Discussion: Reasons to write: Fantasy vs. Contemporary

So far I have attempted to write a contemporary novel and I am currently working on a fantasy novel. It is very different from my contemporary story and so far I am loving it. For this discussion, I wanted to discuss some of the differences and pros and cons of writing these two genres and compare them.

Continue reading “Discussion: Reasons to write: Fantasy vs. Contemporary”

Discussion: How Diverse Do I Actually Read & How To Read More Diverse?

You all know how much I value diversity in a book and if you didn’t know that yet: hi, you must be new here. I’m Lia and I am an advocate of diversity in books. Nice to meet you.

Over the past half year, I’ve set myself the goal to read more diversely and keep track of how diverse I read. Half a year has passed and now I think it’s time to check my progress!

Some Stats

I’ve been keeping track using a 5-star system, rating each book based on POC, LGBT+, disability, minority and non-western setting. Each book could get a score of 0 or 1 (sometimes 0.5) on each of the criteria. Let’s take a look at how often I gave the books I read a star (or point) for each criterion! I added some examples of books I read this half of the year with representation.

POC: 53.2%

It turns out that in over 50% of the books I’ve read a character, main or (major) side, is of colour! Most of these were side characters.

LGBT+: 44.9%

I also read a lot of LGBT+ books with characters ranging from gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, non-binary, intersexual and asexual.

 

Disability: 33.8%

Disabilities were a little rarer, mostly these were characters suffering from mental disorders and characters with minor disabilities such as a limb. Some examples of disabilities/disorders I’ve read about: anxiety, deafness, blindness, ASD, muteness, eating disorders, depression.

 

Minority: 14.4%

Minorities turn out to be a very vague term. I used this mainly for books that contained a character with a semi-rare decent or religion. Examples are Native American or other indigenous people and Jewish or other religious people.

 

Non-Western: 0.05%

Non-western was the hardest for me, I read mostly books that are set in the US/Europe because most of the books I read are written by American or European authors. I read no books that were set in non-Western countries but I gave some half-stars for books set in a non-Western fantasy world.

Overall: 73.8%

If we combine all the ratings, I found that almost 3 out of 4 books I read contain some sort of diversity. Not all of them to the same degree, but I am really happy with this number. On average, the books I read got 1.5 stars, which is decent.

My rating system

After half a year I’ve grown to realize that it isn’t as simple as a rating, because sometimes a book is really diverse in the way that it really talks about one “thing” extensively. For example, None of the Above, which is about a girl who finds out she’s intersex. I would say this book is very diverse because it is about intersexuality and how she deals with this, with the prejudices and discrimination that comes with it and everything surrounding this issue. However, if you would rate this with my scale, it would only get 1 star. And it deserves more. There are so many books like that, that deserve more than the 1 or 2 stars they would get with my system.

So I’ve decided to not include a rating like this in every review anymore (not that I was very consistent anyway). I will keep track of it and I will usually discuss the diversity of the book if applicable, but I won’t rate it anymore from now on.

How you can read more diverse

  1. Be aware of the topic: Great, you’re on the right track already! If you’re reading this post, you’re clearly interested in diversity and reading more diversely.
  2. Keep track: This really helped me, after each book I read, I thought about the diverse representation and jotted it down somewhere (or just made a mental note).
  3. Keep an open mind: If you’re open to reading about topics that are further from your comfort zone, you might get surprised with what you find! I wasn’t used to reading about diverse characters before because I didn’t explore other characters than characters that were alike me.
  4. Set yourself goals: or just note type of characters or settings you want to read about. If you set yourself the goal to read at least (idk) 10 diverse books over the summer, you get more motivated to do so. Diversity bingos or something alike are a great resource.
  5. Go out and look for diverse books: there are plenty of lists people made about diverse books you might want to read. I made one myself, you can check it out here, you can also just look up all the books I mentioned/showed above!
  6. Make it more of a priority: it’s just a small decision but it changes your entire way of reading!
  7. Have fun! That is, of course, the most important 😀

I hope you thought this was interesting! Did you read a lot of diverse books? Is diversity important to you as a reader? Any recommendations?

Discussion: To Write or Not To Write | Rambling about writing and Camp NaNoWriMo

I only started writing “seriously” in (or after?) November of this year, when the bookish community suddenly was all about NaNoWriMo and I, silly girl as I was (just kidding I’m smart), started low-key panicking, because should I participate??? I hadn’t written much before that and with a very busy month I decided not to, but I loved how the entire community was suddenly all about creating new stories instead of only reading them.

