Reading: It Can Never Be Wrong

Earlier today, I read an interview with debut author Jess Rothenberg over at Mermaid Vision Books, in which she talks about a teacher she had years ago who thought Rothenberg should be reading more “sophisticated” books. Rothenberg states in her interview: “When I was ten or eleven, a teacher saw my summer reading list—packed with things like Sweet Valley High, The Babysitters Club, and plenty of classic stories by writers like Lois Lowry, Jean Craighead George, and Scott O’Dell—and made me promise I’d stop reading “those kinds of books.” I was pretty devastated, but did my best to put them aside in favor of more “sophisticated” (as she put it) reading.” (You can read the full interview here.)

It immediately reminded me of a similar incident from my childhood. When I was ten our class was asked to place on our desks the books that we were reading. I remember proudly pulling out my book to put on the corner of my desk. It didn’t matter to me that the girl who sat next to me had pulled out a book ten times the size of mine. At least, not until our teacher came around and compared the two books for the class. My friend S. was reading the right kind of book. I wasn’t.

Want to know what the books were? S. was reading Watership Down at the time. But mine was The Truth about Stacey, the third book in The Babysitter’s Club series.

I was hurt. And angry. Really, really angry. I can remember thinking, hey, at least I read. Which was more than I could say for a lot of the kids in my class at the time. And what really made me angry, though there was no way that I could have articulated the feeling at the time, was that I was being judged for what I chose to read, instead of being praised and encouraged for reading at all, outside of what I had to for school. My teacher wasn’t taking into account what else I may or may not be reading at home (which was a wide variety of things which included, but was not limited to, the Anne of Green Gables series, and the Goosebumps series). The assumption was that I should be reading something “better”.

But I refused to let Mr R.’s opinion sway me. I continued to read whatever I wanted to read, whether it was long or short, and regardless of whether it was considered to be “better” than other books. Less than two years later I jumped straight from The Babysitter’s Club to Jane Austen, not because Austen’s novels were considered to be “sophisticated” or “real literature”, but because I simply saw a book in a bookshop with a story in it that appealed to me as a reader.

In many ways I feel like I’m still facing the same issues now. I love YA. It’s probably my favourite area (at the moment anyway) to play around in. But being almost twenty-four years old, and an English major to boot, people in general think I should be reading something more “high-brow” than YA. Children’s fiction in general, and YA in particular, aren’t seen as being good enough. If you’re not a teenager anymore it’s expected that you should have moved onto books that are “better” and “more worthy”, simply because they’re written for adults. And this doesn’t just apply to YA either. The same can be said for people that enjoy romance novels and chick lit. If you’re not reading “proper literature”, then you’re not good enough.

But personally, I think it’s all just bull. Just like when I was ten, I still refuse to let other people’s opinions sway me when it comes to my reading choices.

So go ahead and read what you want to read, whether that be Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction as an adult, or tackling nineteenth-century literature at the age of twelve. Because reading, no matter what it is you’re reading, will never be wrong. And if someone tells you otherwise? Ignore them.

 

What about you? Have you ever been judged by what you chose to read, or experienced something similar? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

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Dear Harry Potter Crush…

Dear Draco Malfoy,

I kind of love you despite everything within me that hates everything that you are, in the books anyway. You’re bigoted, you’re racist, you’re a bully, and yeah, I could go on but I won’t. And yet, despite all that, there has always been something about you that has always drawn me in. And no, contrary to the popular belief of non-Draco fans, it is not because Tom Felton immortalised you in film.

You were a ferret-faced bastard, but I like to think that after the War you were able to redeem yourself in the eyes of yourself and others. I don’t care if you’re still a bastard, I wouldn’t want you any other way, but I do believe that you left your racism behind you after experiencing all you did in the War. I have no doubts that it made you a better man.

Oh, and by the way, you and Hermione are totally having an affair behind Ron and Astoria’s backs right? Right? Because if you’re not, you totally should be. We can all see how much you want her, Draco.

xoxo

Samantha

P.S. It was pretty harsh that J.K. pointed out your receding hairline in the epilogue, when she made no comment about the appearances of the older Golden Trio. But don’t worry, I’ll still love you even if you go bald.

