Book Review: How Music Got Free by Stephen Witt

How Music Got Free by Stephen Witt
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 16, 2015
Source: Borrowed

What happens when an entire generation commits the same crime?

How Music Got Free is a riveting story of obsession, music, crime, and money, featuring visionaries and criminals, moguls and tech-savvy teenagers. It’s about the greatest pirate in history, the most powerful executive in the music business, a revolutionary invention and an illegal website four times the size of the iTunes Music Store. 

Journalist Stephen Witt traces the secret history of digital music piracy, from the German audio engineers who invented the mp3, to a North Carolina compact-disc manufacturing plant where factory worker Dell Glover leaked nearly two thousand albums over the course of a decade, to the high-rises of midtown Manhattan where music executive Doug Morris cornered the global market on rap, and, finally, into the darkest recesses of the Internet.

Through these interwoven narratives, Witt has written a thrilling book that depicts the moment in history when ordinary life became forever entwined with the world online — when, suddenly, all the music ever recorded was available for free. In the page-turning tradition of writers like Michael Lewis and Lawrence Wright, Witt’s deeply-reported first book introduces the unforgettable characters—inventors, executives, factory workers, and smugglers—who revolutionized an entire artform, and reveals for the first time the secret underworld of media pirates that transformed our digital lives.

An irresistible never-before-told story of greed, cunning, genius, and deceit, How Music Got Free isn’t just a story of the music industry—it’s a must-read history of the Internet itself.

Once upon a time, if you wanted to listen to an album, you could just… download it. Any song you could possibly be looking for, no matter how obscure, was available for download in the shady corners of the internet, and if you couldn’t find it, one of your friends definitely knew someone who could. It was great. I still remember very clearly when those sites started disappearing, so I was really excited to read a book about the rise and fall of music piracy.

The story here is interesting. Witt covers all the major players in the torrenting scene — the people who invented the mp3, the people who leaked the music, the record company executives who had to deal with declining sales — and brings up points I hadn’t even thought to wonder about. Back in the day, these songs just appeared. You didn’t have to think about who put them there, how they did it, and what they risked, so in that way, I really enjoyed reading this book.

But for being a book about music piracy, it only seemed to skim the surface of the issue. I was hoping to read about music blogs, LUElinks, and file-sharing sites like MegaUpload, which were kind of the trifecta of piracy in my circles, but they were nowhere to be found in this book. I realize that these sites aren’t quite as sensational as the employees of CD factories sneaking music past security guards, but they were used much more commonly than torrents by the people I knew. I would’ve also liked a bit more discussion on modern answers to piracy, like Spotify, or even YouTube, which used to immediately remove copyrighted songs and now provides free access to just about any song you could want.

In short, this book was interesting, but I wanted more. I’ll definitely be browsing the library’s nonfiction section for more books on the music industry.

#mm20: seeing red


Have you read How Music Got Free? Have you read any good books on the music industry?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: Quiet Girl in a Noisy World, Little Moments of Love, & Nimona

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 7, 2017
Source: Borrowed

Sweet, funny, and quietly poignant, Debbie Tung’s comics reveal the ups and downs of coming of age as an introvert.

This illustrated gift book of short comics illuminates author Debbie Tung’s experience as an introvert in an extrovert’s world. Presented in a loose narrative style that can be read front to back or dipped into at one’s leisure, the book spans three years of Debbie’s life, from the end of college to the present day. In these early years of adulthood, Debbie slowly but finally discovers there is a name for her lifelong need to be alone: she’s an introvert.

The first half of the book traces Debbie’s final year in college: socializing with peers, dating, falling in love (with an extrovert!), moving in, getting married, meeting new people, and simply trying to fit in. The second half looks at her life after graduation: finding a job, learning to live with her new husband, trying to understand social obligations when it comes to the in-laws, and navigating office life. Ultimately, Quiet Girl sends a positive, pro-introvert message: our heroine learns to embrace her introversion and finds ways to thrive in the world while fulfilling her need for quiet.

