Let’s Talk Bookish

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme created by Rukky at Eternity Books. This week’s discussion question is, “What are some tropes/characters that you think are poorly or under represented in books? “

So this is going to seem weird after my passionate defense of sexual content in YA last week, but I think that asexuality and teenage characters who aren’t ready to have sex are under represented in books. And, of course, those are two totally separate situations.

The way I define asexuality is a lack of sexual desire. I know there are many degrees of asexuality and asexual people who have sex, but my basic definition is someone who doesn’t have the desire to have sex. I like the way it was defined in Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann, where the main character said something to the effect of, “You know how some people don’t care about running? Well, that’s me. I don’t care about sex.” While that’s not how I personally define asexuality for me, it’s pretty damn close.

There are some books out there about people who are asexual. I’ve read three: Let’s Talk About Love, The Girls Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzie Lee, and All the Wrong Places by Anne Gallagher. I also know there are more books coming out or that are out. But it’s not a widespread thing and I would like to see it more normalized.

The second under represented trope is teenagers who aren’t ready to have sex. It seems like any romance with teenagers ends up, at some point, with the teenagers choosing to have sex. And, like I said last week, having sex and exploring sexuality is perfectly natural and many teenagers do it, there are also many teenagers who choose not to have sex for a whole host of reasons. I’d like to see more books where someone tries and realizes, no, it’s not for them. Not yet, not now. Or doesn’t try and just knows that they’re not ready. Where are all the books about late bloomers? I’d like to see more.

What are some tropes or characters you think need better representation? Let me know in the comments!

WWW Wednesday October 16

Oh, boy, has it been a week. Especially last night when ALL THE THINGS went wrong. But I’m not here to talk about all the things. I’m here to talk about books. It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Each week, participants answer three questions:

What are you currently reading?

What did you just finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently listening to 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do by Amy Morin, which is a companion to her book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, which I read earlier this year. I find myself relating to a lot of the things she says and recognize myself in a lot of the “Do any of these sound like you?” section. I hope that changes.

I’m reading Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin. I read her The Happiness Project a few years ago, and this is a companion where she concentrates on how she can be happier at home (duh). It’s a nice, easy read.

I also started Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, and I’m already hooked. I was so sad last night when my exhausted brain stopped understanding what was going on and I had to put it down.

I’m also sort of rereading Girl, Stop Apologizing, which I had listened to earlier this year. I’m just going through my copy and making notes.

What did you just finish?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I have no idea. I have a huge stack of books and I’m barely remembering to pull from it. Instead, I keep checking out books from the library. I might read My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams, since that’s on top of the pile.

What are you reading this week?

Top 10 Extraordinary Book Titles

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is top 10 extraordinary book titles.

A Curse so Dark and Lonely is a fantastic title. It captures the essence of not only Rhen’s curse, but Harper and Grey’s isolation and situations as well.

Daisy Jones and the Six is a great title because it sounds exactly what is it: a book about a rock band. It brings to life that era of seventies music and is just very evocative.

Muse of Nightmares is such a wonderful title, it’s a shame I didn’t enjoy the book. I love the idea of a figure that inspires nightmares. Not gives nightmares, but help the dreamer to weave them. And it’s such a perfect companion title to Strange the Dreamer.

The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is just… I love it. It sounds like a self-help book or one of those books for kids that tells them how to seek adventure. It’s wonderful.

The Ladies Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. See above.

I, Iago is another fantastic title that’s attached to another book that disappointed me. I just love the simplicity of it, they way it’s slightly sinister (maybe just because it’s attached to one of the greatest villains of all time). It’s just a strong title.

The Hate U Give is a great title that I didn’t realize was a pop culture reference until I read it. It’s strong and powerful.

The Misadventures of Maude March. It’s alliterative and I love alliteration. The title alone made me want to read this.

Under the Never Sky is a fantastic title. Right away, I need to read the book just to find out what a never sky is. Are they in space? Underground? Where are they? And it’s just poetic.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. I love this title because you know it’s about a girl who’s done something she needs to confess. It intrigued me right away.

What are some of your favorite titles? Let me know in the comments!

Review: The Wellness Project by Phoebe Lapine

Title: The Wellness Project – How I Learned to Do Right by My Body Without Giving Up My Life

Author: Phoebe Lapine

Publisher: Pam Krauss/Avery

Publication Date: May 16, 2017

Genre: Non-fiction/Memoir/self-helpish

Length: 374 pages

Phoebe was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder and gluten insensitivity in her twenties. Feeling that taking care of herself and doing her job as a chef were incompatible, she took a haphazard approach to her health until she finally realized she needed to get serious. She decided to spend a year getting her health under control by setting goals for each month, such as eliminating sugar, exercising, skin care, and becoming more mindful. This book is her memoir of that year, along with tips for launching your own wellness project and recipes that go with each goal.

