Worth It Wednesday: “A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

77493_originalTitle: A Court of Thorns and Roses

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Goodreads Description: When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it… or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Why it’s worth it: Alright, listen, I know you aren’t surprised to see this. My love of Sarah’s books is probably going full-on obsession at this point. However, the newest book in this series just came out yesterday, so I couldn’t NOT do it.

This is a pseudo-retelling of Beauty and the Beast plus faeries, so already this was–for me, at least–a rocky sell. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite childhood fairytale, but also one of the most problematic, and I’m not always great with faeries.

I can officially say that there is one version of the Beauty and the Beast that I don’t find extremely creepy. The whole kidnapping turned love thing is touchy, but Sarah makes it work. You really come to understand why Tamlin does what he does, and how much he wishes that he didn’t have to. Feyre is also not some helpless girl who can be swayed by a library. She is constantly searching and pressing buttons and trying to figure out what is going on around her. When they start falling in love, it’s in despite of themselves and what they think is their duty–but not in a bad way. They both get so focused on what they think is best for everybody else that they try to ignore the answer right in front of their faces.

My favorite twist on the tale is the ending, but of course I can’t say too much about that. Let me just say that this is no trifle where “true love’s kiss” can undo everything with a snap, and there is no last minute, too perfectly time save. There are mistakes made. There are battles fought. There are lives lost. It’s no Disney ending. That’s probably what makes this so worth it.

Read it if you’re looking for: fairytale retellings, faeries, magic, action, adventure, romance, strong female characters, strong supporting cast

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Thesis Thursday: The Grave Mistake I Made with Grave Mercy

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!

anigif_enhanced-buzz-25659-1382022824-41So I just turned in the first draft of my first chapter of my English thesis. It’s 21 pages yelling about romance in female assassin YA books. I cannot remember my own name but I can quote you full passages of the five primary texts I used and I can make it rain with the pages of all the research I printed out that I didn’t use. Well. So it goes.

One of the texts that I used, however, was Robin LaFevers’ Grave Mercy. When I first read and reviewed this book in 2012, I gave it five stars. One of my specific reasons was this little number:

And the romance. Color me SO HAPPY. Sure, it’s the typical line where they start off disliking each other and then realize they love each other, but it worked. The reasons they were so untrusting of each other were REAL. The worries they had were REAL. The progression of their relationship was REAL. They came to trust each other before they came to love each other, which is how it should be. Hallelujah.

THREE YEARS AGO GRETCHEN WAS SO DUMB, GUYS.

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The romance between Ismae and Duval may be real, but for all the wrong reasons. I had no idea until I started picking apart the book for my thesis how DAMN AWFUL the romance is. In my thesis, it ends up being my example of the weird, physically emotionally domineering dynamic that YA books cook up and call love.

grave mercyHow did I never realize that Ismae is constantly equating her feelings about Duval with panic and fear? How did I never realize that almost every time he touches her, she mentions wanting to run away? How did I never see how physically domineering he is towards her, and how often he undercuts her agency? How did I not notice, in the end, when she panics because she thinks he’s going to force her to marry him in that moment and she won’t be able to say no and she isn’t sure she wants to say yes?

This isn’t a direct attack at Robin LaFevers. I get that half of it is because Ismae has had a bad history with men and violence. Duval is sometimes kind to her. But her decision to move past her abusive past and towards Duval is never fleshed out and he’s so physically domineering towards her that it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Now, anyways. I mean, look at that quote from three years ago. I thought this was the bees knees.

Way too much romance in YA is not the healthy kind, but very few peopletumblr_inline_nw29xt4a531sobk6c_500 realize it. (I’m looking at you, Twilight.) That’s part of what the argument of my thesis is. But it just wasn’t what I expected from Grave Mercy, because I remembered loving that book SO MUCH.

I still do. I think the concept is great. Killer nuns? Always and forever, a great idea. However, in terms of the romance, I’m honestly still in shock. 2012 was right in the middle of my stride as a reviewer, where I thought I’d gotten pretty great at sniffing out those terrible kinds of story lines. I don’t want it to be true. But there’s the textual evidence to prove it.

giphyI don’t know if I’m frustrated with the state of YA publishing, myself, this book or my thesis more right now. It’s sort of the same feeling that I had after I wrote a whole paper about how terrible Disney’s Tangled really is. I loved that movie. I can’t watch it anymore after the way I dismantled it in my paper.

