Armchair BEA: Topic of Choice + Middle Grade/Young Adult

ArmchairBEA LogoExampleThis week flew. It’s hard to believe it’s the final posting day for Armchair BEA. I seem to recall Armchair BEA week last year feeling like forever. This year I must have blinked, because it’s already coming to a close.

But I’m totally psyched about both of today’s topics – one of my choosing and one involving my most favorite of genres. And for a change I know exactly what topic I’m going to talk about. So…

Topic of Choice

Today is the day to talk about something that you feel we have missed or that you want to spend a little extra time chatting about. Ideas include, but are not limited to: a genre that does not fit into those featured earlier this week; logistics, such as blogging resources, procedures, or advice; or something completely fun with book to movie adaptations or favorite blogging games, features, memes, events, and/or activities. It’s your freebie day to choose what you like!

As I’ve already talked about myself, mentioned a few of my favorite bloggers, authors and books, and shared my thoughts on diversity, I thought I’d talk about the book blogosphere, which seems to be expanding and changing faster than ever before.

The Book Blogosphere…

The landscape has been changing so fast – new blogs come into being, others depart – that I can’t keep up. I used to try, but things are moving so fast I don’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hades.

It’s hard to get a feel for the community when it’s changing as quickly as it is. There used to be a core group of bloggers that were sort of like mentors for those of us who were new to the blogosphere. Many of those bloggers have disappeared over the years. Some scaled back, others closed up shop.

And while it does make me sad when blogs I’ve read for years decide to shut down, it’s also a good thing. It means that they’ve moved on in their lives to other things. It means, too, that there is time to discover a new blog.

I’ve said it before, but I still believe it to be true: Blogs are such transient things. And because they are, it makes both personal and working relationships complicated.

It’s easy to start a new blog and just as easy to walk away from it. And with so many blogs popping up every day it’s easy to mistakenly think that blogging is effortless, that there’s no work involved. And that rude awakening a few weeks or months down the line has caused many a blogger to close up shop before they’ve even really gotten a foothold.

Which makes it that much harder to make those connections and friendships with newer bloggers. Until they’ve shown that they’re here to stay, it’s not easy to begin forging a friendship.

For an author or publisher it seems as if it would be that much harder to put their trust in bloggers with just how easy it is for the blogger to walk away without notice. As this is a non-paid endeavor for most of us, we have no legal obligations to post on time for a tour, review the books we request, notify those that are relying on us when we opt to disappear for awhile.

It’s a gamble.

But it’s a gamble that does seem to be working out for both parties. Bloggers do generate buzz. For the cost of a book – or often less – they’ll bend over backwards to help spread the word about its release, its new cover, its new trailer. Between the blasts and reveals and tours and posts and tweets and FB posts, word is getting out there.

And the blogger is getting books, recognition, site traffic, followers in return.

It’s a win-win.

But I often wonder, if we are seen, and are seeing ourselves, more as marketing tools than readers who are in it to share our love of reading with like-minded people, is there less heart than in past years? Are we now more in the business of blogging – even if we’re not in it for the profit – than we had been three or more years ago?

Have our motivations changed as a community? Are more people seeing this as a stepping stone to something else, versus as a “hobby” or creative outlet?

Are we adapting and changing in ways that help or harm the community? Are we expanding the community to include more diverse readers and books? Or are we just diluting it?

For me, this community will always be the place I know I can go to share my thoughts about the books I read and love. No matter what the changes, no matter who stays or who goes, there will always be someone who loves those cliffhanger endings, love triangles, alternate POV shorts, and angst-filled, twisty-turny stories as much as I do.

For me it will forever be amazing.

Middle Grade/Young Adult

Our final genre of discussion is one that we know is a popular one these days: books for the younger crowd, from middle grade to young adult. If you do not normally talk about this genre on your site, maybe you want to feature books that you remember impacting you during this stage in your life. If this is where you tend to gravitate, maybe you want to list your favorites, make recommendations based on genres, or feature some titles that you are excited to read coming later this year.

Before I launch into a discussion of some of my favorite YA reads, I just have to comment on the statement that these are “books for the younger crowd….” Just because a book is labeled YA these days doesn’t necessarily mean it is limited to readers of that age group. It might not even be written exclusively for young adults.

