#RockMyTBR May Update (2019)

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good May, mine honestly seemed to pass in a blur, what with finishing up at Uni, packing to come home and visiting friends, I genuinely don’t know how it came and went so quickly.

Anyway, for those of you who are new to the blog and haven’t seen me do one of these before, #RockMyTBR is a challenge started by Sarah K at the YA Book Traveler and I’ve kind of borrowed it for myself over the past few years, because it’s a nice, low pressure challenge, you basically just pick a list of backlist books from your TBR that you want to read and you read them over the course of a year. I always do 12, one for each month of the year. May was a good reading month in terms of quantity, I read 4 books this month, though none of them were new favourites. Here’s all the books I read in May:

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We Are Blood and Thunder by Kesia Lupo:

This was one of my Netgalley reads for this month and it was….yeah not great. I’d heard a lot of really great stuff about it before I started reading it, and I just found it so underwhelming. The plot was confusing, the characters were bland and I just generally didn’t enjoy reading it. I read this book from 3rd April-8th May (dipping in and out quite inconsistently). Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/09/we-are-blood-and-thunder-review-e-arc/

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Uprooted by Naomi Novik:

This was my #RockMyTBR book for May and again I found it kind of underwhelming. I’m not sure this style of book is really for me anyway, the prose was way too dense, the plot was extremely confusing and I could not get on board with the age inappropriate romance. I read this one from 30th April-16th May. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/17/uprooted-review/

Romanov

Romanov by Nadine Brandes:

This was my other Netgalley read for the month, and one of my most anticipated releases of the year. I did enjoy it, but not quite as much as I was expecting to, it was quite slow and took a while to get into and it wasn’t quite as fantastical as I was hoping. Still I did love the main character and when the book was exciting, it was really exciting! I read this one from 9th-26th May. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/29/romanov-review-e-arc/

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Finale by Stephanie Garber:

The third and final book in the Caraval trilogy was another one of my most anticipated reads for this year and again I was kind of disappointed. The plot was weak and slightly confused and there was far too much emphasis on the romantic drama rather than continuing with the more exciting plot threads that were introduced in Legendary. I did enjoy the characters though and found the ending quite satisfying, I liked how it tied everything together. I read this one from 17th May-31st May. Here is my review of it:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2019/06/02/finale-caraval-3-review/

So that’s what I read in May, here’s what I have coming up for June:

The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue-Mackenzi Lee

My #RockMyTBR book for this month, I only started it two days ago and I’m already loving it, it’s so funny and Monty is a complete ass but for some reason I really love him.

Bedlam (Skulduggery Pleasant #12)-Derek Landy

The latest Skulduggery Pleasant book! I’m going to see Derek Landy again at YALC at the end of next month and I definitely want to have this book done by then, so as soon as I’m done with Gentleman’s Guide, I’m going to be moving on to this.

Ever Alice-HJ Ramsey

This is my Netgalley read for the month and will probably be my last Netgalley read for a while since I’ve cleared all the outstanding books on my shelves and haven’t been approved for any new ones yet. It’s kind of weird having nothing on my shelf, but I think having a Netgalley break might be quite nice!

You-Caroline Kepnes

I just started Audible again, as I got a discount so I’m finally going to make good on my resolution to read more audiobooks this year. I decided to start with this one as I really enjoyed the show when I watched it on Netflix at the end of last year, and I think it will be a really good one to try on audio.

My reading progress this year is still going really well, I’ve read 22 books and I’m still way ahead on my Goodreads Challenge. I’m hoping to try and get a lot of reading done this month before my job starts in July and I have less time for it. How did your May reading go? Let me know in the comments!

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Finale (Caraval #3) Review

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Book: Finale (Caraval #3)

Author: Stephanie Garber

BECHDEL TEST: FAIL-There are no conversations between named female characters in this book that don’t somehow involve men.

This book was one of my most anticipated releases of this year, after loving both Caraval and Legendary, I was really looking forward to seeing how this series wrapped up and the ending of Legendary promised an exciting “Finale” (pardon the pun) and this time we got both sisters’ POV. I have to say though, I was kind of disappointed by this book? It lacked focus and structure and almost felt like a bunch of ideas thrown together rather than a cohesive storyline. Whilst using the Caraval game a third time might have been overkill, it gave structure to the first two books and without it this time, it was actually quite difficult to follow the story. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Welcome, welcome to Finale, the third and final book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Caraval series!

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…all games must come to an end.

It’s been two months since the last Caraval concluded, two months since the Fates have been freed from an enchanted deck of cards, two months since Tella has seen Legend, and two months since Legend claimed the empire’s throne as his own. Now, Legend is preparing for his official coronation and Tella is determined to stop it. She believes her own mother, who still remains in an enchanted sleep, is the rightful heir to the throne.

