Where did all my time go?

This blog post is going to be a slightly negative one, I’m afraid. I want to talk about something that few bloggers- book bloggers or otherwise- ever seem to discuss…

Or, more specifically, the amount of time running a blog can actually actually consume.

These days, book blogging is about so much more than simply typing up a review of a book and popping it onto WordPress or Blogspot.

It’s about thinking of original content. It’s about creating the perfect logo for your blog. It’s about thinking of a witty title for that new post. It’s about posting regularly enough so that your followers stay engaged and entertained. It’s about searching for the funniest GIF to accompany your post. It’s about liking and commenting on others’ posts in order to grow your blog. It’s about making sure you Tweet out links to all of your posts. It’s about having an aesthetically pleasing Bookstagram account to accompany your blog. It’s about spending hours taking perfect photos to post on said Bookstagram… And, most importantly of all, it’s about making time to actually read a book, so that you have something to blog about.

It’s no wonder that blogging can start to feel overwhelming! 

Between university work, spending time with my friends, family and boyfriend, and attempting to maintain something vaguely resembling a fitness routine, I consider myself quite a busy person. 

I need to make more time to do this

Unfortunately, that can make finding time to produce quality content for my blog a little difficult. I often struggle to find the time to sit down and write and, if I’m honest, sometimes writing a blog post is the last thing I feel like doing when I’ve already spent all day working on my academic writing. 
However, I’m also aware that my poor time management is my own fault. Like so many people my own age, when I have a spare minute, I’m always tempted to do the easy thing… I reach for social media, and pass my time by scrolling through it. It’s something that many of us don’t like to admit, but it’s time to face the truth: our generation are addicts, and it can often eat into time we could, and should, be spending doing the things we love.

So, this post is an announcement of my goal for the rest of 2019: spend more time reading, writing and engaging with my blog and Bookstagram, and less time mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. 

Here’s to making 2019 the year of the blog!

Do you have any blogging goals? 

Feel free to let me know in the comments!

Em x

Game of Thrones: A Step-By-Step Reaction… Book #4

It’s time for the latest update in my series of Game of Thrones reactions posts, and I’m going to be giving my thoughts on A Feast for Crows. (My posts on the previous books in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series are available here, here and here). 
As I stated at the start of my previous posts, I’d like to remind you that this post is aimed at people who have already read or watched the Game of Thrones series, and will thus contain spoilers. 

Obviously, this post is meant to be about my thoughts on A Feast for Crows, and I will give them to you soon but, first, I do have to express my utter devastation at the lack of Tyrion in this book. I understand that this book is intended to focus on the characters who are still in and around King ‘s Landing, and that he’ll reappear in the next book in the series… But still, why George, why?! 

Anyway, on with the review! Aside from the fact it resulted in a lack of Tyrion, I have to say that I liked Martin’s decision to focus this book on the events in and around King’s Landing. It allowed him to focus on the political side of his narrative in detail, and I particularly enjoyed the conflict between Cersei and King Tommen’s betrothed, Margery Tyrell, as they fought for the young King’s admiration. I loved the way Cersei’s plots to have Margery found guilty of adultery grew more and more daring as the book progressed, but ultimately backfired, when it was revealed that she herself had had several illicit affairs. Cersei’s imprisonment was an unexpected, but welcome, surprise. Given I’ve previously expressed sympathy for her brother/lover Jaime, who remains faithful to her whilst she repeatedly sleeps with other men, I took great vindictive pleasure from the scene where ignores her request for help. 

At this stage in the A Song Of Ice and Fire series, I’m not really sure I can make any predictions about what will happen next- there’s already been so many twists and turns, and there’s little indication of who will eventually sit on the Iron Throne. Plus, I know that A Dance with Dragons, the next book in the series, focusses on a completely different set of characters, and I don’t really know what any of them have been up to. However, I will say that I believe the accusations against Margery are completely unfounded, and the product of Cersei’s scheming.

Do you agree with my thoughts on this A Feast for Crows? Feel free to let me know in the comments! 

Em x

Game of Thrones: A Step-By-Step Reaction… Book #3

I’m afraid I’m a little (alright, a lot!πŸ™ˆ) behind on my Game of Thrones reaction posts, but it’s time to talk about A Storm of Swords, the third book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. 
(You can read my reactions to A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings here and here). 

Before you read any further, I’d like to take a moment to remind you all that this post is intended to be a discussion post aimed at those who have already read the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and will therefore contain spoilers.