In December I hosted a project I called Short Story Society in which I, and with me several other bloggers, wrote a short story each week. As to kind of make up for the missed NaNoWriMo and to get the writer juices flowing. Though it wasn’t a huge success (my organization skills definitely were not on-point and many people only participated for part of it), I really liked it.

It got me excited for writing and that is what Camp NaNoWriMo also did for me back in April. If you don’t know what it is, it is a smaller version of NaNoWriMo (there is no “real” camp,  it’s just online). You can set your own goal, in words or hours, and you have cabins to cheer each other on. In April I wrote 30 thousand words, which is more than I have ever written on a single project.

July is coming up, and in July there is another Camp, and only yesterday I’ve decided to participate. And I have no plan, no outline, nothing. Just a story idea. *help*

I will be writing the story I was talking about yesterday, with the magic and awesomeness and I CAN’T WAIT 🙂

Why participate in Camp NaNoWriMo?

  • Because you love writing. This is obviously the most important reason, if you don’t like writing this is definitely not for you.
  • Because NaNoWriMo is just a bit over your head. A little. Or a lot. It’s really nice because in Camp you can set your own goals, and if that goal is to write 3 poems of 20 words each, go for it. You can also set it at 100k if you want to die, it’s all up to you.
  • Community and support! There is, of course, your cabin, you can either make one or get sorted in one. You can chat with your cabin mates and help each other out. It is fun and it’ll help you get more motivated (which is my next point).
  • It helps you get more motivated to write. I can set a daily goal for me any day of the year but it doesn’t seem to work for me. Sometimes I don’t write for days or weeks, other times I write a lot on one day. Having a consistent writing schedule is hard and having Camp really helps to keep me accountable.
  • It makes you excited to write. Aren’t you already excited??? I AM.
  • It is fun and you meet new people. There are also virtual write-ins on youtube which are lots of fun to participate in, and there are writing sprints and well, there is an entire community of writers out there and they are all awesome.

Why not participate?

  • Pressure!
  • Expectations!
  • Life!
  • Stress!
  • Okay, but seriously. There is only the stress that you give yourself. You don’t have to write, you don’t have to outline, you don’t have to prepare. But it’s useful and quite stressful sometimes.

I am trying to avoid the stress by putting my word count goal not very high. I have set it to 15k, which is half of April’s goal, but I am also away for almost half of July so I think it’s fair. I calculated a daily word count of about 750 words, which is very doable. I decided to not rush too much with this project, because I feel like that will make the end result 10 times better.

Are you participating this July? Have you participated before? Do you write or not, and why?

Discussion: Book Shelf organization, ways to organize and spice it up! + QUIZ

A couple of months ago, I decided to change my bookshelf organization to organized on colour. AND I LOVE IT. My shelves look so pretty and I love the colouring. Though, there are some disadvantages of this method. So I wanted to shortly discuss different ways to organize your bookshelves, how to spice up your shelves, and in the end you can do a quiz (I’m proud of that because I never did a quiz before).

Ways of organizing

  • On Colour: on colour is right now my favourite, it looks very aesthetically pleasing. It’s one of those things that always make me jealous of other people’s shelves, how the colours look.
  • On Alphabetical Order: this is the way that bookstores and libraries use and is quite useful, but if you’re like me and always forget the writer’s name just when you need to find the book, this might not be the best method for you.
  • Randomly: this is obviously the easiest way, if you don’t care about how your shelves look and you just care about the books in it, this is the way for you.
  • Hardcovers and Paperbacks separated: this always looks so pleasing because hardcovers have usually the same spine length, it gives your shelves such an organized feel. I barely own any hardcovers so for me, it’s not the way to go.
  • On Genre: I used this method for the longest time, that is, until I realized almost half my books were the same genre. Then there’s not really a point to it. If you read a lot of different genres, this might be a good way to organize for you.
  • On Language: if you read in multiple languages, you can consider giving them separate shelves. I own several Dutch books, but the majority is English, so I kind of gave up on giving them separate shelves, it would just look odd.
  • On Size: with this, I mean especially on height, don’t you just think it looks stunning if all your books align?
  • On Categories: All your favourites on one shelf, for example, or all the books you have yet to read. This can give a nice overview!