I saw this book reviewed on another blog a few months ago (and I’m so sorry I can’t remember who reviewed it) and thought it sounded interesting. I love reading books about people who set a year project for themselves and have read several. This was interesting, but in terms of writing style, I wasn’t as engaged as I was in some others. There was just a spark missing that made me want to read and go on this journey along with Lapine. It took me a lot longer than it should have to read this.

However, I did get enjoyment out of it. I bookmarked several of the recipes. I also found the section on mindfulness and meditation interesting. I’d never heard of Vedic meditation before and found it appealing. I actually tried it a few times last week, but found it to be one too many things to add to my schedule right now. I’ve already added getting up early to write and now journaling, and since both those are new, throwing meditation on top of it made me crash and burn. I’ll try it again once I’m in the groove.

Overall, I found this to be an interesting book in content, if not style. I recommend it to anyone looking for tips to improve their health and/or enjoy reading memoirs of one-year projects.

Weekly Wrap-up

Um… oops? Well, it is still Sunday, even if it’s way later than I usually post. I’ve been busy all weekend with writing my novel, working on my Halloween costume, and volunteering at the local animal shelter. The blog totally slipped my mind.

But my costume is coming along nicely.

Monday: Calendar Girls – Books that Lit Your Way Out of a Reading Slump

Tuesday: Top 10 Character Traits I Love

Wednesday: WWW Wednesday

Thursday: Review – Spark Joy by Marie Kondo

Friday: Let’s Talk Bookish – Sexual Content in YA

Saturday: Snippet Saturday – Dark Goddess

Monday: Review – The Wellness Project by Phoebe Lapine

Tuesday: Top 10 Extraordinary Book Titles

Wednesday: WWW Wednesday

Thursday: TBD

Friday: Let’s Talk Bookish – What are tropes or characters you think are poorly/underrepresented in books?

Saturday: Snippet Saturday – Dark Goddess

Have a great week everyone!

Snippet Saturday: Dark Goddess

Previously: Part 1Part 2, Part 3

A garden drenched in moonlight.  There were flowers growing up columns, along the walkways, on the trees.  The air was heavy with the fragrance of thyme and mint and basil, but Kali could only smell the memory of them.  It was distant and half-remembered.

A rustle came from the nearby bushes.  She smiled.

“You can come out,” she said without looking at the bush.  “I know you are there.”

This time, the rustle was louder.  More violent as the boy extracted himself from the foliage.

He knelt before Kali, his golden head bowed.  “I didn’t mean to disturb you,” he said, voice little more than a whisper.

She reached for him.  Lifted his chin so she could gaze into his bright blue eyes.  “You’re the senator’s slave.  Gabriel.”

He nodded.

“Why are you here?”

His cheeks flushed an appealing shade of red.  Golden eyelashes lowered.  “I wanted to see you again.  My master had no need of me, and I…”  His blush deepened.

She cupped his cheek and leaned closer.

A jolt sent her tumbling from the bench.  Her head pounded, a sharp pain shooting through it.  The left side of her face burned, dagger digging into her brain.  Her stomach did a somersault.

The boy opened his mouth.  He let out a loud honk, like a goose.  It blared once.  Twice.  Longer and longer and…

Kali opened her eyes, the dream fading away.  She was stretched out on a scratchy carpet, miles of beige filling her vision.  Her eyes were heavy and blurry, lashes sticky, like she’d been crying.  Her mouth tasted rancid.  Her head was a hot mass of pain.

“God,” she whispered, trying to remember where she was.  She couldn’t focus through the pain, but she knew something bad had happened.  Something…

“A crash on the northbound 5 is slowing up traffic,” a voice said.

She lifted her head, biting her tongue when the world swam around her.  After closing her eyes and counting to ten, she pushed herself up to sitting.

“What?” she gasped when she raised her hand to her face.  Her wrists were bound together with duct tape.  Her ankles were taped together, too.

“There’s also some debris on the road slowing up the interchange to the 101.”

“Wonderful,” a new voice muttered.  “Of course there’s traffic.  Why wouldn’t there be?  I’m only racing the damn sun.”

That wasn’t the radio.

Kali tried to look over her shoulder but couldn’t get a good view.  She had to maneuver herself around, rolling to see the driver.

Brown hair.  Goatee.  Black clothing.

Movie.  Man.  Kidnapped.

“There was a shooting today at a shopping center in the city of Orange,” the radio said.

