Top Ten Tuesday: How does it end? I’ll look it up online, because I’m not continuing these ones

I thought that it was going to be a bit challenging to find series that I’m not going to complete. Turns out I was wrong. There’s actually a ton of firsts in series that I started but I’ll never finish. Sometimes it’s because I didn’t enjoy the characters; other times it’s because I found the plot lacking. And sometimes, they just aren’t my thing, even though the synopsis made it sound super interesting. Usually I stop with the first book, but there are a few series where I’ve gone on to read the second or more. Basically that comes down to my mood.

The series I’m listing here are books I’ve read over the past few years. Some of them are extremely popular and are loved by many readers. But for me, these are books I just didn’t connect with on a level that’s needed to commit to three or more books. It’s purely my opinion, though I am curious if anyone feels the same!

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1. An Ember in the Ashes and A Torch Against the Night: I didn’t particularly love the world. It was very harsh, which is fine, but it felt like the world building relied too heavily on the reader to fill in the blanks. The characters were okay. The problems I had in the first book basically became more problematic in the second, so I decided not to continue this planned four book series.

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2. The Bone Witch: I wanted to love this one. I think the dual perspective killed it for me. Both followed the main character, Tea: one in the past as she’s finding her powers and the other in the present as she’s trying to explain her actions. It split the book in a way that was confusing and kept me from fully immersing myself into the story. I did love the cover, though! There’s three books planned.

3. The 100: Maybe if I had read this one before seeing the show I would have liked it. I feel like the ideas in this book––though interesting––are undeveloped. It may get better in the next ones, but I think I’ll just stick to the show. Apparently the things I like about the show aren’t even in the books, which is weird. There’s four books in this series.

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4. The Graces: The reason I wanted to read this in the first place was because there’s witches in it. I’m a huge fan of Charmed, and have been constantly chasing that witch high ever since then. (Send me witchy read recommendations!) This had an unreliable narrator and I found that I just didn’t particularly care about anything that happened. So far there’s only two books in this series.

5. Blackhearts: I knew going into this that it was a prequel to Blackheart becoming Blackheart, but I still expected more pirate action than there ended up being.

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[Shadowsong] S. Jae-Jones

What are monsters but mortals corrupted?*

Strange and queer, the lot of them. Elf-touched, they were called in the old days…The mad, the fearful, the faithful. Those who dwell with one foot in the Underground and another in the world above.*

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We were grotesques in the world above, too different, too odd, too talented, too much. 

S. Jae-Jones is a brilliant writer.

I will admit that I didn’t love the entirety of Wintersong––I loved the first half but thought the second was a little slow––but I always thought that S.Jae-Jones’ writing was beautiful and spectacular. Her writing shone in Shadowsong. The images she creates with her words are utterly beautiful, forming Liesl’s world for the reader in a very poetic way. It’s perfect for the setting of fairy-tales and goblins and music. S.Jae-Jones is someone who can create a world with her words that I just want to immerse myself in. Couple that with the fact that Shadowsong is a fantasy novel with a historical setting and I’m hooked.

Although Shadowsong is fiction, S. Jae-Jones gives her readers an author’s note at the beginning warning that not everything inside of this novel is so easily read as a fiction. Shadowsong deals with the very real subjects of self-harm, addiction, reckless behaviors, and thoughts of suicide. The author is open with her own diagnosis of bipolar disorder and how she gave it to Liesl. There were moments that were difficult to read because of how Liesl was struggling. I could relate to certain thoughts she had regarding creation of art and fear of failure and doubt. I thought it was wonderful that S. Jae-Jones was completely open about this at the beginning of her novel.

I waited for some mood or inspiration to strike me, for the desire to play to overtake me, but there was nothing. Solitude around me and silence within me. I had not dreamed once since we came to the city. The voice inside me––my voice––was gone. No ideas. No drive. No passion. My nights were quiet. Blank. The dullness was seeping into my days.*

It’s a very common idea that madness and genius are connected. Musicians and composers of Liesl’s time suffered from mental disorders that many may have attributed to the madness/genius of creation. Mental disorders were not understood in Liesl’s time, and that reflects onto her own confusion as she tries to navigate the waters of her own depression while simultaneously trying to understand and be there for her brother, Josef. There’s a darkness and loneliness that is present throughout the whole novel as Liesl explores who she is after becoming the Goblin Queen. Up in the Above, away from the Underground, she’s once again a normal woman. Where before she had a focus––composing––now she can barely manage to play. Her mental state was in the forefront of the novel and sometimes even Liesl didn’t know how to address it.

