10 Books You Shouldn’t Read if You Hate NaNoWriMo

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Aaah yes. It is finally November. Personally this is one of my favorite months, not only because I get to spend time with family during Thanksgiving, but because of NaNoWriMo.

For those of you not familiar, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Every November people from around the world try to crank out 50k words during the month of November. The first Harry Potter book is a bit longer than that (at 70k)  to give you a size comparison. Another thing that makes NaNoWriMo so cool is that it’s a non-profit organization that helps promote literacy world wide. To be a part of that is a pretty cool thing!

Throughout this month I’ll be doing weekly posts on writing and NaNoWriMo in general. Fret not, the usual book reviews will still be around (posted on Fridays).

There is one damper on this excitement though. Every year without fail, there’s a group of very vocal people insisting NaNoWriMo is horrid, no one should try it, and no, they’ve never tried it themselves they are proud to say. Why would they? After all, they want to write real stories.  Not only are their posts just plain wrong and lacking in facts, the authors of the posts, knowingly or not, are insulting those who dare to try it.  Usually these insults are covered up with a quick complement, but it goes right back to the insulting soon enough. I’ve even seen a post where someone said it made them sad and dissapointed to see how many authors wasted their time each year trying to draft a novel in one month.

I understand that NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone. I’ve met quite a few people who have tried it and it just didn’t work for them. I’ve met others who have heard of it but know that trying something like that just isn’t for them. That’s fine and completely understandable. But these people gave it a go, or looked into the idea of it, and while they realize a month of writing frenzy isn’t for them, they still manage to respect those who do it (or try to).

Despite all the awesome people out there, both participating and encouraging from the sidelines, sometimes it’s hard to ignore the nay-sayers. That’s why it’s always inspiring to look at the list of authors who published their NaNoNovels.

Here’s 10 popular books that started off as NaNoWriMo novels:

To see the list of every author that’s published their NaNoNovel check it out on the NaNoWriMo site. Warning, the list is long. The list I drew from was the traditionally published list. But there’s also a list of self-published authors, many of which wound up winning awards for their NaNoNovels. If you have time and are looking for a new read, I recommend checking out both lists and seeing what you find.

Book Review: Cuckoo Song

|+| Warnings: Unreliable narrator |+|

“Everything on one side or the other, and nothing in between.” ~Shrike (Cuckoo Song)

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Author: Frances Hardinge

Genre: YA Horror, Historical fiction, Paranormal

Summary: When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry, her sister seems scared of her, and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out. Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest to find the truth she must travel into the terrifying underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family—before it’s too late . . .

My Opinion: I live for atmospheric books. The stranger the better. Cuckoo Song delivered. I picked it up ages ago, almost finished it, then had to return it to the library (ah, the curse of exams). It was great to finish it this time. Everything I loved was still there and it’s a satisfying story. A historical fiction that couldn’t quite seem to get across to the reader when it was taking place, Cuckoo Song was wonderfully atmospheric, interesting, and creepy. Due to a few lacking things, but plenty of strong elements, I gave the book four stars.

What stood out to me from the start was the atmosphere of the story. It comes in many forms, from the language used to describe things, pacing, and the increasingly strange happenings. In parts it’s so bizarre it’s disturbing. Dolls were terrifying, birds were unusual and not to be trusted, and I will never look at scissors the same way again. And that’s why I think this book really does stand on its own as a horror book, especially in the YA field. While none of the scares lasted off the page, there’s a few household objects I’m still giving the side-eye to.

The characters were unique and for the most part well developed although there was little diversity. Triss was interesting and I enjoyed being in her head. I have a thing for unreliable narrators and this one showed huge growth. Violet and Pen are close seconds in favorite characters. Watching the three of them grow was wonderful. Perhaps my biggest complaint with the book is that the secondary characters don’t get any character development until about 200 pages in. We’re consistently shown that there’s potential but it’s not set into motion until half way through the book. I felt there was way too much hint dropping about what characters could be instead of getting a move on with that development. But Triss’ parents and their characterization was phenomenal. I applaud Hardinge for tackling such an overlooked issue when it comes to bad parenting. Triss’ parents are despicable.  Yet the parents are loving. They want what’s best for their daughter, they’re older and wiser and know best. But the book makes clear that they are stifling not only Triss but the whole family. Their obsession with control is causing cracks in the family and possibly putting them in danger. Sometimes reading about the parents’ choices was more frightening than screaming dolls. Screaming dolls are not real, but parents like Triss’ are. And that’s terrifying.

