#T5W: Authors You’d Want To Write Like

Top Five Wednesday is a book meme that Lainey started and I discovered through the lovely Samantha‘s videos. If you’re interested you can join the goodreads group to get the topics for each week.

This week’s topic:

November 29th: Authors You’d Want to Write Like
–In honor of NaNo wrapping up, discuss some authors you’d like to write like. Whether its their writing style, what genre they write in, or how many books they manage to churn out a year!

C.S. Pacat

I’m going to admit that I didn’t fall in love with her writing until somewhere around book two in the Captive Prince trilogy. I think it took me a while because her style is just so exquisit and different from everything I was reading around that time, but when I finally started to get used to it I couldn’t get enough of it. I fell in love with it even more upon rereading the first time and now every time I reread her trilogy I find new things that I love, but my absolute favorite is the way she uses dialogue and characters interactions in a way that makes the reader work for it.

That’s what can be confusing at first, especially if you’re used to authors spoonfeeding you with overly described facial expressions and describing the tone in which every sentence is said (not naming names but I’m side-eyeing a few very popular authors). No, Pacat doesn’t do that, and Captive Prince sometimes really feels like an interactive reading experience to me because you’re almost always left filling the blank and giving your own interpretation of a sentence or of a character. That can be something that not every reader wants but it worked for me and most of all it means that every time I reread I discover something new about the characters.

Her writing style was also my very first lesson in writing and the reason I started to write in the first place. I learned so much from just reading her novels and I’m so thankful for her.

Victoria Schwab

When I read my first Schwab book I remember thinking, This looks so effortless. The hardest part about writing is finding the way to convey something, at least for me (something that’s even harder if you’re trying to do it in your second language), but Schwab’s writing has just a way of…reaching the reader. See, it’s really hard to explain myself, but when I say it looks effortless I’m aware that there’s a ton of work behind it. It’s just that you never feel it in the finished product, and that takes so much skill it’s just incredible.

Another way I wish I could be like her is how productive she is. I don’t know how she manages to do half the things she does and I so wish that were me.

Holly Black

When you fall in love with an author’s writing style you either read every book they’ve written or you keep stalling after you read the first one because what if the others aren’t as good? The second case is me with Holly Black – after reading The Darkest Part of the Forest I still haven’t found it in me to read anything else because that book is literal writing perfection and I don’t know if even the author herself can top that. It’s just all so atmospheric and magical and I wish she got more recognition in the book community.

Laini Taylor 

There is nothing I can say to do justice to her writing style. It’s the kind of writing that leaves you gasping for air because what you’ve just read cannot possibly have been written by a human. Her books are to be read in complete silence or over relaxing classical music on a Sunday afternoon with tea and cookies, and that’s a fact.

Elise Kova

I love the fantasy worlds she comes up with, the magic systems, the characters, everything really. I’m not particularly creative in that sense and if I tried to write my own fantasy it would literally just be a copy of some other fantasy’s world, but everything she writes feels so new in that sense.

I also love how she doesn’t shy away from writing about horrible things, even in her YA series. Some of the stuff in Air Awakens is just brutal and it hurts so much as a reader but also I can’t help but admire Elise and wish I could be as badass.

Last but not least I wish I could write as much and as fast as she does. She’s truly incredible in that regard and reading her newsletter where she shows the writing progress on all her different projects is so humbling.


Do you write? Who are the writers you’d want to write like, or that you admire the most?

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ARC Review: One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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★★★★

TWs: homophobia, alcohol and drug abuse, mention of suicide.

Ah, yes, high school and murder are my shit.

So, it had been a while since I’d read a murder mystery. I don’t think I’ve ever read one that was YA (I could be wrong but whatever) so I wasn’t exactly sure what I could expect from it.

So here’s what this book was about:

One dead kid. Four teenagers who might all have done it (and had the motives to do it).
Four POV. You start trusting these kids because even if they’ve all done mistakes you’re in their heads for one fourth of the book each and…sure, they don’t tell you anything right away, but…….wait.

You look at the title.
“One of us is lying.”
Are you? Are you lying about lying?
If one of you is lying then are you lying about the murder? Or something else?

And that’s your emotional roller coaster throughout this book. In the meantime, you start shipping ships and cheering for these kids to get over the bad things in their lives.

And it’s true, maybe at some point you might actually start to solve this big mystery, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the book is ruined for you. Because at that point you care about all of them a lot and you just *clenches fist* want them to be happy.

