discussions · shanti

What is YA?

So, this is a mostly YA book blog, because I mostly read YA. Fair enough, right? But what is young adult? I’m going to unlock that mystery in this post. Is it a genre? An audience? Something else entirely? I’ve seen it described as many things. 

Continue reading “What is YA?”

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books · features · shanti

The Bookish Planet: Europe to Americans

Hi Virtually Readers! Welcome back to another Bookish Planet. Today’s guide features Europe. Yes, all of Europe. It might seem like a big place than you can’t generlise with a travel guide under a thousand words, but you’re wrong. If you’re an American, especially an American under the age of twenty, it’s very easy to see all the important bits of Europe AND find yourself within the space of, say, a single summer. This guide will introduce you to the Europe that Americans know. Also, shoutout to Marie @Drizzle and Hurricane Books, who is not only a lovely person but also inspired and gave me feedback on this post. 

Featured in: Girl at Sea, Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, Just One Day, The Girl’s Guide to Summer, Wanderlost, Heist Society, Anna and the French Kiss, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Love and Gelato. 

Description: Europe is always sunny. This is because, if you’re a sensible YA character, you will only visit it in summer. You will only be able to travel to the places that people have heard of: Paris and Amsterdam are in, Darby and Abruzzo are out. You will be amazed at all the history, the people, the effective public transport, and of course the food. If you’re not eating gelato on every second page (if you’re in Italy) or croissants and baguettes (in France), or paella (in Spain), you’re probably not in Europe. There is no such thing as obscure region specialities, because people in the US won’t belive you if you ate something they haven’t heard of. And if you can’t see an iconic sight, like the Eiffel Tower or the bridges of Venice, then you are probably not doing a good enough job at being in romantic places; try harder. There will be iconic places everywhere; well, as long as you go where the rest of the tourists go. Occasionally you’ll feel obliged to eat at a small and slightly grimy café, just to prove that you went off the beaten path sometimes; but you’ll be much more comfortable in the places where you’re surrounded by other foreigners. The important parts of a country—the parts where you can find yourself AND fall in love—are not determined by the people that live there, but by your travel guide (like this one, and I’ll quickly list them for you: Sagrada Familia, Eiffel Tower, [sunny beach in South France with sunbathers], the Colosseum, Big Ben (if you count the UK as part of Europe, and you’re an American Anglophile, so you do), the temple to Athena whose name you can’t remember in Athens, the canals and bridges of Venice. Alternately, read any of the books listed above and you’ll find all the other important sights.). Oh, and you’re not really go into any of these countries because they don’t feature in any movies you’ve ever watched about Europe, so therefore must not exist: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova, Kosovo. Basically the Balkans and the Baltic.)

People: Yeah, the people are a really appealing part of Europe. If you’re a young, you’re sure to meet people in two categories: 1, grumpy old people who suck at English, hate tourists, and make you feel like you’re seeing the real Europe; and 2, attractive and cool young people of whatever gender you find attractive who know local secrets (ooh, exciting), enjoy drinking because the drinking age in Europe is 18 or younger, and will somehow have enough money to accompany you on part of your travels. There are other people in Europe, but if you meet people who deviate from the national norm (Muslim Danes, Italian speaking Swiss, black Spanish), you’ll be in the minority, and again you might not really be in Europe, because as we know, all Europeans are white, except for the ones who are really really tanned. But, just be warned, you might fall in love with one of these Europeans, and the one you fall in love with will definitely speak English and there won’t be any issues with, say, your parents or their parents that will stop this romance from being the only one that will ever matter. 

History: Ugh. History. Do I even need to cover this? You probably know it all already. The Germans caused WWII and are sorry, don’t worry, they’re cool now; they occupied France (was there something called the Maignot line that didn’t work?) and then there was Russia for a while, just all over everything, ugh, and Germany was split, and then some wall fell, how fun, and the Cold War happened and then at some point there were rich cities in Italy that paid Leonardo Da Vinci to make stuff. Oh, and there were Crusades, how fun right? And there were dark ages, oh my goodness, America never had Dark Ages because Christopher Columbus escaped from them and started America, good for him. There’s lots of history, you’re going to be soaking it in all day, you’re a total expert. 

