Posted in Discussions

My Experiences Being a Fantasy Reader in a World Looking Down Upon the Genre

“The day was grey and bitter cold, and the dogs would not take the scent.”

First line in A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

Hi, guys. I know the headline might be a tad dramatic but I really just wanted to talk about some of the experiences I’ve had as a fantasy reader and try to reflect on them. You see, I’ve been reading fantasy books since the age of 10 when I picked up Harry Potter. As a child I never wanted to read any other genre. The things we read in school that weren’t fantasy confirmed that belief.

However, when I was about 14, I could tell that that wasn’t okay anymore. You see, fantasy is for children and when you grow older you’re meant to develop an interest in “real life” books. I noticed this change when visiting the school library and my teachers would try to pull me towards the non-fantasy shelves. “Aren’t you ready to try something other than fantasy?” they would ask. I would get similar comments from family members: “You’re still reading fantasy? Still Harry Potter?” said in that condescending way. So naturally I started to feel embaressed about it. I stopped talking about reading as one of my passions because that would always prompt the question of what I liked to read. I still only read fantasy but I just didn’t talk about it to avoid being seen as “the weird one” or “the nerd”.

That was pretty much my life until a few years ago when I discovered BookTube and the online book community in general. Suddenly I’m watching SO. MANY. PEOPLE talking about their love for fantasy books. It was also new for me to see women talking about fantasy, and that made a huge difference in my life. It felt empowering in the way that I was no longer alone in my obsession. It gave me the confidence I needed to just embrace my love of reading and not be afraid to talk about it. I no longer felt weird.

Does this mean that everything is just perfect now and people are accepting the fantasy genre? Not exactly but there has been a shift with the huge success of the Game of Thrones show. We were finally the cool people! Game of Thrones really managed to showcase all the merits of fantasy and how it isn’t just escapism, and that opened many people’s eyes to the possibilities within the genre. Just look at how many fantasy books are being adapted into movies and shows at the moment (it’s a lot!).

This is all very good and definitely a huge step in the right direction, but to go back to my own experiences, I still see so many people dismissing the genre. As I now talk more openly about my love of reading, I often get the weird look from people who don’t understand how an adult can talk so passionately about magic. I don’t let it bother me anymore but it’s still there.

Finally, I also just want to highlight some of the problems of being a fantasy reader in Denmark. Now, I read my books in English because that’s what I’m most comfortable with but the fact is that I don’t have a choice. Or rather, other Danes don’t have a choice because very, very few fantasy books get translated into Danish. Only the most popular books get a translation and of those it’s mainly YA books. As an example: the only adult Brandon Sanderson book that has been translated is The Way of Kings. Not Mistborn. Not Warbreaker. The entire Wheel of Time series hasn’t been translated either. Those are some of the best and most fundamental books within the genre that aren’t available to non-English speaking Danes.

I just want to clarify that Danes are able to speak English quite well, but I’ve still met many who find it intimidating to read an entire book in English. Fantasy isn’t exactly the easiest genre anyway. So the lack of translations have an impact on how many people are reading the genre. On top of that, not very many Danish fantasy books are published. And those that are, are so far away from any Bestseller list that they could never dream of hitting them. So there you have your vicious circle. Of course publishers aren’t going to spent money translating books in a genre that doesn’t sell very well. The surge in popularity fantasy books otherwise have experienced hasn’t reached Denmark. We only read murder mysteries here.

I can’t help but get the feeling that our society treats the fantasy genre as less than others, and the result is the shame I felt as a child for reading it anyway. I’m sure a lot of other people has felt the same way and I really want that to change. Fantasy is an amazing genre that can explore so many relevant issues and have just as much literary merit as any other genre.

So what is the solution? It’s difficult to change societal opinions on your own but that is not an excuse to do nothing. I will set the goal for myself to read at least 5 fantasy books by Danish authors by the end of the year. It will require some research on my part because I can’t mention a single adult fantasy book by a Danish author right now. I will also have to overcome my dislike of reading in Danish but I want to view this as an opportunity to find so many more amazing books. And then I want to talk about them! Maybe that will make just a little difference.

Now, I can of course only talk about the situation in Denmark but I would love to know if you’ve experienced something similar in your own country, especially if you’re from a non-English speaking one. Is fantasy a popular genre where you live? Have you experienced your own kind of stigmatization for reading fantasy? Do you think there’s an incresing acceptance of the genre? Chat with me in the comments.

