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Friday, August 3, 2018

Down the TBR Hole #1


Down the TBR Hole is a feature started by Lost in a Story. It's a fun meme where we take a look at our Goodreads TBR pile and decide whether we still want to read the books on the list, or if they'll be deleted to make room for others!
It works like this:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?
The Books




• Chime by Franny Billingsly •
I had to re-read the summary for this, because I had no clue what this was even about. It's about witches and romance, and ehhhh, I'm just not feeling it honestly.
Decision:

• Hourglass by Myra McEntire •
I remember there was a lot of hype when this book came out. It looks like there's a lot of good reviews on Goodreads, with only a few bad ones, so that makes me kinda want to keep it. Buut, there is a very compelling bad review that's top of the page, and has a decent amount of likes, so perhaps that person spoke for a lot of people who felt the same. At the end of the day, it's from 2011 and I think I can make room for more recent books.
Decision

• The Haunted by Jessica Verday •
This is the sequel to The Hollow, which I own but haven't read yet. Because I haven't read it, but plan to, I'm going to keep The Haunted on my TBR just because I don't know whether I like the series yet or not.
Decision:

• Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey •
Honestly, truly, I'm keeping this on my TBR pile because the cover is so freaking pretty! I haven't even looked at the summary again, I just want this on my shelf.
Decision

• Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare • 
I already own it, just haven't read it, so it's definitely going to stay. I'll read it eventually!
Decision

• Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs •
Ahh, this one is tricky. I love love love mermaid stories, and I love the cover for this one. But, after reading some reviews and the summary, I just don't think this one will make the cut :(
Decision:

Do you agree with me? Do you think I should have kept certain books, and removed others? Let me know!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Let's RE-Discuss: Sex in YA


Let's RE-Discuss is a post series in which I will revive old discussion posts from the archives of my blog and see if I still agree with myself. 
Spoilers–why so taboo?

I wrote in a post in 2011 on sex in YA, and whether I thought it was appropriate. At the time, I was 16 and far less knowledgable about the ways of the world, if ya know what I mean.
So, let's see what 16 year old Ashley said:
To me, sex in YA isn't bad or taboo at all. On the contrary, I think there could even be a bit more of it. Sex in YA isn't crude or inappropriate, it's realistic. As a high school attending teenager myself, I can honestly say that sex plays a very major role in every single teenager's life. It doesn't mean that every teen is having sex, but a good number of them are. As a parent, there is no possible way to shield your teen from it. Sure, you can monitor what your teen does on the Internet, and what they read, and the movies they watch, but the moment they go to school, guess what? Teens talk. If one has sex, it gets around, and your teen is exposed to it anyway, only now it's worse, because now your teen has the added pressure of looking "cool" when talking about sex. Or maybe you're one of those parents thinking, "Well, my child goes to a Catholic/Christian/private school, so there is less of all that going on." I'm sorry, but all I can do is snort at that. I've been going to Catholic school for 8 years now, and trust me, there is just as much of 'that' going on in a private school as there is anywhere else.
Aaaalll right, let's unpack that, hm? I still agree that sex is realistic and normal for teenagers. I'd go even further to say that, now as a responsible adult that more fully understands cause and effect, if sex is portrayed in YA it should be represented responsibly. There's nothing wrong with safe, consensual sex. And I feel as though in general, the media doesn't expose us to versions of that and we're given this warped view of sensuality and intimacy. We're shown the hot and heavy, rip my clothes off and take me now scenes, and usually those make me cringe. I can't help but yelling at the characters--"but what about STD's?? And YOU'LL GET PREGNANT!" I've been reading a lot more New Adult romance lately, and one thing I've noticed is that most of the first intimate scenes feature a moment in which one of the characters brings up safe sex practices--yes! That's a win! It could just be the authors that I happen to pick, not sure, but I can always get way more immersed into the story with that peace of mind.

I do still agree that teenagers, now more than ever with social media, are absolutely inundated with sex in all its forms. I'm not sure why, but I seem to have targeted that paragraph to parents, as though some were reading my blog ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  I'm going to assume that readers of my blog fall into my own age range, so I'll edit that paragraph and just say that we all know that reading a book with a brief sex mention when we were teens wasn't the most provocative thing we'd ever seen.

Of course, there is a huge difference in how a 13 year old understands sex, compared to how a 17 year old understands it. Just as there is a huge difference between a 17 year old's understanding of it, and a 25 year old's, and so on. I guess that's where the tricky part comes in, because what's to stop a 13 or 14 year old from picking up a novel that is, ideally, meant for older teens? Nothing. Well, there is one way. In Ramona's article, she writes about having a friend who read every novel before she let her daughter's read them, and that worked for her. That is probably the only way, but really, up to what age can you baby your children like that? 15? 16? I guess it's up to the parents to decide, based on the maturity level of their child.