Maybe I’m still in shock. I don’t know. Maybe I’m going crazy. I’ve spent the past 72 hours with my nose in books, research or my computer, working on this stupid thing.

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All I can tell you is that I’m worried there are other books that won’t survive a re-read, and I don’t want to know which ones.

Has this ever happened to you?

Review: “Of Poseidon” by Anna Banks

Of Poseidon (Of Poseidon #1) by Anna Banks

Goodreads | Amazon

Galen, a Syrena prince, searches land for a girl he’s heard can communicate with fish. It’s while Emma is on vacation at the beach that she meets Galen. Although their connection is immediate and powerful, Galen’s not fully convinced that Emma’s the one he’s been looking for. That is, until a deadly encounter with a shark proves  that Emma and her Gift may be the only thing that can save his kingdom. He needs her help–no matter what the risk.

4 1/2 stars

You know, there was a day when I swore I would never hop onto the mermaid trend. I mean, I’m a Disney girl through and through but I never even really liked The Little Mermaid. But I kept seeing my blogger friends everywhere loving it, so some force unknown it to me caused me to buy it.

And boy am I so glad that I did.

You know how I knew Emma and I were going to be best friends? On page one, she describes herself as being as clumsy as an “intoxicated walrus.” Those of you who are unfortunate enough to know me in person know that SO AM I. Add clumsiness, coupled great personality and snark, and I was hooked on Emma before the story even really started.

And then the story STARTED. With a shark attack.

To be fair, the rest of the novel didn’t really have that level of action at all, but it certainly had enough to invest me into the story. I did feel like the ramifications of the shark attack were dealt with too quickly, but I can at least understand the reasoning.

Despite a promising beginning and an instant connection with Emma, I wasn’t as quick to catch onto Galen, his sister and his sister’s husband. His sister came off as too bratty for too long before getting some depth, and her husband just wasn’t given a chance to shine despite definite star quality. I honestly can’t tell if I didn’t like Galen for characterization reasons or the POV drama that was going on.

See, for starts, the book itself is written entirely in present tense. That’s a difference in and of itself. But then the chapters, which switched back and forth between Galen and Emma’s POV, switched back and forth between first person present (Emma) and third person present (Galen). For the first couple of chapters especially, that was ridiculously jarring.

Yeah, yeah, I know, this is a four and a half star review and I’m sounding overly critical, right? What made me rate it so highly then?

For starters, Emma. Emma is hysterical and I love her and I want her as my best friend. She’s pig-headed, temperamental and has a fantastic narrator’s voice. Sure, she falls for the whole insta-love thing with Galen, but she sure is vicious when she doesn’t get her way. Despite being head over heels for Galen, she sure as heck isn’t going to let him run her life. Now that’s refreshing.

The mythology of the story is also really interesting. We got to learn so much about Banks’ merpeople without it ever feeling like an infodump, and I still wanted more. Everything from the Gifts, to the reimagining of Atlantis, Poseidon and Triton was absolutely fascinating.

Plus, there was that ending. There are endings that leave you excited for the next book and then there are ENDINGS LIKE THAT. I’m pretty sure I could sue Banks for torture and the judge would agree with me. 😉

The bottom line? This is the best book I’ve yet to read of the new mermaid trend, hands down.

The second book of this series has a title–Of Triton–but no release date as of yet.

Review: “The Selection” by Kiera Cass

The Selection (The Selection #1) by Kiera Cass (Click for Goodreads)

Four stars

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself–and realizes the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

So I’m just going to go right out there and say it: If you can’t hold on past the first 10 chapters of a book before you pass judgement, you’re going to hate The Selection. Why? Because the first 90 pages or so of this book were absolute sugary horribleness. I adore America’s family well enough, but that was not enough to make up for America and Aspen’s interactions. I don’t usually pass judgement on girl’s and their boyfriends–I’ve been told I’m way too sappy in that regard myself–but ohmygod. America and Aspen were so sugary and ridiculous and over-the-top that I almost didn’t keep going.

