Why I read YA

Recently, I was having a chat with some friends from university, and – inevitably, as I am a literature student – the topic of books came up. They asked me what I was reading, and the dialogue went a little like this:

Me: Oh, it’s called ‘The Heart Goes Last’ – it’s a Dystopian.

Friend: *scrunches up face, unimpressed* Dystopian?

Me: I mean…it’s not YA. It’s a Margaret Atwood book.

Friend: Oh, I see. That’s alright then.

Just to clarify, I’m not at all cross about this; it just made me think. Because although I wasn’t reading a Young Adult book at the time, I do read YA – and I read it in copious amounts.

I’ll be the first to admit that there are some very repetitive genre tropes – especially in the Dystopian branch – and yes, sometimes there are aspects in the books that can be a little…well, juvenile. But if you ask me, YA has a lot going for it.

For starters, Young Adult books are making reading cool. People everywhere are going crazy for books like The Hunger Games and Divergent – and so what if they’re a little overrated? People are reading, and I think that’s awesome. Books are powerful, and if it takes a hype-fuelled craze to get people hooked, then so be it. I think reading is so important for every generation, and YA is acting as ‘gateway literature’ for thousands of young people. That’s not why I read it, though.

Another great thing about YA is that it doesn’t tend to take itself too seriously. Novels under this literary umbrella thrive in the fantastical, science-fiction realms, and they aren’t afraid to hurl their readers right into the depths of human imagination. These books are unashamedly adventuring and they are doing it fabulously. (It probably helps that I personally have very little time for scientific explanations – this may not be a good thing for other people.)  Look at Cinder for example: futuristic, sci fi fairy-tale retellings? I am all over that. So yes, I love the sheer creativity and freedom of imagination in YA novels.But again, that’s not my reason for reading them.

There are a lot of other good things about YA novels. They’re accessibly written – none of this elitist literature today, thank you very much.

Does he really think big emotions come from big words?

(Sneaky Hemingway quote.)

But seriously, books are for everyone.

I also love that YA books can be really thoughtful: Dystopians especially get people who might not usually take an interest in politics (okay, me. I’m talking about me) to think more critically about government, and what a healthy political system actually looks like.

Lastly, YA books are inspiring. I’m not talking about great literary achievements or anything like that – although I don’t rule that out. What I mean is, YA literature features over and over again young people stepping out to make a difference, taking action and being important. It highlights youth as game-changers, decision-makers and world-shapers, and I think that’s so so important! It kicks apathy’s butt and shows our young people examples of people they can relate to who are growing in independence and strength, and while they are fallible and don’t always make the right choices, they are absolutely never useless. I think that’s a pretty important message to get out there.

Having said that, that’s not the reason I read YA.

Can I be real with you? When I pick up a Young Adult book, I find it really easy to jump right into the stories. They’re not too fussy or wordy or self-impressed, and they’re fun. I read YA because I like it, and you know what? I don’t really feel like I need to justify that.

 

Thanks for reading and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Things I Learned from Beauty and the Beast

I’m obsessed with the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast! I think it’s such a profound work, and I wanted to share some gems of wisdom:

  • Chat-up lines are like Nutella: they should be used in copious amounts, in all situations, at all times.

Gaston7

Gaston is the perfect mentor in this area; here are a few favourites for you to whack out:

We shall be the perfect pair – rather like my thighs.

You are face to face with destiny.

All’s well that ends with me!

Gaston, you charmer.

  • Eat stuff. It will make you feel better.

Be Our Guest

If you’re stressed, it’s fine dining we suggest.

Thanks, Lumiere.

  • Hunting is in this season. Also next season. Actually, just every season.

Antlers

I use antlers in all of my decorating.

My – what a guy, that Gaston.

  • Do you know what’s cool? Superlatives.

kill the beast

It’s a beast! As tall as a mountain

Accurate communication is alright, but superlatives are better. Use liberally.

  • The majority is always right, especially if you’re French.

mob

Here we come! We’re fifty strong, and fifty Frenchmen can’t be wrong

Ah, classic mob logic.

Disclaimer: I am not serious. I love Beauty and the Beast, and I think it is wonderful. Please never use a Gaston pick-up line, unless you enjoy getting punched in the face.

~Dani

Hello Again!

Hi all – it’s been a (very long) while! If you were wondering what happened to me, basically…exams and Africa.

This summer I’ve had the amazing opportunity to travel a little bit around the continent of Africa with a friend, and it has just been the most wonderful month! We spent three weeks in Uganda and a week in Zambia, and in that time my friend and I have learned a lot more about each other, and made so many new friends from all over the world!

The trip has really taught me a lot about friendship; whether that’s people I’ve known for weeks, months or years – the connections made between people are powerful and beautiful.

I’m quite an awkward person, so I often have difficulty finding the right words to say, or keeping up with quick-fire conversations. What I’ve learned is that ‘the right answer’ or a witty quip isn’t what makes a good friend: it’s the heart behind the words. It’s the joy that people find in each others’ company.

