ARC Review: The New Guy (And Other Senior Year Distractions) by Amy Spalding

The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions) by Amy Spalding
Series: N/A
Published by Poppy on April 5, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 320 : e-ARC edition
Source: Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review (via NetGalley)
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A ridiculously cute, formerly-famous new guy dropping into your life? It’s practically every girl’s dream.

But not Jules McCallister-Morgan’s.

I realize that on paper I look like your standard type-A, neurotic, overachiever. And maybe I am. But I didn’t get to be the editor of my school’s long-revered newspaper by just showing up*. I have one main goal for my senior year-early acceptance into my first choice Ivy League college-and I will not be deterred by best friends, moms who think I could stand to “live a little,” or boys.

At least, that was the plan before I knew about Alex Powell**.

And before Alex Powell betrayed me***.

I know what you’re thinking: Calm down, Jules. But you don’t understand. This stuff matters. This is my life. And I’m not going down without a fight.

—-

* Okay, I sort of did. But it’s a sore subject.

** I mean, I guess everyone knows about Alex Powell? Two years ago, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about viral video boy band sensation Chaos 4 All. Two years ago, Alex Powell was famous.

***Some people think I’m overreacting. But this. Means. War.

Filled with romance, rivalry, and passive-aggressive dog walking, Amy Spalding delivers a hilariously relatable high school story that’s sure to have you falling for The New Guy.

If you follow me on Twitter (which you totally should; there’s fun gifs and you get to hear about the dumb shenanigans I get myself into) then you know I was struggling with whether or not I should give up on this book. I ultimately decided to do so after reaching the 60% mark. I’m not writing the book off completely, since I think there were some really awesome components in it, but it ended up coming down to me getting annoyed with the main character mixed with some “I don’t really care about this story anymore.”

So, pros! I started off really liking the unique voice that this contemporary had. Jules definitely does not care what others think of her and I liked her inner dialogue…until it became annoying. There was a specific turning point in the novel when I couldn’t relate to her anymore and I started to find myself flicking past pages wondering when she was going to stop talking. Alex also got on my nerves. He seemed sort of sleazy from the beginning. No, I didn’t make it to the end so maybe he does redeem himself, but the point I got to made me really dislike him.

Gay parents! Yes! Jules’ mom’s were so rad. I probably stuck it out as long as I did because I loved them and their dialogue. Can we get a book focused all around their romance? I’d read that in a heartbeat.

I also got a bit sick of Jules’ friends and the way she treated them. Jules is so caught up in her own life that she can’t even take the time to respond to emails/texts and her friends let her get away with it! Maybe I’m just not an overly forgiving person, but it continued to happen enough in the book that I seriously questioned why her best friend, who’s name I can’t remember beyond “the loud one who acts as the foil to the quiet one” would put up with that crap.

Maybe I’m just getting too old for contemporaries? I really hope not. Maybe it’s my own fault too for siding with the “bad” characters too. I mean Jules is pretty set in her ways, which I’m all for sticking to your guns, but she did it in such a way that shut down everyone else’s ideas, and I wasn’t too thrilled with that.

At the end of the day I am giving this two stars though. I think (and hope) some people will find it enjoyable, but it just wasn’t for me. As someone pointed out to me on Twitter, life is too short to waste time reading books you don’t like. On to the next!

(As it’s becoming a common theme with my DNF’s, I do really like this cover. There’s just something about it that is great! Maybe it’s the soft pastels)

What do you think? Have you read this one yet? Are you going to pick it up when it gets released next week? Let me know!

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Discussion: Racism and Intersectionality in YA Fiction

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For those of you who follow me on Twitter, I may have filled up your feed with annoying Tweets about how I was coming towards the end of my quarter and was working on a final paper for my Feminist Theory class, and a lot of you requested to see the final product so here I am to provide it to you (and spark some discussion along the way).

To break it down for you, the assignment required me to write about any topic of my choosing as long as I related it back to feminism and a theory we had discussed in class. I chose YA fiction, as I have done for a slew of other papers throughout my college career (seriously, I think I’ve written almost four of these and it’s only my junior year). I then chose to look at YA lit through the realm of intersectionality, which is basically the ways that oppressive institutions (i.e. classism, homophobia, sexism, just to name a few) are interconnected.

So, as we all know, YA lit is a pretty expansive topic and the more research I did, the more I found that writing about what I know was going to be easiest. Duh. So I examined The Hunger Games, Twilight, and Divergent series’ from the book series, to the movie franchises, to the actresses playing the characters, to examine whether or not a series is feminist and/or racist (whether inherently or not). Obviously there are a lot of series out there that I could have examined, but these three were the simplest in terms of having common themes and being very popular, plus the fact that they all have movie franchises that coalesce with what I was discussing.

The paper itself is pretty extensive (about 13 pages) so bear with me as I post it here and bore you with theory and feminist terms. And I should also preface this with, don’t steal my work. Seriously, I worked really hard on this for far too many long nights in the Uni library. With that being said, here we go!

