Book Talk Episode 19: It’s YA Week!

It’s YA week on Goodreads, so I thought I would do a blog post (possibly 2?) about my favourite young adult reads and talk about how the genre has evolved since I first became a YA reader to what it is like now.

As Goodreads mentions in their article, the tropes and characters we see in YA today are vastly different from the ones we saw 10 years ago. I remember when Dystopian fiction was huge, with series like The Hunger Game and Divergent. Not only was I reading the YA in this genre, I was also writing it. Vampires and angels were also popular, at least among YA fantasy. Some examples that I can think of are The Vampire Diaries, Twilight and Fallen…and there are many, many, many more from this period.

What I’m seeing now is more of a mix of both high and urban fantasy being written not only for young adult readers, but for middle grade and adult readers as well. Personally, this is something I absolutely love. There is so much variety within the fantasy books that are out right now, and I often go to friends for recommendations.

I also noticed that, well at least when I was a teenager, a lot of the books weren’t spooky enough. Now, not everyone likes spooky, but now there are so many YA books that border along the lines of horror, mystery and thriller. I’m curious to know whether television created this initial shift, or if it happened naturally within the media. I know when my mom was a teenager, that a lot of the YA books at the time fell in line with gothic literature. I’d say, at least the ones that I can recall her mentioning, were American Gothics. As for the thrillers, the ones I read as a teenager were all about spies, and I beginning to think that those prep-school spy books may have also contributed to the ever popular dark academia vibe we’re seeing today.

Another very obvious shift in teen fiction is the variety of voices, not only are the characters from all different backgrounds, but the are authors come from all walks of life as well! Literature is beautiful like that. Although, I feel the process was slow, books have become a space where people feel seen, and I hope that it translates across all media as we move into 2022. I’m really looking forward to this period of growth.

One thing that I have noticed is that there’ve been a lot of complaints about the lack of YA fiction geared toward a male audience. I’ve also noticed that the market seems to be more favourable towards female readers at this current time, however, there are plenty of YA books and series out there for everyone! I know plenty of guys who read Twilight when it was first released, and enjoyed it. I also know plenty of guys who were (and still are) obsessed with The Hunger Games, any and every book by John Green, and who are extremely invested in all the books by Leigh Bardugo. To quote one of my friends from high school, “A good book is a good book. I don’t care if Katniss is a girl. She’s cool.”

One other thing I’ve noticed is that YA fiction has brought back illustrated covers, which I have missed an incredible amount! I hope this carries over into other genres, because it gives the books such a personal feel to them. I’ve also noticed this with romance as well, but I’m still waiting for the illustrated covers to be the norm in horror again. I don’t read a lot of horror, but the old illustrated covers in that genre were incredible! If you haven’t gone through and looked at old horror covers, I highly recommend it…unless of course you don’t like horror, then please don’t. I don’t want you to get scared. Some are really freaky!

Lastly, I want to talk about the insane amount of fairytale retellings. I don’t mean insane as in it’s a bad thing. It’s not bad at all! I used to adore retellings when I was a kid, but they didn’t make very many for teens at the time I was getting into YA. There are so many cool ones out right now and it’s not just fairytales, it’s myths and legends and all kinds of lore being retold and reimagined for new audiences! I like this idea of taking something familiar and flipping it on its head. It’s just so much fun, revisiting a story but having it be completely new to you.

What’s your favourite shift in YA? Is there anything that you miss about older YA books that makes you feel nostalgic?

Is It Okay to Review a DNF?

I’ve heard several different arguments about this over the years, both on the side of the reader and the author. It can be a touchy subject but I do think everyone’s opinions on the matter are valid.

I know as a reader that when going through reviews of a particular book, I like to know why certain reviewers decided to drop the book. Their reasoning may be something that I too would find unappealing. I myself can usually tell if I like a book if I’ve sped through the first three chapters. If I start reading something, and by chapter three I’m still engaged it’s a good sign. 9/10 times this method works for me.

