On Romanticization vs. Portrayal

Today, I want to talk about how portraying something is not the same as romanticizing that thing. I think this is something we all know on some level, but somehow when we have community arguments, it seems to get dismissed a lot??

I think the thing that annoys me is there is a line between portrayal and romanticization. There is. But sometimes it will be different for different people, and I don’t think that should invalidate either person’s opinion.

For example, someone might not like that one of the main characters of And I Darken is super fucking islamophobic. Which she is – objective truth. Another person might feel that it’s clearly not condoned by the narrative because most of the major characters practice Islam and hate her attitude – valid opinion (and one I agree with). I might think the narrative of An Ember In the Ashes kind of ignores the weird power dynamics between Elias and Laia. Those power dynamics definitely exist – objective truth. But someone else might think it’s clearly shown as a result of their brutal world and not romanticized in the least – valid opinion.

Those opinions can coexist without us shouting at each other about it, you know? Well, except in a kind and friendly way. I’m friends with plenty of people who love An Ember In the Ashes and despise And I Darken. That’s okay. Really. It’s fine.

I feel like a lot of people believe it’s either or – that a book either does or doesn’t romanticize a thing. I don’t agree with that. I think, personally, that some books do romanticize things or do not romanticize things. But I don’t think that means other opinions on the topic aren’t valid. We’re a book review community. We can disagree on things. We can do that. We’re all mature enough to disagree and not have to come to a consensus on every single book. But that doesn’t mean shouting down either side. You can shoot down the people saying “books can never romanticize anything”, which is an ideology I explicitly disagree with. But your opinions on specific books can definitely differ. There’s a difference between “we disagree on this one book” and “we have completely different world ideologies.”

Anyway, comment if you have any counterarguments or differing opinions on this. And also add any examples you can think of!! This post was partially inspired by this video, which I think is worth the watch.

Broadway!! my NY trip + show reviews

I just got to go to New York for a week and see a bunch of shows. That’s literally all we did – we just saw shows. Eight of them, actually. In a week. And ya girl wanted to write some brief reviews for all of them!! So here we are.

Thankfully, I liked every single show I saw this trip at least to some degree. I’m going to be ranking these on enjoyment, but bear in mind that I am very much a musical girl and am extremely biased. Basically, I loved all of these. Not much of a review. 

Assassins – Sat. matinee, 3.5 stars

Asssasins is about killing presidents. No, really; it’s about every single person who has tried to kill a president. Did you know that two women have tried, and both did so within twenty days of each other? I didn’t either. As a musical, I loved this, but there were a few flaws in production. 

If you like Sondheim’s style, or even tolerate it, you’ll probably like this musical. It’s the same strange blend of thematic significance and humor as his normal fair.

So my issue wasn’t with the show, it was with the production. First of all, there was the very weak set. But that could’ve been ignored if not for one thing – the cast was not given enough time to prepare. I saw this musical at a five-day showcase at Civic Center, and unfortunately, it showed. In terms of acting, everyone was quite solid – I especially liked a few performers. I loved the John Wilkes Booth (not a sentence I ever thought I’d say), the man on the stage who sings “why did you do it” with Booth, the Manson Murderer girl, and the Santa Claus dude. Yet even they were under-rehearsed. There were some obvious dropped cues and missed lines, and at one point the cast had their books out. At another point, someone went onstage when they were obviously not needed. She played it off quite well, but you could still tell what had happened.

Come From Away – Thursday, 4 stars

I really enjoyed this!! This is one of the most <I>hopeful</I> musical I’ve ever seen.

Come From Away doesn’t focus on any specific character, so there aren’t many solos; instead, the show used gorgeous harmony to evoke emotion. This differentiates the show from just any show, as well as leading to some really gorgeous musical builds. That being said, I think I would have preferred more character focus and development.

Not my favorite ever, but definitely a show to see.

Chicago – Friday, 4 stars

This was great, obviously. I’ve never seen Chicago live before, so it was fun to contrast this to the movie.

The major difference between the show and the movie is the aspect of comedy. In the movie, Cell Block Tango is eerie and almost terrifying with its musical build. In the show, it’s amusing. Same with Mama’s Good To You. Most of the comedic songs were a lot of fun, but I didn’t think those two should’ve been comedic. It’s a really big change and I have to admit, I liked the balance of horror and comedy better in the movie.

