So, today’s From the Notebook segment is a bit of real talk. It’s about one of my coping mechanisms for when I’m depressed and anxious, but why this doesn’t exactly mean that I’ll be reviewing a lot of stuff until I get some down time to myself. I also talk about some of my TV obsessions, though I will admit that by the time I got around to making this post, I finished Covert Affairs. Whoops? Enjoy, and hope y’all are doing well and happy.
THE WEEKLY WRAP UPS THAT NEVER WERE!
Okay, these are still late. But you know what, these exist. We’re wrapping up the last two weeks in a weird, timey-wimey video that shows that we really did try to have these out on time. The editing just never happened because Michaela and I are struggling to find a new rhythm in our new post-grad lives. Please love us while we fix this kinks!
Monday, May 23
Tuesday, May 24
Wednesday, May 25
- Michaela’s Review of Vision: Little Worse Than a Man
- Gretchen’s Worth It Wednesday: Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Thursday, May 26
Friday, May 27
Monday, May 30
Tuesday, May 31
Wednesday, June 1
Friday, June 3
- Gretchen’s ARC Review of The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May
- Michaela’s Summer Reads Recommendations
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!
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
Weekly Wrap Up 4/17/16
Hey guys! Sadly, there is neither a “what we read” section to this post nor a video. This is a text only wrap up post, due to the fact that Michaela and I are (technically) currently on hiatus. Michaela left for vacation a few days ago, and she is without time or internet to commit to things such as videos. BUT! There were still plenty of goodies this week that you don’t want to miss, so here we go!
- Gretchen’s Worth It Wednesday: The Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce
- Michaela’s Review of East of West: We are All One by Jonathan Hickman
Worth It Wednesday: The Song of the Lioness Series by Tamora Pierce
Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!
Title: Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness #1)
Author: Tamora Pierce
Goodreads Description: From now on I’m Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I’ll be a knight.
And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. Though a girl, Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Thom heads for the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page.
But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies.
Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s first adventure begins – one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and the magical destiny that will make her a legend in her land.
Why it’s worth it: Do you love yourself a good female warrior? Well, any character you’ve ever loved that sounds like Alanna is basically thanks to this series. Tamora Pierce is widely regarded as the main popularizer of the genre, and for good damn reason. While my favorite series is The Protector of the Small, the Song of the Lioness will always occupy the strongest sense of love and nostalgia in my heart.
This series is the story of one woman up against terrible odds, and her struggle to overcome the sexism and gender expectations of her time. She has a fiery temper and a great sense of humor. Though Alanna does have magic, she earns her shield through tenacity and practice. What’s even better, however, is that this four book series chronicles a journey that is completely human even while being action packed and magical. Alanna makes mistakes, falls in love with the wrong people and has to overcome herself as much as she has to overcome the obstacles of others. While romance is involved with the plot, it is never the focal point, and Alanna goes through a series of relationships that grow and deepen as she grows up.
Tamora also sends Alanna far away into her extremely deep world of Tortall and beyond, exploring the themes of what it means to be a woman and a warrior outside of the traditional medieval-esque setting. While Alanna’s story may be the main focus, it is also about so many more smaller stories that connect together.
This series is one of my most re-read, and I’m pretty sure it’ll be that way until the dayI die. If you haven’t read it, GO DO SO!
Read it if you’re looking for: strong female characters, one of the original female warriors, high fantasy, strong world building, strong female friendships, action, adventure, magic, stories that don’t depend on romance, realistic romance
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!
- Book cover trends in general – like, literally, what is going on with this? Books that 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:
- 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.
- Girls 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?
- 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,
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?
- 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?
- Book 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 frustrating, 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.
Can 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.
From the Notebook: Top 10 Series I NEED to Finish!
So, last week’s video was made of some rather unpopular opinions, as I discussed the Top 10 series I would never finish. On the heels of that, I boomeranged back the other way this week with a MUCH more positive (but no less expressive) video about the top 10 series I could have finished … but haven’t. Ergo, I need to get on finishing these series RIGHT THE HELL NOW. Ahem. Anyways, enjoy!
From the Notebook: (Some) Favorite Books to Re-Read
From the Notebook videos are back! This week I’m talking about all the books I re-read while I was home. I spent a lot of winter break sick or feeling awful after getting my wisdom teeth out, so this is really a list of some of my favorite books of all time. A lot of these are the books I always return to and that make me smile and make me happy. Enjoy the last video I filmed at my house for the foreseeable future!
Posts mentioned in this video:
Weekly Wrap Up + What We Read 1/17/16
Betwixt the Books is back with another weekly wrap up, plus what we read this week! As an added bonus, I look like a very sad and botoxed chipmunk, since I just got my wisdom teeth out. This is a sight not to be missed, Michaela says. I say that you shouldn’t miss this video even though I look like … this. Anyways, without further ado!
30 Seconds to Disagree: “The First Test” by Tamora Pierce
Look what Betwixt the Books is bringing back! This time around, I have 1 minute to tell Michaela about The First Test and The Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce, she has 30 seconds to disagree, and I have 30 more seconds to tell her why she’s wrong.
As always, there is a partner to this video, where Michaela and I reverse roles, posted today at The Pied Piper Calls. Check that out as well!
Don’t miss my first video in this series about Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen.