In the past bizarre (and frequently terrible) year, reading has kept a lot of us going. Whether it’s through escapism or giving me much needed life advice, books have proven their power to keep us going. I know for myself books have been a great escape.
For me, opening a new book or even starting a fresh chapter has been like pressing the reset button. It doesn’t matter which head I’ve stepped into for the time being- it’s a relief to see the world through a different lens. Because books don’t just lower stress levels- they frequently act as a handy Guide Out of Hell. They may not be able to slay a dragon (try throwing one at its head and see how far it gets you) but they can offer some good tips 😉
Books are educational in a million different ways, teaching us everything from empathy to philosophy to practical skills… and beyond! It’s the one leveller we have left when it comes to education, because it’s still an affordable hobby (make use of your libraries people!!) A simple pen to paper can restore balance to a human mind. It can give our thoughts a moment of harmony.
Reading is a refreshing pastime. It doesn’t simply take you away- it gives you plenty of souvenirs. Trinkets you carry around for years, maybe without even knowing it, until at last you look in your pocketses and there’s the one ring… Okay maybe not that last bit! Yet reading does remind me every time that when you discover a new story, there’s no knowing where you might end up.
And yes, this is an indulgent post to write about 😉 I’m sure it will not take much to have bookworms agreeing that reading is a wonderful hobby- but every so often we just need to celebrate reading for all that it is.
Do you agree? Has reading helped you in the last year? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Well, the short answer is yes I probably do, but no it doesn’t matter.
You see, I’ve long come to the conclusion that I have weird taste when it comes to TV. If it looks bad, then I think “finally some good shit”. I just know there’s a higher chance I’ll enjoy it if it’s laughably awful. I like everything everyone seems to think is bad (eg Winx, Emily in Paris). Not because I think they’re masterpieces (I know they aren’t) but because I like my TV to be at the pinnacle of escapism… and bad shows often deliver that.
Good shows can offer some kind of commentary on the real world and most of the time I’m not here for that- sorry! For instance,I never made it through the likes of Breaking Bad, because I just didn’t want to watch 4 seasons of someone selling drugs and dying of cancer. I don’t like when TV is dark and depressing with no relief (or lacks dragons).
It doesn’t help that I have the attention span of a goldfish when it comes to the small screen. If it fails to grab my attention within the first 10 minutes, I’m gone. And I regularly quit TV shows after a season or two. This is partly because of limited time, but mostly because I used to waste time obsessively watching shows I hate (now, because I’m a creature of extremes, I’ve veered in the opposite direction).
I’d like to say that this means I only watch TOP QUALITY shows that are worth my time… yet a lot of the time I seem to stick to the same awful stuff. I am happiest watching the shows that get no critical acclaim and that every reviewer on the internet resoundingly call “trash”. Now, there could be interesting reasons why the shows I like get overwhelmingly negative attention (they’re often ones aimed at a young, female audience) however, I won’t delude myself into thinking a lot of these are better than they are. Most of the time, the shows I’m addicted to simply aren’t very good.
And ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Because why should anyone suffer through something they’re not enjoying, even if it’s technically better quality? Of course, there are benefits to immersing yourself in something that stretches your mind, yet for me TV is about frivolous fun. For the time being, all I want to watch is light fluff where I can switch my mind off. For me, escapism is important and helps me relax. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Whether it’s TV or books or whatever else you use for entertainment, we can engage with whatever we like. It’s not going to hurt anyone if you only like fun, escapist stories. And it’s not going to ruin someone else’s day if you crave something a bit silly. Taste isn’t just subjective- it’s pretty damn harmless.
Does anyone else think like this? Do you sometimes question your own taste? Let me know in the comments!
It’s the tenth anniversary of Game of Thrones… and I wouldn’t have noticed if not for this video on its ruined legacy. And it got me thinking a couple of things- 1) how did time fly so fast and 2) was GOT ruined or was it always designed to go up in wildfire? Obviously, I won’t be using this post to address the former, just the latter 😉
Before GRRM superfans tar and feather me- I’m not trying to take away the series’ merit. Don’t get me wrong: I love the world building, the characters and fascinating themes. However, speaking to my own personal taste, reflecting on some of the concepts does make me wonder if I was always going to wind up unhappy with the ending.
