The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza

elena mendoza

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza

By Shaun David Hutchinson

Genre: Contemporary/Paranormal/LGBTQ

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Bang Bang Review

Elena Mendoza was born from a virgin birth and since she was a child, objects have been speaking to her. At first it was small things like make friends with Fadil but then the voices began to tell her to heal people to save the world.  Sound interesting? I thought so too until I read it.

I thoroughly enjoyed We Are the Ants and I also like genre blending stories so I was excited about Hutchinson’s new book.  I personally think he got gipped in the award department with Ants and I think he thought so too and tried to write an award winner in Elena but I think he tried too hard.

The paranormal premise of Ants was the idea of pushing the button to save the world or not pushing the button to doom mankind and Elena was faced with the same decision except it wasn’t a button it was listening to inanimate objects.  With that being said, Hutchinson needs some fresh ideas.  Elena started off quickly with the shooting of her crush in the first couple of chapters which was good.  I also liked the voices; I thought they were bitchy and funny but after the first quarter of this somewhat different book, it went downhill.  The main characters talk about finding the shooter who vanished into the sky ad nauseam but they don’t do too much to find anything about him.  A good chunk of this book and when I say chunk I mean about 75% is basically different people giving Elena advice about making choices.  It’s all a bunch of introspection and that’s fine but her mother gives advice, then her shitty step father, then her best friend, then her crush, the a rando cop, then her mom again, then best friend, then her crush, then her crush, then her neighbor, and on and on and on. And they are all kind of telling her the same thing but using different words.  Actually Dumbledore gave us this advice-“It’s our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” This book is 430 pages too long.

While all of this advice is happening, Elena is developing relationships with her crush, Freddie, and her ex-Javi.  Freddie began as an interesting character but because of all ass dragging plot I didn’t care about their budding romance I just wanted Hutchinson to tell me the connection between her life saving abilities and the choice theme.  Usually this is the type of book where I don’t want to author to tell me the point but because the middle was just people giving advice, I just wanted to be told everything and not have to think.

Her best friend Fadil was okay but their friendship was nothing new.  He got a new girlfriend and he felt Elena was too dependent on him and blah blah blah. Then there was Javi who only wanted sex and then slut shamed her after she broke up with him. There was a moment when he asks her out and Elena has to tell him why he was a total dick and then she constantly had to tell him she wasn’t going to get back with him like several times over different events.  I don’t understand why that was in the book.  I don’t understand what Hutchinson was trying to say? Guys need to be told ten times that you don’t want to fuck them? I don’t know the point.

I think the ending was supposed to be this huge epiphany for Elena about choices and free will but I feel like teens kind of know this.  He seemed to try to make this point through a supernatural story and I applaud the concept but final message was not new info especially since Elena was getting advice about choice and free will for 200 FUCKING PAGES!  In Ants, he left it up to the reader to decide if the MC was being abducted by aliens or if it was imaginary but in Elena, he bashed us over the head with the theme.

Hutchinson is a good writer and I think he has a lot to say but this just was not it for me.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb 3/4

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Losing Leah

losing leah

Losing Leah

By Tiffany King

Genre: Thriller/Child Abuse

Publication Date: March 20, 2018

Bang Bang Review

Losing Leah is told in two POVs, Leah and her twin Mia.  Mia was abducted when the twins were six years old by a woman who has held her captive in a basement for ten years.  Mia has been told that she has a sun sensitivity disease and her parents abandoned her because of it and this nurse adopted her.  During Mia’s chapters, we witness physical and emotional abuse which are tough to read and realistic but to readers who have never suffered abuse, we don’t learn anything new.  I’ve never been abused but I have a very basic idea of the affects of abuse by watching TV and reading books.  This book doesn’t add anything new to the narrative and that’s a shame because it’s a missed opportunity to dig deep into the mind and lives of the abused.

During Leah’s chapters, we are told that her parents have been affected by the loss of their child but we never see the parents.  There’s actually a reason why we don’t see the parents but it’s weak.  Leah has a boyfriend and a best friend but their presence does not impact the plot.  Leah suffers from debilitating headaches and seeing shadows but once again, I didn’t understand the significance.   Leah’s chapters could have been a discussion on how abduction affects a family but once again-missed opportunity.

Mia is rescued and reunited with her family but while she’s in the hospital, she meets a boy-of course she does.  I don’t understand why authors feel the need to write a romance.  Mia had a very strong relationship with her brother and I would have much rather the focus been on that or even a female patient living the same nightmare but no.  At one point, Mia is release from the hospital but she has to return for therapy but she never goes to see the love interest even though she claims he helped her.  I won’t say why but her psychologist SUX.

After a month or so in the hospital, Mia goes home and immediately returns to school-WHAT!!! This book is 320 pages so as you can surmise, the pacing is BANANAS!!!  Of course people are staring at her and calling her names but that’s the extent of her experience.  I won’t say more because it’s a spoiler but I’ll say that Mia’s brother who goes to the same school also SUX because he never checks up on her and meets her new friends.  It’s not her brother’s fault, it’s the authors fault for writing big plot holes.

This book was trying to do too many things.  First of all it’s pegged as a thriller/mystery but it lacked intensity.  The main characters are abused and suffering loss and have absent parents.  The main character is rescued and there’s a romance and she goes back to school.  The author should have chosen a couple of event of focus and develop them or WRITE A LONGER BOOK TO SUPPORT ALL OF THE EVENTS.  This book was too big for this author.  She had a good idea to write a thriller about an abused/abducted girl but she didn’t know how to execute it.

I haven’t read a lot of books about abuse but if you are looking for a slightly better book about physical and emotional abuse, read List of Cages by Robin Roe. If you are looking for a good thriller, read Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas, Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro or The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Bang Bang Review: bomb

 

Furyborn

furyborn

Furyborn (The Empirium Trilogy #1)

By Claire Legrand

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: May 22, 2018

Bang Bang Review

If you plan on reading this book, I highly suggest you take notes because you ARE NOT going to remember anything when book 2 comes out.  You’ve been warned.

Furyborn is told in duo POVs. Rielle, the daughter of the king’s commander and Eliana a hired killer living 1000 years after Rielle.  (OMG, there’s so much story I don’t know where to begin).  Okay, let’s go back. The book begins with Rielle giving birth and in the room is her new husband Garver and his seven year old son Simon.  At one point, an angel named Corien comes and that’s all I’ll say.  Rielle’s story is then told two years prior to the birth of her child.  Legrand slowly reveals how Rielle came to be pregnant and married to this Garver guy, what Simon is, and the significance of Corien.

This world is in a constant war with angels and humans and a very important angel named Aryava foretold a prophesy that there will be two queens-Blood Queen and a Sun Queen.  One is bad, Blood Queen, and she will unleash the angels and destroy the world.  One is good, the Sun Queen, she will save all of mankind.  Both queens posses all the power but there are problems- some think Aryava was crazy, some think the prophesy can be interpreted a bunch of different ways, and lastly you won’t know if the queen is good or bad until it’s too late. Rielle possesses all the magic and the king needs to test if she’s good or bad. (Please see the spoiler edition for my theory).  Rielle’s portion of the story is about her going thru trials to see if she does indeed possess all the magic and if she is good or bad.

Eliana’s story is the journey of a girl who prides herself on her great killing skills all the while trying to ignore the fact that she captures innocent rebels to be hanged by her Lord. Meanwhile someone is snatching girls and women and Eliana wants to know who is doing this and why.  She’s strong but incredibly flawed and she makes some pretty shitty mistakes.

Can’t say too much because it’s all spoilery but Legrand creates a vast, interesting world of magic and rebels.  The pacing might be tough for some because the story starts the middle of the trilogy and you have to work your way backwards and forwards.  There are a lot of lands and people and angels and names and EVERYTHING is important to the plot-no fluff here.  There are no points where you can skip around. There are some wonderful complex characters.  There’s diversity and some beautiful female friendships. I’m always a little skeptical of overhyped books but Furyborn is worth the hype.  I didn’t rate it higher because there were a couple of questions that weren’t answered.

Full spoiler edition

Bang Bang Rating:bombbombbombbomb 1/2

January Reads

Any bangs in January?  Nope, NOT EVEN CLOSE!

I read 24 books in November & December to meet my GR goal of 90 so as a reward, I did not read anything for two weeks.  And I don’t regret it.  So because of my reading moratorium, I only read three books in January-that’s a new low. Click the book cover for full reviews.

the queen's rising

Bang Bang Ratingbomb1/2

Same old story us fantasy fans have read a hundred times.


dark of the west

I read this for School Library Journal and cannot comment until my review appears in the journal.


list of cages

Bang Bang Ratingbombbombbomb

This is a basic story; it’s not a real thinker but a decent discussion starter.



I’m back on the book horse and will try to read at least six books in February.

furyborn

I’m currently about 45% in and it’s REALLY GOOD so far.  It is a lot of story so I hope the author can control it.  It’s on par for five stars if she can pull it out.  The world is somewhat unique; the heroines are pretty awesome and well developed; and the pacing is great.  If you have the ARC sitting on your shelf, I say start reading it now.


true queen

Pretty good series.  Book 1: The Impostor Queen was one of my favorite fantasy books of 2016.  Book 2 wasn’t as good but I’ve heard great things about the series finale so I’m excited.  I highly recommend this series.


immortal reign

OMG…finally the last book.  This was supposed to be a trilogy but then the author got to extend it to six and FINALLY after SIX YEARS I will be able to finish this series.  And I didn’t binge them; I read book one in 2012 and book two 2013 and so on and so forth.  If you are looking for a fluffier Throne of Glass type of a series that has a great heroine and hero, I highly recommend it.  It will get a little bananas in book five tho.


orphan monster spy

Don’t know much about it but it sounds good.


smoke thieves

I wasn’t a big fan of her first series, Half Bad, but it was because of the execution.  I think Green is a good storyteller so I’m excited to read her new series.


last beginning

I have to review this for School Library Journal.