Meanwhile, Scarlett has started a game of her own. She’s challenged Julian and her former fiancé, Count Nicolas d’Arcy, to a competition where the winner will receive her hand in marriage. Finaly, Scarlett feels as if she is in complete control over her life and future. She is unaware that her mother’s past has put her in the greatest danger of all.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun―with lives, empires, and hearts all at stake. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win…and those who will lose everything.

This book picks up about two months after the end of Legendary, Legend is on the verge of becoming Emperor, but the Fates have not yet awakened. It all starts off quite well, there’s a lovely prologue which shows the girls with their mother just before she “disappeared”, however as the book goes on, it becomes clear that there’s no real structure, and the author seems to jump from one plot idea to the other without really developing any of them fully. Most of the plot threads from Finale that it seemed as if they would be important were kind of dropped, the Fates didn’t play nearly as important of a role as I thought they would, nothing really ever came of Legend’s ploy to be Emperor and the whole Paradise/Lost Heir thing? Barely even mentioned. I think this was a side effect of not having a Caraval game being the focus of this book, without that framework, there was nothing for Garber to structure her ideas around and she kind of just threw everything in with no particular thread linking them together.

The pace was also really quite slow for the first couple of sections of the book, it’s structured into a prologue, Beginning, Middle, Almost Ending, True Ending and an epilogue and it’s only really towards the end of the Middle that things really start to pick up. These have never been particularly fast paced books, which is fine but Caraval and Legendary had the mystery of the Caraval games, trying to work out what was real and what was the game, whereas this book you were just waiting for something to happen.

I also found it a bit ridiculous that Garber introduced  a new villain in the final book and it became all about fighting him. It’s hard to talk about this without going into spoilery territory, but I thought from the last book, this book was going to be all about stopping the Fates and getting them back into the cards, and it kind of veers off course from that and brings in this entirely new villain in the form of a Fate we hadn’t even really seen before and to be honest, he wasn’t even that compelling of a villain? It honestly would have been more compelling if Legend had become the villain of this story rather than someone completely new.

There was way too much focus on the romantic drama in this book, the first two books were fantasy with light romance, whereas this book felt like a romance with light fantasy. And it was all pointless anyway, because both girls end up with who you know they’re going to end up with so all the constant angsty back and forth, particularly from Tella is just infuriating. The romance just completely took over all aspects of the plot and the thing is, I actually did like the romances in this series before this book, but in this book I was like “Okay we get it, you both like *insert character’s romantic interest here*, can we please get back to the Fates potentially destroying the world?”. The romantic drama could have easily been solved within the first part, if only the CHARACTERS ACTUALLY TALKED TO EACH OTHER. Both options for Tella were kind of awful as well, they were emotionally abusive to her and I honestly wish she’d just chosen herself.

I do like Stephanie Garber’s writing, but she’s always had a tendency of going overboard on the similes and metaphors and leaning into prose that just doesn’t make sense, like “he smelled of ink and heartbreak” and whilst in the first two books, I felt like it created a good atmosphere, in this one I just found it annoying! There was so much repetition of stuff you’d already read and it would only come like two paragraphs after the first instance of seeing it, and I’m like, I have a pretty good memory, I don’t need reminding of something I read literally two seconds ago. There were parts of this book when I really did enjoy the writing, in fact, it is more good than bad, but when it’s bad, it’s really bad.

There’s a plot twist involving Scarlett that a lot of people have complained about, I personally didn’t mind it, but I think it would have made more sense if the author had chosen a different character given that the character she chose didn’t have any link to Scarlett’s ability to see people’s emotions at all, though I suppose it would have made Tella’s storyline a bit creepy! (I’m sorry, that was super cryptic, but I can’t really explain it better because it would be very spoilery).

I definitely feel like this book could have been shorter? If the author had narrowed her focus on just destroying the Fates, like it seemed she would in the last book, then I think it could have had a much more streamlined and easy to make sense of plot. This book is almost 500 pages, and it really didn’t need to be that.

I was expecting Paradise to play way more of a role in this book. She’s so important in Legendary, Tella spends the whole book trying to find out what happened to her and then she’s basically hardly there in this book and I felt like that was such a missed opportunity because Paradise is such an interesting character and I wish she’d been explored more.

The chapter lengths were pretty uneven, we went from super long Tella chapters to super short Scarlett chapters and I reckon it would have helped the pacing more if the chapters had been more even. It’s also kind of unbalanced in terms of the Scarlett/Tella narration, Tella gets far more chapters than Scarlett and weirdly I would have actually preferred more Scarlett? The two girls really seemed to switch places in this book, Scarlett is the one with more agency who seems to be actually doing more in the whole taking down the fates thing and Tella seems mostly focused on her romantic drama. I did like that we finally got to see them working together a bit more in this book though, they felt more connected as sisters in this book than they did in either Caraval or Legendary.

