IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!!!!

andy-confetti-gifYaaaaayyyy!!!

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So, yeah.  Today’s my 25th birthday.  Holla!  (Clearly, I’m showing my age a little.)  But I gotta say, the funny thing about turning 25 is that I really don’t feel any different than I did at like, 18.  Or 21.  Sure, a little smarter.  I’ve lived a bit since then.  But I kind of thought that by the time I was, you know, halfway through my 20s (OH GOD), I’d feel more like an adult.  I don’t.

gummybears(Kat Dennings is my spirit animal, btw.)

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For those of you who are still in your late teens, maybe feeling embarrassed because of your obsession with Disney movies or your massive coloring book collection, DUDES YOU ROCK.  When you get a little older, you start to learn that everyone has their quirks.  By bestie and I have gif wars where we just message gifs back and forth making fun of each other.  It’s a little weird, but it’s fun.  Be yourself, love yourself, and don’t let age be anything but a number.  (That’s easier to say now that I can drive, vote, and drink, but it’s true.)

Have fun!  I’m going to gorge myself on desserts and pasta today.  Toodles!

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A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)

9781619634473First Lines: Maybe I’d always been broken and dark inside.  Maybe someone who’d been born whole and good would have put down the ash dagger and embraced death rather than what lay before me.

On Goodreads (at present), this book as a 4.77/5 rating.  That’s insane.  So I decided I needed to try to read this ASAP.  And now you’re about to see how many different ways I can not use profanity to express my excitement over this book.  Let’s get colorful!

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Three months ago, Feyre managed to survive Amarantha and return to the Spring Court as a newly made High Fae…but at a steep cost.  Unable to forget the horrors of Under the Mountain, Feyre is drowning in nightmares and regrets.  She can’t forget what she’s done.  Nor can she forget the deal she made with Rhysand, the High Lord of the Night Court.  As Feyre begins to understand the politics and power of the High Fae, she’ll have to work hard to find out who she is now, what she wants, and how to survive in a world being divided in two.

THERE’S SO MUCH I CAN’T PENGUINING TELL YOU!!  (Apparently my colorful not-profanity is starting with animals.)  Ugh.  I so want to just fangirl over this book right now, y’all.  But I suppose I have a review to do.

Rewind.  So like, a week ago or so I bought the first book in this series and reread it just to get ready for this.  And I’m glad I did because this was ace.  Holy Profanity, Batman.  For me, it totally helped to have Feyre and Tamlin’s story fresh in my head.

Feyre is giraffeing perfect.  Like, she starts off the book like you’d expect her to: she did awful things in the name of protecting those she loved and now she has to live with the consequences.  It’s hard on her.  But throughout the book, she becomes stronger for it all.  I am drowning in the perfectness of it all.

Even Tamlin and Rhysand become characters you didn’t expect them to be.  I was pleasantly startled by the whole thing because whether they’ll admit it or not, these two went through a lot too, before Feyre got there.

There are some really amazing twists this book takes too.  They’re not all abrupt “I didn’t see that coming” twists; some of them begin subtly until you’re just waiting for it.  There was one HUGE twist like that that I’m wholeheartedly behind.  (SOMEONE SAVE ME FROM MY INTERNAL SQUEE-FEST.)

Jiminy Christmas.  And the romance was through the roof.  Get your fan and your smelling salts ready because you are going to swoon like a 19th century debutante.  Saints alive.  Woo.  I think I’ve just been ruined for all other fictional boyfriends.  Jerusalem’s ghost.

Ok.  I’m going to try to rein it in a little.  Something to note about the romance in this particular book is that it’s much more…ahem…descriptive than YA usually is.  I’ve read romance novels with less detail.  So…maybe don’t give this to your 12-year-old cousin to read.

The writing is just stunning.  I loved the introduction of new characters, who pretty much feel like family now.  The settings were beautiful and the plot unfolds in a way that always kept my interest.  (On a side note, I had a dream about this book last night, which NEVER happens.  The last time it did was last summer when I had a week solid of reading Outlander.)  Safe to say this book is going to dig deep.

