American Street

american street

American Street

By Ibi Zoboi

Genre: Contemporary

Publication Date: February 14, 2017

Review

Fabiola was born in America but has lived in Haiti her entire life so when she and her mother try to move to Detroit, her mother is detained but Fabiola is not.

So I’m in the minority here and I would like to begin by saying that I REALLY wanted to like this book and it started off well but I just didn’t like it and here’s why.

This book was incredibly predictable.  Predictability is a dealbreaker for me and maybe it was intentionally predictable but that was my main issue.  If a book is supposed to be predictable than it should have some nuance or strong character development just something to distract the reader. I know I’m not the only one who predicted everything so that’s why I think I must have missed something great that everyone else saw.

The cousins were a bit too tropey for me and none of them had a unique voice.  I appreciate their rationale for why they are intentionally mean but that’s all I got that made these characters special.  I liked that Donna explained her devotion to Dray but it bothered me a bit that her dealbreaker was his association with a white girl and not him beating her or cheating on her with black girls.

There’s instalove which is also a dealbreaker for me and I felt the relationship was forced and a means to an end.  I thought Fabiola was a little uneven.  She begins the story as a scared girl aching for her mother. She had a hard life in Haiti but when she stepped off the plane she came across as meek.  Then a couple days in she tells herself she’s going to be brave and then she steps out with weave and a tight dress and engaging with dangerous men. A girl who does the latter is a confident person and Fabiola just didn’t seem all that confident when she stepped off the plane. I got her sense of desperation and the fact that she put herself in harms way for her mother and that was believable but that initial personality switch was a jolt.

I did like the Dray character and thought he was a complicated young man and a good villain.  I also enjoyed Bad Leg and Fab’s belief in him as a higher being.  It made the reader also wonder if Bad Leg was just an observant crackhead or if he was a something else.  My only issue was that the cousins told Fab that he was a crackhead and to leave it alone but when she tells them that Bad Leg says to not go to the party, they believe her.  Now I was skipping around and maybe I missed something that made them start believing in Bad Leg and if that is the case, ignore what I just said. I also liked the curse surrounding the house.

I really wanted to like it and I must be missing the greatness of this book because I didn’t enjoy it.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

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Landscape with Invisible Hand

landscape with invisible hand

Landscape with Invisible Hand

By MT Anderson

Genre: Science fiction/Contemporary

Publication Date: 9/12/17

Review

One day aliens inhabited, not invaded, earth promising a better life but it was actually only for the 1%.  The rest of the world is poor and starving and trying to find a way to get up to the sky to live like the wealthy.  Adam and his family is unfortunately the 99% and their life is abysmal.

Adam is an artist and paints everything he sees and I wondered how he could afford all his supplies when his ever optimist mother is unemployed. I know his teacher buys supplies for his class but does Adam take supplies home?  Paint and especially canvas is expensive; I guess we aren’t supposed to ask questions.  Back to the review…

Adam and his girlfriend get a great idea to make money- a reality show about their love.  They film episodes of their dates and since the aliens, the vuvv, “invaded” during a 50’s themed drive-in movie, the vuvv love everything 50’s nostalgia and Adam and his girlfriend have to use words like groovy.  Of course at some point they begin to hate each other and it becomes a problem much like Adam’s entire life.  He has a disease that gives him no control of his bowels, his father is a dick, and his girlfriend and her family are dicks too.  So when Adam has an opportunity to win an art contest that could get his family up to the 1%, you just know that that is NEVER going to happen-DAMN YOU MT; CAN”T THIS LOVELY FAMILY HAVE ANY GOOD LUCK?  I was so angry and frustrated at this wonderful family’s bad luck that I began to hate this book but I knew there was a deeper message so I trucked along.

There is an ending and that’s all I’ll say but I liked it and the message and it stayed true to the story and the family.

This was a short albeit heartbreaking story about a little family who tries to stay positive in their shitty lives.  Adam had a great attitude and took no crap from anyone and his mother’s half glass full perspective really helped me get through this depressing book.

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbombbomb 1/4

Dread Nation

dread nation

Dread Nation

By Justine Ireland

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: April 3, 2018

Review

The year is 1880 and slavery has kind of ended in the traditional sense but blacks and native Americans are now forced to enter combat schools to learn how to fight zombies.

Our main character is Jane who is a sassy bi-racial zombie killing machine that takes no shits from anyone.  This book has all the fixin’s, Katherine a snooty student who is passing as white, Jackson a sexy hustler/sexual harasser, a racist sheriff, and a corrupt mayor. Our trio lives and trains in Baltimore and their only future of becoming personal bodyguards for “rich white folks” is not something they are looking forward to until they are abducted and forced to fight zombies in the new hope for America-Kansas.

Dread Nation is what I like to call a book that has all bones and no meat.  There’s a solid idea but it’s basically bunch of events, zombie attacks, in-between a bunch of nothing.  This book is contingent on world building because this is a new world.  Post Civil War America is different than what we know because of zombies so there needs to be some solid world building BUT because this book is written in first person where Jane talks to the reader, the entire world is info dumped.  When you have a first person POV, your world building options are limited.  I looked through my personal library of fantasy and almost all of them are third person with the exception of Kiss of Deception that relies on interludes of old texts for world building.   With Dread Nation, all we get is the old south with their plantations and zombies.  Then they go to the old west where there’s a brothel, a church, and a saloon, and zombies.  That’s not world building; that’s all old west movies.  If that’s what Ireland is going for, relying on the reader’s preconceived ideas of the old south and the old west, why did this book need to be 464 pages?

Ireland tried to do something with the Katherine Jane relationship where they start off as enemies but it ended up being nothing new or special.  Jane is an okay character as far as her sass but she’s also smarter than everyone else in the room and that got annoying.  A racist who constantly calls the blacks darkies does not a villain make.  We expect the corrupt white sheriff to be racist but what else about him makes him evil? There were several white villains like this and it got repetitive.

This is really just a book that contain themes and storylines that we’ve all read a bunch of times.  There’s nothing new here which is a shame because it’s an interesting idea.

Bang Bang Review bombbomb 1/2

Turtles All The Way Down

turtles all the way down

Turtles All The Way Down

By John Green

Genre: Contemporary/Mental Illness

Publication Date: October 10, 2017

Overview

Aza fears she’s going to contract C Diff, a bacterial infection, so she is aware of all bacteria that enters her body.  She’s specifically focused on the sore on her hand.  Aza has a best friend named Daisy and a car named Harold that she loves.  When an old friend’s father goes missing, Daisy sees this as an opportunity to get rich.

The description seems like this is going to be a mystery but it’s not.  Although Aza and Daisy to look for a billionaire, it’s more about the relationship with Davis than the hunt for the billionaire.

Aza gets consumed in her fear of C Diff and it causes her to be self centered but not intentionally and I feel like this is the main point of Turtles.  As the story opens, we are instantly in Aza’s head and her fears of bacteria entering her body through food.  She also worries that she’s not in control of her life because of her OCD, the meds she has to take, and generally being told what to do and when to do it by everyone.

While she’s in her own head, Daisy and another friend are having a discussion about a missing billionaire and how they can find him and obtain the $100,000 reward. Aza coincidentally met the billionaire’s son at camp for kids with dead parents about five years ago and Daisy sees this as an opportunity to get clues.  When the duo arrive at the mansion, Aza reacquaints with a thoughtful sensitive boy that likes astronomy and quotes. Aza and Davis develop a sweet relationship that cause Aza to see the world differently.

The cover art includes a spiral which are referenced through out the novel and one of the more important references is the metaphorical use of the spiral in relation to how the OCD makes Aza feel. By the end of the book, Aza of course is not cured but she grows and I’m not going to say how because that’s for you to discover.  But her growth has to do with the self centeredness.

Speaking of self centered, teens and adults can be self absorbed and Green expounds on this annoying attribute.  Daisy has her own issues and the reader can confer on many of them and not through Aza but through Daisy’s comments and behavior.  Aza, however, does not seem to take much interest in Daisy because she’s consumed by her OCD.  The girls have a frank discussion about this and I thought it was written very well even though it’s unrealistic.  Sometimes I feel like Green writes typical teen situations as how they SHOULD go instead of how they DO go.  There’s nothing wrong with this; I think teens can gain new perspective but I do find it amusing.

Green uses a picture from Aza’s deceased father’s phone of a sky and Davis’ astronomy interests as a growth strategy for Aza and I thought it was very effective.

My biggest issue with the book is the over explaining of the OCD.  I’ve read a couple of books where the MC has this disorder and the author tries a little too hard to get the reader to understand what it’s like.  I think Green did one too many analogies.

What I think many teens like about John Green’s books are his quirky characters, their relationships/crushes/manic pixie dream girls, and heartbreak.  I fear Turtles has too much dialogue and not enough quirk to keep some teens’ interest.  A teen who is a thinker will like it and of course adults will like it.

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbombbomb 1/4

Any Bangs in September?

NOPE.

THis was a slow month for me and I’m not sure why.  I only read six books and most of them stunk. So here we go. Please click the titles for full reviews.

bombbomb1/2-Bull by David Elliot-I’m not into Greek Mythology but that wasn’t my problem.  It tried too hard to jump on the Hamilton train.  It was the story of the Minotaur but it was in verse and quite hip hop-whatever that means.

DNF-Enchantment of Ravens-It began well but I’m not in the mood for a road trip book.  I might pick it up again later.

bombbombbomb1/2-Into the Water by Paula Hawkins-I only read one adult fiction book a year and I LOVED Girl on the Train and this was for my book club and the character development was no bueno.

bombbombbombbomb-The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo-I didn’t read the last story because I’m not a fan of short stories (sorry for all the negativity).  I also thought this was going to be short stories about people from Ravka and not mythology.  I already said mythology is not my jam so double no no.  Anyway, I liked the fox story and the Duva story and the end of story illustrations were beautiful.

bombbombbombbomb 1/2-Midnight at the Electric-This was a critical read and one of my faves of the year.  If you are in the mood for a story about strong women, get out your tissues and read this book.

bombbombbomb 1/2-Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas-I think Maas is trying to hard to cram all this story in one book but ironically this book is too damn long.  It wouldn’t have been so long if the romance wasn’t sludging-UGH.  I was so close to giving up on this series but there’s only one book left and I’ve invested five years so I have to.

October TBR-One of these months I’m actually gonna read what I say I’m gonna read.

 

Midnight at the Electric

midnight at the electric

Midnight at the Electric

By Lodi Lynn Anderson

Genre: Historical Fiction/Kinda Science Fiction

Publication Date: June 13, 2017

Overview

Midnight at the Electric is set in three different decades with three different heroines that all have the same mission-save their future.

In 2065, Adri is set to fly to mars to start a new civilization because the earth’s resources are depleting and before her departure this orphan goes to meet and live her aunt for three months.  Adri is a self proclaimed awkward girl with poor social skills and the beginning of her relationship with her aunt Lily is rocky but as they coexist, Adri and Lily form a touching friendship.  Adri’s 107 year old aunt is suffering from dementia and is a tell-it-like-it-is woman. On Adri’s first night with Lily, she finds a picture of a woman which leads her to uncover her identity and takes Adri on a journey back in time.

Catherine lived in Lily’s house during the Dust Bowl of 1935.  She’s a plain girl with not a lot of ambition but when her younger sister becomes ill from the dust, Catherine realizes that she needs to get out of Kansas.  Everyone around Catherine including her mother and her crush refuses to leave their home and Catherine must make a difficult decision- leave Kansas with her sister or stay with her family.  To avoid this decision, Catherine is mesmerized by a traveling carnival that features a ball of lightning that promises cure alls called Midnight at the Electric and Catherine believes this can save her sister.

Lenore is an English girl during the post WWI era.  Her brother has died in the war and although she has other brothers and sisters, Lenore feels alone.  She decides to save money to travel to Kansas to be with her best friend, Catherine’s mother. While she’s earning, she befriends a mysterious young man who’s face has been left deformed by the war.

This is a very simple story about three generations of women who must make drastic decisions that impact their futures and their families.  Anderson retold this simple plot by featuring three different women who are all connected yet live in different decades and who are facing very different circumstances.  I liked that Anderson began Midnight in the not so far future where this current generation has consciously used up the earth’s resources which ultimately makes this novel incredibly relevant.   Midnight avoided tropes while introducing a new refreshing voice with Adri.  This was a touching novel and I found myself really caring about all these women and the turtle.

If you are a librarian who is looking for an engaging discussion book for your teens, I highly recommend this.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

 

Tower of Dawn

tower of dawn

Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6)

Sarah J. Maas

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: September 5, 2017

Overview

Tower of Dawn is happening concurrently with Empire of Storms.  Chaol and Nesryn have gone to Antica which is not on the map in the beginning of the book but the in southern continent. They have gone to heal Chaol’s back as well as ask the king to join forces to defeat Erawan.

Let me begin by saying that is book is 660 fucking pages.

Secondly, Maas spends 400 pages developing a romance and about 200ish pages on the actual story.

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Considering the fact that there is A LOT going on in this story with the wydkeys and the Valg and faeries and the wyverns and now we have ruks and SIX NEW MAIN CHARACTERS and Brannon and Mab & Mora and Maeve and a new continent which means new world building and that owl symbol on the cover and OH MY GOD!!!  I feel like Maas is trying to write a Game of Thrones epic type story but she’s not doing a good job.  The story is too convoluted and the strategy to kill the Valg and Erawan is too complicated and I still don’t know how to do it.  I know one person needs all three key but then what? in GOT you kill the white walkers with fire, dragonstone or Valarian steel-That’s it!