I also was frustrated with the setting. No doubt of it, Hardinge has a wonderful writing style that reminds me of Stiefvater. Both writers are very whimsical and metaphorical. But with Hardinge, I had no idea when this story was taking place. I knew it was after a war, but which war? It never was clearly established. Turns out that the story takes place after World War I, but with such weak timeline establishment, the book felt like it was trying for something steampunk.

Flaws aside, I really did enjoy this book. It’s perfect for October, especially if you’re going to read under the covers with a flashlight or around a bonfire. Creepy, moody, and filled with uncertainties, Cuckoo Song is a top pick for those looking for something out of the ordinary.

TL;DR: Despite little diversity, sluggish character development, and sometimes veering into formulaic territory, Cuckoo Song has promise and delivers on it. A dark and unsettling atmosphere is established from the start. Mundane items become frightening and the book tackles one of the most challenging family issues. While I wouldn’t recommend this to those who are unsettled by dolls, for those of you looking for a creepy read that puts a new spin on old things, read Cuckoo Song. It’s seriously the perfect October read.

6 Books You Should Read This October

These books are books I can’t get enough of. They’re eerie, terrifying, unsettling or sometimes all three. Although not all of these books are horror, these are books I recommend to people looking for a perfect October read. Be careful when you pick your poison though, some books have possible triggers in them.

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Asylum (Madeleine Roux; warnings: unreality, torture) First in a haunting series, Asylum is the story of Dan who goes to a summer camp for high school students that actually want to learn. He and his friends quickly learn, but what they learn isn’t mathematical equations, history, or new art skills, it’s about their temporary summer home-a former asylum. And with that knowledge comes a nightmare that Dan and his friends weren’t expecting and might not ever be free of. You can check out my review here.

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Skulduggery Pleasant (Derek Landy) There’s a talking skeleton mage that can control fire. How much more Halloween do you want? Filled with dark humor, suspense and excellent world building, Skulduggery Pleasant is the story of Stephanie Edgley discovering quite a lot about her uncle when he passes away. She meets her uncle’s unusual friend Skulduggery Pleasant who takes her under his wing. Skulduggery does things on his own terms though, and magic isn’t an easy subject to  learn, even without people trying to kill you.

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Tamsin (Peter S. Beagle) Perhaps the most underrated book on the list, Tamsin is the story of Jenny Gluckstein and her encounters with the paranormal, love, and cats. Although furious with her mother and her new-stepfather for taking her from her home in New York City, Jenny can’t deny that the English countryside has a plethora of unsettling mysteries and dark dangers which are calling to her.  And the strongest call of all is the ghost Tamsin.

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Sabriel (Garth Nix) Necromancers have never been so cool. First in the Abhorsen series, Sabriel is our heroine that frequently walks in death to battle all sorts of undead things. Monsters, corpses, other necromancers, you name it, she can kick its butt and master walking through death. Hopefully. The magic system of this world is complicated (beautifully so), and even the most well trained of the Abhorsens need a bit of help now and again. Read it and thank me later.

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The Demonologist: (warnings: gore, violence, language, and torture) One of the few horror books that actually scared me, The Demonologist follows a professor who doesn’t believe in the demons he studies. But then they kidnap his daughter and send him on what feels like an impossible quest. Adjusting to the reality of demons is soon the least of his problems. But hey, a dad’s gotta do what a dad’s gotta do. The ending just about killed me. It’s a beautiful and haunting read that stuck with me. If you chose to read it, I’m sure it’ll stick with you too.

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The Raven Boys (Maggie Steifvater; warnings: abusive situations, language): Although the book starts in April it also starts off with psychics and ghosts. It’s a dead king that’s at the heart of this story. The very much alive Blue becomes involved with the Raven Boys and their quest for magic and a dead king that can grant wishes. In their quest the group becomes involved with curses, ghosts, and a growing series of unsettling events. It’s filled with all the stuff people love to read about in October. You can check out my review here.

The Shattered Seam (Book Tour!)

The Shattered Seam (Book Tour!)

Fan of haunted houses? Looking for an authentic voice? The Shattered Seam is the book for you! Below you can find my review of the book as well as a bit about the author and a giveaway for Kindle Fire (US/CAN only). Be sure to check out the rest of the tour here!

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Giveaway (US/CAN)

Author: Kathleen Groger

Genre: YA Paranormal, Horror

Summary: Spending spring break on an isolated island rumored to be haunted is not sixteen-year-old Sam’s idea of fun. Spending spring break with her uncle and his ghost-hunting film crew on an isolated island is even worse.

