Women are held to more rigorous standards when it comes to their appearance, and it's a losing battle. We all get older: it's an inevitable by-product of growing up & gaining maturity - so why are women the ones who are punished for it; the ones who are mocked for either not trying or trying too hard; the ones who are criticized, debased, sexualized, and dehumanized?
It occurred to me recently that I hadn't read any poetry since I picked up Edna St. Vincent Millay's THE HARP WEAVER. When I saw this on Netgalley, I rejoiced inwardly because it seemed like such a relatable, tongue-in-cheek concept. A book that mocks the concept of growing older as a woman and light-heartedly pokes fun at double-standards? I could not wait.
Now, having read it, I am of two minds. On the one hand, I feel obligated to point out that this is a collection of poetry and not an original work of new, fresh poetry. The contributors to this effort are diverse and range in style and period, from Amy Poehler to Shakespeare, and do not mesh particularly well - especially not if you went into this book as I did expecting something else.
The tone of this book felt off to me. It is divided into various sections, depicting different attitudes regarding one's descent (or ascent) into old age. Each section has a forward, which is very sarcastic in a pop-culture-laden Cosmopolitan op-ed sort of way. This is at odds with the poems themselves, many of which are serious in tone. Some of my favorites in here - Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, Margaret Atwood - are almost morose, and I feel like the tongue-in-cheek intros act at odds with the sober, speculative content of the poetry.
I've said this many times: one of the problems with many anthologies is that it is difficult to find content that manages to stand out without contrasting in a jarring way. There are always going to be some additions that outshine the others, and some that drag down the rest. I understand the difficulty of being an editor for such a collection. The way HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? was curated definitely falls prey to this tendency. The poems are so different in tone that they clash, and there's no rhyme or reason to them, apart from the motif of growing older and feeling sad or insecure or accepting of this.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
Remember when TWILIGHT was at the height of its popularity, and people began opening up Wikipedia to search for paranormal creatures to have fall in love with some ditzy teenage girl so they could write the Next Big YA Paranormal Romance, too? Yeah. I think we all remember the "girls in prom dresses" period of YA fiction. Those were dark times, my friends. Dark, dark times.
I feel like ASHES ON THE WAVES is definitely influenced by TWILIGHT. The male love interest speaks in an archaic way and seems a bit too naive. He also tries and fails to convince the heroine to stay away from him because he's dangerous, although in this case it's because he might be a demon instead of a vampire. The heroine, by contrast, is a pretty girl without a lot of substance. She moves from a big city to a dreary, isolated small town - except instead of the Olympic Peninsula, it's an island sandwiched between Scotland and Ireland and entrenched in Celtic folklore.
Liam, the hero, is regarded by everyone on Dorcha with suspicion because they think he killed his mom at birth (like, legit killed her, with scratch marks and gushing blood and everything). He's drop-dead gorgeous, has a paralyzed arm, and has absolutely zero knowledge about the world. He's so sheltered and naive that when he gets jealous over a girl, he thinks his anger is a result of a demon possessing him. Everyone on Dorcha wants him dead, and most of them try.
Anna, the heroine, is a rich heiress who lives in the big mansion on the island. She's being exiled because of some racy behavior she displayed in her parents' ritzy circles. She doesn't really have much of a personality. Her two conflicts in this book are 1. fall in love with Liam and 2. act out because her parents don't love her enough. She and Liam even meet when he stops her from jumping off a cliff. Ashes on the Waves? More like Ashes on the New Moon. *tips wineglass*
The paranormal element in this book is interesting, but not utilized very well. Here you have creatures like Na Fir Ghorm, the Cailleach, the Bean Sidhe, and Selkies - and what do they spend their time doing? Making bets on the purity of the love between two teenagers. I am not kidding. We're talking Shipping Wars. Mary Lindsey turned the Fae into a crude facsimile of Tumblr.
Likewise, the Edgar Allan Poe connection is also tenuous. I liked the snippets of poetry at the beginning of each chapter and the book itself is supposed to be a retelling of Annabel Lee, but it feels kind of weird to base a book on a song...especially when you have all the Fae stuff thrown in as well. The author had some creative ideas but she ended up throwing them all together in the hopes that they would fit, and they really didn't. It was not a cohesive effort by any means, in my opinion.
