BLOG TOUR: The Beholder by Anna Bright

The BeholderThe Beholder
by Anna Bright
Release Date: June 4th, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retellings

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SYNOPSIS: Selah has waited her whole life for a happily ever after. As the only daughter of the leader of Potomac, she knows her duty is to find the perfect match, a partner who will help secure the future of her people. Now that day has finally come.

But after an excruciatingly public rejection from her closest childhood friend, Selah’s stepmother suggests an unthinkable solution: Selah must set sail across the Atlantic, where a series of potential suitors awaits—and if she doesn’t come home engaged, she shouldn’t come home at all.

From English castle gardens to the fjords of Norge, and under the eye of the dreaded Imperiya Yotne, Selah’s quest will be the journey of a lifetime. But her stepmother’s schemes aren’t the only secrets hiding belowdecks…and the stakes of her voyage may be higher than any happy ending.

EXCERPT:

The Beholder: 1
Once upon a time always began on nights like tonight.

Candles flickered in the trees that grew up through the marble floors of Arbor Hall, setting aglow the faces of the partygoers beneath them and the garlands of shattered glass sparkling in their intermingled branches. My heart beat like a hummingbird trapped between my breastbone and spine.

I ducked behind an old oak climbed over with ivy, hiding for a moment from the music and all the people, careful to avoid the gap carved around its trunk.

Tonight wasn’t truly a beginning. I’d loved Peter forever, even if I’d never told him so. Tonight was growth—a page turned. Tonight, I would reap from seeds I’d sown and tended half my life.

Tonight, I’d go to sleep with a ring on my finger and my future clear before me. Confident in the promise that tomorrow and the next day and the next would be happy days, always the same, always close to the ones I loved. Ready to do my duty by Potomac and take my place as its head someday, with someone strong and trustworthy at my side. Just as soon as Peter said yes.

I tugged an ivy vine loose with shaky fingers, looped it into a wreath, and pinned it over the loose ponytail I’d made of my curls.

Tonight, whispered my heart. You’re getting engaged tonight.

My breath came fast at the thought, my knees practically knocking together.

Momma had told me the story of my birthday a hundred times. On the night I was born, she paced here in Arbor Hall beneath the trees, pleading with me to leave the safety of her womb and enter the world.

It was a wild, wonderful, magical place, she said. Back aching, ankles swollen, she walked through the forest sheltered beneath the hall’s marble dome and whispered stories to where I waited in her belly, as if to prove it to me.

The tale of the Beauty and the Beast, of the girl who rode off into danger to save her father. The story of the girl so kind to a fairy in disguise that her voice rained flowers and pearls all around her.

Through the years, Momma would tell me those stories again and again. Those, and so many more, as we sat in the shade of the trees outside or in the cool of this very hall.

I only wished she were here to see what would happen tonight.

A hundred couples in wreaths like mine and their finest clothes danced under the great Arbor at the center of the room. Hundreds more wove between dogwoods veiled in bridal white and river birches sloughing off their bark like old paper. Here and there I spotted people I knew. The designer who’d made my gown was radiant in her own, its pale pink silk looking soft as a rose petal against her gleaming dark skin as she danced with her husband, a well-to-do farmer. Nearby, a group of boys and girls I knew from school were laughing, faces flushed as they kept up with the music. Dr. Gold and Dr. Pugh, my father’s physicians, stood beneath a willow to one side of the room, debating something I couldn’t hear.

I took a long breath, squeezed the rosary in my pocket, and stepped out to join them all.

So many people—but of course I bumped into him. Into Peter.

Finding him in a crowd was inevitable, like everything else about us.

Peter flashed a tight grin as he regained his balance, steadying the laurel crown in his tight black curls and straightening his jacket. “Hi, Selah. You look nice.”

He didn’t look nice. With his skin glowing smooth and soft brown in the candlelight beneath the oak, dressed in tweed and smelling like springtime, he was so handsome I could hardly meet his eyes. My nerves flared, and I fought the urge to hide from him like a child.

We hadn’t exactly talked before Daddy extended the proposal, and I’d acted bright and busy and distracted when I’d run into him in the fortnight since.

I could never have told Peter outright how I felt.

Peter Janesley. Six feet tall, black, with curly hair and a strong nose and full lips. Shoulders that tended to round when he was thinking, his father’s light brown eyes, his mother’s careful hands. Peter, the boy who was brilliant at math and at sports and didn’t feel compelled to pretend he was bad at either. Who could’ve been friends with anyone, but who never made anyone feel invisible. When I was fourteen, I’d learned how to graft roses from his mother just to spend time at his house. The day Sister Elizabeth scolded me till I cried over an algebra test, he’d helped me at their kitchen table until I understood everything I’d gotten wrong.