So, my most surprising observation from A Storm of Swords is that it actually made me feel surprisingly sympathetic towards Jaime. My parents and boyfriend had warned me that this might happen, but I’d always insisted that my hated was too strong. In the end, it was Jaime’s point of view chapters that helped me warm to him, as certain revelations about his past made me feel as though his cold demeanour is more understandable, and I enjoyed his entertaining relationship with Brienne. I particularly enjoyed the way the relationship between Jaime and Brienne changed over the course of the novel, as they progressed from hating one another, to affording each other a kind of begrudging respect.

Now, if you’ve read A Storm of Swords or seen Game of Thrones on TV, I’m sure you’re waiting for me to discuss…THE RED WEDDING!!!

For context, all I knew about the Red Wedding before reading A Storm of Swords was that important characters died. I had no idea who was actually getting married, where the wedding took place, or which characters were involved. When I started the book, I knew that at least two weddings would occur, but I had no idea which one would be THE wedding. It’s safe to say that this made me rather tense!

As for the actual events of the wedding, I have to say I was taken by surprise. Despite my wishes for a family reunion (see my previous postπŸ’”), I didn’t expect all of the Starks to make it to the end of book three. However, I also didn’t expect Robb and Catelyn to die at the same time. Given Robb was a ‘king’, I’d expected him to die in battle… But that’s the beauty of the Red Wedding! Eventhough I knew it was going to happen at some point, when in the novel it occurred and who died was just totally unexpected. 

Given the attention that’s usually paid to the Red Wedding, it’s easy to forget that  A Storm of Swords also features two other weddings. Most obviously, there’s Joffrey’s wedding to Margery Tyrell, which ends with him being poisoned during the feast. This was, quite frankly, my favourite moment of the entire novel. 

Tyrion and Sansa Stark’s wedding, on the other hand, was much less pleasant. Being forced to marry definitely contributed to Tyrion’s downfall. (Speaking of which, I still love him, and have decided to write off his patricide as a bad day… ). 

As for my predictions for the next novel… I’m ashamed to say that I’m publishing this post so late that I’ve actually already finished A Feast for Crows! However, the notes I made during A Storm of Swords show that I predicted that Tyrion wouldn’t feature much in book four, allowing Martin to keep readers trying to guess his whereabouts. I also felt sorry for Jaime, as A Storm of Swords sees him being faithful to Cersei, whilst she repeatedly sleeps with other men behind his back. I predicted that, should Jaime find out, this could have an interesting effect on their relationship in A Feast for Crows…

Do you agree with my thoughts on A Storm of Swords?

Feel free to let me know in the comments!

Em x

Why I’m Calling Time on Becky Albertalli

Before I begin this post, I’d like to issue a couple of warnings: this post is going to cover some controversial topics, and will criticise an author many people love. I’d also like to stress that I have nothing against Becky Albertalli as a person, and don’t want to this post to be regarded as a personal attack on her- I simply find her work problematic. 

I also want to stress that this post will contain spoilers for both Simon VS the Homosapiens Agenda and Leah on the Offbeat, as it is intended to be a discussion post aimed at those who are already familiar with Albertalli’s work.

As some of you might recall, I once gave Albertalli’s much-beloved Simon VS the Homosapiens Agenda a scathing review. I read the book at the peak of its popularity, and expected great things, but I was sorely disappointed. There were several reasons for this, including the poor writing and plot, but the thing that irritated me most was actually the way Albertalli addressed the issue of Simon’s sexuality. I disliked the way the entire novel revolves around the fact Simon is gay, and the way his sexuality becomes the only ‘interesting’ thing about him, and is his main ‘personality trait’. I’ve always felt like the most positive representation of the LGBTQ+ community in popular culture tends to occur when a character’s sexuality or gender identity is simply mentioned casually, rather than being a major plot point of the novel. I feel this promotes the view that someone’s sexuality doesn’t have to be seen as a ‘big deal’, or an integral part of their personality. Unfortunately, Albertalli doesn’t seem to grasp this idea. With this in mind, I approached Albertalli’s latest offering, Leah on the Offbeat, with some caution…

…And it transpires that this caution was the correct approach. I’m choosing to publish this post now as the novel was released some time ago, meaning some of my followers are likely to have read it, and may understand the issues I have with both this novel, and Simon.