I previously really enjoyed Debbie Tung’s Book Love, and it’s predecessor definitely did not disappoint. These little vignettes of Debbie’s life as she deals with anxiety and a world that always expects her to be “on” were so relatable. So many of the comics in this book were things that have happened to me over the years.

Panel from Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: Debbie is crying surrounded by negative comments. You need to make more friends. Why are you so shy? What's wrong with you? Are you all right? You seem really sad. You should talk more. It's not normal to not say anything.

The only real complaint that I have about this is that the themes are very repetitive. This is a book about Debbie being an introvert, and that’s it. There are only so many ways you can say you’re an introvert before you start to repeat yourself. But I, as an introvert, enjoyed seeing my life illustrated like this and I’d definitely recommend this book.

#wian: an antonym


Little Moments of Love by Catana Chetwynd
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 19, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Soppy meets Sarah’s Scribbles in this sweet collection of comics about the simple, precious, silly, everyday moments that make up a relationship.

What began as stray doodles on scraps of paper became an internet sensation when Catana Chetwynd’s boyfriend shared her drawings online. Now, Catana Comics touches millions of readers with its sweet, relatable humor. Little Moments of Love collects just that – the little moments that are the best parts of being with the person you love.

I love Catana’s comics so much, and after reading (and loving) my ARC of Snug, I knew I had to get to Little Moments of Love next. It was just as cute as Snug, and I enjoyed it just as much… if not more. I’d already seen most of the comics included in Snug, but since Little Moments of Love was published two years ago, I had either not seen (or forgotten about) most of these.

Catana comic: Catana has a low battery indicator over her head and hugs her boyfriend. The battery indicator raises until it shows that it's fully charged.

I always think that Catana’s comics are really relatable to anybody who’s been truly in love. Her comics never fail to make me smile, and I’ll happily read her next collection (while also checking out her comics on Instagram daily).


Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Source: Borrowed

The graphic novel debut from rising star Noelle Stevenson, based on her beloved and critically acclaimed web comic, which Slate awarded its Cartoonist Studio Prize, calling it “a deadpan epic.”

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

I previously read and really enjoyed Stevenson’s Lumberjanes series, and knowing that Nimona was pretty beloved in the book blogging community, I was excited to dive right in. Right away, I loved both Nimona and Ballister. I loved the way they interacted with each other, and we all know I love a good morally gray villain.

The only thing I could have hoped for was a little more backstory on Nimona. I would have loved a little bit more resolution on where she got her abilities and what exactly she’s capable of. Still, this was an excellent graphic novel that I’d highly recommend to anyone looking for a good fantasy/adventure storyline.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Source: Borrowed

When eighteen-year-old Ever Wong’s parents send her from Ohio to Taiwan to study Mandarin for the summer, she finds herself thrust among the very over-achieving kids her parents have always wanted her to be, including Rick Woo, the Yale-bound prodigy profiled in the Chinese newspapers since they were nine—and her parents’ yardstick for her never-measuring-up life.

Unbeknownst to her parents, however, the program is actually an infamous teen meet-market nicknamed Loveboat, where the kids are more into clubbing than calligraphy and drinking snake-blood sake than touring sacred shrines.

Free for the first time, Ever sets out to break all her parents’ uber-strict rules—but how far can she go before she breaks her own heart? 

When I first read the synopsis for Loveboat, Taipei, I really wanted to love it. I’m all for diverse stories being published, and this one, set at a study abroad program in Taipei, sounded so interesting! Unfortunately, regardless of how much I wanted to love it, I had a number of problems with the story.

The first problem I had was that this book is basically just a racier version of American Panda. Let’s break this down. Both books feature a Chinese main character born to immigrant parents who have sacrificed a lot to get the main character where they are. Both books feature a main character whose parents want her to be a doctor, and both books feature characters that don’t want to be doctors because of a phobia of blood/germs. Both books feature characters who would actually rather pursue a career dancing professionally, but both sets of parents do not support this career choice. Where Loveboat, Taipei deviates from American Panda is in the middle section of the book, in which the author attempts to tackle about 1500 issues, which I’ll address below.

