For A Muse of Fire (For A Muse of Fire #1) Review (ARC)

For a Muse of Fire (For a Muse of Fire, #1)

Book: For A Muse of Fire (For A Muse of Fire #1)

Author: Heidi Heilig

Expected Publication: 25th September (Yes, I know, I know)

Format: Physical copy, paperback

Thank you to Heather Doss who sent me the copy of For A Muse of Fire to read early through the #bookishwish on Twitter.

I actually saw a tweet about this book from the author herself in which she compared it to…well honestly I don’t remember the exact comparison but it was something I liked, so I instantly added it to my TBR and then very kindly, Heather Doss accepted my bookish wish from Twitter and sent a proof all the way from the US for me (thank you, Heather!) so I got to read this book a little early (though granted, it took till after the book was officially released to finish it, but since it’s probably not going to be released in the UK till next year, I guess I still technically read it early!). Here is a short synopsis of the book:

A young woman with a dangerous power she barely understands. A smuggler with secrets of his own. A country torn between a merciless colonial army, a terrifying tyrant, and a feared rebel leader. The first book in a new trilogy from Heidi Heilig.

Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem to move without string or stick—a trade secret, they say. In truth, Jetta can see the souls of the recently departed and bind them to the puppets with her blood. But the old ways are forbidden ever since the colonial army conquered their country, so Jetta must never show, never tell. Her skill and fame are her family’s way to earn a spot aboard the royal ship to Aquitan, where shadow plays are the latest rage, and where rumor has it the Mad King has a spring that cures his ills. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues Jetta. But as rebellion seethes and as Jetta meets a young smuggler, she will face truths and decisions that she never imagined—and safety will never seem so far away.

Heidi Heilig creates a world inspired by Asian cultures and French colonialism.

First off, the premise for this was pretty darn awesome. A combination of Asian and French, a main character with necromancy talents and bipolar disorder and the whole shadow puppet element? Yeah, the whole thing made for the premise of a brilliant story.

I loved Jetta as a main character, she was very complex, both kind and caring & very family focused, and seemingly quite sweet natured, but she’s also reckless, impulsive and could be quite savage at times, she’s the literal definition of a Slytherpuff. Her bipolar disorder (the author also has the same disorder, so this story is #ownvoices for that), informs a lot of her actions and it was great to see a fantasy where the main character suffers from a mental illness and this informs the way they act but is never the singular important part of them, it’s just another aspect of their character.

It was also so lovely to have a fantasy story where the main character’s family plays such an important role. Jetta’s parents are not just there, they have an important role to play in her story and her love for her family is a really defining part of her character and that was so lovely and refreshing to see in a YA fantasy.

The diversity in this story was just fantastic,  nearly all the main characters are POC as it takes place in an Asian inspired world and of course, Jetta, has bipolar disorder. Apparently the author has also confirmed that Jetta is queer, though that is only implied, not directly mentioned on page.

I loved the world, though I could have potentially done with a bit more world building, the idea of the fusion of Asian culture with French colonialism was a great one but I didn’t feel like the world leaped off the page as much as it could have. I thought Jetta’s necromancy powers were awesome, though again, they could have been a bit more developed. Still I think it has real potential and I can’t wait to return to it and learn a little more in the second book. The whole idea of binding the souls of the dead to shadow puppets (or other objects) to command them, is an awesome idea and I loved seeing Jetta’s powers expand through the book.

The way the book was set out was also great, with the little ephemera of song lyrics, play scripts and letters relating to the story between each chapter  and it was laid out in a three act structure, like a play which was very pleasing. The little snippets of the stories for the puppet plays that Jetta and her family put on were particular highlights for me.

As a love interest, Leo felt kind of bland, and as much as I loved the positive representation of sex workers, the girls at Le Perl weren’t really given enough time to be developed either. Having said that, I did love the way Leo as a biracial character was represented, his struggles with not fitting in on either side of his heritage felt very authentic (he is also an #ownvoices character as Heilig is biracial herself).

It was nice to have the content warnings in the front of the book, I feel like that’s something that should be more normalised throughout publishing.

I loved that we got a reference page for all the characters at the front of the book, there were a lot of characters and it was nice to have that to refer to when I got confused over who people were, particular with the Emperor and the Boy King who I was constantly mixing up. I also would have appreciated a glossary for the French terms, since I don’t speak French (at least not very well!), so that would have been helpful.