Way worse.

Her family’s secrets—and a genetic ability she can no longer deny—surface, along with the ghost of a rich serial killer who left behind a trail of trapped souls.

And he’s not through yet.

With only one chance for escape, Sam must embrace her family’s curse and close the Seam between the living and the dead. Or be lost, forever.

My Opinion: The Shattered Seam is a cool concept with a unique narrator. I immediately fell in love with Sam’s voice and the other characters were fun to read about too. In many ways this book reminded me of an updated version of the horror classic Hell House. Overall I gave this book 3 stars due to a major issue that touched too close to home for me.

When I read the first page of The Shattered Seam I gasped. Sam’s voice was so authentic I had to pause to take it in. It was beautiful. I really enjoyed reading from her view point because it really did feel like I was reading a 16 year old’s thoughts. I also really liked that Sam started out a skeptic and was thrown in with a group of hardcore ghost hunters that fully believed in what they were doing. It added a fresh spin to the old “non-believer” trope. This book reminded me of Hell House, but in a good way. The violence, the mysteriousness, and the numerous creepy going-ons hailed back to that sort of thing. But the story behind the castle is unique and interesting, making The Shattered Seam stand on its own.

But despite the fresh take on a classic (and favorite) horror trope, I can’t overlook the schizophrenia issue this book has. Note, Sam does not have the illness, nor does anyone else in the book. But schizophrenia is a real mental illness that impacts real people and real families. Sam thinking that she had schizophrenia, her mother allowing her to think this, as well as her grandmother allowing this thought, came off almost as insulting to those who are impacted by it to me. From the get-go we know that Sam is going to see ghost at some point or another and her skepticism will turn into belief. We’re here for the fun stuff of seeing how that all pans out. It wasn’t fun reading over and over again, Sam trying to justify what she saw because she was “supposed to be” mentally ill. It didn’t feel like a quest for self discovery. It felt awkward and unrealistic. Mental illness is never something you want to make cool in any form because that mindset can prevent people from getting the help they need. As one of the most demonized of mental illnesses, I worry that people reading the book will misunderstand what schizophrenia is really like. Because it is nothing like what is described in the book. There were some other issues, but they were easily overlooked thanks to the wonderful writing style and characterization.

I think that Uncle Eric was my favorite character. At first he appears to be a ghost obsessed man, trying to get good ratings for his show, but as Sam discovers more about herself, she also discovers more about her uncle and his crew. Her bond with Eric became something I really enjoyed and looked forward to as the book went on (I was not dissapointed). Each of Eric’s crew members have distinct personalities. This mix of characters was so authentic that the book really did feel like a behind the scenes look at a paranormal investigation show.

While there was a stand out issue for me, The Shattered Seam was a fun read. Cool characters, creepy setting and situations, and a nice mystery to go along with it all makes it a good read for anyone who’s a fan of haunted houses or who’s into paranormal investigation shows.

TL;DR: Despite the poor use of mental illnesses, this is a good book. Sam’s voice is completely authentic. Sam is not the only interesting character though and she’s joined by many others who are just as fun and interesting to read about. It’s a solid read that has some great takes on haunted houses.

 

About the Author

kathleen

Author Website, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter

Kathleen wrote her first story in elementary school about a pegasus named Sir Lancelot. It had no plot or conflict, but it sparked a dream. After serving a fifteen-year sentence in retail management, the bulk in big box bookstores, she turned her love of reading into a full-time career writing dark and haunting characters and stories. She writes paranormal, fantasy, suspense, horror YA books. She is a contributing member of READerlicious, writers who love readers. Check out her blogs here.

She lives by the mantra that a day is not complete without tea. Lots of tea. Kathleen lives in Ohio with her husband, two boys, and two attention-demanding dogs. When not writing or editing or revising, you can find her reading, cooking, spending time with her family, or photographing abandoned buildings.

Nine Candles of the Deepest Black (Book Tour!)

Nine Candles of the Deepest Black (Book Tour!)

If you’re looking for a book to read this October, Nine Candles of the Deepest Black is your bet! Below you can find my review of the book as well as a bit about the author and an international giveaway (Amazon gift card as well as a signed copy of the book). Be sure to check out the rest of the tour here!

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Author: Matthew S. Cox

Genre: Mature YA Horror, Paranormal

Summary: She saw it coming. She knew it would happen―but no one believed her.