There was far too much going on in this book. The book is 432 pages, which is pretty long for a YA contemporary, and it’s only that long because the author tries to tackle so many different issues. There was no reason for there to be so many dramatic events in this book, especially given that few of the events are ever resolved. You can’t just throw a ton of issues at a book haphazardly and expect everything to work out in the end.

A list of things that happen in this book, many of which could be triggering to some readers:depression, suicidal ideation/threat/attempt, graphic knife injury, abusive parents, abusive relationship (physical & emotional), leaked nude photos, victim blaming, racism, sex (not at all realistically portrayed, in my opinion), cheating, parent injured in car accident, very questionable drag scene that comes out of nowhere

Finally, everything wraps up far too neatly and far too easily at the end. Ever is unrealistically mature about everything, forgiving everyone for things that should definitely not be forgiven and conveniently achieving several goals she’d set for herself with seemingly few roadblocks. All of the problems are just forgotten, probably (hopefully??) to be addressed in the (entirely unnecessary) sequel.

I can see how some readers might enjoy this story, but it wasn’t for me.


Have you read Loveboat, Taipei? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: Southern Lady Code, How I Resist, & Humans

Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 16, 2019
Source: Borrowed

The bestselling author of American Housewife is back with a fiercely funny collection of essays on marriage and manners, thank-you notes and three-ways, ghosts, gunshots, gynecology, and the Calgon-scented, onion-dipped, monogrammed art of living as a Southern Lady.

Helen Ellis has a mantra: “If you don’t have something nice to say, say something not-so-nice in a nice way.” Say “weathered” instead of “she looks like a cake left out in the rain.” Say “early-developed” instead of “brace face and B cups.” And for the love of Coke Salad, always say “Sorry you saw something that offended you” instead of “Get that stick out of your butt, Miss Prissy Pants.” In these twenty-three raucous essays Ellis transforms herself into a dominatrix Donna Reed to save her marriage, inadvertently steals a $795 Burberry trench coat, witnesses a man fake his own death at a party, avoids a neck lift, and finds a black-tie gown that gives her the confidence of a drag queen. While she may have left her home in Alabama, married a New Yorker, forgotten how to drive, and abandoned the puffy headbands of her youth, Helen Ellis is clinging to her Southern accent like mayonnaise to white bread, and offering readers a hilarious, completely singular view on womanhood for both sides of the Mason-Dixon.

I moved to Tennessee a few months ago, so I figured I should learn how to be a proper Southern Lady. What better than this collection of essays to teach me?

First of all, this book was hilarious. Second of all, it made me question every person that’s ever been nice to me since I moved down here. And third of all, it made me want to read more from Ellis.

Ellis is really legitimately funny, and she’s had such great experiences to write about. I feel like she’s the kind of person that it would be really fun to sit down for a meal with.


How I Resist by Maureen Johnson
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 15, 2018
Source: Borrowed

n all-star collection of essays about activism and hope, edited by bestselling YA author Maureen Johnson.

Now, more than ever, young people are motivated to make a difference in a world they’re bound to inherit. They’re ready to stand up and be heard – but with much to shout about, where they do they begin? What can I do? How can I help?

How I Resist is the response, and a way to start the conversation. To show readers that they are not helpless, and that anyone can be the change. A collection of essays, songs, illustrations, and interviews about activism and hope, How I Resist features an all-star group of contributors, including John Paul Brammer, Libba Bray, Lauren Duca, Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his husband Justin Mikita, Alex Gino, Hebh Jamal, Malinda Lo, Dylan Marron, Hamilton star Javier Muñoz, Rosie O’Donnell, Junauda Petrus, Jodi Picoult, Jason Reynolds, Karuna Riazi, Maya Rupert, Dana Schwartz, Dan Sinker, Ali Stroker, Jonny Sun (aka @jonnysun), Sabaa Tahir, Shaina Taub, Daniel Watts, Jennifer Weiner, Jacqueline Woodson, and more, all edited and compiled by New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson.

