Thesis Thursday: Merry Christmas and Here’s What’s Happening in the New Year

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!

giphy1Praise Santa because I’m finally home. I made it out of my penultimate semester as an undergrad alive. (Mostly.) Honestly, since I’ve gotten home I’ve mostly been sleeping around requisite holiday stuff.

But anyways. You aren’t here to read about how tired I’ve been. You’re probably here to read about my thesis. Otherwise I’m confused why you clicked on a post titled Thesis Thursday.

I don’t know if I ever spelled this out, but the two thesis projects I had thisgiphy2 semester had two very different goals. One was for my Writing BA, and that necessitated me writing at least 50 pages of original work. I wrote way over 50 before I even considered participating in NaNoWriMo in November. I think I hit about 170 pages of the novel when I won. It’s still not done. Maybe like … 3/5ths done, if you want to get specific. I’m never really sure when I’m writing because I don’t plan a damn thing. But anyways, that one is completely finished and done as far as the school is concerned. I’m going to finish it, but on my own time.

baby-napThe English thesis, on the other hand, is still a massive work in progress. The goal for this last semester was to research things for it and then write the first chapter, and the goal for next semester is to write the last two chapters, defend it and present it. Not necessarily in that order, as I’ve learned, since my presentation is in the middle of freaking April and it’s assumed I’ll still be writing it then.

The finished chapter is currently titled “Taming of the Tropes: How the 81pujydq2ylFemale Assassin in YA Literature Showcases the Biggest Issues and Best Possible Subversions of YA’s Most Popular Tropes” and basically it’s about how so much of YA lit presents a supposedly empowering female main character and then takes away all her power and agency with a really creepy and terrible romance arc. Specifically, I looked at female assassin literature using Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Poison by Bridget Zinn, Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton and–of course–Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. If you want the fangirl version of my thesis, it’s that Throne of Glass is the only one that gets close to present a truly empowered female character while also presenting a plot that thoroughly subverts popular tropes that I’m sick and tired of seeing.

buriedinbooksThe origin of this thesis was me trying to figure out how I could just re-read ToG forever and this is what happened. I’m happy to say that it held up to my intense scrutiny (mostly), because some of them did not. I wrote a blog post about how shattered I was by this re-reading of Grave Mercy, and I reviewed Poison, so if I get around to it I’ll post a reaction to my re-reading of Graceling (mostly okay) and a review of Seeker (mostly not okay).

However, Thesis Thursdays is a long way from over! My second chapter is 200going to deal with marketing strategies for YA books, like cover trends, blurbing, etc, and how that factors in to commodification and tropes, and my third will tackle different publishing strategies as weapons for and against this war of commodification and tropeism. (While still talking about how amazing Sarah J. Maas, Bloomsbury and the Throne of Glass series are.)

Basically, sit tight and wait for next semester. Expect a bunch of bleary-eyed rants about more things that frustrate me. Whether I’m doing research for my thesis or just writing it.

Also, Michaela and I have not forgotten our Betwixt the Books goals. Look for new videos–both solo and together–as we try to figure out how to keep making BookTube videos while separated, since Michaela graduated a semester early and LEFT ME. Coming after the holidays is our promised #imbibliomancy episode on Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant!

Thanks for reading, guys, and happy holidays!

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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?

Thesis Thursdays: The Joy of Public Libraries + New Book Possibilities

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!

As you may know, I’ve been struggling to find good books to use for my thesis. I need YA books with female assassins but assassins are different from warriors (i.e., knights, etc) and finding females trained to kill human people is actually harder than it looks. I have a lot of feminist ranting thoughts about this (which will probably at some point be a post), but for now I’m going to stick to something more positive:

How much I love libraries.

When I was younger, I used my local library a lot more. I didn’t have all that much money for myself, and I devoured books too fast to buy too many anyways. How else would I have gotten through EVERY SINGLE NANCY DREW EVER PUBLISHED (at the time)? My library. How else could I afford to read every single Clive Cussler title? My library. Remember when Bibliomancy for Beginners did all thirteen Series of Unfortunate Events books? Thanks library! I volunteered there. I knew everyone by name. I lived there.

But I began to become frustrated with my library for several reasons. One, I lived a while outside of town and getting there was hard. Two, I wanted to own my own copies of things so I could read them again and again. Then, when I started blogging, I had such a cache of free eARCs that getting even more books from the library seemed overkill. So I stopped going.

I think my on campus library made me forget what real libraries look like. It’s all academic textbooks and sheet music and old newspapers. So when it came time to look for books for my thesis, I immediately discounted “library” as a term that could help me find what I needed. I turned to the internet and got lost in Google. Then my friend Taylor (might recognize him from Bibliomancy for Beginners) said, “Want to go to the public library for thesis research with me?”

GUYS LIBRARIES ARE AMAZING, NEVER FORGET ABOUT THEM.

I spent hours sitting on the floor of the YA section, going title by title through their selection, looking for thesis books. This might sound tedious, but actually that’s what I want my heaven to look like: shelves and shelves of books I want to read for me to go through. I only made it through a small section, but I managed to find four books with possibilities and that’s way more than I had before. (I’m going to list these below, in case anyone has read them yet, to see if anyone knows if they have what I’m looking for.)

How else would I be able to read these books, when I don’t know if I actually can use them? I don’t have enough money to just spend them on books willy-nilly. Don’t even mention illegal downloads, because I DO NOT do that. How else would I be able to browse book by book in a methodical manner? My local library has a FANTASTIC YA selection, by the way. It’s perfect. Just perfect.

So, guys, this is important: SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY. LOVE IT. DON’T FORGET ABOUT IT.

(And thanks, Taylor, for dragging me along.)

