing my Journalism skills even more, alongside professional journalists. Graduation marks the end of an amazing chapter in my life, but it was also a reminder that though Uni might have ended for me, I have so much still to look forward to and I honestly can’t wait to get out and explore everything that life outside of Uni has to offer.

My graduation ceremony was the perfect ending to an eventful and ultimately incredibly enjoyable time in my life, but it was also a great beginning to whatever comes next for me and I’m so excited to see what that is!

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Me and Dad before Graduation

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Me and Mum, pre-Graduation

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Officially a graduate!

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All of us together at the Graduation Reception!

If you’ll allow me one more gushy moment before I sign off, I want to thank all of you guys for your support over the last four years. Running a blog whilst being a full time student hasn’t always been easy, and you’ve all been so wonderful and supportive of me so I just wanted to thank you for that, and for all your congratulations on my post yesterday. I hope you’ll all stick with me as we enter this new, graduate Jo phase of the blog!

I’ll be back next month for more regularly scheduled book talk, though I don’t know what that will be. In the meantime, I’ll have a review of my latest read Bedlam up soon, though I am (famous last words) going to attempt to take the rest of the week off from blogging, so that shouldn’t be until next week!

 

 

Jo Talks Books: Does Authors’ Online Behaviour Affect The Books You Choose To Pick Up?

Hi everyone! I had originally intended to use my June discussion post to talk about my University graduation, which is happening in a week and a half from now, but since I usually try to do two discussion posts a month over the summer anyway, I wanted to make sure that you definitely got some bookish content from me as well this month! Plus, there’s been a lot of talk on Twitter about this recently and it’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot, so I wanted to share my thoughts on it.

Before I joined Twitter/started blogging, I had very limited access to authors. I only really started going to book events in 2014 and before about 2015/2016, I didn’t really follow all that many authors online. All this is to say, that for a long time, I had no idea what authors were saying or doing online, it wasn’t on my radar, so it wouldn’t affect the books I chose to read.

That naturally changed as I became more involved in the online book world over the past few years, I started following more authors and getting more involved in the YA community and of course, with that, comes more awareness of authors who exhibit problematic views online or act in ways that are inappropriate or even aggressive towards bloggers.

I know the mantra is “separate the art from the artist” but it’s not something I’ve ever really held to. I think art is intrinsically linked to the person who creates it, it’s an outward expression of their inner thoughts and feelings and experiences. If you as a creator hold bigoted views about a particular group in society, then those views will likely be reflected in your work and even if they’re not, most people. myself included, don’t want to support people who hold those views.

I, like all other readers, have a massive TBR pile, larger than I will probably be able to finish in my lifetime. One of the easiest ways to cut down on books on my TBR is weeding out authors who have expressed hateful views online, because that is not the kind of author that I want to be supporting. I can also easily weed out authors who have bullied or harassed bloggers because again, that’s not behaviour that I want to support.

Last February, it came out that several high profile authors had been accused of sexually assaulting and harrassing women, a few of whose books I had read in the past and whilst I can’t change that I did read and enjoy their books, I can make sure that I don’t support their work in future because those are not the kinds of actions that I, as a reader, want to support even if I did at one point like their work.

This year in particular seems to have been filled with drama already, from the whole YA author incest row a couple of weeks ago, to Nicholas Sparks showing his racist and homophobic colours, to Kathleen Hale getting a book published about being a stalker, it seems that every day brings new incidents of authors behaving improperly online. Twitter has done great things with bringing us closer to authors we love, and more easily able to interact with them but with the good, comes the bad, authors are now more easily able to share views that they previously may not have, including those that express hatred towards marginalised groups.

I feel like a lot of the issues with authors’ online behaviour comes from the fact that conversations that should take place in private, happen on a public forum. This is particularly true of the whole incest debate, it started because authors were talking about shipping Jon and Sansa from Game of Thrones and then kind of spiralled out of control. I don’t think any of the authors involved intended to condone real life incest (or at least I hope they didn’t) but conversations on Twitter can be very easy to misconstrue and the fact that so many of the authors backlashed when they were criticised about it, didn’t do anything to improve the situation. Author social media is so often a combined public and private presence and I think it can be difficult to straddle that line sometimes which often leads to authors’ expressing things on their public social that should really be kept private.

I’m talking about all this however, from a standpoint of someone who is involved in the book community online, for the general reading populace, because not every reader is on Twitter, bad behaviour from authors is probably not on their radar at all, unless you are a fan of a specific author and their online bad behaviour is reported in a news outlet, you aren’t going to know so it won’t impact your reading choices in the same way as if you are highly involved in the online community.

This assumption from authors though can be quite dangerous. In the whole incest drama, a large part of the justifications from authors when it was brought up that being seen to endorse incest was rather irresponsible when your readership is teens, was that most teens aren’t on Twitter anyway and that everyone who was outraged was 30+ year olds, which was not only blatantly untrue, but also ignoring that their intended readership is online and that they can see what you’re posting, including when you pretty much erase them in order to justify your point. I think when authors assume that their target audience cannot see what they’re saying, they think that they’re justified to say things that they otherwise would never say on a public forum. Teens are discerning enough to tell when you’re talking down to them, or completely erasing them from the conversation and that sort of behaviour is likely to alienate you from your target audience.

What I’m saying, in an incredibly long winded way, is that yes, the online behaviour of authors does affect what I choose to read. I don’t know how other people feel about it, but for me, how an author interacts with their fans online, what they choose to share and promote, what they chose to talk about, is a reflection of who they are as a person, rightly or wrongly and when I see authors promoting hateful views, or disregarding their audience, or expressing support for problematic things online, I am unlikely to want to support that author when there are so many others who use their platform to lift other people up, to share advice and support and are kind and generous in their fan interactions.

So there we go, that’s my incredibly rambling thoughts on authors and their online behaviour. What do you think? Does the way authors act online affect your reading choices? Why/why not? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back at the end of the month with a graduation post for you guys, so stay tuned for many pictures of me all dolled up and lots of rambling thoughts on how I feel about the end of my time at Uni! In the meantime, the next you hear from me will probably be my regularly scheduled Top Ten Tuesday post.