I feel like every character was well written and even though some of the development felt a bit rushed, it’s understandable because this is a standalone and it couldn’t possibly cover more time. I mean, the book takes place over several months, but I feel like especially one of the characters’ development couldn’t have happened in so little time. But it was definitely important to show that character in a different light, so it was just right that way.

Another important point is that this book was pretty diverse (which frankly I wasn’t expecting?) so that’s obviously a really big plus.

It was also fast paced and held my attention from the very first page (if I had been less busy I would have finished it in much less time, but alas real life called), so I’m definitely recommending it if you’re into mysteries but still want to get that typical YA character arc (or, four of them).

Discussion: labels in lgbtq+ fiction

Labels can be hard and it’s definitely a sensitive topic in real life and when it comes to the book community. They are very personal and even though we like to do the “everyone is free to label themselves how they want” thing, I feel like there is some hypocrisy when it comes to labels in lgbtq+ fiction.

I definitely understand why it hurts when a certain label isn’t used or is used inappropriately. There are examples of books that wrongfully label or don’t label characters, be it out of ignorance from the author’s part or out of convenience (I don’t want to say malice). I am definitely condemning those books and those authors because sometimes not calling something with its name is just as bad as bad representation (and I suppose the two often might go hand in hand).

But. When done well, I believe books that don’t label their characters not only can be good, but they are also necessary. That’s almost always what happens in fantasy, where lgbtq+ characters are coded a certain way without using words such as “gay” or “bi” because they simply don’t exist in that world, but I think it’s important to sometimes not label characters in contemporary fiction as well, and it’s important for the same exact reasons why we need lgbtq+ (or any kind of) representation: because some people simply don’t identify in a strict label, or they still haven’t found one they’re comfortable with, and if every lgbtq+ character is certain of their label and they are able to say it out loud and without hesitation (even after maybe being confused about it for the whole book), that sends the message that not having found your own label is simply wrong and you need to find one right here right now or you won’t be lgbtq+ enough, you won’t be good enough.

That is obviously not true but even as a grown up person that’s something I still struggle with almost every day, and I didn’t fully understand things about myself until I started reading books that acknowledged the importance of labels but also didn’t give one to a character, or books where the character went through different labels throughout their life. Seeing everybody, both in real life and in fiction, all labeled up and ready to be put in a fixed sexuality box for the rest of their lives can be alienating and it doesn’t help all the people who are confused and questioning because all they feel is that they’re inadequate for not having found a definition they feel comfortable with.

The books that helped me the most and that I found most interesting (and that by pure chance made it to my currently reading list at the exact time I seemed to need them) are Openly Straight and Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg and How to Be Happy: A Memoir of Love, Sex and Teenage Confusion by David Burton. If you’re interested in labels and in seeing how different people might feel about them, these are the books for you (especially the first two, which are a duology, have some in-depth conversations about this topic).

Books that I often see criticized because they fail to label a character but I think they’re perfectly valid in doing so are The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater and Leo Loves Aries by Anyta Sunday.

In The Raven Cycle, Adam is shown to be attracted to a girl first, and then by the fourth book he’s attracted to a boy. I’m not here to defend or attack the author for her decision, but all I’m saying is that the fact that he’s never labeled as bisexual (which is the main critique) doesn’t mean much. He’s a teenager and we don’t know how he feels about his sexuality or labels. He might not know how he feels about them himself. He might be bisexual or pansexual or simply want to label himself queer or nothing at all, but that’s not something he has to do right away, there and then in those few pages of a book. Coming to terms with a sexuality can take years or it can also never happen.

In the second book I mentioned, the main character starts out by saying he’s straight but then he falls in love with a man. By the end of the book he doesn’t label himself and I know that has hurt people, and even if by the next book in the series (where he has a cameo) he is able to say without hesitation that yes, he is bisexual, I don’t think not labeling him right away is a bad decision. I mean, what you feel first is attraction to a person, and only later comes the question, “But what am I?”, so I don’t feel like that was out of place at all, especially since the author has written many books and she doesn’t shy away from using labels most of the time.

You’ll notice this issue about labels is more common with “in-between” sexualities like bi and pan but I think that’s something that is completely understandable because the definitions for those terms change over time and they can be confusing when you’re already struggling with internalized homophobia and biphobia and microaggressions and all that good (not good) stuff. It also makes it a very sensitive topic like I was saying at the beginning because it’s definitely a fine line between good representation of a character not wanting a label and bi- or pan- erasure, so I get why people are criticizing this.