Game of Thrones was always a divisive series. Barely an episode could go by without some kind of critique or scandal. And this is not an accident or merely the showrunner’s doing. Going off of Martin’s own interviews, much of the series is designed to be a counterbalance to traditional fantasy. The traditional fantasy that I, and many other mainstream audiences, love. Lord of the Rings, for instance, is famously hopeful, inspiring and the prime example of good triumphing over evil. Though it has tragic elements, it certainly does not hinge on them. When we set out from the Shire we are assured of a safe(ish) resolution.
Whereas GRRM promised us bittersweet. And if it is to be a counterbalance to the likes of LOTR then by golly that must be some BITTERsweet ending. Most of the plot points have tragedy written all over them; there is barely a glimmer of optimism in all the books. The best we could hope for is our favourites not dying and maybe, just maybe getting their revenge! In the words of Ramsay Bolton…
That’s not to say all tragedies are disappointing. In the usual ebb and flow of a tragedy, there is often a highpoint that alleviates the characters’ (and the readers’) suffering. Think Tess and Angels’ blissful summer in Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Of course, we know this lovely moment cannot last, yet we can delude ourselves into thinking it will, and this gives us our catharsis. Game of Thrones never really does that. Romantic moments are often told from another perspective or tarnished by the realities of the situation (eg Daenerys may fall in love with Khal Drogo, but she’s also raped by him first).
There’s a reason every moment of “happiness” is framed this way. And that’s because it’s working from a principle of being *realistic in the postmodernist sense*. It’s fundamentally endorsing the idea that meaning is found where you place its value. In the world of Game of Thrones, there are no heroes and villains, there is no good vs evil, there is no right and wrong. There is no objective truth- merely the matter of where you place your sympathy. GRRM takes the morally relativistic view that all his characters will inevitably fall to the dark side… And frankly none of their struggles matter because of that. No happy ending is/was ever possible in this series- for anyone. Which is not so much tragic as it is depressing.
As much as I can appreciate this for its uniqueness, it’s not exactly satisfying. That’s not the point of this story. Rather, it’s designed to push boundaries, subvert our expectations and make us question the genre. While we like to blame D&D for the subversive elements, subversion is pretty much woven into the fabric of the narrative. And that has its upsides… and its downsides. Because sometimes there can be narrative consequences when you try to challenge an existing idea.
Inevitably you may question the story that’s making you question everything. I for one don’t think every concept in GOT makes sense. The critique of Aragorn becoming king, for example, is flawed. Because, I happen to think that if he’s capable enough to get an army of dead people on his side, then he’s perfectly capable of hiring some plumbers to set up a sewage system (and I have no idea why GRRM thinks otherwise). It is entirely possible for a leader to be strategic on the battlefield and with the treasury (and there are historic examples of this). This may seem like nit-picking, yet this is such a foundational element to the story, that it leaves me questioning will I ever be satisfied with the outcome of this series? These issues nag away at me and could indicate that this series was never for me in the first place.
Of course, this whole post is somewhat premature. No matter what I think I know, I have to add the caveat that I don’t know the actual ending (none of us do). There are some incredible theories mapping out sensational conclusions and GRRM’s finale could end up putting even those to shame. So, this post could be meaningless when the final book comes out. Personally, I very much look forward to being proved wrong 😉
So, what do you think? Are you optimistic about GRRM’s ending? Do you have doubts like me? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
There are lots and lots of reasons to be clear about what you want in life and reading. For starters, there’s considerably less pain and more to gain. It’s a great way to find more joy, meaning and happiness. And it’s a strong way to avoid following the crowd off a cliff and into a great big steaming pile of cow dung (which you could’ve smelt from the top of that cliff if you’d only listened to your nose).
