ARC Review: Mask of Shadows by Lindsey Miller

I wanted this to be so good. I really did. But then it just … wasn’t. I ended up giving it 2 stars and 1 really impassioned review because I thought it had so much potential and then it never lived up to it.

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“I Work in a Bookstore!” Book Haul (FTN)

I’ve been working at a Barnes and Noble since October, and you can bet that all the while I’ve been accumulating books. It finally occurred to me that I had a bunch just hanging around–and the titles were all over the place–so I wanted to share them with you guys! If you’ve read any of these, please do let me know in the comments if you liked them or not!

Thesis Thursday: Babbling about YA Book Cover Trends

Thesis Thursdays is a weekly(ish) feature where I rant, love and talk about young adult books I’m reading because I’m conning my college into thinking this is all for academia! Find out more here!

After getting out of my thesis meeting today, it turns out that I have too many thoughts about YA book covers. I want to say too much about them, in too many angles, in too many ways. I could write a million papers about YA book covers.

So, while that is not productive to me, I’m going to talk about a few things that came up for me and see if you guys think I’m crazy or if you’ve noticed this too. I’m going to make a serious effort to stay quick and to the point–and not get my professorial lecturing on–so many of these ideas will stay surface level. Tell me what you find interesting!

  1. Book cover trends in general – like, literally, what is going on with this? Books that 51ocax0kjxl-_sx326_bo1204203200_are all different genres–dystopian, fantasy, paranormal, realistic–they all look the same. Each one of them was just as likely to have a “girl in dress” or “half girl face” cover as the next. That doesn’t help you figure out what the book is supposed to be about? Sure, those were some pretty dresses, but do we care? I’d rather see actual content related covers, if you don’t mind. Of particular concern to me:
    1. Book covers that partition the female body – Why do we need book covers that focus just on female torsos? Why not give them heads or full bodies? Fragmentation of the female body has been long studied in advertising as a way to help objectify it. Which is doubly weird, since most YA books are marketed towards female readers.
    2. the selectionGirls in dresses – Okay, on some overs this is fine. Like, for instance, Kiera Cass’s Selection series. That makes sense. But on books where we’re supposed to get a strong female character, why are they shown in inactive poses in dresses that will not be very helpful in a fight? Or, at the very least, they never wear in the actual book?
  2. Book cover changes mid-series publication – Am I
    insane, or did this never used to happen? I never used to have to flip out because I bought one book in hardcover,

    Throne of Glass

    The original ToG cover.

    but by the time the next book came out, the covers had completely changed. Now, oftentimes this change IS for the better (I’m looking at you, Throne of Glass), but … it’s annoying if you want your covers to all look the same. But seriously, help me out here. This is a rather new phenomenon, isn’t it?

  3. Book series repackaging through the years – This is more of a pet peeve with a related example. I will never forget standing in a Barnes and Noble with Tamora Pierce as she lamented about the new “Twilight covers” of her Alanna series where it looked like her characters were wearing clothes “from the Gap.” I understand that the Alanna series is older now, but packaging it to look like Twilight doesn’t seem to be the best marketing strategy. It’s a very different book series. Have you seen other books that have be repackaged in weird ways?Song of the Lioness
  4. The Immortal RulesBook cover white washing – this is very much a last but certainly not least moment. I know that this is a long and storied tradition of publishing, but it really hit home with me when Julie Kagawa’s Blood of Eden series came out. Why would you use the half face of a white girl on the cover of a book about an Asian-American character? Okay, I know the annoying answer to that question, but seriously. Then, after the uproar, the books got new covers–but not of an actual Asian-American half faced girl. No, the books went the route of the symbol covers instead. Yes, that’s a new fad, but I’m also going to add an eyebrow raise to that movement. What are some other whitewashed covers that have annoyed you guys?

I think I want to say something along the lines of how YA book covers have become really 9780547959214_hresfrustrating, because they–like the inside flaps of the books they contain–are starting to all look the same. Don’t get me wrong, there is some FABULOUS cover art out there, but there are also books that just seem so … samesie. I’m really not a fan of the new symbol art thing. It seems like too many books are trying to be The Hunger Games. At the very least, it seems the symbols are leading back around to more artsy designs than the half-girl faces used to give us.

26114463Can you see how my ideas are flip flopping all over the place? I understand that books can’t all be fabulous pieces of art like the Throne of Glass redo covers or literally anything written by Jay Kristoff, but …sigh. There is SO MUCH IMPORTANT INFORMATION tucked into these covers. I want to talk about it all with my scholar cap on, but I can’t cover all this stuff with the breadth it deserves in the same paper.