Unfortunately, during university I was forced to finish many books that I found dry, distasteful, etc…as we were expected to discuss them, and study them throughout the semester. Trying to break out of that habit years later has been difficult. Although I know that I’m no longer required to finish a book I don’t like, my brain keeps telling me to “give it a chance” as if this book might be on an exam or something.

In January I ended up reading two books that just weren’t for me. Both had things in them that I found problematic but I only reviewed the one I finished reading on my blog. The other, which I did not finish, was an ARC that I stopped reading around the 5th chapter. I was excited for the book. I really was…but I was disappointed. It fell short of my expectations and there was a lot of over explanation being done to the point where it distracted from the story.

As you may have noticed, I haven’t mentioned the name of the book. The main reason is that this book is another authors debut. Out of respect for the author, and because I received an advanced copy, I just don’t feel right about giving a full, proper review.

What I did instead was I submitted a private DNF explanation through net galley. I chose to do this rather than submit a review, as I would hate to discourage people from reading someone else’s work…or attack an author before their book is even released because of something I personally found problematic. That just isn’t fair. Someone else might love it.

There are points that I made in my DNF statement that I hope the author and publisher will take into consideration, but ultimately I know the opinions of one person won’t necessarily be enough for them to take those things into consideration. Had this book already been on shelves…say for a month or two, I would have considered doing a public review. A DNF review of ARC however just doesn’t seem fair…at least not to me. ARC reviews are supposed to help market a book. I personally don’t feel like I can give a proper, full review to something if I’ve only read 5 chapters. However, as I mentioned I think if the book had been released for several months and I purchased a copy, sharing my opinion publicly would be fair.

I honestly don’t know if I was just being nit-picky because of the problems I’d come across in the book I reviewed previously, or if there were were issues in the text. I know that based on feedback from ARCs, novels have been pulled and revised before publication and I am hoping for the sake of this new author, that their book does go through some revisions prior to its release.

Something that people don’t consider is that just because a book has a white protagonist, doesn’t mean it doesn’t require sensitivity/beta readers from a diverse group of people. I know that if I had say, been given the opportunity to read this book prior to this ARC…say as an editor, I would have definitely pointed things out to the author. They have a good concept. It’s clear they wanted to have a diverse cast…they just didn’t excecute it in a way that sat well with well…me a POC. Even stating this, I feel is too much. I don’t think it’s fair.

As I mentioned before, DNF reviews can be helpful to readers. However, the ones that simply say, “DNF. 1 star.” are neither helpful to the reader or the author. If that’s all a person has to say, then to me it seems well…pointless. I like to know why someone disliked a book just as much as why a person enjoyed it. If the person simply wants to avoid spoilers, that’s fine but they can still provide some brief explanation as to why.

An example could be: I didn’t finish this book because the introduction dragged on for too long.

That’s quick, simple and doesn’t give anything away to other potential readers. I’d consider that a fair DNF statement.

Other DNF statements that I find fair are the ones that go into length about issues they had with the book. I should add that I like the ones that are a little more respectful. I wish I could pull up an example of one that I saw recently by a fellow reviewer. Her DNF review was extremely throughtful. I won’t go hunting for it though as I didn’t ask for her permission. I will however be including her in my BookTuber’s to watch post.

I’m curious to know what your thoughts are on this subject? Have you ever left a DNF review? Do you find them helpful or do you think it’s only fair to review/consider reviews of something that’s been read completely?

Absolutely Delightful…

Have you ever been so immersed in a book it’s almost as if you were in a dream? I love when that happens, that moment you escape. I’ve read a lot of different books lately and with each one I’m praying for that experience of being drawn into the pages and disappearing inside them for hours.

I’m not sure why books induce this almost dream-like state but I feel well rested after as well. Writing about this now, I’m a bit embarrassed because I can’t help but think “this sounds insane” and yet I know there are people who’ve experienced this same thing.