Queen’s Rising

the queen's rising

The Queen’s Rising (Book 1)

By Rebecca Ross

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Bang Bang Review

When I told my co-worker Elise that I was going to read this next, she enthusiastically asked me to see something.  With bated breath, I waited for her to pull up her eBook where she eventually showed me four pages of family trees, definitions, more definitions, maps, and more definitions.  She decided at that point to not read the book and I should have listened-DAMMIT!!

Brienna (already forgot her last name) has dual citizenship of Valenia and some other land-I don’t remember.  Her mother died and she doesn’t know who her father was so she was raised in an orphanage until she was ten when her maternal grandfather takes her to matriculate at Magnolia House.  The Magnolia House is a school for FIVE girls who study Passions (OMG, this book said passion sooooo many times) and they study for SEVEN years.  So in other words, for SEVEN years there are only FIVE people at this school.  How do they make money?  It must be THE most expensive school ever.  And a good 25% of the book was in this school where we meet these girls and none of it impacts the plot-maybe one girl. Anyway, Brienna has no skills but she must be special because they admit her immediately and after failing at all the other passions, she settles on knowledge.  Since there’s one student to each teacher and Bri is the sixth girl in the school, she has to share a teacher with her classmate who out of nowhere gets real bitchy when Bri seems to be favored by their teacher.  Oh and I forgot the most important detail, when Bri touches a mysterious book she has these visions of a princess who lived hundreds of years ago-okay.  Oh I forgot to mention that Bri has a crush on her teacher.

Anyway, these girls are studying for SEVEN years so they can apprentice but Bri is conveniently not chosen and must remain at the school. But something happens and she has to go into hiding and it has something to do with her father she knows nothing about.  She travels and has visions and meets people and reveals that she has visions and trains to control her visions but fails and she meets this evil king who we keep hearing about and who is supposed to be the most evil king ever but we meet him once.  You can’t write a villain off page and expect the reader to fear them.

So the entire book is Bri looking for a stone and a scroll to overthrow the king.  She conveniently finds the stone after a vision showed her where it was.  I call deus ex machina on that bullshit.  The scroll was also conveniently found and then the battle for the throne literally takes five pages.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I READ A 460 PAGE BOOK FOR A BATTLE TO TAKE FIVE FREAKING PAGES?  The ending was a pretty bow and I shouldn’t have read this book.

So if you are looking for a book that says passion five hundred times, a poorly written villain, and a Mary Sue, this is the book for you.  If not, read Children of Blood and Bone-similar book but with better characters and execution.

Bang Bang Rating: bomb 1/2

2018 ARCs!!!

About once a quarter we receive a box of ARCs from Baker and Taylor.  It is part of their ARC program for libraries and the program has separate boxes for MG and adult fiction.  They may have a separate program for picture books but I am unsure.  If you’d like to be part of the ARC program, please contact your B&T rep.

Now onto the books

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I’ve read Children of Blood and Bone and The Belles.  You can find my review of The Belles in January 2018 SLJ print publication.

I’m excited about It Should Have Been You and Ash Princess and Orphan Monster Spy and I’ll probably be finishing those by the end of February.

Have you read any of these titles? Which ones should I read first?

First in Line

First In Line is going to be difficult to explain because there is no information about it on their website so if my info is wrong, sorry.  I signed up at a booth at ALA.

First In Line is a kind-of-subscription-box for librarians.  Although it is from Underlined, it is Penguin Random House.  Every couple of months you receive three ARCs and each ARC comes with samplers and display materials for librarians to put in their stacks.  The books you receive are really book ARCs so if you are interested in this program, visit Underlined and sign up for the newsletter to get started!

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Books from this quarter’s box

December 2017: Any Bangs

The last two months have been super crunch time to meet my Goodreads goal and although I completed my 90 book goal, technically I finished my 90th book on January 1st.  But I was 2/3 of the way through and I’m counting it.

This was a rough month meaning no bangs but it ended strong.  Click on the title for full reviews. (Not all books have reviews).

one of us is lying

One of Us is Lying

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

I wasn’t expecting a critical read but I was expecting a good mystery considering this has been on the NY Times bestseller list for weeks.  It began pretty well but then it dragged ass and that ending-WTF?  I was legit going back to the crime scene to figure out who was doing what and that didn’t even matter. UGH!!!


see what i have done

See What I Have Done

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

I like many are fascinated by Lizzie Borden and this debut was a good try but unfortunately, Schmidt used the small amount of evidence available and tried to fill 300 pages.  Too repetitive.


loneliest girl

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe

I reviewed this for SLJ and you can catch it in a future publication.


love hate and filters

Love, Hate, and Other Filters

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

This is an okay light hearted romance with a bit of Islamophobia.  The ending was a bit too unrealistic.


rebels of gold

Rebels of Gold

Bang Bang Rating: DNF

I loved the first two and this one was good but it was all about an impending war that I could predict the outcome and I was just not interested.  I got about 2/3’s in and skipped to the end and I was right.  It’s still a good fantasy and I highly recommend it.


dear martin

Dear Martin

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

Not very deep.


you bring the distance near

You Bring the Distance Near

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

Too much telling and not enough showing.


everless

Everless

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 3/4

A little info dumpy but the idea was interesting.


batman book

Batman

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Solid story but it was a bit boring.


vicious

Vicious

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 3/4

I don’t know why I waited so long to read this but it was GREAT! This book was a struggle because we are conditioned to pick a side and root for them but both characters were monsters and they both had good points.  I went back and forth-FRUSTRATING but good frustrating.


I’m tired and I’m not reading a damn thing for two weeks.  When I do decide to read, here’s the rundown.

2018 So Far

So I started reading 2018 books in October because I ran out of 2017 books to read.  You might be saying, “Dawn, you don’t like anything.” Trust me, I hear it from my friends all the time and I’d like to say that I do like stuff-I’m just REALLY picky.  I’m a critical reader which means I enjoy books that challenge me with multiple themes, a unique voice, and beautiful prose.  I’m also a sucker for a quotey book and a book that mixes genres.  If a book is full of tropes; is predictable as hell; has the same voice I’ve heard a MILLION times; or has elementary writing, I’m not gonna like it, people!  I’m all about own voices and I’m super excited to see so many authors of color but that doesn’t excuse bad writing (in my opinion).

With being said, here we go…And as always, click the title for full reviews.

everless

Publication Date: January 2, 2018

This is a debut fantasy and I usually don’t like debut fantasy but this one has great potential.  The world uses time as currency which is a unique spin on the haves and the have nots.  The mythology was interesting but a bit convoluted.  The major reveals and world building were info dumped but there was an attempt at uniqueness and the writing was solid.  I also liked the female friendships-I’m sick of girl hate.

You should definitely read this.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 3/4


ink iron glass

Publication Date: February 20, 2018

Here’s another debut fantasy and I did NOT like this one.  First of all, it’s only 336 pages-RED FLAG, RED FLAG!  This usually means the world building is shitty and not well developed-it wasn’t.  The premise is cool-a scriptologist can write a world and “people” can live in it.  The execution however was not good as it tried to mix in historical Italian fiction but it was all info dumped and not very interesting.  There was insta love and the character development was weak.  Then the author tried to execute a plot twist that contained no foreshadowing therefore rendering it anticlimactic.

Although the cover is beautiful, RUN AWAY!  Read Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine instead.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb


children of blood and bone

Published March 6, 2018

Are you scared of what I’m going to say? I had high hopes for this because of the hype and I was also scared of what I was going to think.

I like it a lot-PHEW! The character development was strong, the pacing was fantastic considering it is 600 pages, the plot was well developed and easy to follow, and it contained some thought provoking themes.  I’m so happy to see a fantasy with an all black cast.

Add it to your collection the day it’s published.

Bang Bang Ratingbang

 (I initially gave it 4.8 but that’s dumb; I’ll just up it to a perfect 5)


love hate and filters

Publication Date: January 16, 2018

This is marketed as Islamophobia and although there are instances of it, it is not the main focus by any means.  Islamophobia theme to me means it’s going to contain a deep discussion and strong themes but it doesn’t.  This is more like a light hearted romance with a smattering of Islamophobia but the voice wasn’t nuanced enough to love this.  It’s just okay.

Read The Hate U Give instead.  I’ve only read three books about Islamophobia and none of them were noteworthy.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb


thunderhead

January 9, 2018

This was a nonstop roller coaster with a death drop at the end-DAMN! This is the type of science fiction book I like.  This book has strong themes of mortality and abuse of power. There are complex characters and timely world building even though it’s post apocalyptic.  Once again, I initially gave it 4.5 because I wrote my review immediately after reading when my emotions were all over the place-THAT DAMN CLIFFHANGER ENDING!  But upon reflection, I will bump it up.

This was better than book 1.

Bang Bang Rating: bang


traitor's game

Publication Date: February 28, 2018

I loved the False Prince and I think Neilsen should stick to middle grade books.  The main character was awful and the insta love was gross.  There’s nothing new to see here, folks.

Read The False Prince, Kiss of Deception, or Winner’s Curse instead.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb 1/2


the hazel wood

Publication Date: January 20, 2018

So I don’t like Alice in Wonderland because it’s too much imagery for me to grasp.  I didn’t know this was a retelling even though the main character’s name is Alice and her grandma’s book references Hinterland.  Nevertheless, I DNFed this because although it started off well, it got a little too nutty for me with the twists and turns and the double agents and such.  I’m not the best person to listen to because of my dislike of Alice in Wonderland so I may not be the best person to advise.

Bang Bang Rating: DNF


dread nation

Publication Date: April 3, 2018

It pains me to say this because I love the premise but the execution of this was bad.  The voice was not special and the racism was stereotypical-racist sheriff/villain calling blacks darkies and setting them up for failure? The racist sheriff is not nuanced.  Publishers/editors cannot rely on a great cover and premise to sell books.  The editor should tell the author to have the main character say something serious about race and in this book’s case, the emancipation proclamation.  The characters were all characters we’ve read before-the sassy black girl who knows more than everyone in the room, the beautiful female nemesis who turns out to be okay, the fast talking hot guy womanizer with a heart of gold-COME ON!!!  This book is about zombies and zombie hunters in 1865; do something with it!!  It makes me angry when you have a vocal author (I follow Justina on Twitter) who obviously has something to say but it doesn’t translate into her books.  I strongly believe it’s the editor’s job to help authors write great books.