Almost a year after tragedy shattered her family, sixteen-year-old Paige Thomas can’t break free from her guilt. Her mother ignores her, doting on her annoying little sister, while her father is a barely-functioning shell. He hopes a move to the quiet little town of Shadesboro PA will help them heal, but Paige doesn’t believe in happiness anymore.

On her first day at school, a chance encounter with a bullied eighth grader reawakens a gift Paige had forgotten, and ingratiates her into a pack of local outcasts. For weeks, they’ve been trying to cast a ritual to fulfill their innermost desires, but all they’ve done is waste time. After witnessing Paige touch the Ouija board and trigger a paranormal event, the girls are convinced another try with their new fifth member will finally work.

Once the darkness is unleashed, it’s not long before they learn it will give them exactly what they asked for―whether they want it or not.

My Opinion: There’s something to be said for classic horror. It touches on our base fears the most. Taking the tropes of demons, occult magic, and paranormal events and forming them into something is great fun if done right. Nine Candles of Deepest Black does it right. It’s a lovely homage to classical horror tropes while upgrading it all to something diverse, interesting, and unusual. There were just one or two things that rubbed me the wrong way, but regardless this was a fun read that fully earned 4 stars.

Most of the time in paranormal horror the ghost comes in after an introduction. Not so here. Almost immediately we discover that Paige is haunted by her dead sister. The death of Amber hit the family hard, and it seems like the only person who’s coping in a remotely healthy way is the annoying little sister. This is where the book stands out. We have multiple points of tension throughout. First we have Paige and her family, then the relationships with her new-found friends, and the tension the magic brings. Cox does a wonderful job of having these separate sources of tension feed into each other and move the book forward.

At times though I was taken out of this tension due to a couple of things. Cox has a wonderful writing style and is very descriptive. It’s easy to picture what’s going on, but sometimes things were just a little too metaphorical. Frequently we’re told about Paige’s black cloud and it took me a couple of times reading that to realize it was metaphorical. I think. Considering all the other things going on, it wouldn’t have surprised me if it was actually real. This was never really cleared up, but considering everyone’s non-reaction to it, I’m assuming it was metaphorical. This kind of seemed to be a thing though, some things were just over-described which caused confusion. The descriptions of clothing were great…but sometimes the focus was a bit too heavy on what each girl was wearing which needlessly slowed down things. Also, sometimes the gore felt less necessary and more like the trope where people assume horror has a ton of blood and gore in it. These issues took me out of the book and the reading experience. The book is also incredibly heavy and at times the book felt a little too dark to be full on enjoyable for me. Ultimately  despite having gore, nudity, detailed talk of suicide, and forced sexual situations, for the most part all of it was handled very well.

Now for my favorite part of any review, and my favorite element of Nine Candles of Deepest Black: the characters. The characters are diverse, and the WoC, Santana and Renne, are fleshed out and the focus is not solely on their skin color. They have interests and personality while embracing their culture which is always refreshing. Horror tends to have a lot of tokenism in this area, and I was pleased to find this wasn’t the case for this book. These girls have their own hopes and dreams and are stuck in the same fear boat as Paige our heroine. Overall, all characters were well rounded and believable. There’s a variety of ages as well. We see how the supernatural (and death in general) impacts everyone from 8 years old to adults. I also really enjoyed seeing how Paige grew as a person and how her growth impacted those around her. Again this is another element that makes the book stand out from typical horror.

If the characters weren’t going to win me over the hat-tips to classic horror and weird fiction would have. I loved how Cox alluded to the greats such as Stephen King and Niel Gaiman. Even if this wasn’t intentional, it was there and added a lovely mood to the story.  Classic tropes such as girls trying a ritual, demons running crazy and being unstoppable, nightmare sequences that may or may not be real, were all done superbly. Overused tropes are a grantee to bore the reader, but here they’re reborn with eeriness and tension. True, you can find a ton of books and movies with those elements in it, but the book takes these things and makes them fresh.

Nine Candles of Deepest Black is a great bet if you want dark and creepy. It’s a solid read and does a lovely job weaving the old with the new. If you’re looking for something to creep you out this coming October, here’s your book. It’s darker than night, suspenseful, and fresh.

TL;DR: Despite being incredibly dark, and having a little bit too much focus on descriptions at times, Nine Candles of Deepest Black is a lovely homage to classical horror tropes while upgrading it all to something diverse, interesting, and unusual. If horror is your thing and you’re looking for a fresh spin on classical horror, this is your book.

About the Author:

matthew

Author Website, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter

Born in a little town known as South Amboy NJ in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.

Hobbies and Interests:

Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- deliberate), and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it.

