Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books & Dani @ Literary Lion, where we discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts.
Prompts: Are there any physical qualities you look for in a character? What personalities tend to draw you to characters? Are there any archetypes you prefer, are you always falling for the villain? What makes you like characters?
This was supposed to go up Oct. 29, but I, uh, forgot to hit the “schedule” button, so here we are. 😉
I am NOT a visual person when I read. Apparently there are a lot of people who practically see the action of the book rolling by like a movie when they read? I can hardly imagine that. I barely envision what anyone or anything looks like, and the truth is that I rarely remember what a character’s physical qualities are unless they somehow become plot relevant or are mentioned several times throughout the book.
Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables? I have an excellent visual because Anne dislikes her red hair, she gets called “Carrots” by Gilbert and ends up in a feud, and Mrs. Rachel Lynde goes on about she’s homely and scrawny. The main character in the most recent YA book I read? I have no idea if she’s short or tall or has brown eyes or blonde hair or really anything about her, and I certainly don’t favor some characters over others because of their physical appearance.
In terms of character personality, I think there’s a lot of gray area in terms of what it means for me to “like” a character. There’s a difference between finding the character interesting, thinking the person is nice to other characters, and thinking the character has the type of personality that means I’d personally like to be friends with them.
Yet one trait I think characters need for me to truly admire them is kindness. A character can be badass and smart and creative and do things that seem morally right (like fighting to save a kingdom from ruin), but if they aren’t driven by kindness and wanting to help others, exactly how nice are they? I love characters who, no matter what their other strengths and weaknesses, find the most power in kindness.
Goodreads: The Runaway King Series: Ascendance #2 Age Category: Young Adult Source: Library Published: 2013
Threatened by Avenian pirates and worried about a war with the Avenian king, Jaron is forced by his regents to go on the run. But he has a plan. Rather than hide, he will join the pirates and end the war before it begins. He just has to do it before the regents put someone else on the throne.
While The False Prince strains credulity, book two in the Ascendance trilogy throws all logic entirely out the window. The story is based around the faulty premise that, having received a death threat from the Avenian pirates, the king of Carthya can only save his realm from war by going on the run. Having effectively abandoned his people, King Jaron decides that his best course of action is to join the pirates and take out their leader. Convoluted shenanigans ensue, but most of it feels like it is lacking heart. Jaron does not win here because he is the cleverest; he wins because everyone else is so ridiculous. The Runaway King tries to capture the magic of its predecessor, but Jaron comes across as juvenile and foolish–and one can easily sympathize with the grown-ups who want him off the throne.
The politics in the Ascendance series are almost comically bad, in a way that allows Jennifer A. Nielsen to set up easy bad guys for her heroes to show off against. In book one, readers learned that Avenia is a backwards, barbaric country full of bloodthirsty people eager to get their hands on Carthya’s lands. In this book, readers learn of a complicating factor–the Avenian pirates. These pirates, though based in Avenia and subject to usage by the crown, ostensibly have nothing to do with the rulers of Avenia and do their own, piratey thing. Whatever that is. (Mostly they seem to hang out on their well-established base and, er, threaten outsiders who wander in? Which happens quite often considering their base is so super secret and no one is supposed to leave it alive.) Anyway, somehow both the pirates and the king of Avenia now want Jaron dead for reasons that do not make any sense. So this is bad and Jaron must infiltrate the pirates before they assassinate him. He will do this while pretending that he is actually locked in his rooms for a week or two, throwing a temper tantrum. No better way to gain the loyalty of the people, right?
At any rate, most of the book is spent in the pirate camp, presumably because Nielsen felt that to lock up Jaron in his castle, having him do kingly things, would be boring. This might be all right–what kid doesn’t like a good pirate story?–if the pirates were, well, piratey. But most of them just seem to hang about at camp and none of them are that scary. Furthermore, their leader seems uncommonly dull-witted, having just allowed both Jaron and Imogene into his camp because one promised him gold and the other one…wants to be a kitchen maid? For the pirates? (How does that application even work?) The story might be fun if Jaron were shown to be outwitting the pirates, but they are so slow that there is no joy in watching Jaron escape–not through his wits, but mainly through luck. One really starts to wonder if a kid who thinks walking into a pirate camp with only a half-formed plan is actually suited to lead a nation.