But it’s not just about the keys.  She’s gone back hundreds of years with Brannon and Orcus and Elena and she info dumps all that information which, by the way, it EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO THE PLOT, yet she only gives it two short chapters.  Yrene salivating over Chaol’s body got more pages than the main plot.

And while we are talking about Chaol.  I like Chaol but damn; he got on my last nerve with the brooding.  Hey Chaol, everyone has suffered.  People around you have brutally lost their loved ones, been sexually assaulted or had to sell their bodies for money.  They had to travel on their own to get to safety while you were on a cushy boat and you have the nerve to bitch about your problems for 500 pages? And we still don’t know what happened with his father.

Basically, this book is too big for Maas.  She seems to like romance and if that’s the case then write some erotica and get it out of your system already.  But if you are going to write an epic fantasy, please spend more than 20% of your novel on the fantasy part.  Don’t info dump all the back story into your book.  Take a page from Rowling and RR Martin and write the back stories on your website or write separate history books.  Have an easy to follow plot in your main story, sprinkle in some interesting history, and allow people to read those history books if they want to learn more about your world.

I’m this close to giving up on Throne of Glass but I’ve invested five years into this series and there’s only one book left so I guess.  And if someone knows who the last chapter was about, could you leave it in the comments?

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 3/4 (I’m being generous)

Click here for spoilers.

Any Bangs in August?

NO!! But one book came close.

This was a rough month for me; I read nine books but only liked two.  I decided to read more critical books and less fantasy this month because I moderate the Mock Printz Goodreads group (you are welcome to join us) and I wasn’t too impressed.  YIKES!

As always, please click on the titles for full reviews.

bombbombbombbomb Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds-Great theme; thought provoking.

bombbombbomb Wild Beauty by Anna Marie McLemore-Beautiful world but too many ideas muddled the plot.

bombbombbomb Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff-Too much what and not enough why.

bombbombbomb Little & Lion by Brandi Colbert-The story was fine but the voice was not new nor compelling.

bombbombbomb The Last Namsara byKristen Ciccarelli-Unique world but the main character didn’t ask enough questions which ultimately had a negative affect of the plot.

bombbombbomb 1/2-Bang by Barry Lyga-Lacked nuance.

bombbombbomb 1/2-We Are Okay by Nina LaCour-Weak character development.

bombbombbombbomb 1/2-Release by Patrick Ness-Great exposition on blame and letting go.  Adam had a unique and honest voice.

The Devil in Ohio by Daria Polatin-Catch my review in SLJ.

TBR for September:

  • Got my hands on Tower of Dawn (librarian perk!) so I’ll try to finish this behemoth by Labor Day.
  • I need to finally read Conjuring of Light. I’m always a bit scared to read final books because I’m afraid they’ll suck.
  • I’m still trying to read critical reads for Mock Printz and that would include Invisible Hand, Dear Martin, and Midnight at the Electric

Long Way Down

long way down

Long Way Down

By Jason Reynolds

Genre: Contemporary/Guns

Publication Date: October 17, 2017 (MY BIRTHDAY!)

Overview

Will has witnessed his brother’s murder and he thinks he knows who pulled the trigger.  Hell bent on revenge, Rule #3, Will finds his brother’s gun, steps into the elevator, and waits the long way down to the lobby to locate and kill his brother’s murderer.  During the one minute it takes to reach the lobby, Will is met with six ghosts who have all died from gunfire.  Do these ghosts succeed in persuading Will to not seek revenge?

Long Way Down is told in verse and takes place in an elevator over the span of about one minute.  Will only has one minute to make a decision that will change his life for ever and this is only one theme explored in the novel.  Rules are a second theme.  There are rules when someone is shot and these rules have been passed down among several generations in Will’s family.  Will is challenged by the ghosts to break those rules.

This book also includes several vivid metaphors that teens can spend all day picking apart including the cigarette smoke and comparing the gun to a spine which incidentally connects the book cover.  The ending is ambiguous and leaves the reader to conclude Will’s choice.

Long Way Down is a good book for teens of all ages.  Currently, there are several published books about gangs and gun violence but Reynolds spins this common plot to a story about choice.

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbombbomb

Wild Beauty

wild beauty

Wild Beauty

By Anna Marie McLemore

Genre: Magical Realism/LGBTQ

Publication Date: October 3, 2017

Overview

The Nomeolvides women live in La Pradera because they are feared-every man they love will disappear.  The five Nomeolvides sisters believe they have found a loophole by loving a girl but they fear she will disappear so they make a sacrifice to save her.  The very next day, a strange boy appears in their garden and they believe their sacrifice has returned a lost love.  Sounds cool right? Well it was until it wasn’t.

This is a very simple plot but unfortunately, it got muddled with their love interest’s cousin and his love of money and then he uses the girls to entertain his guests and then Estrella, a Nomeolvide, does something stupid and is blackmailed and then something happens to the love interest and then there are 15 Nomeolvides women and it WAS TOO MUCH!  This was my issue with When The Moon Was Ours-convoluted.

But my biggest issue was that Wild Beauty was the familiarity of When the Moon Was Ours which was McLemore’s 2016 book.  The girls in Wild Beauty  can grow flowers with one touch, the girl in WTMWO grew roses out of her wrists.  A boy, named Fel, mysteriously appears in their garden, in WTMWO a strange girl falls from a water tower.  The sisters in this book are oddly close nit and strange, so were the sisters in WTMWO.  It’s like McLemore ran out of ideas.

McLemore is a good writer.  She paints a beautiful picture and she’s capable of new and interesting characters but someone needs to tell her to edit.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

Release

release

Release

By Patrick Ness

Genre: Contemporary/Magical Realism/LGBTQ

Publication Date:  September 19, 2017

Overview

Adam Thorn has a busy day-picking up flowers for his mom, going to work, helping his dad at the church, and saying goodbye to the boy he loves? Loved?  As we accompany Adam for the day, we also follow Katherine who was recently murdered by her meth head boyfriend.  Both teens are seeking a release; will they find it?

In true Ness fashion, we have a contemporary story sprinkled with paranormal.  Similar to The Rest of Us Just Live Here, there’s a main story featuring Adam and a secondary story featuring Katherine-a ghost.  Although the two stories are different, they are occurring at the same time and share the same themes-blame; alternative families; redemption; and letting go.

Adam Thorn is a seventeen-year old high school senior and the son of a preacher.  He’s constantly in the shadow of his very attractive and very holy older brother, Marty, and he’s in love with a boy who doesn’t love him back-Enzo.  Although he has a new boyfriend that he thinks he loves, he can’t get past the old flame.  Why doesn’t Enzo love him? Is he unlovable? Maybe he’s too young to know what love is and it was just “messing around.”  Maybe Marty was correct and his sexuality makes him incapable of true love.  Adam is dealing with all of this in addition to his parents who are in denial of their gay son and constantly reminds him that their love is conditional.  Since Adam cannot truly be himself with his family, he considers his best friend Angela to be his family and often seeks comfort from her.

Meanwhile, Katherine van Leuwen has not passed over into the after world and latches herself onto the Queen of the after world to find answers.  As she rises from the lake where she was drowned, she finds her old home, her best friend, and the boy who killed her.  Accompanying Katherine is a faun who wipes people’s memory and saves others from the Queen/Katherine’s deadly rage.  Much like Adam, Katherine spends the beginning of her day blaming herself then taking the power back from her killer and finally allowing herself to release her anger so she can pass over.

Adam and Katherine’s stories are told in the same chapters so they are experiencing the same things. I won’t expound because that’s part of the enjoyment of the book.  By the end of the story, both characters grow and are able move on.

Release contains several metaphors including the faun and the rose and once again, I’ll let you discover their meanings on your own.  Most readers will focus on Adam’s story which is unique and uplifting but please don’t ignore the B story because it’s written just as beautifully as Adam’s.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

 

Little & Lion

little and lion

Little & Lion

By Brandy Colbert

Genre: Contemporary/Mental Health/LGBTQ/Pansexual

Publication Date: August 8, 2017

Overview

Suzette aka Little is returning home for the summer from her New England boarding school.  After a particular mental health breakdown from her brother Lion, we as the reader don’t know until midway, Little’s parents felt it was best for her to go to a new school on the other coast of the US.  Little hasn’t seen her friends or her brother for several months and it understandably apprehensive.

Suzette is a cool chick with dreads and that nose ring that you see on bulls-I don’t know what it’s called but you get the visual.  She’s also very shy and unsure of her sexuality.  Before she went to her new school, she liked boys however something changed when she met her roommate Iris. No one but her best friend knows this and Little plans to keep this private until she has some sort of grasp on the situation.

Lion is Little’s white step brother who has been recently diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.  He’s a loner and a reader and a red head.  Emil is Little’s half Asian neighbor who suddenly got hot over the past year and he has new hearing aids.  DeeDee, Little’s best friend, has a new girlfriend and Little is a bit jealous of not only their closeness but the fact the DeeDee seems to know exactly who she is and is comfortable with her sexuality.  Rafaela Castillo is the new cool looking girl in town and Little begins to crush on her leaving Little confused because she also likes Emil.  Little’s mother did not marry her new live in Jewish boyfriend and happens to be the most supportive mother in any YA book I’ve ever read.

Have you checked the boxes yet?

X Black Girl

X Jewish Family

X LGBTQ

X Asian Character

X Latina Character

X Mental Health

There is technically nothing wrong with this story.  Sure there are some small plot issues such as the rant about racial insensitivity when a white girl claimed that blacks aren’t supposed to be able to swim and Emil going on about blacks not being able to swim in white pools in the 60’s.  I found it interesting that Lion reads classic literature from troubled authors yet he doesn’t know the consequences when you stop taking meds.  Aside from that, Little and Lion had a complete character arc.  There was a clear beginning, a exciting climax, and an ending even if it was a bit happily ever after.  There were also clear themes of identity.

The problem with the book is that there was no authentic voice.  Little’s voice was the same voice that I’ve heard from several other similar characters.  She’s shy and closeted and she envies other people’s confidence and she accepts who she is and faces her fears.  Is she flirting with me? Do I like him? Does he like me?  Little’s voice is relatable but it’s not special and voice must be special to make a book critical.

There was one clear theme, identity, but critical reads should have several themes that weave seamlessly throughout the narrative.  The supporting characters were not essential to the plot and several of them were planted to cause tension.  What was the point of Cait? Was she just a catalyst for Lion’s inevitable breakdown? What was the point of Grace? Was her blacks don’t swim comment there for Emil to defend Little? That’s not strong character development.

Little & Lion is very relatable and I’d recommend it to lots of teens but if you would have put this book in the hands of a Nicola Yoon or an Adam Silvera, it would have been beautifully written with rich new voices and strong themes.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

Maresi

maresi

Maresi (The Red Abbey Chronicles #1)

By Maria Turtschaninoff

Genre: Paranormal/Feminism

Publication Date: January 3, 2017

Overview

Maresi is a thirteen year old girl sent to live in an abbey on a fictional seaside land.  Families send their girls to the abbey for an education or a better life and each girl has their own story.  At the beginning of the novel, Maresi is asked to tell her story of a horrific season that includes a mysterious girl and dangerous visitors.

Maresi is clearly a story about sisterhood and female empowerment and although it does a good job of conveying this message, the story wrapped in this message is a bit on the boring side.  This is a slow moving plot and I believe that if you have a slow plot, the novel should be filled with strong character development, or world building, or beautiful prose, or deep dialog but I feel Maresi fell short on all of the above.

We were only given the back story of Maresi and Jai, the mysterious girl, and it took up about one chapter.  The world was interesting but because it’s told from Maresi’s POV and she wasn’t allowed to read the history of the founding women, we as the reader aren’t privy to the mythology.  The reader is told the what but not the why so I felt disconnected.

Instead we get to see Maresi’s life in the abbey which is full of doors and food-two things that impact her life.  The door metaphor in particular is a profound theme but the author bashed the reader over the head with it and it lost it’s impact.  Maresi also decided to care for Jai which was also essential to her character development but once again, she’s thirteen so all we get are expositions about Jai being her shadow.

My other issue was the tone.  The first third is Maresi telling a story and it’s descriptive as far as the abbey and her day to day but suddenly men come and it a scene right out of Game of Thrones (excuse me, I’ve been rewatching GOT).  The men use a lot of “whores” and it becomes sexually abusive.  There was foreshadowing but the switch in tone was so abrupt that it led me to think this was an adult fiction book.  I don’t say that because of the sexual assault or the language but this story doesn’t seem to want to relate to a teen; it seems to be speaking to adults.  Teen fantasy is usually filled with world building and mythology and the WHY.  This book has none of that and I see teens getting bored.

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbomb

The Last Namsara

last namsara

The Last Namsara (Iskara #1)

By Kristen Ciccarelli

Genre: Fantasy/Dragrons

Publication Date: October 3, 2017

Overview

Before you begin reading this book, you need to get some post its or notebook paper and a pencil and be prepared to take copious notes.  And here’s why…

This world of Firgaard is freakin’ vast.  There are the Skral which are the slave people, the Scublanders who are a neighboring group of people at war with the Draksors which is what our main character is.  Now there are dragons and the person who can ride them called an Iskara and that exact opposite is a Namsara who are the ying to the Iskara’s yang.  There’s a god and a priestess and commandant with his soldats (soldiers) and forbidden stories and tunnels and dreams and legends and dragon queens and dragon kings and OH MY GOD!!!! TOO MUCH!  And all of this is explained within the first 200 pages.  I still don’t know what the Rif is or what Darmoor is because I didn’t care anymore.  I had to go back to find out who Elmore was and thank god I was reading on a Kindle so that I could easily find it but if you reading an ARC, good luck to you.