Read Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin instead.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb 1/2


cruel prince

Publication Date: January 2, 2018

I wanted to like this book even though I’ve yet to like anything by Holly Black.  I know I’m in the minority here but this book had NO plot.  The main character made extremely dumb choices and not just dumb but unrealistic.  She’s the type of character that has no training but falls ass backwards into good luck-I hate that shit.  There’s an issue I had between Jules and her sister that really ticked me off and the whole hanging out with the fey who are sadistically trying to kill her just bothered me.

This book made me angry because I had such high hopes and I felt like I wasted my time with this big ass book-(insert angry emoji).

Read or reread Throne of Glass or Falling Kingdoms instead.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb


batman book

January 2, 2018

Marie Lu is a good storyteller and this was no exception.  Something however was missing and I’m not sure what it was.  The character development was good and the story was good but I was bored and I like Batman.  I can’t put my finger on why I didn’t enjoy this book.

This is still worth a read.

Bang Bang Review: bombbombbomb 3/4


I would love to share my thoughts on these books but I can’t just yet because I reviewed them for SLJ, School Library Journal. When they are published in the journal, I will post my honest review.

 

Most Surprising Books of 2017

These are books where I had no expectations and they ended up surprising me as a really good read. Click the titles for full review.

city of saints and thieves

I was gonna read this early in the year but I read some Goodreads reviews and decided to not read it.  DAMN, I SHOULDN’T HAVE LISTENED TO GOODREADS.  This book was thrilling and exciting and a bit difficult to get through because of the sex slavery trade.  The pacing was good, the characters were well developed, and the mystery was pretty solid.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb


thief

I wanted to read the series before Thick as Thieves came out even though you didn’t have to.  I wasn’t surprised that this book was good but I was surprised by the story.  There are no ages which was interesting and it’s full of political intrigue which I also found interesting considering it was a Newberry Honor. I loved the main character and the story as a whole.  The series seems to be for older teens because there’s not a lot of action that would hold the attention of a younger teen but it’s a solid series.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb


gilded-cage

I’m not sure why I picked up this book but I’m glad I did.  This is set in the near future in England where slavery was not abolished but evolved.  Nonmagical people have to spend 10 years in slavery where they are servants or serve in work houses.  Anyway, this book is about power, privilege, and love and it’s DARK.  There are hella characters but they are all extremely well developed and the world building is fantastic.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2


alchemists-of-loom

I’m not a fan of this cover but it had a HIGH rating on Goodreads and the GR rating is gospel for me.  I’m glad I chose it because this series is great.  Very strong heroines and their gender is never a focal point.  There’s some political intrigue, a repressed nation that’s fed up and ready to fight, and a love story that’s not in your face.  Ignore this cover and read this series.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2


song of the current

Not sure why this book flew under the radar when other shitty books were promoted to death.  If you’re curious about which shitty books I’m referring to, click here to read my disappointing reads of 2017.  It’s Bloomsbury which means they spent their budget on Sarah J. Maas-GEEZ!

This is a debut and I don’t like debut fantasy because they are usually horrible but this one had a diverse cast of pirates.  It was funny and thrilling and I liked the love story and it wasn’t fluffy.  The main character was dealing with some issues surrounding the nation he inherited and the other main character was dealing with identity issues.  If you are looking for a diverse pirate fantasy, check out this series.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Everless

everless

Everless

By: Sara Holland

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: January 2, 2018

Bang Bang Review

The country of Everless uses time as currency and Jules’ father is running out of time trying to pay the taxes of the Gerling royal family.  Although Jules’ father begs her not to give her blood/time to pay the bills and warns her about going to Everless, the home of the royal family, Jules wants to contribute and defies her father.

So this is a debut and I HATE debut fantasy because it’s usually shitty.  This book is also only 360 pages which I’ve learned the hard way that if a book one in a fantasy series is less than 400 pages, that’s a PROBLEM.  It usually means the world is info dumped and the first chapter of Everless was indeed info dumped.  But because the mythology was interesting and the writing was okay, I continued to read.

Let’s start with Jules.  She’s your typical poor girl living in a land of starving people who are over taxed by the royal family.  Her father wants to protect her but she’s not gonna listen to her father-if she did, there would be no story.  No, she decides to go the Everless, the  castle, to work for the royals even though she and her father were cast out ten years prior because they knew too much.  Screw that, Jules goes anyway and she hopes to see Roan, the prince she befriended ten years prior.  And you know she’s in love with him because obviously and because she reminds us several times.  Then there’s the evil brooding older brother that she hates and you can probably venture a guess as to where this is going.  I forget to mention that Jules can stop time but she doesn’t know how or why and in other fantasies, the heroine would ignore this skill until it conveniently rears its head to save them but Jules actually recalls this skill several times so she avoids this trope. Jules is likable even though she’s constantly fawning over Prince Roan.  She asks the right questions albeit sometimes she doesn’t ask them at the proper times but nonetheless, she asks them.  She’s inquisitive and too nice for her own good which gets her into serious jams-WHY ARE YOU GOING BACK TO THE CASTLE WHERE THE QUEEN COULD POSSIBLE KILL YOU?  LEAVE YOUR DAMN CLOTHES, GIRL!

As a debut, the execution of the story was almost great but the end got a little convoluted and the answers weren’t coming fast enough.  Holland continuously presented the reader with more and more and more questions without equally providing answers.  Holland attempted to include clues for the reader to try to figure out Jules true identity and which characters were double agents but she fell too short and the ending was info dumped by several people-DAMN, THAT WAS UNFORTUNATE.  I liked the use of time as a currency which made for a solid metaphorical statement.

The female friendships in this story is worth mentioning because although it contains contentious relationships, there were a couple of pretty good female friendships which means it passed the bechdel test-YAY!

The world was the most interesting part of the story especially the mythology. There’s a sorceress and an alchemist and it’s all about them so I encourage you to pay attention to their story.  I applaud Holland for trying something different but the execution fell a bit too short and when you get to the end, you’ll see. I’m interested to see where Holland takes this story so I will be reading book two.  I recommend this series and I hope Holland’s editor encourages her to fix the pacing and stop the info dumping.  She needs to figure out a way to weave the backstory into the narrative and she needs to provide better clues and foreshadowing for the reader.

Spoiler edition to come.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 3/4 (It was going to be a 4 until the last twenty pages.)

Most Disappointing Books of 2017

It’s that time of year again; time to get bitchy and cheery about books-YAY.

This week, I’ll post my most disappointing books; the books that I shockingly liked; the worst books of the year; 2018 books that I’ve liked and disliked so far; and my faves of the year.  I actually did my faves of the year so click here to see that list.

So off we go with my most disappointing books of 2017.  Disclaimer, the books on this list were books I was REALLY excited about and they didn’t live up to my extremely impossibly high expectations.  Some of these books I gave a low rating and some I gave a high rating.  Click the cover if you want to read my full review.

These are in no particular order

that inevitable victorian thing

I loved Exit, Pursued by a Bear but this book-YIKES!! The characters were underdeveloped, there were dropped storylines, the world building was incomplete and not very interesting, and I don’t give two shits about the Canadian railway.  Sorry Canada and Canadians but I don’t give two shits about the American railway either.

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbomb


one of us is lying

I wasn’t expecting a critical read but I was expecting a good mystery considering this has been on the NY Times bestseller list for weeks.  It began pretty well but then it dragged ass and that ending-WTF?  I was legit going back to the crime scene to figure out who was doing what and that didn’t even matter. UGH!!!

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb


wrinkle in time

I know, I know and I hate to say it but WHAT THE HELL was happening in this book?!! We didn’t read this in school and I grew up in a town called Zion so maybe it was because of the religion aspect? Who knows.  Anyway, it starts off great with the weird six year old and the rough and tumble girl and the interesting bag like lady but then the pacing went bananas.  Then I couldn’t understand why no one was pointing out that a six year old does not talk or act like that and that ending was too abrupt.  I applaud the author for writing about black holes and god in the same book but DAMN, that was not a good book.  I will however go see the movie.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb


dear martin

I waited a long time to read this book, last week to be exact, and I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like it.  I’ve seen Nic at ALA long before her book was published so I knew this book was going to be hyped but you know when you get that feeling…Well I was correct-no thanks.  I do think this book is a good conversation starter but that’s it.  There’s no depth to the real conversation and the character development was absent.  This book is called Dear Martin so I expected some deep inspirational convos with MLK.  Nope, he mostly talked about the white girl he liked that his mother won’t approve of.  I think MLK has other things to care about other than your insensitive mother.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb


flame in the mist

OMG, this book was hyped to DEATH and boy did it disappoint.  I like to begin by saying that I’ve met Renee and she’s a sweet woman but she needs to fire her editor and fast.  She has great ideas and I like the folklore she incorporates but she needs someone to tell her to STOP IT with the Mary Sue heroines.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb ( I was being generous with a three)


warcross

Marie Lu is a hit or miss for me but it’s mostly been hits so imagine my surprise and disappointment when I read this mess.  Emiko made some dumbass mistakes like not checking her room for bugs or checking her back when she went to meet, dude.  Sorry, forgot his name.  And that ending, I saw that coming a mile away.  And that instalove?  NOOOO, Marie does the slow burn romance so well.  I loved June and Day but this couple-GROSS!