They spend the whole book trying to work out how to take down the villain, when they already knew how all along and it seemed so pointless. Garber would introduce all these plot points and then dropped them the next chapter, it was like she couldn’t make up her mind what direction she actually wanted to take this book. Everything is solved way too easily as well, as soon as the characters faced a problem, the solution was just dropped in their lap. so the stakes never felt very high.

I really wish that this book had come with a warning for arachnophobes, there’s a section that involved spiders that I really couldn’t handle!

I loved the map at the beginning of the book, it was really beautiful.

There’s a part of the book which relies on time travel as a solution, and again without delving too far into spoilery territory, it’s something I always find a bit iffy because it’s very difficult to explain and very few authors actually get it right, I don’t think Stephanie Garber did.

I felt like a lot of questions went unanswered, especially what happened to Caraval after the ending, I felt like that wasn’t really made entirely clear.

I did like the ending. It was maybe a little too neat and some of the things that happened were a bit of a stretch, but I loved how everything came full circle and tied back to the first book, when so much of the book felt disconnected to the previous two, it was nice to have that one thread at the end that tied everything back together, I found that really satisfying.

I know I’ve been quite negative about this book in this review, and it must seem like I didn’t really like it at all, but I do still love the characters and the world and there were definitely aspects of the book that I enjoyed, I think the negative stuff just stuck more because I was so anticipating this book and it didn’t really go at all like I expected. I think people who like heavy romance in their books will love this one a lot more than I did!

My Rating: 3.5/5

My next review will be of my June #RockMyTBR book, The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzi Lee. I just started it yesterday and I’m really loving it so far!

Romanov Review (e-ARC)

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Book: Romanov

Author: Nadine Brandes

Published By: Thomas Nelson Fiction

Expected Publication: 7th May (sorry!)

Format: e-book

Bechdel Test: FAIL-There are several named female characters in this book, Anastasia and her sisters, but when they talk to each other, it’s generally concerning the men around them, their brother, their father, or the Bolshevik soldiers.

I received this book from Thomas Nelson Fiction, through Netgalley UK, in exchange for a honest review.

As always thank you to Thomas Nelson, and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book.

I loved Nadine Brandes’ previous book, Fawkes when I read it last year and as soon as I saw what her next book was about, I knew I had to read it, I love the Romanovs and find that whole period of history completely fascinating. I will admit that I didn’t love this quite as much as I loved Fawkes? The first half lags a lot (though it does really pick up in the second half) and it’s kind of light on the magic, it’s historical fantasy but definitely leaning more towards the historical than the fantasy, which is fine, but I personally would have liked it if it had had a little more magic. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them . . . and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of survival are to either release the spell, and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya’s never dabbled in magic before, but it doesn’t frighten her as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her . . .

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.

So I guess I have to start off by saying that the main thing that bothered me about this book was once again, the pacing. I said it about Fawkes, and the same is true here. It starts off with a little prelude, which I found really gripping, but then the entirety of the first half of the books is focused on the Romanovs in exile before the execution, and so the whole time you know what’s coming and you’re just waiting for it to happen. Things definitely pick up after the execution takes place and the author’s imaginings of the events kicks in, but you’re already about 20 chapters into the book and I’m not sure everyone will have the patience to get through the exile section to the exciting stuff. I’d also say that the chapters were a bit overlong in the beginning. The transition in speed just feels quite jarring as well, because you go from the mundanity of exile to action packed train chases, it felt like you were reading two different books and I think if the magic and everything from the second half had been woven in earlier, it wouldn’t have been quite so jarring.

I loved the writing though, I think Nadine Brandes has a wonderful way with words and I could honestly just wrap myself up in her prose quite happily, so that was a definite plus with this book, it makes it much easier to love a book when you enjoy the author’s writing style. There were some uncorrected proof errors, but I’m sure those will have been fixed in the final version of the book.

Nastya was a great main character, she’s fierce and incredibly loyal and loves her family so so much & loves a bit of mischief. I thought she was really easy to relate to and I loved how she was able to stay so positive even in such a terrible situation. I don’t know what the real life Anastasia was like, but I loved Nadine Brandes’ rendering of her. I also really loved Alexei? He’s so sassy and adorable and their relationship was absolutely everything to me! All the familial relationships were amazing, it was clear how close the Romanov family were and how much they cared for each other.

I liked the magic system but I felt like it could have been utilised a lot more? Basically, there are people called spell masters, who are able to make something called spell ink, and people use this ink to write spells which have different effects depending on the word written. It’s very light on the magic, Anastasia mainly uses healing spells for her brother and I would have just liked a little more. I also wished that the magic’s connection to the Romanov bloodline had been explored more, because I didn’t really understand it.  The limits of the magic system aren’t really established well either, so the author kind of uses it as deus ex machina at the end of the book, and stretches it a bit beyond belief.

