Unpopular Opinion? Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas Review + Rant

The front half of this is spoiler free! I warn you when it isn’t. That would be the moment that I start ranting. Please chat with me in the comments! I’m really just struggling about this book. You know I love me some SJM, but I’ve never been a Chaol fan and then … that ending!

Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas Review + Controversy Discussion

I finished this book the day it came out and … I was broken. In shock. All my emotions were SHATTERED. However, I pulled it together enough to create this review. I always wanted to discuss a bit of the controversy that cropped up around Empire of Storms, and why Sarah did what she did (in my opinion). It’s all spoiler free! Either way, I wish that my shock had kept me knocked out until the next book appeared because I don’t know how I’m going to live until the next one!

5 Love Triangles that Don’t Suck

Technically this was my Monday video, but I was really busy so I’m posting this late here. Please love me. Anyways, in honor of the release of Kresley Cole’s newest book, Arcana Rising, I wanted to talk about love triangles in YA that I actually didn’t hate. As you know, this is a very hard thing for me to admit, but it turns out that such love triangles DO exist in the world!

Thesis Thursday: Thesis Defended

13095941_10209728188466067_7456087342351197460_nWell. Here we are. The last Thesis Thursday post. Last Wednesday, I successfully defended my 84 page behemoth that had 7 pages of work cited, single spaced. The only thing I have left to do is get it bound and submit a copy to the English Department. My panel has already decided that I get English Honors, so there is no stress left. Just the finished project.

Chapter One, which took up all of last semester, 16034235was the real, serious English-y investigation. I read five YA female assassin novels and talked about how YA literature is either letting girls be their real, strong selves or … not. Mostly it was not. Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass remained my shining centerpiece, but … well. Graceling by Kristin Cashore actually sort of held up, but Arwen Elys Dayton’s Seeker, Bridget Zinn’s Poison and RL LaFevers’ Grave Mercy did not. All the links I just inserted are to my reviews or re-reviews of those books. Mostly, I ended up talking about how YA tropes end up promising strong female characters and then don’t give us that–and that makes me angry.

12801277_10209140220927246_1575951528546352262_nChapter Two y’all saw some of, but that was the hardest chapter to write. I was talking about the commodification of YA book covers, but my original thesis didn’t hold up. I ended up needing a lot more quantitative research than I expected, and I had to redo my entire thesis statement. In the end, what I ended up saying is that the YA book cover industry looks a lot more diverse than it used to, but only for books that can pay for good cover art. Everything else is still blase look-alike kind of stuff. I actually did a video summarizing some of my research!

Chapter Three was the one that made me REALLY angry. I even posted a video about how it13094374_10209689763425465_2413078371465464007_n almost got me to stop blogging for like 30 seconds. It was all about how the publishing industry uses the free labor of teens to get their marketing data, but how a lot of the really GOOD data is ignored for information about what sells–like love triangles. It was all stuff I knew, really, but seeing it proven was just … wow. It was worse than I thought, I guess.

At my defense, my advisor–who’s been with me through all four years of college–got kind of nostalgic about all that time she’s known me, and now seeing this project come to fruition. She knows better than almost everyone else how much time and energy I put into my study and love of YA, and how much this project really means to me. It isn’t just a research project. It’s the culmination of years of my life spent blogging and reading, and a deep love of YA literature that is coupled with a serious desire for improvement within the genre. I guess, in a way, I hadn’t thought about this as the project I’ve been working on for all those years. This was just, you know, this year. But … she’s right. It never was. This is my heart and soul on these pages.

13139156_10209728182145909_7859981542704917588_nAnd now it’s done. Well, the paper anyways. I’m far from done. This project has shown me that this kind of research–in YA, on YA–is what I really want to do. I want to live this kind of work. Yeah, I’m going to Korea for a year, but this is the end goal. I want to go to grad school and do an even better version of this project. I want to say something that someone is going to listen to. This isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning.

Worth It Wednesday: “Graceling” by Kristin Cashore

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

GracelingTitle: Graceling

Author: Kristin Cashore

Goodreads Description: Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight – she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po’s friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace – or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away…

Why it’s worth it: Honestly, I’ve been giving this book so much love lately … I thought I’d already done this. An exhaustive search of my own blog proved this to be untrue, so I KNEW it had to be this week’s pick.

I’ve just recently re-read this book, because I used it for my first thesis chapter. Out of the five books that I read, only this one and Throne of Glass stood up to the test. While it has it’s issues, it was easily leaps and bounds better in every category than any other book than Throne of Glass.

Katsa is not a shirking violet, afraid of herself and her powers. She also isn’t a bloodthirsty killer. She is, somehow, both, in a way that makes her more human than a lot of other stereotyped assassins. The world around her is rich and deep, as Cashore really thinks about her world as a true globe, not just a few places. It’s interesting and engaging, and it all makes me want to live there and be Katsa’s best friend.

