Changing Opinions: Five Years in the Making

Guys, Book Heaven is five years old. It’s like a time capsule, looking back to my thoughts during my early teens (God help me, please don’t look too far back in the archive, it’s embarrassing). It’s interesting to see the different fads I went through, and how my opinions on certain topics have changed, but some have stayed constant.

For example:

  • I still LOVE the Septimus Heap series (and yes, I know I’ve mentioned them twice in as many posts, but I’m rereading them all before reading the final book, super excited!)
  • I still consider reading the best pastime ever
  • Pirates are cool (4eva)
  • I still believe books create a community

I love the fact that I still love (some of) the same books, as it really shows the staying power of some beautifully woven tales. In the words of the fabulous Carl Sagan,

Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.

However, in counter balance to that, there are also quite a few things I now shudder at the thought of loving. Not really because they are now considered “uncool”, but more because on rereading I have found that either the style is severely lacking, or that there are worrying messages/ideals that permeate the text. One example for me would be the Twilight Series. I really, really liked these books when I was younger, and I still might pick one up if stuck, but I can’t shake off an uncomfortable feeling when thinking about how controlling and almost abusive Edward is towards Bella.

Similarly, certain science fiction holds less appeal for me than it once did, because I have spent the last five years learning a lot more about physics, so some stuff just seems implausible. When authors get their science mixed up, it ruins the magic of the story for me.

So I’m planning on doing a full blown discussion on why some fiction has staying power, and some doesn’t, and since I think books (and blogging) belong in a community setting, I want your input. What books have you loved long-term? Are there any books you were fanatical about but have now lost interest in? Please leave a comment below.

P.S. I’m also looking for some book-themed blogs to read and add to my blogroll, so please comment with a URL if you know of one/write for one. Also, any input on possible format changes would be appreciated: would you like more book reviews, more theme discussions, less of anything? I’m excited to be publishing on Bookheaven again!

Putting Plot in its Place

So in my post on cultural context, I discussed on the importance of social setting in a text, and of course how social context is affected by geographical setting. In this post, I’d like to delve a little deeper into the impact of geographical setting on a reader, as opposed to its impact on the plot.

Where is your favourite novel set? Is it in an imaginary land of fantastical beasts, such as the medieval town of The Castle (and the surrounding lands) where the Septimus Heap books are set? Is it set in a place that is closely tied to reality and geographical locations, but is slightly askew and cannot be found on an actual map, such as Hogsmeade? Or is it seeped in realism, based in a certain place, for example the West of Ireland, but isn’t actually a geographical location (but no one but people from the area would actually know this) such as the small rural town JB Kean’s Field is based in? Is it set in an actual, real location that you could find on a map and go to visit, if you so wished, such as the books in The Twilight Saga?

Setting plays a huge part in setting the tone of the books, but what impact does it have directly on the reader? I think it depends on what type of reader you are: whether you like to be completely immersed in the world of the book, or if you like to appreciate the story from a bit of a distance. This reading experience is closely linked with the way your favourite books are written: immersive readers tend to prefer first-person narrative, while observationalists may choose third-person.

I stand up willing to be proven wrong, but I think immersive, first-person-loving readers settings saturated in realism, such as those Stephenie Meyer writes (both in The Host and in The Twilight Saga), that exist in the actual world and are true to life down to minute detail, such as the names of the nearby roads, forests, and beaches. Observationalist readers tend to prefer imaginative settings, often not based in our world, where books such as Angie Sage’s Magyk are set. Preferring third person, they do not feel the same need to be part of the story that immersive readers do: they do not need to feel that the plot could happen to them, in this world, right now.

Then there is the middle ground, where most books that are mainly about the dramas of daily life lie. They are based in an area (East Coast, USA; rural France; a village in Norway, ect.) but the place names do not actually exist. The setting can be quite specific, down to a state or province, but still be made up. People who aren’t from the area or who don’t have local knowledge probably wouldn’t know the difference, but these books can sometimes lack a highly detailed description of the setting (which may work with the book just fine), as they don’t have the physical place to describe nor the compulsion to imagine every last detail of a fantastical land.

Where does that leave people who love books about dystopian societies set in the future? I’m open to suggestions! Where is your favourite book set? How do you think the setting affects you as a reader?

(also, apologies again to the subscribers who got a few typos first time round!)

First the Worst, Second the Best…

Books, stories and other texts can be written in first, third, and occasionally second person.

Personally my favourite is first person. This is when the story is told from a character’s point of view, using the words I and me. This style of writing ends to help the reader connect more with the character as they live the story through them. Classics such as Great Expectations (Charles Dickens) are told in first person, as are many modern popular novels, such as Twilight (Stephenie Meyer). As both these books have quite character driven plots, this style of writing strengthens them.

Writing in the second person is usually quite rare. It can be seen in the “Give Yourself Goosebumps” series, by RL Stine, where you are the main character and your story is being related back to you. Second person writing can be found in a diluted form in books such as Stolen, by Lucy Christopher, or in any other book composed solely of a letter or letters. The letter format can mix both first and second person perspectives, and usually contain more first person as the writer is more often than not writing about things that happened them.

Very popular in childrens books, stories with action-driven plots, and in classics, is the third person style. This perspective can be found in Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen), the Septimus Heap series (Angie Sage), and in the Harry Potter books (J. K. Rowling). This type of writing allows you to see things happening even when a main character is not present. Because of this, you can build up dramatic irony which is quite difficult when writing in first person. However this style detaches the reader from the characters, and can make the story less emotion-filled.

Which perspective do you prefer when reading/writing?

Check back tomorrow for a post about mixing these different styles together. Also, check soon for a post on tenses in writing, and for a review on the book Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. The hero’s journey post had to unfortunately be postponed until next week.

The Next Septimus Heap Book!

 The penultimate Septimus Heap book is out.

And I have yet to read it. The shame. I feel the same way as I did when I was lying in rural Achill Island, at Irish college, at twelve o’clock, knowing I was missing the premiere of THE LAST EVER HARRY POTTER FILM. At least this is only the second last in the series, but still, it’s been three months since it came out.

Anyway, the books picks up where Syren left off, with plenty of Darke stuff going on, including a Darke Domaine after taking over the castle, and a Darke Dragon. Alther Mella has been banished, and Sep has to do his whole Magyk thing and Dum Dum Duum… he pairs up with Simon Heap to fight evil!

The Magyk, adventure and intrigue will never end!

Well until the next, and final, book.

I can’t wait to read it.

New Season, New Look

The first draft of Magyk sent by Angie Sage to...

Image via Wikipedia

After a long sabbatical from this blog (due to studying and completing the Junior Cert Exams) I wondered whether or not to keep it running. Eventually I decided it would be worth it to go back and face the readers I have abandoned for the last few months. Even if it is a bit humiliating. So I’ve decided to use this as a chance to give the blog a make-over and a spring clean (probably the only time you will hear either of those words on this site), and I think I won’t regret the decision to continue with the blog.

So hopefully you’ll hear a bit more from me than you have over the past few months.

Just a few of the changes I’ve made:

  • Theme- pretty obvious one, this- I think it’s nice to give the blog a fresh face every now and then
  • Welcome post- I don’t think we needed this. Everyone gets what this blog is about by its title.
  • Widgets- there were too many of these cluttering up the place.
  • Pages- I deleted most of the pages, they were too static. Most were unchanged since I first set up this blog.

Hopefully, change is for the best. See you soon for an update on the next book in the Magyk series, Darke! I’ll leave you with this pretty cool picture of Angie Sage’s first draft of Magyk, as sent to HarperCollins.

Maeve