Sunday, 28 August 2016

Instalove, and My Hatred Thereof


Love at first sight (AKA instalove) has been around for aeons. It's lived, died, been resurrected, taken part in a zombie apocalypse -

(On the zombies' side, of course.)

- Taken out by a headshot, and brought back to life AGAIN.

(Is there any wonder why we're sick of it?)

Probably not but, just in case, I've made a list.

https://giphy.com/gifs/empire-muslim-ottoman-YLHwkqayc1j7a

Development? What Development?

You know all of those chapters that are usually spent building relationships (or defining them if they already exist)? Love at first sight negates any need for them. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Where would our myths and fairytales be without love at first sight? It can also be a plot point rather than a quick and irritating way to get two characters together, perhaps in the form of a curse, or a love potion slipped to the hero/heroine/sidekick by the villain. 

The problem is not the lack of these development chapters.

The problem is that they are often written anyway.

Love at first sight, by definition, means the characters are in love from the very moment that they meet. Their development chapters therefore involve a lot of repetitive obsessing over each other, insisting that this is true love, and building up to the first relationship milestone. Which brings us to...

The Undeniably Essential Page-Long Snog

The patent must've run out on this romance trope because it is everywhere. How many times can you describe the smell of the hero's hair? The feel of the heroine's lips? The way the protagonist hungers for it never to end?

Honestly, sometimes it feels like it never will. 

Are You Sure You're Not Enchanted?

You can probably find instalove in books of every genre, but it seems to be especially common in paranormal romance. 

The heroine (and it's usually a heroine) sees the murderous vampire/evil fairy/conveniently human dragon/vulnerable werewolf/rugged anti-hero, and swoons. She's probably never done this before and outright recognises that she'll never do it again, but she never questions it. I mean, maybe I'm just paranoid -

(No maybe about it.)

- But I'd be more than a little suspicious if I discovered that preternatural creatures were real and, less than ten seconds later, I was head over heels in love with one. 

The Most Special, Sacred, Truest Love Ever to Be Recorded on Pieces of Wood Pulp

Lament did a brilliant job of avoiding this. Deirdre might be all fluttery around Luke from page one, but at least she recognises that A, she's an idiot for falling for him so fast, and B, he's probably only after a summer fling. The girl has no illusions about the longevity of the average teenage relationship.

Unfortunately, Deirdre is in the minority. Every other teenage couple seems to view their relationship as a guarantee of marriage as soon as they come of age. There's no way they could ever break up because, unlike all the other loved-up couples they know, their love is true love.

To be fair, I've never been in love. For all I know, it could be the normal to be this idealistic about your first relationship. 

So, instalove, what do you think? Overdone trope, major irritant, or a staple of romantic fiction? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

It. Gets. Better. (Lament by Maggie Stiefvater)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8776757-lament3/5

'"Isn't that funny?"
"Funny 'haha' or funny 'strange'?"
James handed them back. "Funny 'occult'."
"Ah. Funny 'strange'."' - Maggie Stiefvater, Lament, page 67 

The one thing I wish I'd been told before I started reading Lament is that it gets better. It's split into six books. Books one and two dragged. It starts looking up at book three and, by the time you reach the climax, you won't be able to put it down.





Things I disliked about Lament -
  • Luke. Seriously, I kept waiting, hoping, praying for him to become the villain and for James to whack him with an iron shovel. 
  • Instalove. Specifically, Deirdre and Luke's instalove. And then Luke's response to Deirdre saying that she thought James was jealous -"I love you more than he does." I almost threw my book across the room. James has known Deirdre for years. Luke has known her for a fortnight at the most
  • Deirdre's inexplicable inability to do anything without crying first. In the later books it's warranted, but she does it more in the earlier books. WHY?
  • Deirdre's powers. She kept randomly discovering new ones. I was sitting there waiting for an explanation that never came.
  • Deirdre's narration. She. Whines. So. Much.
(And you didn't like her? But you have so much in common.)

I hate you.

Things I liked about Lament -
  • James. Stiefvater novels always have one male character who it's impossible to hate, and James is Lament's. 
  • The fairies themselves. Nothing annoys me more than helpful fairies. Fairies are not helpful. They steal your children, and sour your milk, and lure you to mysterious lands where they carve you up and EAT YOU!
  • The surnames. Monaghan. Dillon. Morgan is, of course, one of my favourite boys names. 
  • The fact that the meaning of Deirdre's name (sorrowful woman) was actually mentioned several times throughout the story. I'm sorry. I'm a name nerd.
  • The climax. Fairies can be so gruesome...
This is definitely worth a read, especially if you like homicidal fairies. 

