August Wrap-Up 2016

In My Life

My senior year of high school started this month. It is going well, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t wish it was still summer. So far, I am enjoying all of my classes, especially AP Art History and ceramics.

On This Blog

I had eleven posts this month. I wish that I had more—honestly I had other post ideas, I just didn’t write them—but adjusting to school took most of my time.

Book Tags:

Top Ten Tuesdays:

In Reading and Reviewing

I have no time to read in class anymore! Last year, a lot of my classes focused on classwork, so I would finish early and have time to read, but that is not the case this year. While I am happy to have less boring classwork, this means that I only read three books this month.

I DNF-ed The Demon King halfway through because I just did not care about the story. Then I read Symptoms of Being Human and started rereading the Gemma Doyle trilogy. I also caught up on some book reviews this month.

  • Ruin and Rising (Grisha #3) by Leigh Bardugo — 4/5 stars (review)
  • The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson — 5/5 stars (review)
  • Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin — 3/5 stars (review)
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle #1) by Libba Bray — 4/5 stars (review to come)
  • Rebel Angels (Gemma Doyle #2) by Libba Bray — 4/5 stars (review to come)

In Writing

This was a conflicted month for writing. In the week I had before school started, I wrote 10,000 words, bringing my total for my current draft (and my total for how many words I wrote this summer) to 62,000 words. Unfortunately, school started and I literally have not touched my WIP since them. I did publish a poem—Page One—at least.

Right now, all of my writing energy is going toward trying to get my Common Application essay done for college apps. I have written a ton of drafts, none that I like very much, but hopefully everything will come together in September. (And then I get to work on supplemental essays…yay.)


How was your August? If you’re a student, have you gone back to school yet? What are you planning on reading in September?

Top Ten Parts of High School I Wish YA Authors Talked About More

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic is a Back to School Freebie.

I’m a senior in high school, and my high school career has been very academic-focused. I can’t speak for everyone, and I don’t want to act like my HS experience is everyone’s HS experience. That being said, here are some things that I wish I saw more of in YA literature. 

1. Homework. No seriously, homework.

I don’t care if your character is the biggest slacker in the world or the valedictorian, they have homework. Maybe they cheat on their homework, or do it during class, or only turn in every third assignment. Still. If your character goes to high school, I’d really like to have homework mentioned.

2. Club meetings during school. Or club meetings at all.

This might just be my school, but for me, most of the clubs on campus meet during lunch. That means that sometimes I can’t eat lunch with my friends, either because they’re in a meeting or I am.

3. Extracurricular activities that aren’t sports.

I think YA authors are pretty good at having athletic characters. But even if a character isn’t athletic, they probably have something to do after school.

4. STRESS.

Oh my god this needs to be talked about more. Do you know how frustrating it is to read about characters that are supposedly smart (or even just kind of care about grades) that don’t stress about school? Ever?!?!? Tests are stressful. Projects are stressful. Not knowing how to do math homework is stressful. School is stressful, and not just for people trying to get a 4.0.

5. College stress.

I want to see freshman planning what classes they will take in the next four years to be in a good place for college. I want to see sophomores freaking out because they haven’t done enough community service or didn’t get a leadership position in a club. I want to see juniors ready to stab the next person that asks them which colleges they want to apply to. I want to see seniors frustrated that they have to defend their college choices from the relentless judgement of others.

I wish those things didn’t exist, but they do, so start writing about them.

6. Bad teachers.

While inspiring, there-when-you-need-a-word-of-advice teachers are common in YA, bad teachers aren’t talked about enough. They can destroy a school year. They can make you not want to go to class or care about your grade.

7. Battles for something other than valedictorian.

I have started seeing a lot of books centered around people battling for being top of the class. First of all, a lot of schools don’t do ranking anymore (my school doesn’t), and second of all, academics are competitive even on a lower level. College apps pit you against millions of other high school students, and that puts an inherently competitive edge into a lot of aspects of high school.

8. An understanding of AP classes, the SAT/ACT, SAT subject tests, etc.

So often, I’ll be reading a book and a character will go to “AP History.” It seems like a minor thing, but it jars me out of the story. There are at least three different classes that could be called “AP History,” and when the author doesn’t pick one, it gives me the impression that they haven’t talked to HS student in years.