The historical aspects were dealt with well, the author is very accurate to history and even when she bends things a little, they do have a grounding in the actual history. It does romanticise that actual Romanov family a lot, and brush over some of Nikolai’s failings as a Tsar which is understandable given that the book is narrated by his daughter and she wouldn’t see him that way, but a bit problematic for people who do not know much about the royal family because they’ll come out with the idea of him as this all caring Tsar which is just not true. His wife Alexandra is presented as this weak, sickly woman and I also took issue with that because again, no. Alexandra was despised by the Russian people and had a lot of influence over her husband. The Bolsheviks weren’t great either, but there were legitimate reasons behind the Revolution and this book kind of casts them as Mean Bolsheviks being mean for no reason, which yeah, no. Rasputin is also kind of glossed over, he was a lot worse than the book makes him out to be. It does also assume prior knowledge of the Romanovs on the part of the reader, which is fine for me, because I did the Romanovs as part of my History A-Level so I don’t need the background context, but readers coming fresh to it might not necessarily understand all the ins and outs of why the Romanovs are in exile in the first place.

I wasn’t entirely convinced about the romance between Zash and Nastya. I think because Zash felt kind of flat at the start of the book anyway and he only really gets fleshed out in the second half but also because the whole prisoner/captor romance thing is very iffy to me? I mean I liked that Nastya struggled with that too, but I still felt like I couldn’t get fully on board with them because of that.

We do get some disability rep with Alexei and his haemophilia, and though I can’t speak to how accurate it was, it’s a great thing to see a disabled character in a fantasy. I will say that there was a lot of suspension of disbelief in the latter half of the book, that pain relieving spells would help him that much when he was pretty much bleeding out and also the initial events that lead to the second half of the book require some suspension of disbelief on the haemophilia part as well, but it is generally handled well.

In terms of content warnings, there is a lot of blood and a lot of death and violence, but I think that’s about it. I very much appreciated that the dog, Joy, did not die, because animal death is not something I handle very well, though their other two dogs do (that is also true to history, Joy survived and became a pet of the British Royal Family).

I thought the ending was really lovely, even if it did take some deus ex machina workings to get there, it was a nice happy for now ending and it fitted with the story, not a happily ever after, but with enough hope that things might get better for the characters in the future.

Overall, this story was a decent reimagining of the story of the Romanovs and whilst I did have issues with it here and there, I thought it was generally well executed and enjoyable and I hope Nadine Brandes does another historical fantasy in the future!

My Rating: 3.5/5

My next review will be of Finale, the final book in the Caraval trilogy by Stephanie Garber, which I should have for you by the end of the week, or the beginning of next week as I’m almost done with it.

 

Top Ten Tuesday #213

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Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these. I spent my first weekend home from Uni, well not actually at home, I was with my friends Hannah and Zoe at Hannah’s new place, which was lovely, it was so nice to be able to catch up with them and hopefully we’ll be able to see more of each other now that I’m back in Cambridge rather than up in Scotland.

Anyway, since it’s Tuesday, I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is My Favourite Books I Read in Each of The Past Ten Years (2009-2018), which is definitely a cool one, but since I read a lot of books in different years to when they were published, I’m going by publication date rather than when I actually read them, otherwise 2009-2011 would just all be Derek Landy and Rick Riordan books as those are the only books I can actually remember reading in that time that were published then! So here we go, my favourite books of the last ten years:

  1. 2009-Catching Fire-Suzanne Collins

I actually didn’t discover The Hunger Games until a few years later, I think 2012, just before the movie came out but it was published in 2009, so I’m counting it here. I loved the Hunger Games books, well the first two anyway, the third was kind of a disappointment and they were the first dystopia books I had read in a while, I read Noughts and Crosses when I was a kid, but they kind of fell of my radar after that, so The Hunger Games was sort of my reintroduction to the genre.

2. 2010-Dark Days (Skulduggery Pleasant #4)-Derek Landy

I mean obviously at least one of Derek Landy’s books was going to make this list, since they’ve been such a massive part of my reading life since I was about 12/13. I’m pretty sure I made my Dad get me this one at the airport when we were going away on holiday because I saw it and just had to have it. This one is actually one of my favourites of the entire series, it’s the book that really sets up the Darquesse arc and I’d say is a major turning point in the series as a whole.

3. 2011-Between Shades of Gray-Ruta Sepetys

I actually didn’t read this book till 2015 (you can find the review under the drop down menu) but it was originally published in 2011, and honestly had I known about it, I definitely would have read it then because I’m sure 15 year old me would have loved this book as much as 18 year old me did. World War II stories are a dime a dozen and it’s quite difficult to find an author who does something new with the setting, but Sepetys did, I often feel like the atrocities of Stalin in that time period are grossly overlooked compared to Hitler and the deportations to Siberia are not something that is explored much, but Sepetys does so with great sensitivity and care.