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 1/2


a conjuring of light

UGH, it hurts my feelings to say this but I did not like this series ender.  Rhy is such a weakling and I feel he never really recovered or it was a bit too late- either way it SUCKED FAT ONES!  Did we find out who Kel was? Did I miss it?  It was too much going on and I didn’t enjoy it.  I also listened to the audiobook for this one and I did not like the voices for Rhy, Alucard, or Kel.  Good god, Alucard sounded like an old ass man-NO!  I still love Schwab and if you get the chance to hear her speak, I HIGHLY recommend it-she’s inspiring.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 1/2


gentleman's guide

This book was a HOT ASS MESS.  Monty was the worst-completely unlikeable and I know he’s supposed to be but in my opinion, he never redeemed himself.  The topic of race was  was stereotypical-“Look everyone, a negro is in the room.  Are you the help?”  COME ON!!! Their unrequited love is so played out; I need to see something new, people. The sister was a trope-oh the girl who is smart and doesn’t want to be a princess (insert eye roll emoji).  And the eavesdropping of every important conversation just to advance the plot, NO.  Lee needs to find another way.  NOPE, NOPE, NOPE

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb (Once again, I’m being generous with this three)


jane unlimited

I liked Graceling and I think Cashore is a good writer but this-NO.  I liked the find your own adventure format and I was all about that but this book was a snooze fest.  The characters were quirky and mysterious and interesting but it was often too much unnecessary info.  And art forgery? Teen don’t give a shit about that.  The fact that these characters were in college lead me to believe this is new adult as I do not know what teen to give this to.

Bang Bang Rating: DNF


the upside

I loved Simon and I’m excited about the movie but I think I had too many expectations for her second book.  I did like it but I feel like this book is written explicitly for a 16 year old girl and it does not relate to the masses.  I read almost exclusively YA and in most contemporary, I can find some nuggets of relatable info but this one-NOPE!  I kept yelling at the protagonist to GET OVER IT ALREADY, GEEZ.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb


goodbye-days

This suffered from the same issues as Upside of Unrequited.  Serpent King was one of my top books of 2016 and this book lacked everything that I loved about TSK-the seamless incorporation of religion and the hope of a better future.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked it but not as much as I thought I would.  Also, I love Zentner and if you get the opportunity to see him, please do. Perhaps he’ll wear a kerchief like he did when I met him.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb


a-ship-beyond-time

I thought the end of book one was a hot mess but I like Heilig’s writing particularly the relationship between Nix and Kash but this book…Heilig started changing the rules of her world and I was like, HELL NO!  The strong character development from book one was missing and I couldn’t make it through.

Bang Bang Rating:  DNF


hunting prince dracula

I didn’t necessarily love book one but I did like to dynamic between the main characters. I do love Dracula so I was interested but most of my disappointment came from my poor reading abilities.  See, the title is Hunting Prince Dracula and that’s pretty much what they do for the entire book-hunting.  It’s not called Hanging Out with Prince Dracula so I was surprised when I got a lot of, “I’m a girl; look at me” and not a lot of Dracula.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb


If you liked any of these books on this list, I apologize but not really- LOL.

Were there any books that really disappointed you this year?

Dear Martin

dear martin

Dear Martin

By Nic Stone

Genre: Contemporary/Black Lives Matter

Publication Date: October 17, 2017

Bang Bang Review

Justyce McAllister is a black teen who attends a predominantly white prep school.  His best friend, Manny, is also black; he has some white acquaintances; his ex-girlfriend is half black; and his debate partner and love interest is Jewish.  After an incident with a police officer, Jus has decided to write to Martin Luther King Jr.

Let me begin by saying that I’m aware this has a high rating on GR and that it’s nominated for the Morris Award and I wanted to like it and I want to support black authors and Nic Stone looks like a cool as woman but there were too many issues for me to really enjoy it.  So here we go…

One of my main issues is that this book only touched the surface of race.  The incidents in the text were not uncommon to most people of all races including racial profiling, affirmative action, racially insensitive friends, and interracial dating.  The aforementioned topics did not shed much new light on the trials and tribulations of being African American.  Police killing black people has become a watershed moment and many non black teens don’t really understand it.  I had a white teen ask me, “Don’t all lives matter?” He’s a naturally curious boy and he just didn’t understand.  This book could have taken the opportunity to really get into the underbelly of the issue but I felt it only reached the surface.  There’s a lot of telling.  We see Jus’ incident in the beginning and we’re told about these other boys who were killed and an acquaintance of Jus is killed but we don’t really feel Jus’ frustrations or anger and it could be because it’s told in 3rd person.  Sure, Jus’ conversations with MLK are told in 1st person but when the real shit goes down, he’s taken a hiatus from his discourses with MLK and we see his stereotypical bad decisions.

Speaking of MLK, Jus’ conversations with him is what sets this book apart but it was a missed opportunity. Jus really only talks about his attraction to a white girl when he knows his mother won’t like it.  He does talk about his issues with Manny, his racially insensitive white classmates, and his run ins and attitudes about the police but once again, there’s no depth.  Jus did a big project on MLK which means he knows A LOT about this man’s life.  He should know that MLK taught non violence but he has to hear it from Manny’s father?  He’s about to become extremely violent and he doesn’t talk about it with MLK?  Instead we get a lot of talk about the white girl he likes.  This could have been an opportunity to teach teens something new about MLK to make them want to learn more about this man but instead, we didn’t learn anything.  I mean the book is called Dear Martin; I was expecting to see some comparison/contractions to the civil rights movement to the HUGE race issues we are facing today.  I expected Jus to be frank with Martin and discuss his serious issues with Manny, the white classmates, and his terrifying run in with the police but it was all surface level.

Jus really had a tough time with his crush with SJ, the Jewish girl, so I’m assuming this is a somewhat major issue.  I mean he cried about it; lost his appetite; wrote to MLK about it -DAMN.  But once again, the text only told us his mother wouldn’t like it.  We saw Mel get a bit upset but that’s it.  Black men dating white women is an issue in the black community and it really wasn’t addressed.  We could have learned about this through Mel’s eyes but no.  In college, I had a biracial friend whose mother was white and her father was black and it really bothered her to see a black man with a white girl.  She dating dark skinned men. Talk about it especially if it’s a contributing factor in being black in America which it is.  Once again, surface level.

None of the characters, including Jus had a new voice or were particularly developed well.  The dialog wasn’t particularly compelling or insightful.

My small issues included the teacher.  It bothered me that he encouraged the teens to have frank conversations but constantly interjected with “Watch your language” or “I’m calling the principal.” I didn’t understand the significance of him saying that on the page over and over and over.  Manny confessed that he’s afraid of black girls because they are ghetto and meanwhile, Manny was ghetto too. I laughed out loud at that shit.  Maybe it’s different in the south, I grew up and live in Illinois, but if you go to a predominantly white school, you don’t use a lot of urban slang.  My entire life I was told that I talk like a white girl and I went to racially diverse school even though I had a lot of white friends.  It just seemed unrealistic that Jus and especially Manny who had very well educated parents and who lived the lifestyle he lived and associated with a lot of white kids and dated white girls that his speech included a lot of slang.  I could be wrong and it could be a regional thing.

What’s My Point?

Dear Martin is a fine book if you are beginning your race-in-America discussion.  It’s just touching the surface and you aren’t going to get anything in depth.

I’m am at a point in my contemporary/realistic fiction reading where I need inspirational topics and themes; beautiful prose; and strong dynamic characters.  I need to learn something new or see it from a different perspective and if I’m reading the same thing over and over, I’m not gonna like and I’m gonna criticize it because I’m angry at its potential.

Everyone always tell me that I don’t like anything and yes, I’m quite critical.  If you are interested in the contemporary books that I REALLY liked they include Release by Patrick Ness; Landscape with Invisible Hand by MT Anderson; All the Crooked Saints by Stiefvater; Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds; The Hate U GiveMidnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson; Turtles All the Way Down. Some older books include Eleanor and Park; The Sun in Also a Star; I’ll Give You the Sun; More Happy Than Not; Grasshopper Jungle; Looking for Alaska; Bone Gap; The Serpent King; Simon vs Homosapiens Agenda.  See, I like stuff.

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbomb

Love, Hate, and Other Filters

love hate and filters

Love, Hate, and Other Filters

By Samira Ahmed

Genre: Contemporary/We Need Diverse Books-Indian American Muslim Characters

Publication Date: January 16, 2018

Bang Bang Reveiw

Maya Aziz is an American born Indian Muslim with very traditional parents.  They want Maya to go to college near home and become a lawyer; Maya wants to go to NYU to study film making.  They want Maya to learn to cook and marry a good Indian boy; Maya wants to be a normal teen and date whomever she wants.  Meanwhile, Maya’s crush on Phil, the hot yet sensitive football player, may come to fruition and hot Indian college guy may also be in play.  Life is okay until there’s a terrorist attack and the accuser shares the same last name as Maya.  Being the only Indian family in their small town leaves the Aziz’s open for attacks which includes the Islamophobia Maya faces at school.

Each chapter ends with the perspective of the terrorist or someone going about that day.  You know at some point the terrorist and Maya are going to collide and the anticipation is how it’s going to affect Maya’s life.  I was assuming this book was a deeper exposition about Islamophobia but it’s not-DAMN YOU GOODREADS!  This is why I don’t like to read book descriptions because they can be misleading.  If I have misunderstood a book’s intention, most of the time I can get over it and see the book for what it’s for but in this case, I couldn’t.

This book was 75% about crushing on boys and dealing with parents and 25% about Islamophobia and that would have been fine if the author was adding something new to the former.  Although Maya was a likable and relatable character, I’ve read her voice before. I’ve read the same conversations she has with her parents in several other books.  The conversations were fine, the execution and pacing were fine but when this is the fourth book in 2017 where I’ve read the same topic; it looses its specialness and just becomes more of the same.  I also had a problem with the ending and Maya’s handling of the situation of her parents.  The author failed to show anger or resentment but instead Maya just goes to prom like everything’s peaches.

This book is getting lots of stars and praise and buzz and that’s great because it means more own voices novels but at the same time this book lacks depth.  This book does not get into the nastiness of Islamophobia; it’s a middle grade safe expose of islamophobia.

Here’s my point:

This book is a fluffy book that displays a conflict between an American born Indian girl and her strict cultural parents.  It’s about an Indian girl who likes the good Indian boy but also likes the white christian boy.  Those of us who are unfamiliar get to see an Indian wedding and learn about Muslim dating rituals and all of this is great.  Even though the writing isn’t deep, the subject matter is educational.