The maps that will be present in the final version were obviously missing from the ARC copy that I read, which I understand as it’s an unfinished copy, but I can’t wait to see them in the final version.

The book was relatively slow paced, it only really picks up in the third act, and I also found certain parts a little confusing, since part of Jetta’s bipolar (or malheur as it’s called in the book) is missing random gaps of time which I understand but as a reader it was a little disconcerting.

I loved the writing, Heidi Heilig is amazing at painting a picture with words and even though I’m not a very visual reader, so I didn’t exactly picture everything in my mind, I could feel the atmosphere around me, which was great.

I could have done with more context for the Rebellion, we kind of just get thrown into it, and although I understand the basic jist of the whole Aquitans colonizing the Chakrans, it would have been nice to get a bit more backstory on that, and I really want to meet the Tiger!

I can’t really talk about Jetta’s heritage much without giving away huge spoilers, but I just want to say that I think there are some plot holes that the author didn’t really think about there and I’m hoping they’re explained more in the next book.

I would have liked to see more of Theodora as I thought she was a really interesting character who wasn’t really explored enough. I’m hoping to see more of her in the next book, and to see her interactions with Leo and Jetta as they should be very interesting after the events of this book.

The ending was really exciting and the last few chapters hold some great stuff that have made me really excited for the next book. Jetta makes some….well let’s just say interesting….decisions that will no doubt have major repercussions for the next book.

Overall, this was a promising start to what looks to be a great new fantasy series, it was wonderfully diverse, had a very cool premise and an interesting and complicated main character, and although the pacing and world building could have been improved here and there, I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book in the series.

My Rating: 3.5/5

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Jetta and Cheeky (one of the dancers at Le Perl) have a discussion about clothes.

My next review will be of Midnight, the latest Skulduggery Pleasant book by Derek Landy. Fair warning though, it may be a while till that review materializes as a) I have to finish the book and b) I am super busy in November so will not be blogging as much as I normally like to.


Sea Witch Review (e-ARC)

Sea Witch

Book: Sea Witch

Author: Sarah Henning

Published By: HarperCollins (UK)

Expected Publication: 31st July (oops! So sorry!)

Format: e-book

Thank you to HarperCollins and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book early, I love a good villain origin story and it was great to have the chance to read it pre-publication.

I was super excited for this book, despite The Little Mermaid not being my favourite fairytale (or at least not my favourite Disney movie!) because I do love a good villain origin story and since Ursula/The Sea Witch, is a great villain, I was expecting lots of darkness and evilness from this story. Sadly, I didn’t quite get what I expected, and instead of being a fun, magic filled, villainous romp, Sea Witch was more of a dry, historical retelling of witches in 17th/18th? (honestly I’m not really sure what century) Denmark with a hint of fairytales mixed in.

The pacing was ridiculously slow, it took a good 70% of the book for anything to happen, most of the time, it was just the characters milling about, celebrating a big Danish festival, drooling over each other and just generally going about their daily lives. Now I understand that books can’t be non-stop action all the time and I would probably be pretty bored if they were, but if I have to wait until the book is nearly over for anything to happen, then I’m sorry, but you’re doing something wrong.

I found the characters incredibly difficult to connect to. Evie didn’t really seem to have all that much personality, neither did any of the other characters, and since they all felt flat to me, I struggled to care about any of their struggles. Iker and Nik were just your average flat male love interests, who existed to serve no purpose other than provide romantic conflict for the story and even then, that didn’t really work because neither character seemed to have chemistry with their respective romantic interests. Annemette was the most interesting of the four main characters, but even then, it took far too long to get to the good parts of her character. I also would have liked to know more about Evie, Iker and Nik’s relationship with Anna before she died as that would have been helpful for context later in the book.

Each chapter had a flashback to the characters’ past between them, and whilst I understand what the author was going for with these, they just felt extremely choppy and made the transitions between each chapter seem rough. The writing quality in the flashback chapters was also significantly lesser than in the rest of the book, a lot of repetitive phrases were used and annoyingly, all the characters were referred to by hair colour rather than name!

The Danish world was cool and I think if it had been developed more then the mix of Danish history with magic could have worked really well but like much of the story, the world was also underdeveloped: there wasn’t really enough of Evie being a Witch for the story to be considered fantasy but not really enough history for it to be considered historical either, so it kind of occupied this weird hybrid space where it was trying to be both but ended up being neither.