I’d also love to hear your thoughts so make sure to leave a comment below of what you think!

Racing Towards Intersectionality in YA Fiction

Feminist theory and Young Adult (YA) fiction, on the surface level, seem like two separate entities that would have hardly any crossover with each other. However, when examining the two on a much deeper level and exploring the different aspects of YA fiction and the factors that make up its fictional genre, especially when considering protagonists, it becomes clear that feminist theory can be used as a means of examining YA fiction in addition to the films that accompany popular YA fiction series’. By exploring the feminist theory of intersectionality and the oppressive institutions that shape the worlds and characters written in YA fiction, troubling factors are brought to light, specifically a lack of racial diversity.

Under the lens of an intersectionality theory, oppressive institutional powers such as racism and sexism can be examined. This will act as a guide for why YA fiction and movies are detrimental to young women, specifically those who may one day become feminists. While the realm of intersectionality can be broad, it becomes narrow through the lens and domain of fiction that my research focuses on.

Intersectionality itself is defined as, “not an abstract notion but a description of the way multiple oppressions are experienced” (Smith, para. 1). Women in particular are often the subject of much oppression and marginalization. To examine popular texts within a society, it may be possible to derive where these messages are coming from and what effect they can have on a young group of people. YA fiction is a particularly interesting section of literature to examine because it has recently transcended the youth group and resonates with individuals who do not fall into the spectrum of 12-18 year olds. YA fiction has changed from the era of Judy Blume’s Forever, which often functioned as a sex manual to teens. It has now moved to a wider range of previously neglected individuals and identities such as gay teens, transgender explorations, and of course, vampires and the supernatural world.

So, why is the exploration of intersectionality important if YA texts are moving to a more progressive state? Unfortunately, there is still a wide range of straight, white, male characters that are dominating the market and being consumed by the masses. Therefore, an intersectional theoretical approach to examining YA fiction is necessary. In the article, “A Feminist Research Agenda in Youth Literature,” the author, Kay Vandergrift states that literature cannot be thought about, “without an awareness of the male hierarchical society in which literature is produced and read” (23). By establishing that the white patriarchy is the dominant force behind YA fiction and dictates the types of books being published for teens, a trend becomes evident in exposing the problem of a lack of representation of minorities, especially race, within the genre.

Vandergrift also goes on to point out that in recent years, more of an effort has been placed on creating female protagonists to bridge the gap between gender inequalities in YA fiction. In doing so, publishers and authors have indirectly lent a hand in excluding, “the voices of those of different races, classes, ethnicities, and sexual orientations” (24). This is why intersectionality, and specifically in the scope of this essay, race, are so important because they include all genders, identities, and sexual orientations, going beyond that of just gender and having strong female protagonists.

For example, Katniss Everdeen, the central character of The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins is described as having, “Olive skin, ‘straight black hair,’ which she pulls into a braid, and grey eyes…it’s pretty safe to say that Katniss is not necessarily Anglo-Saxon” (Jezebel, para. 5). Katniss is the main character of the trilogy and continues to stand as a feminist icon eight years since the first book in the series was published. She stands as a testament of being one step closer to having more mainstream and popular YA books becoming more integrated with racial minority main characters. However, that does not dissuade the fact that due to this ambiguity, her race is left up to interpretation and can be seen as white, something that Hollywood chose to portray Katniss as in the film series of the same title.

If audiences are to assume that Katniss is white, she exhibits a “white savior” complex in the series brought about by the hegemonic stereotypes reinforced through other white characters within the novel. Minority characters that are specifically stated to be African American “are marginalized; able to exercise agency against the corruption of the Capitol, but only via [Katniss]” (Kirby, 466). Again, a feminist character is presented to the masses, but the author reinforces hegemonic tendencies without the scope of intersectionality. Collins thusly reinforces the detrimental effects of having a character that, on the surface level, seems to be an inspirational character, but falls short of the racial divide.

Feminism and intersectionality can be mixed together to provide a framework of a theory. Both are important, but in the case of YA fiction, cannot be used interchangeably because they have different connotations that examine vastly singular schools of thought that overlap, but do not intersect. Not only that, but the essence of a strong female character, disregarding her other features momentarily, is almost never exactly defined. What makes a female “strong”? Strong female protagonists are usually labeled as such without distinct features provided to the audience, whereas their male counterparts are simply “male protagonists.”

This parallels the racial problem as well. Most characters in YA novels are automatically assumed to be part of the dominant class; white and straight. If they are not white and straight, they are immediately labeled as otherwise, and are called upon to “‘rise above the typical female stereotypes,’” while still satisfying a need for mainstream and cookie cutter characters that can be easily related to and consumed within a novel or series (Rubinstein-Avila, 366).