I don’t want this post to be too long (it already is sigh) so all I’m saying is that even if you are sure about your label you shouldn’t automatically dismiss books that don’t give their characters one, because to do so implies that real people who for whatever reason won’t or can’t use one don’t deserve to be represented, when that’s obviously not true and harmful.

#T5W: Books You’re Thankful For

Top Five Wednesday is a book meme that Lainey started and I discovered through the lovely Samantha‘s videos. If you’re interested you can join the goodreads group to get the topics for each week.

This week’s topic:

November 22nd: Books You’re Thankful For
–For whatever reason, big or small.

In no particular order, and not only books because I couldn’t leave my favorite anime out:

Captive Prince

For its love story and all the collateral effects (all positive) that reading it had on my life.

Throne of Glass

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And more specifically Empire of Storms, for a scene that unblocked years of suppressed emotions at the time I needed it.

Harry Potter

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For being my friend in high school.

All for the Game

For telling me I’m not a monster when I was afraid I was one.

Yuri!!! On Ice

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For Yuuri, Victor, Yuri and Otabek, and for more reasons than I could ever write here.

Comic review: Fence #1 by C.S. Pacat and Johanna the Mad

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Original cover by Johanna the Mad and variant cover by Kevin Wada (the photo doesn’t show my SIGNED COPY* because it’s not here yet but thank you Laura for getting me one ♥         *you have to read “signed copy” in a very high pitched voice

★★★★

You might or might not remember this post I wrote when this comic was first announced, and now months later I can’t believe I’m already reviewing the first issue. Most importantly for my ego, I was right on all points.

If you’ve ever read or watched any sports manga or anime, this is a comic for you. If you’re lgbt+, this is for you.

Plot:
Fence follows Nicholas Cox in his dream of making it into the fencing world. His passion is driven by more than just the love for the sport, and this is what helps the reader sympathize with him even if fencing is something completely new to them (like it is for me).

Nicholas is only sixteen but he worked hard for the chance to be taught to fence, and when he finally enters his first tournament he’s introduced to other fencers apparently for the first time. Among them is Seiji Katayama, whom everyone else seems to fear, and for a reason.

Their first encounter leaves Nicholas even more determined to finally enter a fencing school where he can be properly taught, because raw talent won’t get him anywhere. Six months later, he’s shown on his first day at Kings Row, a boys school he’s only able to attend thanks to a scholarship that depends on his making the fencing team, and a surprise is waiting for him there.

Characters:
Nicholas is a very determined character, who will do whatever it takes to achieve his dream. His struggles are relatable and real and they stick with the reader. Even in just around twenty pages it’s impossible not to care about him, also thanks to a couple of flashbacks.

Seiji is quite frankly an asshole so far and I can only love him for it. This is C.S. Pacat we’re talking about, so I’m expecting a hell of a backstory regarding the hard work that got Seiji to be where he is now.

In general:
This a very Japanese-like first issue of a comic that will (hopefully!!!) lead us on a long journey into the fencing world and the main characters’ relationships. It sets the tone for the rest of the series: tension, humor, diversity and queerness.

When it comes to diversity, it’s already very promising even just by looking at the background characters, and even though we still haven’t met them all on the page, we already know from the previews of all the main characters that they’re all diverse and unique.

The queerness isn’t strong in this one yet, but that’s perfect. Think of all your favorite sports comics/anime. I’m thinking Check, Please! and Yuri!!! On Ice. The queerness is just there and it’s just another part of the characters’ lives, just like the sport they love is. These are the kind of queer stories I love to read, and that’s why Fence will appeal to all LGBT+ readers. It promises a broad spectrum of sexualities and gender identities, paired with diversity and a story about passion that we can all identify ourselves with. Its very existence challenges a world of male white allocishetism, as a comic written by a queer and genderqueer person and drawn by a Mexican artist, who have put pieces of themselves into it.

I definitely cannot wait for the next issue to come out and I’m loving how big of a reach this already seems to have. Definitely get on it if you were hesitant because of its hype: the hype was real and it was 100% justified.

Also, make sure to check out Laura’s Q&A with CS Pacat at the launch party for a few extra infos on characters and plot!

 

Talk to me!

Have you read Fence? Will you? Are you excited for it?

October Wrap-Up

Another month has gone by and I hardly noticed. Actually, that’s not true, because I went on a road trip to the US (California-Arizona-Utah-Nevada-California) for two weeks and it felt like I stayed there for a month, but then I came back and realized I only got two weeks of regular life this month and idk that’s just weird. ANYWAY, my trip went well and speaking of books I obviously didn’t manage to read as much as I usually do, but I just happened to finish three books that I had already started at home while I was on the road (I don’t have a driver’s license so I did manage to read something while being driven around despite my motion sickness lol) so overall I’m satisfied.

