Amanda Says

The girl who runs this blog is 20 yo, currently living in Sweden. A real presentation will be added once I'm finished finding out who I am. In the meantime I'll be getting lost in the magical world of books.

No Kids by Corinne Maier

No Kids: 40 Good Reasons Not to Have Children by Corinne Maier (2009-08-04) - Corinne Maier;

Corinne Maier sets out to give people 40 good reasons to not have kids in this short book. Maier herself is a mother, and believe she can give these arguments without needing to be told she'll change her mind once she has kids, something most women who don't want children hear (myself included). So I read this from the perspective of already having my mind made up on this matter. The "you'll change your mind when you get older" is the most common answer to "I don't want kids". Early in the book, Maier points out something she has to deal with: A mother herself, she sometimes regrets having children. Voicing this thought is unthinkable to many people. Mothers might complain about what having children brings with it, but they are not allowed to actually regret having them which is a huge difference.

Maier then gives her 40 reasons. Personally, I agreed with them since many of them are the same reasons I'd already considered before reading this. While the arguments are solid, Maier's presentation isn't. She's often condescending, close to telling those disagreeing with her stupid. She also contradicts her argumentation, which I'll illustrate with an example. For one thing, she argues that when you have child, your lifestyle will change (all true): little or no more spontaneity, no more late nights drinking with friends, always going on a schedule (work, kindergarten or school). Many of these aspects are considered in young people's lifestyles: teens and twenties. Technically, you can then say that by not having kids, one is trying to hold onto a part of their youth (or how many people spent their youth). Then, Maier goes on to look down on (grown ups) reading Young Adult, accusing them of trying to "be young". So she's arguing that by not having kids, you'll stay young, but if youread about youth, you're trying to stay young, which is a bad thing. A tad contradictory. She tries to argue that Shakespeare, Proust, and other famous author don't write Young Adult. Quite a strange argument to make given that these authors worked in a time where the Young Adult term wasn't even coined yet. Young Adult is a relatively "new" category, and to say that these big authors didn't write YA is flawed. Especially considering the publishing/book industry and its history, and what demographics that had access to reading at all.

I agree with many reasons the author states: time consuming and expensive, overpopulation in industrial countries, and more. At the same time, I disagree with the author's way of arguing; rude and condescending. This book appears to be for people who have already made their decision to not have children rather than trying to actually convince people that do want children and have thought about the pros and cons already.

Space Chronicles by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier - Neil deGrasse Tyson, Avis Lang

In short: a number of essays where deGrasse Tyson argues that America needs to spend more on NASA and its science and research. Many good arguments that people might not be thinking about. Some history on space travels and their impacts on science, culture, and more. He goes on arguing that America needs more space travels, but he's arguing that while space travels without humans (only robots) is cheaper, astronauts become symbols, almost celebrities and can cause the general population to take a greater interest in space travels, something robots won't.

All in all, the arguments are all well and good, but with the endless repetition that comes out of the fact that this is just a collection of essays, many are repeated (often the ones with least impact), and they lose their "punch" after the third time they're are repeated.

Play of Light by Debra Doxer

Play of Light - Debra Doxer
I thought I couldn’t really love anyone until I saw Spencer again. Then I realized the problem wasn’t that I couldn’t love—it was that I couldn’t love anyone but him.

New Adult, step it up, you're predictable. This is how to sum up my experience with Play of Light. Although I enjoyed it more than the majority of New Adult, it's still more of the same.

We have Sarah and Spencer. Her family was forced from town after a series of unfortunate events that caused Sarah's death. A few years earlier before this all happened, Spencer moved to the town, and Sarah, a young girl almost immediately starts to crush on the new (older) guy after he helped/rescued her one day. But when Sarah leaves town, she and Spencer lose touch for several reasons. Now, years later, Sarah is ready to return to where she grew up, hoping to find closure with her past, but also with Spencer. Or so she thought.

I'll give Sarah credit: she's one of the few New Adult heroines that didn't drive me up the walls. She was a nice character who really wanted the best, both for herself but for others too. And while I didn't agree with all her choices, I could still see her point of view. It's worth mentioning that the author's writing was on par, not exaggerated or overly dramatic in comparison to other NA titles.

Apart from Sarah and the overall writing though, Play of Light is still a bunch of New Adult tropes thrown into a mixer. We have the abusive background, traumatic experiences, slutshaming (the girl interested in the heroine's love interest is a bitch and a skank, all groupies are skanks, hell, even the heroine's own sister is labeled a skank), the heroine's best friend is "slutty" (not in a bad way since she's the heroine's best friend), a "destined" love interest (a guy who pushes her away despite his love), misunderstandings and miscommunication. It's everything that almost all New Adult books are. The big difference is that it's not overly dramatic in its presentation of these already dramatic themes. So while it's better written than a lot of other NA titles, it's still, as said, more of the same, and at this point I'm looking for more than that when it comes to New Adult.

Finding Laila by T.K. Rapp

Finding Laila: Some Changes are Necessary - T.K. Rapp, Amy Jackson
“Haden, you’re gay,” I inform him as if he doesn’t already know this.

This will (hopefully) be a short review. Mainly because it's been a while since I read the book and want to get this review over with, but also because there's only a few things I have to say about it. First up, Finding Laila is about Laila and her four best (male) friends, and their last year in high school. That's where the plot begins and ends.

There's not much to say about the main character, Laila. She's your typical snowflake YA heroine.

“Yeah, you’re a girl. But you aren’t like other girls.”

"You’re intimidating as hell! You do realize you’re pretty much the perfect girl, right?”

"While all the other girls around are clawing and beating each other to be noticed, you are happy to stay in the background away from the spotlight—unseen."

Laila is being bullied (more or less) for the fact that her four best friends are all male, so of course the other girls are jealous and calls her a slut. Which is not okay, slutshaming is never okay. Perhaps this fact would've made it possible to feel some sympathy for Laila, but that feeling is quickly reduced by Laila's obnoxious, dramatic, and rude behavior. On top of it all, she has no respect for authorities (okay, she has almost no respect for anyone that isn't her four best friends - even her family doesn't get much respect). Laila was such an annoying character, and she had the ability to make everything about her and blowing literally everything out of proportions.