Sigh. I need to decide soon. Fingers crossed.

My Thoughts on the End of “Allegiant” by Veronica Roth

So, I tried to title this so that no one would accidentally click this but just in case…

warningWARNING. SPOILERS WILL HAPPEN.

Now that that is out of the way…

A while ago, I read Allegiant by Veronica Roth and added it to my long list of reviews to write. As I thought about it, I realized that my entire review was being warped by my response to the huge backlash that followed the edge of the series. I know I’m late to the party, but I still want to talk about this because I’ve been using Allegiant as an example of something in a lot of conversations lately.

I am the first one to tell you that I like happy endings. Sad books make me … sad, of Allegiantcourse, and really unhappy. When I get invested in characters, I want those characters to make it. I want those characters to survive. I want their endings to be tied up in the end with a bow and–if I’m lucky–a wedding and seven kids. So of course that’s what I wanted to for Tris and Four.

However, here’s the thing about that ending: it’s what I expected.

What struck me–after I was done sobbing over the end–was exactly that fact. If Tris hadn’t made the choice she did, THAT was what would have thrown me and made me upset.

Authors have the unenviable task of appeasing their readers and staying true to their characters. Sometimes, those wishes coincide and everyone leaves happily. Sometimes, this is not the case and the choice the author makes will have the biggest impact of the entire book/series/what-have-you. For me, it is more of a betrayal to have the characters betray themselves then “betray” the ending the readers would want.

Tris wouldn’t have been Tris if she had let Caleb sacrifice himself. Veronica Roth–thank God–understood that. I can only imagine how heartbreaking it was to write that scene, when I’m sure she too just wanted Tris and Four to run off into the sunset. If this had not been the ending, I think my overall impression of the series would have been “good.” But because Roth stood by her characters like this, I think I’ll have to give it a “great” recommendation simply based on how much I respect this decision.

Okay, disclaimer time. Much of the motivation to write this post comes from my desire to talk to someone about this ending. So, seriously, comment and tell me what you think!

Review: Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins

Review: Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins

Four stars

Talk about timing…

Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. With her powers locked inside her, Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies–the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium. Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t so sure.

The only known spell that can help Sophie regain her magic is at Hex Hall–the place where it all began, and now the headquarters of the evil Casnoffs. Together with her best friend, the vampire Jenna; her boyfriend, Archer; her fiance, Cal (yeah, her love life is complicated); and a ghost for a sidekick, Sophie must battle an army of demons. But even with her friends at her side, the fate of all Prodigium rests on her shoulders alone.

Sophie’s bound for one hell of a ride… Can she get her powers back before it’s too late?

Okay, I should be noted I’m a total fangirl of these books. Did you not SEE my Waiting on Wednesday post a couple of weeks ago? So you can understand that I really, really wanted to like this book. And I did, I really did. But there was a problem.

THIS BOOK WAS WAY TOO SHORT.

Now, I’m really not saying that because I love these books and I’m sad that they’re over. I’m being downright  technically serious. So much happened in this book, and Sophie was bopping all over the place and it just went way too fast. I didn’t feel like I got a chance to really get to know any of the new characters (Izzy, anyone?) and some of the biggest, most heart wrenching scenes just … happened. And all the while Sophie is here, Sophie is there, Sophie is back there again and then gone and then–aiyee! You can’t process what just happened because it’s all just WHOOSHED right past. Now, you’re probably thinking, doesn’t she LIKE fast paced books? Didn’t she say she loved Wings of the Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton because it read “like a rapid fire machine gun”? Yes, yes I did. But this … wasn’t that. It seemed way too choppy in places, and a lot of important things weren’t handled with as much care or as fleshed out as they could have been. It left my head spinning–and not in a good way.

That is basically the entire reason this book only got four stars, unlike the 5 I’d have given Demon Glass or Hex Hall. I wanted this to be the roaring, hysterical, funny finale to an amazing series, but in the back of my mind I was just always a little thrown off by the writing.

Yes, in the back of my mind. In case you were worried, Sophie is still entirely Sophie. I was still laughing out loud at her snark. I still want to be her best friend. Speaking of which, you don’t really need to wait that long in the worry that all her friends and family are missing. They start popping out of the woodwork in ones and twos in the first third or so of the book, which almost made me upset. Hawkins set up that tension so well, and then it kind of resolves itself.

