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 Book Memes

Are TBR’s necessary to be a book blogger?

“Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world.”

First line in Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Hi, guys and welcome to another Let’s Talk Bookish post. Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme created and hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books. Each week we discuss a new book related topic and this week we’re on the topic of TBR’s. The specific question is whether TBR’s are necessary to be considered a book blogger or a reader.

I will start off by saying that the only thing necessary to be considered a book blogger is that you talk about books. Nothing else. In what way or how much you do it are solely your own choices. Therefore, no, TBR’s are not necessary to be a book blogger, but they can still be convenient.

If you’re able to stick to your monthly TBR (more or less), I think it’s a great way to let your followers know what to expect on your blog. Personally, I like to look forward to a review on a book I love because I’ve seen it on someone’s TBR. That also means, of course, that it can be frustrating for your followers if you post a TBR and then don’t stick to it at all. I know that I don’t like reading monthly TBR’s that include 20 or 30 books, because I know they’re not going to read all of them anyway.

I don’t post monthly TBR’s myself because I never know what I’m reading, and it would stress me out too much to try and stick to it. For me, seasonal or maybe even yearly TBR’s work better.

Posting about your TBR (not necessarily monthly) could also just generate some buzz around those books. Through your comments you can find out what other people think of them and find out which ones your followers look forward to your review of the most. It could help you pick out which books to read first if you care about that sort of thing.

That was it for me this time around. Do you think TBR’s are necessary? Or do you find them too restricting? If you’re someone who do monthly TBR’s, let me know why.

Posted in Book Memes

Underrepresented Tropes and Characters in Books

“Today is the last day I will see my brother.”

First line in Taken by Erin Bowman

Hi, guys and welcome to my first post for the weekly meme Let’s Talk Bookish, which is hosted by Rukky over at Eternity Books. Each week we get a different bookish topic to discuss, which is always great and educational. I’ve been reading her posts for this meme for a while and so I finally decided to take part. This week’s topic is tropes/characters that I think are poorly or under represented in books. I think these things are very genre-specific so I’ll stick to my favorite genre, fantasy. It will also mostly be relating to tropes and characters I miss in YA although it can apply to adult fantasy, too. I will also say that I haven’t read every single fantasy book ever (unfortunately), so these might appear in books I just haven’t read. However, since I haven’t come across them, I will still say they are underrepresented.

The introverted, socially anxious girl who isn’t good in a fight

It isn’t completely odd to see this type of character in books but most often they appear as side characters. This type of girl is never the main character in fantasy. She pops up more often in contemporaries, and I love reading those. I would really like to see her more in fantasy basically because I would love to identify with female fantasy characters more. Don’t get me wrong, those kick-ass, well-spoken women are great, and they definitely also need to be there. They serve a very empowering purpose for other women which is what we’ve been craving for a long time.

Now, they’re just everywhere and I think there’s a need to show some more flawed women in fantasy or at least women with some other qualities and assets. Specifically, the introvert who’s not physically strong but has other attributes. She could be highly intelligent and/or empathetic. There are many options, so dear authors, please include this character type some more. I know it can be difficult to incorporate this character into an action-packed fantasy story but I believe it can be done.

Sports in fantasy worlds

We all know about Quidditch, but I when I was thinking about making this list, I couldn’t recall any other sport from a fantasy world. So many parts of fantasy worlds are copied from our own world so why are sports not more common? The only thing that really come close are those deadly competitions where people gather to watch someone die. Those appear quite often in fantasy. I was thinking of a slightly less violent version of that which of course would incorporate whatever magic the world has. Like Quidditch.  

Only one point of view

I’m not sure if this is considered a trope but I wanted to include it anyway. In fantasy, it’s become more and more popular to have several POV characters in books. Please stop that. There will always be a character I like more than the others, so I’m bored or annoyed when I have to read chapters from the other POVs. It doesn’t mean I hate the book, but it would be nice to just once in a while read a fantasy book with only one point of view. Especially in YA. A YA book doesn’t need so many main characters because they don’t need to be that complex in terms of characters. Remember Harry Potter? The Hunger Games? Only one POV character, and those books are still considered some of the best YA books ever. It can be done.