“Perfect!” he’d said. “I knew you could get this.” He’d tapped the problems with his finger, a smile stretching wide beneath his broad cheekbones. I’d tried not to blush.

Peter was smart, and earnest, and kind. After we’d finished studying, he’d cut us both a piece of cake and we’d sat for half an hour on his porch, cross-legged opposite from one another in the rising twilight. Cicadas hummed and buzzed as the light melted off the facade of the Janesleys’ home and the abelias and roses brushing the porch rail.

Once, I made him laugh. Peter had rocked back, lovely fingers clasping his knees, mouth open to show the perfect gap in his teeth, and I’d wanted to trap the moment in a jar like a firefly.

After that, we were friends, and I clung to the fact like a trophy. After I made a perfect score on my next algebra test, he hugged me in front of everyone and ruffled my hair. “Knew you could do it,” he’d said, pointing at me as he backed away, making for his next class.

My feelings built themselves from a hundred little moments like these, rising like a castle in the distance, every humble stone growing into something I could already imagine. Into something on the horizon I’d eventually reach.

And here he was. My past and my future, standing right in front of me.

“Peter!” I blurted. “Ah—thank you. You look nice, too,” I added, remembering his compliment. He huffed a laugh and put his hands in his back pockets. The jacket strained a little over his shoulders. “How are you?”

“Fine. Good.” He nodded. “You?”

“All right,” I said.

Maybe if I said it enough, I’d believe I wasn’t shaking like a leaf.

I wanted to come out with it all—to blurt out exactly what I was thinking and feeling, to explain why he’d heard it all first through our parents and not from me, to see easy confidence in his eyes again. But somehow, I couldn’t say any of it.

Later, I thought. Once we were alone, with the public spectacle over, we’d talk. There would be nothing but the truth between us, and the future ahead.

The music quieted, and Arbor Hall’s doors swung open. Peter dropped his voice. “I need to go find my parents before it starts.” He raised his eyebrows, as if asking for my approval. I sent him away with a nod and a smile.

Soon enough, we’d have all the time in the world.



Anna BrightABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
I believe in woods, mountains, highways, cobblestones, roller coasters, dancing, concerts, cherry Pop Tarts, books, and magic.

When I’m not reading or writing on my couch, I’m dragging my husband off on an adventure, communing with Salem (my kitten/spiritual familiar), or causing trouble at One More Page Books, where I work.

Website|Goodreads|Twitter|Tumblr|Instagram


Fantastic Flying Book Club 2

Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

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7 best YA couples of all time (this is completely subjective)

My little brother’s getting married today! Obviously, I’m not writing this on his wedding day, though. Like a good blogger, I have pre-scheduled content for this weekend including yesterday’s review of Bloodwitch. But I’m getting away from myself. In honor of my baby brother’s wedding day, I wanted to post my top 7 (he was born on the 7th) YA couples of all time! (In my opinion). Happy wedding day, B! (He doesn’t read this blog, but whatever).

Best YA Couples

1) Amy and Roger from Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

This is such an ultimate road trip book and I love it! Roger is super respectful of Amy the entire trip and when they finally get together it’s so satisfying. I love all the different playlists throughout and it’s so fun to watch them get to know each other and fall in love.

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

2) August and Kate from the Monsters of Verity duology by Victoria Schwab

These two never really get together, but I still love them as a couple. I feel like they’re really well-suited for each other–I have a hard time imagining anyone else being able to understand either of them. They just seem really perfect.

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

3) Blue and Gansey from The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue and Gansey spend so much time in this series not actually together and while it can be frustrating at times, it also makes their inevitable relationship that much more satisfying. We know they’re fated to be with each other right from the beginning and I loved watching their relationship grow over the four books.

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

4) Dario and Khalila from The Great Library series by Rachel Caine

These two! What a pair! Dario is so ridiculous, but he shows an unexpected tender side whenever Khalila is involved. And Khalila, for her part, doesn’t put up with any of Dario’s crap. She loves him, but she’s not going to let him get away with ANYTHING.

eBook | Paperback

5) Eril-Fane and Azareen from the Strange the Dreamer duology by Laini Taylor

I almost chose Lazlo and Sarai from this book, but then I remembered Eril-Fane and Azareen. While Lazlo and Sarai have a sweet new love, Eril-Fane and Azareen have a deep and tragic love. Reading about their relationship throughout the two books is so heartbreaking. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I love the way this mature relationship is portrayed in these books.

