5 YA Tropes I’m So Over

These days, I feel like when I start a new YA novel, I know what’s going to happen for roughly two-thirds of the story before I’ve even read the first chapter.  It’s like every YA author was given a formula for a “successful” novel, and they were told not to stray outside of the equation. And while it wouldn’t be so bad if the novels being published had one or two commonalities (I acknowledge that trends exist in the publishing world), almost every book seems to be spouting some variation of the same, tired plot, and I am officially over it.

So, here are 5 tropes I would like to set fire to and gleefully watch burn until they disappear forever.

  1. Love Triangles. Ugh. I don’t even think I need to go into detail on this one because almost every YA fan I know is done with love triangles. It seems that 4 out of 5 YA authors use love triangles as the main source of tension and conflict within a novel, even when it doesn’t need to be. Yes, there have been a few series that successfully use love triangles to further the plot, but they are far and few between. More often than not, this overused trope is misused and unnecessary.
  2. Plain Jane isn’t so plain. Is it just me, or does it seem that most YA novels seem to star an “average” girl, who isn’t actually average at all? And everyone in her life is always commenting about how beautiful she is–and the reader can tell from her description that she is, in fact, gorgeous–but she doesn’t believe it until Hot Guy takes an interest, and she realizes that *gasp* maybe she is beautiful after all. I get that many teenage girls have body issues and tend to nit-pick their appearance, but there are also a ton of kick-ass young women who are confident in their looks. And I’ve known a lot of insecure girls in my day…the interest of one boy isn’t going to so easily convince them of their true beauty.
  3. The Chosen One. This trope is a favorite of fantasy authors. And, sure, it can be done well, but it’s so common these days that reading the Chosen One’s story can be a bit underwhelming. Yes, there is always going to be something to set the protagonist apart, to make them special, but does it always need to be that fate has thrust them into a role that no other could handle? And how do they always seem to be more adept than those that have trained their entire lives to fight the enemy/dark power/evil force? Supporting characters who have the skills the protagonist lacks shouldn’t be shoved in the background so that the Chosen One can shine almighty; a true leader knows when to utilize the strength of others, and I’d love to see that reflected more in YA novels. I’m tired of the clumsy, awkward protagonist suddenly becoming a ninja warrior in times of crises.
  4. Trilogies. When did YA authors get together and decide that three was the magic number for YA book series? I would love to go back in time to that meeting and tell them they were making a huge mistake. Sure, there are a few series that managed three books well and some that went beyond the three book mark to great success. But the majority of trilogies I’ve read could’ve been improved by condensing the story down to two novels or even stopping after the first book.
  5. The Parent Problem. Is there something wrong with a happy, two-parent household? Having a dead parent (or parents), divorced parents, negligent parents, abusive parents, etc. seems to be the only way that YA authors know how to give their young protagonists any real character depth. But, there are other ways to give a main character a tragic backstory or to create some internal struggle. Let’s try something different every once in a while, okay?

Now, do I really want to see these tropes die horrible deaths and never return to the realm of YA fiction? No. As I sort of mentioned above, each of these can be useful to a plot, if handled well, but I hate to see writers rely on these tropes when they aren’t necessary to a story. I want to see authors find unique ways to tell their story: flip cliches, go against what’s “trendy,” fight the status quo. Take what’s old and worn and make it something new and beautiful.

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Bookworm Problems: Judging a Book by Its Cover

We’ve all heard some variation of the platitude “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” but I think we can all admit that we, in fact, do judge books by their covers. I know I do it, and I recently talked to some fellow bookstagrammers, and they all admitted to it as well. But can you really blame us? We’re only human, and humans are predominantly visual creatures.

It’s not that an ugly or amateurish cover will stop me from reading a book, but it’s definitely not going to draw my eye like the brightly-colored, amazingly-designed cover next to it. When you go to a bookstore or library, unless you’re looking for something specific, you browse by sight, so a unique, pretty, colorful, professional, etc. cover is going to grab your attention over the drab offerings around it. And if you’re more inclined to pick up the visually-pleasing book, it’s likely you’ll expect it to contain a higher quality story within its pages.

Unfortunately, this can quickly become a problem. Because if you only ever pick up the books that you find aesthetically pleasing, you’re sure to miss out on some great stories. And, a pretty cover and snappy summary do not mean that the book will be great. I should know . . . I’ve been let down by some rather beautiful covers, recently. At least they still look good on my bookshelf and in the Instagram photos, right? 😂😂😂

Have you recently been duped by a beautiful cover?