For example, going back to The Hunger Games series, audiences were seemingly shocked when Rue, a young black girl from one of Katniss’ fellow districts in the books, was cast as a black girl (the actress portraying her being Amandla Stenberg, a fourteen year old at the time). She is clearly written in the canon material as having, “dark brown skin and eyes,” (Collins, 45) but audiences were still infuriated and outraged that a black actress was portraying the black character. Even with clear indications from the original material that a supporting character is not of Caucasian descent, characters are still assumed to be of the hegemonic majority, despite being proved otherwise with concrete textual evidence.

Another harmful factor that can lead to misrepresentation of characters within YA fiction has to do with how a book is marketed and presented based on its cover and title. In the early 2000’s much emphasis was placed on creating covers that were focused on, “more representational covers – no people, just images – to achieve cross-gender, multicultural appeal” (Yampbell, 357). However, this trend began to change in the mid-2000’s when an abundance of covers with pretty, pale, white girls in ball gowns (i.e. Images 1, 2, 3) were displayed on covers across a multitude of bookstores.

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This is also around the time when novels such as the Twilight series, by Stephenie Meyer, were coming into the spotlight and focused on the beauty that came with being a vampire, which meant having pure white skin. In comparison to the white skin of the vampires, the werewolves, who are portrayed as Native American’s, are put in a position of implying animalistic tendencies of Native American’s in general. This unintentionally puts them in a position of appearing to be the villains. Bella Swan, again, a white female character, who has zero redeeming qualities, is put in the middle of the conflict between the vampires and werewolves.

Eventually, Bella does become a vampire and finds herself redeemed from her beautiful and perfect skin. The idea of enforcing this very specific type of skin tone plays into the idea that those who are reading the material, typically young adults, but in the case of Twilight, often married women, can position themselves into the characters shoes and yearn to identify with the character. As summed up in the article “That Teenage Feeling”: “Importantly, envelopment and submission to these fantasy scenarios is facilitated and perhaps even contingent upon a specific engagement of the text: that of ‘girl’ reading” (Petersen, 59). However, just because this is a fantastical world in the paranormal romance genre, does not mean that different rules apply when it comes to intersectionality and race. If anything, the ideals of bringing forth a fantasy world full of multicultural diversity is even more pronounced since the possibilities are virtually endless when creating a world that has no boundaries.

When Stephenie Meyer places Native American’s into a box where each one can be summed up as having “skin like russet-colored silk in the firelight,” (Eclipse, 242) and “long arms and legs, long fingers, long black braids, and long faces with long noses” (Midnight Sun, 612-613), and that one of the Native American characters lashed out, literally, on his wife, she is perpetuating a long standing tradition of white imperialism in which every Native American looks alike and has a tendency of spousal or domestic abuse. Meyer also employs the white characters (i.e. the vampires) to trade insults with the characters of color (i.e. the werewolves) in which “the vamps lob insults like dog and mongrel” (Peterson, para. 28). Again, Meyer is aiding in perpetuating a stereotype that Native American’s are beneath the Caucasian hegemony. These subtle messages that are being sent in YA fiction are extremely harmful to the audiences, because it shows them that this type of behavior is acceptable and goes beyond the realm of a fantasy book; that it can be repeated in real life.

Twilight is a classic example of how old ideas of hierarchy shine through in the 21st century, especially in the United States, which has a long history of oppression of not only Native people, but races of any color other than white. As a modern society, we should be moving towards going beyond acceptance, and full integration of marginalized and oppressed people into leading roles, without looking upon them in disdain. YA fiction attempts to do this, but white structural oppressions seem to shine through in the more popular and well-known fictional series’.

Kristen Stewart was cast as Bella Swan in the movie franchise, and has identified herself as a feminist on multiple occasions. What does this ultimately say about the character she chooses to play, who is not feminist under any definition or variance of the word? Should actresses like Kristen Stewart take more of a stand on wanting to portray characters that have more feminist attributes (which is something she has been leaning towards in recent years, such as her role as Cole in the film Camp X-Ray)? Or does attempting to portray a non-feminist character to the best of her acting ability show that she has a wide range of talents? No matter the case, clearly there is still a disassociation between characters that are not feminist and the audiences who look up to these characters that define themselves as feminists. This also expands to the actresses cast as the characters too.

Where does this leave feminists? Second wave feminism “drew in women of color and developing nations, seeking sisterhood and solidarity, claiming ‘Women’s struggle is class struggle’” (Rampton, para. 9). If second wave feminism brought in women of color, rather than excluding them, and was a movement that was based primarily in the 60’s to about the 80’s, then why does YA fiction of today not also parallel this movement?

YA fiction, a generally new topic (and an ever-expanding one) in the literary world, falls short of being inclusive. Despite this, YA fiction is still enforcing age-old tendencies that place feminists and women of color in oppressed situations and storylines. Putting aside race momentarily, another popular series that features a “strong female character” is the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth.