Read

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  • Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas (4 stars) – that went better than expected, considering I was really scared that I would hate it, because despite all its issues the ToG series means a lot to me.
  • The Valet by SJ Foxx (3 stars) – this is an lgbt historical romance/erotica. I had a few issues with it but overall it was really cute and a fun and quick read.
  • There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins (3 stars) – this had a really good start in my opinion but the second half of the book didn’t live up to the first. It’s still probably worth checking out if you like the genre (kind of a YA slasher).
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff (5 stars) – this was a reread that I had started back in August and I finally managed to finish on my 12-hour flight to the US. I never hid my love for this book even though I still can’t write a proper review for it (probably never will). I’m aware that some people found issues of representation within it, which I personally didn’t catch (not even on my second read). However, the series has also very good lgbt rep, as the main character (and I assume another one as well) is bisexual. I know this aspect is explored more in the second book in the series and I can’t wait to read that. The writing style seems to be a hit or miss. You either love it to pieces (my case) or can’t get into it all. Personally I find it so unique (at least in its genre) and that’s what sold it to me from the first pages, when the story wasn’t clear yet.
  • Kobane Calling by Zerocalcare (5 stars) – this is a graphic novel by an Italian artist who traveled to the zones liberated from Dаеsh during 2015 and 2016. The comic is the tale of his travels there and the people he met. Despite the seriousness of the topic, the comic is hilariously told, but it’s not without its tear-inducing moments. Still, the the author’s humor works wonders (mind you, the humor is very Italian. I read an English translation because I found it on Netgalley -and I had wanted to read it since it came out in Italian- and I found that the translation was done well enough. However there are probably some jokes or references one might miss if they didn’t grow up in Italy). I definitely recommend reading it even if it’s outside of your usual genre. Even though the situation in those regions is ever-evolving, it’s still a great report of a very significant point in the history of the people living there, and it puts a lot of things into perspective.

 

Currently reading

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Out of all those, the only one I’m actively reading is Evenfall (which I’m loving so far). Don’t kill me, but I wasn’t enjoying The Little Prince very much (I am also very slow since I’m reading it in German and I think it’s kind of an old translation) so I kind of left it for later and it’s been sitting in my CR list for a few months now. I’ll finish it at some point I guess.

The other book I’m not really reading is Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, but that’s on me because my book is currently around 1000km away from me (in my hometown, because I didn’t have enough space in my bag to bring it here last time). However, I definitely recommend it and I’ll make sure to bring it over next time!

I never do a monthly TBR because I’m too much of a mood reader, but I know that I’ll read Fence by C.S. Pacat and Johanna the Mad. You can read my preview and also come over on twitter and join the pre-release challenge my friends and I created (yes this is shameless self promo).

Let me know if you’ve read any of the books I read the past month and if you’re just as excited about Fence as I am, and until the next post ♥

#T5W: Genre Benders

Top Five Wednesday is a book meme that Lainey started and I discovered through the lovely Samantha‘s videos. If you’re interested you can join the goodreads group to get the topics for each week.

This week’s topic:

November 1st: Genre Benders
–Books that defy genre or are hard to place in a certain category.

I love this topic and I love that that’s how I come back to writing a Top Five Wednesday again after months. Here are my picks:

  • Captive Prince is the first book (actually series) that comes to mind, and not only because it’s my favorite. It’s actually really hard to tell what the main marketing genre should be. Political fantasy? Romance? Sort-of historical fiction? It’s all of those really and I believe it’s marketed as something different in every country.
  • The Foxhole Court is also really hard to categorize. It’s about a sport, it deals heavily with crime and crime families, it’s absolutely character-heavy, eventually it integrates a spectacular romance…it’s just impossible to define it.
  • Nevernight is marketed as a fantasy adult series I believe, but it takes heavily from fantasy YA and its tropes and plays with them to create new rules.
  • Kobane Calling is a comic I read recently that’s also hard to define I guess. It’s a memoir, a non-fiction about a very serious topic but narrated with an incredible sense of humor.
  • Evenfall is a book (actually a series) that I’m still reading (not even halfway of book one -of the director’s cut’s version no less), so it’s hard to say yet, but I think it’s hard to put in just one specific category. It’s a dystopian, sort-of military novel, but it’s known in fandom culture mainly for its mlm romance.

I’m sure I forgot many more books that I could have mentioned here! Do you agree with the ones I put in the list? Which other ones would you have mentioned?