Book Tag: The Romance Tropes Tag (Original)

Time for another book tag! Some of you might remember that back in 2018 I completed the fantasy tropes book tag. Fantasy is easily one of my favourite genres so answering prompts based around my favourite (and not so favourite) tropes was a lot of fun. Another one of my go-to genres is romance so recently I wondered whether someone had created a similar style tag. While there were a couple of romance related book tags, I couldn’t seem to find any dealing specifically with tropes. And so, I decided why not make one myself? Thus, ‘The Romance Tropes Tag’ was born!

Note:

  • If you’d like to do the tag, feel free! Just make sure to link back to this post so I can see all of your wonderful answers.
  • You are welcome to use my graphics or create your own.
  • Although this is based around romance tropes, your answers don’t have to be romance books. Whatever fits the prompt!

RED, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston

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If there’s a limit to how many times I can say I love this book on my blog, please do let me know because I’ve probably long exceeded it already. After reading the first couple of pages of RW&RB I just knew I was going to love it. As it turned out, I was right and it ended up being my second favourite read of 2019. The book deals with the relationship between an alt-version of the prince of Great Britain and first son of the USA. It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s sexy, just magical really. RW&RB is over 400 pages long which is chunkier than your average romance read but I was so invested and having such a good time that the pages just flew by. Queer romance gold.

Alina & The Darkling (The Grisha Trilogy – Leigh Bardugo)

I know, okay. I really do. This pairing is a complete toxic mess. The logical part of my brain recognises this fact. I never expected them to actually be end game while I was reading the books but *sigh*, the heart wants what it wants. Maybe it’s the whole light-dark symmetry, or that Mal bores me, or the fact that every conversation between Alina and the Darkling is just plain electric. Nah, in reality it’s probably more than likely because I love the drama that comes with the hero and villain being in love with each other but the plot persisting in pitting them against one another. Why, hello there angst.

Chain of Gold – Cassandra Clare

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Every time a new Cassie Clare book comes out, FOMO rears its ugly head. While I read The Infernal Devices back in the day, I haven’t read the last Mortal Instruments book. When The Dark Artifices were releasing I was still determined to catch up but since then I’ve decided not to read any more Shadowhunter books because I just don’t enjoy them like I used to. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel seriously left out and pressured to change my mind with every new release. They’re ridiculously popular so they’re always all over the internet. When Chain of Gold came out last year I was so tempted. The cover was everywhere and the amount of fanart is crazy. I haven’t cracked yet but when the posters for Chain of Iron went up last month, trust me, the struggle was real.

Layla – Colleen Hoover

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This book was not what I was expecting at all. Although, it’s likely my fault in this instance. Clearly I need to read the genre tags on Goodreads more because I somehow completely missed that this was a paranormal romance. The blurb does not suggest this in the slightest (or am I simply thick? Read it and let me know). There I was, thinking it was going to be a whole ‘other woman’ scenario (which I guess it sort of was but with a very different approach). So, you can imagine my shock when a ghost showed up a few chapters in. I wasn’t super keen on it for the most part but the twists towards the end certainly picked things up and tied them together somewhat.

Lord of the Flies – William Golding

Their Inner Beasts: 'Lord of the Flies' Six Decades Later - The New York  Times

I first read Lord of the Flies when I was in high school and hated it with a fiery passion. However, I ended up having to read it again a few years later during my university ‘Law & Literature’ elective and found that I enjoyed and appreciated it more the second time through. Published in the 1950s, the book follows a group of schoolboys who get stuck on a deserted island and try (and fail) to create their own version of an organised and lawful society. Sure, the characters were still stupid and nuts, but on reread I was better able to understand what Golding was attempting to say and demonstrate about society and humanity. From 1 to 3 stars. Not bad.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne

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I don’t normally read lots of historical or literary fiction but I was determined to give this book a read. I’m glad I did because it was great and very different from much of what I’ve read in the past. The story centers around the life of a gay man named Cyril living in Ireland before homosexuality was legalised. I’m not sure how he does it but Boyne magically straddles the line between humour and tragedy throughout the book, jumping back and forth without ever giving you emotional whiplash. It’s a quirky, somewhat absurd read at times but super charming and immersive and I’m really looking forward to reading other books from Boyne’s backlist.

Kingdom of the Wicked – Kerri Maniscalco

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Originally I wasn’t going to read KotW because I’m not a huge fan of Stalking Jack the Ripper, but there were just too many things associated with it that I love – witchcraft, murder mysteries, demons, paranormal romance…so I gave in. It’s about a witch and a demon prince in 19th century Sicily teaming up to solve the murder of the witch’s twin sister. I was very unsure early on (I think it’s the writing, lots of tell rather than show) and the story took a good while to grow on me. However, by the second half I was having a much more enjoyable time – the plot had come together better and the dynamic between the two leads was working well. I was actually sorry to see it end so I’ll likely read the sequel later this year.