Katsa, however, doesn’t have many friends, and that’s what makes Prince Po special. Yeah, you can tell from just the blurb that there is going to be a romance there, but GUESS WHAT! It is actually a friendship first. A real one, not a pretend friendship that was always a romance but tried to trick you into something otherwise. When the romance comes, it comes naturally. Even better, Katsa debates even taking their relationship in that way, because she doesn’t want to sacrifice who she is or what she wants to be the girlfriend of a prince. Po and Katsa meet in the middle to create a romance that is real and fantastic.

The plot itself is not the most shocking thing, but it is entertaining and you’re invested because you love all the characters. It is lots of action and adventure and struggle that is supported by the romantic story line, not smothered by it.

All in all, what’s clear is that Cashore REALLY thought about Katsa as a strong female character, and it works. I have a longer review for more, but … do you need it? READ THIS.

Read it if you’re looking for: strong female characters, romance, action, adventure, fantasy, friendship, strong world building, strong cast of characters

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.

Thesis Thursdays: BIG NERDY NEWS

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!

Alright, if we’re being honest this news might not mean as much to you as it means to me. But go into this knowing that THIS MEANS A LOT TO ME, GUYS:

Continue reading

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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Worth It Wednesdays: “Red Queen” by Victoria Aveyard

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

Title: Red Queen

Author: Victoria Aveyard

Goodreads Description: This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.

But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart…

Why it’s worth it: I cuss out tropes a lot. I hate them. I’m tired of seeing them on repeat. I didn’t pick up this book originally because I thought it sounded fairly same-same and also I’ve become extremely wary of hyped books. I added it to my “maybe get someday” list and let it sit there. Then, when I taught high school writers over the summer, one of them–who loved Throne of Glass!–suggested that I read this one because it was a lot like that. I went out a few days later and bought it.

I DID VERY MUCH LIKE.

The world hooked me straight away, and for that I was very glad. It kept me reading when the book started to tumble into some of those books I so hate. (*coughlovetrianglecough*) But I kept reading, because Aveyard writes a really good story and from the inception the plot tackled some political realities that I hadn’t really seen.

THANK GOD I DID.

This book is just a trope subverter. That’s why I like it. I mean, sure, it covers all the basic bases like a well written story, thought out world building and characters I really like spending time with. All that is there, and all that on it’s own would make it a good book. What makes it a great book is that Aveyard knowingly sets up a plot that looks very similar to something I’ve seen a million times before and then in the final act BLOWS EVERYTHING UP WITH DYNAMITE. I haven’t been this blown away by a final act trope subversion since A Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.

Avoid the hype and read it. It’s worth it.

Read it if you’re looking for: Strong female characters, trope subversion, swoon-worthy male characters who are also more than nice to look at, hype that’s worth it, action, adventure, fantasy, magical powers, kick assery, political realism, dystopia

Thesis Thursdays: MEETING YOUR IDOL IS COOL

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!

Okay, I know that I promised something regarding Bridget Zinn and Poison for this week. I lied.

BECAUSE I MET SARAH J. MAAS LAST SATURDAY, GUYS.

I’m from a really small town in New York, where no authors ever come near. Remember that time I traveled five hours one way to see Cassie Clare, Holly Black and Sarah Rees Brennan? No regrets, but yikes.

Anyways. Sarah JUST HAPPENED to add a few extra stops in Pennsylvania to her Queen of Shadows tour, and ONE OF THEM WAS ONLY 4 HOURS AWAY. I couldn’t miss this chance.

So I didn’t. (Props to my best friend of six years for driving me.)

12049642_10208002863134012_194106265650517093_n

Sarah is REALLY PRETTY, guys. AND REALLY NICE AND REALLY WONDERFUL AND AWESOME. She took time with everyone and was just … amazing. I shook the whole time and spoke in this really high pitched voice but it was okay because *shrieks loudly and incoherently with fangirl screaming*

12006142_10208002864014034_7938053637420484565_nAhem. So what makes this a Thesis Thursday post, you ask? Because I wasn’t kidding when I said last week that the basis of my thesis is Sarah’s books. Literally. My entire evolving idea has had Throne of Glass as it’s center cog. When I did my Worth It Wednesday post for this series, I also talked about last year and my academic conference presentation that centered on her books. Now that I’m a senior, I get to do my English work on books *I* pick. And right now, that’s just … SarahSarahSarahSarah.

I have most of her books in ecopy (and I forgot my hardback of 12004722_10208002862293991_682126073511519324_nACOTAR, dammit), but when I saw all of the hardbacks just sitting there behind her … I splurged. And I justified this because I need physical copies to put sticky notes in as I do my thesis. (Okay. Really just #1 but shhhh…)

Her books also exemplify the way that I would like to be as a writer, which is what I’m incorporating into the novel I’m writing for my other senior project. Not just in how much fun the books are, but also in how they’ve grown and changed as the series has been published. Her books aren’t just amazing for a reader; for a writer learning their craft, Sarah sets a great example for debuting strong and consistently getting better.

So this is a Thesis Thursday not because I did any actual work (ha!) but because I got to meet my idol and she was amazing and for this week I’m just going to revel in the fact that I am writing an honors thesis and I AM EXCITED ABOUT IT. And Sarah is a big reason why.