Discussions, Writing

What makes a book engaging?

Hi guys!

So I recently got contacted by someone, and I decided to make my answer into a post. Unfortunately, the reason I won’t be responding to any author requests until after my exams is because I won’t be making an email account for my blog until after my exams! So if I don’t respond to your message (even when it’s not an author request), I will reply, once I make an email 🙂

Anyway, here’s what the email says…

I just wanted to tell I really enjoy your blog.

Quick question. As a reader, what makes a book engaging? Or in other words what makes you keep reading? I ask this because I’m a new writer of historical fiction and I’m finishing my novel. And frankly, I need a reader’s point of view on this matter so I don’t mess up.

Anyway. Thanks for your reviews. I’ve learned a lot.

Thank you for contacting me, I’m glad you enjoy my reviews and find them helpful 🙂

To begin with, I read books for pleasure and entertainment, so my ideal book would be a pleasure to read, and would entertain me. My musts for favourite books are:

  • an interesting and entertaining plot that keeps me guessing – I am curious to find out what happens at the end
  • at least one relatable or likeable character – I care about the character(s) so want to know what happens to them
  • a well-portrayed and explored setting – I like the setting and enjoy reading about things happening it
  • good writing – writing doesn’t become a barrier to enjoying the book – I’ve read books where the plot is amazing but the writing really brings it down, unfortunately… as well as that, good writing makes the story flow a lot better, and as a result makes it a lot more engaging
  • originality to it that makes it stand out against other books with the same genre – books like the Orphan Queen I simply could not get through because it reminded me so much of Throne of Glass (trust me I didn’t even get through the first chapter)

Let’s take one of my most favourite books, The Mysterious Benedict Society, as an example.

  • an interesting and entertaining plot that keeps me guessing 
  • at least one relatable (didn’t really have any to be honest, but the amount of likeable characters makes up for it) and likeable character (all of the Mysterious Benedict Society – Sticky, Constance, Kate and Reynie!!) 
  • a well-portrayed and explored setting (the Institute) 
  • good writing 
  • originality to it that makes it stand out against other books with the same genre (I’d say the entire plot and book has such a unique concept and I love it!) 

A bonus that I loved was it was hilarious and really gripping (as a result). Even after the third re-read I’m immersed in it and it’s just fantastic and I love the whole book and series to pieces!

Now trust me, I know that hitting the favourites bar is hard! I, as a writer myself, am still struggling to produce a manuscript that I am proud of. #thestruggleisreal. But this is what I look for in an engaging book 🙂

If you have any questions you want to ask me, be sure to leave them in the comments and I’ll respond to them there, or make a post about them! 🙂 

What makes one of your favourite books a favourite? 

Speak soon!

Book Reviews, YA fantasy

Review – Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Image result for blue lily blueTitle: Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3)

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis: The third installment in the all-new series from the #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater!

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things, though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

“What do we do now?” Gansey asked.
From the other room, Calla bellowed, “GO BUY US PIZZA. WITH EXTRA CHEESE, RICHIE RICH.”
Blue said, “I think she’s starting to like you.”

This book is BRILLIANT! My favourite of the entire Raven Cycle series so far. Main reason? It has so much Blue in it! Blue and Gansey are my favourite characters of the Raven Boys and they’re both really involved in this book (well, Gansey always has been, but if you’ve read this book, you know what I mean?? I hope, anyway?).

Sooo many things happened in this book, a rush one after the other, and so many subplots twisting and turning, weaving and connecting together. Ahhhh I love The Raven Boys! Every one of them. Gansey, Noah, Adam and Ronan. And I love Blue. And Calla. Except for the Gray Man. He annoyed me for some reason. And Piper. Oh dear. There was a magnificent amount of character development and I loved it all.

I really took my time with reading this book because I wanted to savour every turn of the page, but once I properly started, there was no getting out of it, or slowing down. I ploughed my way through with great urgency. It’s just so amazing. I was so dismayed when I reached the end, because it meant there is only one book left to this fabulous series.

There are so many shocking twists in this book I did not expect, but in a way, it’s pretty hard to guess things in Stiefvater’s books because they’re so out of the ordinary, totally extraordinary, so ANYTHING can happen. Literally anything can and does happen. So really, it’s just one whole rollercoaster where no matter how wide you open your eyes something will still jump out at you from a corner you didn’t see.

GUYS I HOPE THE WISH TO THE RAVEN KING IS FOR GANSEY’S WELL-BEING. I simply would not be able to handle it otherwise. I AM NOT kidding! I have to read the next book ahhhh. I can’t wait to get my hands on it, and it depends whether I’ll have the patience to wait for it at the library or end up giving in and purchasing it on Kindle?? (the latter is very likely considering the popularity of these books at our library)

Anyway, have you read this book? If so, did you agree/disagree with anything I said?   And wouldn’t it be pure torture if I had to wait for this book to be written?!