You know how in the first books there are traces of Beauty and the Beast in it?  Almost like it was loosely based off of it?  Well, this one has parallels to the myth of Persephone.  I’m in fudgenugget love.  Lovelovelovelovelovelovelove…

Ahem.  I’ve derailed again.

As you may have come to expect with Maas, you’re going to be left wanting the sequel right this minute, so help me Zeus.  Plan accordingly.

If this book doesn’t win the Goodreads award this winter for YA Fantasy, I’ll eat my nonexistent felt hat.  I don’t see how it can’t win.

MY FAMILY DOES NOT UNDERSTAND MY PAIN RIGHT NOW AND MY BEST FRIEND HAS NOT READ THIS SERIES.  I’M DYING.  AND INCREDIBLY MELODRAMATIC.

5+++++++++++++

Top Ten Tuesday

Hey-o!  It’s Tuesday again, which means another Top Ten!  (I’m rather enjoying this, but then again, I do like lists.)  This week on The Broke and the Bookish, the theme is freebie, so I get to be the evil genius and decide what we look at!  MWAHAHAHA!  So here we go!

toptentuesdayTop Ten Favorite Heroines

In no particular order…

1. Annith, Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin, #3) by Robin LaFevers

I have so much love for Annith.  Quiet, obedient, and determined, she’s not quite what you’d picture for an assassin.  (Great, here goes Belle again, talking about assassins.)  But she’s wicked clever with a determination to follow her own dreams.  I adore that.

2. Kate, The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

Much like Annith, Kate is another more reserved character.  I really like these characters because, unlike the brash and bold butt-kickers, these girls are more likely to think before they act.  Kate is sensitive and loving, but she will not let you get in the way of those she loves.  Her strength comes from her heart rather than her muscles.  That sweetness melts even the darkest hearts.

3. Ali, Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

Speaking of bold butt-kickers, Ali is the first truly feisty female on my list.  Her story is not a happy one, which is part of why I’m drawn to her.  Her darkness makes her stronger, but she doesn’t lose her softer side or her sense of humor.  I find that mix truly engaging.

4. Cath, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Who does not see themselves in Cath?  The ultimate fangirl and shy writer, Cath is that inner girl that most of us feel at one point or another.  She’s totally cool with spending the weekend on her computer, checking out her fandom and not feeling guilty about it in the morning.  And now I want to reread it.

5. Elisa, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

I have a soft spot for Elisa because of her self-confidence issues and how she overcomes them.  She had my sympathy from the first page, but showed me by the end that she didn’t need anyone’s pity.  And that makes her one of the strongest girls in this list.  She’s the kind of girl I aim to be.

6. Kaylee, My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent

What I like about Kaylee is that she doesn’t sit around and wait for answers to come to her.  She searches out those that can help her.  She’s strong, tough, and clever.  (You can’t read that last book and not appreciate her cleverness.)  While she starts off relying heavily on those around her, by the end she’s standing on her own two feet and rolling with the punches.  I think I’m mixing metaphors.

7. Rose, Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Rose Hathaway will always be my ultimate girl crush.  Tough, brash, abrasive, and perhaps a bit foolhardy, Rose lets no one stand in her way.  She’s singularly driven to reach her goals and she will not back down.  But unlike a lot of these heroines, she learns throughout the series just how much we can rely on friends and family, how much we need them.  And that was nice.

8. Ellie, Angelfire by Courtney Moulton

Whenever I start thinking about Ellie, I almost always want to start crying for her.  Which is kind of weird.  She was a normal girl thrown into a life she didn’t want with a destiny that could destroy her and yet she still managed to see the good in life.  How can you not treasure a heroine like that?

9. Celaena, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Back to assassins!  I’m still working on this series, but Celaena’s impressed me a lot.  She has a ton of self-control and strength.  She sometimes lets life get her down (you know, like most normal people would in her situation), but she does know how to pick herself up and that’s when you have to watch out.  Because she’s perhaps the most vicious heroine on this list.  Oh God, could you imagine her and Rose fighting each other?  Or no, on the same side?  I pity their opponent.