Divergent’s main white character, Tris, is placed in a faction separate from her family and friends, which first signifies that there are overarching powers forcing her to be complicit in this society. Her main enemy throughout the series, a cold, calculating, white woman by the name of Jeanine, is seen as the oppressor, but is only viewed as such because of the patriarchy of the society. It’s problematic that Jeanine is the villain because it pits women against each other, while men stand by and watch them fight. Even Tris’ love interest, Four, “constantly humiliates her, supposedly for her protection” (Ferrell, para. 12). However, Four does ask for explicit consent during their sex scene, something not typically seen in YA novels. If there is a sex scene, it is implied after marriage and is considered consensual without being explicitly stated (as seen in the final Twilight book, Breaking Dawn).

Divergents themselves can be seen as feminist icons though, in that they are “framed as a threat to society, they are attacked by what counts for media in their world, and they must constantly guard against those who wish to exploit and destroy ‘their kind’” (Wilson, para. 6). However, are they really feminists if they are not inclusionary of all types of races and individuals from all backgrounds? Divergents in the series also have a tendency to be very suspicious of others and regard themselves highly (albeit with a mixture of fear). Therefore, on the surface level they may appear to be feminists, if that definition of feminism excludes looking at intersectionality and ideas of harmony among all races.

To complicate things further in the real world, Shailene Woodley, the actress who portrays the character Tris in the movie franchise, has stated that she is not a feminist, “on account that raising women to power and taking it from men disturbs a balance” (Ferrell, para. 10). While this is clearly the wrong definition of feminism, having a non-feminist portray a seemingly feminist character can be problematic to young viewers and readers of the series. It blends together old ideas of the patriarchy being supreme with a character that goes against systematic oppression. In contrast to the casting of Rue in The Hunger Games film franchise, Shailene Woodley as Tris was a prime example of bad casting in an industry that is known for being male dominated. This further sends mixed signals to young readers, especially girls, who are looking to celebrities as icons for shaping their beliefs about the society they live in.

It is often said in feminist studies that the “personal is political” and this is especially true in terms of race and the marginalization of certain cultures. In alignment with this, especially in the case of the Divergent series casting, I would argue that the fictional is political. Again, readers are exposed to worlds where anything can be possible, but instead are confined to patriarchal values and systems of oppression, which can be damaging, not to mention, confusing, for impressionable adolescents.

Taking the three examples of The Hunger Games, Twilight, and Divergent, we can begin to see how despite the contextual and plot differences within these novels, they have overlapping ideals pushed towards audiences about feminism and intersectionality, or the lack thereof. The patriarchal institutions that are in place within these stories; the Capitol in The Hunger Games, Edward controlling Bella in Twilight, and the mysterious institutions in place in Divergent, all stand as tangible forces that are controlling these young women. On top of that, all three characters are white (Katniss is being based off the movies, though her race in the books can be argued either way) and do not offer a representation of strong women across cultures and from different backgrounds, similar to the real world.

These series are therefore reinforcing ideals that the white hegemonic males are the one’s who are behind the controls of almost every aspect of young girls’ lives. How can young women expect to find leaders in the fictional worlds they are diving into without having any sort of diversity? All of these books are written by white women, showing that even outside of these worlds, books written by women of color are not promoted as extensively as books written by white women. In recent years, there has been a push for more recognition of characters and authors that are of different races, in order to show that the standard white, straight, character is not the norm any longer.

Even within classroom settings, there is often an unintentional push towards white authors and teaching “white literature.” For example, a survey was conducted of the types of Young Adult literature taught in university courses and found that, “The concept of multicultural literature was seen as valued, but respondents agreed that it is ‘undervalued and overlooked’” (Hayn, 48). If multicultural and intersectional literature and/or fiction is not being taught at University levels, where it may be too late to integrate such ideals anyway, then how can it be expected to be provided to children or youths outside of a classroom setting?

If the publishing industries were to advocate more searches for works and authors that have written more diverse novels, they would ultimately contribute to an influx of stories and plots that more children and young adults could enjoy. As mentioned previously, in recent years there has been more of a push for intersectional works and, “The robust YA market continues to offer a wide range of books for all kinds of readers” (Crowe, 148). Furthermore, once there has been a mass publication of these different stories, the standard of having less white characters that will dominate the market and then make it “up to parents, librarians, and English teachers to know books and steer young readers to the literature – YA or classic – for which they are best suited” (Crowe, 149).

As a reader myself, who is a straight, white, feminist female, I attempted to examine some of my favorite novels and determine if they fell into the category of intersectionality or racial diversity. Unfortunately, I found that most of the books I have read in recent years do not fall under such categories, and I also could not name more than five off the top of my head that featured a main character of a different race. With the feminist knowledge and expertise I now possess from three years of education at a university, I would have assumed that I would be a much more savvy shopper and consumer of fictional material. The books I remember reading were more non-fictional stories, assigned in my high school classes, and not picked up for my own enjoyment, in which the person of color went through a struggle. Again, I find the fault being placed on the publishing industry and their lack of promotion or creation of works that would even garner a large category of YA fictional books.