The Nevernight Chronicle – Jay Kristoff & Shades of Magic Series – V E Schwab

Why did I set myself such a challenging prompt? Crazy. Now I’m imagining all my beautiful books going up in smoke *hyperventilates*. I have quite a few favourite series so I’m approaching this prompt as: which two series would I hate to have to replace? With that line of thinking, and excluding Harry Potter to avoid sounding like a broken record, I’m going with The Nevernight Chronicle by Jay Kristoff and the Shades of Magic Series by V E Schwab. While I certainly adore both of these series for their great characters, amazing fantasy world building, and exciting story arcs, it more comes down to the fact that my copies are all signed (some personally addressed) by the authors so I would be heartbroken to lose either of them. Even if I were to buy them again, they wouldn’t be the same. I guess I’m going up in smoke with them then.

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Before you start throwing things at me, I liked The Hating Game (I gave it 3.5 stars after all), but I didn’t LOVE The Hating Game. Considering how hyped this book was I was expecting something more. The banter was a lot of fun and the chemistry between Lucy and Josh was great, I even laughed a few times while reading. However, I really wish the whole enemies part of the enemies to lovers transition had lasted longer than it did and that Sally Thorne hadn’t felt the need to repeat certain descriptors over and over again. Josh’s frequent alpha-male asshole-ness also put me off at multiple points.

I’m going to do 2 answers for this prompt – one for fantasy and another for contemporary. These were both books that I came across during mid-high school and really started my love of the genre.

Fantasy: Twilight – Stephenie Meyer

Twilight (Twilight, #1) by Stephenie Meyer

I assume this would be a lot of people’s answer to this question. No avoiding it because it’s true. I have a little soft, squishy spot in my heart for The Twilight Saga. Probably always will. While it certainly has its many flaws, at the age of fifteen I was pretty obsessed with Bella, Edward and Jacob, and their supernatural love triangle woes. This book hurtled me into the depths of the paranormal romance genre, something I still guilty pleasure enjoy today, many years later. Would probably still reread at some point in the future, not gonna lie.


Contemporary: The Secret Dream World of a Shopaholic – Sophie Kinsella

The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic/Confessions of a Shopaholic | Sophie  Kinsella

This book was a gift from my mum and I actually DNF-ed it the first time I read it. I still have no idea why but in my defense, this was a really long time ago. I gave it a second try on a trip to visit my grandparents and ended up racing through it. Having read many more contemporary romances now, were I to re-read it today it probably wouldn’t be as enjoyable as it used to be but at the time I remember it being a lot of fun – Becky and her crazy shopping/debt antics. In the years after I read a whole bunch of Kinsella’s other romcoms (including several in this series) and it’s probably where my love of these types of novels started.

Jude and Cardan (The Folk of the Air Series – Holly Black)

Once again, I’m mentioning my messy and stabby faerie x human power couple, Jurdan. Eventually you all will get sick of me mentioning them over and over (then again, maybe you already are), but for now we’re going to talk about them for the millionth time. These two are somewhat of a toxic clusterf*** at times. However, they just get each other so much better than anybody else does and they feel perfectly matched. Plus the conflict and sexual tension is simply *chef’s kiss*. I love it when they’re sniping at each other, stabbing one another in the back, working together, or being adorably sweet and vulnerable.

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My two favourite romance tropes are enemies to lovers and fake dating. They’re massively overdone but I can’t get enough, especially when they’re in the same book. A book I enjoyed that featured both was The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren. It’s about Olive and Ethan who hate each other but whose siblings are getting married. After the bride and groom wind up with food poisoning, our leads decide to make use of their all expenses paid honeymoon to Hawaii. However, certain circumstances result in them having to pretend to be newlyweds. It’s a lot of fun and I love a good CLo read, especially one with good verbal sparring.


I hope you all enjoyed trope-ing it up romance style with me and fingers crossed I managed to tick off most of your favourite tropes from the genre. I’m not usually one to tag other bloggers in these types of posts but I’d be absolutely thrilled if you gave the tag a go. If you’d like to, the prompts are listed below for easy copying and pasting. Until next time!

Prompts:

  • Love at First Sight: A Book You Fell in Love with Almost Immediately
  • Forbidden Love: A Romantic Pairing You Probably Shouldn’t Love but Do
  • Stuck Together/Forced Proximity: A Book You Felt Pressured to Read (By a Friend, Bookstagram, Bloggers, etc.)
  • Mistaken Identity: A Book that Wasn’t What You Were Expecting
  • Second Chance Romance: A Book or Series You Enjoyed More the Second Time Around
  • Opposites Attract: A Book You Love from a Genre You Don’t Usually Read
  • Enemies to Lovers: A Book Whose Second Half is Better than its First OR A Series that Gets Better Over Time
  • Love Triangle: Your House is on Fire & You Can Only Save One Series! Which Two Series Do You Die Trying to Choose Between?
  • Friends to Lovers: A Book You Wanted More From
  • Meet Cute: A Book that Got You Hooked on Romance
  • Soulmates: Two Characters Who Are Made for Each Other
  • Bonus: Your Favourite Romance Trope/s & A Book that Features It

Threaten, Flirt and Repeat: A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire by Jennifer L. Armentrout

To those who said this book was better than the first, you lied. I feel betrayed. Prepare yourselves for an unpopular opinion. A VERY unpopular opinion,

Plot, Wherefore Art Thou?

