A Brief Note on Shipbaiting in YA and Respecting Authors

I really didn’t want to write this post. Like I really really really didn’t. However, I feel like this is something important that we should talk about.

I’m going to try to handle this post in a somewhat sensitive way, but if I say anything that offends you or is problematic, please please let me know.

While this post specifically pertains to shipbaiting/queerbaiting, I’m sure that there are other problems that people have been talking about. This is the one that I’ve seen the most of with the most hate towards SJM.

Recently, I took a brief Twitter break in order to focus on my first week of classes at college. This morning, when I got up, I had a slew of Twitter DMs from a fantastic group chat that I’m a part of. There I discovered that there was Twitter drama–again–over one of my favorite authors, Sarah J. Maas.

I haven’t really read any spoilers for Empire of Storms, and I don’t plan on it. I want to experience her books blindly. I want to be able to pick up her book and know absolutely nothing because, for me, it adds to my reading experience.

However, I’ve heard some brief whispers from people on Goodreads and Twitter over a certain character who has a romantic relationship with another character. From what I’ve read, those people have been getting extraordinarily mad because of this relationship.

Y’all let me tell you something.

*whispers* The Throne of Glass series isn’t about ships.

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Waiting on Wednesday: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

28962906Title: Stalking Jack the Ripper

Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Genre: Historial Fiction

Pages: Hardcover, 336

Publication: September 20, 2016

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

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I’M SO READY FOR THIS BOOK OMG. I’ve heard so many good things about this book from my Goodreads friends, and it’s gotten me so hype. Also, I’ve recently really gotten into historical fiction thanks to And I Darken.

I think that, if it’s done well, it could really prove to be a fascinating and exciting book.

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What are you waiting for?

Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

27190613Title: And I Darken

Author: Kiersten White

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: Hardcover, 475

Publication: June 28, 2016

Synopsis:

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

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So, when I first heard about this book, I was very intrigued. A fictional, historical account of Vlad the Impaler? Count me in!

I didn’t really know much about Vlad the Impaler going in, but I knew that, historically, he was a great warrior, hence the nickname. However, this isn’t your regular historical fiction novel. And I Darken is a gender swapped version of Vlad the Impaler’s story.

So not only would I be reading historical fiction, which is, slowly but surely, becoming one of my favorite genres, the main character is a badass female.

Picking up this book, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had heard good reviews from some of the blogs I follow, but I didn’t want to get my expectations too high.

As soon as I opened the book, I had an intense desire to keep reading. It blew my expectations out of the freaking water.

For me, the beginning of this book started out slowly. It was still really entertaining, but I felt like I wasn’t able to connect with the characters as much as I did in the latter portion of the novel. However, seeing as the first half or so of the book takes place in the main protagonists’ younger years, I think the reason I didn’t necessarily connect was because of the characters’ ages.

When Lada, Radu, and Mehmed were younger, they were much like caricatures of their older selves– strong in only one defining characteristic. Lada was strong. Radu was weak. Mehmed was fanatical.

However, as these characters aged, I grew to love them. The older they got, the less they seemed like caricatures, and the more they became complex, authentic humans. For example, Lada softened up quite a bit and learned to be more empathetic towards others, and I really loved that.

Radu, who was, probably, my favorite character, became such an incredible character. He exhibited his strength, not in showing an overt amount of masculinity, but in his unwavering intelligence. He was so incredibly clever.

Mehmed was probably the most stagnant in terms of character development. If anything, he grew to be more compassionate toward his people and more clever against his enemies. I’d like to think that Radu and Lada groomed him to become, as his historical influence suggests, Mehmed the Conqueror.

The side characters in this book were also excellent, especially the females. All of the women in this novel were powerful in their own way; they embraced their situation and created power for themselves, most specifically Mehmed’s mother, Huma. I think that all the women showed Lada that just because you’re a woman and in a disadvantaged situation, doesn’t mean that you’re powerless.

In terms of relationships, I really loved how Mehmed and Lada’s developed. They loved each other in a breathless and passionate, yet authentic way. In fact, at the end of the novel, (I won’t mention it specifically to avoid spoilers) I felt like my heart had literally been torn from my chest.

I’m really glad that Kiersten White decided to make one of her fantastic main characters gay. The thing that I love the most is that we didn’t know, (of course, I had my suspicions), until closer to the end of And I Darken. White made sure that we knew this character truly and fully before she disclosed his sexuality. I just really want him to have a happy ending with someone who truly loves him in the full way that he wants to be loved.

Besides all the fantastic characters and relationships, my favorite part, above all, was the religious factor in the book. I don’t know much about Islam, but I feel like I got to see a rare, positive representation of the religion. It was ingrained in a lot of the book’s story, and I loved it so so so much.