As a young feminist woman who aims to have a career in the publishing industry, I would hope to contribute to the influx of titles that allow for marginalized groups. Ultimately, I would like to go beyond simply having multicultural characters that are depicted in supporting roles or having white characters in international settings. This would move away from using exotic backgrounds to enhance a story without actually looking at the people who are from such a setting. Additionally, this would also negate the practice of a characters ethnicity being used “only for descriptive purposes rather than functioning to depict insights about the culture or cultural practices” (Koss, 566). An ethnicity, whether in the fictional world or reality, should not be used as a means for highlighting the hegemony to a status where they are seen as inherently “better” because of their differences. Differentiations in race and culture should be celebrated and expand beyond acceptance towards a realm of not having to point out variances or nuances because they have become so normalized.

As stated from the start, intersectionality can take on a variety of stances and have differentiations depending on what lens it is being looked through. In terms of feminist theory and YA fiction, intersectionality is examined as a way of going beyond the fictional world to seeing parallels to the marginalization of people of color in our own world.

The intersectional theory applied here though, has allowed for examining YA fiction beyond what is a good or bad story. The consumers of YA fiction, largely young teens to adults, are one of the most impressionable groups of people in this society. If they are shaping their ideals and trying to strive for a more accepting and open future, this can be achieved through the idea that I have proposed that the “fictional is political.”

YA fiction is not a blip on the literary world’s radar. With its growing marketability and consumption by a wide range of individuals from extensive backgrounds, YA fiction has secured its place in the literary world and beyond. Through readership, YA fiction will open the realm for examining more than just intersectional theory in a way that is accessible and understandable to all audiences, even those who do not discern themselves as feminists.

Ultimately, YA fiction needs to develop further within itself by promoting the oppressed who have not had similar opportunities as their white counterparts. This will crush the hegemonic and historical tendencies that have permeated across novels and series in YA fiction.

 

Works Cited

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic, 2008. Print.

Crowe, Chris. “Young Adult Literature: The Problem with YA Literature.” The English Journal 90.3 (2001): 146. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.

Ferrell, Ty. “”Divergent” Touches on Feminism and Class Divides.” The Weather Vane. Web. 09 Mar. 2016.

Hayn, Judith A., and Jeffrey S. Kaplan. Teaching Young Adult Literature Today: Insights, Considerations, and Perspectives for the Classroom Teacher. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012. Print.

Kirby, Philip. “The Girl on Fire: The Hunger Games , Feminist Geopolitics and the Contemporary Female Action Hero.” Geopolitics 20.2 (2015): 460-78. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.

Koss, Melanie D., and William H. Teale. “What’s Happening in YA Literature? Trends in Books for Adolescents.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 52.7 (2009): 563-72. Web.

Meyer, Stephenie. Eclipse. New York: Little, Brown, 2007. Print.

Petersen, Anne Helen. “That Teenage Feeling.” Feminist Media Studies 12.1 (2012): 51-67. Web.

Peterson, Latoya. “Running With the Wolves – A Racialicious Reading of the Twilight Saga.” Racialicious the Intersection of Race and Pop Culture. 2009. Web. 09 Mar. 2016.

Rampton, Martha. “Four Waves of Feminism.” Four Waves of Feminism. 25 Oct. 2015. Web. 09 Mar. 2016.

Rubinstein‐Avila, Eliane. “Examining Representations of Young Adult Female Protagonists through Critical Race Feminism.” Changing English 14.3 (2007): 363-74. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.

Smith, Sharon. “Black Feminism and Intersectionality.” Black Feminism and Intersectionality. International Socialist Review. Web. 03 Mar. 2016.

Stewart, Dodai. “Racist Hunger Games Fans Are Very Disappointed.” Jezebel. 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 09 Mar. 2016.

Vandergrift, Kay. “A Feminist Research Agenda in Youth Literature.” Wilson Library Bulletin (1993): 23. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.

Wilson, Natalie. “Are Divergents Feminists in Disguise?” Ms Magazine Blog. Web. 09 Mar. 2016.

Yampbell, Cat. “Judging a Book by Its Cover: Publishing Trends in Young Adult Literature.” The Lion and the Unicorn 29.3 (2005): 348-72. The John Hopkins Press University Press. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.

 

 

Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor

Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor
Series: Into the Dim #1
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on March 1, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Time Travel
Pages: 432 : e-ARC edition
Source: Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
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When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing. 

I thought after the catastrophe that was Lady Midnight that I could dive into something that was much more fast-paced and enthralling but…I was left disappointed again.

It wasn’t that Into the Dim was necessarily bad, I just was so uninterested with the story after finishing 21% of it. I had little care for the main character, who’s name I can’t even remember, the story, or pretty much anything. I wasn’t sucked in as I had hoped and while I think there is a good premise here, it’s not something that had me on the edge of my seat, chomping at the bit, trying to figure out what was going to happen next.