 

Book Review – The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

IMG_20170319_234528_263When there’s lag time between reading a book and reviewing it, I’ve noticed it makes it easier to differentiate between the truly noteworthy novels and the books that aren’t memorable. The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett falls into the latter category, unfortunately. When I sat down to write this review, I honestly couldn’t even remember the protagonist’s name. I did remember thinking the book was not what I expected, and I wasn’t really sure how i felt about it. Nearly two months later, I think the fact that I could barely remember what it was about is indicative of my feelings (or lack thereof).

The story is narrated by Hawthorn, a seventeen-year-old girl who labels herself a “misfit.” And, she’s definitely weird. But, it stretches past being a good thing and takes a turn into crazy town. I mean, she becomes obsessed with the disappearance of a young woman (Lizzie Lovett), and her main theory (one she fully believes in) is that [spoiler] Lizzie is a werewolf. And on her quest to prove her theory, Hawthorn becomes employed at Lizzie’s place of work, begins dating Lizzie’s boyfriend (who is twenty-five), and, through her own actions, alienates herself from her best friend and family members. It was really hard to like her. But I think that was intentional because many of the other characters in the story call Hawthorn out on her behavior and refuse to coddle her when she makes a mess of things (which happens fairly often).

I had high hopes for this novel, but, in the end, it was just okay. There was nothing wrong with the writing, but the plot…the supernatural aspect surprised me, not really in a good way, and the whole romance with Lizzie’s ex-boyfriend left me feeling sort of gross. I think it comes down to what I expected versus what I got. The title and blurb made me think I’d get a mystery rife with suspense,  but it was basically just a unique take on a coming-of-age story with a splash of romance and a pinch of intrigue.

Overall, I’d give it 3 out of 5 flowers!

Must-read: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

IMG_20170308_083954_617Title: The Lord of the Rings

Author: J.R.R. Tolkien

Publication Date: Published in three parts between 1954 and 1955.

Brief Synopsis: Through the urgings of the enigmatic wizard Gandalf, young hobbit Frodo Baggins embarks on an urgent, incredibly treacherous journey to destroy the One Ring. This ring — created and then lost by the Dark Lord, Sauron, centuries earlier — is a weapon of evil, one that Sauron desperately wants returned to him. With the power of the ring once again his own, the Dark Lord will unleash his wrath upon all of Middle-earth. The only way to prevent this horrible fate from becoming reality is to return the Ring to Mordor, the only place it can be destroyed. Unfortunately for our heroes, Mordor is also Sauron’s lair. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is essential reading not only for fans of fantasy but for lovers of classic literature as well… (Courtesy of Goodreads)

My Rating: 5 out of 5 flowers (I’d give it more if I could)!

Why I think this is a must-read: For my first “Must-Read Monday,” I thought I’d start with a book (or books if you buy it in the 3-volume set) that has sold more than 150 million copies, has been translated into more than 40 languages, has influenced the likes of George Lucas and Led Zepplin, and is the most widely-read fantasy epic of all-time. It’s a classic tale of friendship, love, heroism, and the eternal struggle between good and evil (both in the greater world and within us as individuals). The Lord of the Rings is my first “must-read” pick because this is one of those books that once read, will stay with you forever. At least it has for me. I’ve never tired of re-reading it, always finding some new detail that I missed in years before. And, it’s a tale rife with powerful messages, my favorite of which comes at the conclusion of the novel, where the reader must accept that even though good has triumphed, evil left it’s mark on the world, and it has been forever changed.

Favorite Quote: “Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” – Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring, The Shadow of the Past


Have you read The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien? What did you think?

Book Review – Of Fire and Stars

img_20170219_165918_556It was hard for me to rate Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst. Honestly, I think what I liked most about the story was its potential. I kept hoping it would get better, which meant that I kept reading, refusing to stop because I needed to find what I hoped was hidden beneath the extremely shallow surface.

I really wanted to love this book. But I just can’t. I’m at borderline like, maybe.