There’s also a financial side of standardized tests that should be looked at. If your character is poor, talk about how expensive these tests are, how complicated getting fee waivers can be, and how frustrating it is to be competing with people who can buy prep books and classes without blinking an eye.

9. Dress codes.

Not every book needs to talk about this, but some should. There is a giant push back against dress codes right now, pointing out how sexist and outdated they are. I would love to see this discussed in a YA book.

10. Sleep deprivation.

I can’t tell you how often I hear people say that they got 2-3 hours of sleep the night before, or that getting 5 hours is a lot for them. Sleep deprivation has serious side effects that I see all around me every day, and I wish more authors would talk about it.


What do you think? Fellow high school students, does this sound familiar? What parts of high school do you feel authors miss?

Book Review: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Edit: It has been brought to my attention that this book has problematic representation. While this book helped explain gender-fluidity, it does so in a way that is clearly written for cisgender people, not for gender fluid people who need representation in fiction. If you want to read about gender fluid individuals, seek out #ownvoices stories which center gender-fluid people, rather than writing for cis people’s benefit. Additionally, while never revealing the main character’s gender assigned at birth or using pronouns to describe the MC is compelling, it is a choice that can undermine important parts of life for gender-fluid individuals. Also, not using pronouns undermines the educational value, in my opinion, by refusing to normalize gender-neutral pronouns.


An emotional roller coaster of a story that helped me understand gender fluidity.

3/5 stars

cover symptoms of being human synopsis for reviews 2

The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is…Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

Add it on Goodreads

my thoughts for reviews 1

I did not know what to expect from Symptoms of Being Human, but I got an emotionally charged story that honestly changed the way I see the world.

I loved Riley’s character. Their voice was clear from the first page, with just enough sass and never too much brooding. I was sucked into their life and was incredibly emotionally invested in everything that happened.

Through Riley, I got a vivid window into what it is like to be gender fluid. The way that the author presented Riley’s character felt natural; it feels like a novel, not a pamphlet. I had never considered what it would be like to be gender fluid before, but Symptoms of Being Human really helped me understand it. SOBH also has various other LGBT characters and spends a lot of time clarifying the nuances between each in a clear way—without breaking up the flow of the story. I am thinking of passing this book onto my grandparents because of how simply but clearly it explains different LGBT identities.

Riley’s first day of school made me nervous. The depiction of high school was extremely stereotypical, kind of everything I avoid when it comes to contemporary books. Though it never completely shook the stereotypical beginning, the high school was thankfully given more nuance as the story progressed.

The side characters helped the story avoid being totally cliche. Both Solo and Bec broke the “best friend” and “love interest” molds, bringing originality and life to the story. I loved that their relationships with Riley did not progress easily from their first meets to friendship; the friction they had with Riley gave the story more layers and helped the plot go in interesting directions. Bec’s backstory complemented the main plot without feeling like it was added in only for that purpose.

Speaking of the plot, SOBH was paced exceptionally well. For a contemporary book, the pacing is pretty fast, especially past the halfway mark. I was sucked in, both because of the plot and the emotions the plot evoked. I read the book in basically two sittings, and I cried for most of the ending.

The process of Riley’s blog going viral felt natural and realistic. Riley was actually a really strong writer who was able to put his emotions into moving words, making it understandable why his blog would become popular. Even so, the blog did not go viral overnight, and it was not a positive process. Riley started a blog assuming no one would care and became a lightning rod for LGBT controversies and discussions within a few weeks. It was overwhelming and frightening for Riley, and that was before someone threatened to expose his identity in real life.

As much as I loved SOBH, I have a few problems with the plot. I saw the identity of the person who was threatening Riley coming from miles away. Though the plot grabbed me, it never took an entirely unexpected turn. Looking back on the story, I feel like the author could have done more to make the plot less predictable. Making the story longer and fleshing out some of the side plots could have helped make the story more unique, I think.

Overall, I would recommend SOBH to everyone. It does a fantastic job bringing Riley’s identity to life. Though the plot has technical flaws, the story is gripping and powerful, and I dare you not to be horrified and saddened throughout the book. I will definitely read anything else Jeff Garvin writes.