Laila more or less would've ruined this book all on her own, but as it is, I had a few more things that bothered me. First off is the fact that everything we learn about these characters, we are told. For example, one of Laila's best friends are supposedly "brooding". Fun thing, he never once acts this way. So yes, everything we learn is told, never shown, and this is a big problem when it comes to my next issue: Laila's best friends never came off the paper as actual people, instead they appear to be there to fill a quota. We have the (supposedly, as mentioned) brooding artist. Then we have the carefree, smart friend that Laila talks to more than the rest. Then we have the guy who's girl crazy. Last but not least we have, and this one bothered me most, the popular jock with girls chasing him, but he's actually gay.

I'll talk a little about the last character because his sexual orientation isn't brought up until the middle of the book. First of all, because of all the telling, no showing, he doesn't get to be a rounded character (this is an issue for all the characters, of course). In fact, he falls into the background with a few lines here and there. Then his sexual orientation is brought up, and suddenly he is important again. This is troublesome, because while it's great authors are including minorities these days, but when they're doing it to simply "fill a quota", it is not genuine, it is not representation.Most of all, it seems that his sexual orientation is what makes him interesting, or that this fact is what his identity is all about. And yes, your sexual identity is a part of your identity, but it isn't the only defining you. The way the book is written (all telling, no showing) then seems to focus more on his particular sexual orientation, rather than his persona.

Basically, it all comes down to the fact that there is no showing, only telling. Emotional connection to the characters are nearly impossible when there's nothing backing up the statements about their personalities (or in some cases, direct contradictions). Without rounded characters the lack of solid plot is evident; had there been more complex characters with interesting arcs, it could've been better.

Waiting for Romeo by Diane Mannino

Waiting for Romeo - Diane Mannino

Tropes: 24

The second book, Waiting for Romeo suffers from the same issues as the first book. A "perfect" heroine. A hero who is barely a character, since his purpose is to tell the heroine how perfect she is, and how she changed his life. It continues with the slut-shaming.It adds some tropes as for the new adult genre, making the story even less original and even more bland. Apart from what mentioned in my review for the first book, this (and the first, too) suffers from uneven pacing (think glacier speed), awkward and lazy writing.

In the second book there is a bit mystery going on, but it's not much of a mystery (I guessed it even in the first book what was to come). Emilia has to face something from her past, but that isn't incorporated into the story until the last 20%, and several things that happened before with other characters are never resolved. The story becomes blander, the characters duller (if possible), and the story never seems to go anywhere, or have any sense of direction.

What I kept thinking while reading the second book was that it should've been one book. The first book barely has a plot, and it moves too slow, and the second is haphazard at best. The author should've written one book: it would've made for a tighter and smoother story and it would've had an actual, solid plot.

Running from Romeo by Diane Mannino

Running from Romeo - Diane Mannino

Tropes: 19

Welcome to the newest episode of The Next Been Done Before! Today's episode contains a heroine so beautiful that she can't see it herself even when roughly every guy she meets tells her so. We also have a hero who's most valued characteristic is his piercing eye color and how out of this world handsome he is. For good measure we throw in some deaths in their backgrounds, some martial problems among his or her parents, and something sexual in the past that could cause trauma for one of the main characters (you get two guesses on who!).

Introducing our heroine, Emilia King, a college student who's majoring in Shakespeare. She's perfect. Every guy she meets wants her. They ask her out constantly, and while she claims to not see how beautiful she is and how she doesn't want to go out with them, she never tells them outright no, and then blame them for continuing to ask her out, instead she tells them "some other time" or "not now". You'd think they get the message, but still. She's clumsy.

I am so embarrassed and caught up in the beauty of this man that I blush, trip, and miss the chair.

She's... in denial (given that everyone keeps telling her how beautiful she is).

Who am I kidding? He would never be interested in someone like me. I’m so boring, plain and he’s so…well, out-of-this-world gorgeous.

She's never felt sexual attraction before our hero crosses her path.

This is the first time in my twenty-one years where I’ve ever been interested in a man.

She's different from other girls, because... other girls don't listen to music?

“Most girls are all about Adele. You like the Neon Trees, Mumford and Sons, and the Black Keys. Any other favorites?”

And, of course, she's not like other girls.

“I think it’s safe to say that most girls feel that way, you would be the exception.”

“I suppose I’m not like most girls.”

“Emilia, first of all, no one is perfect. But if anyone is as close to perfection…that would be you.”

Now, for our male lead: Logan Prescott. He's perfect (except for once, and it's only so we'll have a cliffhanger at the end). He, also a college student and a business major, is a rich bachelor who, until meeting Emilia lived only for pleasure.

“You bewitched me. I don’t know how else to explain it. I met you and I realized that only caring about pleasure and instant gratification just made me feel empty, lonely. Does that make sense?”

Add to it, he's out of this world gorgeous (in case you missed the quotes above). Either way, he has a reputation of having multiple sexual partners. A fact that makes him avoid Emilia at first, for her own good, of course. He has the ability to cure Emilia of her nightly terrors by his mere presence after knowing her for roughly two hours. (Noteworthy that years of therapy, support from family and close friends could not manage this.) His most important characteristic, apparently, has nothing to do with his actual personality, though.

"He’s not only drop dead gorgeous but obscenely rich. He’s a keeper, Emilia."

Apart from that, his biggest (and only role) is to tell Emilia that meeting her - not knowing her - changed his life.

“I told you. I was quite careless and out of control for a long time. Meeting you made me want to change. Is that so hard for you to understand?”

By the by, this is also the general plot: Emilia's ability to change Logan's life. Because of this we have her doubting him whenever a woman comes within ten feet of him (which also makes it easy to include some casual slut-shaming). Add in some past trauma - hope you'd already made your guess - she must face it head on by simply being in a relationship with Logan. Which causes her best friend to give contradictory advice more or less all the time. Go out! Don't go out! Live a little! Life will hurt you! And more.

There you have it folks! This was another episode of The Next Been Done Before! 'til next time!