I have no idea how to talk about the plot of AKoFaF. If I had to sit down and write a summary, I wouldn’t know where to start because, aside from an early kidnapping attempt and a mild skirmish while travelling, almost NOTHING happens for most of the book. While From Blood and Ash had a few action-filled and dramatic events to keep things engaging, this book mostly feels like a million pages of Poppy talking (and “not talking”) to Casteel and side characters. When that’s not happening, it’s pages of inner monologuing about the same tedious things until you want to stab someone. Things start to pick up around 75%, or maybe a bit more, but by the time I was finally interested in what was happening, the book was over.

Keep the Tropes Rolling

I mentioned in my review of FBaA that it was a trope-filled bonanza. Well, it keeps on going in AKoFaF. Clearly JLA couldn’t handle missing a couple in book one. As a result, we get the soulmates, here comes the cavalry, and fake dating tropes. Now, I normally love fake dating but its use here was not only annoying but unnecessary. As we all know, the point of this trope is that by two characters pretending to love one another they actually do fall for each other. My issue is that Casteel and Poppy already love each other. That’s what the first book was for! So this whole ‘fake it til you make it’ layer to their relationship only serves to add frustrating, silly drama and makes Poppy spend ages questioning everything Cas does or says.

More Romance, Less Fantasy

While FBaA felt mostly balanced between romance and fantasy, AKoBaB is more the former. If you were disappointed by the number of steamy scenes in book one, there are certainly more here. A couple feel same-same in the middle, but overall they range from very decent to hot. The whole vampire aspect of the romance is played up more this time, too, which I was super happy about (just give the people want they want, alright?). Yet, I did find that the other interactions between Poppy and Cas got tedious as the book went on, mostly because their exchanges are so damn repetitive, even more so than in book one. Half the time it feels like JLA has hit copy & paste and changed one or two words of dialogue in the hopes we won’t notice.

Cliffhanger Ending

By about 65% of the way through this book, I just wanted it to be over. I was also almost positive that I wouldn’t bother to read book 3. And then…the last couple of chapters came. *sigh*. Damn you, JLA. Why couldn’t the rest of the book be as interesting as the last 20%? WHY? The reveal at the end is predictable as all hell and still, I was like YES, PLOT DRAMA. GIVE IT TO ME. Unfortunately, now my brain keeps thinking it wants to read the next book. Good, God.

Pluck Poppy

Poppy tested my patience in this book. She really did. Her personality can now be narrowed down to just two things – is violent and asks a lot of questions. I also find it ridiculously frustrating that, despite her empathic abilities, she’s a blockhead when it comes to understanding other people’s motivations and feelings. The cherry on top: her repetitive, constant and lengthy internal ramblings which made me want to scream by the end. Just figure your shit out already, girl.

Something I actually liked was that one of the plot points in this book deals with Poppy’s powers beginning to evolve. The reasoning is vague but we’ll allow it. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll be able to guess where that leads us by the end. This plotline really doubles down on the super special protagonist trope but because it feels like the natural progression for Poppy’s story to take (especially since people treat her like a super special snowflake anyway) I’m cool with it.

Other Random Thoughts:

  • Kieran is easily my favourite character. What a bro. His relationship with Poppy is cute, too.
  • I can’t help finding it really weird that Poppy feels people’s emotions as flavours. Like, why?
  • Why is it that people like Poppy or will like Poppy just because she’s stabbed Casteel? Um, how much do you people hate Cas? Poor guy.
  • “Heartmates”. Ugh. Had I been drinking something, I would have spat it all over my kindle.
  • Poppy and Cas getting it on in the back of a carriage right in the middle of a battle was a bit of a WTF moment. Like guys, to quote Kourtney Kardashian: “Kim, there’s people that are dying.”

A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire is longer than it should be, mostly filler, and loses some of the funner elements I liked about the first book. After everything I’ve just said, I wish I could say I won’t be continuing with the series but that would probably be a lie because, clearly, I hate myself.

1.5 stars

Vampire Romance Makes a Comeback: From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

I may not be twelve anymore (thank god), but for some reason my ears still prick up at the mention of ‘vampire romance’. I can’t help it. It’s like my brain’s been programmed against my will. So, you’ll understand why this + ‘most hyped romance of 2020’ lead to me giving into FOMO and reading From Blood and Ash.

Who, What, Where?

Our protagonist is Poppy, ‘The Maiden’ and chosen of the Gods. Poppy lives her life with strict restrictions on how she dresses and behaves as she waits for the day of her Ascension – a mysterious ritual that will supposedly secure the future of the Kingdom. However, Poppy longs to experience life outside her limited bubble and is drawn to activities and interests that risk her being found unworthy. After a kidnapping attempt, she’s assigned a new guard, the attractive and alluring Hawke who’s like no one she’s ever met before and makes her rethink her destiny. But when things inside the castle turn deadly and a fallen kingdom rises, determined to retake what was lost at any cost, Poppy begins to question whether everything in her world is what it seems.