And I Darken was such a beautiful and pleasant surprise. Kiersten White has torn out my heart and kept it hidden in the pages of this book. I feel like I’m so connected to this story and these characters and that I’ve been filled with a weird sort of understanding.

This book was just really fucking good, and if you like historical fiction, I would highly recommend reading it.

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Waiting on Wednesday: Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

28686840Title: Holding Up the Universe

Author: Jennifer Niven

Genre: Contemporary

Pages: Hardcover, 400

Publication: October 4, 2016

Synopsis:

From the author of the New York Times bestseller All the Bright Places comes a heart-wrenching story about what it means to see someone—and love someone—for who they truly are.

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. 

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything in new and bad-ass ways, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. . . . Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

Jennifer Niven delivers another poignant, exhilarating love story about finding that person who sees you for who you are—and seeing them right back.

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I’ve heard a lot of good things about Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places. While I haven’t read that novel, I’ve wanted to for a long time. According to a lot of people, she has the ability to tackle difficult issues in an eloquent and delicate way.

This book seems to be addressing a few hard issues that I feel like I can relate to. I’m hoping that when I pick up this book, I’ll be moved.

Top Ten Characters I Would Crush on if I Were also a Fictional Character

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the lovely ladies at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic:

Top Ten Tuesday REWIND — go back and do a topic you missed over the years or recently or a topic you really want to revisit

So, I’ve gone through their handy spreadsheet, and I’ve chosen “Top Ten Characters I Would Crush on if I Were also a Fictional Character.” Because you know me, I’m all about the ships.

Nikolai Lantsov from The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

Suave, charming, handsome, and intelligent, Nikolai is literally my DREAM GUY. Not only that, he’s a freaking prince. I love him so freaking much, and, to be honest, *spoiler* I was kind of irritated when Alina didn’t want anything to do with him romantically. Does that make me a bad person?

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Percy Jackson fanart by Viria13 on DeviantArt

Percy Jackson from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians (and Heroes of Olympus) series by Rick Riordan

I love Percy Jackson so freaking much, and he deserves everything in the world because he’s been through so much shit. I just want to give him a huge hug. Also, Percy, no matter what, always preserves his sense of humor, and I love a guy with a good sense of humor.

Khalid al Rashid from The Wrath and the Dawn duology by Renée Ahdieh

Khalid is, despite being ruthless when he has to be, is incredibly kind and thoughtful to the people that he cares about most. Also, he has a soft spot for children, which is so freaking cute.scorpius-malfoy-2

Scorpius Malfoy from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, and J.K. Rowling

I had a lot of issues with The Cursed Child, but it was still mildly enjoyable. One of the best things about the play was Scorpius. He’s adorable, kind, and loyal to a fault.

Rowan Whitethorn from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas

Like honestly, do I even need to tell you why I love Rowan? First of all, he’s incredibly sexy. Also, he’s a fierce fighter and incredibly loyal to those that he loves. Idk man, he’s just really amazing.

Maven Calore from the Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard

Okay, so like I know Maven has his problems. He’s fucking terrible. But, somehow, I love him? I really really really liked who Maven was pre-Glass Sword. Also, I have a theory about Maven that, perhaps, he may not be as bad as he seems.

*I promise that I’m not excusing Maven’s shitty ass behavior*

fangirl-coverLevi Stewart from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

LEVI IS SO CUTE. Like one of the best parts of Fangirl was Levi. He’s the kind of person I’m attracted to IRL. A little nerdy, tall, and really cute.

Nico di Angelo from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians (and Heroes of Olympus) series by Rick Riordan

I know that Nico wouldn’t fancy me seeing as he’s, well, not attracted to my gender. But I would totally crush on him. He’s really intelligent and enjoys really dark humor, which I love.

Fred Weasley from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

He’s funny, witty, and heroic. What’s not to love?

Gat Patil from We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Gat’s love of reading is one of the hottest things to be honest. Whenever he would speak in the novel, he would say such profound and eloquent things. He would just be the kind of guy that I could talk to hours on end.

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Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

No list discussing book crushes is complete without the ultimate book boyfriend, Mr. Darcy. He’s extremely intelligent, sweepingly romantic, and incredibly kind. He’s also hella rich. I’m pretty sure that he’s the first man that made me swoon.

Book Blogger Positivity Network #1: Keep it Positive

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Okay guys. The truth is out…

I love the blogging community.

You may ask, “Halee, was that really a secret? The blogging community is awesome.” And it is. But I just feel like I don’t say it enough.

I love the blogging community. I’ve been a part of it for the better part of 4 years, and I’m absolutely in love with it. Not only have I been able to communicate with so many amazing authors throughout the yearS, I’ve also met so many people that I now consider friends.