The twists were meant to be exciting, but they were kind of predictable, so instead of feeling WTF just happened when they came up, it was more of a “Thank goodness, it’s finally been revealed”.

The writing, aside from in the flashback chapters was decent enough, but nothing earth shattering.

There was no obvious representation of race, sexuality, disability in the story at all, and there’s no reason why in magical Denmark there couldn’t be people who weren’t white, straight, cis or ablebodied. Also, the two female characters, whilst initially seeming friends, had an incredibly shallow friendship which descended into girl on girl hate by the end of the book, which is one of my biggest pet peeves.

It would also have been helpful to have a glossary and pronunciation guide, as there were several unfamiliar Danish words throughout the book, and I like to know what unfamiliar words mean and how to pronounce them!

This book also had one of the tropes that I have a serious love/hate relationship with, the best friend is secretly in love with the MC. Now don’t get me wrong, some of my favourite romances are friends-to-lovers ones, and I do think that all the best romances in books start with friendship, but I don’t think every male/female friendship needs to lead to romance, it gives the wrong impression to teenage girls that they can’t have a platonic relationship with boys.

The plots were all kind of a bit of mess as well, you have the mystery of Annemette, you have the romances, you have the witch stuff, you have it being a little mermaid retelling, you have the Danish history, it was all a bit of a mish mash and none of it really fit in a cohesive way.

Overall, I loved the concept of this book, but felt that the execution fell short, everything needed to be developed more, the world, the characters, the history. It had so much potential to be a cool, dark, witchy villain origin story, but it tried to combine too many things and in the end, didn’t manage to be any of the things that it was attempting to be.

My Rating: 2.5/5

BECHDEL TEST: FAIL-The female characters in this book only real interactions are always about the men in their lives, because you know….that’s all women talk about *severe eye roll*.

My next review will be of For A Muse of Fire, which will be coming for you very soon, I’m running a little behind on reviews because I had an essay due last week, I’m sorry!


Top Ten Tuesday #181


Hi all! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, if I’m being honest, mine hasn’t been great, I’ve been dwelling in essay hell for the past week and my Uni’s WiFi decided to go on the fritz which has not helped things, so yeah, I’m feeling pretty stressed right now!

Anyway, I’m taking a brief break from all that stress, to give you guys another Top Ten Tuesday, thanks to Jana from That Artsy Reader Girl. Today we’re talking Bookstores/Libraries We’d Like To Visit, and I have to admit, I spend more than a little time scrolling through pictures of pretty bookstores and libraries, so this is a great topic for me. I’m going to share a mix of libraries and bookstores (mostly bookstores) that I want to visit:

  1. The Open Book-Wigtown, Scotland

the open book

This bookshop/B&B is top of my bookshop want to visit list at the moment because what could be better? You get to stay in an apartment above the bookshop and then during your visit you get to be an actual bookseller, which is a dream of mine. It’s booked solid through the next few years though, so it might be a while before I ever get the chance to visit.

2. The Klementinum Library-Prague, Czech Republic


The Klementinum is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world and I would love to go and see it. My friend and I are hoping to do a trip to Prague at some point and I will definitely be wanting to go here!

3. El Ateneo Grand Splendid-Buenos Airies

el ateneo grand splendid

This beautiful bookshop is set in a former theatre which is over 100 years old, El Ateneo Grand Splendid originally opened in May 1919! I love going to the theatre, so the idea of a bookshop set in a theatre is just heaven to me and as you can tell by the picture, it is just spectacular.

4. Libreria Acqua Alta-Venice, Italy

acqua alta

Where else but Venice could you visit a bookshop that is on a canal? I’ll admit, my bookworm heart did shudder a little when I saw all that water so close to so many books, but it is a cool concept and I’d love to go visit it one day.

5. Cărturești Carusel-Bucharest, Romania

I can’t even with this bookshop. Not only is it MASSIVE, all the white and the columns and the staircases make it really striking too. It’s name translates as Carousel of Light and could there be anything more fitting than that? Hopefully one day I will go to Romania and get to see this place in all it’s glory.

6. Lello & Irmão Bookstore (also known as Livraria Lello)-Porto, Portugal

livraria lello

It’s not hard to see why this bookshop was a favourite haunt for JK Rowling whilst she lived in Portugal and how it could have inspired the Hogwarts library. Those stairs are just stunning and all the shelves….wow I could definitely get lost in this bookshop for a while!