4. 2012-The Raven Boys-Maggie Stiefvater

I literally picked this up in Waterstones on a whim, because it had a pretty cover. I had no idea what it was about, but I had read The Scorpio Races, I think the year before and I was intrigued by Maggie Stiefvater’s writing, so I wanted to try this series. Little did I know that I would quickly become obsessed with psychics, dead Welsh Kings and Blue and her Raven Boys.

5. 2013-The House of Hades (Heroes of Olympus #4)-Rick Riordan

I remember reading this one in all of my lunch breaks and study periods at sixth form, because I just could not put it down. I maintain that this is one of, if not the best book that Rick Riordan has written. Percy and Annabeth in Tartarus? Leo and Calypso? Hazel learning how to use her powers? Nico coming into his sexuality? Everything about this book was amazing, which honestly probably made my disappointment with the final book even worse!

6. 2014-Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)-Sarah J Maas

Again, I actually read this one in 2015, but it was published in 2014 so I’m counting it here. Heir of Fire is my favourite Throne of Glass book, without a doubt, it was before the books started getting to unmanageable lengths (still long but not over 600 pages), it marked the transition between Celaena and Aelin, you get introduced to Manon, whom I love and it was the last book before the focus on romance and sex really took over. It was also focused so much on Celaena’s journey of healing, which I loved, I’ve found that the healing narrative is something Maas always does really well, because all my favourite books of hers, Heir of Fire, Tower of Dawn, A Court of Mist and Fury, follow characters on that journey.

7. 2015-A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)-VE Schwab

I actually read this one in 2016, but again it was published in 2015, so I’m counting it here. A Darker Shade of Magic is one of my favourite books of all time, it has pretty much everything I love, an awesome magic system, a badass female character, incredible writing and just this amazing, immersive world. It’s one of those books that you just fall into and completely forget about everything until you’re done with it and I find those books are incredibly rare.

8. 2016-Rebel of The Sands (Rebel of The Sands #1)-Alwyn Hamilton

Hannah and I met Alwyn before her book even came out in 2015 at YALC and so naturally when the book came out, I already wanted to love it because she had been so lovely when we met her. Thankfully I did, the setting felt alive, the main character was brilliant and the story was gripping and fast paced, it was a great book to while away the time on the train to and from Scotland during my February reading week in 2016.

9. 2017-A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3)-VE Schwab

Yes, I know I’ve included two Schwab books on this list but I don’t care, I couldn’t not have this book on here. It’s a masterclass in how to do a series finale, it wraps up the characters’ stories beautifully (with enough openings for the spinoff trilogy though!), it hits all the right emotional beats, it was so well paced for such a long book and it just left me feeling so intensely satisfied!

10. 2018-To Kill A Kingdom-Alexandra Christo

Yes, so technically I read this one this year, but it was published in 2018, so I figure a year didn’t make too much difference! The Little Mermaid is not one of my favourite fairytales, but I loved Christo’s take on it, the vicious siren and the siren hunter, thrown together to defeat the evil Sea Queen? Yes please! Also Lira is so sassy and vicious and just generally everything I love in a female character.

Have you read any of these books? Did you like them? What have been your favourite books over the past ten years? Let me know in the comments!

That’s it for this week, I’ll be back next week, with a new Top Ten Tuesday, we’re going to be talking about Books From Our Favourite Genre, so naturally, I’m going to be talking about my Top Ten Favourite Fantasy Books, in a surprise to absolutely no one. Meanwhile I just finished my most recent read, Romanov by Nadine Brandes, so I will have a review of that up by the end of the week.

Jo Talks Books: Why Is It So Much Easier To Find TV Shows about New Adults than Books?

Hi everyone! I know, two discussion posts in one month, it’s a miracle. I’m back from Uni now and have a lot more time on my hands, so I’m hoping I might be able to keep up two discussion posts a month till the end of the year, please don’t hold me to that though! This year on Book Twitter there has been a lot of chat about New Adult books and the lack thereof having a knock-on effect on YA books as YA books are being aged up in order to appeal to all of the 20+ adults who read a lot of YA and don’t really have a space of their own. Well during this discourse, someone brought up the excellent point that there are many TV shows that appeal to this demographic of 20-30 year old adults but this doesn’t seem to translate into books and I wanted to explore that a little more in my post today.

University and your early adult years are filled with change and transition and experiences can differ wildly from person to person. You have University, starting your first job, some of us have our own places, some of us are still living with our parents, some people are even getting married and having kids, even within my friend group, all of us are doing very different things. All this means that there is a lot to be mined from this period in your life, much like teenagers, adults in their 20’s and even 30’s are still growing and changing and figuring stuff out, only now we have to factor in all the adult responsibilities that we never had to deal with before. It’s a confusing and tricky time to navigate, so naturally we look to media to help guide us through.

TV has been showing the ups and downs of being in your twenties for years, from older shows like Friends and How I Met Your Mother to newer shows like The Bold Type, there is a myriad of TV showing the ups and downs of being in your twenties & early thirties, from career issues, to dating to friendships and navigating Uni life. These shows are also becoming more and more diverse, it’s not all just white twenty somethings sitting around drinking coffee anymore, though obviously there is still a lot more for TV to do in that area. But anyway, chances are that if you are looking for a TV show that reflects your life as a twenty something, you’ll probably be able to find it.