Where to Stay: You might have to stay in one or two youth hostels. Sorry about that! But it’s a great location to meet other young people who are having a fun time. Mostly though you have a lot of cash and not much explanation of where it comes from, so you get to stay in swanky hotel rooms in perfect locations with little to no supervision. And if you’re lucky you’ll get to be in a swanky bus or a boat that is somehow available to you. If you make friends with the locals* you can maybe stay with them and experience ‘authentic cuisine’, which will probably be a three course meal. There are places to stay everywhere in Europe as long as you only go where other tourists go.

*the English speaking, inexplicably good looking locals

Dangers: There might be some people who will try to rip you off. But you have a ridiculous amount of money for an eighteen year old without a job, so that shouldn’t trouble you. Otherwise, there are pickpockets, but, despite this being your first trip, you’re far too savvy a traveler to let them bother you. 

So, was this painfully true? Do you think Europe is romanticized? Tell me in the comments! 

book review · books · shanti · Uncategorized

8 Reasons to read Ashbury/Brookfield

Hi Virtually Readers! A few months ago I was deep in some corner of the internet (aren’t we all) and found all these posts on inside a dog that Jaclyn Moriarty had written AGES ago, about her Ashbury/Brookfield books, a series of contemporary novels told entirely in found documents. They’re more companion novels, btw, rather than sequels. And I read the series over then next few months, finishing in September, and I loved them all. The books are Feeling Sorry for Celia, Finding Cassie Crazy, The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie, and Dreaming of Amelia (except I got confused and read Amelia before Bindy). Those links, by the way, go to my reviews. I loved the series, and now I’m going to give you some reasons to read it.

One, the books are all hilarious.

Because it’s told in documents, there are all different styles of writing to differentiate the characters. One character, Emily, is prone to malpropism (I shall rain over everyone). Another character thinks she’s really smart, and it shows hilariously in the writing. Then there are fake court summonings (SO FUNNY) and drunk blogging. Not to mention the situations the character get into which are funny…one character is hilariously convinced that there is a ghost and another runs away to the circus.

Two, they’re all mysteries.

Now I’m an idiot and it took until the fourth book for me to figure out that all the books were mysteries. I actually really liked this though; it’s a sign that the mystery is well incorporated into the novel, and the focus stays on the characters.

Three, melodrama

All of the characters are teenagers, and like teenagers are wont too, tend to exaggerate their own circumstances to be a little more important and life changing than they really are. (especially Emily. Oh Emily, how I love you) But there are just enough instances where something ~creepy~ is actually happening that you can’t quite be sure.

Four, friendship

There are so many strong female friendships; and even just friendships in general. Finding Cassie Crazy and Dreaming of Amelia especially focus on a trio of girls, Cassie, Emily, and Lydia, and they are very funny and very supportive and generally excellent. And Amelia and Riley are very good friends to each other, and I love that Ernst is friends with Bindy (also a bit of shipping there tbh), and also all the boys in Finding Cassie Crazy are great (except for some of them). I liked Seb particularly.

Five, creative and quirky documents

Remember the fake court summonings I mentioned up above? Well, they’re part of the documents that make up the story. It’s a lot like Illuminae, but less pretty. There are also these excellent messages from various ‘societies’ in the first book which help us get into Elizabeth, the main characters head. In every book except The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie, you don’t know why the docements have been found and collected; but they’re there, and they’re wonderful, and you just enjoy it.

