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Posted in Blog Tour

Blog Tour: I Do Not Trust You by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz (Review and Q&A)

I am so thrilled and grateful to be a part of the blog tour for I Do Not Trust You, the latest thrilling and adventurous YA book from duo Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz.

You can find the book on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble & IndieBound.

Check out the summary here:

37638243Memphis “M” Engle is stubborn to a fault, graced with an almost absurd knowledge of long lost languages and cultures, and a heck of an opponent in a fight. In short: she’s awesome.

Ashwin Sood is a little too posh for her tastes, a member of an ancient cult (which she’s pretty sure counts for more than one strike against him), and has just informed Memphis that her father who she thought was dead isn’t and needs her help.

From the catacombs of Paris to lost temples in the sacred forests, together they crisscross the globe, searching for the pieces of the one thing that might save her father. But the closer they come to saving him—and the more they fall for one another—the closer they get to destroying the world.

I got the chance to ask Laura and Melinda some of my burning questions about the world-building and writing process for I Do Not Trust You:

Tay: In I DO NOT TRUST YOU, M and Ash visit a variety of significant cultural locations around the globe, bringing them to almost every continent on a high-stakes hunt for pieces of a mysterious ancient statue. What was the research process like for choosing these sites? Did you work together? Were there any big surprises or Aha! moments?

Laura and Melinda: We did try to hit most of the continents! Antarctica and Australia didn’t make the cut, unfortunately. We knew the basic requirements for the locations we needed–they had to have been built a certain number of years ago, they had to be religious sites–and that helped narrow down our research. We initially made a long list of possible locations, and then narrowed them down in such a way that we’d have a variety of mythologies and cultures.

The best Aha! moment came at the very beginning, when we were plotting out the story in broad strokes. We knew we wanted an adventurous search for something, but we didn’t know what. We thought of an Egyptian artifact right away because we love Ancient Egypt, but we weren’t sure what it should be. One of our favorite Egyptian myths is the story of Osiris and Isis, which also involves Set, who is a dark god. Set kills Osiris and chops his body into pieces, which he scatters throughout Egypt. Isis, Osiris’s wife, searches for all the pieces and reunites them, reincarnating Osiris. And as we discussed this myth, we thought (Aha!) Isis searched for scattered pieces, and that’s what our heroine is doing as well. So we could use that myth as the basis for our (fictional) Egyptian artifact–it’s chopped into pieces and scattered around the world. It worked perfectly.

 

Tay: Along the same lines of my previous question, were there any sites or locations that you wanted to include, but ended up not fitting into the story?

Laura and Melinda: It was hard to pick only one spot in Egypt. We had a list of several, as you can imagine given our obsession with it! But it wouldn’t have worked for the plot to spend too much time there, so we had to choose the one that fit our story best. We also have an intense attraction to Druids, and we really wanted to use a location that might’ve been sacred to the Druids. Alas, we couldn’t quite find a way to work that in either.

 

Tay: A big part of what I love about I DO NOT TRUST YOU is that it offers a nuanced discussion of religion and what is sacred. Is that something that you two initially set out to write or did it develop over time? How did the weaving of different belief systems from Egyptian cult beliefs to Catholicism to local indigenous pagan beliefs develop as you wrote and then revised the book?

Laura and Melinda: We love anything involving complex mythology or the occult, and we love to create our own mythologies. The different belief systems are fascinating to us, and it’s impossible to separate those systems from the cultures that gave rise to them. One thing that we think gets forgotten when learning about the gods of ancient cultures is that, while we view the myths as merely stories, the people who lived then viewed them as a religion. It’s a mistake to assume that priests in Ancient Egypt weren’t just as devout as priests in our current religions, for instance. One of the best ways to learn about a modern culture is to study the religious beliefs of its people, and that’s true of ancient cultures as well. We like to think about what the lives of those believers were like, rather than only thinking about the gods and what they might symbolize.

With our main male character, Ash, we tried to figure out how it would feel to believe so completely in your religion that it crowds out all other considerations. And with our protagonist, M, we went the other way–she knows so much about so many different belief systems that she doesn’t have one particular belief of her own. Eventually, the theme that we settled on was one of respect for all the different faiths. If an act is done in service of the greater good, then it is sacred. That was something both of our characters could agree on.

Thank you so much Laura and Melinda for answering my questions!

Interested in learning more about I Do Not Trust You and my thoughts on this lovely imaginative book? Keep reading for my review!