 

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor bookshelves rainbow
These are not my shelves (if only…) but they’re really pretty!

 

Fun ways to spice up your shelves

  • Fairy lights: aren’t they just the prettiest thing?
  • Turn around your book if you’ve read it: I saw this once in pictures, someone turned around all the book they read, and kept all the books they hadn’t yet read with their spine forward. If you ask me, it kind of defeats the whole idea of being able to look at all your favourite books, but oh well.
  • Wrapping your books: I saw this picture once of a bookshelf with all the books wrapped in white paper, and it looked so stunning! You’ll miss looking at your favourite covers, but it does give a very pleasing look. You can also consider doing this for ugly books or study books alone.
  • Put books with their cover forward in your shelf: I never did this because I am always having too little space for my books, but it does look really pretty. You can also put them horizontally, which is something I often do because I can put more books in the same space.
  • Push all your books forward, so they stand on the edge of your shelves: I think this always looks really nice, because your books are all aligned and you have better light on your books.

The Quiz

Click here to open the quiz! (opens in new tab)

What is your favourite way of organizing? How do you spice up your shelves? Or don’t you care about shelf aesthetics?

Discussion: Why I don’t read books written in my native language

As you might know, English is not my native language. In fact, I have lived in the Netherlands (almost) my entire life and grew up speaking Dutch. I wanted to explain why I am not reading (more) books written by Dutch authors. Just to clarify, I do read books in Dutch, occasionally, but those are translated works, usually translated from English.

When I was young I read only in Dutch, of which I think mainly were books written by Dutch authors. There were plenty of great Dutch authors who wrote wonderful children’s books. Even in my early teen years, there was quite a large amount of books I could choose from, but as I grew older, I had grown to dislike them. Series I loved by authors as Carrie Slee and Francine Oomen (two big writers at that time) were starting to annoy me. They repeated the same things, with annoyingly irresponsible main characters, supposedly relatable moments and topics I was no longer interested in. It felt like at that time, all the books in the teen-genre (YA was not yet a thing back then) were about loverboys, teen pregnancies, and related topics. I was not interested in those topics anymore. However, there was not much else to choose from at my library.

In my high school Dutch class, I also had to read Dutch books (obviously) and of the 12 I read, I enjoyed maybe 3. I felt the same way about these adult books as I felt about the teen books. They repeated the same tropes and annoying characters. I felt like every single Dutch adult literary book was about a middle-aged man with drugs/alcohol/women/criminal issues. And I hated those characters so much. Of course, I am not saying that every book was about those topics, but that was what it felt like.

After being “forced” to read all those horrible books and after having failed to find any enjoyable teen book written in my native language, I just sort of gave up on it altogether. I discovered bookish tumblr and found so many enjoyable books written in English. In that same period, my library started having a YA section! Oh, how happy I was to discover this new genre, with interesting books about other topics! I quit reading books by authors I read before all-together. Trust me, I tried reading several books by Dutch writers later on, but I just couldn’t stand it anymore.

I read translated books, because those were the only ones my library had to offer and my English was quite honestly bad at best. I had never been good at English and I was pretty close to failing my English exams. Therefore I started practicing, at any opportunity I got. Over the years I have gotten better and better, due to the fact that I almost exclusively read in English and watch a lot of English tv shows, and now I am pretty much fluent. So for me, there is not really a point to reading books in Dutch anymore, when English is just as easy. 

Of course, I believe that there are great Dutch books out there, but since I’ve grown to dislike them so much in my youth, I don’t feel the urge to try anymore. You could say every book I read has a three-stare star rating to begin with, and stars can be retracted and added when pleased. The Dutch books, however, would start off with a zero-star rating, which would make it much harder to please me. It would be very hard to make me excited about a Dutch book and I would just assume it wasn’t good, just because my expectations are so low.

Does anyone else have this problem? That a genre or just books in your native language in general, have been ruined for you? Do you read in your native language? Or outside your native language?

P.S. I also strongly dislike every Dutch movie/tv series before having even watched it, this might be related???

Discussion: Diverse Things I’d like to see more in books

Diversity is really important to me, and to many others as well and I feel like there is a rise in a number of diverse books coming out. This rise is, I believe, quite a direct result of the increased attention in the bookish community. Diverse bloggers and readers speak up about their opinions and publishers are picking up on that.