I’ve also noticed that many authors use dual perspective – a girl and a boy. I think it’s very clever to include different genders to get different perspectives. If it wasn’t because they ALWAYS fall in love, I would love it. Another advantage of a single POV there. At least it would be a little bit more of a surprise who the love interest is (because you know he/she is going to exist).

Do you miss these tropes and characters as well or are there others you wish authors would include more? Let me know in the comments.

Posted in Fun Lists

Books I Want to Reread

“Out in the Waste stood a home, abandoned.”

First line in Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

Hi guys. Today I wanted to talk a bit about what we all wish we had more time for: rereading books. I used to do this a lot more when I was younger. I had 3 or 4 series I just went through over and over and over again. I remember my mom being very confused by this. She never rereads a book *gasp* and would ask me why I wanted to read Harry Potter for the 12th time when I know what happens. My answer: Because I know what happens. When you read a book for the first time, it’s very hard to pay attention to EVERYTHING. You won’t understand all the hints but it’s so rewarding to read it again and see all of those connections you missed the first time. I also find myself loving characters I might have been indifferent about the first time, because I now know their complete character arc and appreciate their development.

This post was actually inspired by my recent reread of Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. I’ll let you know more about my thoughts about the book in my October wrap up but for now I will reveal that my rating went from 3 to 5 stars. Therefore, this post is also a reminder to reread books you didn’t completely love the first time. With Carry On, I definitely read it at the wrong time in my life.

The unfortunate thing about rereads however is when you read your favorite book… and it’s not your favorite anymore. I recently experienced this when I reread The Maze Runner by James Dashner. That was not like I remembered it.

I have a lot of books I want to reread and now I’m going to tell you which ones. First, a couple of books I want to give a second chance.

Dust Lands by Moira Young

Books in series:

I actually own the first book and I think I only DNF’d Rebel Heart because the library wanted their book back. I just never got around to getting it again. I remember the writing being very difficult because the characters spoke with an accent. That meant I read it super slowly. I think that as an adult it might suit be better. Plus, my English has improved (hopefully). I remember that the story had so much potential and I actually want to know how it ends.

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

Books in series:

To say that I’ve read these might be a stretch as I skimmed SO many of the descriptions. I did not like the series at all and thought it was oh so boring. I’m not completely convinced that I will feel any different today but I want to give them a second chance at some point. I WAS very young when I read them the first time and I’m assuming that I’ll understand more of the story now so we’ll see.

That’s all I’ll commit to at this point. Not every book deserves a second chance. Of course, I also want to reread some of my favorite books. Some of the ones I know I’ll still love or maybe love even more. I won’t give much of an explanation for these because ‘duh’.

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling

Books in series (all rated 5 stars):

I reread those every third year at Christmas. It’s the best tradition. Next time is in 2020.

Shades of Magic by V. E. Schwab

Books in series:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Books in series:

  • The Hunger Games – published 2008. Read in 2013. I rated it 5 stars
  • Catching Fire – published 2009. Read in 2013. I rated it 5 stars.
  • Mockingjay – published 2010. Read in 2013. I rated it 4 stars.

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

Books in series:

Monsters of Verity by Victoria Schwab

Books in series:

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Yes, I just want to reread the second book in Arc of a Scythe because that was freaking amazing! Scythe wasn’t bad, but it was just nowhere near the level of Thunderhead.

I hope you enjoyed this and maybe feel inspired to pick up a book you’ve already read. Remember, the new releases will still be there when you’re done. What book do you want to reread? Have you ever changed your mind about a book for the better because of a reread? I feel like I most often experience it the other way around so I’d love to know if that’s just me.

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.