There’s nothing wrong with a vast world and I thought her world was interesting but she needs to find a way to distribute without overwhelming the reader.  I strongly advise that you read this book within a couple of days because if you take several days between reading, you’ll forget everything you read.  Now onto the meat of the review.

Meet Asha; she’s a dragon slayer. Get it Asha. Ash. Fire. Geez!  When she was 10 she told forbidden stories that called upon a dragon, Kozu, who burned her and her town so now she’s a self proclaimed wicked woman.  Um, that doesn’t make you wicked, that makes you 10 years old.  I know she’s wicked because she TELLS us all the time but she doesn’t SHOW us.  As far as I see, wicked means you are an awful person yet she’s not awful at all.  She’s supposed to be a dragon slayer which would mean she’s intense and fierce yet, her lowly cousin fights better and her commandant fiance turns her into a puddle of nerves-NOW THAT’S FIERCE.  Asha’s main flaw however is that she’s a dumbass who doesn’t ask any questions.  Her brother looks to be dying much like her mother yet, she doesn’t ask him why.  A dragon tells her a pretty incriminating story yet she doesn’t do any research.  A slave seems to know much more than a slave should yet she doesn’t ask him why he knows so much.  This same slave possesses something from a known enemy yet she doesn’t ask him why he has it.  If she had have asked questions, the story would have ended thus we have what I like to call, the fatal flaw.  A fatal flaw is when an author purposely leaves something obvious out that can be solved with a simple action that will ultimately end a story.  So if Asha had have asked her brother a couple of simple questions, the book would have been over by page 200.

This book had a fairly basic plot-kill the dragon and you won’t have to marry the abusive commandant.  Pretty simple until it gets convoluted with dreaming about old namsaras who make you complete tasks and I didn’t even know that Asha was trying to eradicate the old ways of the god until midway through.  I couldn’t even remember what the old ways were. There’s so much story, you can’t focus on anything of relevance because it gets buried.

The supporting cast could have been developed better.  The commandant, Jarek, was the villain and I believe a villain makes or breaks a book and he broke it.  From the moment he’s on the page, he’s horrible but his motives are never explained or shown.  Okay he was jealous of a slave but he saw his slave catch Asha before she fell one time and he gets extremely angry?  Jarek was more shock value and less character development.  If you want to read one of the best villains who happens to be a commandant, read An Ember in the Ashes by Tahir.  Safire, the cousin, had a good backstory but she was basically used as a weak spot for Asha.  Dax, the brother, tried to be a strong character but his weaknesses were told to the reader instead of shown so his development was lacking.

Now let’s talk about those dragons.  Asha is basically the Danaerys of this book-the mother of dragons yet these dragons seemed to be the size of horses and not very threatening.  I feel like a basic bow and arrow shouldn’t be able to pierce the hide of a dragon and bring it down.  The dragons were pointless in this novel, they weren’t scary and Asha would be walking looking for a dragon and she would find one just laying around doing nothing.

One other thing that bothered me and I’m not sure if I missed it or what but no one was described physically.  I know Asha had dark hair but was she fair skinned or olive skinned? Was she tall or short, thin or muscular? I have no idea and I’m assuming this was intentional but I couldn’t picture anyone and I don’t like that.

I can’t say too much because of spoilers but click here to read my spoiler rants.

Overall I think Ciccarelli had a good start considering she’s a debut and this is an epic story.  Her world was interesting and full of potential but it was too big for her.  I think she was too ambitious with her world which left no room for character development.  The ending picked up but by then I was exhausted.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 

Bang

bang.jpg

Bang

By Barry Lyga

Genre: Contemporary/Grief/Death/Suicide

Publication Date: April 18, 2017

Overview

When Sebastian was four, he accidentally shot his 4-month-old baby sister in the head.  Everyone thinks if he could just remember, he would be able to get passed it but Sebastian doesn’t want to remember because it’s too hard to face.

So let me preface by saying that I LOVED the I Hunt Killer/Jasper Dent Series and the main reason was the incredible character development.  My major problem with Bang was….the character development. Sebastian was a pretty round character but the supporting cast was extremely lacking.

We have Aneesa, a bi-racial Muslim new girl and that’s literally all I know about her.  She is able to somewhat get passed the trolls and the slurs which I think is therapeutic for Sebastian but that’s the extent of her character  She sooooo obviously used as a distraction for Sebastian’s will to take his life-she gives him something to live for.  Although that’s great, I’ve seen this in all suicide books.  Lyga needs to find a different way to convey the storyline of the will to live.

Next we have his best friend Evan who is only there for one reason and I can’t say because it’s a spoiler but he’s used as a means to an end and he was terribly underdeveloped.

The story was just too predictable and lacked enough nuance to be special.

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbomb 1/2

We Are Okay

we are okay

We Are Okay

Nina LaCour

Genre: Contemporary

Publication:  February 14, 2017

Overview:

Marin is lonely. Her grandfather has passed leaving her with no family and after he dies, she runs away to college. She’s ignored texts and emails from her friends back home so when winter break arrives, she stays at school where she is the only one in the dorms-more loneliness.  This girl was so lonely, it made me lonely.

Marin’s best friend, Mabel, is arriving for the weekend and they haven’t spoken since her grandfather’s passing and Marin is anxious.  If my review seems lackluster, it’s because I felt nothing as I read this book; I didn’t connect with any of the characters.

My major problem with this book is the underdevelopment of the characters.  At one point, Marin says that she didn’t really know her grandfather and she listed what she knew.  UM…HELLO, I can say the same thing about Marin-her mother died  when she was three; she likes literature; she likes girls.  I can say the same thing about Mabel-she’s Mexican; her mother is a painter; she has an older brother; she goes to school in Cali.  That’s literally all you know about most of the characters.  I think I knew more about the grandfather than Marin and Mabel.

Although the relationship between Marin and Mabel was refreshing, I don’t think it did much to the plot.  Maybe that was intentional but if they had just been best friends, I don’t think it would have affected the story.

I felt like this book tried too hard.  At first I thought Marin had a mental illness but I don’t think she did because if so, it wasn’t handled well-that ending tho.  I won’t go into the ending because it’s a spoiler but it felt unrealistically too fast.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb1/2

 

Any Bangs in July?

YES, TWO MONTHS IN A ROW!!!

This month I read a couple of pretty good books, one stinker, and two disappointments.  As always, click the titles for full reviews.

 

bombbombbombbomb 1/4-Tarnished City: FANTASTIC CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT especially the villains.  There were too many OMG moments at the end which diminished the impact.

bomb 1/2-There’s Someone Inside Your House: Elementary writing, tropey characters, not thrilling or scary.  One of the worst of the year.

bombbombbombHunting Prince Dracula: Disappointing read.  Most of the issues I had with this book were my issues and they were not the book’s fault. It’s called Hunting which is what they were doing but when I read a book about Dracula, I want to see more Dracula. Character’s shared the same voice and some characters were tropes.

bombbombbombCruel Prince: This was the second disappointing read this month.  The actions of the characters REALLY bothered me.

bangGodsgrave:  EXTREMELY engaging story.  Great heroine. Bloody, sexy, and violent.

bombbombbombbomb 1/2-Dragons of Nova: Great world building and character development.  Multi-themed and timely.

Next Month’s Reads (Hopefully)

  • I need to start reading Printz worthy books (critical books)-We are Okay & Eliza
  • Librarian Perk-We get books a week before they are published and I’m hoping to get Town of Dawn a week early.
  • I’m reviewing Devil in Ohio for School Library Journal.

Dragons of Nova

dragons of loom

Dragons of Nova (Loom Saga #2)

By Elise Kova

Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk/Dragons

Publication Date: July 11, 2017

Overview

Book 2 picks up where book 1 leaves off and Cyverah and Arianna jump on a glider to fly to Nova.  Cyverah must hurry because the King thinks he’s sick and praying and Ari must hurry to save the people of Loom and to cash in her wish.  Once on Nova, Ari is left alone in a nation that hates Chimera and is guarded by a dragon who REALLY hates Chimera.

Ari becomes increasingly frustrated because Cy has not come to see her and seeing that Cy’s sister needs Ari for her knowledge on how to produce Perfect Chimera (Chimera who can kill dragons) she bargains for her release or dragon hands.

Meanwhile the Dragon King is furious because he wants to know why Cy was on Loom and he’s tired of Petra’s inevitable attempt at an overthrow so he calls a Crimson Court so that he can look at the inhabitants of her house.  Some spoilery stuff happens during the Crimson Court and the King may or may not see Ari.

Meanwhile back on Loom, Florence is fighting the good fight against the dragons when she travel to the Harvesters Guild where she attains a new perspective on the Dragons.  Some spoilery stuff happens and it ends with a big WHAT-THE-HELL burger with a side of cliffhanger.

Loom/Nova are amazing worlds full of contrast.  Loom is practical and predictable with the rise and fall of the sun.  They are also a people of thinkers and innovators.  Nova is a dreamlike world that changes with the moon and appreciates beauty over function.  Who cares where water comes from as long as it’s there when I need it.  This is basically a story about war and who will win.  Will it be the godlike creatures who rule with intimidation, slavery, and magic and who rely on their minions to supply their machines and run their factories? Or will it be the oppressed who will hopefully conclude that they are the smarter race and that they are stronger when they work together?  This is just one of the themes in Dragons of Nova that make it special.

All the characters are wonderfully round and engaging.  The women in this novel are revered and as I stated in my review of book 1, their strength and their gender never share a sentence.

If you are looking for a more mature fantasy novel ( I suspect this is NA not YA), I HIGHLY recommend this series.

Bang Bang Review: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

There’s Someone Inside Your House

there's someone insise

There’s Someone Inside Your House

By Stephanie Perkins

Genre: Horror/Thriller

Publication Date: September 26, 2017

Overview:

So this book started off pretty well and I was excited after reading the opening chapter and then it was all downhill from there.

Makani is our main character and she’s got a BIG secret and she constantly reminds the reader that her secret is BIG.  She’s also half black, half Hawaiian in a podunk town so she feels like an outsider and bands herself with a group of misfit outsiders-OMG where have read that before? I remember, everywhere.

Someone is brutally killing teens in this town of about 20,000 and there doesn’t seem to be enough concern.  I live in a small town of about 29,000 and it is not podunk and if one teen is murdered, everyone knows and everyone worries. So this already has a strike one.

Strike two, this book has no character development and most of the novel is centered around Makani and her “bad boy” love interest.  The love interest, sorry I forgot his name, is a suspect among the school because of rumors and of course Makani’s friends warn her but no, she must give him a chance because everyone makes mistakes.  So the boyfriend is a red herring or is he? And that’s most of the tension in the story.

I DNFed about 25% in and read the chapters that revealed Makani’s BIG secret.  I hope you are catching all the sarcasm I’m throwing at you.  Then I read the final chapters to find out who the killer was-LAME!

The dialog is so elementary but there’s a lot of swears so this book is basically a fluffy book for older teens.  I have never read a Perkins book but I can’t believe this is the same person who wrote Anna and the French Kiss which seems to be a favorite among readers.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have read this book after reading The Speaker, Tarnished City, and Godsgrave but I needed something light.  I shouldn’t have bothered.

Bang Bang Review bomb 1/2

 

Cruel Prince

cruel prince

Cruel Prince (The Folk of Air #1)

By Holly Black

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: January 2018

Overview

Jude, her twin sister, and her older sister with the pointy ears were living a normal human life when a strange green man comes to their house and kills their parents. He then takes them off to live in Faery land to raise them as his kids.  Cut to ten years later when we see Jude as a human who has fully assimilated into faery land but not all the Folk are thrilled with humans.

Jude and her sister are mercilessly bullied by a prince of the High King and his friends. Although Jude is afraid most of the time, she doesn’t show her fear she just continuously repeats advice from others in her head.  Jude’s sister, Taryn, is the more affable twin who doesn’t want to cause trouble.  While Jude longs to be a knight in the King’s court, Taryn just wants to get married and have a simple life.  Jude unrealistically endures the bullying by returning to school the day after they tried to kill her for a second time and never has an inner monologue about her trepidation.  All the Faeries are hot including Locke, the bully with a heart of gold.  Jude witnesses Locke’s small acts of kindness and figures that it’s okay to date him even though he continues to associate with people who are trying to kill them ALL THE F***ING TIME.

Jude’s stepfather is the general in the King’s army and he’s taught his daughters the art of strategy but you would never know that seeing how Jude can’t even seem to strategically retaliate against her bullies but she’s some how smart enough to develop and execute the final plan.

As you can see I had issues with this book and I know I’m in the minority here.  There were a lot of little things that bothered me.  Jude’s uneven characterization was one of the little things.  She also does something really out of character that pissed me off but I’ll save that in my spoiler rant section.

I had a problem with Black’s writing style in regards to character development. The motives of the bullies bothered me and once again, I’ll expound in my spoiler rant section.