Books, however are a whole different story. If you are a teenager, there are books across a wide range of genres featuring characters of your age. That’s not to say that YA fiction represents all teenage experiences equally, there is still a lot of work to do there, but you can find books covering a myriad of different teenage experiences in pretty much any genre you like.

New Adult however, tends to be limited to mostly romances, particularly erotic ones, and though I think that is changing, there’s still not the same breadth and depth of titles available in this age range that there is in YA. It’s not really it’s own age category anyway, so the books that could be classified as this, are normally shelved in Adult, which makes them harder to find unless you specifically know what you’re looking for.

So why the stark difference between TV & books when it comes to media focused on twenty somethings? I think one of the major ones is that adults are considered the prime audience when it comes to TV, I know that in the US, the 18-49 demographic is considered the most important, so it makes sense that you can find a lot of US shows about 20 somethings as they fall into that category and you want to make shows that appeal to them. The UK is slightly different, the TV demographic tends to skew older and there’s more focus on “family shows” than ones that appeal specifically to the 20-30 demographic.

For books however, there is a huge push to get children into reading, so there’s always a big range of children’s books, and a big push to keep children reading, hence the large number of YA books. When it comes to 20 somethings though, well there’s already an adult category, so what’s the point of dividing that even more, surely we can find something for ourselves there?  Well yes, but the adult fiction section is huge, it can be hard to find books that specifically feature characters of our age in there and also there really aren’t that many? The large majority of adult books seem to feature characters that already have their lives together, who are in the 30s, 40s or even 50s, who are married with several kids that are teenagers themselves and who are settled in their careers. That’s not exactly relatable to the 21 and 22 year olds just coming out of Uni!

I think because the few actually labelled NA books that are out there can be quite difficult to find, also doesn’t help matters when it comes to publishers putting out more of them, because they feel like the ones that are there don’t gain enough traction to be worth it, when actually there are people who really want these books, they’re just not given a big enough push, so we can’t find them!

Also adult buyers make up a large proportion of the sales of young adult books. Now that’s not to say that they couldn’t be buying for a teenager in their lives, but the fact is that a lot of adults read YA books. It doesn’t really make sense for publishers to invest in a totally new category of fiction, that didn’t really take off the first time they tried it, when the audience of that books happily buy books in an already established category, that does very well.

With TV, you don’t really get the same deal of categorisation that you do with books. There are shows that are very obviously for kids, and shows that are very obviously for adults because of their content, but everything in between? It’s not so rigidly categorised, there’s far more fluidity and I feel like a lot less snobbishness if you’re an adult watching a “teen” show. I understand why books are categorised the way they are, it’s much harder to tell content than it is with TV shows, but I feel like the benefit of TV is that there is something for everyone, you don’t miss a large chunk of your audience, whereas because there is no specific category for 20-30 year olds, that experience tends to get missed in books.

TV seems to have realised that there is a market for 20-30 year olds, whereas books despite the evidence that 20-30 year olds do buy books, and that we make up the large majority of book bloggers, haven’t been able to find a way to make books for that age group profitable and so instead age them down to a genre that they know is profitable i.e. YA. But this causes a whole another set of issues, because YA books then end up being aged away from their target audience to accommodate the growing group of adults who love these kinds of stories but can’t find ones featuring characters of their age.

I don’t really know what the answer is to getting books to embrace the stories of people in their 20’s and early 30’s in the same way that TV has, but I do know that the appetite for these kinds of stories are definitely strong, and that with the right marketing and a more concerted effort to sell these books as they actually are, rather than aging them down to YA, or hiding them among the rest of the adult fiction, then they could do really, really well, just like TV shows focusing on that demographic have done.

So there we go, that’s my two cents on the whole thing, what about you? Do you feel like there’s a lot more TV focusing on 20-30 year olds than there are books? Why do you think TV does better in that area? What are your favourite books in that age range? Let me know in the comments!

I will be back with another Jo Talks post in June, not entirely sure what it will be about yet, but I guess you’ll see when it goes up! In the meantime, tomorrow is Tuesday, so I’ll be back with another Top Ten Tuesday for you all then.

 

Top Ten Tuesday #212

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Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these. I’m back home from Uni now, arrived home yesterday after a 7 hour journey down from Stirling, but at least it wasn’t as bad as our journey last year where our train broke down and we were left sitting on the tracks for over 2 hours! I’m also finally going to see Hannah and Zoe again on Friday, which I’m so looking forward to, I haven’t seen them since we went to Hamilton in February.