Also, before I forget: Authors, DO NOT use rape for shock value. Do not use it for the sole purpose off getting a (poor excuse for a) cliffhanger. Do not use it as a plot device. Do not "reveal" it on the last page.

How I became Lotus Raine...the porn star by Erika Ashby

How I became Lotus Raine...the porn star - Erika Ashby

After having read Moving Forward by this author, I wasn't sure I was going to give her another chance. The above mentioned book didn't sit well with me. Mostly due to its endless shaming of women, especially sexually active women. Then I saw the title of this one.

I was intrigued. My hopes were that this book would be nothing like the one I'd read before by this author. A book about a porn star (/sex actress) and that industry. Perhaps this would be a more complex representation of women, sex, and the porn industry. Adress the virgin/whore dichotomy.

Let me start by saying this: I was wrong.

She was dressed way more revealing than I’d ever attempted. I’m confident, but damn, I didn’t want to get molested.

I wanted him to feel somewhat special. Even though that’s only something females tend to feel

"Every girl wants to fall in love. And most books are about just that.”

Never mind there's a grammatical error on the first page (and they continue throughout the book), this book does not offer a complex story with nuanced characters or a good message.

The book is a interview done by the heroine after she becomes a porn star. Our heroine, Lucy, used to work for a company doing research for authors. Lucy's latest assignment: follow the daily life of a sex actor: Brent. As a part of this deal, Lucy goes to live with him for a week. Here's the twist: she already met him, and they almost had sex at a club. So when they meet at his home, sparks are flying all over the place. What follows is tension between them, Lucy at times uncomfortable with his profession, and at the same time morbidly curious. Regardless of her feelings, Lucy is determined to go make the best of her assignment.

Here's the thing: Lucy is horrible. She's the typical ultimate judgmental heroine. She constantly judges other women (unless they're her best friend, of course) even if she's never spoken to them. There's a (possible) backstory to why she detest women who have multiple sex partners. However, that particular part of her past is more about her own fears about being sexually active, and it's not explored in the story as a believable reason to why she'd loath women on sight. Instead, her endless shaming of other women seems unnecessary and only adds to the easy of disliking her.

Her hypocrisy is clear by the following example, from the book. Lucy is interested in Brent, the sex actor, and while at time she might wonder and ignorant of what his profession entails, she never quite judges him for it. She tries to see beyond his profession, which, props to her, but when she meets the first female sex actress, it's hate on first sight. Simply because this particular woman dresses a certain way, acts a certain way, and is a sex actress. Conclusion: According to the heroine, it's okay for men to be sex actors, but not for women.

The story, if we look at it instead of the characters for a second, is not much to write home about. The interview part was strange and not quite necessary except to throw a couple jabs at readers who likes to read books that feel real (and in extension, logical).

I didn’t get how readers could be so blunt when in disagreement. Usually the point of reading was to escape everyday reality. But once some cross that line, they get so hell bent over something they don’t find logical. Well, let me tell you something—life isn’t always logical.

The funny part about it is people push aside these real life possibilities while reading a fictional story. It makes absolutely no sense to me. Just freaking go with it folks.

A few things: Yes, people can read to "escape everyday reality", but some of us likes to do so with realistic stories. Realistic doesn't mean you have to get married, get 2.5 children, have house with a white fence... you get the deal. It simply means the story should feel real to the reader. (And I agree, life isn't always logical, but there's a different between illogical and unrealistic.) Second, "just go with it" is an argument I'm not buying. Like, let's all write racists, sexist, abusive, and whatnot, it's cool, just go with it. Basically, what these two quotes say is this: Don't dare say anything's wrong with a book, and if you think something is, you're reading it wrong. Given that the heroine had a job to make sure authors wrote realistically about certain themes, this doesn't go with her personality, either. (I'm not saying the author intended for this message, but it is what it is.)

About ten pages in, it was clear what the outcome would be. Given the heroine's shaming of women who have multiple sexual partners, it was easy to guess when she became interested in Brent what the outcome would be, or rather how Lucy approached her own new profession as a sex actress. I promise, it's not a hard guess.

Kissing Madeline by Lex Martin

Kissing Madeline (Dearest, #3) - Lex Martin

Third book in the Dearest series, Kissing Madeline reads like a mash-up of the two first books. There's the bland heroine, the duchy hero, a plot revoling around sex, a mystery that is no mystery at all, some casual sexism and slutshaming, but let's take it from the start.

Madeline, the heroine, walks in on her boyfriend sleeping with another woman. Madeline breaks it off and decides to focus (even more) on her job. When she moves in with Sheri, she is now the neighbour of Daren, a Heisman trophy winner. They've met before thanks to mutual friends. Sheri suggest Madeleine should go out with Daren.

“At least let me introduce you two before some slussy gets her hooks into him.”

Instead, Madeline (literally) runs into Daren during one of her work outs. With Madeline not wanting a relationship, she and Daren soon decides on a friends with benefits relationship, but maybe one of them, or both even, wants more.

This story is basically about Maddie and Daren hooking up while wanting more. There is no plot. Well, there is some stuff on Maddie's work, but it's so insignificant in the long run, and around 80% there is (again, like in the first book) a poor attempt at mystery. It doesn't help that both Maddie and Daren are such boring characters. He's somewhere in the middle between the previous two heroes in this series: a bit douchey an casually sexist, Gavin, and all out sexist misogynist, Jax. Daren falls right in the middle. His character had so much potential: he has a connection to Clem form the first book, in the fact that he cheated on her in high school, and for the past years have been dating a woman that has, by all means, treated him badly. Instead he's another in a long line of poorly developed new adult heroes. He says/thinks things like:

"I’m fine with needing to convince you that you like when I touch you."

He’s been bitchy all week, and I’ve been tempted to ask if he needs tampons.

And Maddie is definitely not a fuck-and-forget kind of girl.

You know, usual new adult hero bullshit.

This book had potential. It could've explored the sexism Maddie has to put up with at her job (it could've explored the way female journalists/tv-presenters are treated), Daren coming to terms with his past and the moral struggles, it could've explored the friends with benefits better. It could've done so much more, much better. Instead it remains in the land of typical new adult, filled with weak plots, sexism, unhealthy relationships and heroes, the virginal heroine and the negative look upon sexuality.