It’s the spaces between the words that builds the friendships: when the jokes are over and the adventure is done, a friend is still there. When they see how messy your life is, they don’t flinch, but take your hand and say, ‘yeah – me too.’

There’s a beautiful Proverb that says:

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Friendship is really powerful! I could never have got through my trip, or my first year at university, if I didn’t have friends. They are my motivation when I am running low, and my laughter when times are good.

I love the picture of life as a racetrack, with us as the racers: we take it hand in hand, running when we are strong, helping each other up when we trip, and leaning on each other when we are drained. We may cross that finishing line bruised and tattered, limping and slow, but we’ll cross it together.

Romantic love gets a lot of good press, and that’s great – but can we just appreciate the power of friendship? One of my favourite examples is from the Bible, and it’s the story of Jonathan and David. Jonathan is the son of a King, and David is a shepherd boy who just got famous by killing a giant (you may remember Goliath?) Basically what happens is, the King becomes jealous of David, and plots to kill him. When Jonathan hears of this, he not only disobeys his father, but puts his life on the line to save his friend. (It’s actually a really good story; if you search for 1 Samuel 20 you can read it properly!)

Friendship is beautiful. I want to walk away from this summer with a deeper appreciation for it, but also a new openness. It doesn’t take a witty, confident, extroverted person to be a friend; it just takes you – as you are. Real friendship is honest and genuine, and beautiful for it.

Thank you so much for reading guys – I hope you’re all well, and I look forward to getting stuck back in to the whole blogging thing!

Have a lovely day.

~Dani

Why ‘The Horse and His Boy’ is my Favourite Book in the Narnia Series

The Horse and His Boy

This is often a controversial opinion – I’ve heard people say it’s the worst, that it’s pointless and irrelevant, and that it doesn’t really belong in the series. I disagree! Today I’m going to be outlining a few reasons why I personally think this book the best in the series.

  • It’s not set in Narnia. Okay, I realise this doesn’t make a lot of sense, but hear me out! I loved learning more about the wider world, and especially Archenland. I also loved seeing Narnia through fresh eyes – it makes such a difference to come from somewhere like Tashban, and see the contrast in all its glory.
  • The protagonists are freaking amazing. The recklessly selfless fisherman’s ‘son’ and fiercely loyal Tarkhina are an absolute joy to read about, and I loved getting to know some characters that weren’t English or Narnian. I also love the horses! I think this is a really important book to drive home the fact that in Narnia, talking animals are really equals.
  • It’s full of references to the other books. It’s so much fun! We get to spot plot points from ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’, and – more excitingly – see them through the eyes of non-locals. I also loved getting to see Mr Tumnus again! It makes my heart happy that they all kept in touch.
  • It’s set during the Golden Age. We get to see a comfortable (and rather plump) Narnia in peace time, but more importantly, we get to see the Pevensie siblings in action as royalty. I love learning a little bit more about their time on the throne(s), and also seeing how they grew up.
  • We get to see LOADS of Aslan. I love Aslan, and his appearances in the book, in my opinion, are the most powerful. I love the breadth in his character that we’re shown here: he’s the secret guard of a tiny baby, the patient cat that comforts a terrified boy, the fierce protector, and the bringer of justice.

That’s all from me – now over to you! Which is your favourite book in the Chronicles of Narnia, and why?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

2014 Reading Wrap-up

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone! I’m so excited about this post: my first ever YEAR-long reading wrap up!

For 2014, I set myself the challenge of reading 100 books, and (drumroll, please) I got through 117! (Hurray, party poppers…and moving swiftly on.)

According to Goodreads, that’s 31,645 pages!

I’ve worked out a few more little chart-y things about this year’s reading, too:

Authors

Gender Pie 2014

Nationality Pie 2014

Genres

Genre Pie 2014

Next year, my plan is to read a little more variety – looking back over my reading list, there’s a huge amount written by American men. I need more angles!

How many books did you get through this year? Do you have any reading resolutions for next year?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Genre Discrimination

“What’s your favourite book?”

Does anyone else get asked that on a regular basis? It is a bit like asking a mother to choose her favourite child, but I guess the question is reasonable. I’m a literature student, so I can understand that ‘books’ is the obvious direction for people to take the conversation, and trust me – I’m not complaining.

What gets me is the part when I answer “The Chronicles of Narnia”, and they respond with: “Oh, so you read fantasy then. I didn’t have you pegged as that kind of reader.”

Excuse me? Firstly, I have actually read very little fantasy. And secondly – what’s wrong with fantasy?

Don’t tell me it’s too trashy or too crazy or too long, because I have read some of your contemporaries and romances and historical novels and I can tell you that those traits are not limited to fantasy. There’s good and bad in every genre, so if we could keep the discriminatory comments to the minimum, that would be great. Just because I read J.R.R. Tolkein doesn’t mean I parade around town dressed as an elf, shooting arrows into the horizon and swinging from lampposts (although if you do that’s ok. You do you, just don’t hurt yourself.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is: don’t put me in a box. Don’t put books in boxes – they belong in straight-edged, open-sided quadrilateral…

Wait.