Reading to me is no different than when I used to play dolls. Letting your imagination take charge and creating and exploring (sometimes the impossible!) in your head. It’s like the perfect balance between fiction and reality because you know in fact that it’s all a play but you engage with it because it’s absolutely delightful…or disturbing if you’re reading a horror novel…but then again some books (and films) can be disturbingly delightful.

In my last post I felt almost betrayed by what I’d read. Books for me have always been my favourite place…not just thing…but a place, because every book has a new setting, a new set of character’s to meet and new things to discover along the way. I love that about them. I like to venture into spooky old mansions, or travel across space…just from the comfort of my bedroom.

Each time I read a good book, it’s like being in a long dream. A good dream. A dream that keeps you guessing. A dream that gives you a warm feeling. A dream that lingers with you after you wake up. Books are beautiful in that sense.

Absolutely beautiful.

My Favourite Moment in My Novel

Today’s task is to “Describe one of your favourite moments in the book.”

One of my favourite scenes is when my character’s go sledding together. It’s this one moment when everyone lets their guard down and genuinely enjoy each others company. It’s a nice contrast to some of the stuff that happens later on in the novel.

It’s also nice to see my older character’s being just as playful as the younger ones. Especially when they’ve been so stressed out with work (and constantly getting on each other’s nerves).

I also love that one of my favourite side character’s Connie shows up in this scene. She only makes one appearance in this book but her and her friends are really fun to write. I should draw them sometime.

I think I’ll keep this answer short because I don’t want to spoil anything! However, when the book comes out I’d love to know what your favourite scene was. Hopefully you’ll like this scene as well.

Book Talk Episode 17: Illustrated Covers

The other day at work, a co-worker of mine was admiring this beautifully illustrated book cover. I wish I could recall the name of the book so I could show an example, but her comment really made me think. She said, “I’m so glad that they’re going back to the illustrated version of this cover. I hate how boring a lot of covers have been these past few years.”

The two of us then went on to discuss how, since the first Twilight book came out a lot of book covers began to mimic the style and then ultimately readers were bombarded with stock images and lifeless photographs. Now, not to bash the creators of those types of covers…I believe that the covers for Twilight and their simplicity was actually well thought out. The issue that we discussed was that it seemed as though the plan was to get readers to buy a book because it had a similar cover to that of the Twilight series, versus coming up with something significant to the actual story.

I can clearly remember being a 13-15 year old wandering around my favourite bookstores and sighing at the cover art. I know that they say not to judge a book but it’s cover, but it’s the first thing a reader sees, not the review. Not the synopsis. Not the first page. The cover is what’s put on display for us.

Illustrated covers have always captured my attention. For example, the cover of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It’s absolutely beautiful. When I saw it, I immediately was drawn to the book! That is what a cover is supposed to do. It’s supposed to capture your attention.

The design itself isn’t too complicated, and yet it captures the eye. It stirs curiosity. It makes you wonder what’s inside.

Illustrated covers, in my personal opinion, do a better job of conveying certain types of stories. Especially within much of fiction. It makes them stand out more.

If you compare the classic horror book covers to current ones, you’ll find yourself greatly disappointed. A few of my friends who are avid horror readers lament over the lack of character given to horror books today in comparison to the ones printed in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Look at this cover of Misery by Stephen King.

The illustrated version of this cover is eye catching, whereas the version with the snow covered cabin doesn’t peak my curiosity as much. It doesn’t pull me in as much. This however, is my personal opinion. I have however, seen some horror book reviewers (along with friends of mine who adore the genre) discuss this in more detail.

I recommend checking out the video, Horror Books Have Lost Their Identity. I’ve linked it below because I think it really summarizes what I’m discussing in this post.

As YouTuber In Praise of Shadows states in the video, book covers are supposed to give the reader some indication of the genre as well as what the story is about. However in recent years they have had to scan the covers for small clues…such as a single word in a review in fine print on the cover like, “haunting,” “shocking” or “disturbing.”