I think the biggest issue I had was with the characters. They lacked the complexity and depth I’ve come to expect from the books I read, and even the main characters showed little development over the course of the story. The story is told through the perspectives of Mare (short for Amaranthine) and Denna (Dennaleia), complete opposites who form an unlikely bond that turns into more than either ever expected. Their relationship was the only thing I truly found interesting about this story, and I still wasn’t 100% sold on it because it read like a love triangle, even though Denna never really loved the prince (Mare’s brother). I’m not a huge fan of love triangles (even though they are super common in YA novels).

The other thing I struggled with was the lack of world-building. There was so much hinted at: magic, political intrigue, conflict between nations, etc., but we never really learn the details behind the cursory overview we’re given. What Coulthurst did write about was intriguing, but there wasn’t enough depth to keep me interested. Some people might be okay with not knowing how or why things ended up the way they did, but I can’t read a story without thinking of a hundred questions as I read. And if those questions are never answered, it leaves me feeling unsatisfied and disappointed.

Gosh, I feel like I’m only pointing out flaws in this review, which I kind of feel bad about because it’s not like I hated this story. It was okay. But I do have one last rant to get off my chest; although, it’s not unique to Of Fire and Stars. Why must YA novels portray adults to be complete idiots? This is another common theme amongst YA novels that I really don’t appreciate. I understand that the plot might need the older generation to “not quite get it” in order for the story to move forward, but there’s no need to make all of the adults seem like they wouldn’t be able to differentiate between a horse’s ass and its head.

Like I said in the beginning, this one was a tough book to rate and review. There were parts that I enjoyed but also a lot that I didn’t. Yet some people seriously loved this book, and it’s not like it was poorly written or rife with errors. Again, it was an okay book. I just had some issues with it, and that’s why I can only give it 3 out of 5 flowers. But that’s just my opinion, and you’ll have to read it before making your own!

Book Review – The Sun Is Also A Star

img_20170219_165937_184It’s finally time to review The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, a book I finished reading in the middle of February [*insert slightly embarrassed emoji*]. To be fair, I was out of town when I finished reading this book, and then it was my birthday, and then I went through that awful reading slump for the better part of March….but enough of the excuses, it’s time for a book review!

What can I say about The Sun Is Also a Star that hasn’t already been said? Not much, probably. But, it was a super cute book about the rush of first love and living in the moment even when you know the moment won’t last.

The story centers on Daniel and Natasha, two teens that share one epic, not-so-perfect day before life gets in the way. Daniel believes in love at first sight, fate, and the magic of the universe, whereas Natasha puts her faith in science and only believes what can be proven. But, opposites attract, or so they say…it’s true for the purposes of this story, at least!

What I most loved about this book was the unique, complex characters that Yoon created to tell her story. Each character was well-written, and Daniel and Natasha had such distinct voices that it was easy to switch between their points of view as the story progressed. And I also appreciate how this novel tackled issues of prejudice and family dysfunction in such an honest and tactful way. Superbly done.

Like my other reviews for romance novels, I don’t want to give away too many of the details because the “falling in love” part is expected, but how the story unfolds is where the fun truly lies. So, I’ll leave you with this: The Sun Is Also a Star is a thought-provoking, emotional, beautifully-written novel that left a warm feeling in my chest for hours after I finished reading it.

Overall, I give this book 4/5 flowers! Definitely a great choice if you’re looking for something to read!

Oh, and one more note: I’ve heard Daniel and Natasha’s “instalove” called unrealistic, but I think that’s a bit harsh. Young love is a totally different breed; it’s easy to fall in love when you’re not yet jaded by life. Just think about how easy it was to become “best friends” with someone when you were little…you start off strangers on the playground and by the end of the afternoon, you were promising to be best friends forever. Life complicates love, but I don’t think you needed me to tell you that!

 

 

Book Review – Duels & Deception

IMG_20170411_200112_032I can’t tell you the number of Regency romances I’ve read over the years – it’s far too many to count – but there’s just something about them that keeps me coming back for more. I’m not actually a big fan of romance novels otherwise. Maybe it’s because one of the first “classic” books I read was Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and that early exposure left a hole yearning to be filled. Or maybe it’s because I get a nice chuckle every time the indecency of an exposed ankle is mentioned!

Whatever the reason for my love of Regency romance, it led me to pick up a copy of Duels & Deception, Cindy Anstey’s latest novel, in which we follow Lydia and Robert (or, as formality requires, Miss Whitfield and Mr. Newton) as they try to fill the roles society expects of them while also forging their own paths and [not-so-spoilery spoiler] fall in love.