***

Dear James Potter,

James, James, James.

Now what am I going to do with you, eh? I’m pretty sure that if Gilbert Blythe was living in 1970s magical Britain (as opposed to 1870s Canada), he would pretty much be you. All the girls love you and all the blokes want to be you. You both even have a gorgeous redhead that you’re in love with, but who won’t give you the time of day. But it’s not just because you’re so similar to Gilbert that I love you.

You are sweet, and kind, and loving, and brave, but you’re not perfect, thank Merlin. You can be a dickhead at times, but then so were we all at fifteen. What truly matters is that you stand up for what you believe in. You fight for what’s right, and you never give up. Despite the mistakes you’ve made, you are good, James. So very, very good.

xoxo

Samantha

P.S. No matter what Lily says, that ruffled hair look where you always look like you’ve just off your broom? It’s sexy. Very sexy.

P.P.S So are glasses.

***

Pretty much everyone out there has read Harry Potter and we all have our favourites. So who were your Harry Potter crushes? I’d love to know! 🙂

Dear Childhood Crush…

Dear Logan Bruno,

I thought you should know you were my first literary crush. Also my first real life crush. Long before I started dreaming about any of the icky boys in my class I was crushing on you.

Granted, I can’t actually remember much about you at all, past the fact that you were blond… You dated Mary-Ann, and I think the girls might have eventually made you an honorary member of the Babysitter’s Club? Oh, and I remember Mary-Ann slipping at some point and you catching her. I would’ve loved to be caught by you any day of the week. Just so you know.

xoxo

Samantha

***

Dear Gilbert Blythe,

I spent a long time loving you. (If you want to know a secret, I kind of never stopped.) I first met you when I was ten years old, not much younger than Anne was she met you. And you really weren’t that nice to start with. I mean really, pulling her hair and calling her names just because she wasn’t paying attention to you? Kind of a dick move. But I can forgive you because you were obviously so smitten with her from the start, which just made me swoon for you even more.

When I was a kid and I used to dream about getting married, the man I pictured looked like you – the dark hair, the hazel eyes. You were my ideal. And you were just so nice! Plus, it didn’t hurt that you grew into such a handsome, intelligent, lovely man. In a lot of ways you kind of still are my ideal. So, you know, if you ever need someone to walk home from the train station or classes with I would be more than happy to oblige.

xoxo

Samantha

***

This is the first post in a series of letters that I’ll be writing over the next few weeks to my literary crushes. I had far too many to squeeze into just one post so they’ve been broken up into categories. As you can see, these first ones are to the book crushes I had during my primary school/pre-teen days. Next up will be my favourite book boys from my high school years. 🙂

These were inspired by Meg @ Coffee & Wizards, who wrote her own Dear Literary Crush post that you should all check out. I’ve just borrowed the idea and am running away with it crazily.

Book 10: City of Fallen Angels, Cassandra Clare

The Mortal War is over, and Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She’s training to become a Shadowhunter and to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life. Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. And—most important of all—Clary can finally call Jace her boyfriend.

But nothing comes without a price.

Someone is murdering the Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine’s Circle, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second bloody war. Clary’s best friend, Simon, can’t help her. His mother just found out he’s a vampire and now he’s homeless. Everywhere he turns, someone wants him on their side—along with the power of the curse wrecking his life. And they’re willing to do anything to get what they want. At the same time he’s dating two beautiful, dangerous girls—neither of whom knows about the other.

When Jace begins to pull away from Clary without explaining why, she is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: She herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace.

 

I loved the first three books in The Mortal Instruments series when I first read them – back when it was just a trilogy. So when I first heard that there would be a fourth book, I wasn’t really sure what to think. After all, the trilogy had come to end and, in my opinion at least, it was wrapped up really well. Everything had come together, and there weren’t really any loose ends. I was intrigued, and definitely wanted to read City of Fallen Angels, but I had no idea what to expect… except that I expected it to be brilliant.

Sadly, it wasn’t brilliant. I enjoyed it sure, but I didn’t love it. The main problem with it, I think, was that it felt like it didn’t need to be written. It felt more like continuing the story just for the sake of continuing, and not because there was more of the story left to be told.