Finding Dandelion by Lex Martin

Finding Dandelion (Dearest, #2) - Lex Martin

Tropes: 24

“See, there are happily ever afters. Even for assholes like me.”

This quote sums up the entire book. Because, even after everything, the hero is still an asshole.

Finding Dandelion is the second book in the Dearest series, and this time the story focuses on Jax, the heroine from the first book's brother, and Dani, one of the roommates (of the previous heroine's). The second book, much like the first, falls due to its lack of character development and a lack of plot.

Jax meets Dani at a party, unaware that Dani is his sister's new roommate, and Dani is unaware that Jax is her new roommate's brother. Dani, feeling betrayed after her recent breakup decides she's willing to hook up with someone. They see each other at the party and are drawn to each other. When Dani uses Jax to avoid confrotnatoin with her ex, they make out and it soon turns into more. They are interrupted before they go "all the way", and the next time Dani meets Jax, he seems to have no memory of them ever meeting. After hearing Clem, Jax's sister, comment on the girls Jax usually hooks up with, Dani is horrified and doesn't want to be "one of those girls", and says nothing to Jax or Clem. But Jax is attracted to Dani, is intrugied by her, and simply can't get her out of his head. And so their story begin.

Just like the first book, there is basically no plot. It's all focused on how Jax is in constant heat and wants Dani. The other part of the time (Dani's POV) is all about not wanting to be "one of those girls", of still wanting Jax, and not being sure why Jax doesn't appear to remember their night together. It doesn't help that for the first 30% of the book, the author, for some reason, felt the need to rehash part of the first book, with no alteration (apart from being in Jax's and Dani's heads). It adds absolutely nothing to the plot, if anything, it's confusing to the overall story. What did it matter? Why did it matter? It didn't. The story should've started somewhere around the 30% mark, and not sooner. (Of course, the initial meeting could've been there, but it could've replaced the utterly useless prologue this book does have.)

Back to the characters: here's how remembarable they are. I had to look up Dani's name (even though it's hinted at in the title). I had to go through all my updates (and notes) to remember her personality (which she has none). I couldn't even remember what the "big misunderstanding" was. I couldn't remember the part with her mother (which, honestly, is more due to the writing being unable to provoke a single emotion). What my updates (and notes) reminded me was that Dani is a hypocrite. She's sexist. She looks down on women who engages in causal sex.

The girl who grew up watching old Madonna videos wants to embrace my sexual freedom and treat last night cavalierly, but the small part of me who someday wants the house, kids and white picket fence knows what I did last night is not how I’ll achieve those ends.

She's catty. She's jealous. She shames the women who so much as looks at Jax. Of course, she herself is virginal, but the of course changes when she get's a taste of the hero's junk.

That would be the alien who took over my body and turned me into a sex-craved maniac.

Though, even if Dani had been a memorable character, had some personality, the love interest alone is able to drag this book down to one star.

I think if I fuck her, I’ll somehow tarnish her. Because that’s all this’ll be, sex in a dark club, and she’s not the kind of girl I want to use and abuse for one night.

He's lovely, isn't he? Jax is a sexist, misogynist asshole. He admits himself that he's an asshole. He has zero character development. He sexist in the beginning, he's sexist in the end. He shames women in the beginning, he shames them at the end. In his world, there are two types of women: women for sex, and women to marry (kinda).

She’s pretty in a been-there-done-that sort of way.

Women are to use for a man's pleasure. Because girls should learn to please a man in school, whether they want to or not.

Not every girl is good at giving head, but it’s something that should be taught in school along with making pancakes.

The worst part is that there is no reason for Jax to see women this way. Sure, his mother was absent, but he had a sister who was nothing like her mother. He had onegirlfriend in the past who treated him badly. Still, it does not excuse why he'd grow up to view women this way. So, basically, he's just an asshole for no reason. The fact that he uses abuse (see quote above) when thinking about sex says a lot about his view on women (and sex). And, as said, Jax is never called out on it, and he has the same personality throughout the book. Of course, Dani is the exception, the special snowflake that can tame this beast.

Just like in the first book, the friends are not friends. For one thing, we have Jenna (from the first book) spilling secrets all over the place without telling her supposedly best friend. She spills the secret to (practically) a stranger. We have Travis, the stereotypical gay best friend, whose purpose is to push Dani to meet guys.

Basically, this book suffers the same issues the first on did: poor character development, weak plot, sexism, and shaming. The first book I said that the writing was good, decent. In this, there's no emotion provoked by the writing, it's repetitive, and at times awkward.

Dearest Clementine by Lex Martin

Dearest Clementine - Lex Martin

Tropes: 17

“God, you make me hot when you talk grammar.”

I wish I could partially blame myself for going into this book with hopes too high; I'd heard great things about Dearest Clementine. 'Not like other new adult.' 'Independent heroine.' 'No asshole hero.'

But no, Dearest Clementine is just like all the rest.

Clementine, or Clem, has hardened her heart. After asshole boyfriends in the past, a family that barely acknowledges her these days, she's not keen to trust anyone. Her best friends (and her roommates), Jenna and Harper have helped her out of the worst anxiety and depression.

I don’t know what they saw in me, but their friendship helped pull me out of the darkness to the point that I don’t need to take anxiety meds anymore.

Still, Clem won't trust people, and she most certainly do not need a boyfriend. When she meets Gavin, he's the new member of her roommate's boyfriend's band. And, like Clem, he's a writer. Well, a journalist student whereas Clem, under a penname, is a bestselling YA author (a fact very few of her friends know of). Gavin is intersted in Clem from the start, and he tries to get under her skin, and slowly, he does.

For the past three years, I’ve ignored every guy who flirted with me. Every single one. But Gavin is different somehow. Sexy but sensitive. Strong but gentle. Easygoing but somehow intense. He can turn me inside out with one look, one touch, one kiss.