You get a Trope! And YOU Get a Trope!

If you’re looking for something original, keep walking. However, if you’re a reader who eats tropes for breakfast, step this way. I knew going into this it’d be trope heavy, just not this heavy. Honestly, I wish I’d had a bingo card. Let’s start a list, shall we? Hidden/growing powers, dead parents, “The Dark One”, the servant confidant, ‘Not Like Other Girls’, the chosen one, a secret identity, forbidden romance, the virginal MC and experienced love interest…there’s more, but I’ll stop here.

Don’t Need a Crystal Ball to Predict This One

Tying in with what I said about the book’s reliance on tropes, From Blood and Ash is very predictable. Even going into this 100% blind, I guarantee you’ll work out all the major plot reveals from a mile away. Unfortunately, you then have to sit through the rest of the book questioning why characters (*cough* Poppy *cough*) are so freakin’ stupid that they can’t work it out themselves.

The Maiden & The Guard

In terms of our leads, Poppy is, for lack of a better word, okay. I love the fact that she knows how to kick ass and I do sympathise with her difficulties, but she also feels annoyingly young at times and extremely dense when it comes to seeing things right in front of her face. Hawke feels like many of the fantasy love interests I’ve seen before (especially if you’re a SJM fan). He’s generally likeable, has some depth, but he’s nothing new.

For the most part, I enjoy Poppy and Hawke’s relationship. It’s banter-y, fun, sexy and I love the scenes where they physically face off. Yet, there are a couple of things that bother me. First, Hawke does verge into toxic ‘alpha male’ territory at times and second, there are a few moments where their interactions verge on forced. For example, Poppy says something, and Hawke just has to give an arrogant/teasing/sexy reply even though it doesn’t really suit. They also weirdly have a couple of the same exchanges repeatedly (‘You’re so violent, it turns me on’, ‘There’s something seriously wrong with you’, ‘You love it’). I know they’re supposed to be in jokes but it’s a lot.

Steam Up Those Windows

No complaints here. If you’re in this book for some solid smuttiness just know that you’ll have to wait a long time to get there but it’s worth it. Also, bonus points for actually mentioning contraception. Woo!

Questionable World Building

Ah, world building. I wish I could say this book doesn’t fall into the trap of dumping boring bits of information on you in heaps right from the beginning, but I can’t, and it does. There’s even a chapter in which Poppy reads passages from a history textbook *face palm*. Even with these infodumps, I was mighty confused for a while. It’s probably all the terms – Rise, Rite, Ascension, Atlantians, Descenters, Ascended, Wolven…lord, help me.

This aside, there are elements that I liked. I just wish they’d been handled better than coming together at the end. I enjoyed the idea of the three different types of “vampires” and the distinctions between them – bloodthirsty traditional vampires, not-so traditional vampires, and the vicious, zombie-like Craven. I also enjoyed the reveal of the history between the Atlantians & the Ascended, although it does paint a very basic good vs evil scenario.

Pacing

The pacing in this book is messy at points. While the opening scenes which take place at a gambling den/brothel are engaging, following this, things get slow and take some time to pick up again. After this point though, I found the story pretty addictive and raced through to the end. The latter chapters, however, is where things get out of sorts again, slowing down and speeding up in a weird mish-mash of events that left me feeling serious whiplash and confusion.

Writing Issues

There were a couple of things that bugged me about the writing as I was reading:

  • Ellipses. I’m probably a hypocrite saying this, but boy were they overused in this book.
  • JLA has a weird habit of repeating the exact same information about something in dialogue and Poppy’s thoughts, almost word for word, very close together. It’s bizarre and unnecessary.
  • For a high fantasy book, the language used by the characters is extremely modern. It does make the book more digestible, but the idea of characters using words like ‘totally’ and ‘whatever’ in this context is disorienting.
  • Two words, ‘female’ and ‘male’. Just no. JLA you’re banned from reading Ms Maas.

Now, the two big questions, do I think this book deserves the hype and best romance of 2020? No x 2. Still, despite my massive amounts of complaining, I didn’t mind From Blood and Ash. It’s not amazing or revolutionary but it’s addictive, fun and a good way to shut your brain off. With this in mind, I’ll be reading the sequel.

2.5 Stars

Let’s Talk: The Sins of Love Triangles

I’m going to suggest something controversial, so bear with me.

Love triangles aren’t as bad as we think they are.

Yep, that’s right. You heard me.

I can hear the collective gasp from here. But Ashley, you cry, love triangles are terrible! How can you say such a thing?!

Alright, put down those tomatoes you’re planning on throwing my way and hear me out.

Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that LTs are an extremely overused trope, especially in the fiction I tend to read, but as we all know, there are some tropes out there that are extremely enjoyable in their trope-ishness. So why’s this one so bad? Let me just throw something out there:

It’s because they’re not well written.

Uh, huh. I said it. A LOT of authors do not know how to write a good love triangle. Let me tell you why.

A Clear Winner

Plot complications are meant to create drama. They’re supposed to be an emotional roller-coaster. But you know what ruins the fun? Knowing exactly how the damn thing is going to pan out.