I believe that pretty much every single person is diverse in a way. Maybe not in skin-tone or sexuality, but if you look closely enough, something about you stands out of the crowd, even if that is a small thing.

What I see from my perspective as a reader is that a lot of the diverse books are either diverse in sexuality-representation or POC (people of colour)- representation. There are, however, a lot of other ways in which a book can be diverse still forgotten. And I want to discuss a few of things I’d like to see represented more (or just random ideas).

  • Blind and deaf people in general, but one thing I’d love to see is a deaf and a blind person becoming friends. It seems so impossible, but that’s just why I’d like to see it. Wouldn’t it be super interesting to see how they could communicate?
  • Multiple Personality Disorder. I’d love to read about this thing because it’s so intriguing and it would make an awesome book. Imagine, a person having different roles in the same book and how they all come together. It would make an awesome mystery book, but it could work wonderfully in contemporary as well.
  • Contemporary set in a non-western society. Since I’ve started keeping track of how diverse I read, I’ve noticed how few books I read that are set not in the US or Europe. I’d love to read more about different cultures and it doesn’t even have to be all about the culture, a “normal” book set in Israël (or wherever) would be awesome as well.
  • Aro-ace (aromantic, asexual) representation. This is for personal reasons very important to me (I consider myself aro-ace). I know they are out here somewhere, but I haven’t read a single book yet with (good) representation. I also feel like if there is representation, aroace or aro or ace characters are the cold uncaring characters that are the side-kick to the story.
  • A book about a gender-less society. Doesn’t that sound amazing? I just want it to be like sci-fi or dystopian and there are no gender roles and all that, it would be so interesting!
  • Bi girls, but more importantly boys. I feel like bisexual boys are out here in the world but they don’t speak up? For some reason, bi girls are way more accepted in society than bi boys. I’d love to read about a character dealing with this. And also pansexuals! I’d love to read more about those.
  • Different religions. I am not religious, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to read about idk a Jewish ninja? A Muslim scientist? A Christian witch?
  • Genderless/non-binary/transgender characters. I mean, I love how there’s a series about a transgender superhero (Dreadnought) but I need more! I love badass non-binary characters that are like “f*** gender roles, who cares, I’m just me”. (If you love those characters too I recommend reading In The Hope of Memories by Olivia Rivers, Sam is just awesome! Also read this if you don’t love those characters though 😛 )
  • Disabled characters that are not “fixed”. I feel like very often characters who are disabled are either fixed or written out of the story? Like, what is that? Disabled people can still live a good life, okay?

So overall, I do really like the increase in the importance of diverse books but there are so many things not yet covered with the books that are out and popular right now. I think there is a lot of potential in diversity, potential that is not yet uncovered with these books. I would love to see more diversity in both contemporary but especially fantasy, science fiction and dystopian. There is a lot that diversity can add to a story and it is a pity if the writer doesn’t use it.

What would you like to see more in books? Any recommendations perhaps?

Discussion: Fantastic Audiobooks & Where To Find Them (sorry I couldn’t help it)

When I was young, my parents always brought audiobooks with us on long road trips. Mainly because I and my sister had the tendency to get sick, and reading a real book would highly increase the chances of panicked stops in the emergency lane and dirty backseats. However, the era of audiobooks slowly passed when I got about 14, basically because all the audiobooks we had were really focused on middle grade. I think also because my parents were getting annoyed by listening to stories like The BFG for entire days. Our audiobooks were always either bought (which is expensive) or borrowed from the library, and since the library had a very limited collection, there was not much to listen to. Only last summer I rediscovered the magic of audiobooks, which was because I discovered they were also on youtube.

What I love about audiobooks

They have a way of engaging you in the story, that regular books don’t. You get this extra dimension, and narration can change your entire experience of the book. I’ve listened to the entire Remnant Chronicles trilogy by Mary E. Pearson and I just loved the narration. They used different voices, intonations, and accents to represent different people. It just adds so much to the experience.

You can sneak in some extra reading time when you are busy doing other things. The advantage of audiobooks is that you can bring them everywhere, whenever and you don’t need your hands to carry it around. I usually put them on my phone so I can just do whatever I want while listening.

Some of my favourite activities while listening to audiobooks include but are not limited to: basic household tasks (cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping), drawing, eating, doing puzzles (I’m a nerd, I know), knitting (and an elderly lady apparently), travelling (train, car, bus) and cycling. All the tasks that I have to do anyways like household tasks and cycling to and from university take me like an hour in total per day, which gives me an hour of extra reading without sacrificing any other tasks.

It makes reading classics much easier. Most of the audiobooks I’ve listened to were YA, but when I started reading some of Jane Austen’s novels, listening to the audiobook made is so much easier and more fun. Classics are often long, dry pieces of text with long descriptions and for someone who has always struggled with them, listening to an audiobook makes it much easier. You can also use audiobooks for listening to required reading (and honestly I wish I did that in high school, that would have made it much more fun).

What I love less about audiobooks

Sometimes the narration is just a bit annoying. I am currently listening to the audiobook of The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater and the narrator has quite the southern American accent. Which is quite accurate for the characters I believe (not sure), but annoying nonetheless. The narration is for me not that important, but for some people, it is very important. So it’s something you just have to try and find out for yourself.

They take longer than regular books. This might only be my issue, but I read much faster than the narrator can talk. Though, I don’t really consider it a problem since I basically listen on stolen time.

You can’t flip back and check something (and going back is such a hassle). Sometimes I miss part of a sentence or paragraph, simply because a truck decides to drive past or I forget a small aspect that seems to be quite important later. For example, I was listening to The Raven Boys and it was about Declan and I missed the part of whose brother he was and I thought he was Gansey’s brother, but it turned out he was Ronan’s. Small fact, but still important.

My phone is annoying. My phone doesn’t remember where I stopped watching so I always take screenshots and then I have to check the time at the screenshot, go back to my audiobook and scroll to the right timing. Slight annoyance.

YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO SPELL NAMES. I thought for months that Rafe’s name was spelled Wraith or something like that, it just sounded the same! (Rafe is from the Remnant Chronicles, and I though Wraith would be a cool, but obvious, name for a spy so I just went with it and found out about it a book later)

Where to get audiobooks

With a quick google search, you find an endless amount of websites where you can get subscriptions to audiobooks services. Most of these require a monthly fee of about $15. Some examples:

  • Storytel.nl. This is a Dutch subscription service that has thousands of audiobooks (Dutch & English). The fee is 9,99 euro per month, which makes this one of the cheaper services. There also is a 14-day free trial. You can listen to audiobooks endlessly, there are no limits.
  • Audible. If you’ve been around in the bookish community, you have probably heard of audible. This is an Amazon based company and has about 180000 audiobooks. The fee is 15$ and there is a 30-day trial. If you look around there are a lot of people with discount codes, so use that! This service works with credits, you get 1 credit per month, worth 1 audiobook.
  • Audiobook.com. Another US-based service. As far as I see, this works exactly the same as audible.

There are also free ways of getting audiobooks:

  • Youtube. Yes, probably not 100% legal (actually, I checked, it is legal to watch unauthorized copyrighted material, but not download OR upload it), but there is a fair amount of audiobooks on youtube and this is where I get most of mine.
  • The library. This is usually only free if you already have a library card (which is not free everywhere!!), but the Dutch library system has a free app called LuisterBieb with about 800 audiobooks. You can also borrow the old-fashioned cd-audiobooks, but for me, there are only about 40 available, of which most are at least 10 years old.
  • Illegal downloads. I’m assuming this is possible, but I’ve never tried it.

And lastly some other ways of buying audiobooks. You can obviously buy them online, on amazon, iTunes or whatever online store you usually use and offline buying is of course also possible.

Some recommendations

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han, narrated by Laura Knight Keating. A bit girly but really cute.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams, narrated by Stephen Fry. Just awesomely done, the voices are brilliant. I mean, I love Martin Freeman’s narration, but it can’t top Stephen Fry.
The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1) – Mary E. Pearson, narrated by Emily Rankin. I love it, all the different voices and accents, wonderful!
Passenger – Alexandra Bracken, narrated by Saskia Maarleveld. I liked this a bit less, but still very pleasant to listen to.
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen, narrated by Karen Savage. Perfect narration, just amazing, I could listen to this for ages.
Stars Above (The Lunar Chronicles #4.5) – Marissa Meyer, narrated by Rebecca Soler. I loved this book and the narration just made it even better! I loved it, the narrator had different voices for characters and even added a French accent for Scarlet!!

Do you listen to audiobooks? Why or why not? Do you have any pro’s and con’s to add to this list? Where do you get your audiobooks? Any recommendations maybe?