One of the biggest issues this book has is that it doesn't present any realistic development, neither for the characters or the plot. This quote above is the entire reason for why Clem is able to let Gavin in, and it's unrealistic in itself. Gavin is literally perfect (in Clem's eyes, and he's supposed to be to the reader as well, but I'll get to that soon). But back to the character development. Clem's development relies solely on Gavin, and his ability to be "perfect". It's thanks to him she's able to trust again, it's thanks to him she steps out of her bubble, it's thanks to his presence she's able to confront her own brother. It's unrealistic that she goes from not trusting anyone to letting Gavin in without any trouble at all, to opening up to the world. If her friends had played a bigger role, it could've been realistic, but since Clem's friends (only) purpose is to make her engage in sexual activities, or flirting, or trying to attract men, it's just a sad representation of female friendship.

When I say there's no realistic character development, what I'm really saying is that Clem's character isn't offered any realistic development. Gavin, the love interest, doesn't get any at all. He's perfect from the go, and, like other NA heroes, has about as much personality as a shoe box. He's sexy, every girl wants him (and every girl who does is somehow shamed for it even the heroine wants the same thing (eventually)), he's smart, kind, strong, manly, possessive and jealous, good at sex, etc.. (He's also prone to drop casual sexism from time to time.) Sounds familiar? It's because he is. He is all this from the start, and he's the same at the end.

When it comes to secondary characters, Jenna and Harper, Ryan (Jenna's boyfriend), Jax (Clem's brother), and a few others, they have no personality either. Jax especially should've been more fleshed out as it could've helped make Clem's progress more realistic (and the support coming from somewhere beside Gavin). He gets his own book (second in the series) so maybe that's why he didn't get as much time or development, but that was a big mistake. Jenna, Clem's best friend, is a joke. She's the stereotypical sex-obsessed friend whose purpose is to push the heroine toward hot sex (and hot men), and not much else. As said, a poor representation of female friendship.

Moving on to the plot. The overall plot is Clem learning to trust Gavin. Which is the problem, because the story is focused on making Clem trust a guy and not people in general. It's also focused on that Gavin himself makes her trust him, even when she's said she doesn't want him (but of course, in her mind, she wants him since all women wants it even when they say no, right?). You'd think that the friends that helped Clem to the extent of her not needing her anxiety medicine would play a part in helping her trust people, but no. It's all about Gavin's perfect persona that makes Clem trust people. A very troubling message: a woman can (with the help of her friends) get only so far in her progress, but in the end it's a man's assurance that will complete her progress.

The secondary plot is about a missing girl. Gavin is covering this for the school's newspaper, but after several months the police is out of leads. The mystery is put into the plot around 25-30%, and it's quite obvious who's behind it, since there is literally only one character that could possibly be the offender/kidnapper. I will discuss it more, but it's inside the spoiler:


You see, Clem, during her first year at uni is stalked, and then harassed and assaulted, by one of her professors. He took her under his wing and helped her write her first book. As time went, he began coming on to her, and when she said no, his obsession began. It ended with him moving away, and she got a restraining order on the professor. Now the professor is back and teaching at the uni again (which, is unrealistic as well, an quite offensive toward the university as the author uses a real one for the setting). He's also taking a new student (it appears) under his wing. Clem realizes this, and is worried, kinda, about the student. Yet, she doesn't say anything to her, because there is no good timing. Yup, Clem doesn't tell another (female) student that the professor stalker, assaulted, and tried to rape her, because Clem can't find the right time to tell her. Clem quickly found a way for the reader to lose all respect for her. Given all this, it's obvious who the offender/kidnapper, is. It's a poorly written mystery as more or less anyone will realize who's behind it from the go.

(show spoiler)

Basically, it's a poor attempt to bring some life into the story, and it adds nothing to the overall arc. It should've been left out of the story.

Dearest Clementine never had the chance to be something unique, or new, in the NA genre. It's full of sexism, misogyny, poor plot, no character development, and the usual carbon-cut characters. The writing overall is decent, nothing spectacular, but definitely readable. Unfortunately the book (and story) focused on all the wrong things, ending up in a mess.

The Hit List by Nikki Urang

The Hit List - Nikki Urang
The bonus girls are worth more points if a Hitter is able to get them into bed. The first Hitter there gets to claim the points. After someone claims points, the girl will lose her bonus status and become like every other girl in the game.

Welcome to the game! Sorry, welcome to the story I mean. When Sadie moves across the country to attend a new school, The Conservatory, she's introduced to the game. Before going into the details of the game, we'll stay with Sadie for a moment. She moves across the country after she suffered an injury after a mistake her dance partner, and then boyfriend, make that left her without a scholarship. Meanwhile, her then boyfriend got a scholarship, and Sadie can't help feeling betrayed, left behind, and she wonders if what they had was real. At her new school, she meets Brielle, her new roommate who, like Sadie, has an absentee mother. She also meets Adam, Brielle's friend. Also, of course, Sadie meets Luke, campus heartthrob who flirts with everything that moves.

Now, back to the game. It's a campus game where the male students who join in are looking to score. Literally. They get point when they sleep with a girl, and some girls (they vote on which) are worth extra points. These girls' names are official on a blog that hosts the game. The guys sign up and some of the rules are: consent is a must, no alcohol can be used by the Hitter (the participant) to alter a girl's state of consciousnesses but if she does it to herself, you're good to go, you must prove you had sex (pictures, underwear, video, etc.. Have fun.


Yeah, have fun.

I'll discuss the game more in-depth later in the review, because for a large part of the story it is merely a backdrop, something going on outside of Sadie's world. So we'll start with Sadie. She has trust issues like, well, the typical New Adult heroine that she is. Her ex-boyfriend/dance partner accidentally dropped her during a dance, which left her injured and Sadie lost her shot at a scholarship. Due to this, she's unable to trust people and her dancing is affected when she's unable to partner with someone else. (She's also iffy about partnering with someone who isn't gay, or she isn't in a relationship too, because screw professionalism, right?) In the beginning, it's easy to sympathize with Sadie. Her mother is absent and offers no motherly support, and after Sadie's boyfriend left her, it's not hard to understand where she's coming from. Yes, in the beginning, this is all fine and good, but at some point (even before 80% of the characters have called Sadie out on it) you lose interest, and what initially was sympathize for Sadie turns into frustration and the need to tell her to grow up. She hangs onto her anger, feels like she's entitled to something better, and acts much like a baby.