7. Barter Books-Alnwick, Northumberland

barter books

This cute little bookshop is set inside the old Victorian Alnwick railway station, and it’s one of the largest second-hand bookshops in Europe. I could definitely imagine spending the day getting lost in this bookshop, eating cake, curling up by one of the fires and of course browsing the aisles for books!

8. Admont Library-Admont, Austria

admont library

Admont Library is a library located within Admont Monastery in Austria and it seriously looks like you’re stepping into a Beauty and The Beast-esque library, which is to say that it is #bookwormgoals. If I hadn’t wanted to visit Austria before (I’ve been but only to Salzburg) then I definitely do now!

9. Selexyz Dominacanen-Maastricht, Netherlands

selexyz dominicanen

This gorgeous bookshop is set in an over 700 year old church and whilst churches aren’t usually my thing, I have to admit, I would love to visit this one. The bookshop blends so seamlessly with the church that you’d think it had been there the whole time!

10. Trinity College Old Library-Dublin, Ireland

trinity college library

I mean just look how stunning that is! So many books, so many possible things to discover, I would feel so tiny standing in this massive library. My friend loves all things Irish, so I have no doubt that we will probably be visiting this library at some point in the future.

What bookstores/libraries would you like to visit? Did any of mine make your list? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is Villains, however we want to twist that. I’m not sure exactly what my take on it will be yet, but I guess you guys will have to wait and see what I decide! My essay is due on Thursday, so I’m hoping that through next week I will be able to catch up on all my reviews and other stuff that I’ve had to put to the side whilst concentrating on my essay. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your week!

Top Ten Tuesday #180


Hi all! I hope you’ve had a good week since my last TTT, I have an essay due next week, so safe to say I am very close to meltdown right now, thank you for bearing with me and I promise, I will be posting more after my essay has been submitted on Thursday as I have several things I’ve been meaning to post but I just haven’t had time to write yet!

Anyway, I’m taking a brief break from essay hell today to give you guys another Top Ten Tuesday, (my 180th!), thanks to Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. Today we’re talking Longest Books We’ve Ever Read. I have to admit, a shudder goes through me when I discover a book is longer than 500 pages because a) most books I don’t feel need to be that long and b) I have such little time to read at Uni that I tend to go for shorter books these days. Still I have read some hefty tomes over the years, so here we go, the longest books I’ve ever read:

  1. Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix-JK Rowling-766 pages

766 pages probably doesn’t seem like a lot, especially since I have Priory and Kingdom of Ash on my TBR, both of which are longer, but it definitely felt like a lot when I read this as a teenager! The Order of The Phoenix was my least favourite Harry Potter book, although there were great parts of it, like “Have a biscuit Potter” and Fred and George’s big exit and Dumbledore’s Army, I just felt like it was a LOT longer than it needed to be.

2. Empire of Storms-Sarah J Maas-693 pages

The first and not the last instance of Sarah J Maas on this list, she writes some hefty tomes (honestly, I am still slightly scared of the sheer size of Kingdom of Ash). I always feel like Sarah J Maas books never really need to be as long as they are, there’s always at least 100 odd pages of filler to be found, but Empire of Storms felt a lot better paced than some of the other books in the series have been! I’m so excited (and scared) to see what happens in the last book.

3. A Conjuring of Light-VE Schwab-666 pages

It pleases me so much that this book comes in at the Devil’s number! A Conjuring of Light was a beast of a book, but unlike some of the other books on this list, it really didn’t feel like it. VE Schwab is the queen of pacing, and she knew exactly when the book needed to pick up and the moments where it could afford to be quieter, which meant I was never bored reading this (very important when you are likely to be reading a book for several weeks). This is one of my favourite series finales ever, it tied up everything really well (whilst still leaving threads for the new sequel series!) and I felt really satisfied (and sad) when it was over.

4. Tower of Dawn-Sarah J Maas-664 pages

Yup, Sarah J Maas is at it again. It’s hard to believe that this 664 page tome was originally supposed to only be a novella! Like many of the other books in the series, this probably didn’t need to be 600+ pages long, but I digress. I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, I thought I wouldn’t like it because I’m not a massive fan of Chaol, but he wasn’t anywhere near as infuriating as he has been in the past in this book and I really loved getting to see the whole new location of the Southern Continent.