Anyway, since it’s Tuesday, I have a Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic was supposed to be Books I Won’t Let Anyone Touch, but I lend books to my friends all the time and there are very few (mostly signed books) that I wouldn’t lend out to people, because I feel like books are for sharing and what is the point of me having all these books if I can’t share their stories with other people? Anyway, to that end, this week I’m going to be talking about Books I Pushed on My Friend Hannah (you should all go follow her blog Books, Life and Other Oddities), some of which I lent her, most of which I just gently nudged her into buying at YALC! So here we go:

  1. A Darker Shade of Magic-VE Schwab

The summer that I read A Darker Shade of Magic, Victoria Schwab happened to be at YALC and I got ADSOM and AGOS signed, plus Our Dark Duet for my friend Nicola. I couldn’t stop talking about how good it was to Hannah, so of course by the end of the day, she had bought and had ADSOM signed as well. Three years later, we’ve seen Victoria Schwab twice more together, and we’re going to see her at this year’s YALC as well. I would definitely call this book pushing a success!

2. Caraval-Stephanie Garber

Hannah and I actually tried to win a proof of Caraval, the year before it came out but we unfortunately didn’t get it. When the book finally came out the next year, I bought the hardcover, loved it and then naturally had to lend it to Hannah because I needed someone to fangirl about it with. It worked, Hannah loved it and I ended up buying her a hardcover copy of Legendary for Christmas last year. I cannot wait to talk to her about Legendary, and of course Finale, when she’s read it.

3. The Raven Boys-Maggie Stiefvater

Not only did I manage to push The Raven Boys on Hannah (which was desperately needed, I’d been reading the books for four years at this point and had no one to talk to about it), we also waited in a four hour signing line to meet Maggie Stiefvater at YALC. I’ve since lent her the second and third books and she bought the fourth one at YALC last year.

4. Throne of Glass-Sarah J Maas

This is one of my few recommendation fails for Hannah, I convinced her to buy it at YALC a couple of years ago and sadly she didn’t enjoy it as much as I did, but I think eight years of pretty stellar book recommendations allows me for one fail no?

5. Ace of Shades-Amanda Foody

I convinced Hannah to buy this at YALC last year (she had seen my review of it and thought it looked good), and she really enjoyed it. I can’t wait for her to read King of Fools, I have so many feels and I really need someone to talk to about them!

6. The Bone Season-Samantha Shannon

I can’t quite remember how or when I convinced Hannah to read The Bone Season, I think I wanted to see Samantha Shannon at YALC one year and ended up convincing her to get The Bone Season. I mean it worked though, because we’ve seen Samantha Shannon twice together since then and she got the second and third books to read as well.

7. My Sister’s Keeper-Jodi Picoult

I think this is one of the first books that I lent to Hannah, since it’s one of my favourites. She actually ended up losing it and having to buy me a new copy, but I think she enjoyed it in the end, so it was a partial success, if not for my original copy of the book!

8. Code Name Verity-Elizabeth Wein

I loved Code Name Verity, so naturally that meant that Hannah had to read it, because when I love something, I need people to yell about it with. I lent my copy to her whilst we were on holiday in Greece a couple of years ago, and thankfully she loved it just as much as I did.

9. Asking For It-Louise O’Neill

Another of the many books that I’ve pushed on Hannah during our annual trips to YALC! I don’t think she’s read this yet, so I don’t actually know what she thought about it, but it’s definitely another one that I recommended.

10. Daughter of Smoke and Bone-Laini Taylor

A couple of years ago when Laini Taylor was at YALC, I wanted to get my copy of Daughter of Smoke and Bone signed as I’d just finished it and I was telling Hannah about how much I enjoyed it, so naturally she ended up buying a copy as well, and she really liked it.

Have you read any of these books? Did you like them? Do you have any friends that you push books on? Let me know in the comments!

That’s all for this week, I’ll be back next week, with another Top Ten Tuesday, where we’re going to be talking about our favourite books of the last ten years, which is just going to make me feel old, since ten years ago I was 13, which is a horrifying thought that it’s been that long but I digress. Meanwhile, I’m hoping to have the first post of my new Book/Movie comparison feature up soon as I’m finally done with Uni and actually have time to start new stuff on the blog, yay!

 

Uprooted Review

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Book: Uprooted

Author: Naomi Novik

Bechdel Test: FAIL-I couldn’t find anything that I would really class as a conversation between two women that wasn’t about a man, especially as most of Agnieszka’s conversations revolve around the Dragon.

Uprooted was my May #RockMyTBR book and I have to admit that going into it I was kind of in two minds. On the one hand, I’d heard that it had Beauty and The Beast-esque vibes and all the reviews that I’d seen of it were really positive, but on the other, I tried one of Naomi Novik’s other books Spinning Silver, last year and I really couldn’t get into it, so that kind of put me off trying this one. After reading it, my feelings really aren’t any less conflicted than they were before I read it, on the one hand I thought it was a creative concept and I liked reading a fairytale type story with less obvious influences, but it was an incredibly dense book, Novik’s prose was kind of unwieldy and I couldn’t really relate to any of the characters. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

A dark enchantment blights the land

Agnieszka loves her village, set in a peaceful valley. But the nearby enchanted forest casts a shadow over her home. Many have been lost to the Wood and none return unchanged. The villagers depend on an ageless wizard, the Dragon, to protect them from the forest’s dark magic. However, his help comes at a terrible price. A young woman must serve him for ten years, leaving all she values behind.