Obviously, Chicago is focused around the dance aspect. I have to admit that while I loved the dancing, some of it should be edited at this point. Yes, it’s been around for 50 years. The fact remains that the I Can’t Do It Alone choreo is kind of horrifyingly bad.

Aside from the dancing, I also found the story occasionally disjointed. Chicago is a fabulous show, but it can’t decide what it’s focusing on until the final number. 

We actually had a swing actress, Robyn Hurder, for Roxie, and she was fabulous!! I absolutely loved her vulnerability as it contrasted with her selfishness. A part of me despised her, yet I still felt for her. This actress also had some great dancing, despite the fact that I’m pretty sure she was cast for her fabulous acting above anything else. I can’t believe she was a swing. I loved all the side characters as well; Mama was especially amazing.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t as big a fan of the Velma. Her acting and dancing was okay, but her physicality felt all wrong for the character. My mother loved her for the role, so maybe this was just my own interpretation of the character taking over.

Indecent – Wed. Matinee, 4.5 stars

For our Wednesday matinee, my mother and I decided to try this year’s best director of a play winner. Indecent is about a Jewish theater company that managed to get the first-ever kiss between two women onto Broadway in the 1920s. Wow, this made me cry. The ending scenes about love surviving? The two women metaphorically living on? Goodnight. This hit my mother emotionally harder than it hit me, surprisingly. We had an understudy for one of the girls, but I couldn’t tell at all; the whole cast was stunning, especially her.

I do think it went on a bit too long. My heart was absolutely shattered ten minutes before the end and then it… just… kept… going. The actual ending was lovely, but the earlier one almost made me sadder with the same message. Ending #2 left me a little underwhelmed in comparison.

The Play That Goes Wrong – Wednesday, 4.5 stars

After the matinee performance of Indecent, we needed something less heartbreaking. This was just the thing. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at a show. This play is a comedy following a mystery play put on by a terrible theater troupe, and as suggested by the title, everything goes wrong. Not just the acting, either; the whole set collapses at one point.

It’s just a comedy, yes, but this is a very high-quality show. While there were a few jokes that got repeated too many times, the continuity throughout the show is impressive. Many of the one-liners translated into further jokes an entire act later.

Anastasia – Saturday, 4.5 stars

This was great!! Anastasia is a lot more of a traditional show and doesn’t necessarily do anything new. And you know what, that’s fine. It’s a fantastically acted and fun ride. This isn’t a musical that will change anyone’s life, but it’s a great one full of catchy songs.

I actually got to go backstage for this because my mother is friends with John Bolton, who plays Vlad. So I’m a little biased towards the performers. But I really loved everyone. I’m really sad the lead actress, Christy Altomare, didn’t get nominated. Her voice alone deserves ten nominations; she can sing like a fucking angel. But her acting was fabulous too, especially in a scene close to the end (I won’t spoil). I loved Dimitri and everyone else too!! I especially loved Ramin Karimloo as Gleb, the Russian man who is sent to kill Anya. He was just unbelievably talented, especially in terms of voice. My favorite performance was probably Caroline O’Connor as Lili, the lady in waiting, who was just hilarious. The acting of The Countess and the Common Man was absolute comedy gold.  

In terms of music this was also great. I especially loved the song Russia of Days Past!! The staging of this deserves a shoutout as well, flipping between locations believably in very short periods of time.

Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 – Tuesday, 5 stars

I get why people thought this deserved the Tony now!! I’m still team DEH, but this was lovely.

The music and vocal selection of this is very abstract and different. There are no vocal themes. It’s purposeful, and it somehow works very well, especially onstage. I’d almost compare the dissonance to one of my personal fave underrated musicals, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It’s both the worst and best thing about this show. My favorite songs were probably Charming and the Prologue.

I also appreciated the race-blind casting!! And damn, did it lead them to some fabulous actors. Denee Benton absolutely kills it, with one of the best voices I’ve heard. I just found out via Wikipedia that I saw Oak Onaodowan’s first night ever, and I have to say I’m pretty shocked; his performance rocked so much. (And his actor bio begins with the sentence “surprisingly, I haven’t only done Hamilton”.) I also really loved Amber Grey as Helene and Ingrid Michaelson, one of my favorite singers, as Sonja.

Also, random thought, but this is one of the most subtextually gay shows I’ve ever seen, especially considering it revolves around a love triangle.

Dear Evan Hansen – Sun. matinee, 5 stars

This was the second time I’ve gotten to see DEH. It’s one of my favorite musicals of all time, maybe with the exception of my real fave (Fun Home), so this review contains bias.