Lydia is an heiress who is set to inherit her family’s estate, but must suffer her uncle’s control until she comes of age. In comes Robert, her lawyer’s clerk turned apprentice, who starts off as her ally and becomes so much more. I think Anstey did a wonderful job giving the two main characters unique, distinct voices that really shine as the story alternates between their points of view.

The only real issue I had with this novel is that the third quarter of the story felt a bit slow, but I think it might be because the rest of the novel is rife with intrigue (think: kidnapping, blackmail, duels, etc.) and having several “down moments” back-to-back seemed to drag more than it should have.

I don’t really want to give any of the plot details away because, like most romance novels, you know how the story is going to end, and the excitement comes from how you get there. But, I will say that Duels & Deception is a classic romance for the contemporary reader, perfect for anyone who loves an entertaining, intriguing historical romance.

3.5 out of 5 flowers!

Duels & Deceptions is available for purchase as of today, April 11, 2017 (Happy Publication Day!). If you want to know more, make sure to check out the book’s synopsis on Goodreads or Amazon (or any other site where books are sold) and maybe buy a copy while you’re at it!

***I received a free advanced reader copy (ARC) of this book from the publisher through NetGalley for review consideration. Receiving a free copy of a book in no way influences the honesty of my reviews!

Reading Goals – April 2017

IMG_20170401_132105_908Is it even worth posting this since we’re already a third of the way through the month? Whatever, it’s already written, and I don’t have anything else to post today, so it’ll have to do!

Normally I start off with a recap of how many books I read in the month prior and then ramble on a bit until I announce the new number of the month, but this month I don’t really feel like comparing the two. I feel like that was part of the reason I fell into a reading slump last month. I felt like I needed to best my number from the month before, and it made reading more of a chore than a fun escape.

So, this month I’m just going to list the books I hope to read, and it’ll be a bit shorter than normal, but I may or may not add to it depending on how the month goes. I’ll be sure to keep you updated!

Book #1: The Devil Colony by James Rollins (Sigma Force series #7)

Book #2: Duels & Deception by Cindy Anstey (ARC – publication date 4/11/17)

Book #3: All American Boys byJason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Book #4: Station Eleven by St. John Mandel

Book #5: The Circus by Olivia Levez (ARC – publication date 5/4/17)

Book #6: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Book #7: The Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Book #8: Heartborn by Terry Maggert

Book #9: Fade Away by Harlan Coben

Question of the week: Have you read (or do you want to read) any of the books on this list?

Monthly Wrap-up – March 2017


I know, I know. We’re already 9 days into April, and I’m just now posting my March wrap-up. It’s almost to the point where I shouldn’t bother, but in my defense, I was going through a reading slump, which also impacted my motivation to post on here (as you can tell from the glaring lack of posts in the month of March).

But, I’ve recovered from my reading slump, and I’ve come up with a schedule for my blog to keep it active. The new schedule should begin this week, beginning with a new book review on Monday (I am so behind with my reviews, it’s ridiculous!).

Okay, let’s get back to the point of this post, wrapping up the month of March. It was a struggle (and I definitely listened to audio books to help the process), but I managed to get through all of the books I wanted to read for the month. And I did read one extra book not originally on my list…most of my reading occurred in the first part of the month and then sort of faded into nothing until the last three days.

I would say be sure to check out the reviews I’ve posted, but I haven’t reviewed any of the books I read this month, so I’ll just say be on the lookout for the reviews!

Books I read this month:

Heartless by Marissa Meyer – 3.5/5🌸

The Luster of Lost Things* by Sophie Chen Keller (ARC) – 4/5🌸

The Doomsday Key by James Rollins (Sigma Force series #6) – 4.5/5🌸

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread) – 5/5🌸

Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz – 4/5🌸

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread) – 5/5🌸

Frostblood by Elly Blake – 3/5🌸

The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread) – 5/5🌸

Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill – 3/5🌸

Crossing Ebenezer Creek* by Tonya Bolden (ARC) – 4/5🌸

Ruined* by M.C. Frank – 4/5🌸

*The books with an asterisk(*) next to their title have yet to be published. I received a free ARC e-book of Extracted through Amazon’s Kindle First Program, and a free ARC e-book of EnsnaredMask of Shadows, and Quest of the Kings, from their publishers via NetGalley for review consideration. Receiving a free copy of the book in no way affects the honesty of my reviews!