In How I Resist, readers will find hope and support through voices that are at turns personal, funny, irreverent, and instructive. Not just for a young adult audience, this incredibly impactful collection will appeal to readers of all ages who are feeling adrift and looking for guidance.

How I Resist is the kind of book people will be discussing for years to come and a staple on bookshelves for generations.

As with most anthologies, How I Resist varies a lot in both content and quality. Some of the contributions were great — I particularly loved Libba Bray’s — but others were… not. I appreciate the point of this book and I think a lot of the contributions will do a great job of encouraging teens to stand up for what they believe in. There are just some less-great essays to get through along the way.

With that said, though, I am far past the target demographic of this book, so it’s entirely possible that any problems I had might not be problems that actual teens have.


Humans by Tom Phillips
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: July 26, 2018
Source: Borrowed

An exhilarating journey through the most creative and catastrophic f*ck ups in human history, from our very first ancestor falling out of that tree, to the most spectacular fails of the present day.

In the seventy thousand years that modern human beings have walked this earth, we’ve come a long way. Art, science, culture, trade – on the evolutionary food chain, we’re real winners. But, frankly, it’s not exactly been plain sailing, and sometimes – just occasionally – we’ve managed to really, truly, quite unbelievably f*ck things up.

From Chairman Mao’s Four Pests Campaign, to the American Dustbowl; from the Austrian army attacking itself one drunken night, to the world’s leading superpower electing a reality TV mogul as President… it’s pretty safe to say that, as a species, we haven’t exactly grown wiser with age.

So, next time you think you’ve really f*cked up, this book will remind you: it could be so much worse.

At the beginning of 2020, I was scrolling through Goodreads and came across a list of nonfiction books that looked really interesting. Of course, I have no idea where that list has gone, but it added a bunch of books to my TBR. The one I decided to go for first was Humans, which describes itself as “a brief history of how we fucked it all up.”

Unlike a lot of brief histories, this one actually is brief. There’s no more than a few pages on each topic, and it’s just enough information that you’d be able to pull out some fun facts during trivia night, but not so much that you’ll get bored. These really are interesting bits of information, all about people screwing everything up and living (or not) to tell the tale.

This is a really well-written, funny history book. The only reason I didn’t rate it higher is that reading it all in a couple sittings kind of burned me out. (Ideally I would not have done this, but I had to worry about library due dates.) That’s on me, not on the book, but I think it would be better enjoyed a few pages at a time. It’s probably a better coffee table book than anything else.


Have you read any of these books? Have you read any good nonfiction recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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ARC Review: Who Put This Song On? by Morgan Parker

Who Put This Song On? by Morgan Parker
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Source: ARC via Netgalley

Trapped in sunny, stifling, small-town suburbia, seventeen-year-old Morgan knows why she’s in therapy. She can’t count the number of times she’s been the only non-white person at the sleepover, been teased for her “weird” outfits, and been told she’s not “really” black. Also, she’s spent most of her summer crying in bed. So there’s that, too.

Lately, it feels like the whole world is listening to the same terrible track on repeat—and it’s telling them how to feel, who to vote for, what to believe. Morgan wonders, when can she turn this song off and begin living for herself?

Life may be a never-ending hamster wheel of agony, but Morgan finds her crew of fellow outcasts, blasts music like there’s no tomorrow, discovers what being black means to her, and finally puts her mental health first. She decides that, no matter what, she will always be intense, ridiculous, passionate, and sometimes hilarious. After all, darkness doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Darkness is just real.

The first book on my “WOW, I REALLY NEED TO CATCH UP ON THESE ARCS” list was Who Put This Song On?, which was published back in September. I was super excited about this one and then life happened and I totally forgot about it until well after it was published.