"Just go with it" me enjoyed how easy it was to read this book. "Feminist" me was annoyed by the instant love, the lack of development of the female character, and the fact that a fourteen-year-old is engaged to and then almost raped by a man twice her age, because on this island, due to the shortage of men, it's apparently okay to marry children to adults. Even though this takes place in the twenty-first century. "Amateur critic" me was annoyed by all the other things, like the characterization, the cheesy plot, and that bizarro ending.
Seriously, what was that ending. I looked to see if there was a sequel because I thought I was missing something important, but nope; I guess that's how it ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper.
I have to admit to a certain amount of fascination with stories revolving around high school drama. I was on the fringe of my high school social scene & didn't really get mixed up in any of the "he said, she said..." nonsense, so whenever I read books like these I feel like a scientist discovering a fancy new phenomenon. "What is this?" I ask myself. "What does this mean?"
#SCANDAL is a bizarre YA contemporary that revolves around many different topics. Lucy is the sister of a famous celebrity (although nobody is aware of the connection). She's also hopelessly in love with her best friend Ellie's boyfriend, Cole. Since Ellie gets sick on the night of their school dance, she asks Lucy to essentially babysit her boyfriend for her. Alcohol gets involved. The party gets knocked up a notch. And then somebody decides to take pictures and post them on social media.
There's a Gossip Girl-like angle in the form of Miss Demeanor, a high school gossip Facebook fanpage where a mysterious individual posts gossip about the student body in a snarky, tongue-in-cheek tone. It's a bit savage but mostly harmless - until Lucy's pictures get leaked on her Facebook profile & tagged, and somebody creates a site called "Juicy Lucy." Suddenly, Lucy - the stereotypical geek/hipster/alt-girl - is branded a slut, catcalled in the halls, and ostracized by her friends, all because of a few pictures being pasted on her social media.
The story then branches out as Lucy not only tries to navigate her complex relationships with her new boyfriend, estranged celebrity sister, and newly ex-best-friends, but also figure out who took the compromising pictures of her and set up the petty website and also who the identity of Miss Demeanor really is.
I was disappointed with how the bullying is handled in this book. I didn't feel like the principal took it seriously. I didn't even feel like Lucy took it seriously. People were throwing things at her in class and pasting stuff on her locker and chanting the word "slut" at her in the hallways. And yet, Lucy doesn't really react to any of it in a believable way and neither do the authority figures - in fact, they suggest it's Lucy's fault. I know blaming the victim is a real issue and I would not fault the book for that, except that by the end of the book, we're led to believe that it is, in fact, partly Lucy's fault. Lucy also feels very distant from the bullying and doesn't have a lot of emotional depth as a character.
Despite its many faults, I enjoyed this book. It had a wide array of characters and while they were all a bit too quirky and affected to be truly believable, I enjoyed the banter between them. There was just the right amount of drama to keep things interesting and Ockler is a good enough writer that I kept turning the pages in a secure state of suspension of disbelief. If you're looking for something light for purely entertainment, #SCANDAL is not a bad choice.
Don't even care what it's about. I have to have it because of the dramatic Fabio angel on the cover treating his wings like they're a cape & he thDon't even care what it's about. I have to have it because of the dramatic Fabio angel on the cover treating his wings like they're a cape & he thinks he's the Batman....more
I will be the first to admit that I know almost nothing about the Amish. My knowledge is limited to Devil's Playground (2002), which I was forced to watch in high school, and my friends' reviews of Amish romance novels because prior to now, I had never actually picked one up myself. My romance book club is doing this 50-category challenge designed to broaden our reading horizons, however, and one of the categories is "Amish romance." Conveniently enough, I found the first three books in the Amish YA romance "Temptation" series for sale for $3.
