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leaning on the side of wonder

The Importance of Mary Sue by unwinona

Reblogged from The Fangirl:

"There is a reason that most fanfiction authors, specifically girls, start with a Mary Sue.  It’s because girls are taught that they are never enough.  You can’t be too loud, too quiet, too smart, too stupid.  You can’t ask too many questions or know too many answers.  No one is flocking to you for advice.  Then something wonderful happens.  The girl who was told she’s stupid finds out that she can be a better wizard than Albus Dumbledore.  And that is something very important.  Terrible at sports?  You’re a warrior who does backflips and Legolas thinks you’re THE BEST.   No friends?  You get a standing ovation from Han Solo and the entire Rebel Alliance when you crash-land safely on Hoth after blowing up the Super Double Death Star.  It’s all about you.  Everyone in your favorite universe is TOTALLY ALL ABOUT YOU."


Go read the whole post. WHAT A GREAT POST!!!


Landline - Rainbow Rowell

Full review to come closer to publishing date. 

This book. A lot of feelings. And not so much the swoony first-love kind. More of the "we've been married for 15 years & weathered two kids" and...life, y'all. LIFE. And marriage. And kids. And choices. I CAN SO RELATE TO THIS NOVEL. In some ways this book fell short for me - probably because I loved Fangirl & Attachments so very much, and because this one hit a little too close to home. But in even more ways, this book was excellent BECAUSE it hit a little too close to home. If that makes sense? Her musings on marriage - via the mouthpiece of Georgie and The Magic Fucking Phone - are astute, insightful, funny, and heartbreaking. Everything we've come to expect from a Rainbow Rowell book is there - the quirks & quips, the amazing characters (even the supporting ones). The pop culture. The banter & descriptions that are so wonderfully Rainbow. I don't know how she creates novels that are so very very different but all so equally enjoyable and insightful. I'll read anything she would write because I absolutely love living inside her words & the worlds she creates.

A Treasury of Peter Rabbit and Other Stories

A Treasury of Peter Rabbit and Other Stories - Potter Beatrix

One of the few children's books I've revisited lately with my kids that has held up to the high regard I gave it as a child. I was just as enchanted with the illustrations & stories now as I was back then. I could literally see my daughter falling under the same spell, and of course everyone got much enjoyment over the copious use of "his nuts" etc in The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. #hes9shes5 #itsinevitable

Doll Bones

Doll Bones - Holly Black

Engaging & slightly creepy, with lots of adventure, a bit of supernatural, but most of all a lot of lessons on the intermediate stage of life between childhood & adolescence. Formal review to come. 

UTA: Reading Doll Bones through the lens of its recent Newbery Honor status made for an interesting experience. I already had the book sitting on my shelf when the 2014 awards were announced, and dove in eagerly when I realized it had been given such a high honor. Because of said accolades, I found myself going in with very very high expectations regarding all aspects of the book. Doll Bones - a middle-grade story about three friends on a classic quest with a super creepy doll - was creepily satisfying. But I expected a great deal more quality in terms of the prose and pacing. However, viewed as a whole, the story is a surprisingly astute coming-of-age tale (in this case the muddled time between childhood & adolescence). What it lacks in pacing & narrative elements, it makes up for by tackling some heavy themes of familial loss, the evolution of friendships, and the disillusionments of age and what it means to believe. Despite its emphasis on adventure - Doll Bones is not a fluffy middle-grade fantasy novel. It’s a surprisingly deep, and oddly compelling book, that is sometimes lovely, sometimes heartbreaking, and often deliciously creepy.

“He wondered whether growing up was learning that most stories turned out to be lies.” 

“If they were real, then maybe the world was big enough to have magic in it. And if there was magic — even bad magic, and Zach knew it was more likely that there was bad magic than any good kind — then maybe not everyone had to have a story like his father's, a story like the kind all the adults he knew told, one about giving up and growing bitter. Anything was better than no magic at all.”

“It's not fair. We had a story, and our story was important. And I hate that both of you can just walk away and take part of my story with you and not even care. I hate that you can do what you're supposed to do and I can't. I hate that you're going to leave me behind. I hate that everyone calls it growing up, but it seems like dying. It feels like each of you is being possessed and I'm next.”

