Where are the female friendships?

thoughtsThis is a topic I have been thinking about for a while.  Other bookish people have talked about this subject.  Where are the female friendships in novels?   I bet you can name a dozen friendships between two males for every one or two friendships between females.  There is plenty of literature that shows male friendships but not much with female friends.  Even less with healthy female friendships.  

The book that got me thinking of this was Destined for Doon, the sequel to Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon.  The two main characters are best friends and they have several other good female friends in the novel.  This was a wonderful and refreshing thing to see in a YA novel.   However,  this novel had the ‘theme’ of a girl being jealous and hateful of another girl because of a boy.  An anti-friendship, something that is all too common in literature.  I have seen more female antagonistic relationships then healthy female friendships represented in literature yet I would hazard a bet that the number of male friendships represented in novels is similar to the number of antagonistic male relationships in literature.  

Where are the female friendships?

Part of the reason for this is undoubtedly that books have a male character skew: more male characters exists in novels than female characters.  This is particularly pervasive with main characters.  Young adult literature does have more female writers who tend to write novels with female POV characters then other genera, but if you were to look at other main and important characters in the book odds are there will be more males than females.  In addition, often times the background characters, whether named or not, are often skewed male.

I think this tumblr post adds to this discussion about books and could help explain some of the lack of female friendships seen in novels:

Film about a group of men getting into shenanigans= “comedy”
Film about a group of women getting into shenanigans= “chick flick”

Film about a friendship between two men= “buddy flick”
Film about a friendship between two women= “chick flick”

Emotional film about father/son relationships= “drama” 
Emotional film about mother/daughter relationships= “chick flick” 

Film about a young man finding identity= “coming of age”
Film about a young woman finding identity= “chick flick”

In other words, females interacting with other females is not seen as worthy of our interest as other types of interactions, be that male-male or male-female.  This is simply not true.  Writers should not be afraid to include more female characters and more female friendships into their work.  One, these types of friendships exist in the real world and deserve to be represented.  Two, young girls and even older women need to know that not all female-female relationships need to be antagonistic.  They need to have examples of healthy female-female relationships.  

Cliffhangers

thoughtsCliffhangers.  Readers or TV watchers know them all too well.  You are sitting there enjoying your entertainment when a new big, intense plot line is happening. Maybe you know that it can’t re resolved in the time/space remaining or maybe it sneaks up on you.  Either way the book or the show ends before that Big Thing is wrapped up.  I’m not talking about some plot lines still having major questions left unanswered, I’m talking your favourite character was thrown off a cliff and the next page is blank, not telling you if they lived or died.   

 

I still remember the first novel I read that had a ‘cliffhanger’.  It’s still sitting on my shelf and happens to be one of the first, if not the first, major book that I bought myself.  Definitely the first book I bought in a book store and not at a school book fare.  Now this ‘cliffhanger’ was not so much someone being thrown off a cliff as the novel finished without tying up all the loss ends and I hadn’t realized it was a series.  In other words it’s not really a cliffhanger, but it introduced me to the concept of them. More recently, I have read several novels back-to-back that have ended this way.  

I will say it out loud and proud.  I really hate it when novels end in cliffhangers. 

 

Cliffhangers are not inherently bad and should be avoided at all costs.  It’s a way to get readers excited/interested/anxious to pick up the next book and know what happens.  It can be a way to push the plot forward.  I do actually like so called ‘mini cliffhangers’s within a novel, typically at the end of a chapter, that push you to continue reading and resulting in you being miserable the next day because you stayed up all night reading. 

However, most of the real, genuine cliffhangers I have experienced have not been necessary: they did not add to the plot lines going on in the series and resulted in more anxiety then anything else.  Often times the next book has not yet been published and it just makes the wait uncomfortable. 

I believe books should be able to stand on its own.  Some books, it seems, have a cliffhanger at the end just so that they author can sell the next book.  If your book does not entice me to read the next one a cliffhanger is not going to either.  Often times if I’m not enjoying the book or think it’s just an ok book which ends with a cliffhanger at the end I’m even less likely to read the next one.  If the next book is not out yet and will not be out soon I am very likely to lose interest or be so mad at the authors for putting me unknowingly in that situation that I won’t read the next one to spite the cliffhanger. 

When a book ends in a cliffhanger and the next one picks up well after whatever it was finished and brushes it off as if it was no big deal that we waited for at least a year to figure out what was going to happen, I lose faith in the author.  This has happened to me recently and I have stalled in finishing off the book because I’m so disgusted with it, though I will admit I have predicted why the author choose to do this (I predicted this well before the ‘cliffhanger’ actually happened to be fair, so I wasn’t surprised when it happened) but I haven’t cared enough to finish reading the novel to determine if I am right. 

So please, please authors. Think long and hard before including a cliffhanger at the end of your novel.  Are you doing it because it is necessary or because you need a way to get readers to buy the next book.  

 

Rating systems

thoughtsEver change your mind about ratings after you have rated a book?  Maybe you have had a chance to process or new thoughts or facts about the book come to light.  Maybe you have read another book you liked better than a previous one but you know this book is the same number of stars as the past one.  This has just happened to me and has me thinking about the ficklety of ratings.  

