book review · Shar

My Oxford Year//It wasn’t a inappropriate mayfly romance.

Hey Virtually Readers! I waited literally until the very end of the week to post this but that’s because I was working on another post that will hopefully be actually ready *ahem. Written* soon ish. This is yet another review from the summer. Continue reading “My Oxford Year//It wasn’t a inappropriate mayfly romance.”

book review · shanti

Our Year Of Maybe

Our Year of Maybe is an astonishingly subtle book. It’s about a toxic, codependent relationship, and what it means to be attached to another person, and the effect that can have on you. I loved Rachel Lynn Solomon’s first book, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, and after reading Marie’s interview with Rachel Lynn Solomon, I knew that I had to read this too. It was just as emotional and deep and clever and authentic.

Continue reading “Our Year Of Maybe”

book review · books · discussions · shanti

‘Tis The Season of Rereading: The Austin Chronicles

Hi Virtually Readers! It is December which is half YAY ADVENT JESUS FAMILY FOOD SUMMER and half OH NO THE YEAR IS ALMOST DONE. But whether feelings of coziness drive you towards books or feelings of panic drive you towards books, our annual feature ‘Tis the Season of Rereading is back for its fifth (!) year. Way back in 2014, Shar and I decided that we really like rereading books in our holidays and wintertime, and ever since then we’ve had this recurring seasonal feature on Virtually Read. It is fun! As always, there is an open invitation to join in if you would also like to reread a book, write about it and link back to us, but no pressure. Anyway I have some gooood stuff lined up for this but the first one is rereading the Austin Chronicles. Continue reading “‘Tis The Season of Rereading: The Austin Chronicles”

book review · books · Shar

Always Never Yours: Am I too jaded?

Title: Always Never Yours

Author: Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemund-Broka

Genre: YA contemporary Romance

Themes: First love, belonging, family

Blurb (from Goodreads): Megan Harper is the girl before. All her exes find their one true love right after dating her. It’s not a curse or anything, it’s just the way things are, and Megan refuses to waste time feeling sorry for herself. Instead, she focuses on pursuing her next fling, directing theatre, and fulfilling her dream school’s acting requirement in the smallest role possible. Continue reading “Always Never Yours: Am I too jaded?”

blogging · books · shanti

8 reasons to read Lucy Parker

Hi Virtually Readers! I have been a really slack blogger lately, and I’m very sorry. But I’m on almost-holiday now and hopefully I will be able to write lots of posts and pull my life together. There are many many ideas in my head…I just need to write the posts! Anyway, today the post is Eight Reasons to Read Lucy Parker, in case you didn’t guess from the title….or the picture…haha. Lucy Parker is my new favourite (and only favourite so far) romance novelist. I’d heard vaguely of Lucy parker, who writes romantic contemporary fiction, but Ella (from Novelly Ella) was raving about ‘Act Like It’ and it was at the library and I was in a bit of a book slump and her books were just what I needed and I had Ella (and now Lara) to fangirl with which was great. Lucy is from New Zealand which earns her SO MANY bonus points.


Continue reading “8 reasons to read Lucy Parker”

book review · books · shanti

Starry Eyes Blog Tour-Review

So, I have a bit of a reputation for talking about light pollution. Like, a lot. Like, start a conversation with me about anything apart from university, and withing three minutes we’ll be onto a) books, b) light pollution, or c) GDPR (In other news, I’m a delight at parties and make everyon want to be my friend). And one of the things I talk about when I talk about light pollution is about how the places without light pollution are out in the wilds; the places I go tramping (or ‘hiking’ if you’re American) to. The sky is a place of perpetual wilderness, but too often we can’t see that because we are immersed in the small lights of our own creation. (that was deep). So, I loved that this book talked a lot about the value of wildeneress and stars. It also had excellent character development and lots of complexity. I’m participating in the blog tour for this book today, which I’m really excited about, thanks to Simon and Schuster Australia , who gave me a copy of the book.

Continue reading “Starry Eyes Blog Tour-Review”

book review · books · shanti

Just Visiting: the friendship story you need

I was feeling sort of book slumpy last week (mostly because I had been separated from all the physical books I wanted to read (by airline baggage limits and four hundred kilometres, can you believe?), and checked out a lot of books from the library to . Just Visiting finally got me back into reading. The story is as filled with sunlight as the cover promises. Anyway, I loved the depiction of strong friendship and the complex exploration of what it means to leave home for education.

Continue reading “Just Visiting: the friendship story you need”

discussions · shanti

Dear YA, not everyone is sporty

Okay, so in this year, I’ve read a lot of books. Specifically, a lot of contemporary books. Including quite a few contemporary romance books. And this is what I found there (as well as two guys called Evan, don’t know what that’s about): almost all the male love interests were a) sports players and b) traditionally good looking. Traditionally good looking varies in different cultures, but for these books, which were, I think, all American, it meant that they were tall; had nice clear skin; were able bodied; and were very muscly. I think that this a problem, and because this is my blog, my platform, I now get to tell you all about why.


I’m pretty sure that the above description matches at least 80% of the male main characters of especially contemporary romance books (as opposed to contemporary ‘issue’/ sadder and arguably more realistic books), not to mention the rest of YA. Now, I’m not saying that all these characters were personality-less husks and copies of each other (though some of them were) and I’m not saying that what you look like is the most important thing about you (though the way that love interests are described in YA, you might think it was). I’m just saying that this is unrealistic and unfair.

Not everyone plays sports, and not everyone looks good all the time. This is a fact. Also, not everyone that people fall in love with looks the same. That’s unrealistic. The diverse books campaign has absolutely had some effect, and books are definitely getting more diverse, and that’s a good thing. But diversity isn’t just about the ethnicity of the main character, or the culture they live in or their sexuality, though of course those things are important. Diversity is about what you do, and how you look (beyond skin colour) as well.

The pool of ‘attractive people’ is not limited by muscle mass. Now, I’ve taken psychology, and while I’m definitely not an expert, how you look does impact how attractive you seem because of human evolution. And you could argue that sports are a way for someone to show their skills, to show what they’re good at, and of course it’s a great character quirk to write about.

I just refuse to believe that out of all the boys (and girls) in the world, our YA main characters always end up falling for the ones who play sports. There are books where this doesn’t happen, but these tend to be books where body image is a central issue. And that’s not how it works. Not everyone can be the star of the basketball team or whatever, and be super tall and have stupidly overdeveloped muscles, and a great personality (beneath their bad boy image, of course). There are many people who I know who don’t look like that and are perfectly happy with themselves—and some of them *gasp* are in romantic relationships.

To me, the push for diverse books is about nuance. Not just gay best friends. Not just studious East-Asian oriented characters. Not just disabled people who are sad. Not just tall people who are attractive. When you’re young and reading YA (and beyond that) it’s important to challenge stereotypes, to encounter a world that is not simplistic.

Look, I like reading swoony love stories as much as anyone else. But there are no requirements for love except human connection. Nowhere does it say ‘All male young adult love interests should be tall and good looking. And I want to read that.

What’s a love interest trend that bothers you? When do you get sick of tropes? Tell me in the comments!(also I might totally write some more posts about this, because I have Thoughts. A multitude of them.)