“He had read lots of stories where heroes succeeded in spite of long odds, where they accomplished a task that everyone else had failed at. He wondered for the first time about all the people who'd gone before those heroes, about whether they'd been at each other's throats, before everything had gone wrong. He wondered if there was a point where they realized they weren't going to make it, weren't going to beat those long odds--that in the legend that would follow, they were going to be the nameless people that failed.” 

“I thought you needed to be tougher. But I've been thinking that protecting somebody by hurting them before someone else gets the chance isn't the kind of protecting that anybody wants.”

Unite Me

Unite Me - Tahereh Mafi

4 stars for the Destroy Me reread (OHAI, Warner.)


1 star for Fracture Me which can DIAF.


And 2 stars for Juliette's meager journal.


So it's nice to have a print copy of the novellas, ESP as it completes my set & I'll want Tahereh to sign it at YALLfest next year, but what would really have made this worthwhile would have been Ignite Me ch55 from (possible spoiler)'s POV. That would get allllll the stars.


Misbehaving - Tiffany Reisz

I love Tiffany Reisz, and I loved this loose reimagining of Much Ado About Nothing. After spending over a year in her Original Sinners world, this was a fun change of pace from the floggers & clergy of the Eighth Circle :) And I mean that in the best possible way. Beatriz, Ben, and their supporting cast of characters are wonderful - with dialogue and a story arc that's as smart (& funny) as the sex is hot. I shelved this under Smart Smut because it's just that - it's high quality, sex-positive erotica from a gifted writer and story-teller. And by sex positive I mean that both Bea & Ben are are confident in themselves and with each other. They find no shame in their bodies or what they are doing together, and they COMMUNICATE about all of it.


It's a rare find an erotic novel with solid storyline in addition to engaging characters and really well-written sex scenes. I'd read anything Tiffany wrote, and look forward to whatever she offers us next.

All the Truth That's In Me

All the Truth That's in Me - Julie Berry

This book was nothing short of stunning. Compelling. Unique. Even Ms. Berry's authors note at the end is eloquent & full of emotion. There are so many things about this novel that would normally be a complete turn-off for me... But they all came together so beautifully and perfectly that I couldn't put it down. I'll be mulling Judith's story over for a long while. Full review to come.

UTA: A few days later, and I'm still just as impressed by this book as I was when I finished it. I've never read anything like All the Truth That's In Me, and I'm so glad I picked it up. It reminds me of Jellicoe Road (one of my all-time favorite novels) in that it's really tricky to get into (in this case you don't know the time period, location, who the narrator is or who they're speaking to) but if you give it a chance, the payoff is SO SO great. About 1/3 of the way in I gave up overthinking the second person narrative and shifting timeframe, and just absorbed Ms. Berry's sparse-yet-rich prose and it was such a fulfilling read. I was utterly captivated as Judith's story unraveled. Part historical fiction, part thriller, part romance, part family drama, part adventure it's really difficult to assign it to a specific genre. There are so many aspects to the novel and Berry masterfully weaves everything together - all the little details, and shifting timelines, etc - with stunning prose. 

This novel was a rare treat, and I am so glad I put it on my TBR list. All the Truth That's in Me will most certainly be a reread later on, and I will be seeking out Ms. Berry's other novels as well. 

“Did we risk our lives to defend a just society, where guilt must be proven and not assumed? Or are we no better than the oppressive kings from whom our fathers fled?” 

“If I thought I could never love you more, I didn't understand you well enough.”

Best Kind of Broken

Best Kind of Broken - Chelsea Fine

3.5 Stars.

Best Kind of Broken hits all the typical New Adult benchmarks: brooding, damaged main characters with tragic pasts. Peppy-yet-intuitive sidekicks who attempt to be the voice of truth. Missing &/or inattentive parents. Main characters who are so damaged & angsty that they're rendered completely indecisive about their futures - which leaves them loads of time to run into one another in various stages of dress, all the while working up the courage to just talk about the tragedy from their past. And of course, this all builds much unresolved sexual tension. Oh the UST! And the angst. So very much of both of these!

Which would lead anyone reading this review to think I didn't like the book - which is completely wrong. I tore through Pixie & Levi's story in a day & a half dying to know what their Big! Secret! Past! was all about & just how they were going to resolve all that sexual tension. The writing is higher-quality than many others I've read in the New Adult genre, and Fine does a nice job with the alternating viewpoint. She reveals the Big Tragic Past later than most NAs, which worked well for me and I found that I really liked and rooted for both of the main characters. Pixie wasn't a doormat or a Mary Sue, and while she was, in effect, waiting for her hero to come along, it fit with the specific plot & her history with Levi & didn't make her come across as weak. And oh the swoons. Many many swoons to Levi. 