One of the main sins of many LTs is a glaringly obvious outcome. Most of the time the author already knows exactly which character is going to win their fair maiden or…er, fair dude’s heart and they’re so damn happy about shipping them that they do an absolutely terrible job of hiding it in their writing. Take Vampire Academy for example. Were Dimitri and Adrian both great characters? You bet, but was there ever a chance in hell Rose was going to end up with our favourite mopey, alcoholic moroi? Not one.

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Even worse, once you know result, every bit of information or scene introduced to try and make it seem like the other side may have a chance (you aren’t fooling me red herrings!) feels like a waste of time and just ends up being extremely frustrating.

Sucky or Underdeveloped Suitors/Suitresses

In a well done triangle, readers should be able to root for both sides of the equation (how do you think Twilight got to where it was?). Going even further, they should be able to understand why the MC might end up with the either one of their potential partners even though it may not necessarily be the reader’s choice. One of the best examples of this is probably found in Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices Series. While I may have been drawing hearts with Will and Tessa’s names in them I also adored Jem. Why? Because both suitors were well written and likeable characters, given an even amount of page time, and had vastly different dynamics with Tessa. This meant that Jem as a final decision would have been fine as it made just as much sense as Will did.

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In order for a triangle to work, all characters need to be given a little love by an author – they need their own stories and captivating personalities (I’m looking at you Mal from The Grisha Trilogy *glares* ). It sounds simple but so many authors fail to meet this, with members of their triangles ending up either two dimensional or just complete assholes.

Too Much Angst

It’s time for the worst reason of all. Angst. WHY IS THERE ALWAYS SO MUCH ANGST?? With a situation like a love triangle, of course there’s going to be some emotional turmoil. What would be the point of the plotline without it?

I mean, just sayin’, if there were two amazingly gorgeous men with six packs and killer smiles fighting over me, I’d have an intense internal dilemma too (if only, am I right?) and the same goes for if the person I liked was torn between me and someone else. The problem is, authors have a tendency to flog this emotional horse so hard that it’s died, zombified and then died all over again.

A little bit of pain and suffering among the characters is expected but so much moaning, back and forth, and whinging that I actually want to stab someone is NOT OKAY.

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Writers tend to have this problem when they don’t resolve their triangle quickly enough or they fail to give the plotline an intermission (e.g. the MC dates one suitor exclusively for a while, one suitor exits for a book, etc.).

So let’s be clear – we want some angst okay, just don’t make us take a bath in it.

They Render the MC an Annoying, Senseless Idiot

Most of the LTs you find feature a female character at their centre. Yet, for some reason these storylines have a habit of turning once smart, witty and generally wonderful women into complete morons. Suddenly all they can do is think about their love interests, fall into pits of tear filled despair, and make some really awful life choices. It’s like, girl, get your ass into gear and worry about saving the world! BOYS CAN WAIT.

Then, even worse, there’s the MCs that become almost insufferable in the face of love triangle-dom. Case in point, America Singer from Kiera Cass’s The Selection series. Now there was a girl I wanted to hit with something heavy. Like a dictionary. Or a bus. JUST BLOODY PICK MAXON ALREADY, WE KNOW YOU WANT TO.

If a book has to damage the quality of its MC to make its LT work, it’s doing something wrong.

Let’s Stack Tropes

A LT is a well-used trope on its own. What potentially sends it heading for an iceberg is when authors layer tropes on tropes. It’s like playing a game of Jenga, you’re just waiting for that sucker to fall. One of the most common and annoying ones is the BFF vs New Shiny Object trope. How many times have you read a LT in which one of the suitors is a long-time friend of the MC who’s only just decided to make a move and the other is an intriguing newcomer to their life?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I have faith in the idea that, one day, I will eventually find some other non-cringe worthy love triangle plotlines. ONE DAY. And sure, it’s always easier to criticise than to do but eh, that’s bookish discussions for you.

Its Not Really A Love Triangle At All Its More Of A Mess GIFs - Get the  best GIF on GIPHY


Let’s Talk: Are you guys avid haters of the LT trope? What LTs out there have you found that defy the odds? What are some of the worst ones you’ve seen?

The Fantasy Tropes Book Tag

I’m about to reveal something that will not shock you in the slightest: Fantasy is my favourite genre. And…that was the sound of no-one’s jaw’s dropping. When I came across this tag on Holly’s blog, Nut Free Nerd, I knew I just had to do it because not only am I a fantasy fan, I’ll admit that I’m also kind of susceptible to a lot of common fantasy tropes. I know that it’s wrong, okay! It just feels so right! Special thanks to One’s Particular for creating this awesome tag.


The Lost Princess

A Book/Series you Lost Interest in Halfway Through

Air Awakens by Elise Kova – I read the first three books in this series and it started so promisingly!  I really, really enjoyed book one but all you have to do is look at my Goodreads ratings to watch them drop from a 4 to 3 and then finally 2 before I just stopped reading the series.