10. Alex, Made You Up by Francisca Zappia

When I was making this list, Alex was the only real curveball that I kept coming back to.  Most of these others are fighters, survivors, thinkers who have been hardened by violence of some kind (except for Cath).  And I do believe Alex is a survivor as well, but in a different way.  She suffers from mental illness and can’t always tell reality from fiction.  And the strength she has to keep living day by day with a positive attitude, dealing with those consequences, just totally knocks me off my feet.

My Lady Jane

my-lady-jane_gallery_largeFirst Lines: You may think you know the story.  It goes like this: once upon a time, there was a sixteen-year-old girl named Jane Grey, who was forced to marry a complete stranger (Lord Guildford or Gildford or Gifford-something-or-other), and shortly thereafter found herself ruler of a country.  She was queen for nine days.  Then she quite literally lost her head.

You ever have those books that you’re as nervous to read as you are excited?  I’m a Tudor history buff and poor Jane Grey happens to be one of my favorites.  So when I saw this was coming out, I got really excited. And then I saw it was supposed to be a comedy.  Erm…how is the story of a young girl being beheaded going to become a comedy?

For the sake of getting the mood of this right, I’m going to copy in the actual summary: Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?

A bit strange, right?  Actually, it worked.  I was surprised.

See, my love for Jane Grey runs deep.  Once I discovered the 1980s movie Lady Jane (which launched the careers for both Helena Bonham Carter and Cary Elwes), I started researching her.  So I knew the history here pretty well.

And, thankfully, the first half of the book actually sticks pretty close to the truth (if you don’t factor in Gifford being a horse.  We’ll get to that).  Truly, the biggest change to the history is the switch from the British fighting over being Catholic or Protestant and instead fighting over Ethian rights (I’m not even going to pretend I can type that word above, so just go with it).  Essentially, it’s the same fight with the same players who wanted to be Protestant (and now support Ethians) on one side and those who wanted to be Catholic (and now wish to destroy Ethians) on the other.  The strife is still there, just different.

I was so glad that Jane was still the historical figure that I’ve come to know. Clever, willful, bookish, someone who truly didn’t think she deserved–or wanted–the crown and yet became a pawn in a game she didn’t understand.  And, in this story, she’s quite funny.

The humor in this book was not what I was expecting.  Some of it was–puns, calling people weird insulting names (like “you yellow-faced baboon” style insults), situational irony.  But a lot of it was unexpected pop culture references.  There were some obligatory connections to Lady Jane, but there was also a ton of Shakespeare and movie references to The Princess Bride, Monty Python, and even Tangled.  I wanted to start making a list of all the references I found because there were so many.  They’re like Easter eggs.

The plot was pretty interesting.  Like I mentioned, the first half is pretty close to the real history.  The second half throws that out the window, and the narrators even tell you that.  Personally, I liked the first half better because I wanted that history, but that’s me.

The one thing I didn’t like so much was that the narrators actually interrupt the story, to the point where they almost start feeling Grandpa from The Princess Bride.  Every now and then, I was cool with it.  They’d say things like, “We the narrators want you to know that the term ‘foxy’ for describing women didn’t come about until Jimi Hendrix used it.”  Historical or informative tidbits were fine.  But remember that scene from The Princess Bride with the Shrieking Eels when Grandpa interrupts the action? As we got closer to the end, that’s exactly what happened.  They started interrupting the action to talk for a page or more about absolutely nothing.  Ugh, it was frustrating.

Simply put, this was way better than I was expecting, especially since I thought the comedy part would be a train wreck but actually became really impressive.

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3)

heir-of-fire-throne-of-glass-3-sarah-j-maas-usFirst Lines: Gods, it was boiling in this useless excuse for a kingdom.

Hey!  Apparently I’m on a Sarah J. Maas kick this summer because even though I’m not intentionally doing it, I keep reading her books.  I’d been trying to get my hands on this one for a while and I couldn’t pass it up when I saw it.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Life has not been kind to Celaena Sardothien.  In a misguided attempt to protect her, Captain Westfall has her sent to the one place more dangerous for her than Adarlan: Wendlyn.  Now she’ll have to face truths about her past that she’d rather leave buried.  Meanwhile, monstrous forces are approaching, intent on destroying the world Celaena knows.  To defeat them, she’s going to have to pull out everything she has inside her.  Her destiny is growing brighter with every challenge, but can that light be extinguished?