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

6) Cress and Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

One of my OTPs. These guys are definitely perfect for each other. They compliment each other so nicely and I love how tender Thorne is with Cress. She needs someone who will be gentle with her, but also acknowledge all the ways in which she is strong–Thorne is able to do that perfectly.

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

7) Remy and Dexter from This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

You knew there was going to be a Sarah Dessen couple on here, right?!? I wanted to pick Macy and Wes so bad, but in the end I had to go with Remy and Dexter. They are the ultimate example of opposites attracting. I love the way Dexter brings out the less serious side of Remy while Remy does a good job of being an anchor to the relationship.

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

Any of your guys’ favorite couples make it on my list? Anyone you think I missed?

MOVIE TRAILER: The Sun is Also a Star

A lot of you may have already seen this, but the trailer for The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon dropped yesterday. You’ll have to tell me what you think since I haven’t actually read the book myself yet…

So….what do you guys think? Does it look like it’s going to be as good as the book (which I’ve only heard good things about)? Do you think they chose the right people to play the main characters? I, personally, love an Asian actor as the romantic male lead–I know that wasn’t really a casting decision since I think the character was written as Asian, but still.

And this is probably your last chance to purchase the book before the movie tie-in version is everywhere.

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

Let me know what your reaction is in the comments!

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TSIAAS Movie Trailer.PNG

Discussion: Thoughts on YA Novellas and Short Stories

I’ve noticed a trend over the last few years where YA authors are putting out lots of novellas and short stories to accompany their series. Examples:

throne of glass novellas

The selection novellas

Please tell me, WHO ASKED FOR THESE??? I already have a hard enough time reading all of the books in a series, but now I have to read all of these novellas and short stories too? I know that I don’t HAVE to read them–nobody’s forcing me. But it feels like if the author’s putting it out there, then maybe I’m supposed to get additional information about characters or events from these stories.

However, I’ve found that a lot of times reading the extra material does not help or change my viewpoints about characters or events. If the events in the short story or novella were so important, then the author should have included that information in the book/series to begin with. To be completely honest–and I don’t really like feeling this way–it feels to me like these short stories and novellas are published purely to make more money by milking an idea that’s working for all that it’s worth. And that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth where that author is concerned. I feel like I, as a reader, am being taken advantage of.

kim kardashian money gif

So my position is that these little “extras” are unnecessary and just create added stress as a reader (not to mention cost, because libraries don’t often carry these–you actually have to buy them). Let’s think about one of the greatest series that has ever been: Harry Potter. If she wanted to, J.K. Rowling could 100% write a million more stories about day-to-day life at Hogwarts featuring a variety of characters. But she hasn’t. Sure, she’s fleshed out the world and made movies, etc. but she hasn’t done anything else with Harry, Ron, and Hermione and their time at Hogwarts. If she wanted to, I know for a fact that people would pay for that. So why hasn’t she chosen to do that while many lesser known and less popular authors with smaller fandoms have?

At the end of the day, I’m just sitting here pleading for authors to give me the whole story in one or two books (three max). I don’t have time to read four, five, eight book series anymore and I certainly don’t have time to read 50-100 page novellas and short stories.

What are your opinions on YA short stories and novellas? Are you a fan? Why do you think authors write them? Let me know in the comments!

Buzz Books 2018 | Young Adult Spring/Summer (part 1/2)

NetGalley puts out this great compilation every season of some of the hot new Young Adult books that will be coming out. Here are my thoughts on the first 6 books featured and be on the lookout for my thoughts on the next 6. As always, covers link to Goodreads.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes (7/10)

FawkesCover: I’m not super jazzed about this cover. It looks like it’s going to be a bad fairy tale retelling. Other than that, I have no indication of what this book might be about. What genre is it even? Fantasy? Historical Fiction? It could be horror for all I know. 3/10

Premise: This is literally the summary, “Nadine Brandes thrusts readers back to the time of anarchy and Guy Fawkes, with fantastical twists and unlikely love in Fawkes.” That still gives me almost nothing. I’ve heard of Guy Fawkes, but I have no idea who he is or what he did. I guess this is historical fantasy? Maybe? 3/10

Excerpt: I can already tell that the magic used in this world is too complicated. There are masks and colors that respond to types of voices…on top of that, I think the author’s trying a little too hard to be poetic in the descriptions. I also found the main character to be annoying and whiney after just the first few pages. 4/10

TBR?: No. This one just isn’t for me.