This time, we were missing both Rachel Bay Jones and Ben Platt. So now seems the perfect time to talk acting.

Let’s just get this out of the way: the swing for Evan is fabulous. Seriously, he was great. If I didn’t know Ben was the lead, I would not have thought Connor (yes, that’s really his name) was an understudy. I definitely liked Ben a little more, but they’re both fabulous and engaging. Unfortunately, the understudy for Rachel Bay Jones wasn’t as impressive. She was fine, but that role needs to be better than fine.

All the side actors are fabulous as always. Mike Faist (Connor Murphy) is hilarious and heartbreaking. I’m going to be honest and say I don’t love the singing voice of Laura Dreyfuss (Zoe Murphy), but her acting skills are too fantastic for me to want anyone else for the role. I also really love Will Roland’s acting as Jared. I really want to shout out EVERYONE here, because every single actor is so talented. They definitely cast for acting and not singing in this show.

Maybe my one complaint (that’s not a result of having a swing) was the overmiking. Everything sounded fabulous except some of the worded harmonies, which were hard to understand. This was most noticeable during Good For You. The only other song in the show with harmonies on words, rather than on “o-oh,” is You Will Be Found. I didn’t notice any issues during that song, but that might be because I was crying so hard.

To that point – I still can’t get through this show without crying. Yes, this show relevant and important. But I think what I like most about it is how emotionally in-touch it all feels. You Will Be Found is one of the most emotionally cathartic Broadway songs of all time. It makes more sense in context, but if you haven’t listened to the musical yet, please give this specific song a listen at the very least.

To wrap up, I hope you all enjoyed my reviews!! I’m really glad we got to see all these shows – it’s a treat I probably will never repeat.

a ranty review: Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert – 2 stars – released August 8th

I’m really disappointed. Brandy Colbert is a really talented author and a fabulous person who I have the utmost respect for. Her books have always been a hit-or-miss; readers tend to find them either fabulous or messy. Little and Lion falls into the latter category for me. I have no doubt that many people will love this, but it really did not work for me.

THINGS I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK

—> The complex, multifaceted sibling relationship is a plus. Suzette and Lionel have their disputes, but it’s clear they really love each other. I liked that they were a stepbrother and stepsister, because sibling-ish relationships between stepsiblings are so rare in literature and so common in real life. (Signed, a girl with a stepbrother who she loves like a brother.)

—> There’s also diversity! This is a very diverse book, with a bi and nonwhite main character. The author handles topics of racism, bisexuality, and mental illness without being horribly offensive, which is a lot rarer than I’d like it to be. Another star for that!

—> I’m kind of struggling with other pros; this really felt like just another contemporary to me. I do think Brandy Colbert has a great writing style and a lot of good ideas about the world. She’s someone I’d like to have a drink with.

THE LOVE TRIANGLE

oh my god, a girl and a boy at the same time? emotional cheating? how shocking and revolutionary for bi people. it’s never been done before!! definitely not enforcing stereotypes by doing this in every single fucking book with a bi main character!!

Okay, before I get into stereotypes and how annoying this element was, let me just mention my thoughts on the triangle itself. Neither of the relationships within the love triangle are developed that deeply, period. I felt pretty torn about who I wanted Suz to end up with, but I didn’t find myself caring much. Or, like, at all.

And I have a bone to pick with the cheating involved in this love triangle!! This book gets a plus from me for not involving actual cheating in this love triangle; however, there’s some content in here that comes close to cheating. Look, I know y’all want to pretend emotional cheating isn’t real cheating, but it ticks me off either way. And either way, my point stands that this love triangle element has really gotten tiresome. It’s so tropey.

But that isn’t even the main element that bothers me. What really bothers me is the plot element being so. fucking. stereotypical. Not every bi character has to be in a love triangle between a girl and a guy. To be completely fair, this isn’t entirely the fault of this specific book, but the trend really bothers me. I have quite literally read FOUR books with major bi characters where this happened over the course of the year 2017. IT IS MARCH 15TH. IT HAS BEEN LESS THAN THREE MONTHS. (Since someone asked, the other three books are Noteworthy, It’s Not Like It’s A Secret, and Ellen Hopkins’ new book.)