The older covers made it very clear what the books were about. Right now all of the covers, across these vast genres are blending together in a mess of bright colours and large font.

This video really grasps what my co-worker and I were discussing the other day. At some point all the books blend together.

I know many people who believe that The Hunger Games and the Divergent series are the same, simply because of how the covers were designed. People who know nothing about the plots for either series. This assumption came with how the books were marketed. I know that when I first saw the Divergent cover, I thought it was a Hunger Games spin off series. That was until I read the synopsis. I remember being almost…frustrated by how so many of the covers that came out that year, resembled The Hunger Games (and Twilight). I was so frustrated by it I missed out on reading a lot of potentially good books, and lost interest in much of what was published that year.

Now, as someone who also reads comic books and manga, I know how much work has to go into the covers for those. I’ve seen examples of some of the covers done for the more recent releases of the Jughead comics. There were several options done for the front cover, before one was selected by the team as the perfect cover. Guess what? I bought that comic solely based on the cover art.

Based on the cover you already know that Jughead and Sabrina are going to get themselves into some kind of mess (or fun!). Your eyes are draw to the different parts of it. The colours are eye catching. It makes you interested in the story.

When I look at some of the books being printed over the last few years, my curiosity isn’t peaked. A catchy title may draw me in but it’s the cover that makes me flip to the synopsis to learn more. It’s the cover that captivates me visually and draws me into this world created by the author. It’s the cover fills me with excitement.

I’m not saying that today’s covers are boring or lacking creativity. I know that design takes a long time. I just think that the genres are all blending together…to the point where each cover is more or less the same.

Even earlier this morning while I was looking at books. I was trying to guess where they went in the store, solely based on the covers. The adult romance books and the teen romance books were all clearly romance however the contrast between them was almost non-existent. I wasn’t able to tell which was YA and which wasn’t. Normally the shirtless cowboys are a dead giveaway. Not anymore. The majority of the books that I assumed were adult romances were actually YA. Some weren’t even romance books at all. They were coming of age novels. I must’ve blinked the confusion from my face at least 30 times while going through these books.

The fact that myself and many other readers are excited to see these unique, illustrated book covers just shows how much is lacking on the shelves. We want books that upon first glance make us excited, curious and capture our attention. We want to run our hands along the covers as we examine every detail, before continuing our individual book choosing rituals. Reading is an experience and for those like myself who read a lot and collect books it is extremely sad when books lack character in their design.

Sure, we shouldn’t judge books by their cover but covers convey so much. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Editing Update: Three Chapters Left!

I have three chapters left to edit…just three. It’s also 3 am while I’m writing this and I’m not sure how my brain is functioning. I’ll probably read this post in the morning like, “What did I write?” but I wanted to express my thoughts now while they’re fresh.

I still have to do a full read through again before I’m officially done this edit, and from what I remember there are a couple of places that I wanted to return to just to double check that everything lines up properly. I think there’s also a scene or two that needs a bit more building…but as for everything else, there are only three left to edit. Just three.

I guess this edit took me the majority of the month. It was fun. Hard work but definitely fun. I really enjoyed reading my editors comments. I really only talk about my writing with my sister these days, so having someone else read my work has been fantastic. Aside from twitter and some online writing chats, I don’t usually have discussions about my characters.

I mean, I haven’t even addressed them by their names on my blog or Twitter. I did this because some names had been changed during the editing process, and it was just easier to do initials on Twitter to save character’s…but still. I’m sure if people wanted to know my one MC’s name, they could just go to my publishers website. It was in one of the newsletters.

Wow…this just…everything is really starting to hit me. My novel is being published. Other people are going to be able to read my work. Gah…this is so weird. Weird in a good way. I can’t believe how much editing I got done. I felt like I didn’t do anything today, but apparently I did way more than that single chapter I was going to work on.

Part of me wants to print everything off once I’ve finished and just read through it in its entirety. I wonder if I could finish it in one sitting? I should set some time aside to do that.