Imogen, meanwhile, gets treated kind of dirty here. There is a sense about the book that it is trying to have her be a strong female character. After all, she made it to Avenia and was hired by the pirates all through her own initiative. Ultimately, however, Imogen ends up being captured and made a pawn in the game between the pirates and Jaron. Nothing really brings a strong female character down like being tied up and having their life threatened if their male lover does not give in to various demands. This seems to be where her character is going in book three, as well, so forgive me for not being overly impressed.
Despite how badly the politics here are, however, this is something naively comforting about how earnestly the book wants readers to believe that Jaron will make a wonderful king. He may be a fool who almost got himself killed for nothing–but, hey, he has courage! This gives the story an old-school kind of feel. It’s the type of story where readers are allowed to believe that personal virtues translate into great leaders and that these great leaders can do anything they want because, you know, they are great. So when Jaron does things like dismiss disloyal regents and replace them all with his (completely unqualified) friends, that’s wonderful! Jaron is now surrounded by people he trusts! No worries about nepotism here or about the optics of filling all the realm’s important roles with people Jaron just personally happens to like.
The Runaway King is probably worth reading for those who enjoyed The False Prince. However, a lot of the magic has gone and the real interest here lies just in wondering what will happen to Jaron. Will he avert war? Will he marry Imogene? How Jaron gets to these endings may be completely wild, but if readers are invested in the questions, they will likely keep reading, anyway.
Many book bloggers use the summary from the publisher when writing book reviews. When possible, however, I prefer to write my own. Here are four reasons why.
I Can Make Summaries Short and to the Point
A paragraph of six to eight sentences is sufficient for me to decide whether I am interested in the premise of a book. Yet so many official summaries seem to be several paragraphs long! I don’t want to feel as if I have read the whole book after just reading the summary. As a result, I like to write my own summaries that are usually only a few sentences.
I Can Avoid Spoilers
This point goes with the one above. Really lengthy summaries often reveal almost everything that happens in the book. Some even casually drop plot twists. But I do not want to go into a new story already knowing that Character Z was just faking their own death or that Character Y will be betrayed by their lover. A few sentences hitting the main, non-spoilery points will do just fine. When I write my own summaries, I can take more care to ensure that major plots twists are not revealed.
I Can Try for Greater Accuracy
Sometimes official summaries can be misleading or say that something happens in the book–when it does not. For instance, somewhere I have a copy of Rainbow Valley with a cover that promises, from what I remember, that the protagonists try to save a chicken from being cooked for supper. They don’t. (Spoiler Alert!) The children simply arrive to supper to find the chicken already cooked. (End spoiler!) So when I write summaries, I like to try to say what actually happens in the book, instead of fudging events to make them sound more dramatic, or trying to, say, make a book sound like a detective novel when, at its heart, it really isn’t.
I Can Reuse the Summaries
When I write my own summaries for book reviews, I can reuse those same summaries later for other posts–for example, if I make a list of recommended titles based around a similar topic. Using the official summaries for lists is not ideal because they are so long! I doubt most people want to read a list of titles where every title listed has five paragraphs of summary. Having short summaries ready to go for new posts makes blogging much more efficient.
Do you write your own book summaries? Why or why not?
Now a witch, Moth Hush has no hope that things at school will get any better. Her mom will still let her learn only small spells, and she is not allowed to use magic to make the school bullies stop. Then Moth finds a powerful charm that promises to make her cool and popular. There may be a cost involved, but it is nothing Moth can’t handle, right?
The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow is a powerful, and empathetic, follow-up to The Okay Witch. Now practicing as a witch with the blessing of her mother, Moth hopes that she can use her powers to make her life at school better. But her friend Charlie and the grown-ups around her just keep telling her to ignore the bullies and to accept herself as she is. For Moth, that is not good enough. So she steals a charm that promises to make her more popular. The result, as readers might expect, instead threatens to erase Moth completely. The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow is a beautiful story about learning to love one’s self, with the support of friends and family along the way.