What you are not going to get from this book is something similar to The Hate U Give so if you think that’s what you’re getting, find another book. THUG focuses primarily on the mistreatment of blacks by law enforcement and the prejudices people have.  We see Star really struggle with her identity as being the only black girl in her school while in Filters, Maya just says she the only Indian but as the reader we don’t see what it’s like for Maya.  In THUG, Thomas takes peer racism to a level that non browns may not be aware of-making little comments and passing it off as jokes.  That is showing the reader a different type of racism that’s not commonly discussed.  In Filters, a peer calls Maya a raghead and although that’s racist, it’s something we’d expect to read in a book about Islamophobia.  I’m not Indian or Muslim and I’d like to learn about other ways people show their racism.  I am black, however, and I’ve been in a situation where a co-worker would call me a different stereotypical black girl name on a daily basis-Yolanda; Shaquanda; LaKiesha.  That’s something that white people may not be aware of.  It’s not jokes; it’s racist.

Basically with Filters, you are getting a light hearted book that begins a small conversation about Islamophobia and there’s nothing wrong with that.  I, however, didn’t know this was light and normally I can take it for what it is but the dialogue wasn’t special and nothing new was added to the cultural conflict with parents theme.

Bang Bang Rating:  bombbombbomb

Oooh, Cute!

If you haven’t heard of The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, you will because they have been given that book away like the plague.  It’s a retelling of Alice in Wonderland and you can read my review here.  FYI, I’m not a fan of Alice in Wonderland and I didn’t know it was a retelling until midway thru. Nonetheless, I didn’t enjoy it and it’s partially because I don’t like Alice in Wonderland and partially because there was too much going on.

Anyway, I’m writing this post because MacMillian has a cute promotional campaign for the book.  It looks like they’ve made little booklets of Alice’s grandmother’s famous stories.  I’d really like to read Alice Three Times so maybe there’ll be an opportunity to trade stories…YAAASSS!

Did you get one? Which story did you get?hazelwood 2hazelwood 3

Any Bangs in November

NO!

I read a lot this month because I’m rushing to complete my Goodreads goal.  As of December 1st, I have ten books left-YIKES!  I read some pretty good books and I read some stinkers (I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t read some stinkers) so here we go.

As always, click the title for the full review.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton-I read and reviewed this for School Library Journal so you read my review in an upcoming issue of SLJ.

bombbombbombbomb City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson-Great pacing, good characters, solid adventure tale.

bombbomb 1/2 The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer Nielsen-Super bratty and unlikable protagonist, tropey world, and insta love.

bombbombbomb Ghostly Echoes by James Ritter- I was really interested in Jenny’s backstory but it was a bit anti climactic.

bombbombbomb The Dire King by James Ritter- Too many damn characters.

bombbombbombbomb 1/2 Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman-Faced paced and strong themes, but that ending was too much.

bombbombbomb A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle-I hate to say this but the pacing was bananas and there was a lot of info that didn’t drive the plot.

bombbombbombbomb Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge-Great premise but there was one too  many adventures.

bombbombbombbomb 4/5 Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi-Awesome pacing, great characters.

bombbomb 1/2- The Kill Order by James Dashner-No explanation of the apocalypse.

bombbomb Ink, Iron, and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare-Great premise but the insta love and the pacing was bad.

How did I read so may books, you ask?  I listened to four on audiobook while I was at work and I increased the speed to 1.75.

TBR for December

I will probably listen to at least one audiobook but I don’t know what will be yet.  I’m also trying to get the ARC of a couple of books so I won’t list them.

 

 

Iron, Ink and Glass

ink iron glass

Iron, Ink and Glass (Book 1)

By Gwendolyn Clare

Genre: Steampunk/Historical Fiction

Publication Date: February 20, 2018

Bang Bang Review

Elsa lives in the scripted society and her mother is a scriptologist or in other words, her mother can write new worlds that come alive.  One day, Elsa is knocked unconscious and when she awakes, her mother has been taken.  Determined to find her mother, Elsa travels through an alternate dimension, Earth, and meets other mad scientists like herself.

This is a pretty cool premise and Elsa is black which is also pretty cool. Elsa can travel through dimensions with a doorknob, I think, and she travels to Paris, I think, to find an important person murdered and his house on fire.  This leaves Elsa with no leads so she finds her mother’s mentor to help.  He takes her to Italy to a couple who is in an Order and they live in a house full of orphans who are also mad scientist-special teens.  Of course there’s a hot guy and a busy body girl but Elsa just wants to be left alone (eye roll).    Of course Elsa finds out she’s more special than the special ones, I won’t say what, but this catches the eye of the hot guy which makes the busy body jealous.

Remember this is steampunk in a 19th century Italy and at one point, Elsa and the hot guy travel by hansom cab spider and Elsa is insecure because people are looking at her because she’s brown but no one does a double take at the huge spider carrying people? This book turned into an adventure story with Elsa, the hot guy, the busy body, and some other dude and of course they know all kinds of history that’s important to the plot and begins to info dump everything-super convenient.  The next section is a spoilery rant so highlight it if you want to see it. So mid way through we find out about some random guy named Gabraldi or something like that.  He’s a real Italian historical figure. Anyway, his name is suddently on everyone’s tongue and of course he’s the bad guy and we know that the hot guy’s father and brother were killed but SURPRISE, his father is the badee.  This happened so quickly, I shouted my disgust out loud-COME ON!There was no set up or foreshadowing and it just came out of left field. 

The pacing of this novel was bananas and it should have been a red flag that this is a fantasy novel with a new world and it’s only 336 pages.  This book reeks with instalove and info dumping and I DNFed at 75%.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Children of Blood and Bone

children of blood and bone

Children of Blood and Bone

By Tomi Adeyemi

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: March 6, 2018

Bang Bang Review

Zelie (Zel) lives in Orisha where the non magical king has made it his mission to eradicate the Maji or magical people and he does so by murder.  Zel’s mother was one of the fallen and Zel was born a diviner-magical child of fallen maji. Amari, the king’s daughter, is indifferent until an event forces her to take action against the king.  She meets Zel and her brother Tzain, and they set off on a journey to restore magic back to the maji before it is gone forever.

Blood and Bone is a doorstopper; it’s 600 pages and almost every word is action packed or important to the plot-no fluff here. It’s told from first person of three different POVs, Zel, Amari, and Inan, the crowned prince. There’s so much to unpack, I don’t know where to start.

I guess I’ll begin with Zel.  She’s a total Gryffindor.  She’s very brave but she acts before she thinks and this often gets everyone in a jam.  The story begins with Zel training with a staff so she can defend herself and others and she holds her own through out the story. We meet Amari at the castle with her domineering mother.  Amari begins as a girl who has given up fighting and goes with the flow until something happens and she overhears her father and his commanders discussing an ancient artifact that could restore magic.  She decides at the moment to stop her father’s maji cleansing by stealing the artifact and making a run for it.  She runs into Zel and being the Gryffindor that she is, Zel helps the royal much to the chagrin of Tzain.  The trio are told that they are destined to take this journey to restore magic and off they go.

Meanwhile Inan, the captain of the Orisha army, is commanded by the king to find his sister and retrieve the artifact.  Inan understandably worships his father and wants to be a good king so he agrees but he soon realizes that he’s different.  I won’t say because it’s more fun for you to read it.  Inan is now conflicted and makes some honorable and spineless decisions.

There’s a lot going on in this book.  Adeyemi tackles racism, genocide, and abuse of power.  The king has some justifiable concerns about magic and the maji as does Zel and Adeyemi forces you to choose but it’s difficult because both sides have compelling arguments.  This was refreshing because in most fantasy books, it’s good versus evil and as the reader you stand with good but in Blood and Bone it’s not that easy.

Overall, all the characters were very well developed and quite complex.  This is a journey book but there were never moments of useless information or action for shock value-everything drove the plot.  Adeyemi did a lot of research as this story is steeped in African folklore. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I hope there is a book 2 because that ending was not quite an ending.

Click here for the spoiler edition.

Bang Bang Rating: bang

The Traitor’s Game

traitor's game

The Traitor’s Game

By Jennifer Nielsen

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: February 27, 2018

Bang Bang Review

Kestra Dallisor’s father is the hand to a harsh king which practically makes her royalty.  Although Kestra has plenty to eat, maids to assist her, and beautiful dresses, she’s also stubborn and refuses to fall to the whims of Lord Endrick so she’s sent to live in a nearby land with her maid and security to save her from herself. When she is summoned to return after three years, she knows she’s to be married for politics but before she can complete her journey, her small group is attacked and she is taken by rebels.  Her task for freedom is simple, retrieve the Olden Blade which kills the immortal king and her maid and security will be returned unharmed.

Let me begin by saying that I LOVED The False Prince and I think Nielsen has great ideas.

Based on the preceeding sentence, you probably know where this review is going.  My major issue was the main character, Kestra.  First of all, I didn’t appreciate her name because Kestral from Winner Curse is one of my favorite YA characters of all time and Kestra sucked.  So she’s privileged and as the reader, we’ve read this character so many times. The privileged character is oblivious to the poverty and abuse of everyone around them-OH MY GOD! This is Kestra and because this storyline is a trope, the reader knows how this ends up but it takes Kestra mid way through the book to figure this out. Meanwhile she’s incredibly cruel.  Yes, she’s been kidnapped and she should feel a certain way but because the reader knows her captors’ families have been slaughtered and starved by the cruel king Kestra constantly defends, when she purposely dumps food on the floor and kicks over the tub of bath water and commands her kidnapper to clean it up-it’s cruel. We know she’ll eventually figure out that the king is a horrible person and her father who hates her are tyrants but I felt Kestra was beyond redeeming.

Kestra’s inner monologue was a problem. I know that her inner monologue was meant to clarify her decisions for the reader but throughout the novel she weighed her options-kill/escape Simon or Trina or go along. SHE CHOSE GO ALONG EVERY TIME! What’s the point of having an inner monologue if you are going to make the same decision everytime?

My second issue was the romance.  Nielsen’s best series, The False Prince, did not have any romance and it was refreshing.  I personally don’t think Nielsen knows how to write romance and she run away from it like to plague.  One of Kestra’s kidnappers was her friend at the palace when they were ten.  Sure she was a “princess” and he was a stable boy but still.  She wrongly accused him of stealing which sent him to the dungeons to be hanged but he got away and now he’s her kidnapper.  Of course he’s angry; he has every right but guess how long it takes him to stop hating her and start loving her.  Maybe two pages?  So now we have to suffer through the instalove and jealousy and blah blah blah.  I felt no heat between the two.