The Gospel Choir

I’m part of a gospel choir at my university. It was kind of an ‘on-a-whim’ decision to join, and for the first few rehearsals I felt a bit lost. The choir learns songs completely by ear; making up harmonies as they go. Our choir director leads of course, and she verifies all of our lines, separating us into the conventional Tenor Alto Soprano sections. I’d never done anything like it before, and it worried me a bit that we were picking any old key and rolling with it.

I got to know all of the first year members especially, because I think they felt about as sure as I did.

On Thursday, we did our first performance. We all turned up wearing whatever black clothes we could root out from our limited ‘Away-from-Home’ wardrobes, and ran through our set with the equally improvised band. And – maybe for the first time – we sounded good. We sounded like a team, like we had one purpose and that maybe this gospel and this God we were singing about really meant something and was worth all our effort. It’s a powerful feeling to get up on stage, squint out into the lights and sing like you mean it – because you mean it – but even more so when you get up and do it with your friends.

Our performance was part of a longer service; a missionary working with a charity called OMF in Japan was visiting. His particular way of reaching out to people was through dance – more specifically, break dancing. At the end of his talk, he had the entire congregation on their feet and trying – with varying to degrees of success – to ‘break it down’.

I found myself next to an enthusiastic elderly man, who I could hear rasping throughout. “One two three, up, punch, jump and – oh sorry!” Don’t worry – he only hit me once.

I normally wouldn’t go in for these public dancing shenanigans, but I was with my choir and we were still buzzing from our songs, and everything was okay. Nothing was too scary or too silly because we were a team and we’d just shared one of the best experiences I can think of together.

I guess what I’m trying to say is simply this: I love my choir.

~Dani

Happy Birthday to My Sister!

October 23

It’s my little sister’s birthday today! I promised to mention her in a post today, because she apparently reads the blog. In your honour, my dear, we’re going to talk about October 23rd through history.

  • October 23rd is the 296th day of the year, which means there are only 69 days left of 2014!
  • On this day in 1707 the first parliament of Great Britain met.
  • Today is also Ryan Reynolds’ (Green Lantern, The Croods, The Proposal) birthday!

Ryan Reynolds

 

  • Today is an unofficial holiday called ‘Mole Day’ among chemistry enthusiasts. If that’s actually interesting to you, the Wikipedia page explains a bit more.
  • In Hungary, 23rd October is their National Day. They’re celebrating with speeches and exhibitions.
  • On this day in 2001, Apple introduced the iPod.
  • According to the calculations of Archbishop John Ussher, the creation of the world began on October 23 4004 BC. Who knew?
  • On this day in 1814, the first plastic surgery was performed right here in England.
  • On this day in 1941, Disney’s Dumbo was realeased!

Dumbo

 

  • Les Miserables (the musical) opened in Paris on this day in 1991.
  • You also have the same birthday as Fatmir Sejdiu. He was the president of Kosovo.
  • Michael Crichton shares your birthday, too! He wrote Jurassic Park.

T Rex, Jurassic Park

 

Happy birthday!

And for those of you reading who have your birthdays on other days, what famous events coincide with yours?

Thanks for reading and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Blog Email

I have a blog email!

This means that if you want to contact me about reviews, make a comment or complaint, there is a way to contact me outside of this blog! It’s not a personal email, and is really just for blog purposes.

Because I’m making the address public, I’m going to be really careful about the sort of things I do actually open; if you want to make sure your message gets seen, please remember to put something (anything!) in the Subject Line.

The email address is: onlybooksandhorses@hotmail.com

Sorry about the short post – I just wanted to highlight this!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

What is Literature?

So as some of you may know, I’ve recently started university! I’m studying literature (although I’ve only had one lecture so far!) and it’s really been making me think about what literature means to me. How can we define something so abstract? I wanted to share what I came up with, but I also wanted to pose the question to you: What does literature mean to you?

 

Literature is not so much the end product as the process. It’s not the publication or the type-set, it’s not the pretty cover art, and it’s not the fame or critical acclaim. Literature is words.

Literature is an art; it’s the art of expression, of education. It is entertainment and comfort, and it is discomfort and challenging. It is the gift of escape and the bestowing of empathy. It is a broadening and deepening of perception, and the addition of dimension.

Literature is sharing. It is a relationship between the word and reader that inevitably ends in change.

It is a question and an answer; a journey and a destination.

It is a cry to be heard and the promise that we will be.

Literature is revolutionary; a time bomb and a warning and a blessing. It is the wisdom and folly of times past and the prophecy of more. Literature is human and raw and honest.

It is marks on page, but they are marks that come from the soul.

What is literature? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani