Thursday, 26 February 2015

Bookish Loves & Bookish Qualms

Hello, hello. Have a seat.

How are you? Currently in my life:

~ finished The Count of Monte Cristo. Still processing.

~ stRESSED about school – there are essays left, right and centre and I am not enjoying!

~ started Anna and the French Kiss. I’m already half way through, and …

It’s pretty perfect. But more on that another time.

So, because I love LISTS, I am making one for you today. Recently on Paper Fury Cait has done a couple of posts on her bookish turn-offs and turn-ons and I’m going to share a few of mine.

I love lists.

Bookish Loves

1.      Books about books / books about writers

I love reading. I love writing. I love reading about characters who love reading and writing. (I also love writing about these characters, too, hence my novel MC is a writer …)

The Book Thief, amongst its multiple perfect qualities, is all about a girl who loves books (and, later, a man who writes them). It exudes its love of books from every pore. Rose Under Fire, meanwhile, is narrated by a writer (Rose) and filled with her favourite poems, and the ones she has written. It is fantastic to read. The verse in some places tells the story. As for Inkheart, it’s a book about reading yourself into books’ worlds. Count me in.

2.     Amazing friendships

Friendships make the books go round. I am as much a Platonic shipper as a romantic one – nothing invests my heart more than a brilliant friendship. I hate, hate, hate when the romance takes precedence over the friendship in a novel with teenage protagonists. Love between friends is uncomplicated, and it’s abiding, and this is what I need in my books. See those four little figures at the bottom of the Skulduggery cover? Friends. I love them.

3.     All about the writing

I am an absolute addict when it comes to beautiful prose, and for me, the quality of the writing is one of the most important things about a book.

4.     Coming-of-age

Don’t we all love a good coming-of-age novel? I don’t know if it’s because I’m an angsty teenage that I enjoy reading about other angsty teenagers, but these are the books that affect me the most emotionally. What a book needs, in my opinion, is for the MC to come out the other side a changed person.

5.     Worldbuilding win

I’ve talked about this before, and (lucky you lot) I’ll talk about it again.

I kinda idolise George RR Martin.

Not the sex scenes. But the scope of his worldbuilding is absolutely stunning. He creates races, cultures, cities, customs; languages, people, religions, ways of thinking. From the first chapter of A Game of Thrones you’re pulled into the incredibly complex and real world he is creating, and he never lets you go. If I could build a world half as convincing as the Seven Kingdoms, I would consider myself a master.

Bookish Qualms

1.      “It’s a children’s book, so who cares about the writing!”

As I said, writing is very important for me, and what infuriates me is when writers/editors/whoever decide that the quality is not significant for the book.

I recently read both of these – children’s fantasy. I enjoyed The Cry of the Icemark very very much (Eragon much less). What they both had in common (Eragon far more so) was the occasionally sloppy writing, the too-many-adverbs, the general laxness that, I believe, came from an editor who was yawning their way through the manuscript because they thought that children’s books didn’t need good quality writing.

Yes, OK, so maybe a nine-year-old isn’t going to notice it the same way I do. But there is no way that that takes the pressure off the writer to make it good.  

2.     Love Triangles

I am really, really, really not into love triangles.

Sometimes, they work. (Anne of the Island practically has one.) Sometimes – don’t I know this – us female lot are confused. Sometimes we like two guys at once. Sometimes authors do it really, really well (like I said, Anne of the Island, as well as Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle, and also Anna and the French Kiss which I am currently reading, all feature various males).

But oftentimes, they don’t.

We end up with a relationship-obsessed, whiney and sometimes needlessly cruel MC who can’t see the dystopian government she’s battling / family crisis she’s facing / quest she’s on / whatever because she’s so busy moaning about all those guys who are in love with her. I am left holding the book and thinking “gee. You are not one bit relatable.” All in all, it’s a bit of a mess.

3.     Women as Goddess

This is what you might call a classics-specific Bookish Qualm.

I read both of these recently (Count I just finished on Tuesday) and I really loved them: they were beautifully written, great plots and characters. But this is my problem: the young female characters are all the same. Beautiful, sensitive, pure-hearted. The ideal of virtue.

*cue vomiting*

Right, OK, I have no problem with sweet teenage girl characters. They – Lucie from A Tale of Two Cities, and Valentine and Haydee from The Count of Monte Cristo – are great, and I love them both. But can we stop with the fainting, the blushing, the white shapely arms and cloud of hair, the screaming at every moment. Cast your eye over this description of Haydee:

The extreme beauty of the countenance, that shone forth in loveliness that mocked the vain attempts of dress to augment it, was peculiarly and purely Grecian; there were the large, dark, melting eyes, the finely formed nose, the coral lips, and pearly teeth, that belonged to her race and country. And, to complete the whole, Haydee was in the very springtide and fulness of youthful charms -- she had not yet numbered more than eighteen summers.

This is a beautiful piece of writing, and of course physical perfection is a trait that some women, and thus some female characters, possess. But do you know what else? They’re almost utterly two-dimensional. They have no flaws, it would seem, apart from the girlish frailty and over-tenderness of heart. WAKE UP, WORLD! WOMEN AREN’T LIKE THAT!

This does not come up in the modern fiction I read and, interestingly, it’s only the classics written by men that present this idealised view.


4.     Parents Take the Backseat

How many parents are there present in YA/children’s fiction?

Harry Potter – parents murdered.

The Hunger Games – no father.

Icemark – no mother.

Inkheart – no mother.

Septimus Heap – an orphan.

Parents are a rare breed! Of course it’s often necessary to the plot – Harry’s parents need to be dead, we know – but I do like to see a parent now and again. They are pretty necessary, you know.

So tell me: what are your bookish loves, and your bookish qualms? Do you recognise any of mine? And have you read any of these books I’ve mentioned? If you’ve done a post vaguely similar to this, link me up. (If you haven’t, link me up anyway. I’d love to visit.)

Emily x


  1. I've heard so much about The Book Thief, and have been meaning to read it, but I have seriously had a lack of motivation to read lately :(
    -Lauren <3

    1. It's an absolutely amazing book; in my top five favourites for sure. And, I would say, perfect to lift you out of a book slump!


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