Then Sadie meets Luke, local heartthrob and... it's not quite as much insta-love as usual NA, but there's definitive some insta-something-alike there. Luke, whom she is later forced to dance with, is a flirt. Sadie is unable to trust him when partnered, and instead she decides to practice with Adam (who she is able to dance with because, you know, he's gay). Anyhow, despite what it may sound like, I did like how Luke and Sadie's relationship developed, at times. Kinda. Maybe. Okay, maybe not really. It's mostly due to Luke's whiplash personality. One second he's cold, then hot, then cold. Sadie calls him out on it - good for her - but throughout the story there's never a reason revealed why Luke acts the way he does. He has some trust issues himself, and he, too, is iffy about relationships, but that doesn't suffice to rationale or explain his actions. I also lost respect for him at the end of the book, when certain reveals are made. I also dislike how Sadie dealt with the revelations, but most how they were portrayed in general.

Now there will be some mentions about the game, but mostly it's how Sadie reacts to it. Sadie is one of the bonus girls, those that are worth more point if you sleep with them. Her name is official on the blog, and she's aware of it. She's aware of the rules and stakes. Here's the thing: several times she wonders why no one is stepping up and stopping the game, why no one takes it up with the school. She sees girls (and talks to some of them) and wonder why they let themselves be used by the game. Even when things gets out of hand and a girl is sexually harassed, she doesn't do anything. Actually, she acts as if the game is no big deal, not really. The girls know about it, she thinks, so what's the harm? (Not her exact words, but it's how it sounds.) Yet, when some girls take advantage of the game (uses it to sleep with boys), Sadie somehow looks down on these women, asking them if they don't know they're being used for points? I'll discuss this more in a short while.

For the game, I'm not undecided. It's a horrible thing. The rules says that all parties must consent, but it's quiet clear that consent, to some people, is easy to go around or overlook. Especially on college campuses. Then turning women into something men can receive points for, if that's not dehumanizing, I don't know what is. Given the nature of the game, this will certainly seduce some guys that feel entitled to women's bodies to joining in. It's a perfect setup for boosting the notion that women are for men, and men can use them however they want.

Moving on to the rule that says no alcohol is allowed to change the woman's state of consciousness, but it's okay if she does it to herself. First of all, this rule would be incredibly easy to go around. So you as (male) participant is not allowed to give the women drinks, but there's no saying your best friend can give them to her. Also, it's good to remember that if the woman is drunk and unable to make sound decisions, then that can be considered rape. What the rule basically says is that it not okay if you give her alcohol and sleep with her, but if she drinks herself drunk, it's her fault for having sex with you even if she doesn't want to. That sounds like victim blaming. Oh, wait, that's exactly what victim blaming is.

Then there's the rule about proof. Proof could be underwear, pictures, and videos. Let's begin with the fact that sharing a picture of video of this nature against the other person's knowing, that's a crime. While it may only be shared by the "hitter" and the person hosting the game is still sharing that picture or video. Once again this encourages the notion that women are for men, and men are allowed to do what they wish when it comes to women.

The problem isn't that the game is in the story, it's the way it's treated. Characters might point out that they are hurt by it, but there's no discussing how sexist and degrading the game is in itself. There's no one pointing out what the game says about women, femininity, and society's view of women. This is the issue. When it's revealed who's behind the game and its origin, there are still no discussion about this, just how it was started from a misguided point of view, of confusion and frustration, but not about the obvious lack of respect for women the inventor of the game had (and might possibly still have).

This book had a good concept. It had a story that could've, if done well, evoke strong feelings, exposing dark parts of society's view on women, men, and sex, but it failed greatly. Instead it avoids going deep or opening up questions that most people might not want to ask themselves in favor for some hesitant romance, girl-on-girl hate, and Sadie's trust issues.

Beautiful Americans by Lucy Silag

Beautiful Americans - Lucy Silag

From the blurb: Pretty Little Liars meets My So-Called Life in this story of four American teens in Paris and the scandals that haunt each of them. Given that I have zero experience with My So-Called Life and just a minimum of Pretty Little Liars - gave up after watching the first season, haven't read the books - I'd like to say this: Beautiful Americans is basically Gossip Girl minus the money, and set in France. It's the same bratty, woe-is-me characters living it up in France, never considering there might be consequences for their actions.

Some basic plot: Alex, PJ, Olivia, and Zach, four high school students are spending a year studying in France. Alex is moving away from her mother to the country in which her parents met, and where her father now lives. She's spoiled, whiny, and wants everything to be like the movies. Olivia is the dancer who hopes this trip will help her get into college (the same college her boyfriend attends), but she's leaving her family back in the States, and she struggles especially with leaving her autistic brother behind. Zach comes from a small(ish) town where he feels the need to hide his sexual orientation (gay), and hopes a year in France will help him find himself, or at least live out his desires. PJ is running from something, something unknown to the reader for most part of the story. She doesn't know where her sister is, and she isn't in contact with her parents. These four people form relationships, some stronger than others.

There's no solid plot here except for PJ's, and it's a secret almost until the end (it's a cliffhanger, by the way). Most of the story is Alex and Zach living it up in France, drinking wine, partying, gossiping about boys. Olivia joins them sometimes whenever she isn't doubting herself and all her (or her parents') plans. PJ, who is the most interesting (which isn't saying much, trust me), is barely in the story at times. Instead we're stuck with Alex, who's biggest issue is when her American Express Card is declined because her mother decides to cut her off since Alex has spent almost all her money after a few months. Then there's also the instance where Alex sexually harasses a boy, but since she's a girl, it isn't portrayed for what it is. 

Alex climbs into a guy's bed while he's asleep. She does this more or less naked, and while he's still asleep, starts rubbing up against him. It's played off as some unfortunate event or a joke, but reverse the situation: Alex being a boy and climbing into a girl's bed, and there would be no joking about it.