The Boy from Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis (5/8)

The Boy from TomorrowCover: Just from the cover I think I can tell that this one is more middle grade than YA. It looks like it might be about a kid who time travels to the past? If I was in the target age range I think this cover would definitely appeal to me. 7/10

Premise: This sounds a lot like the movie Frequency. Again, if I was younger, I think I would really dig it. 6/10

Excerpt: It’s kind of interesting…even though this is clearly a middle grade book, I think the author has written in a very mature tone. The characters act like they’re 12, but think as if they’re older. I also like the aspect of having some interesting historical facts included since one of the characters lives in the past. 7/10

TBR?: Maybe. I wouldn’t usually add a middle grade to my TBR, but since this one reads a little older, I might.

Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne (5/1)

Brightly BurningCover: This cover does not appeal to me at all. Something about the text…the font that was chosen and the image…the colors… It just doesn’t look interesting to me. Probably some new space book where a girl from Earth falls in love with some guy from space. 2/10

Premise: Okay, well I was right about it being a space book. For some reason this seems like it might be a retelling of an old classic? But I think it’s probably one I haven’t read because the names and overall premise don’t sound very familiar to me. I’m just going to say, though, that having a 19-year-old boy be “notorious throughout the fleet for being a moody recluse and a drunk” seems a bit of a stretch. I mean, how long could he really have had that reputation for? Already I can tell that I’m going to want the characters to be older. 5/10

Excerpt: Not really a smooth beginning. It’s hard to join a story already in progress, but I feel like right off the bat there was a conversation between two characters that didn’t feel genuine and only served to catch the reader up to speed. It just didn’t feel as organic as it should have. Props to the author for including a diverse character right away, though. 5/10

TBR?: Nah.

Unbreakable by Sara Ella (5/1)

UnbreakableCover: Man, what is with these covers? None of them are speaking to me. This looks like a fairy book that I would have read 10 years ago. I don’t like the font and the imagery gives me no clues as to what this book might be about. 2/10

Premise: I guess this is the third book in a trilogy that I have never heard of before. Other than that, no clues from the summary. 3/10

Excerpt: The writing doesn’t seem too bad, but I just did a quick skim since I haven’t read the first two books. 5/10

TBR?: No and not just because I haven’t read the first two books. I read the synopsis for the first book and just wasn’t interested in that one either.

Legendary by Stephanie Garber (5/29)

LegendaryCover: Yes. HECK YES. I loved the cover of Caraval so much and this one is just as intriguing and magical. I love the colors and the text and how it looks both simple and complicated at the same time. 8/10

Premise: For the most part, I really liked Caraval, but I did have some issues with it. I hope that this book is able to build on the first instead of repeating elements. I like the idea of Elantine’s Day, but if it’s too much like Caraval then I’ll be disappointed. 7/10

Excerpt: Some of my issues from the last book stemmed from Scarlett as a character/narrator. So maybe with Tella as the new main character and narrator some of those issues will go away? I’m as intrigued as Tella by the deck of cards and I really liked the way her mom talked about fortune telling. 8/10

TBR?: YES. Actually, it already was. But if it hadn’t been, it definitely would be now!

Chemistry Lessons by Meredith Goldstein (6/19)

Chemistry LessonsCover: Okay, this looks like it has the potential to be a really cute and fluffy contemporary romance and I am HERE for it. I like the font choice, I like the periodic table in the background, I like that the droplets are little heart shapes…I’d definitely pick it up off the shelf and read the back. 7/10

Premise: Oh man, this premise seems a little risky. It could go well, or it could be extremely over the top and annoying. All I want is a smart girl main character who ISN’T a spazz. Up to this point, that has been too much to ask for apparently, but we’ll see with this book. 6/10

Excerpt: Just from the excerpt I think that I’ll like Maya as a character pretty good. It seems like she’s surrounded by a quirky cast of diverse secondary characters as well. I also like that the book really feels like it’s set in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 7/10

TBR?: Yeah, I’ll give this one a shot.

Let me know in the comments what you’ve heard about these books!

DISCUSSION: Diversity in YA

Diversity in Books

This is a topic that I’m sure you guys have been hearing a lot about lately and I know you’ve all been wondering what I think about it…right? As a POC (person of color) myself, I do feel like I have a small sliver of authority on this subject. After all, I’m the kind of person who’s underrepresented, right? I came across a post myself just today and I left this long comment which made me think that I really just needed to write my own post. So here we are.