5. Queen of Shadows-Sarah J Maas-645 pages

This book nearly killed me. It’s basically 6oo pages of planning, interspersed with a couple of chapters of action. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important in the sense that the things that happened in this book needed to happen in order for the narrative to progress, but I reckon this book could have lost a good 200 pages without losing any of the important bits!

6. Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire-JK Rowling-636 pages

Honestly, I do not remember The Goblet of Fire being this long, but I did read it when I was younger and paid less attention to how lengthy a book was, so that’s probably why. This is my favourite Harry Potter book, you get the Triwizard Tournament, The Yule Ball and our first real introduction to Voldemort, it’s basically the turning point for the whole series!

7. Kingdom of The Wicked-Derek Landy, Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince & Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows-JK Rowling-607 pages

Yup, I’m doing a 3 in one, because these three books all had the same page count and I didn’t want to waste the remainder of my list on 3 books that were all the same length. Kingdom of The Wicked is the seventh book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series, and honestly, I have to say I can’t really remember what happened in it, it wasn’t the most memorable of the series! The Half-Blood Prince, I think I liked, although I’ll be honest, my memories of it now are mostly of the teenage romance drama, which I’m pretty sure they hammed up in the film! The Deathly Hallows, I did enjoy eventually, but OH MY GOD THE CAMPING. I thought it would never end!

8. The Dying of The Light-Derek Landy-605 pages

Honestly, I do not remember the Skulduggery Pleasant books being so long! Probably because they have quite short chapters, so they never feel as long as they actually are. It’s been a while since I read the final Skulduggery Pleasant book, but I do remember it being a great, if slightly gruesome, final book (and even then, it wasn’t actually the final book, because Derek Landy pulled a bait and switch on us and we now have a continuation series).

9. Mortal Coil and The Last Stand of Dead Men-Derek Landy-604 pages

The 5th and 8th books of the Skulduggery Pleasant series respectively, both clock in at just over 600 pages. Mortal Coil was quite a fun book as it’s the first book where you get a real taste of Darquesse and the Remnants taking over everyone was pretty cool. The Last Stand of Dead Men is one of my favourite books of the series, as it’s really exciting and a great build up for the final battle in The Dying of the Light.

10. Death Bringer-Derek Landy-603 pages

This was a great instalment of the Skulduggery Pleasant series, as it focuses a lot on Necromancy, as Valkyrie gets more and more embroiled in the study of it, and we also get to see Lord Vile for the first time (I think, it might have been in Book 5) which is a really important point for the rest of the series.

What are the longest books you’ve ever read? Do we share any? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is Bookstores/Libraries I’d Love To Visit which should be a fun one, as I’m always looking for pretty bookstores/libraries in other countries that I’d love to go to. I’m not going to be posting until next Tuesday as I’m needing to focus on my essay which is due next Thursday, so enjoy the rest of your week!

Top Ten Tuesday #179


Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, my Uni related stress meltdown has reached earlier than I was expecting, I have a lot of assignments due in the next few weeks, so yeah, the next few weeks aren’t going to be great work wise-please bear with me if I’m not around here as much, I will try and post as much as I can, but obviously work has to come first.

Anyway, I’m back today with another Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. Today we’re meant to be talking about Authors We’d Love To Meet, but I’ve been luckily enough to meet a lot of my favourite authors over the last few years and my list hasn’t changed since I last did that topic, so instead, I’m going to be talking about Characters I’d Love To Meet:

  1. Lila Bard-Shades of Magic Trilogy-VE Schwab

I would love to meet Lila, we could go on her ship, she could teach me magic and pirating and all the different ways you can kill people with a knife and how to be as  badass and confident as she is, we’d have a great time. Sure, I’d be worried she’d kill me at first, but I think once we got over that, we’d have a great time.

2. Hermione Granger-Harry Potter-JK Rowling

How much fun would Hermione and I have hanging out? I would happily listen to her talking about the history of magic and Hogwarts and all the other cool things she knows about and she could take me to the Hogwarts Library. We could go to Hogsmeade, and chat over books and hot chocolate (I hate butterbeer), it would be so great!

3. Aelin Galathynius-Throne of Glass series-Sarah J Maas

Much like Lila, Aelin could teach me loads of different ways to kill people-I could also learn some pretty useful self defence skills from her, which would be great. We could chat over books and chocolate, we could go shopping, I could play with Fleetfoot, it would be a great day for all!