The whole thing felt like a set up for a very stereotypical YA novel. Which, you may be thinking, “what the hell does that mean?” I just felt like it was very “I’m not special” character who is special coupled with “I don’t know what all this means” when a new world is thrust upon her. I actually yawned.

Maybe I’ll give this one another go at a later date, but as of right now, I just can’t push myself to read (or even skim) any further.

The one thing this book does have going for it? Gorgeous cover!

Twisted Mind Blog Tour, Review, and Giveaway

Hi everyone! Please enjoy all the information and the review I’ve written for Mia Hoddell’s newest book, Twisted Mind!

Twisted Mind: Chequered Flag, Book 2 by Mia Hoddell

Genre: NA Contemporary Romance

Release date: March 8, 2016

Blurb:

GP2 race car driver Dustin Coates has been made irrelevant…

For the past year, Dustin helped his best friend, Raine Wilkins. It was a good diversion from his twisted life. Now she’s settling down with his brother, and without the distraction from his own toxic relationship, Dustin is rapidly spiralling out of control.

​​Everyone warned him to leave his girlfriend, Elora, yet they knew nothing about the baby…

It’s up to Dustin to protect the innocent life hanging in the balance, and to do that he must endure Elora’s twisted games of manipulation and violence. However, when she does the unthinkable, Dustin finally snaps. Leaving her, the light-hearted jokester people have come to love is replaced with a grief-stricken man intent on one thing—earning a Formula One contract.

​​Everything changes when Tazia Nixon moves in next door…

Dustin clings to the Latin beauty who soothes his aching heart and helps him forget. But beneath her eternal optimism is a distressing past she refuses to share. Dustin must decide if he can risk his fragile heart a second time. She might ease his pain, but she could also break him like no one else.

​​Will Dustin be able to overlook the deceit to find his forever with Tazia, or will he see nothing more than a ​​​​Twisted Mind?

My Review

 

Back in February I was left (impatiently) waiting for the sequel to Chameleon Soul, the first book in the Chequered Flag series, and now I’m so excited to be able to share my thoughts on Twisted Mind with all of you!

Before reading Chameleon Soul, I wasn’t really into the whole race car shindig, until about a week after I reviewed that book I went home for a weekend and went to the NHRA drag races with my family for the first time. And oh my god, it was SO much fun! The thrills! The excitement! Needless to say, that made me even more anxious to get my hands on Twisted Mind because I began to view the story from a completely different angle.

However, I do have to say, even if you’re not a fan of drag racing, race cars, or anything of the sort, Mia Hoddell still does an excellent job of keeping the sport sexy and full of high-intensity, much like the romance that is woven through the story.

I was curious to see how Dustin and Taz’s relationship would grow throughout the story and it was beautiful! Both of them have a lot of demons that tend to keep them down, but together their like this unstoppable force that I just can’t get enough of. I was sad, as usual with Mia Hoddell’s books, that it ended so soon! Though, I will be excited to see if we get a glimpse of them in the third book in this series coming out soon (I hope!).

CHEQUERED FLAG Salejpg

Free on Kindle Unlimited!

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com.au | Amazon.com.ca

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About the Author

MIA HODDELL AUTHOR PIC#1 Amazon bestselling author Mia Hoddell lives in the UK with her family and two cats. She spends most of her time writing or reading, loves anything romantic, and has an overactive imagination that keeps her up until the early hours of the morning.

Mia has written over ten titles including her Seasons of Change series, the Chequered Flag series, the Elemental Killers series, and her standalone novels False Finder, Not Enough, and Bet On Me.

Her favourite genres are contemporary romance or romantic suspense, and with an ever growing list of ideas she is trying to keep up with the speed at which her imagination generates them. She also designs book covers on her website M Designs