Just as an introduction, I’m half Chinese and a quarter Panamanian and I grew up near the Seattle area so there was a fair amount of diversity at my high school (mostly white, but a pretty large representation of Asian, some Hispanic, and some Black as well). I’ve always been a reader but it honestly never really bothered me that the books I was reading were all about white people. It’s just not something that I ever thought about. Growing up with parents and countless other family members who were part of interracial relationships made it so that race was seriously a non-issue for me growing up. Even now, despite the fact that I live in a very white area, I rarely feel uncomfortable or like I stand out because of my ethnicity. At the same time, I know that a lot of people have had a different experience than me. I know some people have acutely felt the lack of diverse characters in YA books–I’m just not one of those people.

Let me make sure to say that I do think we need more diversity in books. Absolutely. But I think we’re looking for that diversity to come from the wrong people. We complain about straight white authors who are only writing about straight white characters. Well…what else are we supposed to expect? For the most part, authors (and other creators–this can be expanded to television and movies) write about the things they know about. They write about what they have experience with. If they’re a heterosexual white person, then they’re most likely going to write about and focus on white people in heterosexual relationships. That’s just how it is. As a POC I would never write a book with 100% white characters because I don’t have experience living a 100% white life. I honestly don’t know what it was like to grow up in a white household. Anything that I would try to write would be inauthentic and probably stereotypical.

I think the worst thing that could happen is for authors to become so badgered by the “diversity police” that they start including diverse characters just to get people to shut up. There was a book I read not too long ago but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was…anyway, a character was included who had a diverse characteristic, but it literally had no affect on the character. The character might as well have not had that diverse characteristic. I don’t think it’s helpful to have characters who don’t embody the traits they’re supposed to possess. Just saying that a character is Asian doesn’t make the book more diverse if the Asian character acts like every other white character. I don’t just want to see diversity, I want to feel diversity. Despite my skin color, deep down I feel pretty white. I’ve never been to China or Panama. I don’t speak Cantonese or Spanish (to the disappointment of my grandmother). I don’t know how to cook authentic Chinese or Panamanian dishes. I live, basically, like a white person. That being said, my heritage and my culture still affects me. If everything else in my life remained the same, I would still be a different person if I had white parents. Those are the people I want to see represented in YA books. If white authors include characters who are diverse only on the surface, it’s not going to help diverse readers feel like they belong any more than a book full of not diverse people.

Then what is the solution? More diverse authors (and other creators). We need people out there who can tell our story because they’ve lived our story. It’s unfair for us to expect authors who aren’t part of “our group” to represent us. Instead, “our group” needs to step up to the plate instead of just complaining about how we’re underrepresented. We have stories to tell, but how are the white people supposed to know that? They’re too busy telling their own stories! I’m not a fan of everything that Jenny Han writes, but what I do love about To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is that she incorporates Laura Jean’s Korean heritage. I love hearing about the food they eat and the special things they do over the holidays. Even though Laura Jean is American, she’s also Korean and Han does a great job of highlighting that in Laura Jean’s story.

I’m not discouraging straight white authors from doing the research and including diverse characters in their books. If they want to do that, I think that’s great. What I am saying is that it’s not really their fault if they don’t include diverse characters. It doesn’t mean they’re racist or homophobic. It doesn’t mean they don’t think diversity’s important. I honestly believe they just don’t think about it when they’re sitting down to draft a new book. So instead of complaining about how authors need to include diverse characters that represent us (and not them) in their books, let’s do something about it ourselves. Instead of saying we need more diverse books, let’s let the publishing houses know that WE WANT MORE DIVERSE AUTHORS instead and support the ones that we already have.

Top Ten Tuesday: The Transformative Power of Summer

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week there is a new topic and this week’s topic is: Top Ten Books With X Setting (top ten books set near the beach, top ten book set in boarding school, top ten books set in England, etc)

In YA books, Summer is filled with endless possibilities. There will certainly be a romance and lots of days on the beach/at the pier/in the ice cream shop hanging out with old (or new) friends. Summer is a time when you can transform into something or somebody new. You might be getting ready for that last year of high school, or maybe even on your way to college. There’s one thing for certain though–anything can happen over the Summer.

Still in High School

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Getting Over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald
The Last Forever by Deb Caletti
Kissing in America by Margo Rabb

Leaving for College

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Panic by Lauren Oliver
Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally
You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

P.S. Really several Sarah Dessen and Morgan Matson books could have made the list, but I decided to stick with on per author.

P.P.S. Sorry if I miscategorized a book, I don’t quite remember where all of our MCs were heading.