4. Skulduggery Pleasant-Skulduggery Pleasant series-Derek Landy

Who doesn’t want to meet a magical skeleton detective? He taught Valkyrie magic, he could teach me! We could solve crime together, I could ride around in the Bentley and I could finally meet a nice Irish guy-though preferably one that’s alive!

5. Percy Jackson-Percy Jackson universe-Rick Riordan

In an ideal world, Percy would be single, my age, and well, real. But alas this is not the case. Still, if I was to meet him, I would love to hang out with him and Annabeth at Camp Half-Blood, doing all sorts of cool and dangerous stuff-I might avoid the lava climbing wall, but I’d be up for everything else.

6. Nina Zenik-Six of Crows duology-Leigh Bardugo

Because who wouldn’t want to hang out with a foodie? If Nina and I met, forget about exploring Ketterdam, we would spend our entire day just chatting over food, she would introduce me to the rest of The Dregs and sure, if they offered, which they wouldn’t, I’d happily go on a job with them.

7. Izzy O’Neill-The Exact Opposite of Okay-Laura Steven

I related so strongly to Izzy, so I have to think that if we hung out together we’d have an AWESOME time. We could chat all things Harry Potter (she would have to introduce me to her dachshund Dumbledore), we could have massive milkshakes and share a plate of nachos, and just spend the afternoon having fun, witty banter, it would be awesome.

8. Fred and George Weasley-Harry Potter-JK Rowling

How much fun would you have hanging out with the Weasley twins? I would love to just spend all day with them showing me all their different magical inventions and pranking people with them, maybe playing some quidditch (the real kind, not our strange approximation) and just having the best time.

9. The Gangsey-The Raven Cycle-Maggie Stiefvater

You cannot ask me to choose just one member of the Gangsey to meet, I would have to hang out with them all. I would love to hunt for dead welsh kings with them, and visit Blue’s family home and just soak up all the weirdness, maybe get my fortune told, it would be awesome.

10. Leo Valdez-Percy Jackson Universe-Rick Riordan

Honestly, I would love to hang out with all of Rick Riordan’s characters, minus Jason and Piper, but I think I could have a lot of fun with Leo. We’d probably spend the day hanging out in his workshop, just chatting away whilst he worked on something cool and of course he would have to take me for a ride on Festus (his dragon).

What characters would you love to meet? Would we share any? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is Longest Books I’ve Ever Read. Now I will admit that any book over 600 pages (heck really over 500 pages) fills me with dread, but I have read my fair share of hefty books over the years (and some I’ve even enjoyed) so this should be a fun one to do (who wants to be already that 99% of my list will be Sarah J Maas?). In the meantime, like I said at the top of the post, I’ll probably be bit less active on the blog whilst I have deadlines coming up, so if I don’t post anything before next Tuesday, then have a nice rest of your week!


Jo Talks Books: On Books “Everyone Should Read”

Hi all! I had totally intended on writing a September discussion post well before today, the last day of September, but I just haven’t had a chance since I’ve arrived back at Uni. Today I’m going to talk about something that I’ve been thinking about for a while: something that I see quite often when bloggers are talking about books they really love, the “everyone should read this” praise.

This phrase has often made me feel uncomfortable. It’s a phrase often used on “books you should read before you die” lists and just generally whenever people feel really strongly about a book. It treats people as a monolith, not individuals with their own unique experiences. The beautiful thing about reading is that whilst we can all read the same text, we will all interpret it and experience it in different ways. So when we say, “everyone should read this”, it seems as if we are ignoring the fact that different people bring their different experiences to reading and that not every book will speak to every person in the same way.

Take probably the most popular example of this phenomenon: Harry Potter. Now don’t get me wrong, I think Harry Potter is an amazing series, and it really influenced me, both as a reader and a writer and yes, when I found out that one of my friends hadn’t read it, I was very surprised and really wanted her to finish it. However, would I say that series is for everyone? No. Because that’s impossible. There are 7 billion people on the planet, all with different likes and dislikes and asking one book or one series of books to speak to everyone is ridiculous.