The Knight in Shining Armour

A Hyped Book/Series you were Swept up by

covers RR

The Red Rising Series. It had to be. I’d wanted to read RR for about a year before finally starting it the other week. I had a bit of a rocky start with book one now I’m just captivated. I finished book two earlier this week and believe me, I’ll be buying book three as soon as I’m next at the bookshop. The action, politics, romance, twists, characters, ah! It just has everything and more.


The  Wise Old Wizard

 An Author who Amazes you with his/her Writing

I’m not sure whether this means I-love-this-author’s-books or whether it’s about amazement at the actual writing style. So here’s both.

Option 1: Victoria Schwab –  because I love everything I’ve read of hers. Her world building, characters, dialogue and plots are wonderfully done every single time.

Option 2:

Andre Aciman: I just finished Call Me by Your Name and it’s not even close to my usual book type but there are just some points I reached in the story where I couldn’t help but pause and go, wow, now that line is truly beautiful and gut wrenchingly real. It’s like poetry.

Laini Taylor: The writing in Strange the Dreamer, guys. It’s so magical and lovely – definitely befitting a title with the word ‘dreamer’ in it.


The Maiden in Distress

An Undervalued Character you Wished had a Bigger Story Line

HP

Marauders. As simple as that. We all know how it ends but I would love to read about the journey – schooling, creating the map, learning to become animagi, the war. I’d be so down for that.

**You guys should check out Viria13‘s other awesome fan art on DeviantArt


The Magic Sword

A Magical Item/Ability you Wish Authors Used Less

Okay, I’m going to call this magic because it always seems to turn out correct – tarot card readings. I’ve noticed them cropping up in so many books now. The hero/heroine gets a reading from a mystic who somehow predicts the suffering, betrayal and romance to come. I wouldn’t say I’m sick of it, it’s just something I’ve started to notice authors using a lot.


The Mindless Villain

A Phrase you Cannot Help but Roll your Eyes at

A) “You’re special/different,” – Aren’t they always? Damn, chosen ones.

AND

B) “I never should have trusted you.” Well, duh.


The Untamed Dragon

A Magical Creature you Wish you had as a Pet

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I would love to have a dragon but I feel like they’re so majestic and intelligent that calling it a pet would be pretty awful, more like a companion. So instead…Would someone just get me a niffler already? I mean, sure it’ll steal all my valuables but they’re so bloody cute, it’s worth it. They’re basically magical platypuses.


The Chosen One

A Book/Series you Will Always Root for

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I’m always using Harry Potter so I should probably spread the praise round a little. I’m going to go with Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead for this one. I fell in love with the series during high school and I’ve read it so many times since – still just as amazing as the first time. They’re full of action, magic, romance, humour, friendship, and are just generally great reads. *Waves pom poms and cheers*

If you love fantasy, TAG! You’re it. 

Let’s Talk: The Five-Star Novel Checklist

Recently I’ve been feeling the strong urge to try and resurrect my efforts to write a novel. I’ve had the same idea for years and years now, always remaining in the planning stage, but I constantly lose motivation after coming up against wall after wall after wall of PLOT HOLES. Regardless, I’ve been thinking hard about what it is that my favourite reads seem to include or do right and these are just a couple of things I’ve noticed:

Image result for check boxLayered & Complex Characters

This applies to both heroes and villains alike. I don’t want to read about completely pure of heart main characters from which the sun shines out of every orifice, without weaknesses, demons or quirks. It’s flipping BORING. I want to see people push through vulnerabilities, fail on occasion, and sometimes make the wrong choices. They’re a work in progress, constantly being shaped by the events of the story and the characters around them. This is why anti-heroes are so popular these days. Everyone enjoys a little unpredictability in their protagonists and there’s nothing better than watching someone grow as a person during the course of a novel.

The same goes for the antagonist of the story. Even though I don’t necessarily agree with what that group or individual is doing, I want to be able to understand it – to sympathise. Depth is important. If they’re an awful person, how did they come to be that way? What are the stakes for them? I mean, it’s not like they popped out the womb that way. Crazy men who just want to watch the world burn only work in certain circumstances. Okay, just one – this guy:

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That’s about it.  Everyone else better have some realistic motivations.  There is absolutely no logic to having a villain who wants to end the world just cause.

Image result for check boxHumour

I tend to read a lot of fantasy novels in which the characters are forced to come up against some pretty dramatic and trying circumstances. So, things can get pretty dour without the occasional burst of humour. I’m a massive fan of the occasional witty throw-away line of dialogue, burning comebacks and sarcastic retorts, or recurring inside jokes. What would Cassandra Clare’s shadow hunter stories be without their amusing exchanges between the characters. For example:

“Do you remember back at the hotel when you promised that if we lived, you’d get dressed up in a nurse’s outfit and give me a sponge bath?” asked Jace.

“It was Simon who promised you the sponge bath.”

“As soon as I’m back on my feet, handsome,” said Simon.

“I knew we should have left you a rat.”

_______________

“We came to see Jace. Is he alright?”
“I don’t know,” Magnus said. “Does he normally just lie on the floor like that without moving?”