Stories about accepting one’s self and learning to appreciate one’s friends are common for middle grade, but The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow gives a little twist by making the protagonist a witch. While many characters might wish that they could drastically change themselves, or that they could instantly become popular, Moth actually can. The ultimate lesson is still, of course, that magic cannot solve all of life’s problems. But it is fun to see how magic might try–the scene in the cafeteria where magically popular Moth begins a High School Musical-esque number and gets everyone to join in was amazingly hilarious. A reader starts to wonder if magic might not be a great solution. How else would one get to actually live in a musical for a moment?
The book is filled with moments of humor, from when Moth accidentally “twins” outfits with the dorkiest teacher at school to the scenes where her talking cat gets absorbed in a sitcom about a teenage witch. Though Moth is not happy with her life, readers can see that she is, in fact, surrounded by wonderful people. Even the dorky teacher turns out to be empathetic, sensitive, and, well, pretty cool. (Though it’s probably hard for a preteen to admit that.) Readers will delight in getting to enter into Moth’s world and experience all the loving support she has, if only she would recognize it.
The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow is a wonderful read, more effectively executed even than book one. Hopefully, there are yet more of Moth’s adventures to come!
Werewolf barista Julie and her new girlfriend go on a date to a close-up magic show, but all heck breaks loose when the magician casts a horrible spell on their friend Chet. Now it’s up to the team of mythical pals to stop the illicit illusionist before it’s too late.
Collects issues 1 through 5.
The premise of Moonstruck intrigued me, as did the cute art style. Julie is a werewolf barista, who is ashamed of her transformations. But she meets a new girlfriend, another werewolf, who is proud of who she is. Together, the two discover a magician–but when he casts a spell on their friend, they have to go on a mission to track him down to reverse the curse. There should be plenty of mystery, action, and drama, right? Well, not so much. Moonstruck ends up being a rather lackluster graphic novel with only the sketchiest of plots.
The biggest strength of the book is arguably the characters, which, unfortunately, is not saying a lot. Readers get a broad understandings of who the characters are, but never get to delve into their hopes, fears, or motivations. For example, it is clear that Julie is embarrassed about being a werewolf because she will run away when she transforms. But she and her friends never talk about it. Is there a stigma against werewolves where Julie lives? Does she just think looking all hairy is awkward? Readers never know.
The other characters also lack real depth, and seem to be present mainly to forward the plot. Chet, for example, is the catalyst for the events of the story, while Julie’s new girlfriend undergoes an unexpected personality change–turning quite angry–towards the end of the book, apparently just to add a bit of drama. I wanted to love these characters, but the story does not give readers much to work with.
The plot is also sorely lacking, most notably during the climax of the story. How exactly Julie and her friends manage to defeat the magician is very unclear. There is no discernible plan for his capture and his defeat comes unexpectedly and suddenly. It is a real letdown to read an entire book only to have it fall apart so decisively at the ending. This, more than anything, caused me to be disappointed with the story, and to cancel my library holds on the next two volumes.
The idea of magical creatures living in an ordinary world, serving coffee, forming bands, and falling in love is cute. Unfortunately, the execution of this story just isn’t there. I’ll be looking for another supernatural tale to enchant me this season.
Periodically, I blog aboutways to promote a love of reading, often by creating greater access to books. However, I do not think I have ever suggested lending out books to friends as a strategy and there’s a good reason why–I personally dread lending books to friends. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I even offered to lend a book to someone because, well, I don’t want to! In my defense, however, I have my reasons.
I buy and own very few books to begin with. The books I do own, I take very good care of. One of the proudest moments of my life is actually when I donated a pile of books to the library, and I overhead the librarian tell a coworker, “What a shame that these books have never been read.” I owned those books for years and read them multiple times. But they still looked brand new! I do not even crack the spines of paperbacks. The majority of my books are pristine. So lending these books out to people who do not care for them the same way naturally causes me some stress.