I have some conflicting thoughts about this book, but overall, I really enjoyed it.

The first thing I want to mention is the nostalgia factor. This book is set in 2008, when emo music was at its height and Barack Obama had just been elected. This was such a throwback for me. I was 18 in 2008, and Morgan is 17. It felt like I was reading a book about my own teenage experiences, because let me tell you… I also can sometimes not make it through a party without crying (or at least getting super anxious) and, back in 2008, I also got joy by locking myself in my bedroom and screaming along with Bright Eyes. (Road to Joy was my go-to.)

Morgan’s struggle with her faith while attending Catholic school was another thing that took me right back to 2008. I attended thirteen years of Catholic school and everything that Morgan talks about is accurate. Going to mass every week with your class because that’s what you’ve always done, listening to teachers awkwardly drone on about resisting temptations, weird religious versions of popular songs, the lack of sex ed (which in this book leads to a pregnancy scare)… all of that was my high school experience.

And the music! I loved how Morgan loved all of the same music that I did back then. (And, okay, I’m still an emo kid even though I’m in my late 20s.) I’m a sucker for music references, and I loved how Morgan and her friends made mixes for each other all the time. I loved making mixes for my friends back then!

I also appreciated the exploration of Morgan’s anxiety and depression. While mental health is a big thing now that people make a point to talk about and prioritize, it definitely was not in 2008. It was something people actively avoided talking about, and if they did talk about it, it was in whispers or just vaguely alluded to. That’s really captured well in this book, and the intersection between Morgan’s depression and her race adds another level to the story.

There were, however, some things I didn’t particularly like.

The pacing was, I think, my biggest issue. The book is only 336 pages, but it definitely drags at times, and especially at the beginning. There were some chapters that didn’t really seem to serve a purpose, which, because this is a semi-autobiographical novel, I feel kind of bad saying.

Another issue I had was the sheer amount of issues this book tries to tackle. I’ve included several of them in my list of content warnings below, and there are definitely more that I’m forgetting. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a heavy book, but it does deal with some very difficult topics. This on its own wasn’t really an issue for me, but the fact that very few of these issues were actually resolved was. A lot of things happen to Morgan, and then the book just kind of ends. I know that this book is based on the author’s life and real life doesn’t always have a neat and tidy ending, but, at least for me, that didn’t translate into a novel very well.

Overall, I think this book is definitely worth a read if you can relate to being an anxious teenager who felt like an outsider and was obsessed with emo music in 2008. That might be a very specific demographic, but it’s one I fit into.

Content warnings:depression (including suicidal thoughts), anxiety (including panic attacks), homophobia, drug and alcohol use, racism, attempted sexual assault

Have you read Who Put This Song On? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: The Vanishing Stair, 19 Love Songs, & The Wicked King

The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 15, 2017
Source: Borrowed

All Stevie Bell wanted was to find the key to the Ellingham mystery, but instead she found her classmate dead. And while she solved that murder, the crimes of the past are still waiting in the dark. Just as Stevie feels she’s on the cusp of putting it together, her parents pull her out of Ellingham academy.

For her own safety they say. She must move past this obsession with crime. Now that Stevie’s away from the school of topiaries and secret tunnels, and her strange and endearing friends, she begins to feel disconnected from the rest of the world. At least she won’t have to see David anymore. David, who she kissed. David, who lied to her about his identity—son of despised politician Edward King. Then King himself arrives at her house to offer a deal: He will bring Stevie back to Ellingham immediately. In return, she must play nice with David. King is in the midst of a campaign and can’t afford his son stirring up trouble. If Stevie’s at school, David will stay put.

The tantalizing riddles behind the Ellingham murders are still waiting to be unraveled, and Stevie knows she’s so close. But the path to the truth has more twists and turns than she can imagine—and moving forward involves hurting someone she cares for. In New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s second novel of the Truly Devious series, nothing is free, and someone will pay for the truth with their life.