Top Ten Books I Have Owned For a While That I Haven’t Read

This week’s TTT topic is supposed to be “Ten Books That Have Been On Your Shelf (Or TBR) From Before You Started Blogging That You STILL Haven’t Read Yet,” but honestly I don’t remember what books I owned or wanted to read two and a half years ago. Instead, I’m highlighting a similar idea, which is books that I have owned for a while (at least a year for most of them) but that I haven’t read yet.

1. Bruised by Sarah Skilton

cover bruised

My sister loved this book, but I have stayed away from it because I know it will be very emotional and I want to read it when I’m in the right mood. Unfortunately, that means I haven’t read it, even though my sister has been pushing it for a few years now I think.

2. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

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I have loved everything else Elizabeth Wein has written, but this promises to be the most heartbreaking one yet—and that is saying something. Again, this is the kind of book that I have avoided reading until I have time to cry…a lot.

3. His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik

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Uprooted is one of my favorite books ever, so I am really excited about reading Naomi Novik’s other books. The Temeraire series is REALLY LONG though, so I have been waiting until I feel like marathon-ing it.

4. The Sweetheart by Angelina Mirabella

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Again, my sister swears by this book. I am excited to read it, but somehow, something else always ends up above it in my TBR.

5. Lair of Dreams (Diviners #2) by Libba Bray

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I LOVE Libba Bray, and I’m really ashamed to say that 100% of the reason that I haven’t read her latest book is that it (and it’s predecessor) are MASSIVE. I’ll get to it someday…

6. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

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This was a total hype buy that my sister read and thought was okay. I’m really curious about this story so I know I’ll read it someday, but knowing that my sister thought it was “meh” keeps me from diving into it right now.

7. Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper

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We’ve entered the gauntlet of books that I haven’t read because my sister didn’t love them. She didn’t hate any of them, so we haven’t gotten rid of the books, but it is really hard to pick up a book (no matter how curious you are) knowing that someone with really similar taste didn’t get excited about it.

8. An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet

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A hype buy with the same story as the last two.

9. Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer

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I didn’t love Cinder, but for some reason I bought the sequel, so I know that I’ll read it eventually. 1) People have assured me that the series gets better, 2) I want to get swept up in the hype, and 3) I hate getting rid of books without reading them.

10. Shades of Earth (Across the Universe #3) by Beth Revis

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I loved Across the Universe, but A Million Suns didn’t really work for me. I think I might go back and read the entire trilogy someday, but for right now, the last book remains unread.


Have you read any of these? Are any of your favorites wasting away on the bottom of my TBR pile? Let me know!

Poetry: Page One

You stand on Page One

Broken

But fighting

Bleeding

But standing

Always

Surviving

 

You are not the Warrior

The Queen

The Wizard or the Mage

Of the last pages of my favorite novels

 

But they flicker inside of you

Embers of future flames

 

You are healing

Cracks closing

Blood clotting

Wounds scarring

Into memories

 

There is a word for taking something broken

And putting it back together with gold between the cracks

 

Don’t sell yourself short with

The dollar store super glue that

That attendant tried to sell you

Don’t buy it

 

Your story is just beginning

But I believe I know how it ends

The Olympic Book Tag

I was tagged by Kirstie @ Upside-Down Books to do the Olympic Book Tag. Thanks!

I am loving the Olympics right now! Gymnastics, diving, fencing, and beach volleyball are my favorite sports to watch, but I have been watching basically everything I can, because we got cable back for two weeks and I want to take advantage of it.

The Opening Ceremony — What book did you think had an incredible opening?

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The first lines of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern are gorgeous, and they set the tone for one of the most magical stories ever:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

The Games — What is your favourite fictional competition?

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I love the competition in Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I didn’t think that I would get sucked into a competition surrounding vintage video games and movies, but I totally did.

The Original — The modern games are based on the original Greek competition – what is your favourite book based on a classic?

series star swept peterfreund

Across a Star-Swept Sea and For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund are retellings of The Scarlet Pimpernel and Persuasion respectively. I haven’t read either original story, but I love these retellings.

The Eternal Flame  — What is one ship that you won’t let die, even after the books made it clear it was never going to happen?

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Gemma Doyle and Simon Middleton in the Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray. I love the guy Gemma ended up with, and in all actuality Simon was wrong for her, but I still love the idea of them as a couple.