I’m definitely treating myself once I finish this edit. I’ve been working on this book for such a long time…and I’ve grown to love it more and more. Editing it has been almost therapeutic. Especially with all that’s been going on this year.

I’m going to go to sleep now. I’ll try and record my final edits for my vlog. I have one that was supposed to go up today but the video had a strange error when I saved it, and I had to start all over. So it will be up tomorrow instead. I mean…today? It will be up on the 30th. Which is today.

I can’t believe I’m almost done this part of the process!

Book Talk Episode 16: Still Editing!

Editing is a lot of work. I actually think it might be more work than it was to write the novel, however I’m looking at all the positives that come out of receiving feedback on my work. It is helping me grow as a writer.

The scenes that I’m reworking with my editor, are stronger because of her insight and suggestions. She noticed things that I completely looked over (or forgot about).

I’ve been recording videos of the process, because I want to have something to look back on after this process is over. I’ve never made a vlog before, but I figure it’s not much different than a diary. Those also require editing, but it forces me to take a break when I get stuck editing my novel.

I’m getting more excited about having others read my book, especially my family and friends. It’s been seven years since I started writing this novel. I’ve never spent so long writing something, but life happened and there were periods that I had to set it aside for a few months at a time, especially while I was in university. I finished drafting it near the end of my third year and by the 4th I typed everything up and started tweaking things.

I like to take my time editing, and I’m also planning on getting some things to keep myself organized. That way, when I’m editing the other books in the series, I have something to refer to. I’ll try and show that on my vlog (and here on the blog). I’m hoping it works, but even if it isn’t as helpful as I’d like, at least I tried.

Well, I’d better get back to work! I also have recordings to edit today, so I’m trying to manage my time the best I can.

Book Talk Episode 15: Editing Update and Character Playlists

In today’s blog post, I’m going to be sharing a song from one of my main character’s playlists. I Go Hungry, by Mother Mother is his “morning routine” song. This song really captures his teenage years.

In a strange way, my characters introduced me to this band and many others that I am now in love with. I love making playlists for my characters, some of them even have more than one.

I was reading through my editors comments and squealing because her suggestions are fantastic. I loved this one thing that she added in, where she had one of my characters do the simplest action…it was a three word difference and it made the entire scene perfect! Exactly as I’d imagined.

Actually rereading the scene had me blushing, because it was adorable. It was one of those rare moments where my characters are seen together, just enjoying each others company. They weren’t worried about all the things going on in their lives…they were just having fun.

So far, I’m liking this deep dive editing process. It’s a lot of work. I’ve made colour coded notes for myself so I can keep track of everything. Even so, I like seeing my editors thoughts on each scene, and getting her insight on different aspects of the story. She picks up on things I missed in my earlier edits and I am very grateful for it.

Well, I’d better get back to editing. I think I’ll share another song off one of my character’s playlists.

On her playlist, Poison by Sick Puppies is her “outlook on life” song.

Book Talk Episode 14: Nearing the Halfway Point

I’m on page 103 now in my edits. Obviously there’s much to do after I finish going through my editors notes, and corrections. This is only the first step of this revision process.

Since we are in our deep dive edits, which is now the 3rd revision, we’re really focusing on the content and making sure that everything flows properly.

My editor has a sharp eye, and has made so many wonderful suggestions.

There are one or two things that I’m set on keeping. Other than that, I haven’t had any issues with changing dialogue or building certain scenes.

I can’t believe I read this fast though. I kind of forgot how quickly I could go through text…luckily I’ve been going back to previous changes and double checking them. I’ll do a full read through after I finish as well, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything in regards to her notes.

I’ll have to take a break from editing to do some painting today. Luckily the area I’m painting is small, so I’ll be able to edit again while it’s drying. It will be nice to move around a little as well. My work area has gotten extremely hot…I have my fan going constantly, but it hasn’t been much help.