He’d threatened her with a gun.  Shot the guard.  And then… then things got fuzzy.

“Police say the witnesses on the scene were unable to give a clear account to exactly what occurred.   Some are speculating drugs may have been involved.  Several people have been treated for injuries and released from the hospital.  Investigation is still ongoing.”

“Why can’t they remember?” Kali asked.

The driver glanced at her.  “You’re awake.”

Kali nodded, her stomach roiling at the movement.  She leaned against the passenger seat in front of her, panting.  She glanced out the front windshield.

“Look out!” she shouted, seeing the car in front of them had stopped.

He turned and slammed on the brakes.  The van jerked to a stop, throwing Kali against the seat.  She hadn’t thought she could be in more pain, and yet…

She groaned.  Saliva flooded her mouth.

“You all right?” he asked

“I’m going to throw up,” she croaked.

“There’s a bag next to you,” he said.  Eyes still on the road, he reached back and fumbled for it.

She was barely able to yank it open before she threw up.  Half-digested popcorn and soda mixed with stomach acid landed in the black plastic bag.  Some dribbled down her chin.

The van lurched forward.  She vomited again, not making it all into the bag this time.  It splashed onto her pants, causing her to heave again.  She hacked and spat into the bag before finally pulling away.

“Done?”

“Yeah.”

He reached back and twisted the bag closed.  “If you feel sick, there are more bags back there.”

“You planning on putting my body parts in them?” she asked.

“Here.”  He handed back a bottle of water, the cap already twisted off.

Water spilled out of the top as she lifted it to her mouth, spilling down her chin and shirt.  The water washed the worst of the taste away and helped clear her head.

“Who are you?” she asked before taking another sip.

“Garrison Pike.”

The name wasn’t familiar.  “Why did you kidnap me?”

He didn’t say anything.

            If you’re looking for ransom, you have the wrong girl.  My mom’s been gone since I was a kid, so that’s a dead end.  All her relatives are dead broke.  I haven’t any clue who my dad is, so there’s no money there.  So, um…”  Belatedly, she realized that maybe telling a kidnapper she was worthless might not be the best strategy.  The chances he’d keep her alive might be lessened by prematurely devaluing herself.

He shook his head, a smile playing over his mouth.  “I’m not after a ransom.”

So, he was either a killer or a rapist.  Or both.  “So, what?  You going to, um.  Rape me?” Not that she wanted to give him ideas.

“I’m not going to rape you, Kali.” He met her eyes in the mirror, expression soft, almost like he was trying to reassure her.

Except, he knew her name.  This wasn’t a random snatching.  And… “Are you going to kill me?” she whispered.

He looked away from her.  “Yes.”

“Why?”  Escape.  She needed to escape.  Get out of the tape.  Get out of the van.  Run.

She tried to twist her wrists, but the tape held them too tightly.  She cast her gaze about on the floor, looking to see if there was anything she could use to cut through.

A shiver of realization went through her.  Her keys.  She could feel them in her pocket, pressing against her hip.  She had a keychain. A phoenix, with a long sharp beak and metal wings.

The beak and wings that might be strong enough to cut through the tape.

She shifted so her legs were in front of her.  The world outside was bathed in the orangey glow of sunset that reflected off the cars around them, all stuck traffic and hardly moving.  If she could cut through the tape, she might be able to run through the cars and get to an exit.  Traffic was slow enough.  She’d be able to avoid getting hit.

Garrison was still looking at the road.  Slowly, so as not to draw attention to herself, she moved her hands to her right pocket.

“You wouldn’t believe me,” he said.

She froze.  “I wouldn’t… wouldn’t believe why you’re trying to kill me?” 

He shook his head.

“You’d be amazed what a concussed girl will believe.”

“You wouldn’t be concussed had you done as I’d asked in the first place.”

Unbelievable.  “Sorry if I messed up your kidnapping plans.  I’m not exactly used to being a helpless victim.”

“No,” he murmured.  “You never have been.”

She bit her lip and winced as she tasted blood.  Sucking on her bottom lip, she started trying to maneuver her body so she could reach into her pocket.  A glance out the window showed her that traffic was still creeping along quietly.  They were one lane over from the slow lane.  One lane from freedom.  All she had to do was jump out of the van, avoid one lane of cars, and get to an exit.

And then… And then it didn’t matter.  She would be gone, swallowed into the crowd of the city before Garrison could make his way over.  She could get to the police, let them hide her. 

The image of Garrison calmly shooting the security guard flashed through her mind.  Kali shuddered.  He had killed so easily.  Garrison hadn’t even paused before he’d shot him.  Would he do any differently with the police?