This community has been there for me during some of my roughest times. It’s gotten my mind off of my crippling depression in the past and will continue to do so. This community embraced me with open arms when my grandma passed away in February. It’s been with me through the hardest but most rewarding years of my life, and I love it.

However, recently, I’ve seen a lot of negativity bubbling in the community, whether it was about people, authors, books, whatever. It made me really sad because the majority of this community is so great.

So, I decided to start a project, and possibly common feature, on my blog to promote positivity and celebrate this (excuse my language) fucking great community.

This project, called the Book Blogger Positivity Network, will allow all of us to get to know more bloggers and discuss bookish things. What’s not to love?

For my very first BBPN, I’ve asked Reg from She Latitude to let us get to know her and why she thinks positivity is essential to the book blogging community.

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Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

626F6F78747265616D=7474747474727576707<7473Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Author(s): J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

Genre: Fantasy; Play

Pages: Hardcover, 343

Publication: July 31, 2016

Synopsis:

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

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When I bought this beautiful book that was originally priced at $29.99, I turned to my friend and said, “This better be worth $30.” While I was extremely skeptical about the play, truth be told, it was definitely worth the money I paid for it.

Like a lot of people, I went in to this book with high hopes, yet with cautious expectations. I had been excited about this story since it was announced, but after listening to MuggleCast’s spoiler-free review, I was scared. They said that it was very “fan fiction-esque,” in its plot, and that terrified me.

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Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

ruin and risingTitle: Ruin and Rising

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 422, Hardcover

Publication: June 17, 2014

Synopsis:

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

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So, it’s been almost 3 years since I’ve read the second book in the series, Siege and Storm. Despite reading through a few summaries, I didn’t really remember all that much about the books. However, as soon as I opened Ruin and Rising, I fell into the familiar rhythm of Bardugo’s writing and the complexity of her characters.

Writing this review, my heart hurts because the entire book was so bittersweet. It was filled with loss and heartbreak, but managed to end on a hopeful note. Leigh Bardugo understands the human condition and knows how to write it.

I fell in love with Alina, Mal, Nikolai, and The Darkling all over again. God, I don’t think I can emphasize enough how great her characters are! Despite this book obviously being fantasy, the characters were entirely rooted in reality.

The ending, however, caught me a little off guard. I guess I didn’t really know what I was expecting. But it was definitely not what I wanted. I docked off a half point because of this reason. Despite the story wrapping up in a well-written and truthful way, I found myself disappointed. I honestly have no idea why. Perhaps it was the fact that the ending was so gritty and real, kind of like the ending to Allegiant by Veronica Roth.

Actually, I feel almost exactly like how I felt after finishing Allegiant. Except a shit ton more satisfied.

I’m actually struggling to find words to exactly describe how I felt after I finished the book.

Maybe I was disappointed in the fact that the relationships in this book didn’t go the way that I wanted them to go. After finishing the first two books in the series, I thought that Mal and Alina ending up together seemed impossible. I even felt this while reading this book. So many obstacles were in their way. Alina and The Darkling had such a deep connection despite his many, many flaws. Same with Alina and Nikolai. While reading this series, I felt like those two characters held and showed more love for Alina than Mal did.

I’m usually able to tell right off the bat who the main protagonist will end up with, and this time I didn’t.

(I know that shipping isn’t something to judge a book on, but I’m just drawn to talking about it.)

It feels so weird to be done with this series. I feel heartbroken, yet satisfied. Leigh Bardugo is such an eloquent writer, and I can’t wait to read her Six of Crows series.

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Waiting on Wednesday: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

caravalTitle: Caraval

Author: Stephanie Garber

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: Hardcover, 416

Publication: January 31, 2017

Synopsis:

Before you enter the world of Caraval, you must remember that it’s all a game . . .

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their ruthless father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the legendary, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

Then, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation to Caraval finally arrives. So, Tella enlists a mysterious sailor’s help to whisk Scarlett away to this year’s show. But as soon as the trio arrives, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nonetheless soon becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with her sister, with Legend, and with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

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Oh my god guys, I’m so excited for this book. While it doesn’t come out for a while, all of the reviews that I’ve read for it so far have been so incredibly positive. The plot sounds mysterious and intriguing, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Ten Books I’d Buy Right This Second If Someone Handed Me A Fully Loaded Gift Card

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the lovely ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish.

*prays that someone sends me an Amazon GC*

Wouldn’t this be freaking AMAZING?! There are so many books that I want to buy, but, alas, I am a broke ass bitch.

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

How do you punish an immortal?

By making him human.

After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disorientated, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favour.

But Apollo has many enemies – gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go . . . an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.

After finishing the Heroes of Olympus series, I’m dying to see what happens with Apollo. I’ve heard great things about the first book in the series, so I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Continue reading