Also, while we’re at me bitching, please, why can’t someone change the the blurb. This blurb made me think I was reading a cute romance between two girls. Yet the endgame relationship here is a guy and a girl. It’s not bad for a bi girl to end up with a guy – I am all about that. Write a book about Suz and that cute neighbor boy getting together just as she questions her sexuality and I am here for it. However, this blurb implies that the major romance aspect is with another girl, when it’s just not. Not Colbert’s fault at all, but really, the marketing here is completely revolving around the girls when the book doesn’t really go there. I’m getting annoyed by books being marketed as f/f relationships and then not having them. Why not just market this as a story about a bi girl figuring out who she is, rather than marketing it as a romance between two girls?

OTHER REASONS I DISLIKED THIS

news: I’m not always a bitter Bitch!! sometimes I do genuinely also dislike books even if they don’t have such cringey ass love triangles

In general, Little and Lion did not inspire much emotion from me. It’s not amusing or enjoyable. But while it’s intense, I always felt one step removed from the characters. I didn’t hate any of them but I didn’t connect with any of them. Maybe that’s because the relationships aren’t developed enough. The brother/sister relationship is good, but it isn’t developed quite enough to inspire deep feeling. On the same thread, neither of the relationships within the love triangle are developed that deeply, period. Let’s talk about that whole element, because I have a lot to say.

Little and Lion does not seem to know where it’s going. There’s a story about bisexuality here, and a story about identity, and a story about family, and a story about mental illness, and all of those should blend together to form a narrative masterpiece. Yet none of the plot threads are really concluded?? In Colbert’s debut, Pointe, all the different stories and threads tied together very well. But this book doesn’t develop any of the stories quite enough for them to fit. Little and Lion feels like eight novels crammed into one book.

To be clear, I’m not saying we shouldn’t have bi characters with mentally ill brothers in fiction– that’s great and realistic. I want more representation as good as the representation in this book. That’s not the issue. The problem is that Colbert tries to create conflict in a ton of aspects of the protagonist’s life and it… really didn’t work out, at least not for me. The whole thing just feels messyand underconcluded.

Underconcluded might be an understatement. By “underconcluded,” I mean lacking real conclusion at all.Maybe this was supposed to be slice-of-life, but I literally feel like nothing happened in this book besides a really, really overdone love triangle. I mean, if you like slice-of-life, more power to you. But seriously, I don’t want to read a book that is entirely a love triangle. Bye.

the NOPE tag

This was originally created by A Booktube Book. By the way, guys, I will link reviews for all of these books within the answers, in case you want to check out extended thoughts. Some are longer than others.

Also, I was saltier than the dead sea while writing this?? so uh please don’t hate me

1. NOPE. Ending: A book ending that made you go NOPE either in denial, rage, or simply because the ending was crappy.

Maybe the ending of More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera. (Vague spoilers, of course. And I still need to edit this review more.) I really loved this book, and I think if the ending had been hopeful or offered a hopeful future, I would’ve given it five stars and a spot on my favorite-books-of-all-time shelf. But the ending is really so needlessly tragic.

We already got that being gay sucks!! But how is it good to end in tragedy after all that? It sucks. The last 400 pages have shown us that. Isn’t it more productive to end in hope for the future? Maybe give the queer kids reading this book something to look for? Why is it deeper to end in sadness?

I honestly just got annoyed at how much this felt like Queers Die For the Straight Eye. Maybe I just didn’t get it, but I really don’t understand the point of the ending. What’s the message? What’s the moral in this outright tragedy? Clearly many loved the ending. But frankly, I hated the ending. After 350-some pages of angst over why you shouldn’t change yourself, why should the protagonist forget everything about who he is?

2. NOPE. Protagonist: A main character you dislike and drives you crazy.

This isn’t a protagonist, but I am in a Ranty mood today and I want to talk about a character that a lot of people love and I kinda hate?? Well. I like him as a villain. But as a character he rlly grosses me out.

EDIT: I forgot to type this????????

I fucking hate Kavinsky from the Raven Cycle. I love him as a villain, think he’s wonderfully complex and interesting. I’ll be honest, a redemption arc for him wouldn’t even bother me much, though I have to say it doesn’t interest me at all. But shipping him with Ronan is really… ugh?? some of the shit he does to Ronan really struck me as implied sexual assault. There’s a scene where he drugs Ronan and then touches his tattoo, which is used as symbolism for intimacy earlier in the book, and man, that’s not something I really want for a ship.

3. NOPE. Series: A series that turned out to be one huge pile of NOPE. after you’ve invested all of that time and energy on it, or a series you gave up on because it wasn’t worth it anymore.