But the guard had been only one person.  Plus, Garrison had known exactly where to find her.  If Kali ran away, he wouldn’t know where she’d gone, not once she was out of his sight.  Even if he did find her, there was no way Garrison would take on an entire police station.

He stepped on the gas.  The van rolled forward over a bump.  Kali, who was on her knees, leaning backward, toppled to the floor. Her keys slid out of her pocket with a loud clunk.

“What was that?” Garrison demanded.  He looked back.

She forced herself to stay calm.  “Just me. Trying to get comfortable.”  She slid her legs around in front of her. Groaned as she did a sit up to get back upright. Time start working out, she guessed.

“What are you doing?” He glanced back at her suspiciously.

“Nothing. Just… it’s hard to find a good way to sit.  You never answered me.  Why do you want to kill me?”

He looked at her a moment longer, eyes narrowed.  Kali did her best to look innocent.

Finally, he turned away.

“I’m not special,” she said, fishing around for the keys. Her hand closed around them. She scooted back, pulling her knees to her chest, shielding her hand.  “Is it a race thing?  You want to kill me because I’m not white?”  She’d faced her share of racism.  Her mother was white.  Her father was a man that Mom had met at a party, slept with, and left without getting his name, much less country of origin.  When pressed, she’d said, “I don’t know.  Indian or Mexican or Chinese or something,” which was absolutely no help. 

Garrison shook his head.  “It has nothing to do with your whore of a mother or bastard of a father.  Nothing to do with your race.  In fact, is has nothing to do with you in this life at all.”

This life?  “What?”

He looked at her in the mirror.  “Do you really not remember, or are you just being coy?”

“Remember what?”  Her wrists ached from twisting them around so she could slide the beak of her phoenix under the tape. 

“Who you were,” he said.  “Who you are.”

“I’m Kali Johnson.  I’m just… I mean, that’s all.”

“You’re more important than that. At least, to some you are.  Or, rather, you were and will be again if I don’t stop you.”

“By killing me?”  She got the beak under the tape.  Tried to lift it through.  “What are you stopping me from doing?”

“Dying and being reborn as the so-called goddess you once were.”

Thoughts? Critiques? Comments? Drop them below and let’s chat!

Let’s Talk Bookish – Sexual Content in YA

It’s time for another Let’s Talk Bookish discussion. This is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky at Eternity Books. This week’s topic is, Is there too much sexual content in YA?

I read a lot of YA, but the books I choose don’t tend to have a lot of sexual content. At least not sexually explicit content. I guess Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas is considered YA, and that does have sexual content, but, outside of that, I can’t really think of many books that I’ve read that have sexual content. Maybe it’s because I don’t read much contemporary; is that where all the sexual content is?

However, that being said, I don’t think there’s too much content in YA and not because I’m not coming across it. While I completely sympathize with people who don’t want to read about sex, sexual tension, or romance, when I was a kid, that’s exactly what I wanted to read. I read Forever by Judy Blume when I was in fifth or sixth grade because I knew it had sex in it. When my parents left me alone at home, I went through the adult books in the house looking for sex scenes. My library checked out any book to anyone, and when I was in sixth or seventh grade, I checked out a romance book. Even before the sex started, I knew it was the type of book I was looking for because of the sensual descriptions of clothing.

Many kids are interested in sex, and many kids don’t have access to healthy depictions of sex. Their parents either won’t talk to them about it and/or give them rotten information. Books with sexual content are the only place they’ll get an education. I mean, yes, in reality they’re going online and looking at porn and talking to their friends who are as badly educated as they are, but if they can read a book that depicts a sexual relationship and it’s consequences, isn’t that better?

Judy Blume wrote Forever in 1975 because the only books out there about teenagers having sex ended in tragedy. Her daughter wanted to read something more realistic or at least different. (Side note: I have no proof that’s why she wrote it; I believe I read that many years ago somewhere, but don’t quote me on it). So, Blume wrote a book about teens having sex and detailed (or at least soft-focused) the sex scenes. And while those scenes were incredibly cringey (the guy named his penis Ralph, and I pictured a penis wearing tiny glasses), they showed fairly realistic sex between two inexperienced people. And, how just because you have sex, it doesn’t mean your relationship is going to last. But it doesn’t mean your life is going to be ruined, either.

So, I think sexual content in YA is important. It seems that most YA depicts healthy relationships that focus on consent and protection and the consequences of rushing into things unprepared. I think of how hugely important Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez was in not only portraying gay relationships, but realistically dealt with the consequences for one of the characters when he took risky chances.

Again, not everyone wants to read sexual content. But I also think there’s enough diversity in YA to satisfy everyone.