Continue reading “Blog Tour: I Do Not Trust You by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz (Review and Q&A)”

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Posted in Book Review

Book Review – Keeper of the Bees by Meg Kassel

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Keeper of the Bees by Meg Kassel, EntangledTeen, 304 pp., $17.99

Rating: Recommend

Content Warnings: Death, gore, physical violence, forced institutionalization, schizophrenia

Sometimes what hooks me on a book is a unique premise. Other times it’s just because I’m into really weird things. I love honeybees, so I had to give Keeper of the Bees, a new speculative/surreal thriller by Meg Kassel and a companion to Black Birds of the Gallows, a chance as soon as I saw the cover.

For centuries, Dresden has been a beekeeper. A hive of bees lives inside his ribcage, the result of a curse put upon him by an evil queen. The bees yearn to sting humans, which drives them to madness and death, their suffering harvested by similarly cursed beings, Harbingers. But when the bees demand that Dresden sting Essie, a young girl whose family has been cursed by a madness that has evaded diagnosis from physicians, Dresden resists, sending him on a journey to fight for his and Essie’s humanity in the face of a looming disaster.

This book was okay. If you’re looking for an interesting Saturday read that has a quirky premise, this book is for you. It has an intriguing premise. It has a few twists. I couldn’t stop reading, because I needed to see how it was going to end and whether or not there was an way for Dresden and Essie to have some kind of a happy ending.

This book is definitely imaginative and gritty in a way I wish that more books were. The system of magic and curses that serves as the backbone of the book was so weird, but it was also so engaging and intriguing. I was a bit hesitant on the representation of mental illness in the book, since I’m not a fan of mental illness becoming conflated with madness brought on by some magical curse. This book definitely walks that fine line. In the end, it works out mostly okay.

The writing was also engaging and descriptive. I would recommend The Keeper of the Bees for anyone looking for a quick, enjoyable rainy day read.

I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Posted in Shattering Stigmas

Announcing Shattering Stigmas 4.0!

If you’ve been a follower of Stay on the Page for a while, you probably know I’m very passionate about mental health awareness and talking about issues of mental health and illness in a way that is honest, open and empathetic.

Three years ago, Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight launched the first Shattering Stigmas, a blogging event dedicated to posts about mental illness to address and challenge the stigmas against it. Through book reviews, discussion posts and lists, Shattering Stigmas has continued conversations around mental illness for the past three years.

Two years ago, during the second year of Shattering Stigmas, I did a guest post for Holly @ The Fox’s Hideaway, which you can find here. It was such a fantastic experience. It gave me a platform and a voice to talk about my mental health story that mattered to me so much that I volunteered to co-host last year. You can find my list of posts and a list of last year’s co-hosts here.

This event means the world to me and I want to ensure its ongoing success and expansion within the YA blogging community. This year, with Holly and Shannon’s best wishes, I will be organizing Shattering Stigmas. The event will run October 6-20, 2018.

Currently, I am looking for co-hosts and guest posters.

Co-Hosts are responsible for posting guest posts either daily or at least every few days during the two weeks of the event’s run. Please not this is a bit of a time commitment, but I am happy to help and answer any questions or concerns you might have. If you are interested in co-hosting, please fill out this form by September 14, 2018.

In terms of guest postsI am actively seeking authors, bloggers, writers and readers to write posts (personal essays, top ten lists, letters, etc.) about mental illness, stigma and mental health awareness. You may write about any topic connected to mental health (bookish or not), at any length, in any format as long as I can figure out how to put it on my blog. To see some prior Shattering Stigmas posts from past hosts, click here and here.

Some ideas for posts:

  • A book review of a book with mental illness representation
  • A discussion post about a book with mental illness rep that means a lot to you
  • A Q&A (authors, I’m looking at you! I’m always happy to promote authors who write about mental illness and their books)
  • Some kind of list post related to mental health and/or books
  • Discussion posts about identity and mental illness

Please note that I am particularly interested in posts about the intersection of mental health & illness with other marginalized identities. 

If you would like to write a guest post, you can comment with the following:

  • That yes, you would like to participate!!! (I really hope you’ll want to!)
  • The best way for me to contact you be that via email, Twitter, Instagram, etc. I just don’t have Facebook.

You can also contact me directly via my E-MAIL or Twitter (my DMs are open!)