The main issue I had with Best Kind of Broken: the ending wrapped up entirely too neatly and much too quickly. Fine did a nice job with pacing right up to the very end. Even after the Big Reveal midway through, her pacing didn't fall flat. It felt like a big letdown after the steady build-up she created though out the novel.

All in all a nice read. As a sucker for angst & UST & steamy resolution, I enjoyed it a lot & will put the next one on my TBR list. Would make a great summer/beach read. Fans of Colleen Hoover, Huntley Fitzpatrick, and Tammara Webber will enjoy this book.

*ARC provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Staking His Claim

Staking His Claim (A Line of Duty Novel) (Entangled Brazen) - Tessa Bailey

I think I've read too much BDSM (both good AND bad) to really get behind the premise of this book. I really liked Matt & Lucy, but Matt's "I like it rough, but that makes me bad" schtick is rather old. It's not like he's looking for a dungeon & someone to dress in head to toe latex... he just has strong dominant tendencies in bed & needs to figure out that doesn't make him bad. Lucy is a strong, self-aware female who knows what she wants. She can handle it. And she likes it... a lot.  But of course Matt's self-flagellation gets in the way. I guess I'd rather have seen him be a hard-core dom looking for a partner & coming to terms with his needs rather than what we saw in this story. I really liked Lucy a lot though, and when they did hit the sheets, there was some nice dirty-talk. Dialogue felt awkward in places & I guess I just didn't love this as much as I loved a couple of Bailey's previous books. 

The Cavendish Home for Boys & Girls

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls - Claire Legrand

I wanted to like this book so badly. I love Claire LeGrand, and I'm dying to read Winterspell and Flights & Chimes... but Mrs. Cavendish just didn't do it for me like I'd hoped. It was very very dark, which I don't usually mind, if there's a point to it. And there didn't seem to be. I absolutely hated Victoria, the main character, at first. But it's a testament to Ms. LeGrand's writing that she could make what is essentially a less-flamboyant Veruca Salt likable in the end. I struggled to get behind Victoria from the beginning, and I finally gave up and got comfortable with what I saw has her flaws. In that aspect, the book was a nice ride & I appreciate the author for making me see so much more to her character than I initially found.


There's a lot of creep in Mrs. Cavendish, and a lot of adults doing very bad things. Much what goes on in the Home is vague & LeGrand's descriptive passages aren't strong enough for the reader to visualize things in their head, nor are they strong enough to further the mystery. They just left me confused. There are enough hints to make you wonder what is really going on - I had a whole litany of questions in my head as I read - but there's never much resolution or explanation. It felt like the entire run of the LOST tv series, mashed up with some asylum horror films, under the guise of a Roald Dahl-esque children's book. A lot of confusion & really dark stuff, but not enough magic & wonder to pull it off.

Making Faces

Making Faces - Amy Harmon

Making Faces was a really nice surprise in terms of the New Adult genre (which seems to be 90% eye-rolling melodrama) as well as the fact that it's self-published. Despite some predictable elements to the plot, Making Faces was a lovely read. The story unfolds in pieces, building Fern, Ambrose, and Bailey's entertwined pasts until we're in the present and everything comes to a head. The prose was sometimes flat, and there was some telling-not-showing, but then there were moments - and passages - that were really profound & poignant. What Ms. Harmon lacks in prose she makes up for by creating well-rounded characters and building the plot in careful layers. So much NA is heavy on relationship angst and drama, but Making Faces was all about longing & growing up & the heartbreak of life & moving forward. 

"I've loved you since you quoted Hamlet like you understood him, since you said you loved ferris wheels more than roller coasters because life shouldn't be lived at full speed, but in anticipation and appreciation."

“She decided she would just be a fairy because she liked the option of flying without the responsibility of saving the world.”

Gone Girl

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

I'm so conflicted. On one hand, the writing, the layering & unfolding of the story, the utter batshit-craziness of the main characters... it's brilliant. The sheer amount of work Flynn must have put in to give Nick & Amy & Diary Amy their respective voices - and particularly crafting the details of the crime & resolution - is pretty incredible. Such despicable terrible people. I found her musings on the Midwest as expressed through Amy's observations, interesting, as well. So so many quotable one-liners & societal commentary in general. 