Posted in Discussions

Let’s Talk Bookish: “Problematic” Books

“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.”

First line in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brönte

Hi, guys and welcome to my Let’s Talk Bookish post for the week. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these but not because I didn’t want to. Life got in the way and I didn’t have the energy or creativity required to write discussion posts.

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books where we each week discuss a different book related topic. This week the question is: How do you deal with problematic books?

I think my answer is summed up pretty well when I say that I had to google “problematic books” before writing this post because I wanted to find out which books are deemed problematic. Did you know that Goodreads has a list of Popular Problematic Books? It’s based on people shelving books as “problematic” (which luckily very few people do), and Twilight is number 1.

I’ve read a quite a few books from that list and have heard of a lot more. I can’t help but wonder why these books are on that list. I don’t see any issues with them and have never come across other books I would deem problematic and therefore tell people not to read. In general, I’m not part of that “cancel culture”, which these so-called problematic books are a part of. It’s leaning heavily towards banning books (although for different reasons) and don’t all readers agree that that’s a bad thing?

Another thing I also always think about when I hear the term “problematic books”: who decides that? And how am I or other people supposed to know? Not everyone reads reviews of the books they decide to pick up. It’s a thing we do here in the online bookish community, but not every reader is a part of this community (unfortunately). Should we judge them for reading and loving a book somebody else has deemed problematic? That’s very easy to answer because that’s a hard NO. I firmly believe everyone is allowed to love whatever book they want.

So to go back to the original question of how I deal with problematic books, I will say that I don’t spend very much time thinking about it. If someone calls a book problematic, I will still read it if I find it interesting. I want to form my own opinion. As that list on Goodreads shows, finding a book problematic can depend on the person reading it. It’s all very subjective in my opinion. That’s why I don’t want to discourage people from reading books that other people say there’s something wrong with. The problematic part of the book can be a very small thing while the rest of the book is perfect to you as a reader. That’s just sad to miss out on.

That’s my take on problematic books! I’d love to discuss this further in the comments so let me know what you do when you come across a problematic book. Have a great weekend!

Posted in Discussions

An Exploration of Middle Book Syndrome

“A secret is a strange thing.”

First line in The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

You might have heard the term Middle Book Syndrome before as it is a quite common “disease” that befalls (mostly) the second book in a trilogy. In some cases, it’s also referred to as Second Book Syndrome, which goes to clarify that it also concerns series longer that 3 books.

So what is Middle Book Syndrome? Middle Book Syndrome is when the second book in a series doesn’t live up to the quality of its predecessor . It can be so for various different reasons. Often, the second book will include a lot of set-up for the third book, especially if it’s a trilogy. The second book then fails to have its own set-up and conclusion, but will instead give you a cliffhanger ending, because now we’re finally ready for the third book! The second book will drag and you’re left with that feeling of just waiting for the next book.

You can also run into second books that go in a totally different direction compared to the first book. It will explore a different plot that might only loosely be connected to the plot of the first (and future third) book. This thing about a different plot can be really effective though if the author manages to create interesting ties to the exsistent plot of the first book. Then the second book becomes a layer instead of a break.

Now I want to give some examples of books I think suffer from Middle Book Syndrome. I’ve tried very hard to keep it spoiler-free and only talk about the books in broad terms. However, if you’re someone who don’t want to know anything at all about these books, proceed with caution.

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare – Book 2 in The Mortal Instruments

I don’t know how many of you remember that The Mortal Instruments was only meant to be a trilogy. Odd to think about because we now have a gazillion books in that universe.

City of Ashes however was not the best follow-up to City of Bones. The storyline went in a weird direction, and the things that needed resolving from the end of book one was dragged on into book 3. Very little in this book actually made a difference to what happened in book 3.

A Gathring of Shadows by V. E. Schwab – Book 2 in Shades of Magic

The case of Middle Book Syndrome isn’t too bad with this one but I still wanted to include it.

The first book can actually work as a standalone which is great but not very good for the second book here. It kind of have to build up the story again and therefore has a very slow beginning.

Then we have the big event that takes place in this book… I still don’t know why we needed that. I don’t think it had a major influence on the overall plot.

The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin – Book 2 in The Broken Earth

I will admit that this series in general wasn’t my favorite but I still enjoyed book 1 and 3 a lot more than The Obelisk Gate.