Have you read Lament? What's your favourite Stiefvater book?

Thursday, 18 August 2016

How to Grow a Garden inside Your Head (or Seraphina by Rachel Hartman)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13104964-seraphina
4/5

There are some narrators you want to keep at arms-length. There are some narrators who keep you at arms-length. And then there are the narrators who could quite possibly be your best friend. Seraphina is the latter. My favourite thing about this book was her voice. It was brilliantly done. I liked her character too. She wasn't a warrior (or a witch or a tribute or any other sort of fighter), but that didn't stop her from being brave and, occasionally, reckless. And she was sarcastic. 

(All the best people are.)

The other characters - Kiggs, Glisselda, Orma, Lars, Abdo, etc. - all had their own little quirks too. My favourite was Kiggs. There's just something about a Prince who will geek out with an Assisstant Music Mistress over philsophers that's endearing. I also liked Abdo (because he was adorable) and Lars (because WAR-PIPES!).

The world-building was done exactly how I like it to be done - subtly. Seraphina's narration didn't include info-dumps. Instead, it read as though the reader already knew everything. One of the things that usually puts me off high fantasy is having to read pages and pages of exposition. Seraphina didn't have that, it was all weaved expertly in. There were dragons, yes, but they were a properly developed fantasy race. You will never have seen dragons done like this before, I promise you that. My favourite part of the world-building was probably the garden inside Seraphina's head.

Plot-wise, we've got some fantasy, some mystery, and politics. A lot of royal politics. Working at the court means that Seraphina is in the ideal place to observe these without being an active participant. I don't want to spoil it, so I won't say too much, but you will not guess the ending. As well as the main plot, characters like Seraphina and Kiggs ensure that there is a sideplot about belonging. I like that theme in a book.

Overall, I would say that, if you like dragons, you will love Seraphina.


Have you read Seraphina?

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Seven Reasons Why You Need Goodreads in Your Life

https://www.goodreads.com/
 Hands up if you have a Goodreads account!

(...One...Two. Yep. Looks like both the people who read your blog already have a Goodreads account. Preaching to the choir here, Rain.)

Even for you, that was harsh.
 
I joined Goodreads back in November 2014, and it's changed the way I read for the better. Here are seven reasons why you should consider getting a Goodreads account.

1. Who's up for a Challenge?

This is the entire reason I became a member of Goodreads in the first place. 

Some reading challenges only allow you to read certain types of books, or certain authors, and some ask you to read way too many books. The Goodreads Reading Challenge allows you to read whatever you want, and to allows you to choose how many books you want to read.

2. What Do You Actually Read?

Some people read novels. Some people read comics. 
Some people like non-fiction. Some people won't touch it with a barge pole.
But what we actually read can be very different from what we think we actually read. 
I knew that I read a lot of manga, but I genuinely didn't realise how much I read until I saw that it made up roughly half of my 2015 book challenge. 

3. What Would You Like to Read?

Forgetting about books is a thing of the past with the magical to-read button. 

(Having a manageable to-read list is also a thing of the past.)

It's also an excellent place to find release dates for those books you need more than oxygen.

(You mean those books that won't be out until long after you've asphyxiated?)

Yes.
  
4. Listopia

Oh Listopia, the kingdom of procrastination. Land of a hundred lists of books, some related to genres or time periods, others to character archetypes and good old fashioned sarcasm. Here is a place where you can vote for your favourite (and least favourite) books. Here is a place where you can get a whole list of recommendations in a heartbeat.

(Here is a place where you can be met with the crushing realisation that nobody else likes your favourite books.)

5. Rate and Review

Rating and reviewing books means that we can look back and see what we thought of them. This is useful for helping us decide whether or not we should read more books by the same author, the rest of the series, or even take a recommendation for a similar novel. It can also show us how our likes and dislikes have changed over time. 

6. Quotes!

Add, share, and save your favourite quotes so that you never forget them. 

 7. It Has Trivia!

This should've been the only point on the entire list. Who doesn't love endless trivia?  

(Me.)

Yeah, but you're boring.

(No. I'm efficient, so I don't waste time on frivolous games. You're a procrastinator, so you do.)   

I might be a procrastinator, but I'm also the Trivia Queen.

(Self-proclaimed Trivia Queen.) 

Hands up if you have a Goodreads account! 

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Genralising: You Know You're Reading a High School Story When...

(Genralising. Verb.

The act of taking a genre and generalising it.) 
You Know You're Reading a High School Story When...