But the ending? It fell so far short for me that I can't manage to be excited. It felt like the book was essentially a metaphor for Nick - everything finally kowtows under the weight of Amy. As if Nick AND the ending just gave up. Gave in. Like they couldn't hold up under the impressive weight of the first 2/3 of the story (or Amy). I needed some resolution - or even a hint of one. Just something insinuating that Nick & Boney & Tanner & Go - or god, even Mrs. Collings - would nail the bitch down the road & Amy would get her just desserts. Or Nick. They were both despicable people. I'd even have settled for something simple & out of the blue like Amy falling down the stairs & snapping her neck a year later... It was all so absurd that choosing to end it that way just did not make sense. And maybe that was Flynn's intent, that sometimes terrible, ridiculous things happen & bad people get away with it & go on with their lives... But for all the pop & sizzle & execution of the first part of the book, I expected to be really gobsmacked at the end. 

I want to give it all the stars for the writing & nuanced layering of both plot & characterization, but the ending should have made what was a hell of a ride a lot more worthwhile. I'm glad to hear that for the movie, Fincher & Flynn have scrapped the last 1/3 of the book entirely & are going from scratch. 

“It’s a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters.” 

“Tampon commercial, detergent commercial, maxi pad commercial, windex commercial - you'd think all women do is clean and bleed.”

His Risk To Take

His Risk to Take - Tessa Bailey

This was by far my least favorite of Tessa Bailey's "Line of Duty" series. Or maybe my fever/flu has finally subsided enough for me to see clearly. IDK. From the outset, I really wanted to like Troy - he has the saddest backstory so I thought it would be interesting to see how Bailey would mesh that part of his past with the way she writes her typically dominant male protagonists. Unfortunately what I thought could be an interestingly sweet-but-alpha character turned out to be completely unbelievable for me. It was like a switch when he got into the bedroom & his brand of dirty-talk just didn't do it for me. Ruby didn't do much for me either, maybe it was the "busting the crime lord from her past" plot line that didn't interest me, or the continued bad choices she kept making, or maybe it was the fact that this was the third one of these I read in a row... I also realized that this was her second installment in the series and having read them out of order, this might account for the slightly stilted writing & choppy dialoge when compared to Officer Off Limits & Asking for Trouble. The rest of the series can easily be enjoyed without this one.

Asking For Trouble

Asking for Trouble - Tessa Bailey

After the highly enjoyable Protecting What's His (cheesy titles, cheesy covers, sigh), I happily moved on to the next installment - and as it turns out thanks to the labeling on Amazon, I read these entirely out of order. Not that it mattered much at all, but after some confusion & double-checking I enjoyed the slight overlap of characters from the previous books, as well as the unique backstory given to each couple. Brent & Hayden were really enjoyable as a pairing - great banter, some nice humor, great chemistry, great dirty talk. Not as much insta-love as Protecting What's His, and the Stuart blackmail plot line was pretty flimsy (esp at the end) but all in all another fun read. Bailey writes excellent filthy talking characters, and Brent doesn't fail to disappoint. 

Protecting What's His

Protecting What's His (A Line of Duty Novel) - Tessa Bailey

I think it may have been due to my fever/flu induced stupor that I loved nearly every smuttastic page of this, despite the insta-love between the characters & the poor choices made by Ginger, and the major alpha-male streak running a mile wide with Derek. All the things I'd normally be against just kind of went out the window when Derek started running his filthy mouth. I'd previously read Officer Off Limits & found some of her "outside the bedroom" dialogue ultra-cheesy. I was happy to find Tessa's writing much improved in this installment. Bailey's books are formulaic (aren't most adult romance titles?), but aside from that, her stories are smexy fun with some crazy hot - and creative - dirty talk. A highly enjoyable departure from the contemporary lit streak I'd been on.


Doubled - Charlotte Stein

I gave Charlotte Stein one last shot & it's official - her stuff is just not for me. I know a lot of my fellow readers love her, but I just cannot get on board (though I really liked Addicted). Her female protagonists are always SO up in their own heads, they can't vocalize any of their thoughts (which is critical in a menage situation) and her sexytimes are so formulaic they just don't make up for it. I'm chalking this mistake up to the onset of the flu, and it must have been the delirium of my fever that even allowed me to finish it.