I was always allowed free pick of what I wanted to read, because I've always been very mature for my age. When I was a bit younger, I could always tell what was appropriate for me and what wasn't, so my mom never worried about me. Now I'm at the point where, even if she wanted to, my mom couldn't monitor what I read and what I don't. I'm old enough to make my own decisions, and mature enough to understand what I'm reading and the context that it's in.
Now that I'm older, I see even less reason for a parent to need to screen the books that their kids read. Honestly, if it's a YA book, it's not going to cross any crazy lines. And it's pretty easy to tell the difference between actual erotica, and a YA book. I know there are some very strict parents who wouldn't like that, but I think kids should be exposed to different things. But, I do think that perhaps reading some reviews about the books beforehand could be a good alternative to reading every single book before your kid does.

I will finish off this discussion post with this last piece from Ramona's article:
Sex should be part of YA books, because it’s a part of every young adult’s life, one way or the other. But I think it should be portrayed exactly as it is. A BIG DEAL. Messy. Wonderful. Confusing. Occasionally bearing STDs or unwanted pregnancies. LIFE-CHANGING. True to life.
YES. I agree with this a million times over. I guess my whole point with this long post was to say that YA author's shouldn't be afraid to include sex in their novels. Not pointless, slutty sex, just for the sake of it. That kind if just irritating and makes me instantly hate the book. But include it in there because it adds to the story. It adds to the realness of it. Sex isn't going anywhere--not unless you really want the world to end. So don't hide it because "teens can't handle it." We can, trust me.
Hm. I'd like to unpack some of the slight internalized misogyny my younger self fell into there--"slutty" sex. As I've gotten older and learned the ways of the world, I've realized that "sex for the sake of sex" is perfectly okay. And there's nothing wrong with experiencing that in a safe, consensual way as a teenager. So, I rescind that statement made by my younger self. But, I do truly enjoy when a scene of intimacy gives us deeper understanding into the characters, and by extension, the story.

What do you think? Share your comments below!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

BLOG TOUR + #GIVEAWAY: The Archivist by Christy Sloat @christysloat @GCReading


The Archivist by Christy Sloat
Genre: Upper YA
Series: The Librarian Chronicles #2 (companion novels)

"With the whimsy of Alice in Wonderland and the romance of Outlander dive back into the next installment in the Librarian Chronicles."



Savannah Preston has a rare and precious gift: The ability to time travel through books. She, and others who share this unique ability, are faced with the insurmountable task of preserving history. They are known collectively as The Librarians.



While researching infamous Scottish outlaw Sir Malcolm Wash during the raging conflicts of the 14th Century, Savannah loses the only thing that tethers her to her own time. She must rely on her knowledge of both the present and the past to survive long enough to find a way home. Along the way, she enlists the help of a misfit named Eoin. With his guidance, she might just get home. It’s a risky and dangerous adventure, but then, so is Eoin…


Purchase
Review

I greatly enjoyed reading The Archivist, and was intrigued enough to buy the first book in the series and put it on my TBR list for the coming future. The Archivist is actually the second book in The Librarian Chronicles, but it can be read as a stand-alone just fine. I can attest to that, as I had no context coming into this book and understood it just fine.

Savannah gets to travel to other times through books in order to properly record what happened in history--as we know, historians aren't always right. Savannah loves her job, even though it's caused a lot of tension between her and her mother--tension that may be irreparable, unfortunately. This book did deal with a very rocky mother-daughter relationship, with some abusive words being thrown Savannah's way. Just mentioning that for anyone who may be uncomfortable with that situation.

One day, Savannah gets forcibly thrust back in time to 14th century Scotland, and ends up stranded without a way to get back. This leads her to meet Eoin, who at first is rude and gruff. But, Savannah needs Eoin's help to find something very important that was lost, and is the key to getting back to her time. I loved reading about Savannah and Eoin's budding romance! I have to say, even though my experience with Scottish love interests has been very few, I realize I have a total thing for Scottish guys in books?? Hell yes! Especially when the author is able to make the Scottish accent shine through the text and for it to feel super natural--Christy Sloat was able to do just that, and Eoin was all better for it. *dreamy sigh* Is the romance quick to ignite? Yes, it is. Did it feel forced? Not at all! Savannah and Eoin fall for each other in what feels like a totally natural and necessary way.

In terms of plot, it's not action packed, but the stakes were high enough to keep me interested the whole time and to wonder how it would all resolve. I have to say I'm pretty happy how it turned out, and I'll be eagerly following this series--and Christy Sloat's future work--for more!