I totally understand the feeling of excitement when you read a book that you love unequivocally and you think that it’s so amazing, you just want to shove it into the hands of everyone you know. Heck I’ve been there. But not everyone is unequivocally excited about the same things. Some people prefer stories in different mediums, TV or film or radio or theatre over books, and that’s fine. In fact that’s great, everyone should get to experience the joy of a good story, no matter what form its in. And for people who do love books, we all get excited about different things. For instance, I love fantasy and the books that I get excited about are things like A Darker Shade of Magic, Harry Potter, Throne of Glass, Six of Crows. But not everyone loves that, there are bloggers out there for almost every single genre, crime, romance, historical, fantasy, contemporary etc. Would I suggest that every single one of those bloggers reads the same ten books that are supposedly for “everyone”? No, because that would be boring. Variety is the spice of life and if we all read the same books then there would be no variety and we’d get so bored just talking about the same books all the time.

The “Everyone Should Read” label in general society, most of the time seems to go on classic books, books that have acquired a certain cache because they’ve been around so long. But the thing is classics aren’t for everyone. They can be long and boring and share outdated views and just because they’ve survived the test of time, doesn’t mean you have to read them. That’s not to say that they’re not worth reading at all, but just that the fact that they have been given the label of “classic” (which is somewhat arbitrary anyway, who decides what is a classic?) doesn’t mean that they automatically become “for everyone”. Like any other book, some people may love classics and some people may not, and even within that, there’ll be variations, you may love one classic book and hate another. We’re not dealing in absolutes here, reading is such a subjective thing, and you can’t expect everyone to react the exact same way to a certain book, even if you think it’s great.

I’ve noticed this phenomenon in the blogosphere recently with diverse books. Whilst I totally agree that we should definitely be pushing authors from marginalised backgrounds, & it’s really important that these books get exposure, the “everyone should read this” mentality can be just as dangerous here. Take for instance, The Hate U Give, which has become a pretty common “everyone should read this” book in the year since its release, there are such high expectations that you should love it going in, that it’s actually kind of intimidating, because what if you don’t love it? What if it’s just not for you? There can be a lot of pressure on reading these kinds of books, because you know that it is so important that that representation is out there for those who need it and you feel like if you don’t love it, because it’s not your genre, or you just don’t connect to the story or whatever, then people are going to hate you. This is why we need to push for diverse books in all genres; so that no matter what genre you like, you can see yourself in stories and everyone can have diverse stories to enjoy, in whatever their preferred genre is.

The reason that 90% of required reading at school sucks, is because you are being forced to read books that you are not necessarily interested in. That’s not to say that no one is interested in required reading at school, some people may love the books that they read at school, but the point is that not everyone will, because you cannot please everyone with one book. If you get 50 people to read one book, the chances are you won’t get 50 of the exact some reactions. The whole idea of required reading is not at all useful for fostering a love of reading, because you are not going to get that but telling people they have to read certain books: the only way that you can get people to fall in love with books is by allowing them to find stories which speak to them.

As a reviewer, I try to stay away from absolutes. I don’t want to say “everyone should read this” or “this sucks, everyone should avoid this” because reading isn’t an absolute science. A book that speaks to me, may not speak to you and vice versa, you might find a book that I hated absolutely amazing. I firmly believe that reading is the most magical experience in the world for this very reason: two people can read the exact same words on a page and take away completely different things and when we talk in absolutes, like “everyone should read this” we do that magic a disservice.

So there we go, my thoughts on the “everyone should read this” phenomenon. Have you ever fallen into the “everyone should read this” trap? Are there any times when you think that phrase can be justified? Let me know in the comments!

Obviously I won’t have another September discussion post for you, since it is the last day of September now, but I will have another Jo Talks post in October, though I haven’t decided what I want to write about yet. In the meantime, I will be back with a new Top Ten Tuesday for you guys on Tuesday, so look out for that!

Top Ten Tuesday #178


Hi all! I hope you’ve all had a good past week, mine has been relatively quiet, mostly just doing Uni stuff, though I do have the welcome drinks for my Uni’s Equestrian Club on Thursday, which is our first social of the year and should be super fun and a chance to meet all our new members.

Anyway, I’m back today with a new Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. Today we’re talking about Books From Our Favourite Authors We Haven’t Read Yet. This topic has me feeling slightly judged because there are more books than I’m proud of by my favourite authors that I haven’t read, but hey, I’ll get to them eventually! Here we go, books by my favourite authors that I haven’t read:

  1. Wonder Woman: Warbringer-Leigh Bardugo

I only discovered Leigh Bardugo’s books last year, and I’ve only read the Six of Crows duology and the first Grisha book, so safe to say, I have a lot to catch up on! Wonder Woman is one of my TBR challenge books this year so I will definitely be getting to it before the end of the year and I’m super excited because I loved the Wonder Woman movie.