The protagonist is intelligent/sporty/artistic...
(...But apparently a mutant gifted with the power of invisibility.)

They can't wait to escape the unsatisfaction that is their school life.
(That, or the plot is about to make their semi-enjoyable school life unbearable.)

They might have a friend. Maybe two.
(One of whom will inevitably be a stunningly beautiful teen of the opposite gender who they've known since playgroup. Sorry, kindergarden, since this will undoubtedly be set in America.)

Like most teenagers, they will be entirely invisible to the opposite sex...

http://justanothercinemaniac.tumblr.com/post/32963392626/10-05-12-tumblrmaintenance

(...And, unlike most teenagers, they will be entirely ready and actively looking for a relationship.)

But, somehow, they'll end up in the middle of a love triangle anyway.
(For a male character, it'll be the most popular girl in the entire school vs the girl next door. For a female character, it's almost always sporty vs smart. The sporty being the most popular boy in the year, and the smart being her best friend.)

They'll have an enemy, of course, because what's a story without conflict?

https://giphy.com/gifs/emma-stone-easy-a-amanda-bynes-zSgg3wBd1GIwM

https://giphy.com/gifs/emma-stone-easy-a-amanda-bynes-IGi0dqjIEiCpG

 (Even if that conflict is just the occasional sneer from the quintessential mean girl.)

Other members of the student body will include jocks, nerds, and preps.
(Or, if you're not American, sporty kids, smart kids, and popular kids. We think.)

Common plot points include the rumour mill, sports events, preparing for higher education...
(...And prom. Also known as the most important night of your life. Expect anyone who doesn't care much for it to be treated as evil, or stupid, or both. Our invisible protagonist will undoubtedly be voted prom king or queen.)

As the climax approaches, our protagonist will inevitably fall out with their friends.

https://media.giphy.com/media/kT0Q1PxyqyeMo/giphy.gif

(Who they'll inevitably make back up with because friendship never ends in fictionland.)

 And, of course, they always get the girl/guy.

https://giphy.com/gifs/emma-stone-easy-a-mM8xnoOom39NS

(Uh. True love. It makes me want to barf.)
 
What was the last high school story you read? Did it pan out anything like this?

P.S. It should be noted that, whilst all of the GIFs are from Easy A, Easy A does not contain all of the tropes listed here. 
 

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Unpopular Opinion Alert! - Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29056083-harry-potter-and-the-cursed-child---parts-one-and-two
5/5

"Draco: Flipendo! ... Keep up, old man.
Harry: We're the same age, Draco.
Draco: I wear it better." - The greatest moment in Harry Potter history, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne, page 141 (Act II, Scene 13)

It's funny, isn't it, how we long for books that end up disappointing us and couldn't give two hoots about the ones that make us smile. I wasn't excited for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but buying it has turned out to be one of the best decisions I've made all year. 

And the moral of the story is...

(Never ignore a book with a 'half price' sticker.)

Exactly. 

I'm not saying it was perfect. Some parts were a little awkward, and some parts had me sitting there thinking, "What," but it was fun. I think that's all I needed at the moment, something fun that I could read in one sitting. That said, when it got dark it got really dark really quickly. 

Harry's back, of course, but this is very much the story of his son, Albus. Albus is basically everything that Harry wasn't - terrible at magic, terrible on a broom, and terribly unpopular. In fiction, popular or not, protagonists are rarely presented as unhappy at school. Usually they have a solid, if small, group of friends, a friendly teacher, or a club to take their mind off it

(You literally just described Harry Potter.)

That was my intention. Albus hates Hogwarts. He has one friend, Scorpius, who is basically the greatest human being to ever set foot within the hallowed halls of Hogwarts.

(...)

What? He's smart, loyal, and he makes bad puns. And he's a good Slytherin. An undeniably good Slytherin. How many of those have we had? 

Plot-wise, time just keeps on turning. It's a play - written for performance rather than reading - and so some parts are rather over the top. Rule of drama, and all that jazz. I don't want to give anything away (it only came out a week or so ago, and I am not Voldemort) but it's very fast-paced. At one point, we go through three years in a single scene. There's a woman with dubious origins and even more dubious hair who forms a trio with Albus and Scorpius. There are riddles that hark all the way back to Harry, Ron, and Hermione's adventures in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. There are themes of belonging, prejudice, family, and friendship. I admit, I'm a sucker for nostalgia and that may be why I enjoyed this so much.  

If you want something fast and fun, I recommend Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. 

Who liked it? Who didn't? Who hasn't read it and is quietly trying to ignore the internet exploding around them? Let's talk.