Speak to you all soon!

Book Reviews, YA fantasy

Review – The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Image result for the young elitesTitle: The Young Elites (The Young Elites #1)

Author: Marie Lu

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis: I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

“Be true to yourself. But that’s something everyone says and no one means. No one wants you to be yourself. They want you to be the version of yourself that they like.”

This story is very original compared to my typical YA Fantasy read. It is very original compared to what I initially expected, and believed this book to be, until right at the end, when I knew, no matter how hard I wanted it to be, it wasn’t going to happen. I still loved this book.

This isn’t a hero’s story, fellow readers and bloggers, this is a villain’s story.

This book, no doubt, if it isn’t obvious already, surprised me. I had plunged into this book without reading any reviews on it, and if I had I had forgotten them but the idea of teenagers/children possessing powers unlike any other, and that whole scenario, bound together by the fact that Marie Lu wrote it, enticed me to borrow it from the library and give it a shot.

Now there is a reason why I love Anne of Green Gables. It’s a sweet, happy, funny, loveable story. Lovable protagonist? Check. Beautiful setting? Check. Memorable, hilarious characters? Check. Gorgeous character development? Check. The Young Elites is the complete opposite of that, no matter how hard you try to go around it.

Let’s talk about Adelina first. I’m going to be frank, I did not like Adelina too much throughout this book, because like I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, if not in this post then some other, that I’m a very typical reader/person. I love hero’s, hate bad guys. So Adelina didn’t really click with me, at least not until half way through the book.

Instinctively, I disliked the whole dark aspect about her, and how she would be a little cruel to her sister, despite her love for her, despite the fact that she kind of has every right to be, considering her circumstances? If you’ve read the book, you know what I’m saying (I hope?). The flashbacks to her childhood always made me a bit uncomfortable, and the whole aspect of her escape in the first place chilled me because… who wouldn’t be chilled about that?

Then, as the story unfolded, and we begin to learn more and more about Adelina, and with that, I liked her more, understand her more, empathise with her feelings more. I cannot wait to get through the second book and really begin to learn even more about her. I’m actually already around forty pages through, and really loving it.

Moving on to Enzo. I honestly struggled with myself as we learn more about him, because as with Adelina, I was unsure about whether he was actually a good person or not, whether I actually like him or not. Because like I’ve said before, I’m a very typical reader, and it’s not usual for me to like bad guys, though I have before, in the past. He no doubt has good intentions, and I understand the seriousness of his situation, but killing people who make a single mistake, for the safety of others is… harsh, efficient, harsh… efficient (is it obvious I’m torn?).

That said, I rather liked Enzo. Keyword: rather. I still think he’s pretty cruel, and am unsure about this whole good-bad-thing, but I still liked him. I mean, come on, who couldn’t? He’s such an awesome character, and like I mentioned before, with good intentions, and he has every right to want to move forward with them.

I really liked Raffael. So kind, intelligent, wise. Honestly and genuinely a good person, and he honestly and genuinely, spoiler>tries< helps Adelina. Either way, he’s a great character. At some points of the book I thought he was the only great character.

The plot… wow, this story is very intriguing, gripping. Could not put it down, I read from 5.30-8.30am and ultimately finished off the final two hundred pages. The ending – oh, the ending! It left me so dissatisfied, that I even felt put off from reading the second book, which was patiently waiting on my dressing table. Eventually (it didn’t take long), two days later I picked it up, started it, and caught up in it all once again.

I also loved the whole setting of this whole world… caught up with darkness, death and the ever-growing golden spiral of hope working its way through the maze of corruption and working into people’s hearts, and driving through the force of justice, in which I hope it will continue to drive forth in the second book, despite a particular lacking.

This is the first book I have read from Marie Lu, and it most certainly left me reeling. Amongst the pile of books in my room is Legend, and I think once I’ve finished with The Rose Society and am waiting for the last book in the library, I may give it a go.

The Young Elites is an amazing read, and I highly recommend to the ages 13-15+ (it honestly depends on what you’re okay with personally, I would recommend reading the Common Sense Media review, and the Goodreads reviews (as well as the Q&A section because people usually ask things concerning romance there) who are interested in a original and definitely different YA Fantasy book to the typical!

So, have you read this book, and what did you think about the ending? Did you agree with anything I mentioned in the review? And, if you haven’t read the book, now that you’ve read my review, do you feel inclined to want to pick it up now and why?

Speak soon!