As a reader who would definitely not be considered “young” by anyone in the YA age group, I find that there are many things that appeal to me in this genre. And I actually think that the term YA applies more to the age of the characters than the age of the audience nowadays. But perhaps that’s just me.

I’m not a mom. I don’t read YA books to screen them for a child or to make a connection with one. I’m not trying to be young or relate to those much younger than I am. I just love to read stories that take me out of my daily life, that set me off on an adventure. Stories that are magical and exciting. Stories that don’t have characters I relate to because they are stressed out or are thinking about finances, their jobs, their future, their significant others.

I much prefer characters with problems involving demons, zombies, impending doom, infuriating bad boy on-again off-again boyfriends, the apocalypse. You know, exciting problems.

Anyway… sorry for the sidetrack. So we’re talking favorite YA reads. And if I were to list even one-tenth of them I’d be here forever. And while I don’t typically recommend books to others, as tastes are such a personal thing and I have very eclectic tastes that might not have universal appeal, I am going to list ten books or series from the short list that I have recommended to friends, family and colleagues.

Usually these recommendations are prefaced with the following…

“Oh my gosh you have to read this. You just have to! I can’t even talk about why. You just have to. It’s so epic. It’s got this… okay, I can’t tell you. But just trust me, you will die. You will DIE when you read what happens when…. Okay, I’ll shut up, but seriously, did you read it yet? Oh my gosh you have to.”

Rachel Vincent’s Soul Screamers. It has reapers and maras and bean sidhes and some rather unpleasant Netherworld beings. Each story is filled with adventure, an emotional roller coaster, sarcasm and humor, and some fantastic writing.

Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments. Shadowhunters and Downworlders. Angels and Nephilim. Clary and Jace. Gorgeous storytelling. Epic. Amazing world building.

Kresley Cole’s The Arcana Chronicles. Unique. Dark. Sexy. Jack. Death. A kick-a** and totally bad-a** heroine.

Gena Showalter’s The White Rabbit Chronicles. Action-packed. Fierce battles. Even fiercer heroine. Deadly threats. Sexy bad boys.

Julie Kagawa’s Blood of Eden trilogy. Epic adventure. Killer cliffhangers. Epic adventure. (Yes, it deserved a second mention.) Lovable and detestable characters. A fierce, but lovable heroine you will root for from start to finish.

Joelle Charbonneau’s The Testing trilogy. Nail-biting. Suspenseful. Riveting. Clever. Brilliantly thought-out and so well-written. A stand-out series.

Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles. Intriguing. Unique. Delightful in both print and audio formats. Addictive. So awesome.

Katie McGarry’s Pushing the Limits. Gorgeous. Romantic. Heartbreaking. Dual POVs. Lovable character matches. Highly addictive. Unputdownable.

Karsten Knight’s Wildefire trilogy. Wicked awesome. Exciting. Refreshingly different. Seriously fierce, kick-a** heroine. Jaw-dropping, killer cliffhanger. Phenomenal writing. Moments that are devastatingly heartbreaking.

Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series. Exciting. Epic. Epic. Epic. Action-packed. Adventure-filled. Thrilling. Gripping. Assassins. Sword battles. Romance.

And to just name a few authors whose new books and series are on my “must read” list for others…

I could go on and on, as I left out at least 50 authors who are on my must read list, but it’s late. And I still have to proof this post. But if you’d really like to know who they are, just ask in the comments and I’ll be happy to rattle off the long list of names.

Interestingly, it does seem like I recommend more dystopians and high fantasy novels to others than books in some of my most favorite sub-genres – paranormal, urban fantasy. I do think they have a wider appeal with those in my non-blogging life. Not everyone loves demons, vampires, fallen angels, the fae quite like I do. And not everyone likes their stories dark and edgy with a side of bad boy wickedness.

What about you?

Do you have any YA reads that you recommend to anyone and everyone in both your blogging and non-blogging life? Are any of my must read books and series on your list of recommended reads?

And are there any middle grade novels that you’d recommend to readers of all (or most) ages?

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