Much like with Truly Devious, I wasn’t really fully convinced by The Vanishing Stair until partway through. I was worried that this was going to be a filler book, one where the characters sort of just wander around looking for clues until we hit the final book in the trilogy, where everything finally happens. That worry ended up being unwarranted, because a ton of stuff happens in this book!

With any mystery, I’m kind of hesitant to get into details because I don’t want to accidentally spoil anything. I just want to say that Maureen Johnson has clearly thought everything through in this series and planned out every detail in depth. I can’t wait to find out what will happen next!


19 Love Songs by David Levithan
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Source: Borrowed

The New York Times bestselling author of Every DaySomeday, and Two Boys Kissing is back with a short story collection about love–perfect for Valentine’s Day or year-round reading!

A resentful member of a high school Quiz Bowl team with an unrequited crush.

A Valentine’s Day in the life of Every Day‘s protagonist “A.”

A return to the characters of Two Boys Kissing.

19 Love Songs, from New York Times bestselling author David Levithan, delivers all of these stories and more. Born from Levithan’s tradition of writing a story for his friends each Valentine’s Day, this collection brings all of them to his readers for the first time. With fiction, nonfiction, and a story in verse, there’s something for every reader here.

Witty, romantic, and honest, teens (and adults) will come to this collection not only on Valentine’s Day, but all year round. 

I’ve been reading David Levithan’s books since I was a teenager myself, so when I saw that he had a new collection of short stories out, I had to read it. Levithan has written some of my all-time favorite books (The Lover’s Dictionary, You Know Me Well) as well as some books that I’ve really disliked (Every Day, the Dash & Lily books). He’s also written a ton of books that I’ve felt indifferent about, and I won’t link all of those reviews here, but they’re all on my “all reviews” page.

The point is, I can go either way on Levithan’s writing, and I went both ways on the stories in this collection. When they were good, they were really good. I loved the story about Taylor Swift fanfiction, the story about being snowed in, the quiz bowl story, and the Santa story. I also loved all of the music references. The stories I didn’t love mostly left me bored. This isn’t really Levithan’s fault, because I’m sure there are plenty of people who connect more with those stories than I did.

Overall, I think this evens out to a three-star read for me. If you’re into Levithan’s writing, a lot characters from his previous books make appearances in these stories, so you might be pleasantly surprised.


The Wicked King by Holly Black
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 8, 2019
Source: Borrowed

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.


After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

Well, 89% of people on Goodreads have given this book either 4 or 5 stars, and I am not one of those people. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate this series or anything. I gave the first book four stars, mostly because it really grabbed me toward the end, but I definitely thought it had a rough start.

In The Wicked King, I had many of the same problems as I had in The Cruel Prince. Jude is less annoying than she was in the first book, but she’s equally dumb. Cardan is still mostly mean to Jude (that’s the point, I know) and I didn’t buy their “romance” at all. I found much of the plot boring, and the big plot twist at the end seemed so in-character for everyone that I wasn’t really surprised at all. In 336 pages, very little happens that actually advances the plot.

And yet. For however much I disliked this book, I still want to read The Queen of Nothing to find out how everything ends.


Have you read any of these books? Have you read any good YA recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Consent by Donna Freitas

Consent by Donna Freitas
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: August 21, 2018
Source: Borrowed

In this “compelling and disturbing” true story (Rebecca Traister), a young woman’s toxic mentor develops a dark, stalking obsession that disrupts her career — and her peace of mind. Donna Freitas has lived two lives. In one life, she is a well-published author and respected scholar who has traveled around the country speaking about Title IX, consent, religion, and sex on college campuses. In the other, she is a victim, a woman who suffered and suffers still because she was stalked by her graduate professor for more than two years.