He is also fond of cats.

What is YA? (Book Talk)

Call me late to the party, but I had a good laugh a while back when I discovered that Dan Brown is rewriting his hit book The Da Vinci Code for the Young Adult (YA) crowd. Apparently this version will be less complex plot wise, have a more accessible vocabulary, and will be shorter.

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After cracking up I started scratching my head. This doesn’t make sense. You see, when I was in middle school (age range is 12-15), this book came out and it felt like everyone but me was reading it (I preferred Terry Brooks’ Shannara series). It wasn’t a book I was super interested in so I never bothered. And as I heard what my peers were saying I became grateful I never tried it, as what I was hearing wasn’t all that positive. For the most part, many of my peers were just reading it for the controversy. From my understanding, the same happened with the adult readership. It was only long after the Da Vinci Code craze died that I ever met anyone who enjoyed the book for what it was.

So why is Brown making it into a YA book? Obviously there’s the fact that the book is close to his heart, not to mention the potential money this book could bring. But considering how there’s a very large number of people who just felt “meh” about the book, and with “meh” movies based on the series, it seems like a dumbed down YA version puts too much on the line for both Brown and his publisher. Why not just write an all new book, separate from The Da Vici Code, for young adults? Why go this route?

I think it boils down to the fact that no one actually knows what YA is. Heck, before I wrote this out, I wasn’t sure I knew. So I decided to hit Facebook and a few other places including Goodreads reviews to see how people defined Young Adult lit.

Ask a teenager who reads YA what it is and you’ll get a pretty good answer. “YA is books about teenagers and their lives/adventures in all kinds of settings and situations.”  Cool. Ask adults that read YA and you’ll get pretty much the same answer. Ask an adult that doesn’t read YA and you get a pretty different answer. I’ve seen criteria ranging from not as intelligent, not as long, and less mature themes.

But as someone who’s read YA books from age 7 onward that just doesn’t add up.

“Adult books are longer!” Well the longest book I’ve read just so happened to be Insomnia by Stephen King, which coincidentally is an adult book. It’s a whopping 787 pages. Until I read Insomnia, the longest book I had read was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, at 759 pages. Most of my YA reads are around 500 pages. Trust me, there is no lack of long books in the YA genre. And many of these are parts of series. The latest release in the Throne of Glass series (Empire of Storms) is 704 pages.  As each book in the series has been a bit longer, I wouldn’t be surprised if the final book in the series wound up being close to 800 pages. Clearly if readers weren’t into long books there wouldn’t be so many in YA lit. But that’s what the readers want and that’s what the publishers provide.

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I would say that content might be a deciding factor in separating Young Adult from Adult books but that’s not it either. Why? Cause Wintergirls is a book about eating disorders. Speak is a book about rape. The Raven Boys has a couple of f-bombs in it and talks heavily about abusive home situations. We Awaken is a book about young women discovering sexuality and love. And I haven’t even talked about Gossip Girl (for the sake of space, I won’t). These books all assume the reader is intelligent and can see the problems presented. These books have mystery, high drama, and great depth. As a whole, YA literature regularly tackles the most complex and pressing problems of our society, in and out of fantasy settings.  True, the approaches will vary between adult and young adult books, but I find that young adult books talk about hard issues just as, if not more often, than adult books. I’ve seen some adult books take a sensitive topic such as abuse and handle it horribly. I have a long list of Young Adult books that handle the same topic beautifully. Now don’t say “well then, it’s the fantastical elements!” cause there’s plenty of adult books that are straight up fantasy or have fantastical parts.

The Matthew Swift series, or The Night Circus, or anything by Stephen King are all great options if you’re looking for fantasy or otherworldly in your adult reads. The Lord of the Rings, The Plucker, The Fire Rose, and the Shannara Chronicles are all fantasy books intended for adults. With Lord of the Rings and the Shannara Chronicles, you’ll see a crossover in audience. Why? Because despite these books being geared towards adults, young adults love them too, and that attention helps these books stay in the spotlight. You’re welcome.

So what makes Young Adult lit, young adult? Ultimately it’s the point of view. Katniss’ story in The Hunger Games trilogy was about war and politics, death and oppression, and plethora of other mature themes. But the story is categorized as Young Adult because that’s what Katniss is. In the first book she’s only sixteen. While the Matthew Swift series is high fantasy in a modern urban setting, it’s told from an adult perspective and therefore is considered adult (not to mention it has a grand deal more cursing than anything in The Raven Cycle). While adults and young adults alike adore the high fantasy elements of Lord of the Rings, Frodo is an adult, causing it to be categorized as an adult fantasy.