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Excerpts

I leaned in, desperate to feel him.
Finally, his lips grazed mine in barely a whisper of a touch.
A moan of protest slipped from my lips when he parted and the musical sound of Dustin’s husky laugh caused me to shiver.
“We shouldn’t be doing this,” he murmured, shocking me when his lips scraped my ear.
“I really don’t care.”
Dustin cupped my jaw, his thumb swiping over my cheekbone. The touch drew my eyes to his.
“I should though.”
I rested my head further into his palm and covered the back of his hand with my own to keep him there. Turning, I pressed my lips to his palm. “What’s the worst that could happen?”
“You could break me.”
I nipped at the tip of his finger when he trailed it over my bottom lip. “Aren’t we both already broken?”
“You could shatter me like no one else, Taz.” Rather than meet my eyes he stared off into the distance over my shoulder. “You could destroy me.”
I reached up, taking his jaw between my fingers and forcing his attention back to me. “I don’t want to.”
“That doesn’t mean you won’t.”
“No, but it means I’ll do everything in my power to try not to.”
The resolve in his eyes wavered. He couldn’t meet my gaze for long. He exhaled heavily, and his jaw kept tensing beneath my palm.
“Dustin,” I said, drawing his focus back to me. “It’s only a kiss.”
It wasn’t. We both knew I was lying and if we started down this road it would lead to more.
Regardless, Dustin pulled me into him. Pressing on the small of my back, he didn’t stop until I was flush against his chest. With his other hand he swiped back a lock of hair to slide it behind my ear.
He lowered his head, dipping until his forehead rested against mine. “I’m trusting you, Taz.”
I responded in a whisper, “Me too. You’re not the only one who stands to lose, Dust.”
Finally, he closed the gap between us and his lips met mine slowly, but forcefully. He claimed and possessed me, marking me as his with his mouth.
Every ounce of pain and fear was shared through our kiss.
When I parted my lips Dustin’s tongue immediately swept into me. I moaned, raising my arms to encircle him. I ran my fingers through the shaggy locks of hair at the back of his neck, pulling on them until he grunted against me.
Even though no space remained between us, Dustin forced me against him harder then dropped his head to my shoulder. He placed a tender kiss directly over the pulse point in my neck and mumbled against my skin, “Please don’t break me, Taz.”

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Discussion: How college changed my blog and me

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As I write this post I’m in the last leg of my college career. I’m graduating a quarter early so at the end of this week I will be celebrating my last spring break and my dreading my last spring quarter. Ever. A scary thought, to be honest. But as I reflect back on college and blogging, I realize a LOT has changed.

People may tell you that college will change your life. It will give you new perspectives, you’ll have all these great experiences, and you’ll make lifelong friends. Did this happen to me? Sure, easily. The person I was in high school is not the person I am now, and to be honest, I wouldn’t be friends with the me that I was in high school.

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Coming out of high school and going into college, I was convinced that I was going to be an English major and that’s what I had declared on all my college applications…and then I got to college. I would say there are three classes in particular (thus far) that have changed my life.

The first being my Feminism and the Romance class. As first years we all had to take a writing class but could choose which topic we wanted, so I picked the previously stated. My professor was this kick ass feminist who, to date, is still my favorite professor and is someone I still keep in contact with about the events in my life. In that class we talked about, obviously, feminism and romance. Our required textbook was a Nora Roberts book (my guilty pleasure) and we analyzed that thing backwards and forwards. It was there that I learned I am a feminist, but a question arose for me; what do I do with this new identity?

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That same quarter I took a class entitled “Shakespeare and Film.” I absolutely hated it. I dreaded going to class. It was in this stuffy classroom and was so packed with students that arriving late ensured you might secure a seat on the floor near the door. The final was a 15 page paper about all the films and Shakespeare novels we read (which I did neither. Still got an A though!). It became clear to me in this class that I didn’t care about analyzing literature that closely.

During this time my blog became the least important thing in my life. I was more concerned about my horrid roommate, how I was going to make the most friends, and basically worrying what the hell I was doing with my life. Until I changed my major.

Freeing myself from my English major gave me the reading freedom I needed again. I had NEVER felt suffocated by reading before until college. It was getting to be too much and was causing me to hate the one thing that I lived for; reading. By changing my major to Gender and Women’s Studies I felt freed. I had a new outlet! I was a feminist and could take all the classes that I wanted on feminism to absorb as much knowledge as possible! It was, by far, the most defining point in my college career (also shout out to mom and dad for being along for the ride and supporting me through all of this).

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So, after that first quarter, I wasn’t miserable anymore. I changed my major, my horrid roommate transferred schools, my best friend moved in, I had a bunch of cool friends, and I was reading and blogging again. Basically, I was doing everything that I loved and studying a subject that so enthralled me that I would refuse to shut up about feminism in almost every single conversation with my friends (much to their digress. Sorry ladies).

Yes, I may have been blogging for five years, and I have definitely seen some ups and downs through the process, but at the end of the day, I’m doing what I love and sharing that love with others all around the world. Where would we be without blogging and basic interaction on social media? As of late, Twitter has switched from being a burden to being a great place to meet people and I can’t imagine living without it (a statement which would have made my freshman year self cringe).

My point is, college will change you. Blogging will change you. Hell, reading will change you. It’s okay to go through these adjustment periods as long as you’re still doing what you love and not doing something for anyone else. It’s your life, why not live it to the best, and happiest, potential? And don’t worry if everyone else is getting drunk and making stupid mistakes. You can sit there with your book and be content with watching other people make mistakes around you (fictional and otherwise).

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(In case you’re keeping count, that last class that changed my life was History of Rock and Roll. It’s been a full quarter since that class has passed and I continue to think about it every day because it changed my life. It saved me. Honestly. I used to say music wasn’t important to me but now I feel like my life revolves around it. Where would we be without music?)

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Thoughts? How has your blogging experience changed? How do you anticipate it changing over time?