Ratings are a way humans use to try and analyse something complex in a simple way.  Book ratings can be influenced by a number of things; mood and feelings are important parts to rating books for most people.  Thus sometimes you look back at previous ratings and they don’t seem to make much sense.  One book was terrible but was rating higher than another book that you liked a lot more, what is going on?  I’m not talking about how some people like books that others seem to hate, I’m talking about irregularities in your own ratings. 

Part of it is you grow over time.  A book could have meaning to you in the past but not in the present. You read books in a particular moment and you have feelings and opinions about them in that moment. But good books – whether you love them or hate them – will have you thinking about them past the point of shutting the cover.  New experiences in your life can also impact what you think about what you have read in the past.  

Yet what has just occurred was between two books read very close together so this is not the answer.  

Ariel Bissett once said in a youtube video: books need to be judged based on whether or not they did what they were supposed to do.  Essentially, certain books are supposed to make you think while others are meant to allow you to escape and should be judged and rated based on whether they did their job and not as much about how you feel about them.  My current reviewing process rates the first type of books very low in general because I like to read to escape and thus a book that is meant to make me think is not looked upon favourably whereas books meant to allow me to escape are rated highly.  This could be the weakness in my rating system.  Perhaps my system is fine and I misjudged a book in the moment.

I don’t know.  And I’m allowed to know know.  It’s my rating system and I’m allowed to use it or not as I see fit and change it or not if it’s needed.   In this moment my rating system and/or way to thinking about books is not currently working for me and I will need to adjust.  This is fine and a part of reviewing.  The need to adjust as you go on is a part of life in general so I’m going to try not to worry over this discrepancy too much and pick up the next book in my pile.  I hope you do to.

 

Quick review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

I wasn’t planning to post the review I wrote for The Selection by Kiera Cass on here as I thought it was one of those quick reads,  write a few lines and move on the to next book type of book but then I ended up writing a lengthy review on Goodreads that I thought I would post here.  Even though it’s a fairly long review, I’m going to call this a ‘Quick Review’ since I don’t provide a summary it or go to critically in depth with the review, just general opinions.  

3.5 starsFrom Goodreads: The start of 2016 has been filled with fluffy, predictable, ‘I can’t believe I’m reading this’ type of reads. This is another on the list. It’s been on the to read list because I was curious but knew exactly what type of book it would be and then yesterday, for whatever reason I REALLY REALLY needed to read it, NOW. Funny enough basically every single copy in all the library systems I am a part of were out and had a mile long waiting list. I don;t know what that is about, book club or something? Anyway I got a hold of it and read it all in one sitting finishing it at around 6 am. It was exactly what I thought it would be, but that is actually a good thing because it was what I wanted to read. Overall 3.5 stars.

Going more in depth on my thoughts, I am so, so glad it’s Maxon and not Jaxon because there have been way too many books recently that have used that name and spelling and it’s getting on my nerves. Maxon’s character really could have gone a few ways but since I kinda know how this all turns out I wasn’t surprised with his characteristics and it was fun to play with the expectation versus reality thing however part of me wanted to see what it would have been like if he was a more antagonistic personality.

The name America I guess made sense but annoyed me because it follows the trend of needing protagonists with weird first names. I think authors try to strive for different or unique but most just hit weird. Her name is not bed weird and there have been worse ones. America’s character strived to have a balance of good and not good qualities but leaned heavy on the good while other girls in the book had a heavy-handed dash of bad without good. Personality wise, nothing really stood out about her to me but at the same time her reactions to things are very similar to how I would have reacted in that situation.

I will say that these predictable ‘I can’t believe I’m reading this’ novels have a lot of men force kissing women in them without any negative consequences. Guys, that is not romantic, it’s assault.

Finally, I wanted to say that the biggest annoyance I have with the story line was that nothing happened. If I had bought this book I would have been very disappointed because I spent 20$ or more to have to wait for the next book or the third one for something to happen.

 

Diversity

thoughtsDoes anyone every look at their list of book they have read so far this year and think “that’s it?” or “this is such an uninteresting list” or “I don’t read that many diverse books or books by diverse authors”.

Because I do.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Goodreads stats function, but they are good at showing my how narrow my reading scope is which is young adult fantasy.  On one hand I don’t mind this.  I’m a scientist that had to read a lot of heavy science to finish my degrees.  Reading for me is something I do for pleasure.  Not to extend my thinking or increase my vocabulary (my vocabulary sucks, I’m just used to it at this point) but to get lost for several hours in a fantasy story.  

Many adults will say adults should not read YA but ‘real’ adult literature.  But I say, why not?  Not everyone reads for the same reasons.  As I said, I read for pleasure and have found great pleasure in YA fantasy and my read list reflects this.  It’s why many of the books are the same and not ‘diverse’ in subject matter.  And I’m for the most part fine with this since I do on occasion put up books outside of YA and outside of fantasy to read.