Six, compelling characters

Sometimes with document based stories, it’s hard to connect to the characters, but Jaclyn Moriarty is so clever that this never happens. I especialy connected with Bindy Mackenzie and Elizabeth Clarry, in the first and third books, which are more centred on one person. The honesty of the stories, the issues the characters have, and the way that the documents they leave can and simeltaneously cannot account for their lives; somehow, it works, and all the characters are just so true to life.

Seven, surprises

I often guess plots, but Moriarty consistently surprised me. I never knew what to expect and quite what each clue added up to, and that made such a nice change. The endings are a little ridiculous, but still perfect.

Eight, ALL CAPS.

There are a lot of ALL CAPS as emphasis in the book. Very relatable if you’re a book blogger.

I do actually have some critiques of these books, which you can see in my reviews. Overall, though, they’re very clever, very enjoyable, and very funny and I think more people need to read them so go forth and do likewise.

Have you read any of these books? And what’s your favourite document based book? let me know in the comments!

 

books · discussions · features · shanti

Setting in Stone 6: Demographics

Demographics are details about the people of a place. Population size, ethnic makeup, what jobs people have, poverty and literacy levels, all that. I find them fascinating, revealing, and important. I also find them shockingly absent from books, especially fantasy books. In this installment of Setting in Stone, the topic is, surprisingly enough, demographics, why they matter in stories, and how to write them. Continue reading “Setting in Stone 6: Demographics”

shanti · writing

Beautiful Books: NANOWRIMO IS WAY TOO SOON

Hey Virtually Readers! As you may know I do some creative writing from time to time and I do so love it. (I also suck). I turned eighteen a few weeks ago, and among several goals for this year, I want to write two first drafts and edit two more manuscripts. Let’s see how that goes. I want to get Entreaty to a place where I’m happy to get feedback from people, and after visiting Thailand I feel all inspired to rewrite Lighter Places with a better setting and stronger characters (though I don’t think the plot will need such big changes). Anyway, I’m writing something totally different, an as-of-yet unnamed fantasy novel that will be part of a trilogy, for NaNoWriMo this year so I thought I’d link up with Beautiful Books, hosted by Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further up and Further in, to talk about it. Continue reading “Beautiful Books: NANOWRIMO IS WAY TOO SOON”

books · discussions · features · shanti

Setting in Stone 5: Devilish Details

Welcome back, Virtually Readers, to Setting in Stone, the best discussion series ever probably. Some months ago, I read a fantasy book with four states explicitly named: a fantasy equivalent Russia, where the book was set, a fantasy equivalent France, Persia, and China. In terms of technology which the characters had, this was probably in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. Then, a character drank rum. Rum is made from sugar, and at the time (as far as I know) was grown in the Caribbean, by slaves. (and if you want to know more about this, read a Tom Standage book). I did not like said book, for a whole host of reasons (and if you want to know which book it is, go stalk my ‘meh’ shelf on goodreads), but one of the reasons was the author’s ignorance of detail. Continue reading “Setting in Stone 5: Devilish Details”

books · discussions · features · shanti

Setting in Stone 4: Finding other settings

Hi Virtually Readers! Today, you are reading another episode of Setting in Stone, my discussion feature about how settings work. I started this whole thing with a post about the lack of variety of settings in YA novels, so today I’m going to find the flipside of that, and talk about how to find less common settings and how to support those books. Also, it’s hopefully going to be shorter than most of the posts in this series, but I make no promises. Continue reading “Setting in Stone 4: Finding other settings”

books · discussions · features · shanti · writing

Setting in Stone 3: Research Methods

Hello, Virtually Readers! Your, that is, my, favourite discussion feature is back again. Setting in Stone is a series where I explore many assumptions inherent in settings in books, spurred by enthusiasm for this post. You can read all the Setting in Stone posts by clicking the ‘setting in stone’ tag at the bottom of this one. Today, I’m discussing how setting is researched. This information is derived from reading/listening to various authors talking about their research process plus common sense. I’m going to outline the different ways to research setting, and their advantages and disadvantages as I see it. Continue reading “Setting in Stone 3: Research Methods”