At the end of the story, Kestra figured it all out without much info or context. I can’t expound because it’s spoilers but this is a HUGE pet peeve for me.  I don’t like it when characters have these sudden epiphanies out of the blue and all by themselves. This is a short cut and Nielsen is a better writer than this.

My last and biggest issue was the end.  I don’t want to write a separate spoiler rant because I do not want to waste my time on this book so if you want to see it, highlight the following…I was hoping Nielsen didn’t find a way to make Kestra the chosen one but nope. That was the nail in the coffin. Once again, this is a trope. Don’t do the obvious. Take a risk and make Celia the chosen one. Anyone but the main character-UGH!

This is a good series for younger teens or teens/readers who have never read a fantasy book in their entire lives.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb 1/2

Thunderhead

thunderhead

Thunderhead (Arc of the Sythe Book 2)

By Neal Shusterman

Genre: Science Fiction/Post Apocalyptic

Publication Date: January 9, 2018

Bang Bang Review

I kinda don’t remember how Scythe ended so hopefully I don’t reveal any spoilers.  After Rowan kills Goddard and Rand, he escapes. A major takeaway is after Rowan pushes Citra and snaps her neck leaving her deadish, Citra hears a voice telling her she is meant for greatness (or some bullshit like that-I don’t remember).  That voice was the Thunderhead and you can probably surmise by the title that book two is about the Thunderhead. Thunderhead picks up almost a year after book one where Scythe Anastasia, Citra, is the new scythe and remains working under Scythe Claire.

Thunderhead is riddled with spoilers so this review is going to be very short.  If you want spoilers, click here.

If you recall from book one, Goddard was a new age scythe who believed there should be less rules involving quotas or less government if you will.  His death was meant to squash all that thus ending all the panic.  Anastasia is the new shiny scythe and she’s decided to give her victims one month to get their affairs in order before she returns to glean them and of course all the new age scythes and some of the old ages ones are up in arms.  Giving people time is unheard of and as a result, Anastasia is now in the spotlight of followers and haters.

Meanwhile, there’s a mysterious scythe named Scythe Lucifer who is killing scythes he deems as bad-revenge gleaning; race cleansing gleaning; etc. When Anastasia and Claire are almost murdered, gleaning by fire, they think Lucifer is after them and Scythe Constantine has ordered them to be protected.

Meanwhile again, we have a new character named Greyson Tolliver who is a loner and talks to the Thunderhead adnausium because his parents are shitty.  He’s selected to enter an academy but is soon singled out.  I won’t tell you why because of spoilers.

More stuff goes down but I can’t say and there’s another conclave but I can’t say and some serious shit goes down in the end but I can’t say.  What I can say is that this book is NEVER boring and that ending-DAMN!

It is DISGUSTINGLY clear that the 2016 election affected Shusterman because there are plenty of Trump metaphors.

The Thunderhead is an interesting character and reminded me of Google with a heaping cup of government splash of God.  The Thunderhead, like we’ve been taught in church, is always watching us-there are cameras everywhere.  Although it sees all of the good and bad, it can’t intervene and when bad things really happen it cries.  This was an interesting theme because the Thunderhead is basically a computer but it has feelings.  This series is extremely approachable to teens because it’s good vs evil and moments of violence but there are some pretty strong themes under the surface.  Acceptance, free will, judge and jury, and mortality-if a short life has been eliminated, does life have meaning?

This book was a perfect score until about 75% in.  It started to get a little too bananas.  It was entertaining and shocking but I felt it was a bit too ridiculous. There was one moment between the villains that bothered me and I’ll explain in the spoiler section. With that being said, I liked Anastasia and all the other characters; Shusterman’s world building is clear and concise; and the story was never predictable.  I enjoyed it immensly, I just wish the ending wasn’t so…So upon a few weeks of reflection, I decided to up my initial rating of 4.5.  The ending was shocking and I didn’t know how to process it but I’ve decided that the ending had to happen.

Bang Bang Rating: bang

FIRST BANG OF 2018!!!!!

Best of 2017

It’s that time of year again; Top Ten of 2017!

If you’d like to listen to our (Elise and myself) podcast, please listen here

Top Ten YA Books of 2017 to Have on the Shelves

So with that being said, onto the list. Please click the titles for full reviews.

release

#10-Release by Patrick Ness

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Interesting story about self blaming, retaking ones power, and releasing anger in order to move on.

landscape with invisible hand

#9. Landscape with Invisible Hand by MT Anderson

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Heartbreaking yet funny science fiction story about optimism.

gilded-cage

#8. Gilded Cage by Vic James

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Fantastic alternate world building; multiple themes; great discussion book. Only issue-no family tree.

midnight at the electric

#7 Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Great story about three women from three different time periods who have to make sacrifices for their loved ones.

#6. Alchemists of Loom & Dragons of Nova by Elise Kova

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Great world building and character development.

strange-the-dreamer

#5. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Beautiful yet gut wrenching story

genuine graud

#4. Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 3/4

Interesting story about an anti-hero.

crooked saints

#3. All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Bang Bang Rating: bang

Thought provoking story about overcoming your fears.

the speaker

#2. The Speaker by Traci Chee

Bang Bang Rating: bang

Fantastic world building. One of the best fantasies I’ve read in a LONG time!

DRUMROLL PLEASE

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godsgrave

#1. Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

Bang Bang Rating: bang

OMG, this book is great. It’s bloody and sexy and Mia is a major badass.  It’s not YA but the main characters are 17 so if you want some sex and blood in your YA, read this series, NOW!

A Skinful of Shadows

skinful of shadows

A Skinful of Shadows

by Frances Hardinge

Genre: Paranormal/history fiction

Publication Date: October 17, 2017

Bang Bang Review

Makepeace lives with her mother in a Puritan town in the mid 17th century London.  Makepeace has terrifying dreams and to remedy her strange affliction, her mother makes her sleep in graveyards but when Makepeace gets fed up and stands up to her mother, her mother is shot and killed by the rebellion.  Makepeace is sent to live with her father’s wealthy family, the Fellmottes, but she soon finds out there is something strange about this family.

Once again we have a Hardinge story featuring a twelve year old girl and publishers want to categorize this book as middle grade/young adult.  Middle schoolers will ABSOLUTELY NOT be able to get through this book because it is INCREDIBLY dense and slow-moving.  Now, onto the review.

I don’t like historical fiction and didn’t know Skinful took place during the British Civil War of 1641 but as I Wikipediaed it, it’s actually a little relevant to our current political climate.  England was a divided nation where citizens either sided with the king or with parliament and it ended in a war where parliament won.  It’s not the main focus of Skinful but be ready for political intrigue.

Unbeknownst to Makepeace, she inherited the ability to house the souls of the dead and she slowly realizes this after the soul of a dead bear enters her body where she often loses control.  While this is initially unsettling for Makepeace, she uses the bear’s strength and abilities to her advantage.  When she enters the Grizehayes, the home of the Fellmottes, she notices something strange about her family and when she realizes their peculiarity she and her half brother try to escape.  I won’t say what it is because you’ll have to read it to find out but I will admit it’s something I’ve never read before. Suffice it to say, Makepeace goes on a journey to save her half brother from the Fellmottes and that’s all I’ll say.

Hardinge has a penchant for writing strong female characters-young and old.  Much like Makepeace, all the other women in Skinful, including the villains, were independent, led rebellions, and fought to have a voice in 17th century England.  One major trope that Hardinge avoids is the novice-who-suddenly-knows-more-than-everyone-and-saves-the-day. Makepeace is twelve when the novel begins and is fourteen during the meat of the story and of course she prevails in the end but she receives a lot of help from the souls inhabiting her body-that was refreshing. As seen in all of Hardinge’s books, the paranormal slant in Skinful was original and engaging.

I’ve read four Hardinge books including Cuckoo Song; The Lie Tree; A Face Like Glass; and Skinful of Shadows and the latter have something in common-it’s hard for me to rate them.  The writing is beautiful and you can tell that Hardinge is very thoughtful when writing.  By chance, I looked up the definitions of Fellmotte and Grizehayes and of course they have meanings so I can conclude that there is a lot going on under the surface which is fantastic writing.  However, similar to her other books, Hardinge’s books are so dense and sometimes convoluted that it makes it difficult to enjoy them.  Skinful was not convoluted like Face but it dragged in the middle.  I wanted Makepeace to get to the end already but there were so many obstacles that by the end, I stopped caring and I hate that! I want to care! I was fine until about 75% into the book then Makepeace picked up another soul and I was just over it and it affected my enjoyment.

With that being said, I have to rate the book mostly on the FANTASTIC writing because it outweighed the saggy middle.  I just wish Hardinge could write another beautiful book that wasn’t convoluted and moved along like The Lie Tree.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

City of Saints and Thieves

city of saints and thieves

City of Saints and Thieves

By Natalie C. Anderson

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Publication Date: January 24, 2017

Review

It’s now the end of the year and time to start reading the books-I-wanted-to-read-but something-else-came-along and maybe Goodreads will stop yelling at me for being 5 books behind my goal.

City of Saints and Thieves is a thriller/mystery set in Kenya where our MC, Tina, is a member of the Goondas gang.  Tina’s mother was murdered five years prior leaving her and sister orphans but Tina finds a school for her eleven year old sister while she survives by stealing.  Tina knows the identity of her mother’s killer, her former employer and lover, and is on her way to exact her revenge when she is caught by the killer’s son-Michael.  Since Michael and Tina grew up together he doesn’t turn her in and convinced his father did not kill Tina’s mother, he helps her figure out the mystery surrounding her death.

Tina is a tough yet vulnerable thief which made her extremely likable.  The rest of the ensemble, including Michael and Boy Boy, were a mix of rationality and comic relief to a story that was sometimes difficult to read.

City of Saints was a perfect mix of intrigue and what I’m assuming is an honest window into the lives of Kenyan women that we’d rather pretend doesn’t exist.  At times, City of Saints was heartbreaking but Tina’s determination gave the reader hope for a better life for her and her sister.