(show spoiler)


The characters aren't well fleshed out due to the fact that there are four different POVs. They get about 80 pages each, which is far too little to make these characters stand out as individuals; it's sometimes hard to tell them from each other. Alex was the least interesting character, but everyone treats her like the special snowflake that she is. Olivia should've had a bigger role, explore her sense of guilt and also liberation in being away from her family, of not having the pressure breathing down her neck at all hours. PJ's story should've moved faster (and not use it as a cliffhanger). Zach, unfortunately, is stereotypical and his presence in the book feels more like he's only there to fill up some non-straight characters quota.

All in all, it's a good idea for a story, with four young confused people struggling, but the execution makes it come off as some poor soap opera with bratty and spoiled kids gossiping, partying, and only caring for themselves with a single thought about consequences.

Shadowboxer by Cari Quinn

Shadowboxer - Cari Quinn

New Adult Tropes: 20

“Welcome to this century. Women can do everything men can. Including fight.”

Where to start with Shadowboxer? This book includes so many topics: verbal abuse, domstic abuse, sexual abuse, kidnapping, death of (more than one) family member, prostitution, underground fighting, estranged parents, protecting a younger family member, money troubles, a rich guy feeling sorry for himself, trust issues, slutshaming, misogyny... are you exhausted yet? We'll take it from the start.

Mia is a female underground fighter. She's in it for the money she desperately needs so that she and her younger sister Carly can move away from the city. In the beginning, Mia went into prostitution (oral sex only), but then went into the fighting scene, but is also working at a bar. For months she's been training to set up a fight with the famous underground fighter Tray "Fox" Knox so she can get the money she needs. Tray is the golden boy that got tired of living good life with the money his parents gave him. Tray dropped out of college and went into the underground fighting scene. When a chance meeting have them cross paths, Tray is immediately drawn to Mia in ways he doesn't understand. Mia on the other hand, wants nothing but a fight from Tray. What follows is a long push and pull of Mia wanting Tray, hooking up, and then pushing him away. It goes on for more than half of the book, with little else to add into the plot.

Basically, there's no plot. It's all Mia and her trust issues (which aren't brought up until somewhere around the 40%-60% mark) and Tray endless longing for Mia. This is supposedly a MMA fighter story, but there's almost no fighting going on, only a few mentions of their workouts. There are two big fights looming in the future at the beginning, but neither of them happens. In the end, it's all about their lust for each other. So let's take a look at our main characters. Introducing Mia:

I wasn’t some quivery female caught in the storm of my emotions.

Mia is the heroine with an disdain toward anything female or feminine (which kinda changes once she lets Tray into her life). She's a fighter that can (apparently) take on any fighter, male of female. She comes from a troubled childhood filled with parents dying, and on top of that, she was kidnapped and sexual abused for several months. You'd think this would play a bigger role in this story, but it doesn't (apart from when Tray makes it all about himself). It's brought to light somewhere in the middle of the story, and Mia has two (I think) panic attacks due to memories from her time in captivity. Other than that, it isn't that big a deal, or it doesn't come off as it when in her POV. Once again, New Adult uses sexual abuse as a plot device, and in this case, a backdrop for the romance. It's difficult to care for Mia; she's mean and her (as above mentioned) disdain for female and femininity is cringe worthy.

Now, here's the best of Tray "Fox" Knox:

My knowledge of the thought processes of females was practically nonexistent.

I’d kill for her in reality, maybe because no one else ever had.

“I can deal with Sandra Bullock,” I muttered, grateful that Slater wasn’t around to hear me turn in my man card.

If it's hard to care or like Mia, it's even harder to give a single fuck for Tray. He's the kind of guy that is all don't need my parents or their money, fuck them while still having them pay for his Ivy League college, his apartment, and his new car. Please tell me more about how hard your life is. To be fair, he does come from a family where his father abused (verbally and physically, from what I gather), his mother. And Tray has a policy that a real man never hits a woman. A policy that obviously doesn't apply to his mother, since Tray doesn't really do anything to help his own mother to get out of an abusive relationship. He does however feel the need to protect a female stranger that appears to have been in a fight (Mia) from the second he lays eyes on her. Good guy, right?

Moving on. When he finds out that Mia was kidnapped and sexually abused and later prostituted herself, he somehow makes it all about himself.

How could I be ready to listen to her talk about being hurt? How could I ever let her put her mouth on me and not think she was imagining a money transaction afterward?

Add in the usual, Mia's not like other girls, deserves better than an alley fuck, and the usual "my girl is a special snowflake" mentality, you have Tray. (I'd mention the secondary characters, but they were all flat and boring, they're barely worth mentioning.)

Moving on to the fighting aspect. It's ridiculous. Throughout the book, there's the theme that Mia is the best fighter ever. Tray describes her as tiny, but fit. She's feet shorter than him, and he outweighs her greatly. Yet, she thinks she can take him in a fight. How? No clue. Look, I agree with the initial quote: women can do anything men can, but there are limits. Biologically, men are (generally) stronger, taller, heavier. A trained male fighter will 99% of the time win over a female fighter. That's biology, nothing you can do about it. The last 1% is all about luck and coincidence. Nothing in the story indicates that Mia is delusional otherwise, but this is both delusional, and frankly, a bit suicidal. I believe this story would've done better (on the fighting aspect) if it had focused on the difference between male and female sports, especially society's view on it.

Going back to Mia's past abuse and prostitution. There's a huge gap about how her life after she escpaed her kidnapper/abuser and the present. Why did she enter prostitution? How did she do it? How old was she? How did she reason? Because she had a job (bartender), how bad was it for that she felt the need to prostitute herself? Or was she of the mentality that prostitution is just another job? It's never explained. There's also little time over for dealing with her past abuse, both in the past and in the present. As it is, it reads like it is Tray's magical dick that somehow saves her, which is an angle one should never take in fiction. It is insulting to victims of sexual abuse to keep up this mentality that a man (or woman) can cure you from the trauma by sex. It should be with professional help and support from trusted and loved ones.

Last, apart from all mentioned above, the writing is very amateurish. Tray for example, has two different sides: the one we see in his POV and the one from Mia's. They are at times almost two different people, who speaks and thinks differently. Add in awkward and painful methafors such as this one:

By the time Mia emerged in her sports bra and a pair of tiny bike shorts that made her ass look like a pair of puffed-up marshmallows suspended on two sexy sticks, I was considering a number of sexual harassment suits.