Agnieszka fears her dearest friend Kasia will be picked at the next choosing, for she is everything Agnieszka is not – beautiful, graceful and brave. Yet when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he takes. 

Honestly I’m not even sure how to review this one, the plot was kind of complicated and confusing anyway, and it’s generally meant to be quite a strange story, so it’s difficult to know where exactly to begin.

I’ll start with the writing, since that was one of my biggest bugbears about the story. I’ll admit this is a very me thing, and the writing isn’t necessarily bad, but for me the prose was incredibly dense and kind of unwieldy. I’m not sure if purple is exactly the way to describe it but it was definitely heading that way. Some people like that kind of writing, but I’m not one of them, so from the get go, this was a bit of a difficult one for me to read.

The pacing was incredibly uneven, the first half is incredibly slow and there’s not all that much really happening and then we get the latter third or so and suddenly everything is going at breakneck speed and it’s kind of confusing because things are going so fast that you can’t quite work out what’s going on.

The chapter lengths were also a bit of an issue for me, they’re quite chunky and again on a personal note, I just don’t really like that. I read before bed, so chapter brevity is always a winner for me, it means that I can read more, plus the denseness of the prose meant that the chapters felt even longer than they already are. The book could definitely have been trimmed a few hundred pages, the climax seems to go on for far longer than is actually necessary. I kept thinking the book was over and then it just kept going!

As far as the characters go, for starters there were far too many in the latter portion of the book, as soon as Agnieszka gets to court, suddenly we are introduced to twenty million different people, and I just couldn’t keep them all straight in my head, especially since most of them were barely developed. Agnieszka herself also felt kind of flat to me, I wasn’t really sure what it was about her, but I just felt like I couldn’t connect to her. She also falls kind of into the special snowflake trap, she struggles with magic for a little bit but then suddenly she finds a book and it becomes super easy for her and she doesn’t seem to tire from using it until its convenient for plot purposes. I didn’t need to be reminded every two chapters that Agnieszka was plain and clumsy, but the author did anyway. I just didn’t find her particularly memorable as a heroine and I found that her voice was kind of detached, which meant I didn’t really feel the emotions in the story that I was supposed to.

The Dragon I had issues with for different reasons. He’s kind of a jerk and whilst I did enjoy some of his snarky comments, I didn’t really see what about him I was supposed to like? I do get the appeal of gruff guys, but usually they have a heart of gold underneath and that’s why you love them, The Dragon just came off as a jerk to me. He’s pretty nasty to Agnieszka and honestly I just couldn’t tell what she saw in him.

The romance I also had major issues with. For starters, we have the classic captor/captive trope, which should just die in a hole already, much as I love Beauty and The Beast, I have to admit that I have become ever more uncomfortable with that particular part of the story over the years. He is also over 100 and she is only 17, and whilst I did appreciate that he acknowledged this (most books don’t), it did seem to be glossed over pretty quickly. Plus, I genuinely just didn’t feel the chemistry between the two of them, Agnieszka seemed to feel more for Kasia (her best friend) than she ever did for the Dragon. We also get a very explicit sex scene late on in the book, that didn’t really seem to fit and made me kind of uncomfortable, though I did appreciate that the author made sure to include on page consent.

The magic system is another one of my big issues with this book. IT’S NEVER EXPLAINED. No one explains why certain people have magic and certain people don’t, we don’t know why Agnieszka is so drawn to this particular type of magic that no one else seems to really use, and there’s no hard and fast rules. They seem to be able to just throw out magic until it becomes convenient for the plot for them to be drained.

The Wood was an interesting villain and I liked not having a person, but rather a thing, be the source of evil, but I felt like the explanation for how the Wood turned bad and the corruption started wasn’t really thought through enough. The stakes were also never really that high, even when the characters were in danger, you knew that they were only one good magic spell away from getting out of it.

The ending I found kind of anti-climactic, I think it would have been fine ending off at Chapter 31, but then we get this weird extended epilogue that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and doesn’t really add anything to the story as a whole.

Overall, I liked the concept of this book but found the execution lacking. The first half was far too slow and then the second half was way too fast and confusing, the characters weren’t all that well developed and the plot became difficult to follow the further through the book you got. I don’t think I’ll be trying anything by this author again.

My Rating: 3/5

My next review will either be of Finale, the final book in the Caraval trilogy by Stephanie Garber, or of Romanov, by Nadine Brandes, depending on which one I finish first.