Okay, two things. First of all I’m going to mention a series ending I just despise, and then I’m going to talk tropes. The series ending in question? Allegiant. I just hate this book so much and I’ll never stop being bitter about it. I don’t even care about the character deaths – I’m bitter about how shitty this book is. The weird love triangle? The nonsensical plot twists? The destruction of Tobias, formerly one of the Only Men I Trust? Whatever. It’s terrible and I hate it.

Related to trash series endings: I generally tend to hate those “villain suddenly dies in the last book because Narrative Punishment” endings. It doesn’t make me hate the series or anything, it just feels way too neat and tidy for my tastes. This is for a couple reasons. I’m a redemption arc person, first of all – honestly I think characters can pretty much come past anything and I love when they do.

Second of all, I think it bothers me how many of the characters who die (rather than being redeemed) were clearly manipulated or abused and became what they are as a result of what they’ve been through. With characters like that, I almost feel like killing them just leaves a bad taste?? There have been a couple times where I was genuinely shocked by characters surviving a series just because they’ve been through some shit.

For examples of books that DIDN’T do this and it made me really fucking happy!! Some of the characters that survived Six of Crows shocked me just because I thought they were earmarked for death from the first page. Yet another reason why that book means the world. Also, a couple characters that survived the Raven Cycle genuinely shocked me. (I can’t believe Adam Parrish managed to survive both Bury Your Gays and Bury Your Abusive Survivors what a fucking ICON)

4. NOPE. Popular pairing: A “ship” you don’t support.

I’m trying to vary my answers and I already talked about Shitty Men later in this post, so let me just talk about some others. Any ships with weird relationship dynamics where one character has all the power and the other one doesn’t. For a great example, I’m going with Elias and Laia from An Ember In The Ashes. I’m sorry, but this relationship feels so imbalanced and unhealthy?? There’s a scene in this book where the male romantic lead pretends that he’s been raping the female romantic lead. It’s so… it’s not actually abusive, Elias is kind of a fuckboy but he’s not an emotional abuser. this just makes me so uncomfortable personally?

I’m also not a fan of ships that cause female characters to lose their personalities. A good example is Captain Swan from Once Upon A Time 🙂 and also that one ship from The Fifth Wave. They just kinda gross me out because I feel like Cassie’s entire arc revolves around Evan. So not a fan.

5. NOPE. Plot twist: A plot twist you didn’t see coming or didn’t like.

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson. Holy god, the ending of this book make me so fucking bitter. Because this book is a masterpiece. Every bit of it is horrifying, every bit of it is tense, every bit of it broke my heart into a million different pieces.

And then that ending happens. And it flops so much. And I’m so bitter about it. Why the fuck would you end your powerful, important, brilliant book with this cheap and idiotic twist?

6. NOPE. Protagonist action/decision: A character decision that made you shake your head NOPE.

Every single decision made by every single YA thriller character. Lmao. I’m excluding YA suspense there, and honestly, I think the main distinction between YA thrillers and YA suspense at this point is “how stupid are the characters?” Tune in next week for me of me roasting the YA thriller genre and telling you to read YA suspense instead!! And being bitter that some people like to pretend it’s the same genre when it’s rlly not!!

7. NOPE. Genre: A genre you will never read.

I guess New Adult? I just don’t care for some of the love interests in this genre. They bother me. We’ll talk more about this later.

I’m not putting in all New Adult, though – just the overly romancey kind really bothers me. For example, I’m trying to read all the books written by Elliot Wake (you might know him as Leah Raedar) and I think I’m going to read It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover just because of the subject matter. I’ve also enjoyed a few lgbt+ new adult books – for example, anything by J.C. Lillis gets my wholehearted support.

8. NOPE. Book format: Book formatting you hate and avoid buying until it comes out in a different edition

I guess weird sizes?? I don’t love weird size books. There’s short US paperback, normal US paperbacks, normal US hardcovers, and tall US hardcovers. WHY DO Y’ALL HAVE OTHER TYPES OF BOOK SIZES. Have I told you about how I have the super big US hardcover of Crooked Kingdom but the tiny short UK paperback of Six of Crows? I want to delete my blog because of that just let me die

9. NOPE. Trope: A trope that makes you go NOPE.

Haha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

emotionally abusive bad boys!! Y’all have got to stop romanticizing this amount of shitty men!!