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

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Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
Series: The Dark Artifices #1
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on March 8, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
Pages: 720 : Paperback edition
Source: Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
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The Shadowhunters of Los Angeles star in the first novel in Cassandra Clare’s newest series, The Dark Artifices, a sequel to the internationally bestselling Mortal Instruments series. Lady Midnight is a Shadowhunters novel.

It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.

Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…

Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?

Glitz, glamours, and Shadowhunters abound in this heartrending opening to Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifices series.

Let’s start this review/discussion with a couple prefaces to set the scene for you.

I have never been a huge fan of any the Mortal Instruments/Infernal Devices series’ mostly because I avoided the hype of both of them for 9 years (and counting) and I could never get invested into the storylines. I owned almost the entire series for years and it just stood on my shelf collecting dust. I never watched the movie, the TV show, and I won’t. Yes, it was a huge honor to receive this ARC from the publisher and I thank them generously for taking the time/money to send it to me, but I stopped halfway through because of some ethical issues that I will try to tackle here in this post.

I read (and reviewed) City of Bones a few weeks ago and was told my numerous people that it wasn’t that great, but I had to continue reading to really get into the series. Not having the time to do so (as I am a college student who is still approaching finals), I read through the story plots on the Shadowhunters wiki pages. These were pretty informative and helped me understand the gist of the series so that I could jump into Lady Midnight and get my review done.

Flash forward almost three weeks later and I still can’t get into Lady Midnight. The action scenes felt dull, the story itself should probably be 200 pages shorter than it is, I didn’t connect with the characters, and it stressed me out having to read it. I’m not kidding. I would come home from class and see it sitting on my desk, and it stressed me out having to think about reading it and reviewing it, knowing that there was such a huge fan base behind the series. Eventually, I had to hide it in another room so it would stop staring at me and shouting “Read me! Love me!”

The past week alone has given me such guilt about not liking the series and worry about being attacked by the fandom that I even became stressed thinking about writing this review. An over exaggeration? For me, no. For others, maybe.

The past two weeks I have also been hearing reports here and there about some plagiarism scandals surrounding Cassandra Clare and the series. So, not wanting to jump to conclusions, I did my research. I read the court documents that cited what Sherrilyn Kaye was accusing Cassandra Clare of, I found examples of plagiarism from other works, and I read other opinions on the entire matter. As someone who works in my University’s Writing Center, I ethically could not continue reading this series, nor will I pick up her other works (I only recently bought some because I thought I would be able to attend an author signing for her).

So, this leads me to my current predicament and something that has been tumbling around in my mind for awhile. Yes, this may offend some people, and I’m sorry about that if you genuinely do like the series/works. However, as I said before though, I was never a fan of the series, I don’t see myself becoming a fan of the series because I’m over paranormal books, and I cannot ethically support this author.

But, what is the book blogger community if not honest? We are all allowed to have our opinions. It is not my end goal to go shouting my opinion all over social media nor do I stand for author bashing; this is just an honest portrayal of my feelings, something that I am entitled to.

For now, I’ll quietly purge myself of these books, and fade away so that others can enjoy the series as they see fit.

Review: Start Where You Are by Meera Lee Patel

Start Where You Are by Meera Lee Patel  
Series: N/A
Published by TarcherPerigree on August 11, 2015
Genres: Journals, Self exploration, Non Fiction
Pages: 128 : Paperback edition
Source: Sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
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Start Where You Are is an interactive journal designed to help readers nurture their creativity, mindfulness, and self-motivation. It helps readers navigate the confusion and chaos of daily life with a simple reminder: that by taking the time to know ourselves and what those dreams are, we can appreciate the world around us and achieve our dreams.

Featuring vibrant hand-lettering and images that have attracted a large following for her stationery and textile line in boutiques across the country, Meera Lee Patel’s uplifting book presents supportive prompts and exercises along with inspirational quotes to encourage reflection through writing, drawing, chart-making, and more.

Featuring inspiring quotes from writers, artists, and other visionaries paired with open-ended questions and prompts, with plenty of room for writing and reflecting, this appealing full-color book will make a perfect gift and keepsake as well as being a powerful tool for positive change.

To say that I “read” this would not be using the correct term. I explored this book, and it, in turn, turned around and forced me to explore my mind, my happiness, and even my sadness. Why was I feeling down in a particular moment or setting? What were my sources of happiness? Where did I want to travel in the world. All of these questions and more burned up from the pages at me and allowed me to take a step back and consciously think about the decisions I was making in my life.
I loved having the ability to set this down and pick it back up whenever and wherever I wanted (I might have carried this to work with me a few times). It was interesting to explore the book and myself in a variety of settings in order to get a wider range of emotions flowing through the pages.

Usually I’m a bit adverse to the whole “self-exploration” shindig, but I had a lot of fun with this one! The illustrations and quotes inside were gorgeous and while Start Where You Are challenged me, it also showed me that it’s okay to not have all the answers and to change how I feel over time. This is definitely something I recommend picking up and exploring over a long period of time!