We follow two different storylines but it seemed like only one of them absolutely needed to be there. The other one was just a lot of info-dumping because we needed to know these things for the third book. On top of that, the interesting storyline also dragged a bit and could have been wrapped up faster in my opinion.

Now I don’t want this post to come off all negative so I also want to give you some examples where the author truly nailed the second book. For some reason, the second book in a series is often my favorite one which seems weird even to me. That means I have a lot of examples for this but I’ll try to contain myself.

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman – Book 2 in Arc of a Scythe

Will there ever be a better sequel than Thunderhead? I highly doubt it.

This book portrays such an intelligent way of adding another layer to your story. Shusterman expands his world greatly in this one all while keeping the plot from the first book. It raises the stakes and introduces new characters that fit seamlessly with everything else in the book. Such a thing could easily come off as a divergence from “the important stuff”, but no. Shusterman is an expert at connecting everything.

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden – Book 2 in Winternight Trilogy

The Girl in the Tower is a great example of the story going in a completely different direction compared to the first book. I think it works because the trilogy in general is very character-driven and a lot of the main character’s development happens in this book. The most important part of a character-driven novel in my book and so it doesn’t become boring. And yes, the plot takes a turn but it still manages to connect book 1 and 3 in a mindblowing way.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – Book 2 in The Hunger Games

Catching Fire did what I least expected of it, which was to do The Hunger Games once more. A competion with a lot of traditions could easily have given us a lot of repeat-scenes. Did that happen? Not at all. All the traditions were given a twist and the entire mood of the book was even more gloomy than in book 1.

It still works as a set-up for book 3, especially with that cliffhanger (!!), but that is not at all obvious when you’re reading it the first time. In that sense, it works so well on its own.

Honestly, I just wanted to talk about some sequels and this is what came out of it. I recently began to notice how my favorite books in trilogies tend to be the second one. I figured that was kind of weird and wanted to explore this Middle Book Syndrome and why it didn’t apply to those books.

Now I of course want to know about some books you think suffer from Middle Book Syndrome. OR maybe you’re like me and love so many second books in series. Let me know about those too. Have a great day!

Posted in Book Memes, Discussions

Should readers read books outside their own age range?

“Your Noise reveals you, Todd Hewitt.”

First line in The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

Welcome fellow readers. I hope you’re having a great day and thank you for stopping by. Today’s post is for the weekly meme Let’s Talk Bookish, which is hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books. Each week we dicuss a different book related topic, and this week the topic is: Should readers read books that aren’t for their target age?

It’s a heavily debated topic we’re diving into today. Therefore, I’ll start with providing a light definition of these age ranges.

Middle Grade

  • Written for ages 8 to 12
  • No profanity or graphic violence
  • Romance is limited to crushes and innocent first kisses.
  • Themes often revolve around friendship, bullying and family.
  • The characters don’t do much self-reflection, but instead react to their immediate surroundings.

Young Adult

  • Written for ages 13 to 18
  • Romance and sexuality are prevalent themes although no graphic sexual content is allowed.
  • The characters are often put in new and difficult situations and the books deal with the struggles to find one’s place in the world.
  • Relies more on self-reflection than middle grade books.

Adult

  • Written for ages 18 and older
  • Anything goes.
  • A more complex story and setting is allowed although not required.

Disclaimer: these aren’t definitive explanations because those don’t really exist. They are just to give you an idea of what I’m referring to when I mention the age ranges.

Now, when discussing the topic of reading outside of one’s age range there are two sides: to read books meant for someone older and to read books meant for someone younger. Let’s start with the first one.

Reading books written for older readers

In my opinion, this is where we run into most problems. As you might have noticed when reading the definitions above, MG and YA are mainly defined by what isn’t allowed in those books. These restrictions are there for a reason, and that is mainly to protect children and teens from content they aren’t mature enough for. I’m not an expert on the minds of children, so I’m going to go much more into that here.

However, I’m also all for breaking the rules. For a middle grade reader that means the parents can allow a book meant for someone older, if they deem it appropriate for their child. They know the child best, and in such cases I don’t think age ranges should be looked at too rigidly.

With teens, I’m fairly certain they can make these decisions themselves. Also, if you tell a 15-year-old they aren’t allowed to do something, you can be certain that’s exactly what they’ll do. Instead, I think it’s more important that teens figure out their own reading tastes and that include reading something they don’t like. I highly doubt they’ll be scarred for life.