Yet at the same time I feel this does not give me a pass for not reading more diverse authors or books with diverse characters.  There is still a lack of diversity out there but publishers are starting to get the message that readers want diverse books.  I admit, I think a large part of not reading from diverse authors is because I feel safe with the more well know authors, who are white.  I recognize this is terrible and I need to expand the authors I read to not-white authors which will in turn increase the diversity of characters I read about.

Now is the best time to increase the diversity of the authors I read.  The more readers demand diverse books the more diverse books with me made.  I need to take an active role in reading diversely instead of the passive role I have been taking, which is arguably not a role at all.   

Demand and read diverse books. 

 

The first ten

listHaving just completed my tenth book this year I thought I would recap what I have read so far, comment on how I’m doing in my reading goals and list a few books I want to read in the coming months.

Read so far:

1. High Wizardry by Diane Duane     3/5 stars

2. A Wizard Abroad by Diane Duane     3/5 stars

3. The Wizard’s Dilemma by Diane Duane     3/5 stars

4. Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi     4/5 stars

5. A Wizard Alone by Diane Duane     3.5/5  stars

6. Wizard’s Holiday by Diane Duane     4.5/5 stars

7. WRAP: the reluctant assassin by Eoin Colfer     2/5 stars

8. Epic by Conor Kostick     4.5/5 stars

9. Rook by Sharon Cameron     3.5/5 stars

10. Destined for Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon     3.5/5 stars

Average book rating: 3.5 stars

Comments:  Obviously I have bee making my way through Diane Duane’s Young Wizard series but took a break to read something new.  Once I’ve caught up I plan to write a post to talk about the entire series so won’t say too much besides they got a bit same-y and so I took a break from them at the beginning of February.

Epic was by far the highlight of the first 10 books this year (review found here) with the 6th Young Wizard book as a close second and Gamer Girl rounding out the top three.  Already I have read one book that I didn’t particularly like by and author whom trust (meaning I have enjoyed many of his other works).   However, over all the books have been ‘I liked but to great’ which is fine by me.

On my reading goals: Currently I am sitting at 4 books ahead of schedule which is wonderful!  I bodes well that I will have to increase my reading goal by the end of the year but I’m not going to bump it up just yet.  I have been doing a steady 1(ish) book a week for the last few weeks which is about what I hoped to do.  Also since Big Life Changes TM are coming soon I’m just not ready to increase it just yet. So far I have reviewed, at least in brief, every book I have read this year and done 2 full length reviews means I’m doing great on that bookish goal.  I’m not doing so well on the ‘don’t force myself to finish a book I’m not interested in’ goal, but it’s one of those goals I know I’ll have to work at to successfully complete and I may never complete it.  

What’s next? A few of the books I hope to pick up soon include Saga by Conor Kostick, Storm Glass by Maria V.Synder, Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas and Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes.  Finally I hope I can finish off The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks at some point soon since I stopped reading it many months ago due to school stuff and I need to continue on with it. 

I’ll have a look inside your mind and tell where you belong!

hogwartssealSo I will admit it: I retook the Pottermore sorting quiz within days of the new one being available.  I don’t know what I expected since I am the house I am.

When I was first sorted I didn’t know what house I would get: I am smart but not really as knowledge thirsty as a Ravenclaw, I love the colours of Slytherin but am not all that ambitious, Gryffindor just didn’t seem to be my thing and the colours of Hufflepuff are … not good to be diplomatic. I was certain I’d be some sort of hat stall. 

But then I got sorted into Hufflepuff.  I admit it, I was disappointed but at least I could spell the house name?  Looking into the characteristics more, however, it did make sense: dedication and hard work; patience, kindness and tolerance; loyalty.  All of these were things that can be used to describe me.  Eventually I started identifying strongly as a Hufflepuff.

Along comes the new quiz and I was intrigued.  Even though I know what my house was I had to re-take the test.  I answered the questions honestly, though some of them were hard to answer.  A few of the questions I could tell which ones were which houses, but several I could not, but I didn’t let that sway my answers.

This time I was sorted into Gryffindor.  I could not (and can not) believe it!  Gryffindor is not who I am.  Courage.  Everyone has a bit of courage in them but some have this stronger than others.  Some might call my life choices courageous but I don’t largely because I research the hell out of my choices so that I know I’m making the right one for me.  Gryffindors are also more fire, the one element I don’t connect to as much as the rest.  

So what is going on here?

I do believe that over time your identity will change and that houses can change.  Perhaps you might not see that you have changed and resist it.  I think that a number of the ‘Identity Crisis’ that are occurring on the internet right now might be explained by this.  Part of the reason I thought I would get a hat stall initially is because I was very much a Ravenclaw as a child and would have been in that house to start with.  Another part of the issue is that the Sorting quiz initially sorted equalling and is now ‘more accurate’, which is what it is.  Since I took the quiz a lot later than most people I don’t think this would factor into it as much for me as it would others.  Finally, I think that the large number of identity crisis’s are just plain good publicity.  Boring, I know, but true. 

However, I think people should understand, part of the decision of the Sorting Hat is what you want.  Overall, you are who you are.  You are your choices.