It’s even more complicated because Liesl finally has what she wants and yet she still feels this unrest within herself. I thought it was important that S. Jae-Jones made that point. Being successful doesn’t always lead to happiness. There’s no 1+1=2 solution to being happy or even being calm. Liesl’s struggle with the pressure to compose––to heal––is something that S. Jae-Jones carefully weaves throughout the story. The fear of failure. This is revealed through both Liesl and Josef, the two musicians of the family. It’s something that Liesl thinks she has to bear alone, so she’s blind to the people who are trying to help her.

A harpsichord, a similar instrument to what Liesl may have used.

Perhaps I was afraid I had nothing left to say.*

I loved that S. Jae-Jones showed that conflict within Liesl––and how it sometimes led to hatred of herself––in this novel. It wasn’t resolved in a neat and tidy bow, either. It was realistically explored, with Liesl understanding that she couldn’t always do it on her own. Only when she had this realization did she find some measure of peace. What I liked the most is that S. Jae-Jones didn’t make Liesl her disorder. She had it, but the disorder did not have her.

I could rise above this. I would rise above this. This life was what I wanted. This was the culmination of all my wishes, all my desires. I just needed time. I would be myself, whole and entire, once again. I would. I would.*

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She carries the imprint of the Goblin King’s touch upon her soul.*

The line between sanity and madness is played up in this novel. When Liesl left the Underground, she thought that was the end of it. But when things begin to leak into the world above, Liesl realizes that she never truly left the Underground. But she doesn’t know if it’s real or not. She keeps thinking that she’s seeing her lover or her companions from the Underground. It’s making it really hard to forget about her life below, to move on.

As a result, Shadowsong was about far different things than the first novel. I feel like Wintersong was about the importance of family and finding a place for yourself on your own, mixed in with romance and the world of the Underground. In contrast, Shadowsong was about finding out who you really are––even the parts that you don’t necessarily love about yourself––and understanding that one part of you is not who you are as a person. It’s far more internal than the first. I don’t know if that’s the reason why I enjoyed Shadowsong more––it’s certainly part of the reason––or if the reason is because this is S. Jae-Jones’ second novel and more streamlined than the first.

What was real and what was false was as unreliable as memory, and I lived in the in-between spaces, between the pretty lie and the ugly truth.*

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But what about the Goblin King? Her love interest whose name has been forgotten by the passage of time? While he is present in Liesl’s thoughts, he’s hardly in the novel at all. The romance in the first novel was something I didn’t particularly like, so his diminished presence was fine by me. I’m sure many readers expected the opposite; I certainly thought Liesl was going to return to the Underground immediately. It was a pleasant surprise that she didn’t. I enjoyed that their love story wasn’t the center of everything. It was like Liesl was the center, and there were a bunch of webs spreading out from her to create Liesl, entire.

While Liesl drove this story, Shadowsong is also about the Goblin King, Josef, Käthe, and François. There’s other characters as well, but these are the four that are most important in Liesl’s life. I enjoyed that S. Jae-Jones used a different point of view to show how these characters’ storylines were advancing. It kept it separate from Liesl but still showed how it all was connected. These asides allowed the past of the Goblin King to slowly grow into a bigger story without swamping Liesl’s growth. It was really interesting to see how the narrative of the Underground was shaped in this one when most of the time was spent Aboveground.

No two stories of the unholy host agree. It is said that their appearance presages some unspeakable catastrophe: a plague, a war, or even the end of the world. Others say the Hunt rides abroad when there is an imbalance between heaven and hell, between the Underground and the land of the living, sweeping through the world above to claim what is rightfully theirs. The old laws made flesh: given steel and teeth and hounds to reap what they are owed.*

When people begin to die under mysterious circumstances, she wonders if it’s her fault for leaving.  I loved that there was a new element to Goblin lore in the Wild Hunt. It was a scary force that lingered at the edges of the story while Liesl battled her own internal demons. Adding the Wild Hunt but not making the entire novel about them was brilliant. Again, maybe other readers thought it was going to be more about the Goblin world and were disappointed, but I loved that S. Jae-Jones kept the novel centered on Liesl while everything else moved on in the background.

I want to keep talking about this novel, but a lot of my thoughts are still jumbled and incoherent because of my love for it. Shadowsong is a great fantasy book that gives representation to a lot of marginalized characters and people both of the past and of the present. I think that this sophomore novel is the better of the duology, but without the first the second wouldn’t exist. S. Jae-Jones is going to be an author I watch because she has a truly splendid way of storytelling.