Taryn could have been a great ying to Jude’s yang.  In the beginning, it seemed like Taryn was Jude’s be-careful-voice but Black did not expand this theme and instead Taryn’s actions/motives were weak.   The main villain, I’m assuming is the cruel prince, was a stereotype that I figured out within the first two encounters. We’ve all read him a million times and there’s nothing different/new added to his character.

Black did a couple of things that I hate in books.  #1. I hate when a character suddenly gets an epiphany and figures it all out on their own.  Jude does this THE ENTIRE NOVEL.  She just reads something a couple of times and she’s figured it all out.  #2.  I don’t like it when authors don’t write organically but instead the writing is forced.  For example, Jude is a spy and she just happens to pick the correct room and happens finds the piece of evidence that just happens to be the key to the entire plot (which by the way there was no plot but I’ll get to that later).  Jude happens to casually pick up a piece of jewelry that just happens to be the answer to everything.  I understand that events have to drive the plot but it should be part of the storytelling.  I shouldn’t be able to see it coming.

The entire book seemed forced.  The bullying, the world building, the Game of Thrones type development, the battle among identical twins, the trying to fit in.  The bullying really bothered me and I wouldn’t call it bullying; I’d call it torture.  It was gratuitous and they continuously repeated their motives as they were torturing her-you’re human and you’re mortal and you’re weak.  OK, I GET IT.  Black seemed to be going for the muggle vs. wizard thing but she didn’t do it well.  Lastly, this book had no plot.  I will drop a book one star if there’s no plot.  This was basically a 0.5 book.  It was all back story and the real story begins in the next book which I will not be reading. There were other little things that bothered me but I’ll save it for the spoiler rant.

This book tried too hard. I like a fun fluffy fantasy with gratuitous villains and villains with a heart of gold and far out story lines-Falling Kingdoms is a good example.  I also enjoy a fantasy with multiple themes, consistent and strong character development, a forbidden romance, a great war-Winner’s Kiss Series is a good example. Cruel Prince tried to be a serious fantasy but Jude and the supporting cast wasn’t strong enough.

Bang Bang Rating:  bombbombbomb

Godsgrave

godsgrave

Godsgrave (Nevernight Chronicle #2)

By Jay Kristoff

Genre: Fantasy/New Adult

Publication Date: September 5, 2017

Bang Bang Review bang

Overview

Mia Corvere remains on her revenge mission to avenge the murders of her parents and brother but in the meantime she’s taking on small missions. (It’s difficult to say stuff because of spoilers so bear with me, folks).  After a particularly bloody yet sexy kill, Mia barely escapes as she is confronted by a strange shadow man who tells her to seek the crown of the moon.

She’s then summoned by the Red Church for a new mission to find a mysterious map where she runs into her nemesis and betrayer of the Red Church, Ashlinn. After learning more important info than some dumb old map, Mia pretends to be looking for the map while she plans to be sold to a fighting house to become a gladiatii.  Mia is sold to the wrong house so she has to work twice as hard to be able to compete in the final fight to get close enough to assassinate Scaeva and Duomo.  While she slaves at house of Leona, she meets a new set of men and women who challenge her career choice.

Mia makes new friends and finds old ones, she learns more about her parents, she discovers more things about her Darkin abilities, and she may or may not find love.

Although Godsgrave is DENSE AS HELL, it’s not as dense as book one since we know the world and Mia’s back story.  Mia grows steadily throughout the novel and her new acquaintances force her to look at the choices she’s made.  Godsgrave is intense and dark and this world makes Ketterdam (Six of Crows) look like Disneyland.  There’s a lot of dynamic and strong characters especially the women.  The last 80 pages will leave you shouting your head off and it’s never info dumped or out of left field.  Some people don’t like the footnotes but I actually like them. It’s just more background info on the world and you can skip them because they’re not essential to the plot but I recommend you read some because Kristoff’s humor shines through.

I did however need several questions answered that ultimately didn’t get answered and I was prepared to give Godsgrave a 4.5 but Kristoff is very self aware and the last page made me forgive him so I gave Godsgrave a big old 5 stars.

If you like YA fantasy but want more sex and blood and language, read Nevernight and then quickly follow it with Godsgrave and then wait a year for the final book.

Click here for the spoilers.

Hunting Prince Dracula

hunting prince dracula

Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper #2)

By: Kerri Maniscalco

Genre: Horror/Historical Fiction

Bang Bang Review: bombbombbomb

Review

Audrey Rose Wadsworth is still reeling from the Ripper case as she and Thomas Cresswell head to Romania to enroll in a school for medicine. Murders seem to happen all around Wadsworth much like Murder, She Wrote with the first being on the train to Romania.  When they arrive to the dark castle, our dynamic duo learn that only two students will be admitted to the program which of course leaves Wadsworth worried because she’s a woman.  Nerds to that! Wadsworth gathers her skirts (all the freaking time) and gets elbow deep in cadavers.

Being the inquisitive person that she is, Wads investigates every creak and twig break which causes some tension for when the creak is actually the murderer but I found it a bit too obvious and too repetitive. During her outings, Wads discovers weird books, drawings, caves, bats, and that Cress can be an undermining jerk.

Joining Wads and Cress is a not-so-interesting cast of characters with the exception of Professor Radu.  The other two women, Anastasia and Daciana, are quite driven which is too similar to Wads and the headmaster and the other male students are a bit tropey.  With that being said, Maniscalco does an adequate job of developing motives and red herrings.

I really wanted to like this book and although I gave Ripper a 3.5, I liked Maniscalco’s character development but this ended up being one of my issues with the book as stated above.  I think the enjoyment of Ripper came from Wads and Cress as characters which I liked a lot but since I know this duo, there’s nothing new here.  Maniscalco does write strong women which I like but it’s not enough to keep me engaged.

My other issue is Maniscalco’s writing.  She needs to trust the reader to infer and to not bash us over the head. Okay I get it, Wads constantly has to fist up her skirts to run. Okay I get it, the castle is old with lots of little noises and we all know that one of those noises is going to be the killer.   Maniscalco also doesn’t use her words strategically-in other words, this book was too damn long!  I think every word should count towards the plot, character development, or world building and I thought Dracula had too many words that could have been cut and the book would have been unaffected.  My biggest issue was the pacing.  I know it’s called “Hunting” so that’s what they are going to do but when I read a book about Dracula, I want to see Dracula DAMMIT and not 75% in!  This is my problem and not the book’s but since the pacing is not to my liking, I will not be reading book 3.  I started skipping half way and by page 300, I skipped to the end to see whodunit.

I’m bummed, I really like Kerri and she seems like a lovely person and I met her at ALA and she personalized my book with my favorite quote from book 1 but I just can’t. If you enjoyed Ripper, you will love Dracula.

Tarnished City

tarnished city

Tarnished City (Dark Gifts #2)

By: Vic James

Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopian

Publication Date: February 5, 2018

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/4

Review

Tarnished City picks up after Luke is sent to prison and Abi and her family, sans Daisy, are sent to the work camp.  We’ve already seen the work camp in book one so there’s no way we’re going back there again which means Abi is probably going to escape and she does.  This wouldn’t be a dystopian novel if someone wasn’t trying to rescue their sibling from the bad people so you guessed it, Abi will stop at nothing to rescue Luke from prison.

Meanwhile at prison, Luke is expecting chains and dungeons and beatings and starvation but that’s not quite what awaits him.  I won’t get into because I want you to be surprised but I will say that the prison experience is the main theme of Tarnished City.

Meanwhile at Kyneston, Gavar still hates his family and loves his daughter; Bouda is hell bent on being Chancellor by ANY means necessary; Jenner is unhappy with his unskilled situation; and Silyen is still weird. But let’s talk about Silyen who is the best character in the book.  In book one, he started the idea of abolishing the slave days but he seems ambivalent to the whole idea and he released Dog knowing he was going to wreak havoc.  Does book 2 reveal Sil’s motives? Nope, it just adds more mystery to the character which is fantastic.  I have my theories about Sil and his behavior but I’ll keep that to myself and the spoiler edition.

Just like the real world, the powerful not only want to remain so but they want more power.  The powerful say that they are looking out for the rest of the majority of the nation but their actions scream that they could care less and it is up to us to make change.  Among others, power is a big running theme in the Dark Arts Series.  Dynamic characters such as Silyen, Bouda, and a new character named Faiers contribute to the enjoyment of this read.  If you are looking for a light hearted dystopian story, don’t bother-Tarnished City is DARK. But if you do decide to begin this series, which I think you should, you won’t regret it.

Any Bangs in June?

YES!!! I read one five star and a 4.75.

I didn’t read as many as I would have liked because I was at ALA for a week but June was a pretty good month for reading.  Click the title for full review.

bombbombbombbomb Invictus by Ryan Graudin-Great writing but too wordy.

bombbombbombbomb 3/4-Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart-Awesome character development and pacing. So close to a bang but it didn’t quite blow me away-get it?

bombbombbombbomb Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser-Unpredictable, great diverse cast of characters, and sweet romance.

REVIEW ON SLJ-Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh-I reviewed this for School Library Journal so you can check it out there.

bang The Speaker by Traci Chee-So I also reviewed this for SLJ (School Library Journal) and I can’t give a full review until it’s published there but it’s very important that you read this series and that’s all I’m going to say.

To Read for July-hopefully

Invictus

invictus

Invictus

By Ryan Graudin

Genre: Science Fiction/Time Travel

Publication Date: September 26, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review

It’s the year 2371 and we’ve discovered time travel and it’s so prevalent that it’s the best job on earth.  It’s not the fun kind of time travel though; travelers are only allowed to record history and not interact with anyone but Farway’s mom broke that rule and whoopsie-all hell has broken loose.

Farway McCarthy is the best cadet in the academy, obviously, and he’s on his way to be tops in his class and the pick of any time travel job but whoopsie, he failed his test and now he’s been kicked out of school. So far, we’ve all heard this story before.  He’s wallowing in his misery when his spunky and best character in the book, Imogen, cheers him up with gelato because Invictus is set in Italy.  While they’re eating their gelato, Far gets a mysterious letter from this mysterious guy with the chance to captain his own ship to travel time to steal valuable artifacts. Of course Far is reckless so of course he says yes and assembles his crew-Imogen, his best friend Gram, and his girlfriend Priya.  And yes this is a very diverse crew because Gram is Black and Priya, well you can figure it out.

The Invictus crew is minding their business trying to find a book before the Titanic sinks when some strange girl steals it first then happens to get on their ship.  She tells them that she’ll return the book to their boss if she can be a member of their crew.  They have no choice but to accept her or their boss with will kill them all.

I’m a Whovian so of course I’ve read my share of time travel books and this is by far the best I’ve read. Graudin’s writing is a breath of fresh air that doesn’t include sappy romances, predictable plots, or convoluted story lines. I’m sure people are going to find holes in her time travel rules but I don’t go into this genre looking for holes.  I just want a book that’s not confusing as hell and enjoyable to read.  My only issue, and it pains me to say this, is that it was too wordy.  I don’t like it when the majority of the words on the page aren’t driving the plot and I felt Invictus did this.  I ended skipping through the last 150 pages-YIKES.

Overall, if you are looking for a great adventure through some pretty interesting historic locations with some pretty good writing, check out Invictus.

Genuine Fraud

genuine graud

Genuine Fraud

By E. Lockhart

Genre: Thriller

Publication Date: September 5, 2017

Bang Bang Review: bombbombbombbomb 3/4

Overview

It will be VERY difficult to review this book because the entire novel is spoiler-ama but I’ll try.

Jule is an orphan and a spy and doesn’t take crap from men.  Imogen is an orphan and a heiress and doesn’t let anyone tell her how to live her life.  Jule and Imogen become fast friends at Imogen’s house on Martha’s Vineyard and they become so close people tell them they even look alike.  Genuine Fraud is a CHARACTER DRIVEN story about girls and friendships and self image.  Notice CHARACTER DRIVEN is in all caps; that’s because this short novel does have small bursts of action but it’s dominated by Jule, Imogen, and their relationships with each other and other friends.

This book is what librarians like to call a critical read.  It’s full of themes and metaphors and character studies.  It’s meant to start a discussion on identity, feminism, and survival and although there are elements of suspense and thrills; it’s not the focal point.  Unfortunately, it’s been described as a mystery full of suspense and twists and turns but if you are looking for a Girl on The Train or Gone Girl type of suspense, you aren’t going to find it in Genuine Fraud.

I like the subtlety of Lockhart’s writing and how she drops a sentence on you in the middle of the paragraph that leaves you yelling, “WHAT THE HELL?”  I enjoyed the pacing and I thought it was written against trope.  I mostly enjoyed the themes that I mentioned above and the in-depth discussion one could have with teens and adults.

Song of the Current

song of the current

Song of the Current #1

By Sarah Tolcser

Genre: Pirates/Fantasy/WNDB

Publication Date: June 6, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review:

Caro is the first mate on her father’s ship and when they dock, they see several ships have been burned to the ground.  The head soldier, can’t remember his title, asks Caro’s father to ship some very important secret cargo across the river or he’ll put him in jail for smuggling.  Of course he refuses because he’s a stand up guy and of course Caro offers to go in his stead because we can’t have a YA novel where the teen is with her father-GROSS.

Caro and her frogman Fee, yes I said frogman, set sail in their sailboat type boat (I don’t know anything about boats) with the cargo they have been forbidden to open but she opens it almost immediately.  What? You mean I don’t have to wait until the end of the novel to find out what’s in the box? Way to break tropes, Tolcser.  I won’t say what’s in the box because I don’t want to ruin the fun.