ALSO HAVEN’T READ: Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising,

2. Chasing The Stars-Malorie Blackman

I loved Malorie Blackman’s books when I was younger, Noughts and Crosses was the first YA book that I ever read, so I jumped on her latest release when it came out, since I found a signed first edition, but I haven’t really been feeling in a space mood, so I haven’t read it. Hopefully soon!

ALSO HAVEN’T READ: HA HA HA SO MANY. Malorie Blackman has too massive a back catalogue to list here, but rest assured I haven’t read most of them.

3. Thunderhead-Neal Shusterman

So I read the first book in this series Scythe last year, and really enjoyed it, so naturally I got the sequel, but I just haven’t got around to reading it yet. Honestly, it will probably end up being a next summer read as it’s over 500 pages and I tend to avoid those during term time!

ALSO HAVEN’T READ: Skinjacker Series, Ansty Bonano series, Bruiser and many others, again Neal Shusterman has a massive back catalogue!

4. A Court of Wings and Ruin-Sarah J Maas

I know, I know, I’m judging me a little too. Okay a lot. Well not as much as my friend Nicola judges me for not having read this book but still. I really enjoyed ACOMAF but Sarah J Maas books are gigantic beasts and I can’t really fit more than one in a year, so this series has kind of gone on the backburner until I’m done with the Throne of Glass series.

ALSO HAVEN’T READ: A Court of Frost and Starlight, Catwoman

5. All The Crooked Saints-Maggie Stiefvater

I meant to read this when I got it, I really did, but as usual, I had twenty million other books to read and just totally forgot about it. It’s another one on my TBR challenge for this year, in fact it’s my read for next month, so I will be reading it very soon!

ALSO HAVEN’T READ: Shiver Trilogy, Lament & Ballad

6. Our Dark Duet-Victoria Schwab

I read This Savage Song last year and I bought Our Dark Duet quite soon after it came out but…..well I don’t really know what happened, I read a lot of other books instead and since I wasn’t overly keen on This Savage Song, it just wasn’t at the top of my list. I do want to finish off the duology and I’ve heard that the second book is better, so hopefully I will read it soon!

ALSO HAVEN’T READ: The Unbound, City of Ghosts, The Near Witch, Vengeful, Everyday Angel series (I only started reading her books last year, so I have quite a few that I haven’t read yet)

7. Midnight-Derek Landy

I’m actually relatively well caught up with Derek Landy’s stuff, I only have this one left to read, and it’s his latest release in the new stage of the Skulduggery Pleasant series so I’m not feeling so bad about this one.

8. Off The Page-Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer

I read the first book in this YA duology that Jodi Picoult wrote with her daughter years ago, but for some reason, I never got around to the second one, and I’d really like to read it, because I really enjoyed the first one.

ALSO HAVEN’T READ: Well okay, so there’s only two books that she co-wrote with her daughter and I’ve read one, but I have many, many, many of Jodi Picoult’s solo written books to read-again, she has a massive back catalogue!

9. The Kane Chronicles-Rick Riordan

I’ve actually done a pretty good job at keeping up with the mountain of books that Rick Riordan seems to release, but I kind of missed the boat on The Kane Chronicles. To be honest, I’m not that fussed about Egyptian mythology, so I don’t feel too bad about it.

ALSO HAVEN’T READ: The various Percy Jackson add on books & Magnus Chase add on books & the Percy Jackson and Kane Chronicles crossovers

10. All My Secrets-Sophie McKenzie

I loved Sophie McKenzie’s books when I was a teenager, but over the past few years, I’ve kind of been missing her recent releases. On the one hand, I did love her books when I read them, but on the other hand I feel like I’ve kind of grown out of them now, so I don’t know if I will try to catch up on her latest releases (and I didn’t love her adult thrillers that much).

ALSO HAVEN’T READ: Flynn books, Luke and Eve books, SweetFreak, Here We Lie, The Black Sheep, Train Time To The Blitz, Arthur’s Sword

What books by your favourite authors haven’t you read? Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is Authors I’d Love To Meet but honestly I’ve done that topic twice already, and my list hasn’t changed much since the last time I did it, so I’m going to do Characters I’d Love To Meet instead since that’s a lot easier for me! In the meantime, I’m going to try and sort out a Jo Talks post and a Writing Corner post before the end of the month, so look out for those.