The queer, the wild, the strange, the elf-touched––they are said to belong to the Goblin King. Their gifts are the fruits of the Underground, their genius, their passion, their obsession, their art. They belong to him, for they are Der Erlkönig’s own.* 

5 stars.

I received a copy of Shadowsong from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Shadowsong was published on February 6th, 2018.

*I went a bit overboard with the quotes because I love S. Jae-Jones’ writing a lot. The quotes were taken from the advance reading copy I received, so some of the quotes may have changed slightly in the published edition.

Fangirling Friday: Details, details, details

I recently got my hands on a copy of Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince. While this is a book that I added to my TBR list before there was even a cover, it ended up being a complete cover buy. But not because of the dust jacket. Because of what lay hidden beneath and in between the pages:

Completely stunning. This is one of the best designs I’ve ever seen. It’s so intricate and I love how the black makes the gold shine so brightly. I also really like the pairing of a white dust jacket with the black hardcover.

Books with maps. I probably will have a separate fangirling post about maps in books because I love them so much. I get so excited when I see that there’s a map in a book! It makes the world so much more detailed.

The dandelion seeds are darling. I love how the illustration frames the bottom of the poem.

These reasons. These beautiful, beautiful reasons.

I will be the first to admit that I am very extremely taken in by books with beautiful covers. I really love when you take off the dust jacket and there’s details underneath that are unexpected.

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Wednesdays are for Writing: The Fear


To say that I’ve been unproductive is an understatement.

Where has February gone? I’m looking at the end of February barreling down toward me and I’m realizing that I have gotten almost nothing done. Sure, I’ve read a few books, written a few posts, but my novel has languished on my computer and in my brain. My stellar plan of writing every day went away with complications of work, getting a cold, and fear.

Fear of failure and not being successful. Fear of my book not being interesting enough or being too much of something done before. Fear that it will never get done, so for some reason my brain has decided to…not do it at all?

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It makes absolutely no sense. I understand that, but that is also exactly the reason why I haven’t gotten back to it after working on it during the first few days of February. If I don’t start it, I can’t fail. It’s a sort of backwards thought process that makes my procrastination okay. But it’s not. I’ve allowed the fear to creep into every aspect of my writing life, choking off any potential creative growth.

I need to shake off the fear and procrastination, but now I’m at that point where I’m afraid to go back to it because I haven’t written in a while. There’s this cycle that my brain gets into that I can’t escape. I haven’t written for a while, so anything I write won’t be good. And anything I write will be cut out anyway, so I should wait until I feel confident to write…and I hardly ever do. With Nanowrimo, I was forced to write every day. There was a community––both online and in person––and a low-key competition that motivated me to write. Even when I didn’t feel confident, I had to write. If I didn’t, I’d fall behind––and catching up on Nanowrimo missed days on top of work is not an easy thing to do.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Relationships in Young Adult Novels

Although the prompt for this week is romance, I wanted to focus on other relationships instead. Relationships often drive the story of young adult novels, whether it’s a contemporary romance or a subplot in a fantasy. There’s nearly always a relationship. Romantic relationships fill readers’ hearts with joy, anger, and hope as they read about their journeys and wonder if they’ll ultimately end up together. But love comes in many forms. To say that friendships are any less important than romantic relationships means that you’re missing out on a lot of vibrant relationships and books.

So for today’s Top Ten Tuesday, I wanted to focus on different types of relationships in young adult novels. So without further ado, the relationship post!

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Best Female Friends

In young adult, there’s a ton of times that women are often super catty toward each other. It’s a common trope, especially in contemporaries set in high schools. Everyone isn’t going to be friends, but I really don’t like when women shame other women. A little bit is realistic, because to pretend it doesn’t happen is naïve, but when it becomes the focus of the novel it’s a little uncomfortable for me. To use the quote from Mean Girls: “You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.” That quote has really stuck with me. So here’s some novels I’ve loved where friendships between women are displayed.

There’s a little bit of the aforementioned woman on woman hate in this book, but I like how the friendships evolve. This is also a historical fiction fantasy novel, which is one of my favorite combinations.

While I didn’t love this book entirely, I did love the friendship between Hermione and Polly. In Exit, Hermione is date raped. Exit deals with the aftermath of that and Polly is constantly there for Hermione even when she has her own struggles. I loved reading their friendship.