Lending out books has resulted in more problem scenarios than me for not. There was the time about ten years ago when I lent a book a friend. I haven’t seen that book since. There was the time I lent a book to a friend and she lent it to at least three more people without asking me first. The book (a paperback), which had gone out new, came back practically shredded in pieces and covered in dirt. There was the time I lent a friend a book and, when I asked for it back, she screamed at me and threw it into a muddy puddle. (I guess she wasn’t done with it??) And the time I asked for a book back (because it had been nearly a year) and my friend gave it back in a huff, immediately, informing me that she only had to read the final page. But then she wouldn’t. To stick it to me. Really, it is almost as if lending out books to normally very reasonable people brings out the worst in them.
Lending out books to friends has taught me two things. Firstly, that most people do not treat books as gently as I do. And, secondly, that mixing friends and property is probably going to end in a ruined friendship one day. Because others do not treat my books with the same care as I, I usually get upset when a tattered volume comes back. I would, in theory, expect someone to pay for my damaged property, but no one has ever offered to do so because, I suppose, to them a torn and dirty book is the same as a pristine one. I have never asked for the book to be paid for, because I know that my friends would find this ridiculous. I’ve seen enough to know that mixing friends and finances is how friendships die. My solution? Stop lending out books to friends.
I suppose not offering to lend out books could be seen as mean, but the way I see it, the books I own are my personal property. I paid for them, and books are not cheap. I do not have to lend them out to people when I suspect those people will destroy them or never return them at all. My friends all have access to the public library, so my decision not to hand out books to them is not keeping them from books. Arguably, it might benefit them more to get a library card and discover all the resources available to them through it.
Book lovers tend to treat books as sacred objects sometimes. However, they are also material objects. Objects that I, in this case, paid for. I don’t feel any personal impetus to sacrifice the books I paid for in order to get a friend to read a particular book. If they are interested, they can use the library. And if they ruin the book, they can take that financial dispute up with the library, too. This system may have resulted in my friends reading fewer of the books I have recommended to them. But I think it has also preserved our friendships.
What do you think? Do you like lending out books to friends?
I read book blogs for the content, so it does not matter to me if a person has a spectacular header or a mediocre one. Likewise, I do not mind if someone only uses graphics of book covers, but does not take award-winning Instagram photos of books. Plus, if I am reading a post in the WordPress Reader, I cannot see the full web design, anyway. It is important to me that a site be clear and easy to navigate–but paying for a professional template or for a designer to make custom buttons and graphics is not going to be the deciding factor in my decision to follow. The content is.
On a personal level, I really enjoy grammar. However, despite what the comments section on the internet may lead one to believe, grammar and adherence to standard grammar are not a markers of one’s intelligence. People say perfectly insightful things all the time while using awkward grammar or making typos. And that is what matters to me–the content of what someone is saying, not how they say it. Of course, I want to be able to understand what a person is saying in the first place, but an incorrect preposition or some unusual phrasing is no big deal. And making it one is not really kind to people. Some may never have learned rigorous grammar or some may be learning English as a second or third language. Getting stuck on grammar does not make sense when people are reaching out to communicate. I think we should reach back–not point out any perceived mistakes.
GIFs and Small Amounts of Text
A lot of bloggers will suggest that having large chunks of text is bad, and they should be broken up with GIFs or other images, lest readers become fatigued. For my part, I don’t mind reading long posts and often even enjoy it–so long as the content has a clear structure and is not rambling or repetitive. I actually really don’t like seeing GIFs at all, and I don’t read GIF-heavy content as much as I read text-heavy content. So go with whatever your writing style is! You will find readers who appreciate it; you do not need to guess what “everyone” wants, because everyone never wants the same thing.
A Custom Domain Name
Many bloggers will suggest that bloggers should pay for a domain name to look more professional and be taken more seriously. This may matter more for other types of blogs, but book blogs are not customarily monetized right now. Removing the “WordPress” from the address bar does not matter to most readers and surely does not impact publishers’ decisions to send ARCs or authors’ decisions to do blog tours or interviews. Getting a custom domain name is a completely optional expense at this point for people blogging as a hobby, and bloggers should not feel pressured to spend money on it if does not make sense for them.