At some point Caro meets a hot guy named Tarquin who’s also a snotty royal and a pretty good character.  Caro and Tarquin have preconceived notions about each other which creates tension that turns to sexual tension thus beginning a literal shipping opportunity.  Caro needs to get Tarquin to his destination and along the way they run into some pirates and Caro’s fabulous and highly influential family.  Did I mention that Caro is bi-racial? Her father is white and her mother is black and a badass.  Authors take note.  If you are writing a character that doesn’t represent your race, they best way to avoid the racism stamp is to not make your world racially charged.  Caro’s race never played a role in Current but her profession did and this tension is relatable.

When Caro and Tarquin finally arrive to their destination, the villains are waiting for them and their escape was really sweet and I almost shed a tear.  Caro meets more interesting characters, falls in love, and accepts her fate.

Song of the Current is a debut that was really entertaining.  The pacing was great, it was never predictable, the fantasy aspect worked well, and it had great balance between an insecure heroine and political intrigue.

Highly recommend! Also, check Sarah’s Pinterest boards for visuals.

Listen to the podcast of Song of the Current to find out how to win the ARC.  So I didn’t realize Current was already published so I’ll give away an ARC of Warcross too but you still have to listen to the podcast to find out how-HAHAHA!

Flame in the Mist

flame in the mist

Flame in the Mist (#1)

by Renee Ahdieh

Genre: Historical Fantasy

Published May 16, 2017

Bang Bang Rating:  bombbombbomb

Review

Mariko is betrothed to the Emperor’s son, the spare, and although she doesn’t want to she  agrees for the sake of family (remember this important detail-sake of family).  On her way, Mariko’s convoy is set ablaze killing everyone except Mariko and as she barely escapes she hears the murderer’s but doesn’t see them. HELL bent on finding the murderers, Mariko suspects the infamous Black Clan and she infiltrates the Clan to see if they are the culprits.

Kershnin, Mariko’s twin brother, investigates the crime scene and concludes that Mariko is not dead and sets on a journey to find her and the murderers.  While everyone suspects the Black Clan, Kershnin knows the Clan does not attack women so he’s keeping an open mind thus setting up doubt for the reader.

Meanwhile, Mariko cuts off her hair and poses as a boy while she “interns” with the Clan.  She eats eggs, learns how to fight with a sword for a couple of weeks, and waxes poetic as she rides to the tea house with her new compadres.  She meets some good guys and some bad guys and alas, she meets what I called and what Ahdieh LOVES to do; a villain with a heart of gold.  In true Ahdieh form, she waffles between her love for the man and her duty to her family.  She constantly reminds herself to be strong and brave yet she continues to make the wrong choice until an unlikely person sets her straight (that I saw coming a MILE away).

Another meanwhile, the emperor is a bastard and also has a consort whom he fathered his first son (the son Mariko is betrothed to) and the consort and the empress do not like each other.  The consort has some pretty cool magical powers but it’s buried in the plot and not explained.  The two ladies have agendas of their own but once again they are not explained leaving the reader like WTF?

I can’t talk about the end because it’s a spoiler but I’ll just say this.  The main plot of the story, Mariko’s motive which she reminds us constantly is to find out who the murderers are and why, is not only unresolved but the plot shifts in the last act of the novel.  I understand cliffhangers but I think the main plot should have some resolution and not just a set up for the next book.  If you want to read my spoiler edition, click here.

Overall, I was VERY generous with this book as it met many of the things I hate about YA fantasy. (You can listen to the podcast below). I gave it 3 bombs instead of 2 because I was kind of enjoying it until the last 80 pages when Mariko’s actions were UNBELIEVABLE.  Up until then I was overlooking the many small details that I found troublesome.

I like Renee. I’ve met her and she’s a lovely person but this is the second book of hers that I’ve read and I do not like her writing style.  I don’t like the 3rd person alternative POV because her main character is often a waffler who lives in her head and unfortunately she’s usually to most non dynamic in the entire novel.  Ahdieh has no confidence in the reader and instead of inferring actions, she tells the reader everything.  She also does too much telling and not enough showing.  I liked the setting and the history lesson but the writing just isn’t strong enough for me.

Below you can listen to Roulette Reader and my podcast of Flame in the Mist.

Podcast of 10 Things We Hate About YA Fantasy

Did I Read Any Bangs in May

Sadly no and I didn’t read anything close to 5 stars (bang).

I read 8 books in May and it was a pretty mixed bag.  Please click the titles for full reviews.

bombbombbombbomb The Queen of Attolia-I decided to read the entire series before Thick as Thieves came out.  I thought QOA had a lot of war strategy (which I hate) but it was written well.

bombbombbombbomb The King of Attolia- This was all about Gen and I like him a lot.  I also like how Turner changes character POV between books.  There were some boring bits but it was solid writing. KOA was my second favorite book of the series.

bombbombbombbomb Conspiracy of Kings-Sophos kidnapping story was more interesting than the rest of the story but once again, solid writing.

bombbombbomb 1/2-Thick as Thieves-It started strong but there were some EXTREME boring bits that didn’t seem to drive the plot.  This seem to be the weakest of the series in terms of story telling and themes and even though it ended well, the middle wasn’t strong enough.

bombbombbomb That Inevitable Victorian Thing-Interesting world but not fully developed.  Characters added nothing new to the genre and that ending-YIKES!

Beasts Made of Night- I reviewed this for SLJ. You’ll have to see my review in the October edition.

bombbombbombbomb Warcross-85% of Warcross was decent.  The ending fell apart from me and I think Lu’s other books had stronger writing.  Great setting tho.

bombbombbomb Flame in the Mist-I’m being generous with a 3 star.  Unfortunately this was a big old miss as far as character development and writing.

 

I’ll be attending ALA Annual in Chicago all five days so I won’t be able to read as much as I’d like to.  If you’re going to be at ALA, I hope to see you there!

June TBR

I’m hoping to get Godsgrave and Tarnished City at ALA. Fingers crossed

Warcross

warcross

Warcross #1

by Marie Lu

Genre: Cyberpunk

Publication Date: September 2017

Bang Bang Rating:  bombbombbombbomb

Review

Set in the not so distant future, Emika is a bounty hunter of illegal gambling in the virtual world and must secure a $5000 bounty before she gets evicted.  Missing out on the bounty, Emika decides to steal a rare power up in the Warcross tournament and upon doing so she accidentally glitches herself in the game.  The inventor of the game, Hideo Tanaka, sees Emika’s glitch and hires her as a bounty hunter to catch a hacker.

In this world, everyone is obsessed with this VR game and plays constantly to advance levels and win power ups.  I say the not so distant future because it references Harry Potter and Fashion Week but the scooters are motorized, the workforce is dominated by robots, and everything is done virtually including storing memories.  In Tokyo, which is where most of novel is set, everyone’s levels are visible above their heads and people receive points for doing daily tasks.  Clearly this is a cautionary tale and a world I do not want to live in.

Our main character Emika Chen has been an orphan since eleven and is quite tech savvy and confident which makes her a pretty good protagonist.  She’s the voice of the reader by asking all the right questions and even though she’s one of the smartest people in the room, she’s incredibly dumb.  She knows how to hack, break firewalls, and any of all the other hacky verbiage yet she doesn’t take her own precautions like hackproof shields around her personal info or making sure no one is following her.  She talks to Hideo in her room but doesn’t check to see if someone bugged it first.  I’m not sure if this is a character flaw or a writing flaw but I’m leaning toward the latter.

Hideo is a 21 year old billionaire (a Mark Zuckerberg type character) and he’s mysterious and seemingly keeps to himself but he lets Emika in rather quickly.  It’s a sweet romance but a bit too quick especially since he doesn’t seem to date often.  I wouldn’t call it instalove but I thought it was going to be more of a Kaz/Inej type situation.

My only other problem is spoilerish so I won’t go into detail but I will say that the ending wasn’t as OMG as Lu’s other books. Click here to see my spoiler edition.

I’m not a fan of Cyberpunk, although I really liked Ready, Player One.  If you are not a fan, I would still recommend Warcross because it’s more about catching the hacker and less about the virtual world.

Overall, I liked Warcross for it’s themes and I think it’s a great discussion book for teens.  It had a diverse cast that I wish we got to know better and I thought the main characters, Emika and Hideo, were solid.

Top Ten Disappointed Books from 2017 (So Far)

The following are books that I was REALLY excited about reading but was totally underwhelmed. This list begins with the least to most underwhelming book of 2017 so far. Please click the covers for full reviews.

gentleman's guide

#10 Bang Bang Rating: 3.5-SO BUMMED! Full of tropes and lacked character development.

poisons-kiss

#9 Bang Bang Rating: 3.0-Main character didn’t ask enough questions; predictable plot.

wintersong

#8 Bang Bang Rating: 3.0-The Goblin King was underwhelming and the plot was convoluted.

carve-the-mark

#7 Bang Bang Rating: 2.5-Roth tried too hard; keep the plot simple and write a dynamic world with round characters.

a-ship-beyond-time

#6 Bang Bang Rating: 2.75-Great start but too many OMG moments-it became ridiculous after about 2.

valiant

#5 Bang Bang Rating: 2.0-Passing was all over the place and the romance was weak.

violet grenade

#4 Bang Bang Rating: 2.0-This book didn’t know if it was contemporary or paranormal. Either way, it didn’t work.

careful

#3 Bang Bang Rating: 2.0-Strong start with lots of potential but the character’s actions were unbelievable.

traitor's kiss

#2 Bang Bang Rating: 2.0-Trope-o-rama with strange pacing.

caraval

#1 Bang Bang Rating: 2.0 (I’m being generous)-Info dumping; terrible romance; main character possessed everything I hate. I couldn’t think of one thing I liked about it.

Best Books of 2017 (So Far)

It’s almost six months into 2017 and I’ve read about 30 books.  Normally I don’t read backwards (books older than 2017) but I had a Harry Potter reread with friends and I started the Queen’s Thief Series to be ready for Thick as Thieves by Megan Whaler Turner so because of that, I haven’t read as many 2017 books as I normally do. It’s been a low rating year so far, bummer, but I was able to come up with ten of my faves.

Please click the covers to read the full review.  This list is in order ending with my fave of 2017 so far.

 

face like glass

#10 Bang Bang Rating-3.75: Great world building but it needed some editing.

the upside

#9 Bang Bang Rating-4.0: The story was fine but I’m not the audience so I was a bit bored.

x-files

#8 Bang Bang Rating-4.0: Solid mystery; great for X-Files fans

goodbye-days

#7 Bang Bang Rating-4.0: Solid story

daughter-of-the-pirate-king

#6 Bang Bang Rating-4.0: Good heroine; solid love story

the-hate-u-give

#5 Bang Bang Rating-4.25: Wonderful character development and a good timely convo starter.

alchemists-of-loom

#4 Bang Bang Rating-4.5: GREAT world building & character development. Although the storyline isn’t new, the world made it refreshing.

strange-the-dreamer

#3 Bang Bang Rating-4.5: Beautiful yet gut wrenching story. A bit too loquacious.

gilded-cage

#2 Bang Bang Rating: 4.5-Fantastic alternate world building; multiple themes; great discussion book. Only issue-no family tree.

 

 

DRUM ROLL PLEASE……………..

crooked saints

#1 Bang Bang Rating-5.0: Thought provoking story about overcoming your fears. The only 5 star book I’ve read this year.

Any Bangs in April?

YES!!

I read 8 books in April.  To see my full reviews, click the titles.

 

Sparks of Light by Janet B. Taylor:  I read and wrote a review for SLJ (School Library Journal).  You can read my review on the website or in the publication in the coming months.  Click Into The Dim to see my review for book 1.

bombbombbomb Through the Woods by Emily Carroll: I read this for my FYA (forever young adult) book club.  This is a graphic novel of short horror stories.  I’m not a graphic novel reader and I probably don’t give the art the appreciation it deserves but out of the five stories, I only liked three.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling: This is the second time reading this and it just gets better.

bombbombbombbomb The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner: There’s a lot of hype about this series that is currently on book 5 so I decided to read it.  This was published in 1996 and although some people my be put off because of the slow plot, I enjoyed it and I’m excited to read the rest of the series.

bombbombbomb 3/4 Little Monsters by Kara Thomas:  Although the ending didn’t quite do it for me and the character development was lacking, most of the book was suspenseful and enjoyable.  I especially liked the comparison of teen girls to little monsters; I thought it was accurate and would make a good discussion.

DNF-Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore:  I don’t DNF often because I like to power through but this book was too long to power on.  It was written well but there was too much going on and I wasn’t interested in the subject matter; however, I do recommend it

bombbombbomb The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue:  Although it was a fun read, it wasn’t a critical read. There were too many tropes and several of the major parts of the story didn’t drive the plot.

bang All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater:  I finally read a five star book and I can’t believe it took me this long.  This book is nothing like the Raven Cycle so please don’t go into it thinking it will be a sweeping love story with complicated characters.  This is a stand-a-lone 288 page novel that is EXTREMELY character driven that’s full of metaphors and symbolism.  It took a discussion with my co worker to fully like it but once I did, I loved it.

May’s TBR

and my book assignment for SLJ. That makes 8 for May. Will there be any bangs?