And before you come at me, there is a huge fucking difference between Morally Ambiguous Interesting Male Characters and Waddup I’m Jared I’m 19 And I Treat Women Like Shit. and there’s a big difference between “they’re both terrible and then they fall in love after some massive character development” and “they fall in love because the girl is turned on by really weird power dynamics.” Some of the men y’all romanticize in books are Literally Actually Abusive. Like. The actual men are abusive. THEY ARE ABUSIVE

and I’m not going to get on you for liking morally ambiguous characters trust me I am the fucking QUEEN of those super morally ambiguous male characters. Good example: I love Kaz Brekker. You know why he’s morally ambiguous? Because he tore someone’s eye out. You know what he didn’t do? Manipulate, physically intimidate, and emotionally abuse Inej for the entire book!! Excuse me!! Not the same thing!! Their relationship isn’t unhealthy. They don’t depend on each other, they both keep their lives and their moral codes, they just love each other. that’s GOOD. you know what isn’t good?? the amount of “I DEPEND on him I’d die for him but he’s always angry at me” romances out here

I GET that it’s fiction and y’all want to escape but can you please… say in your reviews that the Men are Shitty?? jesus i’m so bitter about the amount of books with Really Shitty Men that I’ve been recommended over the years I don’t understand the appeal!! of men who treat you like crap but it’s “hot” no!! heslyingtoyougirl.jpg leave his emotionally abusive ass and find yourself a non-abusive male character to date!! he can be as morally ambiguous as y’all want just don’t make him a Literal Abuser??

bye I’m really bitter about this??

10. NOPE. Recommendation: A book recommendation that is constantly hyped and pushed at you that you simply refuse to read.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven I read a full spoiler review of this and not to tell y’all what to read or judge you – i’m sure there are great parts of that book – but this… romanticizes suicide lol

11. NOPE. Cliche/pet peeve: A cliche or writing pet peeve that always makes you roll your eyes.

I guess we’re going for things that just make me sign in annoyance, not things that make me legitimately bitter. Instalove or any dynamic where we know the characters will end up together in the end. This is just so weird and boring and annoying. I LIVE for relationships I don’t see coming until I’m already invested in both characters. Hence my absolute love for multiple-pov romances.

Since I’ve been bitter enough here, let’s list GOOD examples of ships that snuck up on me and I genuinely did not anticipate:

  • that one ship and you ALL know which one from The Raven Cycle
  • every ship from Six of Crows other than Nina / Matthias, but especially the Cute  Pure Ones
  • THAT ONE SHIP FROM NOW I RISE this isn’t even multiple POV but MAN THIS SHIP KILLED ME it takes so long to figure out they’re falling for each other and it kills me I love them and would die for them, personally, at this very moment

12. NOPE. Love interest: The love interest that’s not worthy of being one. A character you don’t think should have been a viable love interest.

Unpopular opinion, I think, but maybe Nik Malikova from Gemina? I don’t hate his character towards the end – I just don’t like that he basically harasses Hanna until they form a relationship. It’s a yikes beginning. But I really shipped them towards the end, so I feel like I really can’t be too bitter about this??

Also, another random Gemina opinion: Ella Malikova is a beautiful angel and she deserves a girlfriend. (I’ll happily take the role. Just saying.)

13. NOPE. Book: A book that shouldn’t have existed that made you say NOPE.

I’ve mentioned a ton, but to add another one – Kids of Appetite by David Arnold. This book literally juts exemplifies every issue I have with the YA contemporary genre and I’m bitter even thinking about it.

Are you ready for my controversial theory? No one actually liked this. You all read this, were confused, and then gave it a five on the general principle because you thought you didn’t get it. You know why you didn’t get it? Because there is nothing here. These characters are not based off actual personalities, they’re based off idiosyncrasies. They’re interesting because they’re different, in some way, from “regular” teenagers. These. are. not. characters. They. are. props. Damn it, characters don’t have to be “unique” for me to care about them. Honest to god, this angers me so much. This is lazy. It’s lazy writing meant to look deep.

And what bothers me even more is the handling of trauma and mental illness. Because the Quirks that are being used in substitute of personality aren’t even quirks – they’re mental illnesses or differences. That is so fucking tiring. Mental illness is not a character trait. It’s not a character trait, it’s not, it’s not, and I am so fucking tired of authors pretending it is out of pure laziness.