My first issue with Leah was its plot… Or rather, the fact it doesn’t have one. Like Simon before it, Leah is first and foremost a “coming out” tale, which addresses Leah’s bisexuality. Essentially, the novel revolves around the fact that Leah is fully aware that she is bisexual, and has even developed strong feelings for another girl, but both Leah and her love interest, Abby, are too nervous to publicly come out. However, by the end of the novel, they have gathered up enough courage to tell everyone about their feelings for eachother… If you’ve read Simon, this should feel very familiar… because it’s basically the same novel! Both Leah and Simon revolve around little more than an LGBTQ+ teen’s difficulty accepting their sexuality, and both novels end with a ‘happily ever after’ coming out scenario. Unfortunately, this means that Leah shares all of its predecessor’s flaws- like Simon, it is a simple, predictable book that uses an LGBTQ+ inclusive romance to attempt to distract from the lack of plot, and the fact that the characters’ only interesting ‘traits’ are their sexualities. I’ll say it again: as far as I’m concerened, a good “coming out” tale is about more than simply the act of coming out, and promotes the view that sexuality doesn’t have to define anyone. 

Unfortunately, my problems with this book don’t end with its poor plot- I had major issues with some of the characters’ behaviour too. If you read my review of Simon, you’ll remember that I strongly disliked Leah. I found her cold and moody, and I’m afraid her behaviour doesn’t really change any in Leah. I feel like Albertalli tries to justify Leah’s attitude problem by implying it’s the result of her inner turmoil over her sexuality but, at the end of the day, I don’t think this should excuse the fact that she’s often downright unpleasant. 

Similarly, Abby’s treatment of her boyfriend Nick, who she breaks up with shortly before announcing that she’s in a relationship with Leah, is downright cruel. Reading the novel, I felt like Albertalli wanted readers to be so swept up in the happy notion that Abby had gained the confidence to come out, that they would conveniently forget about her treatment of Nick. Whilst the novel’s big “coming out” scene is rather sweet, I don’t think readers should forget the fact that Abby has strong feelings for someone else whilst still in a relationship with Nick, then breaks up with him without telling him the real reason for the split, before going public with her relationship with Leah just two weeks later. The cynic in me can’t help but feel that Albertalli is trying to win over ‘woke’ young readers by including a sickly sweet LGBTQ+ romance, in a novel where the other main relationship is actually somewhat dysfunctional.

So, in summary, I dislike both Albertalli’s portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters, and her portrayal of relationships in general. I think her portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters actually portrays members of the community in a somewhat negative light, as sexuality becomes their defining character trait. I’ve always felt that the most positive representation of the LGBTQ+ community occurs when a character’s sexuality or gender identity is mentioned casually, rather than being made into a big deal. Plus, I feel like Albertalli is targeting young, liberal readers, some of whom may well be members of the  LGBTQ+ community themselves, by including a same-sex romance in her novel, but conveniently forgetting the fact that Abby and Nick’s relationship is far from a positive example of what a relationship should be, and could send damaging messages to younger readers.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you want to read a YA novel that includes a raw, genuine portrayal of life as an LGBTQ+ teen, do yourself a favour and read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky instead. 

Did you agree with my opinion? Feel free to let me know in the comments (however, whilst I’m aware that I have touched upon some controversial subjects in this post, I’d like to ask that we keep any discussions civil!). 

Em x

Game of Thrones: A Step-By-Step Reaction… Book #2

I recently finished A Clash of Kings, the second book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, and the end of my university exams means I’ve finally got time to update my blog. As I explained in my previous blog post, my plan for the next few months is to update my readers on my reactions to each Game of Thrones book in turn, as I experience the series for the very first time. 

As stated in my previous post, this post is intended to be read by those who have already seen or read Game of Thrones, so it will contain spoilers for the series. 

I must admit, my initial reaction to A Clash of Kings was slight disappointment. I simply felt that, after the previous book’s thrilling conclusion, things just felt a little… Flat. Where as A Game of Thrones was full of shocking plot twists and dramatic battles, A Clash of Kings is much more political, and tends to focus on the personal relationships between characters, as they scheme and double-cross one another. Essentially, it’s House of Cards with a couple of dragons thrown in. 

An accurate representation of Martin writing this book

Martin’s evocative writing and complex world-building means the novel is never boring, but, at first, it struggled to keep me as interested as its predecessor. This was especially true of the chapters told from Arya’s perspective, which are little more than blunt descriptions of the bleak life she leads within Harenhal’s walls. 

However, there are some advantages to the book’s slow start. Firstly, the fact much of the novel is focussed on politics means a generous amount of time is devoted to Tyrion, who is thoroughly entertaining in his role as the King’s Hand. I loved his point of view chapters. I also liked the fact the novel grows more dramatic as it nears its conclusion- based on the initial focus on politics, I didn’t expect the book to end with an event as dramatic as the battle of Blackwater. Said event definitely compensates for some of the slower chapters earlier in the book, even if Tyrion does suffer (πŸ’”πŸ’”πŸ’”). 