Alright, I’ll be one of the first to admit that Maas knows how to weave a good fantasy tale.  I actually kind of adore this world she’s created, this weird mix of magic and danger and evil.  It’s fascinating, and you never truly know where someone’s loyalties lie.

Celaena’s story line this time was just amazing.  I loved basically every moment I read of hers.  This was just perfect.  So much character development.  She delves into the darkness inside of her and we get to see how she deals with that.

Actually, the character who won me over was the mysterious and reserved Rowan.  He’s the perfect complement to her.  He evens out her edges and makes her a better person.  It was actually really beautiful (and for those of you trying to read between the lines here, it’s truly not what you think).

Also who I liked?  Aedion.  But I can’t get into that without border-crossing into Spoilerlandia.

But…this was also a hard novel to get into.  First of all, the pacing at the beginning is incredibly slow.  I mean Celaena’s basically throwing herself a pity party for a good portion of the beginning and that does get old.

On top of that, the narration drove me crazy.  Look, I totally understand that we need to bounce between multiple narrators.  Celaena’s way over in Wendlyn and without those jumps, we’d never know what was going on in Adarlan.  So I understand.  But this book introduced us to a new narrator, Manon, who just pushed my buttons.  Nearly every time I saw it was her turn to lead a chapter, I rolled my eyes and counted how many pages that chapter was.  It was nearly painful.  Not that I don’t understand why we need her perspective, but that didn’t make it any easier to stick with.

And I am just so over the King right now and all his evil, vindictive qualities.  He’s like Voldemort with a crown.  No, wait.  Umbridge.  He’s Umbridge with a crown.  Ugh.  I want to punch his face in.

Ahem.  So even though I vastly enjoyed everything about Celaena in this book, I struggled when the book turned to the other characters.

The Next Big Thing (15)

Hey-o!  Long ago, in the year 2012 or so, I started this poorly remembered segment to talk about trends that I noticed in literature.  (When I started this, vampires were on their way out and dystopians were the new hot thing.)  But every now and then since, I’ve started noticing trends and I sometimes put my thoughts together long enough to do a post.  So, voila!  We have a new trend.

*Each book is linked to its Goodreads page for more information.

peter_pan_006The Peter Pan Revival

Alright.  Do not misunderstand me, I love Peter Pan as much as the next person does, but I think maybe that Peter Pan Live! on NBC a few years ago kick-started the imagination of a lot of writers because we are being inundated with it now.

Not that we didn’t have Peter Pan retelling before.  The obvious one that comes to mind is Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson.  Told from Tinkerbell’s perspective, it was a nice twist on the story, and that came out in 2012.  Even Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel came out in 2014 with a more contemporary twist.

But in this 2015-2016 book season, there’s a complete avalanche of Peter Pan stories, as varied as the authors are.  (Though, ironically, many of them have changed Wendy’s name to Gwen and the titles still use some variation of the never/ever combo.)

Everland by Wendy Spinale is a World War II-era story of Gwen and her siblings who survive the London blitz and try to stay out of the clutches of German Captain Hook.  (Of course, they get some help from a boy named Pete and his friends.)

Never Never by Brianna Shrum is the story of James Hook, who simply adores Peter and wants to be one of the Lost Boys until things don’t go as expected.

Never Ever by Sara Saedi is a modern retelling where a girl (Wylie) is trying to escape the reality of a brother who may be going to jail.

Stars by Colleen Oakes looks like the most true-to-the-source book on this list.  It involves Wendy, Peter, Neverland, the Lost Boys, and everything as we’ve gotten used to the story.  Only it seems to take a little darker turn where Peter is concerned.

Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell is the story of Gwen (see?  Another one!) who is kidnapped by Fey and taken to a land called (you guessed it) Neverland.  There she meets a charming hero and a roguish pirate, both promising to protect her.  I smell a love triangle.

The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse is the story of Gwen (again), a normal girl with a normal crush on the homecoming king.  And when her sister runs off with Peter Pan, she’s forced to chase after them, introducing her to the magical world she didn’t know existed.