 

Little Monsters

little monsters

Little Monsters

By Kara Thomas

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Publication: July 25, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 3/4

Overview

After running away from a toxic household, Kacey Young moves to Podunk Wisconsin to live with her father, step-mother, and two step siblings.  On day one at school, Kacey is marked as a drug user head case from NY but that doesn’t stop the invisible duo,  Bailey and Jade, from befriending her.  Although Kacey would rather have anyone than be lonely, Bailey has her own set of issues and being her friend is a psychological roller coaster.  She is the queen bee of the invisible trio and if you don’t play along with her reckless adventures, she’ll freeze you out.  Not wanting to participate yet not wanting to be frozen, Kacey reluctantly sneaks out with her immature thirteen-year-old sister to perform a seance at the local haunted barn and then all hell breaks loose-Bailey disappears.  Of course the entire town in Broken Falls Wisconsin begins to point the finger to the new girl and Kacey can’t let that happen so she points  her finger to the slut shaming ex-football hero.  What really happens in this Gone Girl lite novel? You’ll have to read to find out.

So the title is Little Monsters and it’s basically what the author is saying-girls are little monsters.  Thomas sets up the typical whodunit by listing all the suspects and their motives.  Kacey is the voice of the reader as she asks all the questions for us to keep us up to speed and she does it well.  Kacey does make some dumbass decisions but she’s seventeen so she’s forgiven and although she’s likable she’s a bit underdeveloped.  That’s one of the issues with Little Monsters-the characters are just a bit underdeveloped and ultimately their motives aren’t strong enough.  My other issue was the ending. This book is set up like a mystery but that anticlimactic ending leads me to think it’s more of a thriller and the focus is on girls and what little monsters they can be.  A novel either needs to be a mystery or an expose and although it was a page turner, Little Monsters seemed like it didn’t know what type of novel it wanted to be.

I also read Thomas’ first book and once again, 90% of the book was good but the ending fell apart and in a mystery the reveal is a BIG deal.  However, this was a fun quick novel to read and I recommend it for teens who aren’t ready for Gone Girl or Girl on the Train.

Jane Unlimited

jane unlimited

Jane Unlimited

By Kristin Cashore

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: September 19, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: DNF at page 121

Overview

Jane is alone and aimless after her aunt died on an Antarctica Expedition when an old friend visits her at work and invites her to stay with her family for the Spring gala.  On the promise of her aunt to accept any invite from the Thrash family to their estate, the Tu Reviens, Jane packs her bags to visit the peculiar cast of characters including the family dog.  After one evening, Jane discovers a mysterious bank heist, forged art, and the disappearance of the mistress of the house.

The first 90 pages sets up the extensive cast of characters and the mysteries surrounding them.  The subsequent pages shows Jane tackling the aforementioned issues.  This novel is similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure books; you can literally choose which topic Jane decides to investigate.

Although I think Cashore is a wonderful writer and Jane Unlimited had intriguing characters, I could not get into the novel.  I made it though the set up and I started to lose interest especially in the art forgery portion.  I don’t know anything about art nor do I care so I decided to skip this adventure and choose the bank heist.  The second adventure, however, also included the art forgery story and I just couldn’t feign interest.  I also thought there were too many characters (15) and many of them were unbelievably eccentric and they all had their own story-it was just too much.

Finally, I don’t think this is YA.  All of the characters are college aged or older.  I don’t know who to give this book to.

I LOVED the Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was a kid so therefore I thought the premise was good.  Although the writing was pretty great, I just couldn’t get into the plot.

All The Crooked Saints

All The Crooked Saints

By Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: Paranormal

Publication Date: October 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bang

Overview

There’s been some talk on Goodreads about how racist Crooked Saints is and although I’m not Mexican, I don’t think it was racist or racially insensitive.  As a Black person, I think a book is racially insensitive when the characters are stereotypes. Blacks and Mexicans have been stereotyped as lazy, gangsters, ghetto, ignorant, savage, poor, etc.  When characters are brown and take on these attributes, it’s racially insensitive especially when the author is not the race they are stereotyping.

With that being said, onto the review of All the Crooked Saints.

The Soria’s from Mexico are a family of saints where people come from all over looking for them for a miracle.  After they were run out of Mexico for their peculiarity, they settle in Bicho Raro Colorado in 1960.  In this character driven plot, Joaquin, Beatriz, and Daniel are cousins and Daniel is the current saint.  Joaquin is an aspiring radio DJ and he and Beatriz have created an illegal radio station where Diablo Diablo, Joaquin’s DJ name, “spins” contemporary music. Beatriz is an engineer, a thinker, and devoid of feelings.  Daniel was a troubled child turned saint.

People seek out Daniel for a miracle.  They are troubled and Daniel helps them by essentially making the pilgrims literally wear their problems on their sleeves.  It is up to the pilgrim to figure out how to solve their own problems and all the pilgrims live nearby the Soria’s until they can resolve their issues and move on.  The Soria family is forbidden to help the pilgrims and will be plagued by their own darkness if they interfere.  There are about six pilgrims featured in the novel with varied demons that range from possessing a coyote’s head on a human priest to being a ten foot giant. Daniel violates the don’t-get-involved rule and runs away for fear of bringing darkness to the Soria family.

Once again remember that Saints is COMPLETELY character driven so don’t expect a fast moving high adventure plot.

I really enjoyed Crooked Saints, not as much as Raven Cycle, but I liked it a lot.  I prefer a character driven plot and I thought all the characters (there were a lot of characters) were extremely well developed and likable.  Beatriz is my favorite character because she’s complex and logical.  This is a wonderful book for teen and adult book clubs because of all the themes and symbolism. EVERYTHING Stiefvater writes is significant and essential to the plot and that’s why I love her writing.  Long after you’ve finished the novel, you get to look up meanings of owls and black roses and coyotes roosters.  I like when an author challenges the reader to think and research and discuss and this is why Stiefvater is one of my favorite authors.  I can’t say too much because it’s spoilerish so to see the spoilers, click here.

For me to give a book five stars, I have to have an OMG moment and didn’t have one with Saints.  I was also a bit bummed by the ending.

After discussing All The Crooked Saints with my coworker/copodcaster and reread the ending, I did have an OMG moment so I changed my rating to 5 stars.

Spoiler Edition Podcast

The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

gentleman's guide

The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

By Mackenzi Lee

Genre:  Historical Fiction/LGBTQ

Publication Date: June 27, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

Overview

Henry Montague is a screw up.  He was kicked out of his school for gambling and illicit activities with boys and his father is fed up.  As a punishment, he’s sending Henry, Henry’s plain studious sister and his Negro best friend on a “tour” of 18th century Europe.  (It’s okay. I can say Negro; I’m Black.) During this time, Henry’s father hope he gets out all his jollies so that he can return home to run the family business.

Henry is excited for this opportunity because maybe his feelings for his best friend, Percy, will be requited and he can have a lot more illicit fun.  But there’s one problem, Henry’s father hired a chaperone and intends to expose the trio to culture.   On their early days of culture in Paris, Henry makes an ill advised moved on Percy and thus begins the cold shoulder.

On their first stop Henry insults the host, the Duke of Bourbon and former Prime Minister to the King, then steals a random puzzle box and this action puts the trio on the run from the Duke who desperately wants it back. While on the run in Marseilles, Percy falls ill and because not-that-attractive sister reads books, she knows how to do everything including the proper way to initially deal with Percy.

The trio discover the importance of the box and that it may have a medicinal value to help Percy so they desperately travel to Barcelona to return the box to the owner. Of course the owner is dead and no one knows how to open the box yet, the trio decide that they aren’t going to abandon this mystery even though they can’t get to the cure and they’re heads are on the chopping block for stealing it.  After several convenient eavesdropping opportunities lead to important information on the owner, they stumble on time period science that the sister understands perfectly because he reads.

Henry still being a dick who has yet to grow even though EVERYONE tells him how selfish he his, learns how to open the box but keeps it to himself until they can sail to place that requires the box.  They want to jump on a ship but whoops, no Negros allowed. No worries, they just stow away Percy until they are caught by Negro pirates because dickhead Henry opens his mouth to get them captured.  But once again, no worries because Henry gets them out of this jam because he knows someone who knows someone and saves the day for the Negro pirates.

During all of these misadventures, Henry is constantly flushed by Percy’s eyes and gets flummoxed every time he brushes Percy’s knee and blah blah blah. Of course Henry grows in the end after saving the day and all is right in the land.

I wanted to love this book so badly but it started to take a turn by chapter 5-YIKES!  There are several reasons for my rating.  The biggest disappointment was the romance; it was too formulaic.  I don’t think Lee knows how to write the unrequited love story yet.  There are two reason for the unrequited-they don’t share their feelings or they are purposely keeping them away.  Obviously it’s not the former because then this wouldn’t be a love story.  When that main character is purposely being kept away, the author has to find a way to make turn the old trope into something new and I think Lee tried but it didn’t land for me.  I think Bardugo did this wonderfully in Six of Crows as well as Clare in The Infernal Devices.

Secondly, I think Lee tried to put in too many historical significances.  She had the Duke of Bourbon, not educating women, Percy’s illness and race, the tradition of “touring,” homosexuality, and list goes on.  Percy’s race could have been omitted.  Percy is half Black but he’s too brown to pass as White and many people think he’s a slave.  US teens have a good overview of slavery and the fact the Lee didn’t add anything new to this time in our history means his race didn’t drive the plot. Percy could have been White and it wouldn’t have impacted the plot.

Thirdly, Felicity-Henry’s sister. Lee tried to make her an interesting character but in the end, she was a trope.  She’s a plain girl who doesn’t want to go to finishing school and rather be a scientist.  She reads a lot and therefore she’s able to get them out of jams. Sure she’s witty and smart but that’s it.  She’s also used for Henry to explain his sexuality to the reader but most teens are once again not new to homosexuality and Lee didn’t offer any new wisdom.

Lastly, Henry. He wasn’t likable and I know that some characters aren’t supposed to be but I think Henry is.  He’s selfish and although people are constantly calling him on it, he continues to be for 90% of the novel. And of course he grows in the end.  Technically there’s nothing wrong with that but once again, it’s formulaic thus making is predictable and boring.

I wished Lee had focused more on the time period and less on the romance and I wished the mystery part of the novel was better developed.

Podcast review with Bang Bang Books and Roulette Reader

Any Bangs in March?

NO, DAMMIT!!!

Around this time last year I had given three books five stars and I have yet to do so this year.  Is this a bad year for YA? Am I being too critical?

What 2017 books have you given five stars?

I only read five books this month which is a travesty for me.  I try to read at least eight.  Part of it was lack of enthusiasm about the books I was reading- I’d much rather watch TV than read my book.  The other part was trying to find the next book-there were a few gaps in days where I was deciding on the next title.  Click the titles to see my full reviews.

bombbombbomb 3/4 Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge-I was very exited about this because of The Lie Tree.  I also read and kinda didn’t like Cuckoo Song so I was also weary of this.  Unfortunately the latter rang true.  I think the reason is that Face Like Glass was written before Lie Tree during Hardinge’s need for a better editor stage.  Hardinge has great world building but tends to loose track and go all over the place-this is what happened in Cuckoo and Face.  The Lie Tree had a focus.

bombbombbombbomb The Upside of the Unrequited by Becky Albertalli-I loved Simon but I didn’t love Upside as much.  I’m not nor have I never been a gay teen boy so Simon added a new perspective. I have however been an insecure 16-year-old girl and as a 40-year-old, I was bored by all the things going on in this girl’s head.  16-year-old me would have love this but not 40-year-old me.  This book was just not written for me and it was a bit predictable.

The Next Together by Lauren James- I reviewed this for SLJ (School Library Journal) and you can catch my rating in the May issue.

bombbomb The Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott-Domino’s monster was supposed to make this book stand out of a basic plot about a coming of age homeless girl but it didn’t land.  The romance was blah, she gets bullied by other girls-Big Whoop; and she grows in the end-okay, I’ve read that a million times.

bombbomb Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty-This started off well but a third of the way through it fell apart.  There are many things that annoyed me in YA fantasy (listen to our podcast below) and Traitor violated several-The Lonely Island (one female among a bunch a dudes); The Gwenevere Complex (in this case, Sage is plain but everyone loves her); The War Strategist (sheltered girl knows more than generals/captains and wins the war).

Podcasts

 

Face Like Glass

face like glass

Face Like Glass

By Frances Hardinge

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: May 10, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 3/4

Overview

Seven years ago Neverfell was discovered hiding in the cheese tunnels of Master Cheesemaker Grandible.  Grandible knew she was different simply by looking at her face and he decides to keep her hidden from the rest of the citizens in Caverna but one day, Neverfell gets out.

While wandering through the underground city in her mask Grandible makes her wear, Neverfell meets Zouelle and decides that Zouelle is her best friend.  Zouelle sees a gullible little girl and uses Neverfell to infiltrate the house of the Facesmith only be caught without her mask–OH NO, WHAT DOES SHE LOOK LIKE? IS SHE AS UGLY AS SHE THINKS? Nope, Neverfell just has a face like you and me-she has a variety of expressions while Cavernans have to learn different facial expressions.

Neverfell is immediately arrested and becomes the subject of suspicion because her face is like glass or you can see true feeling by looking at her.  Neverfell doesn’t remember where she came from but someone does and they are trying to kill her.  A master winesmith adopts Neverfell to save her and gives her wine to hopefully job her memory but it doesn’t work.