To sum up, I don’t think anyone should feel forced to read books meant for someone older, but I do believe it can very educational in terms of figuring out what one likes as a reader.

Reading books written for younger readers

As you can probably tell, I have far less issues with ‘reading down’. There’s no more worrying about not being emotionally ready for certain topics. You can just read what you want.

To more specifically answer the question of the week: should readers read books that are written for younger readers? I think you should at least give it a shot. Reading books meant for children or teens can give you a great insight into the mind workings of these age groups. We’ve all been that age, but we tend to forget what actually mattered at that point in our life. Reading MG and YA can therefore be quite benefitial if you in your day to day life surround yourself with children or teens.

However, if you’ve tried MG and YA and didn’t like it, then of course, you shouldn’t read it. Just don’t look down on other readers who do enjoy it. We’re past that, aren’t we?

To just elaborate on that – I think it’s perfectly fine for adults to read MG and YA as long as you review the book with that in mind. What is deemed great in an adult novel, isn’t necessarily deemed great in a YA novel and vice versa. The result can be a too low rating for a MG or YA novel and that might discourage someone from the target age from reading it.

This section summed up: read what you want but be aware of what you’re reading.

That was a bit of a long one, so thank you if you read all of it. I hope it made you think just a little bit. What are your thoughts on these age ranges? Do you read books that technically aren’t meant for you? Let me know in the comments.

Posted in Discussions

Discussion: Rating Books Based on Enjoyment or Objective Quality

“We should agree on some passwords.”

First line in Half Lost by Sally Green

Hello and good day to you. The inspiration for this post came from the booktuber Merphy Napier (if you love fantasy you should really check her out), who made two videos recently called “Books I rated too high” and “Books I rated too low”. She really is one of my favorite booktubers but those videos made me realize how I don’t rate books the same way as she does. And I think there’s an important discussion there. Do we rate a book based on how much we enjoyed it or do we evaluate the actual quality of the book?

I found myself in a conundrum because what makes a book objectively good? My opinion is that if there was actually an answer to this question, wouldn’t there be books that EVERYBODY loved? As far as I’m aware, that’s not the case and far from it. Doesn’t that mean that it comes down to the individual reader and what they enjoy? What a reader enjoy can vary so much and not everyone is even aware of what they like and dislike in books. Many people love books that aren’t close to winning any awards and therefore might be considered “bad books”.

Let’s just briefly consider what could label a book “bad” or “not worth reading”.

  • Poor writing – the general idea is that repetitive writing is bad writing because it lacks creativity and the reader will get bored easily.
  • Flat characters – characters that are very one-dimensional can seem unrealistic and maybe shows the laziness of the author.
  • Plot holes – a sign that the author haven’t thought everything through and tied it all together.

I’m not an expert on writing books but this was just to give you an idea about what I’m referring to when I say that not every reader care about all of this. So, what is the point of rating books based on these parameters?

To use myself as an example, I rate books based on my enjoyment of them and sometimes my enjoyment is reduced due to poor writing, plot holes etc. But only sometimes. Other times, I will completely ignore these faults because something else about the book has made me love it dearly. And then I will rate it 5 stars. In my review of the book, I will explain what was great about the book so other people can make the decision whether they would enjoy the same things or not. That’s why I think it makes more sense to rate a book based on my enjoyment of it. Should I rate it lower because I imagine someone else is not going to like it? That just seems absurd to me.

You can of course also have the discussion on the significance of assigning a number to a book. I like seeing the number in a review because it helps me understand the reviewer. We use words like ‘enjoy’, ‘like’ and ‘love’ a lot in reviews and the rating just tells me how much they enjoyed, liked or loved it. The biggest problem with rating books is when you get an average rating like on Goodreads. It’s easy to judge the book based on that little number but there can be so many 5- and 1-star ratings in there. I think it’s always necessary to research a book further before dismissing it or adding it to your TBR.

To round this off, I don’t believe one can be completely objective when rating books. We all like different things. There isn’t a book that everyone loves just as there isn’t a book that everyone hates. Assumed objective quality just makes us feel bad for liking a “bad book”, and we feel forced to like a “good book”. That’s really not necessary.

What do you think of this distinction? What do you consider when rating books if you even rate them? I’d love to know if you consider the book’s quality more than I do.

Posted in Discussions

Why I Use the Library and Not the Bookstore

“The Queen waited.”