Image result for check boxPlot Twists & Unpredictable Events

Without sounding like an arrogant ass, I’m someone who is usually quite good at predicting how stories will turn out. Usually this is because there are certain lines that most authors refuse to cross e.g. they won’t kill off main characters, they want their key characters to be at the centre of their plot twists, so on and so forth. There’s nothing I love more than reaching a moment in a book that I did not see coming and which sends my mind reeling.

Game of Thrones, in its early books, is a great example in that George RR Martin was willing to brutally murder off many of the characters his readers thought were here for the long haul (we know much better now, of course).

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The first instalment in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series is another book that managed to get me, while the twist three-quarters in Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae also hit me real hard *shakes fist at sky*.

I will say though that even if I’m able to predict a plot twist, I’m perfectly okay with it as long as it makes sense and it’s entertaining. The last thing I want is to accidently roll my eyes out of my head at the complete cliché-ness of it all.

Image result for check boxA Gradually Developed Romantic Relationship

As much as I’d love to be able to say: who needs romance, I can’t because the majority (not ALL, but the majority) of my favourite books involve a romantic relationship in some form or another. I really enjoy having some variation in the dynamics between characters. I want something to root for, to ship! However, when I say romance, I do not mean insta-love. One of the things that annoys me the most about romantic relationships in books is how often authors fail to properly develop it before the characters are dropping the ‘L’ bomb and diving headfirst into danger to save the other person. Insta-lust, totally cool. Love, nope, nope, I’m out.

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I’m looking for a gradual build up and an understanding of one another. More importantly, I don’t want the relationship to serve to damage or limit the involved characters. If it’s a story intending to show off a toxic relationship, that’s fine as it’s another kind of plot all together. But if this is something you’ve been dangling in front of my face for an extended period like the carrot before a donkey and it involves two characters I already love, the last thing I want is to see them reduced to shadows of their former selves. In other words, no “I forbid you to do that” or stupid, petty actions that are ridiculously out of character. A perfect example of this is Sarah J Maas’s relationship between Feyre and Rhysand in A Court of Mist and Fury (however, not all authors have the luxury of spending the majority of a 600 page book developing their romances). Also important is that the relationship serves to add to the entertainment of the story, not make me want to bash my head against a wall in frustration.

Image result for check boxFantastic Friendships

I mentioned romantic relationships earlier but friendships or close bonds between characters are another must for me in books. I love, love, love watching small groups of people with strong ties come together to support one another or fight against a greater threat. As you read, you can’t help but feel a part of the social circle yourself – whether it be a group of mothers as they support each other through domestic violence, false accusations of school bullying and general feelings of inadequacy in Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, or a gang of thieves as they attempt to rake in money for their own selfish exploits as in Six of Crows or The Lies of Locke Lamora.

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Where would Eragon have been without the wise-cracking dwarf, Orik, or Gansey without Blue and the rest of the Raven Boys? Exciting plots may be one of the biggest parts of a great novel, but the best bits are the smaller movements between characters.

Image result for check boxExciting World Building

There is nothing I love better than falling into an original and amazing new world – one full of possibility, secrets, histories, maybe even magic. You know a world is great when you’re lapping up any chance to see more of it. Part of the wonder of the A Darker Shade of Magic books, for me, was the excitement of having so many different versions of the same city scattered through different dimensions. And then on top of that were the parts of Kell’s world alone which we never got to see. Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse was so wonderful that people were willing to read a whole different set of books just to see more of it. Meanwhile, Tolkien basically began the modern fantasy genre with the creation of Middle Earth. Never underestimate the power of an expertly crafted world. Just don’t rub my face in every little unnecessary detail of it (I’m looking at you, Tolkien).


I could sit here and talk for ages about more common threads like magic and training sequences but we’d be here forever. So I’ll leave it for now.

What characteristics do your favourite novels tend to have? It could be anything, small or big! General or specific! action sequences, poignant writing, wars, multiple character perspectives, a romantic relationship between best friends – what’s something that makes you fall in love with a story? I ask totally not to help me in my writing pursuits *cough*…

Love ash 2

 

Let’s Talk: Magic!

Recently I made a promise to myself that I’d make an effort to publish more discussion posts. These days I find that a lot of my content, aside from my usual book reviews, has become tags and memes and while that’s definitely fun, I need to put the occasional more substantial thing up. So here I am talking about something very serious and important which will require a great deal of critical thinking. Just kidding, I’m discussing magic.

Before I start, let’s get one very important thing out of the way first:

I love it. I do. I love it so, SO much. In terms of books, it’s like crack cocaine for me– I just can’t get enough. Not that I have much (aka ANY) experience with crack cocaine. Anyway, one of the daily prompts for a photo challenge I was doing on Instagram recently was book tropes you love. As I read a lot of fantasy books, this was definitely the first thing that sprang to mind. Magic is used a lot in fantasy and I never seem to get sick of it, probably because it’s always slightly different in everything I read. Sometimes it’s done amazingly well and serves to drive the story along, and in others it’s kind of background noise. But there’s nothing wrong with that. Here I’ve decided to take a look at some of the different forms in which magic seems to commonly pop up in fiction. Shall we?