Meanwhile, there’s the Klemptomancer who steals important items thus pissing off the Grand Stewart-the king.  Neverfell gets herself into another jam, she has to survive a series of tests, and she ultimately becomes the Grand Stewarts taste tester because everyone is trying to kill everyone in Caverna.  As Neverfell works for the Grand Stewart, she become curious about her background and begins to do research which often lands her into some sticky situations.

Face Like Glass is all about world building and the underground world of Caverna is fascinating. Babies are born without facial expressions; the Court will do anything to gain favor of the Grand Stewart; there are Cartographers who will make anyone insane if you talk to them longer than five minutes; and on and on.  All of the characters were great in their own way, it had moments of humor, and I really craved cheese and wine while reading it. There were no tropes or silly romances. The world building is by far the best thing about the book and the reason for the rating.  The plot on the other hand…

 This book jumps all over the place. I thought I had it figured out at least five times and every time I was wrong.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it was frustrating.  The reason for the low rating is Neverfell and the length.  Neverfell was a good character but she lived in isolation in a cave for seven years yet she’s smart enough to beat everyone at their own game? She does spend her time reading and she’s quite the engineer but COME ON! My biggest problem was the 488 page number.  Hardinge tends to take pages to make one simple point thus making this book 100 pages too long.

The Lie Tree was by far Hardinge’s best book and I realize it’s because it’s her latest book meaning that she’s either grown or has hired a better editor.  If it’s the latter, for the love of rainbows please keep this editor because A Face Like Glass needed someone to tighten it up.

If you like an acid-trippy fantasy with a lot of colorful characters and a vivid world building, then pick this up today.

The Upside of the Unrequited

the upside

The Upside of the Unrequited

By: Becky Albertalli

Genre: Contemporary/Romance/Humor/LGBTQ

Publication Date: April 11, 2017

Bang Bang Review: bombbombbombbomb

Review

Molly is the chubby twin of Cassie and has only had crushes and no boyfriends.  Cassie always tells Molly to woman up and just go for it but what does Cassie know? She’s thin and doesn’t have to fear rejection. Cassie has finally found love with a Korean cool chick, Mina, and they decide to hook up Molly with Mina’s best guy friend.  Although Molly is suspicious of their motives she kind of goes along with it.  Meanwhile Molly has a new job with a super nerd named Ried but they’re just friends-or so Molly tells herself.

The Upside is full of teen angst and just like Simon, it’s full of honest conversations that teens rarely have in YA fiction.  The feeling of being the third wheel and the guilt of making someone the third wheel, the feeling of rejection regardless of what one looks like, and all types of love are explored in the Upside. Some may feel that Albertalli has taken a checklist to her book-a Korean girl; bi-racial lesbian couple who can finally get married; bi-racial teen lesbian couple; Jewish families; and chubby teens but Albertalli writes in a way that it feels authentic.  The Upside didn’t make a big deal out of the things listed; it just happened to be everyday life and I appreciate that.  I also liked that Molly was never on a diet-YAAAASSS!

The only downside of The Upside was that Molly was a bit too in her head.  I’m an adult and  I’ve read plenty of contemporary but I can honestly say that I am NOT the demographic for this book.  This book is STRAIGHT UP for teens because all of their issues I found myself getting really bored but my 16-year-old self would have totally LOVED this book.  Although I can admit this isn’t for me, I still lowered the rating because of it.  I LOVED Simon for the main character and it’s authentic voice but Molly was just too in her head and there was nothing special going on in there.

Traitor’s Kiss

traitor's kiss

Traitor’s Kiss (Traitor’s Trilogy #1)

By Erin Beaty

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: May 7, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Review

Sage is close to the marrying age but she doesn’t want to be married off to a man she’s never met just for politics.  She expects her uncle to return with news of an apprenticeship  but of course that doesn’t happen and she learns she must visit the matchmaker to see if she’s marriage material. At first she relents, but good old Sage tells the matchmaker to suck it and she’s thrown out.  Seeing Sage’s potential, the matchmaker asks Sage to be her apprentice and she gladly accepts since no man will ever marry a skinny plain girl.

The cotillion season is coming up and all the young ladies in the land are made up; sucked and tucked; and suited and booted and Sage’s job is to get to know the guys and gals to make the perfect matches.  Meanwhile there’s a potential plot to over throw the king and Captain Quinn and his band of hot ass soldiers must use the cotillion season to get close and to eliminate the threat.  Did that transition in story give you whiplash? Well grab your neck brace because this is how to book is organized.

Captain Quinn sends his hottest soldier, Ash, to do some super spy work and quickly realizes that Sage is kind of a good spy? So he enlists Sage to babysit his younger brother. Sage is an orphan whose deceased father was a jack of all trades so of course Sage knows everything from water contamination to behaviors of birds and of course this 16-year-old who’s been a tutor for the past four years helps them foil the plan to over throw the king.  I forgot to mention that Sage conveniently received one day of combat training just in time to use it.

Everything about Traitor’s Kiss was oddly paced. The romance was comical in several situations and the villain and his plot was an afterthought to the romance.  This novel started off well but it began to fall apart a third of the way in.  If you want an AMAZING romance with deceit, I HIGHLY suggest The Kiss of Deception Series by Mary E. Pearson, The Winners Curse Series by Marie Rutkoski or Wolf by Wolf Series by Ryan Graudin.

Podcast Review

Any Bangs in February?

Here’s the round up of what I read in February; did I give any bang (5 star reviews)? Let’s find out.

Click the book titles to read full reviews.

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor-I loved the Smoke and Bone Series (well the first two b/c the size of book 3 scared the crap out of me) so I was VERY EXCITED for Strange and it didn’t disappoint. My only issue was that it was too loquacious.   So close to a bang but not quite.  bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Hunted by Meagan Spooner-This was an interesting take on Beauty and the Beast because we are able to read from the perspective of the beast but I felt it ended up being to predictable and the pacing was all over the place. bombbombbomb 1/2

The Valiant by Lesley Livingston-Great cover, great premise, and great time period but it was a missed opportunity to really dive into the historical fiction part.  Valiant suffered from tropes-instalove; girl fights; the old switcheroo; and the everyone-likes-me-even-though-I’m-the-same-lame ass-heroine-you’ve-read-a-million-times.  The pacing was also all over the place.  bombbomb

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas-This book has lots of buzz and lots of star ratings from book publications and I agree it’s a solid read.  The main character is relatable, it offers insight to a part of our country that many of us are unfamiliar, and it’s timely.  It was written well but it didn’t blow me away. bombbombbombbomb

The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig-There were two problems with this book. #1. The rules were all over the place and it was beginning to get confusing. #2. Heilig tried to jam this book with big exciting parts but there was little character development and world building in the middle.  It was all, our ship is attacked-BAM; here’s this mysterious girl-BAM; time to sail to a land that doesn’t really exist-BAM; Nix blacks out-BAM; a character out of nowhere-BAM; Nix blacks out again-BAM; somebody shot somebody-BAM; now we get caught sneaking away-BAM; now my life has been a lie-BAM! If you like that sort of thing then you’ll love this but I prefer more story than stuff. bombbomb 3/4

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner-I’ll start off by saying that I loved The Serpent King better but this was a solid read.  There’s not much you can do with a grief book and I think Zentner gave it the old college try with this one. bombbombbombbomb

I also read Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince for the second time and it’s my favorite of the series.

Strange The Dreamer was very close but sadly there were no bang in February.

Top Ten Tuesday

Favorite Quotes.

I love quotes so this is a great topic for me.  I recently started having authors write my favorite quotes in their book and the first half are the pics. That is not a quote from Falling Kingdoms; it’s my ship.

The second set are my favorite quotes.

  1. “It doesn’t do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” Harry Potter/Sorcerer’s Stone
  2. “Macho Nachos be damned!” Eleanor & Park
  3. “People really are like houses with vast rooms and tiny windows.” Simon Vs.
  4. “Kiss me, Hardy! KISS ME QUICK!” Code Name Verity
  5. “I don’t care.” Winner’s Curse (It’s all about the context of the quote)
  6. “Let’s drink wine and dance inappropriately.”  Stalking Jack the Ripper
  7. “And if someone does figure it out and start a rumour, we’ll just deal with it…What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and all that crap.” Exit, Pursued by a Bear
  8. “I don’t suffer fools.” We Were Liars
  9. “I’ll have you without armour, Kaz Brekker, or I’ll not have you at all.” Six of Crows
  10. “Fire breathing bitch queen.” Queen of Shadows.

Goodbye Days

goodbye-days

Goodbye Days

By Jeff Zentner

Genre: Contemporary

Publication Date: March 7, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review

Carver made a mistake; he texted his friend knowing he was driving.  As a result, all of his friends died in a car crash and Carver may face criminal charges.

The novel begins days after the crash at the last funeral and days before the start of school.  While attending the last funeral, Carver befriends his deceased friend’s girlfriend-Jesmyn.  Together Carver and Jesmyn grieve and support each other but Carver begins to have romantic feelings for her.  While a different author may fall for the teens-want-a-romance trope, Zentner explores a sweet relationship between a boy and girl.  In addition to a terrible loss, Carver may face criminal charges because he knowingly texted a friend while he was driving.  There is a law against this and I don’t remember what it’s called but this added pressure leads to panic attacks.  Carver has a supportive sister who encourages him to seek therapy which is unusual for a character in YA novels to visit a therapist in the middle of the story.  Nana Betsy, one of Carver’s deceased friend’s grandmother, asks him to spend a day with her as a day to say goodbye thus the meaning of the title-Goodbye Days.  The other families hear about Goodbye Days and request Carver spend a day with them as well.  All three days are different. One was uplifting, one added to his grief, and one was enlightening.

Like The Serpent King, Goodbye Days explores religion which a lot of YA novels do not do and Zentner does a great job of including faith without it sounding preachy (pun intended).  This novel opens a new conversation about liability with something that we all have probably done-text someone that we knew was driving.  The fact the the driver answered the text, which is the obvious place to lay blame, Goodbye Days does not focus on that and I’m pretty sure that was intentional by Zentner.  A second underused theme in YA that Zentner has included again in GD are parents.  In many YA novels parents don’t exist, they are not relatable, or just plain ridiculous but Zentner writes a balance of the very supportive parent to the hardass parent to the absent parent.  Zentner also features a positive father.  I was on the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee last year where we discussed 120 books and it was a running joke was that all the dads were horrible except The Serpent King.  GD has lots of dads and they weren’t all great but they were present and believable.

There are A LOT of grief books out there making it difficult to stand out.  The plot in GD was different in that it focused on the person who texted and not the driver who texted back and the goodbye day aspect was out of the ordinary.  However how teens deal with grief tends to be similar in all grief books. I enjoyed The Serpent King more because it was a surprise grief book.  TSK also featured southern rural religious teens first which also made it special.

Goodbye Days has solid writing and character development. It included multiple themes and it is a great conversation starter.

A Ship Beyond Time

a-ship-beyond-time

A Ship Beyond Time (The Girl from Everywhere #2)

By Heidi Heilig

Genre: Fantasy/Time Travel

Expected Publication: February 28, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb 3/4

Review

A Ship Beyond Time is the second book in The Girl from Everywhere Series and we pick up on the ship fleeing Hawaii. After book one, Blake has joined the crew, Kash and Nix might be in love, and Nix’s father has vowed to get sober.

ASBT opens with a prediction from an oracle stating that Nix’s love will fall to the sea and every action Nix makes following the prediction is to fight fate and save Kash.  Since there are rules about returning to places, Nix needs to find a way to go back after Kash eventually dies and she believes she has found that person.  They get a new map to find this Navigator who has claimed that he knows how to go back and save loved ones.

It took a while for this story to get going and for me to realize that the above paragraph was actually the plot.  Nix constantly worries about Kash when he’s by her side but when they are separated on an island that legend says will flood, she doesn’t worry much.  The conversations between Nix and Kash were very frustrating.  She keeps him at bay because she doesn’t want to love him knowing he is fated to die but she loves him and technically can’t change that-THERE ON A SMALL SHIP FOR GOODNESS SAKES!  She doesn’t know when he dies; he could die thirty years from now.  So instead of loving him in the moment, they just have the same conversation over and over.

This book requires the reader to suspend all beliefs more times than I can count.  We are already supposed to believe that anyone can make a map of any time period and the ship sails through some fog and tada, they’ve time traveled.  Okay, I can get with that because I hate all the explaining but now we are supposed to believe that they can travel to a land that has only existed through legend?  Was that in book one and I missed it?  Anyway, that is where we are sailing to in this book and hold on to your butts because it gets even more convoluted.  I will admit that although this book had a lot of story but I didn’t get confused as I did with book one.  And I have to mention that map makers seem to be on every corner-that’s convenient.

I don’t know the literary term for this but I call it all bones and no meat.  That is when a book has event after event after event just to keep it exciting but there is no actual story in between the events.  I felt book one did a better job of character development and world building in between events whereas this one failed to do that.  This book also included some convenient moments where the group was missing something vital and tada, it’s- been-under-that-rock-the-whole-time.

Heilig is a good writer and she has lots of potential; I think she just needs a better editor or mentor.  I honestly gave up with 25% remaining and I don’t even know how it ends so if someone wants to inform me, I’d appreciate it.