Cos yeah, we’ve all been there (figuratively speaking). We’ve all picked up that book we damn well knew we didn’t want to read; we’ve all taken someone else’s word to avoid something we later enjoyed. Then we’ve kicked ourselves for time wasted. We’ve all thought why did I listen/not listen to the hype just then. And of course, no one is fully immune to the nebulous methods of marketing gurus, but being clear on what you do actually want is a good way not to get swayed in either direction. It’s a good way to know whether to hop on that bandwagon… and it’s also a good way to steer clear of the cancellation fanatics too. Knowing your own taste is about being comfortable in your own skin (so that hopefully you don’t go all Buffalo Bill on your enemies).
The great thing about knowing your own taste is you don’t have to avoid different points of view… not that it would work anyway. Amazingly, you can’t socially distance yourself from every single differing opinion (much as some people would like to try) which is why it’s probably healthier to just take it in small doses 😉 And luckily, there’s this tried and tested method of just listening to people with different views/perspectives/tastes. I often read and watch reviews from people who don’t have the same opinions to me- and you know what? Doesn’t hurt a bit! Sometimes I learn something, sometimes I find something new to read… and sometimes nothing happens at all and I go on my merry way.
Because part of being a sentient human/primate is knowing not to take every word other people say as gospel. It’s only if we know ourselves that we can understand another point of view. That’s why if you know your own taste, you won’t have any trouble identifying where opinions overlap and where they diverge. It really is that simple.
Plus, there’s the added bonus that it might just make you a better reviewer. I know we all like to pretend that our word is final, but taste is subjective! And that means knowing where other people might not agree with us. I, for one, have always been pretty clear that I like prose on the more flowery side (or as I like to put it, I’m firmly on the Fitzgerald side of the Hemmingway-Fitzgerald Divide). I also care less about world building than some other fantasy fans. Etcetera etcetera. Point is: it’s good to know when not to trust reviewers.
So, don’t just listen to me! Go with your gut. Pick up that book no one but you seems interested in. Read whatever *you* want to read (and then put it down again if it turns out it wasn’t for you 😉).
Oh and just by chance, as I was finishing writing this post, this helpful video popped up in my subs:
Just some food for thought! What do you think? Do you think knowing your own taste helps you avoid the hype/hate train? Let me know in the comments!
Yeahhh I knew I’d make that joke before the end of the year 😉 (don’t be surprised if I make it several more times before we’re done, cos something good had to come out of this year 😉). I don’t know about you, but I love to look back on my top ten posts every so often. It gives me such warm fuzzy feelings to revisit and remember every great book I read. And I get especially nostalgic as I start working on my new favourites lists! Which is why, after five years of doing Top Tens, I thought I’d share some thoughts about what happens when I look back on these posts!
Very occasionally, there are books I look at and think “why did I put that on here?”. A good example of this is Throne of Glass, back in 2015, because I only fell in love with it at book 3 (it’s possibly also tainted for me by later books). That said, this rarely happens, because competition is usually so fierce and (luckily) I read a lot of unbelievably amazing books!!
Sometimes, though, I would like to reshuffle the list a little. Such as in 2016War and Peace should’ve ended up at #2 and Peculiar Children at #10. Also, in retrospect, I read so many *incredible* books in 2018, that I don’t know if I would keep the same order (Circe certainly seems like it should be higher… but then it had some really stiff competition!)
That said, so far my feelings about the number one pick haven’t changed! And on that note, I love that each year I’ve chosen a book from a different genre: non fic in 2015 (admittedly by accident cos I didn’t order that post on purpose), historical thriller in 2016 (or whatever genre Shadow of the Wind is being classed as today 😉), fantasy in 2017, classic in 2018, contemporary in 2019 (which was also an audiobook for a change!)… it’s a great mix!
(BTW my least favourites never change position- but the big difference is I don’t tend to go back to them, cos I like to forget those books existed!)
So there you go- that’s what I think when I go back and look at old top tens! Do you have this habit too? Do your opinions on the books you’ve included change or stay the same? Do you ever rethink the order? Let me know in the comments!
Taking on board criticism is an important part of life. As writers in particular, we need feedback to grow, improve and potentially perfect our craft (as the marvellous Mary @Mary and the Words talked about recently). It’s therefore no surprise that it’s become a cornerstone of modern writing advice to get that crucial reader response.