Lots of ARC Reviews
There was a time when many book bloggers felt pressured to be on top of the market and to be able to put up reviews for books no one else had access to yet. I tend to prefer reading reviews of books I have already read, so I can have a discussion about the books. Consequently, ARC reviews are not that compelling for me; I don’t care if a blogger never reviews an ARC at all.
For me, the content is the most important reason I read a blog. Are the posts original and the voice engaging? Are the discussions in-depth? Do the reviews have structure? And does the content appear regularly? Graphics, grammar, and domain names–these are all secondary features that matter less to me. At its heart, blogging is about writing, not so much graphic design or photography or many of the other features that book bloggers have come to prioritize to look professional. And blogging is meant to be somewhat accessible. Have a computer and internet access? You can blog–no fancy equipment required. So the writing still matters most to me. Interesting ideas are what inspire me to click follow.
What are some features about blogsthat you do not particularly look for?
Goodreads: The Pearl Thief Series: Code Name Verity #1 Age Category: Young Adult Source: Library Published: 2017
Fifteen-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart is back at her grandfather’s estate for one last summer before it is sold. She expects to be busy doing nothing more than packing boxes, but ends up in the hospital the first day she arrives. She cannot remember what happened, but it seems like her injury might be linked to the employee missing from the estate. Everyone suspects the Travellers who have, for years, come to help on the estate and gone pearl fishing in the river, but Julia knows that the McEwens are innocent. Things start to look bad for Julia’s new friends, however, when a body is found in the river.
Having not yet read Code Name Verity, The Pearl Thief was going to be, for me, a fun period mystery more than anything else. However, I have to admit that “fun” and “mystery” do not accurately describe the story I found. Though mysterious things are happening around Julie at her grandfather’s estate, her interests include flirting, driving, and wandering–not detecting. She simply stumbles across clues periodically until the mystery is cleared up by accident, with little intent on her part or, really, on anybody’s. In fact, no one even knows that there is a Pearl Thief, so the title is a bit misleading. In short, The Pearl Thief is a coming-of-age story whose primary interest comes from being set in Scotland and including much information on Scottish river pearls. It will appeal to fans of Code Name Verity or readers who like travel stories, but it will likely disappoint those looking for an actual mystery.
I really enjoy mysteries, so I have to admit that I find myself in the camp of those who will be disappointed by this story. From the summary, I got the idea that Julie would want to play detective as soon as she realized that an employee was missing off the estate, along some pearls. However, no one seems too concerned with the man’s disappearance–not his employers, not the police, and certainly not Julia. No one knows that he apparently absconded with some pearls, either. In fact, no one even remembers that the pearls existed! Julia does have vague memories of them, but brushes them aside. Readers will likely realize pretty quickly from all this what is happening (there must be a reason certain people did not see fit to report an employee as missing), but Julia does not–and she does not care, either.
Fifteen-year-old Julie is really just concerned with having a good time–and I don’t blame her. She has fun trying to flirt with an older man, and she spends her days traipsing about the countryside and trying to woo Ellen, a standoffish Traveller. The Travellers are some of the more interesting characters, considered as a group. Elizabeth Wein depicts just some of the suspicion and abuse they face from society because of their iterant lifestyle–even though it is clear that they contribute a lot to the local economy and should be valued members of the community. An author’s note at the end gives more information about and context for the Travellers, including their current situation.
Scotland, its culture, and its history end up being the true stars of this book, being drawn more vividly than even the characters. Julia is sort of a standard teen who enjoys having a good time. Ewen McEwen is almost nonexistent, despite his prominence in the official summary. Ellen McEwen is more provocative, but does not end up having enough of a personality to be truly intriguing. But real love for Scotland and its heritage leaps off every page, and readers will enjoy immensely the opportunity to learn about the moors, river pearls, and, yes, the Travellers. Make no mistake; Scotland is the protagonist here, not Julia.