14. NOPE. Villain: A scary villain/antagonist you would hate to cross and would make you run in the opposite direction.

I already did My Boy Kavinsky so I’m actually going with a character from Game of Thrones who I just really hate?? Littlefinger. I really can’t get over the fact that this dude is a pedophile. I know she doesn’t look it, but Sansa is thirteen at the beginning of this show. This dude is also just super creepy and weird and sinister. I do like how the actor does his role – he’s appropriately terrifying – but man, I’m haunted at night by the fact that some people romanticize this dude. And ship him with Sansa. Okay, that’s the really weird part. The fact that people love him as a villain doesn’t bother me at all, although I have to admit I don’t even really appreciate him as a villain because he grosses me out so much.

15. NOPE. Death: A character death that still haunts you.

That one terrible fucking death from the Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee. Not to rant, but why can’t y’all stop killing every single lesbian/bi girl in literature. Not to be weird but We Get It, You Hate Gay People And Don’t Want To Give Them Happy Endings.

This book is also kind of super racist?? I mean literally 3/5 of the characters are these rlly uncomfortable stereotypes I’m generally not a fan

16. NOPE. Author: An author you had a bad experience reading for and have decided to quit.

Ellen Hopkins. Can I just put my reviews here. I can feel her disdain for lgbt+ people driving through her pages and it makes me super uncomfortable.

Comment below if you have any similar opinions to me!!

What I Want Out of Television

This is a totally random post sparked by my dissatisfaction with a lot of tv shows I’ve been watching in the past few years. There’s SO MUCH I want out of tv, and I’ve really been having some trouble with it.

So first of all, I have a list of my favorite tv shows ever here.

  1. Them morally complex characters. I don’t really care for completely likable heroines. And honestly, who does? Give me moral conflicts and well-developed characters. Some of my faves for this, almost of all of which have gone downhill, were Once Upon A Time, Revenge, and The 100.
  2. Slow-burn romance, and the tv show ends when they get together. We have all seen those shows where they get together and immediately it sucks. Brooklyn Nine Nine is literally the only counterexample I can think of. So it’s time for more shows where the main characters get together only in the last season, despite being set up since the beginning. Please.
  3. Relating to that: give me the happy gays. I just want some live lesbians on tv. Just a few. Please.
  4. More serials that make me happy!! I’ve been having some trouble with a lot of my shows I’ve watched recently, and I think I’ve decided that with a few exceptions for super long developing plot series, I prefer strong serials with internal character arcs to overarching series plot type-shows. I actually got this from an interesting video dissecting Sherlock!! A lot of my favorite heartwarming shows focus entirely on internal arcs. For example, Firefly does this very well. I think a lot of shows start out doing this and then give way to less serial plots as they continue. Shows like Once Upon A Time, Supernatural, and Revenge were much more my favorites during their one-off eras.

Anyway, thanks for reading this odd discussion post. Have a great day, y’all!!

52 Books Around the Year

52 Books Around the Year is a cool new challenge that I’ve seen, and I’m really interested in it. So here we go with my tbr for this challenge!!

Most of the books on here are books I’ve already read, hence the linked reviews. Feel free to go through and check out my thoughts on a lot of these. The only books on here I haven’t read are the ones without links.

Here are the books I need to read for the rest of the year: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover, Wonder Woman by Leigh Bardugo, The Tiger’s Daughter by K Arsenault Rivera, The Diviners by Libba Bray, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.