4 stars.


About the Author

Christy Sloat resides in New Jersey with her husband, two daughters and her Chihuahua, Sophie. Christy has embraced the love of reading and writing since her youth and was inspired by her grandmother's loving support. She loves adventurous journeys with her friends and can be known to get lost inside a bookstore. She is the bestselling author of fourteen novels including, The Librarian, The Visitors Series, The Past Lives Series and the award-winning Slumber Duology.
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Giveaway


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This review copy was provided for free in exchange for an honest review. All views expressed above are solely my own. Affiliate links for Amazon included.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Clearing My Shelves #Giveaway: Memento Nora ARC by Angie Smibert @amsmibert


Clearing My Bookshelves is a feature I'm doing to move books I've read to new and loving homes. I don't want them to be sitting on my shelves gathering dust, so I'm going through all my books and giving them away! Lucky for you guys ;)


On an otherwise glossy day, a blast goes off and a body thuds to the ground at Nora's feet. There are terrorist attacks in the city all the time, but Nora can't forget.

In Nora's world you don't have to put up with nightmares. Nora goes with her mother to TFC--a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic. There, she can describe her horrible memory and take a pill to erase it so she can go on like nothing ever happened. But at TFC a chance encounter with a mysterious guy changes Nora's life. She doesn't take the pill. And when Nora learns the memory her mother has chosen to forget, she realizes that someone needs to remember.

With newfound friends Micah and Winter, Nora makes a comic book of their memories called Memento. Memento is an instant hit, but it sets off a dangerous chain of events. Will Nora, Micah, and Winter be forced to take the Big Pill that will erase their memories forever?

Angie Smibert's remarkable debut novel takes readers on a thrilling ride through a shadowy world where corporations secretly rule and consumerism is praised above all.
Giveaway Rules

  1. Must be 18 or older to enter
  2. US only.
  3. You have 48 hours to reply to winning email, and then I will move on to the next person.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Friday, July 6, 2018

Clearing My Bookshelves #Giveaway: Wither ARC by @LaurenDeStefano


Clearing My Bookshelves is a feature I'm doing to move books I've read to new and loving homes. I don't want them to be sitting on my shelves gathering dust, so I'm going through all my books and giving them away! Lucky for you guys ;)

Today's bounty is the ARC I received of Wither by Lauren DeStefano
By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.

When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can't bring herself to hate him as much as she'd like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband's strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape--before her time runs out?

Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?
Giveaway Rules


  1. Must be 18 or older to enter
  2. US only.
  3. You have 48 hours to reply to winning email, and then I will move on to the next person.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Review: Miss Mabel's School for Girls by Katie Cross

Miss Mabel's School for Girls
Pages: 316
Publisher: Antebellum Publishing
Genre: YA Fantasy
#1 in Series
Source: Purchased
Never underestimate the power of a determined witch.

Letum Wood is a forest of fog and deadfall, home to the quietly famous Miss Mabel’s School for Girls, a place where young witches learn the art of magic.

Sixteen-year-old Bianca Monroe has inherited a deadly curse. Determined to break free before it kills her, she enrolls in the respected school to confront the cunning witch who cast the curse: Miss Mabel.

Bianca finds herself faced with dark magic she didn’t expect, with lessons more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. Will Bianca have the courage to save herself from the curse, or will Miss Mabel’s sinister plan be too powerful?

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls is the first novel in The Network Series, an exciting new fantasy collection. A gripping tale about the struggle to survive, it will take you to a new place and time, one you’ll never want to leave.
Review

“Your first job in every confrontation is to establish your opponent’s weakness. Strategy starts with weak spots.” 
Miss Mabel's School for Girls could have been a real MVP among YA witch novels. All girls' magical school? Awesome, I'm with it. Main character who is strong and smart? Give it to me. No pesky insta-love to derail our MC from her objective? Fantastic!

I regret to report that Miss Mabel's School for Girls did not meet my expectations. It actually took me quite awhile to finish MMSFG. According to Goodreads, I started in on August 11, 2017 and finished it on June 8th, 2018. Almost a year. Yikes.

