Worth It Wednesdays: “Circle of Magic” series by Tamora Pierce

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

512bc8sybuwl-_sx297_bo1204203200_Title (of first book): Sandry’s Book

Author: Tamora Pierce

Goodreads Description (of first book): With her gift of weaving silk thread and creating light, Sandry is brought to the Winding Circle community. There she meets Briar, a former thief who has a way with plants; Daja, an outcast gifted at metalcraft; and Tris, whose connection with the weather unsettles everyone, including herself. At Winding Circle, the four misfits are taught how to use their magic – and to trust one another. But then disaster strikes their new home. Can Sandry weave together four kinds of magical power and save herself, her friends, and the one place where they’ve ever been accepted?

Why it’s worth it: You know, these books get a lot less love than Tamora’s Tortall books, and that’s always struck me as pretty unfair. Do I like those books better? Actually, yes. But the Circle of Magic books do so many important things that, really, these are just as worth it.

This world is BIG. There are two sets of connected quartets (one with the foursome together, and one while they are apart). Then there is the novel where they all come back together again. Then there are two other novels that are related to Briar and a character that is introduced in one of Briar’s books. PHEW.

But that is the seriously cool thing about this series. For one, Tris, Sandry, Briar and Daja are all very different people. They come from very different backgrounds and go very different places with their future. In the first four books, it’s all about them finding a way through their differences to work together as a team. In the second quartet, they figure up how to grow up apart. While people are going to tend to like some of the characters over others, there is literally someone for everyone. There are so many unique struggles that there is always something to connect to. Reading the standalone novel where they all come back together is heartbreaking because these once close people have their own secrets and scars and they have to figure out what their “family” means to them once again. I love it.

And when I’m talking about struggles, I’m not talking small scale. Sure, there are your typical self-acceptance and self-growth story lines. But these happen while the characters are doing everything from surviving genocide and the resulting PTSD to figuring out their own sexuality. The Circle of Magic books talk about a LOT of topics that, at the time they were published, I hadn’t really seen in young adult publishing.

That’s why these books deserve so much more love than they get. They start off amazing, and they only get better and more intense. They say so many important things, for people of all ages. If you haven’t read these yet, the largess of the series is totally worth it–and, really, not big enough.

Read it if you’re looking for: strong female characters, rotating POVs, LGBTQAI+ novels, long series, books about war, books about PTSD, magic, action, adventure, strong world building, books about family, books without a lot of romance

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From the Notebook: Where is the YA for Boys?

This week’s video is rather long, but this is what happens when I talk about something I’m extremely passionate about. In response to some thoughts Michaela had about YA in her review of Eon by Allison Goodman, I had some thoughts of my own. Well. A lot of thoughts. Reading is a passion I’m lucky enough to share with one of my younger brothers, but … well … YA doesn’t exactly create a lot of common ground of interesting stories for us. This is one part recommendations of books my brother and I have both read, one part life story of my experience trying to share YA with my brother and one part impassioned speech about how YA needs to include more stories for boys. It barely scratches the surface of my thoughts, so I look forward to continuing the conversation with you!

Worth It Wednesdays: “Anna and the French Kiss” by Stephanie Perkins

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

anna and the french kissTitle: Anna and the French Kiss

Author: Stephanie Perkins

Goodreads Description: Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris–until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all…including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

Why it’s worth it: When the blogosphere first blew up with this book, I shied away automatically. I tend to dislike YA contemporary romance, and this just sounded … trite. Like I’d read it a million times before. But more and more of my bloggy friends and people I liked around the internet kept saying I THOUGHT THAT BUT IT’S GOOD and I went … alright?

TURNS OUT THAT THEY WERE ALL CORRECT.

Anna is the kind of book that stays with you long after the pages have shut. It’s the kind of book that I re-read when I’m feeling the worst in my life. Does the description make it sound like dozens of other things? Yes. Is the plot similar in that way? Yes.

The thing about it, though, is the way that Perkins writes. There is no doubt in my mind about the reality of this story. The characters are REAL. Their issues are REAL. And there is none of this “main character perfection” or “love interest perfection” thing that happens sometimes in similar novels. Anna and St. Clair are messed up. They mess up over the course of the book. They fall apart and them come back together, TOGETHER.