Thoughts on Brexit and Voting

For anyone who happens to be reading this from the UK right now, all I can say is that I am so sorry.  I’ve been following J.K. Rowling and Emma Watson on Twitter as they (and other authors, like Maureen Johnson) post all kinds of things about the ripple effect this is having.  I saw one post already today where a girl was talking about how her brother-in-law may lose his job in France, her immigrant mother is worried about her future, and this girl no longer has enough money to pay for rent and food because the value of the pound has dropped so suddenly.

As if that weren’t bad enough, you’re also grieving the loss of Jo Cox and the startling resignation of David Cameron.  I cannot even imagine what your world is like right now.

It’s horrifying.  But this tweet in particular is the most horrifying thing I’ve seen yet:

The ironic thing is that I’m not typically what you’d call a political person.  I normally avoid the topic entirely because all it does is cause arguments.  But in light of Orlando, of the Brexit, of the current presidential candidates here in the US, I find that I cannot stay out of this any longer.  Too much depends on us standing up for what we believe in.

And I’m taking a stand right now.  Because I am angry.

What I’m starting to see in headlines is that this is all millennials’ fault.

I’ll agree with one part of that: statistics are showing that 19% of 18-24 year olds either didn’t know which way to vote or abstained from voting entirely.  That number steadily dropped until the 65+ crowd was down to only 6% undecided or abstaining.  At 24 years old, I can see where that indecision comes from.  Family and/or friends may be pulling you in one direction while your conscious and/or other family and friends are pulling you in another, trying to get you to vote a certain way.  Trust me, I’ve been there.

But I simply cannot agree with these experts when they say that this is entirely millennials’ fault.  We cannot blame millennials for what Boris Johnson (who seems a lot like the British version of Trump) is saying.  We cannot blame millennials for the fact that some people (like the one from the above tweet) apparently aren’t aware of how the democratic process works.  We cannot blame millennials for the xenophobic fear that has bled through the world recently.  And we certainly cannot blame millennials for the politicians that feed on that fear.

You need to make your own choices.  Do what you think is best.  Those who are pressuring you have no business knowing which way you voted.

Let me share with you a story.  When I was in college, only about a month after starting to date my boyfriend at the time, we both were voting absentee for the 2012 election.  I–being a Hermione type–followed the directions to the letter.  Fill it out alone.  Tell no one how you voted.  And I didn’t.  (Partly because I have a conflict-avoidance personality.)

My boyfriend, on the other hand, filled his out in the same room as me.  I gave him privacy and, since we were both from different states, it didn’t really matter to me how he was voting.

Until the moment he called his dad.  In the middle of voting, he called his dad to ask who he should vote for.  It wasn’t a “Hey Dad, I’m torn.  How should I decide who to vote for?”  That I could have lived with.  No, it was, “Hey Dad, which of these candidates should I fill in the bubble for?”  It rankled me so badly that I probably should have kicked him out of my dorm room right then.  Basically, his dad voted twice because my boyfriend wasn’t taking the time to make an informed decision and vote for himself.

Think for yourself.  Decide what’s right for you based on what you know.

Look, it’s fine to look for help from those you trust.  While I never come straight out and say who I’m voting for, I do talk to my parents about politics.  My dad and I like to play devil’s advocate with each other to think through each potential choice.  And that works for me.  But my choice is my own.  It’s not my dad’s or my mom’s or anyone else’s.  Mine.

My political views are, at times, vastly different from those of my parents, of my aunts and uncles and cousins, of my brothers.  I know this.  This does not influence who I vote for because I have a brain of my own.

Come November when it’s time for us to vote, PLEASE show up to the polls.  I don’t care if you’re Republican, Democrat, Independent, or part of the Pizza Party.  The last thing we need is someone blaming millennials for X, Y, or Z because many of us couldn’t find the time to vote again.

It can be nerve-wracking.  I get it too.  Hello, introverted book nerd who can hardly make eye contact with strangers (and keep in mind, I teach).  But those few minutes that it takes to vote will have long-lasting effects that we will have to live with for years to come.  So make your own decision because you will have to live with it.

WE make change.  WE are strong and capable.  WE are the future of this world.  People will try to tell you your opinions don’t count or that you’re making the wrong decision.  Just smile and go ahead doing what you believe.