As a doctoral candidate, Freitas loved asking big questions, challenging established theories and sinking her teeth into sacred texts. She felt at home in the library, and safe in the book-lined offices of scholars whom she admired. But during her first year, one particular scholar became obsessed with Freitas’ academic enthusiasm. He filled her student mailbox with letters and articles. He lurked on the sidewalk outside her apartment. He called daily and left nagging voicemails. He befriended her mother, and made himself comfortable in her family’s home. He wouldn’t go away. While his attraction was not overtly sexual, it was undeniably inappropriate, and most importantly–unwanted.

In Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention, Donna Freitas delivers a forensic examination of the years she spent stalked by her professor, and uses her nightmarish experience to examine the ways in which we stigmatize, debate, and attempt to understand consent today.

This is a hard review for me to write, not because of the subject matter, but because of the way this story is told. Although I think this book tells an important story that needs to be told, I have a number of issues with the way Freitas delivers it, and the messages that she — likely unintentionally — sends in the process. I will get into all of this soon, but I worry that, in writing this book, she has sent the exact opposite of the message she was hoping for.

There may be some spoilers below.

Let’s start with the premise, which is absolutely terrifying. When the author was a college student, she was stalked by a professor. As many students do, she went to his office hours during her first semester. She found the subject matter of his course interesting, and he misinterpreted that as her wanting to form a personal relationship with him. Things escalated to the point that he was inundating her with phone calls on her personal landline and letters to her parents’ house, information he would have only been able to find by accessing her confidential records. He struck up a friendship with her dying mother, only to use it to his advantage. To complicate matters even further, he was a priest at a Catholic university that was dead-set on keeping everything under wraps.

Before I get into my criticisms of this book, I want to make it clear that I think what Freitas went through was absolutely awful. I don’t think that anyone should be subjected to the kind of behavior that she lived with. Her professor is 100% at fault for everything that happened, regardless of any time she willingly spent with him when they first met. With all of that said, I do have a few problems with this book.

I think that the first point I want to make is how disjointed everything is. Freitas tells her story in the most roundabout way. She’s in grad school being stalked by her professor, and then she takes us back to high school when she kissed a bunch of boys, then we’re back in grad school and she repeats herself, and then she’s talking about how she’s the only female on the entire campus who ever dressed nicely, and then she’s back with another weird phone call from the professor. It was almost as if she thought she didn’t have enough to say on the actual topic of the book, so she decided to fill up space with a bunch of random asides.

The second point I want to make is about her lack of action. It infuriated me. I can understand feeling trapped. I can understand feeling powerless. But her professor did so many creepy things, and people noticed. He’d call her parents’ house, and when her family asked how he got the number, she’d lie and say she gave it to him. He’d show up somewhere unexpected and she’d lie and say she invited him. She had so, so many chances to tell even one person that something wasn’t right, and she made excuse after excuse for why she couldn’t. He’s a priest, so he doesn’t mean it like that. I don’t want to get him in trouble since he’s probably just being friendly. My mom is sick and she’s super religious and I don’t want to upset her. Okay, so don’t tell the school. Don’t tell your mom. But tell a friend. Tell your boyfriend. Tell someone.

In the end, more than sending a message that this behavior was wrong or needed to be challenged, I think that Freitas sends a message that the Catholic church is corrupt. I don’t think that she necessarily meant to do this. But after going on about the stalking and harassment for 300 pages or so, the whole thing is never resolved. The Catholic university and Catholic church end up giving her some money and telling her to sign an NDA to make it all go away.

I’m not saying that Freitas’ experiences aren’t valid or that her pain from this situation isn’t real. I can’t even imagine the recovery from something like this. But I feel like this book would have been much better if it had included any kind of resources on what you should do in this kind of situation. Freitas mentions, probably dozens of times, that she lectures on Title IX and abusive behavior. I imagine this means that she shares resources with the audience. That she offers some sort of advice for who you can talk to, where you can go, what you can do to get out of a situation like this. The book was, sadly, lacking any of that. It’s just a sad story of a young woman being stalked and harassed to the point that it effectively ended her career before it even began. The story feels incomplete, and it mostly just left me feeling disappointed.


Have you read Consent? Have you read any good books on Title IX?
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