First line in The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

Hi, fellow readers. Today I want to talk about the topic of borrowing books vs. buying them. Since I discovered booktube and book blogging, it’s come to my attention how many people buy everything they read. Or almost everything. I’m so astounded every time I see those giant book shelves in the background of booktubers’ videos or in a blog post. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with owning so many books (it’s awesome actually), but it has made me realize how I’m the odd one out.

About 95% of the books I read, I borrow from the library. I do own books but only the ones I really like and therefore might want to reread. It means that I most often borrow the books first time I read them and then decide if I want to buy them based on how much I liked them.

In this post I want to discuss some points about borrowing books vs. buying them. There are drawbacks to both but there are also arguments that make both completely valid. In the book community, it can sometimes feel like there’s this great pressure to buy every book you hear about. This post is mainly just to say that’s it okay if you do, but it also perfectly fine is you don’t want to or are able to do that. You can still be a successful blogger, booktuber etc. Let’s discuss some of the problems with using the library but also some of the advantages.

Affordability

Yes, here we have a very strong drawback to buying books. They are kind of expensive, at least if you buy everything you read and need to have the hardback editions with the new beautiful cover (I know the temptation). A trip to the library is just the cheapest solution.

I also want to make a point here about the importance of supporting your local library. The level of funding and people’s usage of the library often go together. So even if you’re able to afford all the books you want, I still urge you to go to your library once in a while to support it. Not everyone can afford to buy their favorite books, and everyone should have the opportunity to read.

Blogging Life

When running a blog or a Youtube channel about books, your life is so much easier if you actually own the books you’re talking about. For example, if you’re going to review a book, you can annotate by using stickers or write in the margins. Those notes are also perfect if you want to reread some of your favorite parts of a book years later.

I also want to mention the problem of borrowing books if you want to participate in readathons. It’s doable but requires so much planning and maybe also some luck. The books you put on hold at the library might be unavailable and won’t come into your possession until after the readathon is over. I haven’t participated in any readathons because of this but I plan to try it out. My solution is to research when readathons are happening and hope the hosts publish the list of prompts early. I also want to focus on the month-long readathons instead of the very short ones.

The same problem goes for TBR posts. I mean, the library decides what I read. I basically just make some suggestions to it.

Shelf Space

Books can take up a lot of space in your apartment/house and that’s awesome. Who doesn’t want their own private library? I want it but I can’t help but think “What do I do when I need to move to a new apartment?”. The sheer workload of that makes me a little bit more hesitant when buying books. When I love a book, I don’t care about that. I will gladly destroy my back to move them.

A problem can also arise if you live with someone who’s oblivious to the magnificence of books. I live alone so my books take up the exact amount of space I want them to. I imagine not everyone’s partners would accept an entire wall or room dedicated to bookshelves. Maybe that’s the actual test of true love?

Supporting Authors

By buying books you support the authors in a very important way: financially. Being an author doesn’t exactly make you rich (unless you’re J. K. Rowling), and therefore sales are crucial for them to continue writing books.

Authors also get paid when a library buy their book but not as much obviously as if it was bought in a bookstore. I live in Denmark and here authors also get a small commission every year as long as the library has their book on their shelves. The more books you have, the more money you get. In that sense, it’s not dependent upon how many times people borrow those books. Such rules differ a lot from country to country, so I think it’s a good idea to check up on the conditions for your country. You could be supporting authors financially without giving them your own money.

You can also support authors in other ways that don’t include buying their book at the bookstore. Rating their book on Goodreads and generally talking about it helps create buzz around the book so that more people hear about it. Maybe you reach someone who’ll want to buy it. 

Unhauling

Unhauling books is a very convenient tool if you end up with too many books on your shelves. Maybe you bought a highly anticipated new release that turned out to be horrible, so you want it off your shelf. Popular places to turn in your unwanted books are the library and used bookstores.

My own difficulties here lie in the fact that I’m a Dane reading books in English, which means that the books I would unhaul aren’t in very high demand. Sometimes I’m able to donate some books to charities that for a period of time will accept anything. Otherwise, finding new homes for my books can be quite time consuming which is again why I prefer to borrow them from the library.

I hope you enjoyed this first discussion post from me. It was just a topic I felt I had to touch upon because I sometimes feel like the weird one for using the library so much. I wanted to explain why. I just love going there and almost consider it to be my second home. I hope you want to chat with me in the comments about this whether you prefer to buy or borrow.