AND YET, not all of that criticism is going to be worthwhile. Let’s be real: it’s not always going to be constructive or helpful or relevant. This may be an *unpopular opinion* right now, but you don’t always have to listen to it.
Sometimes you just have to *take the advice from whence it comes*. If someone, however nicely, says that the style is just not for them or that they don’t read this sort of thing- that’s fine! We all know that taste is subjective, so not everyone is going to be the right reader for your work. Heck- there are plenty of bestselling authors that I don’t jibe with. That’s why you have to be cautious with this kind of advice (And on the offchance, as has happened to me, someone doesn’t like the genre/category you write in and wants you to write to suit their tastes… well they can kindly sod off).
There is also the issue that not all criticism is designed to be helpful. Especially if they rouse a hate mob against you. Call me a cynic- I just don’t think people trying to destroy a career have an author’s best interests at heart. I know there’s a lot of talk about “learning” and “growing” from those experiences- nonetheless it seems the vast majority advice being doled out is to *run and hide* (in far less friendly terms). And, going beyond this specific example, I think it’s fair to dismiss critiques designed as an attack. Insulting, degrading or being downright abusive are not productive (as the wonderful Rain @the Withering discussed on her blog). On the plus side, those kinds of critiques can get you in the mindset of proving the bastards wrong! 😉
I’d also add that sometimes the criticism is coming too late in the day ie reviews. Yes, you could learn from reviews as an author, buuuut at that stage the genie is well and truly out of the bottle. If you read them, you’ll just waste lot of time wishing you’d written that book differently. Best to leave them alone. After all, reviews are for readers– not the author (and thus shouldn’t be sent to them unsolicited).
Ultimately, criticism can add some much-needed spice to your work, though it’s still worth taking it with a grain of salt 😉
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with me that there are times when you can dismiss criticism? And are there any other times when you should just ignore the advice? Let me know in the comments!
As a reader, I’ve never been a fan of genre snobbery. It’s limiting, makes reading less fun and means missing out on whole worlds of experiences. But what about for writers? Surely, if you’re an aspiring writer, you need to focus on reading obsessively in your own genre? Wouldn’t it be better to not get distracted by all those shiny titles outside the category you’re writing in? Well, while reading books in your own genre is *a must*, I’d argue reading widely is also vital for a writer’s development. Each genre has something special to offer and lots of unique lessons to learn. And even if successfully pulling off a technique is not guaranteed by simply knowing it exists, being exposed to a greater variety certainly helps! Let’s break it down by genre, shall we?
Romance– I mean the clue is in the title… romances teach you how to develop a romance. Whether it’s hate to love, friends to lovers or anything in between, all the tropes have been tried and tested in this very broad category. And it’s such a long-standing genre, so there are *countless* classics to choose from (not just harlequin novels with topless men on the covers 😉). If you want more banter and happily ever afters, then you need to be checking this out! What’s more, it doesn’t stop with the romantic relationships. Friendships and family relationships are a strong element of this genre- even if they’re dysfunctional (because, yes, you can learn how to write toxic relationships from this too- even if it’s just an accident of bad writing 😉). Basically anything related to relationships are going to be explored in this genre- so unless you’re writing a book about a hermit, you may want to at least try a romance sometime.
Fantasy– ahh my genre of choice. I could rave forever about why this genre is *out of this world*. Perhaps just one of the reasons I find it so rewarding is that, in some ways, it’s the purest form of storytelling. With more mythologically based narratives and archetypal characters, it can give an idealised version of reality (if not a real one). Plus, all that magic world building is great inspiration, because even if you’re setting it in the real world, you need to have a sense of place. It also has a great tradition of the pure evil villain or the fascist archetypal dictator- even if it’s not as good at the more human villains (although GRRM is a good example of someone breaking that mould). That said, it’s solid in the anti-hero department these days. If you need flawed, but lovable characters, then this is a great genre for it.
Sci fi– this offers a lot of the same things as fantasy in terms of getting a sense of place… though it’s more rooted in reality (which is ironically very useful for fantasy writers!) I’m not a big sci fi reader, but even I can say it’s amazing for philosophical and existential discussions (not just cos this genre includes dystopias… though that’s a big pull!!). Plus, many space operas in particular know how to pack in *action*.