I wasn't going into this book with high expectations. Based on the summary, I was expecting something a forbidden romance sketched along the lines of TWILIGHT, only instead of being a vampire, the love interest was Amish. My suspicions were on fleek: Rose and Noah fall in love on sight and the entire novel consists of their being tortured of never being apart of the other's world unless they give up their own forever. Fine, okay. I was cool with that, and hoping to learn about the Amish community and maybe enjoy a fluffy but unrealistic love story shared between two teens.
Instead, I got a pretty unhealthy, almost emotionally abusive relationship between two horribly unlikable characters, with a side order of misogyny, slut-shaming, and bad life choices.
Noah is attracted to Rose but isn't happy with her the way she is. There's always a qualifier: that she's too wild, that she needs to be changed. He expects her to give up her entire way of living to convert to being Amish so he can marry her, when they've known each other for only a few weeks, and he's not afraid to criticize her or put her down in order to rationalize his thoughts.
She shouldn't be alone in a public place like this. It wasn't safe or appropriate with all the men around here (96).
Somehow I'd have to curb her impulses and make her listen to me. But it was for her good - I'd heard all kinds of stories about what happened to women out there among the English (98).
Pretty much every woman in this book is just awful, except for Sarah, Noah's sister. The jealous Amish girl who wants to court Noah calls Rose a "hure." Rose's brother, Sam, calls his father's girlfriend"some ho you picked up at a bar" (163). Rose refers to her father's girlfriend as "Her" and "Dad's plaything" and emotionally blackmails her father about his guilt over the relationship (their mother's dead) to leverage getting a new puppy and sneaking around with her boyfriend. Hypocrisy? Oh, I think so. But it isn't just her father's girlfriend who gets the flak. Rose calls her brother's girlfriends "bimbos" and "Barbies" many, many times. It's really disgusting.
The abusive relationship
Noah makes Rose feel bad about herself in an attempt to sway her to his way of thinking. He implies that she dresses too slutty (not in those exact words - he couches it in good intentions, saying that his family would think better of her if she comports herself well); wears too much makeup; and even says that he wouldn't want her to cut her hair.
"But you would never cut your hair short, would you?" His face was serious again and his voice sounded frustrated for some strange reason (172).
"I think English women are too willing to make battles out of things they don't need to." He was hard-faced again (173).
"You shouldn't put yourself into the kind of situation that could get you into trouble - or cause the others to think poorly of you" (211).
It's also pretty damn clear that he sees her family as the enemy, an obstacle.
Shaking his head, [Rose's brother] said, "It's ridiculous for you to expect Rose to give up her freedom so she can be with you. Dude. It ain't going to work. I'm just warning you." I didn't like what he said. I suddenly say not only my family as an obstacle to a marriage with Rose but also her family, and especially her older brother. I had underestimated his interest in the matter (191).
When she fights him about converting to being Amish, he slut-shames her.
"What's the problem, Rose? Is it that you don't want to miss out on driving a car or going to your rock concerts? Or maybe you can't stand the thought of never being able to dance for all the English men again" (259).
Then it gets disturbing. He starts thinking about ways to force her - and her family - to marry her to him.
But as much as I wanted to do it, I couldn't physically force her to submit to me (277).
He considers impregnating her to force a shotgun marriage.
Another idea had briefly penetrated my brain - getting her with child. My folks and her dad would be forced to allow us to marry (277).
By the way? Rose is sixteen.
But Noah thinks the baby idea is a great one, and proposes it to Rose, who gets upset. When she refuses, he has this to say:
"I don't see any other way for us to be together. So if you don't want to try that option, and you don't want to become Amish...then I guess it's over between us" (281).
Rose tries to date someone else after they break up, but isn't attracted to him the way she is to Noah. Likewise, Noah considers courting Ella from his community - the girl who called Rose "hure" - but is repulsed by their kiss and ends up ditching her and their families early.
When he goes to rescue Rose from a party she's miserable at, he gets into a buggy crash with a semi and ends up at the hospital. Rose is so distraught at the thought of losing him forever that she immediately gives in to all his terms, agreeing not just to converting to being Amish but also:
"I'd even go through with the - you know - baby idea you had, if you think it would help" (352).