I look forward to working with you and continuing to use the power of words to fight the stigma against mental illness. ♥

 

 

Posted in Announcement

New Review Rating System

I love to review books! It’s so much fun to gush about what I love about books and try to get people to read them and love them as much as I do. However, I hate having to put a rating on a book. Putting a quantitative value on a review, from one to five, is stressful.

Sometimes I love a book, and agonize over whether to give it a 4.5 or a 5. If I’m on the fence about a book, I know that giving the book a 3 versus a 4 might turn away some people away from reading it. And in terms of giving a book a 1 or a 2 star rating, what I’m really saying is that I probably wouldn’t recommend it and I want to make that clear to y’all that means I probably wouldn’t recommend this book.

Recently on Twitter, I saw @artfromafriend, who I look up to, say that she was changing her rating system to the following:

  • Highly Recommend
  • Recommend
  • Do Not Recommend

When I first read this, I thought it was brilliant and simple. I will be adopting this new system on my blog as well, in the hopes that it will make it more clear how I feel about the books I am reviewing on my blog and what I would like y’all to take away from them! I will be editing my past reviews to reflect this change in the coming weeks and all new reviews will use this system.

Posted in Uncategorized

College? College! 10 YA Books About Applying to or Attending (or Not) College

Top Ten Tuesday is a book blog meme founded by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. You can find out more information about TTT, including a list of past and future topics, here.

This week’s topic:

August 28: Back to School/Learning Freebie (in honor of school starting back up soon, come up with your own topic that fits the theme of school or learning! Books that take place at school/boarding school/during study abroad, books you read in school, textbooks you liked/didn’t like, non-fiction books you loved or want to read, etc.)

One of the biggest gaps in YA that I’ve noticed is a lack of books that are either set in college or are about the application/decision process to go to college. As a teen, as soon as you’re in high school, the stress around getting the grades to get into the college that you want, around knowing your friends might be living in different states and countries, around paying for college and around maybe not even wanting to go to college (which is TOTALLY okay and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) looms large.

So why isn’t it more present in YA? Why aren’t there more stories about college students who are still dealing with crises of identity and friend drama, maybe for the first time or more so than high school, in YA? Those are questions I can’t really answer, but I can give y’all ten of my recent YA favorites that tackle college in some shape or form.

And for everyone that has already started college classes or will be starting shortly, good luck this semester! You got this!

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1. Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke

This snark-filled YA is about a girl who’s expelled from her high school and enrolls in a degree completion program at her local community college (while moonlighting as a psychology major to play on a student-run reality show to try and win a used car!)

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2. The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik by David Arnold

This flat-out weird YA is about Noah Oakman, a teen who initially plans to go to college closeby to his two friends, until he realized college might not be what he wants and his friends might deserve a different future than the ones they originally plan.

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3. The Foreseeable Future by Emily Adrian

This swoony YA romance about two teens who work in a retirement facility is especially awesome because it features a protagonist, Audrey, who falls in love with nursing during a summer job, challenging the future her professor parents have set for her at the local liberal arts college where they teach.

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 Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

This nerdy YA shows two teens who have been preparing their entire lives for the future they thought would make them successful and happy, only to discover that it might not be what they wanted…or needed at all. It’s a great friendship story about supporting the people you love and following your nerdy dreams no matter what.

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5. Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

This poignant YA is about Kiko, a girl who gets rejected from Prism, the art school of her dreams, and then tours west coast art schools with her childhood friend, Jamie. It’s a great story about opening up a window to find your dreams when one door slams shut.

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6. Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr

This dual-authored and dual-POV YA might be one of my all-time favorite books about college. Elizabeth and Lauren find out that they’re going to be college roommates and while they’ve never met, their summer email exchange forges a close friendship between the girls as they each deal with pre-college friend and family drama.

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7. The Seven Torments of Amy & Craig by Don Zolidis

This historical YA comedy set in the nineties (no, really, and it works) documents not only Amy and Craig’s seven breakups, but also Craig’s tumultuous college application process and his family’s inability to pay for his and his twin sister’s college tuition in the wake of factory layoffs in their small Wisconsin town.

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8. Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

This fun, fluffy YA and the follow-up to Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda explores the way that college decisions can complicate once-solid high school friendships.

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9. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

This dark, poignant YA features a protagonist who’s the first person in his family to go to college and pursue his love of music, at the protest of his mother. It does a great job of showing the difficulties of wanting to go to college at the protest of family, which isn’t something often discussed, but equally important.