I listened to this on audiobook and I really enjoyed the narrator.  I think it’s a great book for teens because it’s relatable and not preachy.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

The Speaker

the speaker

The Speaker (The Sea of Ink and Gold #2)

By Traci Chee

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: November 7, 2017

Review

This installment picks up where The Reader ended, with Sefia and Archer on the run from The Guard. Unsure about how to proceed, Sefia searches the Book and uncovers several jaw-dropping discoveries: Tanin is still alive and Archer is still believed to be the one to lead the impending Red War. In an effort to quell Archer’s nightmares and to stop the conflict, the pair uses the Book to find and kill impressors and free their captives. Meanwhile, Tanin will stop at nothing to retrieve the Book, to ensure important events take place that lead to the Red War, and to hold on to her power.

I loved The Reader and was so excited about The Speaker, I read it while standing in lines at ALA Annual.  Let me begin by saying that if you are looking or a GREAT epic fantasy series, start with this is one! Now on to my review.

The Speaker is super spoilery so I can’t say too much but Chee puts a major jaw dropper right in the first 30 pages and then we find out that Tannin is kind of human with actual feelings and everything.  Chee makes it very difficult to hate her and she has become one of my new favorite characters.  We learn more about Captain Reed and DAMN, didn’t see that coming.  There are two new characters King Eduardo, the lonely king who dies if he finds love, and his best friend Arc.

A major part of the book centers around Archer because he’s The Speaker. (I didn’t actually realize this until after I finished the book.) He’s finally free and is on a mission to find and kill all the impressors while setting all the other boys free.  These are some painful scenes as we see Archer go from a scared mute boy to an extremely angry young man.

One of the things I loved about this book is the way it references book 1.  Among other things, there was a HUGE unanswered moment in book 1 that comes back in book 2 and this made me realize that Chee knows how her book is going to end. That’s important because that means that there is foreshadowing in both books so pay attention as you read!

That’s all I can say without spoilers but once again, if you are a big fantasy fan; read this series.  It has a 3.78 on Goodreads which is ridiculous and it’s probably because people thought this was a fluffy book.  It’s not fluffy, people. It has many complex characters and it told nonlinearly, and you have to pay attention to everything or you’ll be confused.  You might even have to take a few notes but if you are a fan of The Thief by Whalen Turner, Kiss of Deception, Six of Crows, or Winner’s Curse, you’ll like The Reader/The Speaker. 

So I’ve read all the “good” books I’m gonna read for the year and I’ve only given 5 stars (or a bang) to three books and The Speaker is one of the three.

Bang Bang Rating: bang

Any Bangs in October?

Nope, not even close.  As the end of the year nears, I fear there will probably be no more bangs (5 star ratings).

I read 9 books this month! This is largely due to Goodreads yelling that I’m 7 books behind so if I want to complete my 90 book goal, I’ll have to read 20 books in two months. new profile pic

As always, please click the titles for full reviews.

 

bombbomb Far From The Tree by Robin Benway-Nothing new to see here, folks

bombbombbomb I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez-Pacing was ridiculous and I’m being generous with that 3 stars.

DNF-Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert- Too much going on; quit 75% into the book.

bombbomb Dread Nation by Justine Ireland-Just a bunch of zombies mixed in with a tropey plot.

NO RATING-The Keeper by Kim Chance-Please see my review in SLJ (School Library Journal)

bombbombbomb American StreetAmerican Street by Ibi Zoboi-Predictable and weak character development.

bombbombbombbomb Turtles All The Way Down by John Green-Multi themed but a little too slow for a John Green novel.  Not one of my faves of his.

bombbombbombbomb 1/4 Game of Thrones by George RR Martin- Too many unnecessary words and extremely close to the show.

bombbombbomb 1/2 Conjuring of Light by VE Schwab- The audiobook ruined it for me and it was too long.  Rhy didn’t sound like he does when I read it and Alucard sounded like an old man.  They also didn’t have British accents which was weird and did Kel find out who he is?


 

I need 2 more books but I don’t know what to read so hopefully I’ll find some by mid November.

The Hazel Wood

the hazel wood

The Hazel Wood

By Melissa Albert

Genre: Magical Realism

Publication Date: January 30, 2018

Overview

Alice and her mom constantly move from city to city outrunning something until Alice’s mysterious grandmother dies and they can finally settle down.  Then one day Alice’s mother is taken…excuse my unenthusiastic plot overview but I didn’t enjoy this book and I’m not going to waste time explaining the plot.

I know I’m in the minority but for such a short book, it was so long.  Firstly, I don’t like Alice in Wonderland and had I known this was a retelling I would have NEVER picked it up but that’s my problem and not the book’s problem.

After the mom was taken and weird characters started showing up, I gave up.  The plot was too much.  There’s the traveling as a kid and the red headed man and Finch and the psycho step dad and the grandmother’s backstory and the grandmother’s elusive book and Hinterland and Hazel Wood and the girl with the bird and the cabbie with the hat and on and on-TOO MUCH!

I DNFed at 75% so I don’t have a rating.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

perfect mexican daughter

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

by Erika Sanchez

Genre: Contemporary/Mexican Immigrants/First Generation American Teens

Publication Date: October 17, 2017

Overview

Julia’s older sister has just died leaving her family, especially her mother, heartbroken.  While Julia’s sister was perfect and obviously the favorite, Julia is constantly criticized by her mother which creates lots of tension in their small Chicagoland apartment.  While sitting in her sister’s room, Julia discovers that her sister had secrets and while she goes on a journey to discover who her sister really was, Julia falls in love; makes mistakes; and finds her roots.

YA fiction books about Mexican culture are in short supply considering that Mexicans are one of the fastest growing groups in America.  Sanchez’s book showcases the expectations of Mexican girls, their relationships with men, and their connection to Mexico.  In this respect, this book was pretty good but that was about it.

Julia is a very difficult character to like and that’s intentional but DAMN! This girl was a biotch and to make matters worse, she would complain about other people’s bitchiness yet never seemed to see the irony.  I get it; she’s a teen girl with mommy issues and moodiness but her shitty attitude flooded the pages making it difficult to get through.

You know there is something SERIOUSLY mental going on and I’m not Mexican so I don’t know their attitudes about mental health but as a black person, (black people often don’t seek help) I can surmise that positive attitudes about mental health are probably not common.  If I’m wrong, please correct me.  Anyway, Julia’s journey with her mental health issues seemed like an afterthought and either should have been a focus or eliminated all together. I vote for the latter; it would have been better if Julia was just a moody girl with mommy issues.

Julia’s relationship with her mother was a big focus and although it was kinda interesting it was painfully repetitive. Julia asks her mom for permission to go somewhere; her mom says no and criticizes her; Julia yells back and leaves the room.  This happened like seven times with not much progress along the way.  These ladies had some major issues that could have been explored further but this was a missed opportunity.

Once again, this book was just okay.  I don’t understand how it made the NBA short list as I have read far better books in 2017 including two of the books on the long list.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

Far From The Tree

far from the tree

Far From the Tree

By Robin Benway

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Adoption/Foster Teens

Publication Date: October 3, 2017

Overview

Grace is a sixteen year old adoptee who has just given birth.  Maya is a fifteen year old adoptee whose parents are constantly fighting.  Joaquin is a seventeen year old foster teen who has lived in several foster homes.  Grace, Maya, and Joaquin share a mother and are about to meet for the first time.

Far From the Tree is a National Book Award Short List Nominee so I really wanted to read it.  NBA nominees are often some of the best books of the year and will most likely get a Printz nod but this book…

This book covers the topic of adoption/foster teens which is great because these teens are underserved. With the exception of the topic, there is nothing special about this book.  Far From the Tree was just okay as far as character development. None of the three teens  had a new voice. There was the preverbal good girl who gets pregnant and is now slut shamed and the slut shaming was the same slut shaming you see in most books.  Slut shaming is still a fairly new theme that NEEDS to desperately be explored but Tree didn’t add anything new to this.  Maya is annoying and angry-nothing new to see here.  Joaquin could have been interesting because his father is Mexican while his sisters are white.  But once again, Joaquin faces the same racist comments that we’ve seen in other books.

The pacing was incredibly fast which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but for a book about adopted teens meeting for the first time, there was not much insight or depth.  Then there was this word that kept coming up, tethered.  I know Benway was trying to use this word to connect the characters and it was probably supposed to be profound but it came across as forced.

In the hands of a better writer, this book could have been great but it’s just okay and I don’t understand how it made the short list.  I’ve read 3/5 books on the NBA short list and none of them were good.  Long Way Down and The Hate U Give were leaps and bounds better and I don’t understand the committee’s logic.

Bang Bang Books Rating: bombbomb 1/2

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

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 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 one of 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 infer 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.

So after discussing Turtles with my teen book club, I may be wrong about how teens will feel about this book.  My book club and other teens I’ve spoken to really liked the book and didn’t find it boring.

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.

Furyborn Spoilers

Goodreads Plot Synopsis

When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

My Personal Theory

I think Rielle is the Sun Queen and that Corien or some other angel made her kill Audric making her look evil-the Blood Queen.  So that would mean that Elaina is the Blood Queen.

Now onto the Spoilers

Rielle is giving birth with her husband Garver in the room.  Eight year old Simon is hiding and comes out when the baby is born.  He hates Rielle because  he believes she partnered with angels and killed thousands including Audric the Lightbringer, her husband and king. Simon says the well known Sun Queen prayer and Garver says “He knows,” and jumps off the balcony.  We learn that Garver and Simon are marques, babies born of humans and angels, and they are hated.  Marques also have scars where wings would be on their backs.  Rielle gives Simon the baby that’s in a blanket and a necklace that has a winged horse with a woman with streaming dark hair and a sword raised victoriously-it is of Rielle.  Simon is on the balcony with the baby when Corien, the angel, comes in and Rielle creates a shield of light around herself.  Simon can hear screams of anguish from both Rielle and Corien and as he’s about the teleport to Borsvall, the baby is ripped from his arms.