Perhaps adult books can curse more and go into more depth when it comes down to sexual themes. But part of the beauty of Young Adult literature is that the authors have found ways to talk about and share those experiences through implication. And sometimes that’s far more powerful and personal than what an adult book can give with an in depth description. Whatever “limitations” the genre has, readers and authors of Young Adult fiction have made those rules into something that makes the genre special and one of a kind.

So does Dan Brown need to write a young adult version of The Da Vinci Code? Nah. But then again, no one needs to re-write a book for an older/younger crowd.  But for whatever reason, that’s what’s happening. I just hope that one day authors and publishers learn that we readers don’t need or want things dumbed down for us. We want books that challenge us, that meet us where we’re at, and tell us to go further. I feel like for those who did enjoy The Da Vinci Code, that book has done that for them already, which is wonderful. But if many young adults aren’t interested in the book as it is, I doubt they’ll be interested in it if the plot remains the same and things are made “young adult friendly.”

Everyone, regardless of age deserves and wants a good story. Adults read YA lit, and young adults (which has a massive age range) read adult books. The idea that either adult or young adult books need to change to be credible or readable is both sad and ridiculous. Good stories are good stories and they shouldn’t have to change to become valid for different groups.

What’s your take? How do you define YA lit on a personal level?

Book Review: We Awaken

“Who needs kissing when you could share oxygen?” ~Victoria, (We Awaken)

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Release Date: July 14th 2016

Goodreads | Pre-order from Harmony Ink

Author: Calista Lynne

Genre: YA Magical Realism; LGTB+ Romance (asexuality)

Summary: Victoria has isolated herself after the death of her father and her brother going comatose due to a brutal car accident. She’s re-centered her life around her dancing, until one night in her dreams she meets Ashlinn. Ashlinn brings Victoria hope and messages from her brother. During their nightly meetings the two girls grow close and Ashlinn guides Victoria in her discovery of asexuality. But when Victoria needs Ashlinn’s help, rules are broken and the world hangs in the balance.

My Opinion: Elegant. This story is completely elegant. From the lovely characterization, lyrical descriptions, and a wonderfully executed plot, this book flowed and left me in quiet awe and gratitude. Four and half stars!

I nearly fell out of my chair and I did indeed squeal very loudly when I was offered the ARC to read. Asexual girls loving girls? Oh yeah! I’m down for that. And frankly, this was the first time I have ever heard of asexual girls loving girls. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I was excited for it, even if I was a bit nervous about how it would be executed. I shouldn’t have worried. Victoria’s self discovery of her asexuality was so organic and true to so many people’s experiences. I found this incredibly comforting and validating.

Lynne does an excellent job at showing the struggles people face when they’re learning about their asexuality. Dealing with friends who just don’t get it and think that it’s stupid and wrong, the doubts you have about yourself, the mixed emotions. Lynne also does a wonderful job of showing that there is a spectrum of asexuality; some people are going to be very into cuddling and kissing, others are not. No matter where you fall, you are still an asexual, and your preferences are completely valid.

The only flaw in We Awaken for me was that at times it read a little bit like an asexual handbook. As someone who is an asexual and has known that about themselves for quite some time, some parts made me feel like I was getting a course in “Asexuality 101.” For people who are curious about asexuality or who think they might be asexual, this is absolutely wonderful and I can see it being incredibly helpful. For me though, not so much. Thankfully the way the information was presented was very organic and didn’t slow down the plot.

Not going to lie here, the plot surprised me. There were some lovely twists, and while the book is completely upfront with the importance and focus of asexuality, there’s so much more to it. This is truly a romance novel, a contemporary filled with believable magic. The importance of magic is such a lovely touch, and a driving force in the story making this book so much more than what it seems.

The character development, the diversity of characters (we have asexual girls, straight girls, and WoC), and the perfectly paced plot are really what makes this book so beautiful and worth reading. Victoria’s struggles were real and relatable, and the lyrical descriptions made me even more invested. There were numerous times where I gasped because a turn of phrase was so lovely.

TL;DR: No matter your sexuality or your gender, this is an elegant book that deserves high praise. The lyrical descriptions, world building, the organic romance, and diverse characters means that there’s something in this book for everyone. If you’re familiar with asexuality some parts might read a little bit like “Asexuality 101” but for those who are curious or just learning about asexuality, this book is a wonderful starting point. For me this book became an instant favorite and I know I’ll enjoy re-reading it many times in the future.