Plus, there were the characters themselves. Is it wrong to say that all the characters seemed to be pale versions of themselves? None of them really seemed to live up to the dynamic, vibrant personalities that they had in the first three books. Except maybe Izzy. And Magnum. And then there was Simon’s love triangle which just felt wrong on so many levels – the main issue being that I found it hard to imagine Simon dating both girls at once, it seemed so unlike him. I wanted to constantly hit him over the head for stringing them both along the way he was.

Of course, Cassandra Clare still knows how to write a page-turner, as evidenced by the fact that I read the whole thing in one night. And I’ll continue to read the series because unfortunately Clare leaves City of Fallen Angels on a cliffhanger that I now need to know how it ends. So while I was left feeling dissatisfied with the book, I didn’t totally hate it, and I’m sure most Clare fans will enjoy it as well.

I simply question whether it was really necessary to continue Clary and Jace’s story at all.

 

Check out Cassandra Clare’s website or follow her on Twitter: @cassieclare. Or you can like her on Facebook.

You can check out City of Fallen Angels for yourself on Goodreads, or you can order it from Booktopia and Amazon.

 

Books left: 140

Days left: 401

Book 9: Scarlet, Stephen R. Lawhead

After losing everything he owns, forester Will Scarlet embarks on a search for none other than King Raven, whose exploits have already become legendary. After fulfilling his quest—and proving himself a skilled and loyal companion—Will joins the heroic archer and his men.

Now, however, Will is in prison for a crime he did not commit. His sentence is death by hanging—unless he delivers King Raven and his band of cohorts.

That, of course, he will never do.

Wales is slowly falling under the control of the invading Normans, and King William the Red has given his ruthless barons control of the land. In desperation, the people turn to King Raven and his men for justice and survival in the face of the ever-growing onslaught.

From deep in the forest they form a daring plan for deliverance, knowing that failure means death for them all.

Scarlet continues Stephen R. Lawhead’s riveting saga that began with the novel Hood, which relocated the legend of Robin Hood to the Welsh countryside and its dark forests.

 

Okay so I’m going to start out with the things that threw me off about this book (and there were a few of them). First off was the changing perspective. Some of the time Will Scarlet is narrating this story in first-person, in the present time while he is sitting in prison. But then it will switch to third person as we slowly learn the lead up to Will’s imprisonment. And then next thing, the reader is back in Will’s head again. I just, I didn’t like the continual shifting between first and third person, all it did was annoy me.

The next thing that disappointed me was the lack of Bran/Mérian. Let’s be honest here, I like to ship couples and I like to read about the couples I ship. Add to that the fact that Robin Hood and Maid Marian are one of my favourite fictional couples, and then mix in the small tidbits that we received in the first book Hood hinting towards a relationship to grow, and you have me expecting to see a bit more in terms of the development of Bran and Mérian’s relationship. To be fair, this book is called Scarlet for a reason – this is Will’s story. But again, I still would have liked to see some actual development here, rather than, once again, just the small hints that we got.

However, on the whole I did enjoy Scarlet. I liked hearing the new perspective from Will (even if I would have preferred to have the whole novel in third person), who isn’t one of the displaced Welsh of Elfael. Will had previously been working on an English estate before the Normans took over, so we get to see how the Norman invasion affected everyone, not just the Welsh whose land was slowly being taken away from them. I liked hearing about Will’s past, and I liked watching his growing feelings for Noin.

Lawhead’s writing continues to be strong and evocative. I loved reading all the scenes in the forest because you can almost feel the old world magic seeping out of the ancient trees. I also loved the more in-depth look we got at the camp life, all the intricacies there – seriously the hidden ladders and bridges that Bran’s men use to move around the tree tops is all kinds of brilliant. 😀

If you liked Hood, then you’ll definitely enjoy Scarlet (though you may take a little while to adjust yourself to the different style that it’s written in).

 

Check out Stephen R. Lawhead’s website or follow him on Twitter: @StephenLawhead. And you can also like him on Facebook.

You can check out Scarlet on Goodreads, or you can order it from Booktopia or Amazon.

You can also read my review of Hood, the first book in the King Raven trilogy, here.

 

Books left: 141

Days left: 408