But I did.

And I’m glad I did.

Once America gets away from Aspen, she becomes a MUCH more level-headed girl that I wouldn’t actually mind knowing. (Clearly, Aspen just brings out the worst in her, because she goes back to acting like an idiot when he comes back.) When he’s not around, she’s strong, she’s sassy and she cares. She really needs to quit having such bad moments of self-esteem issues when she clearly has no reason to have issues, but that’s a personal opinion and I digress. The book actually starts moving a little bit and–yes–I did fall in love with it a little bit. A lot bit, actually. I was furious there wasn’t more pages. But you know what? Given all the bad reviews people have been giving this book, I just want to say this:

What you see is exactly what you get with this book.

The blurb should tell you all you need to know, really. This is a romance. This is a dystopian version of The Bachelor. This is what would happen if Disney decided to join the dystopian trend. The blurb TELLS YOU THIS. The cover SHOWS YOU THIS. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that every girl but America is pretty vapid, that the prince is a perfect Prince Charming and that the whole thing reads like a magical princess story straight out of a fairytale.

THAT’S WHAT THIS IS.

Yes, this book is listed as dystopian, but if you’re looking for another Hunger Games or Divergent I have no idea what you’re doing looking at this book. The Selection is filled with every little girl’s princess fantasy. It isn’t dark, it isn’t that deep and it isn’t action packed. It’s exactly what it looks like. It glitters. It sparkles. It makes the little girl in you swoon and remember how it felt to believe in fairy tales. It’s a light read that you can whisk through in a day.

I was a Disney girl. All I wanted to be was a princess when I grew up. Letting that little girl take over and enjoy this book is why I fell in love with it. But if you’re looking for a deep read, a gut-wrenching story, fast-paced action or a heart-wrenching romance, I don’t think you’ve got the right book. Someone once told me that some of the books I read are “sweet, fun, mindless fluff” and I’d be happy to put The Selection in that category. Because there is nothing wrong with that. I adore those books, just like I adored this one. But you just have to know that what you see is what you get.

My New WIP: A Mental Challenge in Not Thinking and Having Too Much Fun

Well, if you guys know anything about me, it’s that I’m always, always coming up with new ideas and writing too many books at once. (Right now, it’s four. I think. Are we counting thought processes?) Anyways, after a fifty billionth breakdown over “WHY I HAVE NO PLOT?” and “WHY THESE CHARACTERS NO WORK?” and “WHY IS THIS THE SUCK?” I finally called it quits. Not on writing, mind you. THINKING.

Yes, I’ve talked about this before, especially during NaNoWriMo. But this is a level even I’ve never reached before. As it turns out, this is the first book I’ve ever written where there is a certain time when I can write it: when I’m flat-out, drooling, giggly tired. Sound whacked out? Possibly. But I bet you’re jealous of all the fun I’m having.

If I were to read this WIP while sane awake, I would know–as I know now in the back of my head–that this book is rather plotless. In fact, the entire beginning of the book doesn’t make any a lot of sense. Best part? At the moment, I don’t care. I introduce two new characters in situations where I can’t name drop without making it sound force, and in all seriousness they go through the chapter being called “Scaly-face” and “Gandalf Guy.” My MC is actually crazy enough to make that work for me, which is awesome. I’m not even 3 chapters or 10,000 words in yet, and she’s already referenced Disney, Pocahontas, the Wizard of Oz and the Lord of the Rings. She says things that I doubt are going to be funny to anyone but me. But I DON’T CARE.

Maybe this book will never be anything. That isn’t the point here. The point is that I’m fed up with taking writing so freaking seriously. This started as fun, didn’t it? So I want to keep it that way. Sometimes you just need to break away from your real, serious WIP and write something that makes you laugh at yourself. I think of it like a writing exercise–and also somewhere to store all those jokes that I think are hilarious but no one else seems to. The greatest thing is? My short attention span is actually remaining excited about this project. So at least if I’m not writing anything that will ever get me anywhere, I’m WRITING. And that’s the important thing.

And who knows? Maybe this’ll turn into something that is better than any WIP I’ve ever tried to think about!