Also, Perkins doesn’t let the book just be about the romance. There is a lot of real back and forth about friendships, and how crushes within friend groups can lead to grief and heartache. Yet, again, the friendships fall apart and come back together with a reality that is staggering. There isn’t a single character–within the main romance or not–that doesn’t steal your heart.

Maybe I’m biased. Anna did get me through one of the toughest periods of my life. But I thoroughly believe that a lot of it is also due to the fact that Perkins is just a damn good author. There are two companion books to Anna, and both are really good as well. Okay, I was only okay with Lola and The Boy Next Door but Isla and The Happily Ever After came back and stole my heart all over again. So yeah. Just read them.

Read it if you’re looking for: YA contemporary romance that won’t make you want to vomit, lack of a real love triangle, books about friendship, books about Paris, books about family, swoon worthy romance, books that will stay with you.

These Four Walls

These Four Walls

These four walls
Have held me up forever
Kept me safe all my life
And even when the colors dimmed
They stood so tall I never wondered
If they’d ever fall

These four walls
When did they start cracking?
How did I miss all the signs?
Now the chipping, the peeling,
The cracking, the holes
Are too far gone to repair

These four walls
Can’t stand on their own now
Can’t keep supporting the ceiling
From crashing down on us all
Their screams fill the air
But I’m too afraid to cover my ears

These four walls
I’m holding them up now
I won’t let them crash on the only life I’ve ever known
There’s nothing else for me to do
Even though I know
One day they’ll smother me

The Problem

The Problem

It’s you
Thinking there is nothing wrong
Believing you
And only you
To be in the right
Telling us we’re wrong
As we look amongst each other
Wondering where your heart has gone

It’s us
Saying nothing
Hoping this is just a phase
Praying you’ll start living again
Hiding in the corners of a room
You fill with your presence
Trying not to get burned
On the fringes or to ash

It’s you
Screaming at us for the wrongs
You refuse to pin on yourself
Hurting us because you are in pain
And thus so to must we be
You think this is the right way
The only way
Because you say so

It’s us
Not telling you anything is wrong
Smiling at you from across the room
Laughing at your jokes
Pretending we’re okay
Walking on our tiptoes
In case we awaken the sleeping fury
Of all of our problems

Why I’m Here

(FYI, this piece was written off a prompt for “Why are you here?” and to make it as crazy, bragging and laugh-inducing as possible. It’s a wonderful thing to do when you’re feeling down, I promise!)

Why I’m Here

Because I am 16
And I haven’t lived yet
I’m here because I have just self-published a book
And I want to sell a million copies
I haven’t seen Japan yet
I haven’t learned to ride a motorcycle yet
But I am the manager of a 50 person dining room
And the editor of a magazine with 3,000 people who read it
I haven’t seen all my friends face-to-face yet
And no one’s able to fly
And I want recognition
Happiness
Love
And peace
But I’m still trying to figure out what all that means
I’m here because my brothers need me
I’m here because my parents want me
No one can fix broken bonds yet
But I want to be the first one
And I want to see a world of peace
With no pollution
War
or greed
And I’m going to make that happen
I am here because I haven’t signed an agent
I haven’t found a publisher
But someday I want to see my title be a NY Times bestseller
I am here because I want to live
And my dreams have stopped the darkness in my heart
I am here because I have something to say
And I haven’t said enough yet

All Goes to Pieces

I’m proud to say this is a piece I performed today, but it’s not really a piece that I think I should record. I’m currently playing with different ways to do that, and we’ll see if I actually do or just type it up at let you act it out. 😀

All Goes to Pieces

A girl kneels beside her bed
As if in prayer but not
She is staring at the blue vein in her wrist
Wondering how she got so low that she knows opening it won’t help
The house shelters her from the weather outside
Wishing it could kneel in prayer to a God she does not believe
Because it would be something more to give than four walls

But it helps the boys more
Welding the lock to their door
Not to keep them in but to keep the shouting out
The parents are upstairs
Shaking window panes and slamming doors
The house cannot keep the screaming contained
They hear it through failing walls

So the girl changes her Facebook religion to atheist
Saying “This I now know”
As the brothers lie in their bunk bed
Ashamed to admit the comfort of their solidarity
And the parents plan a vacation
That would send them each to a different corner of the country
And they welcome it

As they sit around the TV
Drowning out the wind that’s lashing the outside
The girl and the house stare at each other through the two-faced window
Both wondering if this is where it all goes to pieces