If you were going to bring back Archer that early, there should have been more make out scenes. Just sayin’.

Two last things to discuss: Elodie and Cal. Let’s start with Elodie…

Okay, we get that the girl is a ghost tied to Sophie. Personally, her constant actions regarding Sophie didn’t really bother me too much. They seemed entirely like an angry Elodie would act. The problem was really when Sophie started leaning on said Elodie as a crutch, but that didn’t last all that long (as nothing did in this book) so I got over it pretty quickly. I know a lot of people have been annoyed with how much that certain event happened, but I kinda just took it in and went with it.

Now. Cal. (Please note that we are about to devolve into fangirl rantings, not a technical critique.) CAL. CAL. RACHEL HAWKINS. I… I… I FEEL ALL THINGS. THAT ENDING. THAT ENDING. Personally, I don’t find anything technically wrong with it. I thought it was actually poetic. BUT. BUT. THE FANGIRL IN ME DIED A LITTLE. AND THEN SOARED A LITTLE. AND THEN CRIED A LITTLE. And now you know.

I realize that this review doesn’t sound all that complimentary, but hey, that’s what a review is. It’s basically a place to nitpick at books. 😛 I gave it four stars for a reason. Spell Bound was a good ending to the Hex Hall series, and hopefully left it open for Hawkins to return to this world–hopefully from the eyes of Izzy. However, it wasn’t spectacular. Sometimes I think that the endings to series can never be everything you want them to be, but after I had closed the book I just had such mixed feelings. Everything that I had wanted to happen, happened. Just not in the way I wanted it to. Everyone has their own opinions about how they want series’ to end, and maybe I’m not capable of separating my fangirl from my critical reviewer. But I think BOTH of them wish that Spell Bound had taken a little longer to really give itself a finished polish.

12 Debut Authors I’m Looking Forward to in 2012

So, after my December post about books I was looking forward to in 2012–which ended up needing a part two–I realized that I only had one debut author on there. Clearly, something needed to be fixed. You have to have somewhere to go when those series have ended, right? So here are some of my picks for 2012! (In no particular order) In order to fit them all into one post, I have linked to all the blurbs–all of which lead to the book’s Goodread’s page. I have included some genre keywords so you can get a sense whether or not the book would be up your alley! Please note that all release dates are for the US and subject to change.

Author: Jodi Meadows

Book: Incarnate

Release Date: January 31

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal/Supernatural, Dystopian, Romance

Read the blurb here

Author: Brodi Ashton

Book: Everneath

Release Date: January 24

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Greek Mythology, Romance

Read the blurb here.

Author: Veronica Rossi

Book: Under the Never Sky

Release Date: January 3

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance

Read the blurb here.

Author: Robin Bridges

Book: The Gathering Storm

Release Date: January 10

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance, 19th Century

Read the blurb here.

Author: Susan Dennard

Book: Something Strange and Deadly

Release Date: July 24

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Zombies, Historical

Read the blurb here.

Author: Wendy Higgins

Book: Sweet Evil

Release Date: May 1

Genre: Young Adult, Angels, Demons, Romance

Read the blurb here.

Author: Tricia Wolfe

Book: Destiny’s Fire

Release Date: January 10

Genre: Young Adult, Steampunk, Paranormal

Read the blurb here.

Author: Jessica Shirvington

Book: Embrace

Release Date: March 6

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Angels, Romance

Read the blurb here.

Author: Corrine Jackson

Book: If I Lie

Release Date: August 28

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Military

Read the blurb here.

Author: Katherine Longshore

Book: Gilt

Release Date: May 15

Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Romance, Tudor

Read the blurb here.

Author: Michele Vail

Book: Undeadly

Release Date: February 28

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Necromancy

Read the blurb here.

Author: Kathleen Peacock

Book: Hemlock

Release Date: May 8

Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Werewolves

Read the blurb here.

National Novel Writing Month

Hello all! As you may or may not know, November is National Novel Writing Month (otherwise known as NaNoWriMo or NaNo). It is a global challenge to write a 50,000 word novel or more during the month of November. I participated last year and LOVED it! In fact, the novel I wrote was even self-published afterwards and I’m enjoying my book in print!

The whole reason I’m tell you this is because I probably won’t be on here very much for the rest of the month–or at least until the novel is finished. Last year, I finished in fourteen days! Wish me luck, and have a good month!