New books for consideration:

Hit by Delilah S. Dawson

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman

Top Ten Authors Who Deserve More Recognition

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

Okay, so, this is a really hard topic for me. I tend to spend most of my time dying over authors inside my own head, so I don’t really know who’s getting a lot of recognition and who’s not. So … this list is my attempt to help boost some signals without knowing exactly what I’m doing. 😛 Some authors I like because of deep reasons, others are debuts I want to raise a glass to, etc. This list is in no particular order.

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Top Ten New To Me Authors I Read in 2012

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

Okay, this list is HARDLY the only awesome new to me authors I read in 2012. They’re just as far as I could go back in the year before I hit 10, and honestly I didn’t get very far.

1. Gennifer Albin (Crewel)

Yeah, I had my issues with Crewel, but I can’t deny the sheer awesomeness of this idea and the book and the cover and– and– just *drool*.

2. Jay Kristoff (Stormdancer)

GUYS. HE WRITES JAPANESE STEAMPUNK. THERE IS A THUNDER-TIGER. Enough has been said. (But I said more in my review!)

3. Kat Zhang (What’s Left of Me)

I have so much respect for Kat. Not only did she manage to successfully narrate this novel from a body that has 2 personalities inside, but she managed to write OTHER characters that have TWO PERSONALITIES. Oh, and did I mention the book is awesomesauce? Because it is. I said so HERE.

4. S. J. Kincaid (Insignia)

Not only did this book have me laughing out loud, but I gave it to my brother and it made HIM laugh out loud and it gave us something to talk about. Both him laughing and us talking are like miracles. Read more HERE.

5. Anna Banks (Of Poseidon)

Up until this point, I was NOT a fan of the new mermaid trend. But Banks won me over, and I actually really ended up enjoying this one! You can read why HERE.

6. Katie McGarry (Pushing the Limits)

It takes a seriously good book to a) almost make me cry and b) actually like anything in the contemporary YA genre. McGarry did BOTH. I explain more HERE.

7. Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass)

I think this book is like my most recommended book all year. Like seriously. Because you know why? I CAN’T HANDLE HOW AWESOME THIS BOOK IS OHMYGOD I JUST– Ahem. Read my review for more (CAPS).

8. Nina Berry (Otherkin)

Okay, so for one, Berry wrote a school setting that I didn’t hate, and for that I give her huge props. Also, she’s awesome to talk to on Twitter, and that makes her doubly awesome. You can read more about the book HERE.

9. Elizabeth Wein (Code Name Verity)

Okay, we’ve discussed how hard it is to make me cry. WEIN ALMOST SUCCEEDED. Also, the way the book was written I should have HATED it. But I didn’t. I loved it. And I sang it’s praises so loudly and haven’t stopped since.

10. Robin LaFevers (Grave Mercy)

Basically anyone who writes historical fiction is instantly my bestie. But this was historical fantasy, which was even better, and then there was the ASSASSIN NUNS. It doesn’t get much better than this. Check out my review for more!

Review: “Grave Mercy” by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) by Robin LaFevers (Click for Goodreads)

5 stars

Escaping from the brutality of an arranged marriage, seventeen year old Ismae finds sanctuary at the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts–and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must be willing to take the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany, where she must pose as a mistress to the darkly mysterious Gavriel Duval, who has fallen under a cloud of suspicion. Once there, she finds herself woefully unprepared–not only for the deadly games of love and intrigue, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

Upon finishing this book, the critical reviewer in me had a bad moment. It raised its hackles and started stalking back through the book for something to comment on, something that annoyed me, something that stuck out. It took me a really long moment to realize that I had just simply enjoyed this book. Then the reviewer in me freaked out, because I hate throwing around 5 stars. But so the rating stays.

Why, you ask? Well that’s what I’m here to tell you.

This book started in the exact right place. You get an insight into what makes Ismae who she is–a poignant one–that doesn’t last for more than a few pages before you get to what you know you really want to read about, the killing nuns. However, those few pages are important, done well, and really allow the rest of the book to be accessible. The book is in the first person, and at first glance Ismae isn’t exactly a narrator like Sophie from the Hex Hall books. However, because you know where she’s coming from, her matter-of-fact way of speaking makes sense and connects the reader rather than repels them. And makes her dry sense of humor that much more awesome.

Speaking of characters, few books have such a solid cast of background characters such as this book. Even the characters that you didn’t see that often were well written and not stereotypes. From the younger duchess to Duval’s second-in-commands, I was in love with every single one of them–even the villains! (In fact, in places, especially the villains.)

I’ll admit, after reading Illuminate by Aimee Agresti Grave Mercy scared me because of its length. It’s 549 pages long. However, every single one of those pages was well used. Plenty of assassin stuff goes on, as well as plenty of intrigue and plotting. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized I actually couldn’t guess what was coming–and I certainly didn’t guess the ending! (Well, in part. It’s a romance; some things are a given.)

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.

Lastly, Grave Mercy made me realize just how much modern day/modernish day plus a few years into the future where everything is a wreck books I’d be reading. I love historical fiction, and Grave Mercy made me miss it ridiculously. I didn’t realize it until Ismae legitimately used the word “poleaxed” in a sentence and I started giggling, because how many modern teens use that? All around, this book was a refreshing change from the other books I’d been reading that was filled with great characters, a fantastical historical world, great mythology and a real romance. If you like historical romance headlines by killer females (yes, pun intended, deal with it) then I certainly recommend Grave Mercy. Even if you don’t do much historical fiction, I still recommend it. The history and it’s figures were done so well I absolutely forgot it WAS historical fiction. It’s one of my favorites so far this year!

The second book in the His Fair Assassin series, Dark Triumph, is expected to be published in Spring 2013.