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Best Friend Groups

Sometimes it’s impossible to chose between only one best friend. I love books where friends explore and discover together. Sometimes you love them in ways that are created when you are crushed into the same space, experiencing the same things and bonding over them. Other times you just stumble upon them and a light of connection flares up inside of your chest. I really enjoy the dynamic of a group of friends. Where there used to be one character, suddenly there’s more. These are my favorites.

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[Tash Hearts Tolstoy] Kathryn Ormsbee

Tash hearts Tolstoy. Like, a lot. So much so that she’s created a web series about Anna Karenina called Unhappy Families with her friend Jack. They’ve been filming for awhile and have a few loyal followers, but nothing too big. They’re both happy that they’re getting the experience for future projects and for college–which is looming on the horizon. Toying with the idea of fame is fun, of course, but they know that it will never happen…until it does.  When they’re thrust into the internet limelight, Tash and her friends are suddenly dealing with followers in the tens of thousands. No longer an obscure web series, dealing with their sudden fame is both exhilarating and terrifying. Being famous isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and Tash and Jack need to find a way to deal with both the good and the bad if they’re going to make it through.

Tash Hearts Tolstoy was a cute contemporary read. I loved that it was about producing a web series and what happens when your dreams are realized. Ormsbee did a good job about giving filming details without allowing the book to be bogged down with too many; it allows us to be in the world of web series but not be bored by it. I wish that Unhappy Families existed outside the book! It sounded really interesting. While the focus is on how the web series becomes famous, the book is about so much more.  At its core is a coming of age story. I liked that Tash’s “coming of age” wasn’t about one specific thing. They’re all struggling to find their place in the world and learning how to navigate the messy reality of friendships and family where lines sometimes cross.

Because the book focuses on Tash and Unhappy Families, there’s a lot of focus on her friendship with Jack and her brother, Paul. These are two people who have been in Tash’s life for a long time and who know her in a certain way. I appreciated how Ormsbee explored their friendship and the expectations they’d placed on one another. Friendships change as you get older and as you’re moving to a different part of your life,  and I liked how that was shown against this backdrop of blossoming and distracting fame.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Wait, so you’re *supposed* to finish your TBR list in your lifetime?

Every bookworm can relate to this problem.

The problem where you have a list of books that you know you need to get to, but then––Ooo, look! So pretty!––and on to your TBR list it goes. Mine has grown considerably since joining the book communities on instagram and on goodreads. I’ve added many a book thanks to these book communities. When I lived back in my home country, I’d visit bookstores roughly every two weeks or so in order to check out what was new or popular. Naturally, that included buying some of the books. Now that I don’t have that luxury, my TBR list has continued to grow but I haven’t read as much as I would like.

Today I’m going to talk about only ten–some are in order of when I added them and others are ones that I am really eager to read–but just know there are 878 books on my list. I really need to start chipping away at it.

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Me in real life. 

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 The Mind Thieves by Lori Brighton, added 2014

This is the second book in a series I started years ago. It also happens to be the first book that I added to my goodreads list of books to read! My tastes have changed a lot. I did really like the first book when I read it, but I have to wonder if I’d like the first book as much if I reread it now. It’s probably on my kindle somewhere. Anyway, this is an example of a book that I don’t know if I’ll ever get to. There’s a lot of those on my TBR. It’s a real problem I have, where I read the first book in a series and then promptly forget about it.  This book is a young adult paranormal romance where the main character has mind reading powers.

Just One Day by Gayle Forman, added 2014

This is a contemporary that has first loves, travel, and Shakespeare, which is probably why I added it. I’ve recently started liking contemporaries more (besides anything by Deb Caletti who wrote probably my favorite contemporary, The Nature of Jade), so I may check this one out. It’s also part of a series. I prefer stand-alone contemporaries, but it looks like there’s only two in this one.

The Selection by Kiera Cass, added 2014

I’ve heard conflicting things about this. Despite it being a dystopian YA novel, I’m not sure it’s going to mesh with what I like to read in the genre now. It seems weirdly dated, but I can’t really put my finger on why I feel that way about it. I’ll probably read it one day when I can read all five in one go. The covers are beautiful, which is always a plus.

 

Being Henry David by Cal Armistead, added 2014

I loved Walden. So when I saw that this book was about a teenager who has no memory of who he is but he does have a copy of Walden, I was intrigued. He decides to travel to Walden Pond and along the way he tries to figure out who he is. I love when books have connections to other books and this one also has a mystery!

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Me when I realized how difficult it is to narrow down my books. 

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