The Hate U Give

the-hate-u-give

The Hate U Give

By Angie Thomas

Genre: Contemporary

Publication Date: February 21, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/4

Review

Starr leads a double life.  In one life she’s a sixteen year old who lives in a gang/drug infested neighborhood with her mother, her ex-con father, her younger brother, and sometimes her older brother with whom she shares a father.  In her other life she’s a high school junior at Williamson Academy, a predominately White school, with a White boyfriend, an Asian friend, and a White friend. Starr struggles with her identity between her two worlds especially after her best friend, who was Black, was shot and killed by a White police officer.

The incident happens quite early in the book which I believe was a brilliant idea because it causes the reader to adopt assumptions about Khalil, the boy who was killed.  As the story progresses we learn more about Khalil and his circumstances thus creating the conversation about race, poverty, and privilege.  Many of us have prejudices about people who sell drugs or are gang members and Thomas sheds a light and may cause some readers to reevaluate the way they think the next time an unarmed Black youth is shot.

One of the reasons why this story is good is because Starr is relatable to many people, not just Blacks.  Starr struggles with the way she changes her behavior when she’s among certain people.  In her circumstance, she changes the way she speaks and she doesn’t discuss her home life around her school friends and she gets persecuted by her “sister” because she doesn’t act Black enough.  I think lots of people struggle with this in their workplace or perhaps they have family with different political/religious beliefs from their friends, etc. Starr shares her inner monologue and her rationality which a lot of other book characters don’t do and I think this enhances the reading experience because we get to understand the choices she’s making.

Every character was essential to the plot including the seven year old little brother to the grandmothers but I think the stand out, other than Starr, was Starr’s father.  Marv had the most significant character arc.  He was sent to jail for gang activity and he continues to have a gang mentality while caring for his family.  Although his actions are terrible most of the time you can see why he thinks a certain way because Thomas explains his logic quite well.

As someone who didn’t grow up in a neighborhood like Starr’s or knows someone who was shot by a police officer or who has never been in a protest, I think this book gave me a glimpse into the Trayvon Martin incident.  Overall, I thought The Hate U Give was insightful and honest.  My only issue was the dialogue among the characters.  There were several pages and situations of conversations about The Fresh Prince and cereal and other trivial teenage things that really didn’t impact the plot.  I know Thomas was showcasing Starr’s interactions among her different groups of friends but there were too many, they were too long, and I wish they could have been a bit deeper.  I’m not trying to say they had to talk like John Green characters but I think it dragged down the book and made it longer than it needed to be.  I think length is important because if I try to give this book to my Black or Hispanic reluctant readers, they’ll take one look at this 450 page book and say no thanks.

 

Valiant

valiant

Valiant (The Valiant #1)

By Lesley Livingston

Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fantasy

Published: February 14, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Review

Fallon is in love and is preparing for the announcement of joining her father’s war band when her father announces her betrothal instead of her new membership.  Disgusted by her father’s decision and disappointed to not be following into her fallen sister’s footsteps, Fallon runs away only to be captured and sold into slavery.  Proving that she’s a skilled fighter, Fallon finds herself training to be a female gladiator in Julius Ceaser’s army.

Valiant opens with Fallon and her boyfriend professing his love but Fallon wants to join her father’s war band and she knows she can’t have both.  Her sister died in battle with Julius Ceaser ten years prior and Fallon desperately wants to step in as the sole female warrior and avenge her sister’s death.  None of the above happens and Fallon’s only out is to run away to only be captured by slave traders.  All of this happens in the first fifty pages.  Actually a lot more happens in those first pages including a whole lotta info dumping.

While on the boat to the seller block, Fallon meets another captive named Elka.  Elka is a fighter and a smart mouth and is the best character in this entire book.  Fallon and Elka are chained together most of the time and if it weren’t for Elka, Fallon would not be where she ended up.  One would assume that if Fallon was about to join her father’s army she would be a skilled fighter but one would be wrong.  Fallon constantly gets her ass handed to her and I understand that Livingston is trying to write a flawed heroine but don’t make her army ready, make her a trainee.

Fallon also meets a sympathetic man named Charon who is her capture yet her savior.  He’s initially mysterious but his motive becomes quite predictable much like most of this novel and that was the major problem.  Livingston is not a debut but she make some serious rookie mistakes.  I predicted all the major plot twists thus the reason for my rating.

Fallon meets a handsome young gladiator, Cai,  who happens to work for Ceaser and of course after the first meeting he’s in love.  Fallon knows this is a bad idea and she does hold him off for a while but eventually relents.  The instalove is not as bad as other books but my issue is that Fallon is not special.  Sure she’s perseverant and strong but Cai is surrounded by A LOT of girls like that.  I just wasn’t feeling the heat.

Valiant has a great premise of female gladiators and the time period is refreshing to YA but the pacing, the predictable plot, and the bland characters are why this novel falls short of epic.

Daughter of the Pirate King

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Daughter of the Pirate King (Daughter of the Pirate King #1)

By: Tricia Levenseller

Publication Date: February 28, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review

Alosa is the daughter of the pirate king and to prove to her father that she’s capable of being a true pirate, she volunteers to get an important map by allowing herself to become a captive of a rival captain.

Alosa has been training her entire life for this-get on an enemy ship to find treasure.  Her father finally has faith that she can pull off this difficult heist of finding a map.  Alosa must use brain, brawn, and a particular gift to find the hidden map all the while avoiding love.

Daughter of the Pirate King is a debut novel and Levenseller writes a refreshing fantasy about a strong yet flawed heroine who desperately wants validation from her father.  Alosa is the captain of a divers female crew who are all badass.  She’s got a smart mouth, a curvy body and she knows how to use both of them.

Pirate King has a great love interest in Ridan who is honorable yet conflicted.  Levenseller takes her time to build a relationship between Alosa and Ridan-in other words, no instalove!

There are a couple of good villains including Alosa’s father and Ridan’s brother who also has his own daddy issues.

Daughter of the Pirate King is a good debut with a diverse cast of characters, a great heroine, and strong writing.

Hunted

hunted

Hunted

By: Meagan Spooner

Genre: Fantasy/Beauty and the Beast Retelling

Expected Publication Date: March 14, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 1/2

I received this ARC from Harper Collins at ALAMW

Yeva, or Beauty as her father calls her, is the youngest of three daughters of a merchant. Yeva is tired of sitting around with the baroness circle of ladies and would rather be hunting and when her father loses his fortune and must return to the woods, Yeva is ready to help the family. When her father doesn’t return from a hunting trip, Yeva searches the snow clad forest only to be captured by a beast.

I know the basic story of Beauty and the Beast but I’ve never seen the Disney movie (don’t judge me) so I did have to Wikipedia the story to familiarize myself with the plot.

This is the first book I’ve read by Spooner.  I didn’t finish These Broken Stars because something else came along and I didn’t go back.  I think Spooner is a very vivid writer and she captures loss and grief quite well. But I had some issues.

Hunted moves quite fast as far as story development.  Yeva’s family is quite wealthy with servants in one chapter and in the next they are destitute.  I know Yeva is bored with the social scene but she’s totally fine with being suddenly poor and in fact she favors it.  There is nothing necessarily wrong with this but many people would have some sort of selfish opinions and none of Yeva’s family does, including her father.

Hunted is only 374 pages and it was both too long and not long enough.  The middle bits were consumed with Yeva’s hatred/non-hatred of the beast because he killed her father and she constantly waffles.  I know Spooner was setting up a romance and Yeva should suffer this internal conflict, I just wish Spooner had have found a way to convey that without repetition.

There was a lack of character development.  The father loves his family and he seems to have it together but he quickly becomes obsessed with hunting the beast and turns mental.  This happens too quickly to be believable.  The sisters, the love interest, and the servant, Albe, were underdeveloped.  I honestly don’t know the purpose of Albe and Solmir, the love interest, was a basic plot device-Yeva would rather be a hunter than a wife.  With the exception of Beauty and the Beast, none of the other characters drove the plot and if they weren’t in the book it wouldn’t have impacted the story.

The beast has an agenda and you nor Yeva knows what it is until the last 20 pages.  Meanwhile, the forest was magical which was very interesting but once again it was underdeveloped. The ending was too quick-Yeva found the answer in two pages.

I liked the weaving of Vasalisa the Beautiful and how Yeva questioned the traditional fairy tale.  I also liked that Yeva didn’t question a talking beast and a magic forest because she’s obviously in a fairy tale-duh.  Spooner has potential to write an epic fantasy but the story was too rushed and too predictable.

Strange the Dreamer

strange-the-dreamer

Strange the Dreamer

By: Laini Taylor

Expected Publication Date: March 28, 2017

Genre: Fantasy

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Review

Lazlo Strange is a dreamer and he has been ever since he was found parentless and raised by monks.  Fueled by stories from a cantankerous monk, Lazlo pretends he’s a warrior from a fairy tale city named Weep.  Determined to find this city, Lazlo becomes a librarian apprentice and studies hard until he gets his chance to visit the doomed Weep.

If you are looking for a light fun filled fantasy, Strange the Dreamer is NOT for you.  This book is not only dense with LOTS of information, it is dark and is quite metaphorical and jam packed with vivid imagery and beautiful prose.  Taylor has written a new world complete with many characters, myths and beasts so get your pencils ready to keep up.

Strange the Dreamer is told in 3rd person and centers mostly around Lazlo Strange and Sarai.  I won’t say who Sarai is because it is a spoiler and the exciting part is discovering who she is as the story progresses.  Taylor plays mind games with the reader because I am used to a clear villain and a clear hero but in Strange the Dreamer, these lines are blurred.  This is story about war and revenge and the greater good.

It’s very difficult to review this book in detail because I don’t want to spoil anything.  What I liked about this book is that Taylor took her time to develop the world and to explain the conflict. If you read the Smoke and Bone series, you know that Taylor likes to through curveballs.  Strange the Dreamer is multi-themed, has strong characters, and is often sad.

My only issue is the length-560 pages.  I have read longer books but every scene had a purpose to the plot and I felt 90% of this book was purposeful to the plot.  Taylor has the gift of conveying a message in a paragraph but I felt there were instances when she took several chapters to say something that could have been done in two pages.  The length was the reason this book wasn’t a 5/5.

Spoiler Edition of Strange The Dreamer

Tower of Dawn Spoilers

Tower of Dawn is happening concurrently with Empire of Storms.  Chaol and Nesryn have gone to Antica which is not on the map in the beginning of the book but the in southern continent. They have gone to heal Chaol’s back as well as ask the king to join forces to defeat Erawan.

When Chaol and Nesryn arrive to Antica, we learn that the king is called the Great Khagan and the heir is not born into the title, he/she is chosen.  When you are chosen to be heir, all siblings must sworn fealty to the king and not challenge them or risk execution.  When sibling swear fealty they cannot have children (I don’t understand why) but if they do have a wife and kids when the heir is chosen they can all be executed (once again, i’m not sure why.  Because they can try to claim the throne?) Anyway, the Great Khagan had his sibling killed or exiled and made them infertile.  What’s the point? The Great Khagan has five living kids and has not named his heir.  One of his daughters is married and pregnant so technically when he names Sartaq his heir, is he going to follow tradition?  I’m guessing no. Anyway, Sartaq was named heir and he loves Nesryn.

The youngest sibling died from a fall but Kashin thinks it was murder and asks Chaol to investigate.  We finally learn that the Valg has made its way to Antica, entered Duva (the pregnant one) and made her kill her sister.  This revelation finally makes the king believe that evil is going to take over and allows Chaol to use his army.

Yrene Towers is from Fenharrow and her mother was a healer.  When the king of Adarlan outlawed magic, he had Yrene’s mother burned to death as Yrene watched.  She fled to Innis where she met Aelin (she doesn’t know it was Aelin).  This story is in Assassin’s Blade.  She made it to Antica to study at the Torre-healers.  Yrene wants to go back to Fenharrow to heal the fighters but the head healer wants her to heal Chaol first. At first she hates him but then they fall in love and get married at the end.

When Yrene was researching in the Torre library, a healer that resembled her was murdered by the Valg and she thinks they are after her.  They are after her because she is a healer and they don’t want healers.

Nesryn and Sartaq fly the ruks and they discover some giant Valg spiders.  The ruk is injured trying to save them but the spiders take Sartaq.  To save him, Nesryn takes a shapeshifter named Falken who is the Lysandra’s uncle to the spider cave and while they are there, Nesryn learns that Maeve is the Valg Queen.

Hundreds of years ago, Maeve married Orcus but fled to a new universe.  She then cast a spell on Mab and Mora and made them and everyone believe that she was their sister. She also took the keys.  The kings almost found her but didn’t and she sent all of them except Brannon back to the other universe.  Brannon is the fire king and I think Maeve fears him because Valg doesn’t like fire.

Hasan gets news that Aelin has defeated Maeve and has gone back to Terresen but what they don’t realize is that Aelin has been captured and who they saw was Lysandra.

We find out that Anthril is loyal to Silba because he had the owl symbol somewhere around him. Mala gave the immunity ring to Anthril and not Brannon even though she loves Brannon. That wasn’t answered-I think. Because Brannon is the fire king and the Valg fear fire so he doesn’t need immunity? IDK.

In the end, Duva was going to kill Yrene but Chaol jumped between and she damaged his back even further.  As Chaol lay dying, Yrene prayed to save him at any cost and the cost was that when Yrene is exhausted from healing, Chaol will be paralyzed.  When she’s recovered, he can walk.  When one dies, they both die.

They are all sailing to the north to help fight the Valg.

The last chapter is Brannon? But I’m not sure who he is talking to.  Mala?