Historical– for me, this is another genre where the strong suit is the setting. Yet what I also like about historical fiction is how it brings facts to life. I also personally love how lots of historical fiction works so well as genre-crossers, blending lots of different categories into one. I’ve read so many that manage to be historical and a thriller and a romance. While every book should manage to do this, I’d say that I particularly love how historical fiction balances its themes and subplots.
Thrillers– for me, thrillers are hands down the best for villains. A lot of the time you’ll have the opportunity to get in the head of some sick mothereffers. Thrillers also allow for sparser writing and occasionally atmospheric reads. It’s also good if you’re looking for some more of that realism (eek if a thriller spins into fantastical territory!). Plus, if you need a clue how to get plotting, pacing and twists right, then boy is this the genre for you!
Non-fiction– well, for starters there’s nothing stranger than real life. Given that non fiction is factual (or at least it should be) you can get *actual knowledge* from them to use in your own books. Personally, I’ve learnt a lot about characterisation, people and the nature of evil from both memoirs and psychology books. But obviously, there’s so much more you can discover!
Of course, this was not an exhaustive list, but I hope it was inspiring! Do you believe there are writerly benefits from reading widely? What do you think they are? And what else do you get out of different genres? Let me know in the comments!
Reading taste is a funny thing. In some ways, it feels static, like I’m stuck in a childish timewarp, loving what I’ve always loved and refusing to grow up. Other times, I’m feel like I’ve skidded into a space I don’t really understand, talking about genres I never thought I’d read. Because while I find there are some constants to my reading repertoire (classics/fantasy/classic fantasy) my taste has changed *a lot * in the years since I started blogging.
To start with, a big change (that may or may not be as noticeable) is how much I have fallen for romance and contemporaries. While I always enjoyed romance in my fiction, I didn’t tend to go for many rom com style books- whether they were adult or YA! Now, a shift began shortly before I started blogging, where I found I got a lot of stress relief from very fluffy YA books. Yet I wasn’t quite clear on where to find more of these books I was enjoying. *ENTER BLOGGING* and I started to get recommendations- I discovered New Adult and Regular Adult. A massive influence for me were people like Deanna @ A Novel Glimpse– who as far as I’m concerned is the Romance Queen! I’ve found too many heart-warming, charming and feel good stories to count! It’s been the start of a beautiful new adventure…
… Though that’s certainly not where it ended- because somehow I fell headlong into thriller territory (I bet you didn’t see that twist coming! I certainly didn’t!) I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it before, but my first foray into adult thrillers was the Da Vinci Code when I would’ve been around 13. To cut to the chase: it did not go well. I thought thrillers would never be for me. And then I discovered blog’s like Meggy’s. With her exquisite reviews, introducing me to the dangerously seductive world of killers and stalkers and messed up people, my interest was piqued. Intrigued, I took the plunge and picked one up. Then another. Then I began to seek them out far and wide. I guess once you’ve got a taste for the dark side, there’s no going back 😉 (plus it compliments all the super sweet reads I go for 😉) I’ve even (and this surprises me no end) enjoyed a few mysteries here and there!
But the biggest shift in my reading taste is that… I like non fiction now?! Back in the day, when I started blogging, I was so disinterested in non-fiction that I had to set myself a handful to read in a year. Now I’m currently at 20 in 2020- and it doesn’t look like I’m slowing down! Odder still, even though I vowed I didn’t like memoirs… a great deal of those are in fact memoirs. In this case, I don’t know what changed- maybe it was the passage of time, maybe it was some good recommendations or maybe it was just practicing a new reading habit that shifted my perspective.
And I guess that’s a good note to leave on- because while I still love the same books I always did, I can also say that experimenting has made my reading experience all the more rewarding. And I don’t think all of that came down to chance. Sure, I happened to stumble on some amazing blogs and recommendations- yet it took a pinch of courage to step outside of my reading comfort zone. It didn’t take me long to discover that the reading world was full of even more wonders than I knew. So, I’d encourage everyone else to do the same- you never know where it might lead you.