To sum up this book: poor execution and no sensitivity when it comes to heavy topics.

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

All the Rage - Courtney Summers
You know all the ways you can kill a girl?
God, there are so many.

A lot can be said about All the Rage, but the word that comes to mind is safe. Which is insane, considering the themes this book deals with: rape, bullying, misogyny, murder, victim-blaming, and more. I'm still calling it safe, and let me explain why.

Personally, this felt like 'how to write feminist fiction 101'. (A good thing, of course. I rated the book three stars after all.) We need more feminist fiction. This book falls right into that category with tackling the themes mentioned above. Summers tells the tale of Remy, a young girl who was raped by the town's golden boy, and now she lives with the reality of how (some, even many) victims are treated. It's an honest and accurate portrayal, but it's also incredibly safe. There's little to Remy's personality that causes greater emotion in me. I feel for what she went through, but I don't necessarily care for Remy at any point in the story.

Also there's the problem of the secondary characters. None of them are fleshed out enough to make a lasting impression. Which might be a deliberate choice done by the author to remain focus on Remy, in the process of doing so it loses the dynamic these characters could've brought to the plot. Because this is a plot driven story, and yet, there are mostly erratic scenes that, at times, brings nothing or very little to the overall story. Add in that Remy is the only character with more than one dimension, it's hard to keep the story floating.

Despite of all that, the story is still good. As said, it's feminist fiction at its most basic, I feel. It's a safe story, and they are never brilliant, and while they can be boring, they are never bad. All the rage is a good story, but it's more of a social commentary on our society with its victim-blaming before anything else. Summers is a great writer and in this book she paints a haunting atmosphere, which alone makes this story worth your time.

The Secret Side of Emptu by Maria E. Andreu

The Secret Side of Empty - Maria E. Andreu
People always talk about fighting being the brave thing. But maybe the bravest thing is knowing when to stop. Knowing when you are beat. It is such a simple answer. It almost makes me happy.

The Secret Side of Empty is a touching story about M.T., an undocumented immigrant. (M.T. describes herself as an 'illegal immigrant'.) When entering her senior year of high school it is becoming clearer than ever for her how different her life is from her peers' lives. They have grand plans to head off to college, to travel, and what else they may choose. M.T. believes she does not have the same choices, that her life will come to a standstill. We follow her life through this period of uncertainty.

The author takes inspiration from her own life as an (formerly) undocumented immigrant, which is quite clear throughout the novel. There are moments that is clearly drawn from experience or watching it closely, such as M.T.'s life at home, especially the strained - abusive - relationship with her father. These moments and scenes were the best ones, due to their honest narration, painful as it was to read it. Overall, the portrayal of the mundane - if you can call it that - life of a family of undocumented immigrants; the struggles of finding jobs and make it financially, what risks to take and what to stay clear of.

The story is, however, quite uneven. The pacing and writing are uneven. For long periods of the book, nothing ever really happens, and we're stuck in M.T.'s head, whose voice is so dull. It's understandable though; as the story progresses, M.T. sinks into what can only be depression, but right from the start there's nothing exciting about her voice and narration, so the long stretches of time when nothing happens are downright boring despite the hard situation she's in. The writing suffers from a similar problem; one moment it flows and is a delight to read, and the next moment there are lines like these:

I feel electricity shooting from my hand to him, like those glass balls you put your hands on and the plasma makes shooting purple streaks to your hands. I can feel him, the cells of him.

Call it nitpicking if you'd like, but these two lines made me cringe for quite some time. I mean, 'I can feel the cells of him'? What does that even mean?

Would I recommend this book? Well, yes. Despite the uneven writing and vague plot, it's a decent story. It is especially a story that the YA genre needs to tell. The parts with M.T.'s family are wonderful and painful, heartbreaking and heartwarming. So yes, in the end, I'd recommend reading The Secret Side of Empty despite its flaws.

Tantalized by Nenia Campbell

Tantalized - Nenia Campbell
In some ways, blow jobs are better than sex because when you have a mouthful of cock you can't make snide comments.

This is a review without a rating, because I honestly have no idea how to rate it. At times I loved it, at others I hated it. In the end, after putting it down and elaborating on how it mad me feel, I'm no closer to setting a rating on in. Let me explain.

Tantalized starts with Jessica being shipped off to college; a decision her parents made for her. Jessica is suicidal and has periods of depression, but she's also angry at the world in general. She does what she has to: sign up for classes and attends (some of) them, but she does it grudgingly. When she meets Alexander - one of her professor - he opens up a new world for Jessica. A dark and sexual world where she is able to explore herself and what she wants.

I had the same problem with Tantalize as I've had with my recent readings: it's unclear what the purpose of the story is. Is it about mental illness? BDSM(ish)? Dark erotica? I just don't know. Sometimes spanning across genres is a good thing, in this case, I'm not so sure. Personally, I felt it caused some of the tension go away.

On the other hand, Jessica is such a well written character - complex and intriguing. She's also one of the rudest people I've had the pleasure of reading about. Yeah, pleasure. Because she's well written and you felt her pain and anger as had it been your own. The only flaw is the underlying reasons for her mental illness; there is none. Not one that is brought into light anyhow, and that was a big thorn that kept nagging me throughout the story.

The way Tantalized is structured also brings questions to mind. It's clearly not a romance, but the other main character (Alexander) isn't in the book - in person at least - until nearly a third in. Is he a major character? Or is he something akin to a plot device for Jessica to use? He does play a part in the story, but he isn't nearly as complex as the heroine herself. Was I supposed to care for him or was I supposed to hate him? Was I supposed to care for him at all, in any way? I just don't know.

The writing, however, is wonderful. A delight to read (as Campbell's writing often is). Perhaps all these questions were intentionally not answered. I just don't know. Despite them, I did enjoy Tantalized. But I also disliked it. Normally that would warrant a three star rating, but I just don't know.It's a complex story that can't be pinned down to a single rating. Meaning: read it and decide for yourself.

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