1. A book from the Goodreads Choice Awards 2016 (link)
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

2. A book with at least 2 perspectives
A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

3. A book you meant to read in 2016
An Ember In the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

4. A title that doesn’t contain the letter “E”
A&B by J.C. Lillis

5. A historical fiction
This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzie Lee

6. A book being released as a movie in 2017 (this counts vv loosely)
Wonder Woman by Leigh Bardugo

7. A book with an animal on the cover or in the title
Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert

8. A book written by a person of color (this is really not hard??)
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

9. A book in the middle of your To Be Read list
Where She Went by Gayle Forman

10. A dual-timeline novel
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

11. A category from another challenge (A Middle Grade)
Beanstalker by Kiersten White

12. A book based on a myth
The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Adhieh

13. A book recommended by one of your favorite authors
The Tiger’s Daughter by K Arsenault Rivera

14. A book with a strong female character
Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

15. A book written or set in Scandinavia
The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

16. A mystery
Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

17. A book with illustrations
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

18. A really long book (600+ pages)
A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

19. A New York Times best-seller
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee

20. A book that you’ve owned for a while but haven’t read
The Diviners by Libba Bray

21. A book that is a continuation of a book you’ve already read
Sovereign by April Daniels

22. A book by an author you haven’t read before
Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

23. A book from the BBC “The Big Read” list (link)
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

24. A book written by at least two authors
Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda

25. A book about a famous historical figure
A Tyranny of Petticoats by Jessica Spotswood

26. An adventure book
Dreadnought by April Daniels

27. A book by one of your favorite authors
Vicious by V.E. Schwab (a new fave!!)

28. A non-fiction
Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

29. A book published outside the 4 major publishing houses
The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavick

30. A book from Goodreads Top 100 YA Books (link)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

31. A book from a sub-genre of your favorite genre
The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

32. A book with a long title (5+ words, excluding subtitle)
The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace

 

33. A magical realism novel
The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

34. A book set in or by an author from the Southern Hemisphere
Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

35. A book where one of the main characters is royalty
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

36. A Hugo Award winner or nominee (link)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

37. A book you choose randomly
The Beast Is An Animal by Peternelle Van Arsdale

38. A novel inspired by a work of classic literature
Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

39. An epistolary fiction
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

40. A book published in 2017
History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

41. A book with an unreliable narrator
Here Lies Daniel Tate by Cristin Terrill

42. A best book of the 21st century (so far)
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

43. A book with a chilling atmosphere (scary, unsettling, cold)
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

44. A recommendation from “What Should I Read Next” (link)
Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor (cheating, but whatever)

45. A book with a one-word title
Caraval by Stephanie Garber

46. A time travel novel
All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

47. A past suggestion that didn’t win (link) (A book with an appealing title)
The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

48. A banned book
Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

49. A book from someone else’s bookshelf (bookshelf arc shelves count!!)
How To Disappear by Sharon Huss Roat

50. A Penguin Modern Classic (this is just what I consider a classic)
Into Thin Air by John Krakauer

51. A collection (e.g. essays, short stories, poetry, plays)
Summer Days and Summer Nights by Stephanie Perkins

52. A book set in a fictional location
Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

New Release: Lucky in Love by Kasie West

Lucky in Love by Kasie West – 3 stars – releases July 15 2017

This is nothing particularly special, but it’s just the easy-to-read contemporary story I needed at this point in my month.

First things first: wow, this needed editing. A lot of the sentences are pretty awkward. This might be an unpopular opinion or something editors do, but can ya authors use contractions? When you don’t use contractions, your dialog doesn’t sound more sophisticated. It just sounds fake and ridiculous. Hear me out. If someone came up to me in casual conversation and said “I am going to the park,” I would think they were a pretentious asshole. Or possibly high. If you say “I’m going to the park” I wouldn’t think anything beyond “oh, you’re going to the park.” Do you see what I’m saying? It’s fake and it’s stupid.

Anyway, beyond the writing, it’s fine. The characters aren’t terrible, the romance is sweet, there are well-written family dynamics and all that. There’s a significant lack of girl hate and slutshaming!! I have to admit that I was kind of expecting girl hate?? But no. There’s actually a rich girl who becomes a true friend to Maddie. Also, there are a couple of good comments made by Maddie’s love interest, the adorable Seth, about racism. I liked that!! It was a minor thing but I really liked it. And there’s a popular reviewer on this page who I finally unfollowed because she made a lowkey racist comment in her review about this, so… yay, I guess?

Two things bothered me here. First of all, it’s cliche. Obviously. But I really feel like this was cliche in a bad way. When I think of a good cliche story, I think of bed sharing and fake dating. Those are cliches, but they’re fun cliches. This story is just… so cliche that everyone felt like a plot device.

The other issue is Maddie’s whole character-regression thing. I know this is a story meant to be about ambition and how wealth can corrupt you. I get that. I just don’t really like how the whole plot was done. I get that she’s rich now, but if you saved money your whole life, I feel like you’d think about it a little more. Fine, people are different. All I can say is Maddie’s throwing-around-money started pissing me off quickly. Kasie West wrote it in a fairly realistic and sympathetic way, but I felt like the person yelling at the horror movie characters to not be idiots. Fancy dinner is one thing, but it was so obvious the car and the yacht was all going to go wrong.

But I can’t even really complain about this, because this book was so clearly not for me to analyze!! It’s not meant to be serious or high-quality. It’s a fun YA contemporary story. She churns out three per year. Hopeless romantics will enjoy it maybe more than me. If you’ve liked Kasie West before, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this too.