Magical Objects

This one is definitely familiar territory, especially considering some of the most famous books in the fantasy genre have utilised magic in this form. It’s not usually the only kind of magic in the story – usually because the object has been imbued with magic by someone in particular. And here I give you the most obvious example of this kind of magic ever…

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Why yes, I am talking about Sauron (also known as Mr I-like-to-hang-around-as-a-creepy-giant-eye-of-fire-on-top-of-a-gothic-tower) and his precious, the One Ring of Power. Sure, you’ve got magic in other forms here but a magical object is the driving force in this particular plot line. And to put it simply, it’s pretty damn cool. Sure, it does have a tendency to drive people completely freakin’ bonkers and possess the potential to give a sorcerer the power to take over the world but like…invisibility, immortality and shiny, woo! This kind of magic is pretty straightforward and a solid way to drive plot because it creates conflict easily. If you’ve got a magical object which gives someone great power, of course there’s always going to be a screaming match followed by people drawing pointy, sharp objects to fight over it.

Examples: 

  • Excalibur (The Once and Future King by T. H. White)
  • The Sword of Shannara (The Shannara Chronicles by Terry )
  • The Deathly Hallows, The Philosopher’s Stone, & Tom Riddle’s Diary (Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling)
  • Mjolnir (Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman)
  • Liveships (Liveship Traders Triology – Robin Hobb)

Magical Places

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Anyone who’s grown up loving fantasy like The Chronicles of Narnia can understand the appeal of this one. There’s something wonderfully exciting about a place that just screams magic. I’m not just talking about a fantasy land where people happen to be able to do magic but places that actually have their own magic and fuel the magic of other things by simply existing. These are the kinds of stories where we’re often exposed to fantastical creatures and events that seem to go against logic, time and reason. They provide the backdrop for average people to do and see amazing things and on occasion also allow for a plot revolving around an effort to return magic to the world or fix a problem with it.

More Examples:

  • Narnia (The Chronicles of Narnia – C. S. Lewis)
  • Fillory (The Magicians – Lev Grossman)
  • Cabeswater (The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater)
  • Neverwhere (Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman)
  • Neverland (Peter Pan – J. M. Barrie)

Verbal Magic

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Using words to create magic is probably one of the most common methods found in fiction. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve come across this one and yet, I’m still not bored. A lot of the time this goes hand in hand with the use of particular gestures as well as the final type of magic on my list, natural ability. I find that this kind of magic often requires a fair degree of study to get good at which is why we have amazing books like Harry Potter which get to spend years focusing on characters broadening their magical abilities through knowledge of new words and motions. Then again, you might also have a story where the person simply needs to know a word to activate a spell but physically doesn’t have the power to pull it off without dying, as in Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Series.

And because I love examples:

  • Blood magic (A Darker Shade of Magic Series – V.E. Schwab)
  • The Dresden Files – Jim Butcher
  • Uprooted – Naomi Novik

Written Magic

This one’s a little more uncommon as people tend to focus on verbal magic rather than written. I mean, for obvious reasons of course. It’s not like in the middle of an epic battle the hero can just call a time out because, “Sorry, mate, just got to write out a couple of things to give me a magical edge here.” One great example of this kind of magic can be found in Cassandra Clare’s shadowhunter books. In all three of her series, shadowhunters carve angelic language symbols onto their skin to give themselves specific abilities. The above gif is of course for illustrative purposes. It is definitely not because Matthew Daddario looks good without a shirt on. At all. I am a serious book blogger after all…*cough*

Only two examples *cries* (if we verge into manga territory):

  • Fullmetal Alchemist
  • Death Note

Magic & Intent or Natural ability

And so we reach the most common kind of magic in books these days. Here, people are simply born magical or not. To exercise their magical abilities, they simply focus their will upon doing something, much like using a muscle. Except way, way cooler. With this form of magic, authors tend to get away with not having to go into too much detail as to where magic comes from – people just have it and pass it on most of the time. Just like any other skill, usually it requires time and practice to strengthen individual people’s abilities and similarly people are always born with different degrees of talent. In the end, they think it or they wave a hand, and it happens. I could list hundreds of examples of this one without much effort at all and this is why how the magic is used and the story it fits into are so important.

I just really love examples, okay:

  • A Darker Shade of Magic – V. E. Schwab
  • Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor
  • The Red Queen Series – Victoria Aveyard
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses Series – Sarah J. Maas
  • The Grisha Triology – Leigh Bardugo

I have to make a special mention to the Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson which is such an original and wonderful magic system that it’s difficult to pigeonhole it into just one category. In these books, while you must be born with the natural ability to use magic, you’re unable to do so unless you consume small quantities of specific kinds of metals. The kind of metal you have influences what abilities you can use. From here it’s a matter of will, gestures, and practice. Scientific concepts such as gravity also come into play in how magic can be used.

I’m sure there are heaps of other forms of magic in books that I haven’t mentioned here and other unique systems which don’t fit under these headings but I think I’ve captured the general gist.

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Let’s Talk!

Do you enjoy reading books about magic? Or does it detract from other things too much for you?

If you do, what kinds of magic do you enjoy reading about? What are some of your favourite novels that feature magic? I have too many to count and I’m always finding more!

Love ash