The book cheerfully ends with Rose getting sent off to live with another Amish family to prepare for her conversion to Amish life.
I really tried to read this with an open mind. I was amenable to "Amish TWILIGHT," even if it ended in marriage. Hell, I wanted to like the book - I'd bought books 1-3 in the series, so it would be pretty miserable for me if I didn't - but I couldn't. It made me angry and frustrated. Rose was such an awful character. Noah was an annoying, manipulative character. The treatment of all the female characters was abhorrent. The Amish weren't portrayed very favorably, either, in my opinion, with Noah's parents being portrayed as hypocrites; the Amish girls as oppressed victims; and the other Amish boys as creeps (two of them express their intentions to sexually assault Rose). The only characters I really sympathized with in this book was Sarah, Noah's sister, and Rose's father, Dr. Cameron. They were the only truly likable characters in here.
Your may very well feel differently, and if that is the case, I respect you for it. However, if the quotes I provided upset you or annoy you, you should probably find a different Amish book to read. I'm still trying to decide whether or not I want to read the second and third books in this series. What do you guys think? Should I continue?
CHAINED was an impulse item from the free section of the Kindle store. Part of the allure - apart from it being, you know, free - was the prospect of a historical interracial romance. The perspectives of people of color are sorely lacking in most historical romances (the only authors I can think of offhand who write them with any regularity are Courtney Milan and Beverly Jenkins), so this was a huge selling point for me.
I was therefore annoyed when I began reading the book and realized that it wasn't "A Medieval Historical Romance" as advertised on the title, but a medieval-inspired fantasy.
Those are two very different things.
Putting my annoyance aside, I continued to read the book despite its deceptive packaging, and found to my surprise that CHAINED was actually a pretty decent story. It is set in a world called Alemere. The heroine, Gwen, comes from a country called Dinasdale. Her people are proud of their royal heritage and lean towards archery. The hero, Caden, comes from Daleraia. His people are less refined, ruthless, and brutal. Unlike the Dinasdalians, they have no gods; their sword is law.
Gwen is engaged to a prince from Lerrothe, but her wedding night is unsatisfactory. She doesn't really want to be a princess, anyway. She is a skilled archer: when we meet her in the beginning, she shoots five men in her father's woods for attempting to rape a girl. In her father's absence, she is the word of Dinasdale, so when a band of Daleraians are brought in after a woman in her kingdom is raped and murdered - allegedly by a member of the Daleraian noble family, Gwen has to decide what to do with them. She decides to imprison them but keep them in good condition for ransom. Caden ends up imprisoned in Gwen's own quarters because of his constant attempts to escape.
It doesn't take Gwen and Caden long to realize that both events - the rape and murder and Gwen's own wedding - might be the byproducts of the sinister machinations of someone attempting to sow discord in Alemere, thereby breaking the tentative peace between Dinasdale and Daleraia. It also doesn't take long for them to realize that they have a rather potent attraction to one another, either.
I enjoyed this story. It's reminiscent of GAME OF THRONES in some ways, and the court intrigue is well done. I liked Gwen's character. She is a strong woman with good political sense, who isn't afraid of her sensuality. She killed five men and kneed a would-be rapist in the testicles. She never did anything in the book that made me shake my head and say, "Well, that was stupid!" She was bad-ass.
I was less impressed with Cade's character. There is an OW and Cade does get kind of wishy-washy about her and Gwen, although it's always clear who he prefers more. Plus, he does something very stupid towards the end. When Gwen falls under suspicion he's forced to imprison her and insists on doing it himself so he can explain the reason why to her. He doesn't do this. Instead, he has sex with her, lets her fall asleep, and when she wakes up, basically says, "Congrats! You're going to jail!"
Overall, CHAINED is one of the better finds I've gotten from the "free" section of the Kindle store, which can be a bit of a crapshoot. I would recommend it for people looking for a fun, light fantasy read. The author really needs to change that "Medieval Historical Romance" tagline, though. I can't imagine that I'm the only person who felt cheated when they found themselves reading fantasy...
Also, there is a cliffhanger ending, in case you're curious.