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10. Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King

This dark YA deals with college by showing a protagonist who doesn’t think she has a future totally skip applying to college and then having to watch all of her classmates get excited about college and the future, while her best friend who lives in an artist commune, didn’t finish high school. It’s a small detail, but one that informs the story in a fresh and innovative way.

These are some of my favorite YA reads set in and about college. What are some of yours?

Posted in Book Review

Review – Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

37506437Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

CW: Bullying/Harassment, Death, Terminal Illness, Discussions of Depression and Suicide

Representation: Fat MC, Depressed (with medication) MC, Gay MC, Iranian-American MC

Release Date: August 28, 2018

A strong distinct voice and an unforgettable story are two of my favorite things in a YA novel, but to say that Adib Khorram’s debut YA novel Darius the Great is Not Okay checks off both of these boxes would be an understatement. This lovely little book is such a masterpiece about struggling to fit in, exploring one’s cultural identity and finding one’s place in the world. It has incredible depression rep and an overweight, Iranian-American protagonist that you will all root for as he finds himself.

Avid tea lover and Star Trek nerd Darius Kellner feels like he doesn’t belong. He doesn’t belong at school, where he’s bullied by Trent Bolger and his crew of jock friends. He doesn’t fit in at home, where he feels constantly judged for his appearance and behavior by his white dad who also deals with depression and alienated from his mom and little sister who both speak Farsi. When Darius’s grandfather in Yazd, Iran falls ill, the Kellner family travels across the globe to visit him and while there, Darius starts his own journey to find his place within himself, within his family and within the world.

In terms of voice, this book hits it out of the park. Darius is such a full, complex, nuanced character. His thoughts, his cares, his fears jump off the page. He’s gay and overweight. He’s a thinker. He’s a tea aficionado. He’s a thoughtful friend. He’s self-conscious. He’s a good brother. And he loves people so deeply, but doesn’t know how to express it.

I know so many people who are looking for more spot-on internationally set YA. If that’s you, this is your book. As someone who doesn’t get to travel much and would never get to see a place like Iran from the perspective of someone with family there, I love books like this that open that world for me. Darius the Great was a window book for me. It showed me this whole part of the world I knew little about and the richness and beauty and complexities and dark sides of the culture there. The depiction of Yazd felt so complex and nuanced. But it also excites me to no end that this will be a mirror book for Iranian-American teens as well as fat, depressed and/or queer teens. The intersectionality of the representation is fantastic and made me wish all books could be like this. 

One of my great loves in this life is the representation of mental illness in YA books. Darius is depressed. He takes medication and has for years. He’s emotional and I loved the scenes where he cycles through multiple emotions at once because I’ve never seen that aspect of my depression represented on the page before. I had an “Ohhhhh” moment where I realized how my own mind works and how that aspect my mind probably looks from the outside in and it was weird and wonderful all at once. As a reviewer with depression and knowing that that aspect of the plot is also #ownvoices, it felt empathetic, complex and well-done.

Overall, just read this book. Do it. Darius the Great is Not Okay is one of the best YA books I have read in 2018. It is absolutely required reading, for everyone, for those who see themselves in it and those who will see through someone else’s eyes.

Posted in #SBPT

Wrapping Up the Summer Blogger Promo Tour

g4JfMVsm_400x400Whew, did this summer fly by…

Okay, I should have written this in Word before reading Brooke’s wrap-up post about me, y’all, because I AM EMOTIONAL. This is going to be short. Otherwise, it’s just going to be a mess of me spilling my feels all over the place.

I signed up for this promo tour because I know Jess and I wanted to support my friend. I NEVER expected to get a partner as kind, generous, lovely and amazing as Brooke. Long story short, I never expected to make a new friend, not one as sweet and awesome as Brooke, and for that I am eternally grateful. Brooke was always up for anything and although we are mutual procrastinators (we’ll fix that…one day), we always managed to get the job done.

So Brooke, thank you for making this a fun summer, for being my co-blogger and my friend, for helping me want to blog again. We did rock it (and I hope we both get to continue rocking it in the future!)! I’m so grateful for your recommendations. Jenn Bennett’s books are ones so needed in my life and while they are outside my usual genres, I really enjoyed Daughter of the Pirate King and Anna Dressed in Blood! Thank you for putting up with my Type A, anxious self!

I ALREADY MISS YOU SO MUCH!!!!