How about you? Has your reading taste changed over time or thanks to blogging? What do you think brought about this change? Let me know in the comments!
I’ve talked before about whether my taste follows the crowd and it’s something I often wonder about. Last month, when Goodreads celebrated YA, I noticed how closely my taste follows the crowd… well, for the most part.
Looking at 40 most popular recent Young Adult Novels and 100 most popular YA books of all time, I was surprised to find I’d read most of the books. Even more significant is how much I liked the books- my average ratings were 3.9 and 3.47 respectively. I gave 15% of books 5* in the recent YA books and 10% 5* in the most popular of all time. There were some outliers that I didn’t love (like Caraval and Lord of Shadows) or won’t read (Turtles All the Way Down), but for the most part I was at least satisfied with the vast majority of the books on the popular recent releases list. Clearly, I’m enjoying these a lot more- suggesting I’m on the right track to keep reading them. Turns out, I know my own taste! (go figure 😉)
To me, it makes sense that I’ve read so many of these as well, since these are the books with the most visibility and I’m not immune to marketing 😉 Plus, these are also books that are more readily available on a budget and if you use libraries a lot. So, in this case, I don’t feel all that bad about my taste following the crowd- especially given it’s leading to high levels of satisfaction! As much as I’d enjoy being a bookish hipster, I guess I’m quite mainstream when it comes to YA.
One thing I have to note from this experiment is that there were books on the most popular YA of all time that (at least to my mind) weren’t YA at all (Red Rising and Anne of Green Gables being the most obvious). But that’s a discussion to have (again) another day. I don’t think it massively skewed my results- though have to do my due diligence and mention it 😉
Alrighty then! Do you notice your taste follows the crowd in particular genres and categories? Are you bothered by it if your taste is quite mainstream like mine? Let me know in the comments!
Today I’m doing a different post to the one I’d planned, because I had written (and was preparing to schedule) a review… which I’ve now pulled back. And there was a reason for that. It was a review I did research for and worked hard on- yet looking into the author also told me he was coming from a good place. Right now, I’m seeing how easy it is to tear things down and attack others online. That’s just not what I’m about. Sometimes, we’ve got to look at ourselves and wonder is it worth it? I don’t want to speak for everyone and I’m certainly not telling anyone else how/what/when to review, I just want to talk about why I might not review something:
If the author might get unfair backlash- in the last month, watching the internet explode, I feel a bit more cautious about putting criticism out there. I’ve talked about this before and hope to do so again (when I get the headspace), but the last thing I want is to be involved in is cancel culture. Now, even if I trust my readers not to turn into some angry mob online, I still sometimes think it’s better to hold back. This is not to say I’m veering away from all negativity- only that I want to be a little careful at the moment. A lot of the time, I can review a book integrating my criticism- however if all I’ve written is a barrage of criticism on one issue, then I may not want to put that out there.
If I’m just not the right person to talk about the issue– because (surprising as this may be to some of you) I’m not an expert on everything- I know, shocker, right?! 😉 And I just don’t want to make things worse by trying to make things better. My intentions may be good, but much like the last point, it could easily backfire. Again, if I can integrate my opinion into the entire review, great. If not, it may be better to leave it to someone more suited to the topic.
If my criticism is too strongly tied to personal experience– on the flipside, sometimes a topic may be too close to the bone and I don’t feel comfortable bringing it up. Sometimes I could give insight on an issue- I just don’t want to “out” myself in the process. I may also struggle to express myself in this situation, so chances are, I may just abandon the review, cos it ain’t worth it! Don’t get me wrong, I respect people who do, but it’s not my style. (Jeez- I don’t even feel all that comfortable tangentially talking about it lol!)
If the author’s an unknown– this is quite a straightforward (and far less controversial) point: I just don’t like to review obscure indie books super negatively. Though I’m sure I could find an exception, I mostly read pretty mainstream books anyway.
If I don’t have enough to say– I mean, that’s what my mini reviews are for, BUT some books are just so forgettable I can’t even come up with a few sentences.
And that’s where I stand! Do you review every book? What are your reasons? Let me know in the comments!