In terms of my feelings towards individual characters and their fates, I think the event that shocked me most was Renley’s death. Whilst I fully expected him to die at some point, I didn’t anticipate such a sudden, brutal death. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I guessed that Bran and Rickon weren’t actually dead, despite Theon Greyjoy’s attempts to convince the people of Winterfell that he had killed them (this didn’t stop me from hating Theon anyway, though!). 

My overall verdict on A Clash of Kings is that the thrilling conclusion makes up for a slow start, and most characters suffer or prosper as is deserved. In terms of my predictions for the next book, A Storm of Swords, I’m particularly curious about the fates of Jaime Lannister and Theon. The second book ended in scenarios where both could face death (Theon was last seen amongst the burning ruins of Winterfell, and Catelyn Stark had raised a sword towards Jaime), but this outcome seems…. Too simple. Given Martin likes to include as many twists as possible in his work, I have a feeling that neither man is actually dead. With regards to who WILL die, Tyrion’s wreckless decision to take Shae to King’s Landing makes me feel she may not live long. As for Tyrion, I feel his fall from power may continue, even though I would love to see him regain his powerful status. Similarly, something tells me that the Stark family is unlikely to be reunited soon, as much as I would love to see this happen.

Do you agree with my thoughts on A Clash of Kings?

Feel free to let me know in the comments! 

Em x

Game of Thrones: A Step-By-Step Reaction… Book #1

Well, it’s 2019, and I could resist no longer… I’ve finally decided to find out why everyone loves Game of Thrones so much… Believe it or not, I’ve never seen a signal episode of the TV show, and didn’t pick up the books until December 2018.

However, I recently finished the first book in the series, and I enjoyed it so much that I’ve decided to dedicate 2019 to catching up on Game of Thrones. My plan is to read the books, and then start the television series after I’ve finished reading. After I finish each book, I’m going to publish a new post, outlining my reaction to each novel in turn. 

Fair warning: this post is intended for those who have already read and/or watched Game of Thrones and will contain spoilers.

Since I started reading the series, several people have remarked on how unusual it is that I’ve somehow managed to remain remarkably spoiler-free… I have almost no idea what’s going to happen! With this in mind, I thought it might be entertaining to make this series of posts an ongoing project, and write about my reactions to each book, and predictions about the following book, as they come to me. Basically, rather than wasting my time attempting to write a spoiler-free review when everyone else has already read the books anyway, I’m going to allow you to laugh at my expense, as I make predictions that are probably wildly off the mark. If nothing else, my posts might make you nostalgic for the days when you, and seemingly everyone else ever apart from me, first experienced Game of Thrones. 

So, here is my reaction to the first book…

Book One: A Game of Thrones  

 Until I started reading this book, I’d managed to deliberately isolate myself from the world of Game of Thrones. My logic was that, as an avid reader, I was already invested in too many series to commit to reading another, especially when said series was so long. Plus, when the series first became popular, I foolishly convinced myself it would be little more than a passing fad… Oops! In the end, it was a combination of my Dad and my boyfriend telling me how great the series is that convinced me to pick up A Game of Thrones… And I’m so glad I listened to them! Despite my reservations, I was hooked after just a few pages. George R.R. Martin’s world-building is second to none, and his evocative description makes his characters leap from the page, even when the current point-of-view character is only a child. After finishing the first book in the series, I’ve already formed some strong opinions on certain characters, and made my predictions for the next novel.

 Firstly… I love Tyrion. Anyone who is reading this and knows me in real life has probably already worked out exactly why… He’s short, angry, snarky and eats and drinks excessively… He’s my spirit animal. I was devastated by his stint in the Sky Cells, and nothing else is allowed to befall this precious bean. 

Spirit animal πŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œ

…And speaking of devastaion… NED!!! I think it goes without saying that I completely failed to predict his fate… I was, and still am, shooketh. I did, however, predict the birth of Dany’s dragons… Much to the amusement of my Dad, who couldn’t believe I didn’t know there are dragons in Game of Thrones… Whoops! 

Seaking of predictions, I don’t really know what to expect from A Clash of Kings, the next book, just yet, as the first book was so unpredictable. I am, however, praying someone puts me out of my misery and kills Joffrey ASAP… I want justice for Ned!

So, as you’ve probably guessed, I thoroughly enjoyed A Game of Thrones! Between the amazing world-building, the unpredictable plot and the ruthless characters, the book really was an example of fantasy at its very best.

At the rate I’m reading, something tells me you’ll be hearing my verdict on A Clash of Kings quite soon.

In the meantime, feel free to let me know if you agree with my verdict on A Game of Thrones in the comments!

Em x