The Pearl Thief taught me a lot about Scotland, and I loved learning more about Scottish river pearls, since I had not known they existed. However, the official summary mislead me into thinking the book would be a mystery, when it is really a coming-of-age story. I still enjoyed the book, but I think I would have enjoyed it more, had I not been expecting something entirely different.
Goodreads: The Awakening Storm Series: City of Dragons #1 Age Category: Middle Grade Source: Library Published: 2021
When Grace moves to Hong Kong with her mom and new stepdad, her biggest concern is making friends at her fancy new boarding school. But when a mysterious old woman gifts her a dragon egg during a field trip, Grace discovers that the wonderful stories of dragons she heard when she was a young girl might actually be real–especially when the egg hatches overnight.
The dragon has immense powers that Grace has yet to understand. And that puts them both in danger from mysterious forces intent on abusing the dragon’s power. And now it’s up to Grace and her school friends to uncover the sinister plot threatening the entire city!
The Awakening Storm follows a familiar premise–a girl moves to a new city, then finds out she has been Chosen to save the world–but the story still feels fresh. Grace is a winning protagonist with a team full of smart–and funny–friends who have the most delightful camaraderie. Further, the inclusion of Chinese mythology adds a a beautiful layer of depth to the story, as Grace must learn more about her past in order to determine her future. I loved learning along with Grace and her friends, and I hope this is one series that continues!
In many ways, The Awakening Storm is not the most notable graphic novel to recently hit shelves. Chosen One stories certainly offer few surprises, and readers will hardly find themselves shocked by plot twists here. Fortunately, however, Grace and her friends manage to carry the story though a combination of winsome eagerness and comedic interactions. As the series progresses, it seems likely that their personalities will as well, making this team more than just the language girl, the teacher’s pet, and the tech guy.
The illustrations are possibly the highlight of the story–which perhaps is fitting for a graphic novel. The opportunity to draw upon mythology here and to include as much dragon awesomeness as possible is not wasted. Grace’s little water dragon happens to be adorable, but, in time, will no doubt be as majestic as his forebears. I love a good dragon story, so I was excited to see all the different types of dragons. Future installments no doubt will provide even more information.
Altogether, The Awakening Storm is an engaging graphic novel. It will likely perform particularly will with its target audience–tweens–who may not have read as many Chosen One stories and will be able to immerse themselves in the action without worrying about originality. I know this is a book I would have really loved when growing up.
What makes me follow a blog? I do not really need fancy graphics or a professionally-designed template. However, I do value ease of access and consistency! Below are five things I look for before I press “follow.”
A “Follow” Button
Having an easy way for readers to follow a blog may seem obvious, but a lot of blogs are actually missing a visible “follow” button! But if I don’t see a “follow” button, I have to open up the WordPress Reader and copy and paste the blog address to follow it. I’m frankly a lot less likely to do all that than I am simply to click a button.
After I check that I actually have a way to follow a blog, I then check to see that the blog is still active. Of course, bloggers do not need to post every day. However, I do value blogs that are fairly consistent with new content. If it has been a month or more since the last post, and there is no notice about going on hiatus, I start to wonder if the blog is still being updated.
If I can’t navigate the site, I cannot tell if it has content I would enjoy. I like blogs that have a wall full of current posts that I can browse through rather than ones with landing pages where it is hard for me to see what is being posted. Sometimes landing pages only have one or two categories, and I’m not really sure where to find the other types of posts that do not have a button linking to them. I’d rather use a sidebar to navigate, rather than having to go back to a landing page all the time.
Of course, I enjoy reading blogs where the blogger and I have shared interests. This could be a shared taste in books, but it could also mean engaging discussion posts about bookish matters, hobbies that are interesting (even if I don’t participate in them myself), or cute cat photos.
Variety of Content
This goes with the above, but I like seeing a variety of content on blogs just because it gives me more opportunities to find shared interests. I may not read a lot of adult fiction or romances or paranormal books, but if a blogger who reads these things also blogs about other things or has in-depth discussion posts, I might still be interested in following!