Rielle’s story is now told two years prior to the prequel.  We learn that Princess Runa of Borsvall has been killed.   Rielle is with her tutor Tal and she reveals that she accidentally burned her mother and her home when she was four.  Since then, her father has been distant and during lightning storms, he locks her in a cage.  He and Tal are frightened she’ll lose control again.  There’s a scream downstairs and we learn that it is Ludivine causing a distraction so Rielle can join the big race.  Her and Audric are sponsored by Odo Laroche. We learn that Rielle is in love with Audric and that Audric is betrothed to his cousin Ludivine to combine their families. While they are racing, Borvallians surround and attack Audric. Rielle accidentally causes some real destruction showing her magical abilities.

1020 years later Elaina, the Dread of Orline, and Harkan are out hunting for rebels.  Elaina has a secret skill where her body can heal itself. Elaina has a necklace of Audric the Lightbringer on a winged horse. Elaina’s mother taught her how to hunt and kill and she does so for Lord Arkelion.  We discover that Elaina and Harkan are lovers.  Elaina has an eleven year old brother named Remy who likes to tell stories.  There are girls being abducted in Orline and while on a mission Elaina sees an abduction and tries to stop it but is knocked out. Elaina is given orders by Lord Arkelion to capture the Wolf, an elusive rebel with the Red Crown, and on her return home from a party, the Wolf finds her.  Her mother has been taken but it wasn’t the Wolf.  He tells her that if she helps him, he will help her find her mother.  She agrees. Their mission is to infiltrate Arkelion’s party and while on their mission, they are stopped by the adatrox-an army with black eyes and no emotion. Their leader is Rahzavel.  Simon and El go to the pleasure houses to retrieve a girl killing lots of adatrox on the way out.  El and Simon fight Rahzavel and push him over the balcony.  We learn that the rescued girl is Navi, the princess of Astavar.  El stops to get Remy and Harkan but they are being chased by adatrox trying to escape.  Harkan risks his life to stall the adatrox while Wolf, El, Remy, and Navi escape.  We don’t know if he’s dead.

The King finds out about Rielle’s abilities and wonders if she’s the Blood Queen or the Sun Queen.  Hundreds of years prior, Saint Katell fell in love with an angel named Arvaya who prophesied…The Gate will fall. The angels will return and bring ruin to the world. You will know this time by the rise of two human Queens-one of blood and one of light. One with the power to save the world. One with the power to destroy it. Two queens will rise. They will carry the power of the Seven. They will cary your fate in their hands. Two queens will rise.” Saint Katell with the other six saints locked the angels behind the gate. Saint Katell became Queen Katell and although she loved Arvaya the angel, she resisted or so they say.  I personally think they had a kid who is a marque.

We learn that after Rielle dies, magic disappeared but many believe magic never existed. We also learn that that El’s father never returned home from the war.  El is knocked out and taken to an underground safe house of the Red Crown. She meets a lot of refugees including Hob, a documenter of refugees stories and a young girl who lost her family to the Emperor’s men. Seeing these refugees makes El feel bad about her “job” and she takes Remy and runs away. She goes to an Empire outpost to tell Lord Morbrae where the Wolf and and the refugees of the Red Crown were hiding.  When she tied to seduce Morbrae, she has a vision of Celderia where she saw the Emperor of the Undying. When she woke, Simon came and she stabbed Morbrae but he didn’t die.  They get out alive but they go back to Red Crown where the adatrox set it on fire. El saves Remy and Navi and gets injured by a blast.

They get to Rinthos where Navi tries to change El’s bandages and El comes clean about her abilities to heal. El tells Navi about her visions when she looked at Morbrae and Remy speculates that the Empires soldiers are angels and not men.  One evening El and Navi are talking and El talks about her mother and her necklace.  El says her mother says, “This is a relic that’s been in YOUR family for a long time.” (Why would her mother say YOUR family and not OUR family? I think she knows who El is). El also reveals that the horse is a godsbeast called a chavaile. While in Rinthos, their caretaker Camille tells El that women have been abducted by Fidelia.  They are rumored to be angel lovers who believe the Emperor and his generals are not men but angels. They hunt to serve them, that they may be raised to glory once the world is conquered and the angels run all.  El sneaks out for some answers when she gets dizzy. She notices that women have disappeared. She runs into Rahzavel and Simon and Navi comes to save her. Simon and Rahzavel fight and Navi and El get abducted.  El wakes up in a cage and she sees an angel named Zahra who is a wraith.  She tells El that El is the last of House Courverie, daughter of the Lightbringer, heir to the throne of Saint Katell, the true queen of Celdaria and the sun queen.  Zahra shields El as she rescues Navi and they escape. No one can see Zahra except El but Zahra tells El that she exchanges messages with Simon and she serves the Prophet.  When El doesn’t believe her, she lets El see visions.  El sees a a birth of a baby and a small boy in the birthing room; a vastness of black full of screams; she watches a woman kneel beside a dismembered, blood-soaked corpse. She wore a suit of black armor and a crimson cloak. The woman moved a pale hand over the corpse knitting it back together. The corpse rises and shouts to the sky. A different man beside her tells her she’s working faster now.  The woman had dark hair and a hungry smile and El recognized the woman as herself. She kissed the pale blue eyed man as if their kiss was the only reason she remained standing.  The man is the Emperor. Zahra tells El that before he called himself the Emperor he was known as an angel named Corien.  Zahra says that Corien failed to accomplish resurrection with Rielle before her fall ruined all their work and he hopes to finish with you-resurrect the angels and seek revenge. 

As Rielle does her trials, she hears a voice speak to her.  We later find out it’s Corien. Sometimes he helps and encourages her during the trials and sometimes he bates her to do evil.  There have been attacks in three lands with dead Celdarian soldiers.  Audric thinks this is a sign that Aryava’s prophecy is coming true but the king doesn’t. Rielle and Auric have a sexy moment outside and they are caught by Ludivine’s father. Ludivine confides in Rielle that she knows Rielle loves Audric and encourages a relationship.  She takes Rielle to Audric’s healer who turns out to be Garver to get Rielle some contraception.  Rile has a dream that she’s sitting on a throne of bones and then has a sexy dream about Corien and is woken up by people poisoning her and abducting her.  She wakes up on the top of a mountain where a voice she recognizes pushes her off the cliff.  She is rescued by a godsbeast/chavaile. It turns out to be Ludivine’s father and Rielle tries to strangle him but they stop her.  After the attempted murder, the king banished Ludivine’s father to his home and told Rielle she did not need to continue the trials. Rielle and her father share a nice father daughter moment.  Rielle insists on continuing the trials because the last is fire and she wants to prove that she can control it even tho she burned her mother to death.  Rielle and Audric have sex and she tells him she used contraception. 

Simon takes El back to a cabin to find Hob, Navi, and Remy. Navi’s head is shaved and she has strange markings on her body. Zahra tells El that the Emperor has done lots of experiments and manipulation of what he calls genetics.  He’s trying to resurrect.  He can’t use empirium which I believe only the sun and blood queen can use. Corien is taking girls and experimenting on them to turn them into monsters called Crawlers and an army of them is on their way to Astavar. Zahra cannot read Simon’s thoughts. Simon tells El that the Prophet told him at El is the sun queen and daughter of Rielle and Audric and was ordered to find her. When he observed her healing powers he vowed to protect her. As they are talking, Rahzavel returns. El gets Hob, Remy, and Navi and leaves Simon to fight Rahzavel. While in the forest, Navi’s brother Malik rescues them to take them to Astavar.  El tells him to take Hob, Remy, and Hob while she rescues Simon.

Rielle is in her fire trial and it’s a maze and she must rescue Tal before he burns. As she is rescuing him, she hears screams and spectators dead bodies by the hands of Ludivine’s land.  Corien is controlling the soldiers and telling Rielle that if she doesn’t go with him, he will kill more. (Voldemort, anyone?) Reille tries to save Audric and Ludivine but Ludivine falls to her death. Rielle finds her father, the king, and Ludivine’s father in a cave and her father is happy to see her but Rielle realizes Corien is controlling him.  Ludivine’s father says, “I didn’t mean for this to happen.” (Ooh, what did he do? Open the gate?) Rielle’s father jumps to attack Corien but he magically stops him and kills him.  Rielle gets angry and uses all her power to stop Corien which she does but kills Ludivine’s father and the king. She does not tell Audric that she accidentally killed his father.  As she was being canonized, Ludivine steps out of the crowd.  She tells the crowd that the Sun Queen can resurrect the dead and she resurrected Ludivine. Ludivine tells Rielle and Audric that Ludivine died a couple of years ago when she got sick and was inhabited by an angel.  Faux Ludivine has followed Rielle since she was a child and was sent to protect her. She says that the gate is falling and some angels have escaped.  She says the more it weakens you will see terrible disasters.  Corien is the strongest and the first to escape and has also been watching Rielle for 13 years.  Faux Ludivine tells Rielle not to tell Audric about his father with her mind. She also tell them that since she’s been in Ludivine’s body, she will stop growing (I’m theorizing that Ludivine is the Prophet). The trio then go to the gate to access the damage.

El finds Simon in a boat and kills Rahzavel.  When they try to escape, they are attacked by the Crawlers in particular her mother, Rozen. Rozen pleaded with El to kill her and she does.  Her anger awakened her power and a voice, presumably Corien, spoke to her saying that she can’t hide from him now.  As she went limp, lightening strikes and blasts the crawlers and turned the icebergs into flames. The sea turned into a whirlpool that sucked the Empires ships underwater and snapped them in two. She doesn’t know how to stop it. When she awakens, Simon gives her the necklace and a piece of her baby blanket and he tells her the necklace was a gift from King Ilmaire of Borsvall and it was meant to be a message for him but he doesn’t elaborate. She asks Simon if he’s a marque but she says that he isn’t anymore because the force of Rielle’s death threw the entire world out of alignment. Many things to not look as they once did. And whatever proof that was left on his flesh, the Prophet made sure to eradicate it. Simon and El are about to make out when they are interrupted. Remy theorizes that since El’s power was stifled, it got out by healing her. It ends with El ready to gather the kings to fight the emperor.