Gymnastics — What’s a book that had so many twists and turns it left your head spinning? (in a good way)

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If you haven’t read Uprooted by Naomi Novik yet, you should go out and do that. Part fantasy novel, part horror story, this book kept me guessing and freaking out from cover to cover.

The Controversial Judge  — What’s a book that you have a totally different opinion about than most other people?

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Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon—I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it. The ending frustrated me and the book left me dissatisfied.

Beach Volleyball  — What is your favorite fictional duo?

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I wanted to go to my standard answer which is Emie and Teo from Black Dove White Raven, but then I decided to go with something more creative. I love Fire and Small (her horse).

Weightlifting — What is the most massive book on your shelf?

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The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson is ridiculously huge, but I haven’t read it yet. The Sweet Far Thing, A Court of Mist and Fury, and Monsters of Men are smaller, but still massive books that I’ve actually read.

Track & Field — What is a book that you just tore through with world record speed?

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Well, honestly I read a lot of books in one sitting, especially over summer, so it’s hard for me to pick out one that I read quickly. The most recent book that I blew through, however, was Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin, which was amazing and tear-jerking and you should read it immediately.

Synchronised Swimming — What is a book series that you kept reading, even though you didn’t have any idea why?

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The Twixt series by Dawn Metcalf is interesting enough that I’ve read the first two books in the series (I’ve read the first book twice), but honestly, I am not invested in the series at all. And yet, I still want to read the next book.

The Tortured Fan — What fictional family, group, nation, or organisation do you irrationally rout for no matter how many times they break your heart?

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I root for the friendship in Code Name Verity more than anything. It is heartbreaking and wonderful and I don’t want to say more lest I spoil this incredible book.

Closing Ceremony — What book had an ending that just blew your mind?

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I am still not over the ending of A Court of Mist and Fury. If you are, please comment and share your wisdom, because thinking about it kind of destroys me.

Relay Race — Who do you tag?

And you!


Have you read any of the books I talked about? Are you watching the Olympics?

The Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

I wasn’t tagged by anyone, but I couldn’t resist doing this tag! I know it’s a bit past the middle of the year, but better late than never.

The Best Book You’ve Read So Far In 2016

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A Court of Mist and Fury wins everything.

The Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far

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Their Fractured Light was an incredible ending to this trilogy. I was amazed by how much I fell in love with all of the characters and how invested I was in the story.

A New Release You Haven’t Read Yet (But You Want To)

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I have heard nothing but good things about The Serpent King, so I’m really excited to read it myself.

Most Anticipated Release For Second Half Of 2016

I’m sorry. I know these are basically everyone’s answers…but they’re popular for a reason. I cannot wait for either book.

Biggest Disappointment

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These Shallow Graves was really disappointing. I honestly didn’t like it, which is rare for me.

Biggest Surprise

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I did not know what to expect from Ready Player One, but it ended up being a unique story that I loved, even if I missed most of the pop culture references.

Favorite New Author

I read both of these books in 2016 and I am officially in love with Ryan Graudin‘s stories! Both of them are intense historical fiction novels with great characters and dark world-building.

Newest Fictional Crush

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Clark was ADORABLE. He wasn’t just a love interest; he got his own complex personality. And it was an amazing personality.

Newest Favorite Character

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I hated Steris in the beginning of this series, but three books in, she is one of my favorite characters ever. I love how she isn’t your typical female character and how Brandon Sanderson has brought her to life.

A Book That Made You Cry

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The Raven King made me sob. So. Hard.

A Book That Made You Happy

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The Unexpected Everything also made me cry, but for the most part, it is an incredibly sweet story. Just thinking about certain scenes makes me smile.

Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought So Far This Year

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Sorry to repeat answers, but look at that cover. It is perfection.

Favorite Adaptation So Far This Year

I don’t watch adaptions, so I can’t answer this one.

What Books Do You Need To Read Before The End Of This Year?

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I got this book at the beginning of the year and have literally been meaning to read it since then. I haven’t gotten to it yet, but I plan to before the year is over!

Favorite Post You’ve Written So Far This Year

I am really happy with the post that I wrote about reading YA as a girl that cries. I was nervous about posting it, but I got a lot of positive feedback and I’m glad that I put myself out there.

Favorite Book Community Member Of The First Half Of 2016

This question makes me uncomfortable. I love all of you!