What I think put me off the most was how slow going the book was. This was the epitome of a "character driven" book, in that we spent so much time in Bianca's head because that's all she did--she thought about everything. She never just did things. Because of that, I felt the book lulled and never pulled me in enough. As you can see from my GR comments, it was around two-thirds of the book that I felt the plot finally started to be compelling enough to warrant me to finish it in one sitting.
"Pressure and responsibility are driving forces, but only knowledge creates power."
Honestly, I don't have much to say about MMSFG other than I wanted more from it. It's Katie Cross's first book and lately I've been making a point to not rag on debut novels so harshly because I understand that novels are tough to write and putting them out there is like putting a piece of your soul on display. So, my best constructive criticism would be to level out the world-building with the character-building. A lot of people seem to be comparing this to Harry Potter, which I didn't see at all, but one point I want to make about HP is that it was so successfully because JK Rowling struck that sweet spot between making a wonderful magical world so believable, as well as a well rounded cast of characters that we got to know very intimately. When writing fantasy and magic stories, there's so much opportunity to really go ham with the surroundings and invent things to delight us readers. I wanted to see more of that, is all.

Bianca has a tough road ahead of her, having bound herself to Miss Mabel in order to break the curse on her. I think I would be interested to see where the story goes, but I'll be honest that it's not a priority.

Miss Mabel's School for Girls is available for purchase on Kindle, as a paperback, or as an audiobook

About the Author
My world revolves around my husband (who is a major hottie), my Vizsla’s, and the mountains.

I wear hiking boots instead of heels when I need to feel powerful, and on a bad day, I love a weightlifting workout. Actually, I love it on a good day.

I don’t eat bread because my thyroid doesn’t like it, although there are days I miss it. Especially ciabatta. Sweet potatoes are kind of my thing. Cookies too.

I write because I never stopped.

Miss Mabel's School for Girls is my first novel. More to follow.
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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Review: Breakwater by Catherine Jones Payne @cjonespayne

Breakwater 
Pages: 240
Publisher: Fathom Ink Press
Genre: YA Fantasy
#1 in Series
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Mermaids. Murder. Mayhem.

A red tide is rising.

As the daughter of one of the mer-king’s trusted advisors, seventeen-year-old Jade has great responsibilities. When her fiancé murders a naiad, plunging the underwater city of Thessalonike into uproar, tensions surge between the mer and the naiads. Jade learns too late that the choices she makes ripple further than she'd ever imagined. And as she fights against the tide of anger in a city that lives for scandal, she discovers danger lurking in every canal, imperiling her family and shattering the ocean's fragile peace.

Can the city's divisions be mended before the upwelling of hate rips apart everything Jade loves?
Review

I will begin by stating the absolute obvious, which is that this cover is one of the most beautiful covers I've ever seen in my life. Bra-freaking-vo to the illustrator that made that magic flow through their fingertips.

This book surprised me. The subject matter is especially pertinent in our current socio-political climate. It centers around Jade, who becomes embroiled in political conflict after she finds the corpse of a naiad in the arms of her betrothed. Jade does the right thing and reports the murder to the police, which throws her life into chaos as the upper echelons of mer society view her as a traitor and political tensions between the mers and the naiads rise.

One thing I want to highlight that I greatly enjoyed was the worldbuilding. Not just of Thessalonike itself, but of the full underwater experience. The way they dressed, the way they ate, even the way they spoke. It felt truly immersive, not like someone took regular earth culture and stuck it underwater. Catherine Jones Payne did a great job of creating the world and the unique behaviors of an underwater society.

When the story first began, Jade was your typical rich daughter of a noble. She wasn't stuck up or snooty, but she was happy to play the part and get engaged to another high ranking noble. As a character, she had a definable arc throughout the story in that we see her evolve from that, to someone who is aware of the glaring inequality that exists between the mer and the naiad and does what she can to help the divide. In prosecuting Tor (her former fiance), Jade sets a precedent that naiads are not second class citizens and deserve the same justice that a mermaid would.

The story does revolve heavily around that plot point, however. I'd call this a plot-driven story, rather an a character-driven story. What I mean by that is we never get to see any of the characters in a context other than how they're reacting to the scandal. Most stories have moments where they'll remove the characters from the plot for a few scenes so we as the reader can get a more fleshed out idea of them. We get to see brief flashbacks or conversations about the past, but we never really get the richness of character that I usually like to see. If I had one critique of this book, it would be that I wanted more character development. While Jade did get a full emotional arc, none of the other characters saw any growth.

Overall, this story turned out to be very different from what I expected. Perhaps it's just genre bias, but I expected romance, of which there wasn't much. Instead, this turned out to be a novel about politics and racial inequality--which is cooler!

Breakwater is available for purchase for Kindle, and as a paperback

About the Author
Catherine Jones Payne is a Seattle native who loves the written word, international travel, crashing waves, and good coffee. Her earliest memory involves pulling up a rolling chair to her parents’ old DOS computer—while wearing a tiara, naturally—and tapping out a story of kidnapped princesses. By day she’s the managing editor of Quill Pen Editorial and the editor of Splickety Magazine. She lives in Waco, TX with her historian husband and their cats, Mildred and Minerva.


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