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

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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: bombbombbombbomb 4/5

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…

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

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.

Tarnished City

tarnished city

Tarnished City (Dark Gifts #2)

By: Vic James

Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopian

Publication Date: February 5, 2018

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/4

Review

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

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

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

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

Any Bangs in June?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Read for July-hopefully

Invictus

invictus

Invictus

By Ryan Graudin

Genre: Science Fiction/Time Travel

Publication Date: September 26, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

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

Genuine Fraud

genuine graud

Genuine Fraud

By E. Lockhart

Genre: Thriller

Publication Date: September 5, 2017

Bang Bang Review: bombbombbombbomb 3/4

Overview

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

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

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

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

Song of the Current

song of the current

Song of the Current #1

By Sarah Tolcser

Genre: Pirates/Fantasy/WNDB

Publication Date: June 6, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flame in the Mist

flame in the mist

Flame in the Mist (#1)

by Renee Ahdieh

Genre: Historical Fantasy

Published May 16, 2017

Bang Bang Rating:  bombbombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcast of 10 Things We Hate About YA Fantasy

Did I Read Any Bangs in May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

June TBR

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

Warcross

warcross

Warcross #1

by Marie Lu

Genre: Cyberpunk

Publication Date: September 2017

Bang Bang Rating:  bombbombbombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Ten Disappointed Books from 2017 (So Far)

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

gentleman's guide

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

poisons-kiss

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

wintersong

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

carve-the-mark

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

a-ship-beyond-time

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

valiant

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

violet grenade

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

careful

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

traitor's kiss

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

caraval

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

Best Books of 2017 (So Far)

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

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

 

face like glass

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

the upside

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

x-files

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

goodbye-days

#7 Bang Bang Rating-4.0: Solid story

daughter-of-the-pirate-king

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

the-hate-u-give

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

alchemists-of-loom

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

strange-the-dreamer

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

gilded-cage

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

 

 

DRUM ROLL PLEASE……………..

crooked saints

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

Any Bangs in April?

YES!!

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May’s TBR

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

 

Little Monsters

little monsters

Little Monsters

By Kara Thomas

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Publication: July 25, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 3/4

Overview

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

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

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

Jane Unlimited

jane unlimited

Jane Unlimited

By Kristin Cashore

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: September 19, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: DNF at page 121

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

Children of Blood and Bone Spoilers

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.

Spoiler Edition

Ooo, this book is dense! Breathe…Breathe…Of We Go…

The book opens with Zel training with Mama Agba, a woman who runs a shop that makes clothes but is really a front for training diviners.  Zel is sparring with Yemi in order to graduate when the king’s army bursts in and demands a tax payment.  All the girls run to their sewing machines while Mama explains that she paid her taxes.  The soldier tells her that she getting taxed again because she employs diviners.  Zel complains that it isn’t fair and the soldiers see her and threaten her and leave. Zel’s brother Tzain runs it and said their father is in trouble.  They go find their father and see he’s almost drowning.  He’s saved and tells them the army wanted tax money and if he didn’t pay, they would take Zel as an indentured servant.  He was fishing to get money.  Zel and Tzain take the fish to the market to sell.

Amari is at the castle when her diviner maid is replaced.  Amari is worried that her father found some jewelry she gave her maid to pay the tax increase and goes snooping.  She overhears her father and his two top soldiers talking about a maji scroll.  The soldiers, including Kaea the king’s lover, tell the king that the scroll they tried to destroy made it to Warri and the diviners gained some of their magic back.  They tried to destroy the scroll 11 years ago but they couldn’t so they threw it into a body of water.  When they found the scroll in Warri, they killed all the diviners and recovered it.  The king wanted to see it’s power so he made Amari’s maid hold it and she got some powers and he killed her. They put it in the king’s office but Amari stole it and ran away because of her maid.

While in the market, Zel was about to sell her special fish to a worker in the castle when chaos brakes out and people started running everywhere.  A girl asks for Zel’s help and being the Gryffindor that she is, she helps her try to get out.  The girl is Amari and as they try to escape, they are met with the king’s army including Inan, Amari’s brother and the crowned prince.  Zel and Amari jump on Nailah, Zel’s horse sized panther or lion (?), and Amari hits Inan while the scroll is in her hand but they escape.

History lesson:

11 years proir, the maji killed King Saran’s father, his first wife, and his 1st born son.  Saran found a way to sever the connection between god and maki. He called the raid as revenge. Inan and Amari know this and this is Inan’s justification for ridding the world of magic. Also, magic begins to show when diviners turn 13.

Zel, Tzain, and Amari return to Zel’s home to find their father at Mama Agba’s.  The royals have started bombing their villiage as Zel tells Agba about the scroll.  The trio learns that the scroll is a ritual and a way to connect to the Gods. Agba tells Zel that she was a maji but she had a Healer/Cancer Maji give her cancer to make all her white hair fall out.  Agba is a Seer and she tells the trio that she sees them traveling to Chandomble-the temple of the protectors of magic and spiritual order.  Kaea tells Inan to kill everyone in the villiage but Inan wants a more humane resolution.  Inan begins to have visions of the trio, especially Zel, and he thinks Zel infected him.  He can hear Zel’s thoughts and a white streak has begun to grow in his hair.  He doesn’t tell Kaea.  We find out that Inan is a connector who weilds power over mind, spirit, and dreams.

The trio travel on Nailah to the temple knowing Inan is chasing them. They find the temple and enter thru a statue and are immediately poisoned.  They are met by a sentaro named Lekan.

Here is the history of the world:

On earth, Nana Buruku created humans, her children of blood and bone.  In the heavens Nana gave birth to the gods and goddesses. Each god and goddess posses a different fragment of her soul. To connect the gods and humans, she gave some of the magic to humans and each human has a diety.  One diety, Oya the goddesses of Life and Death, didn’t take from Nana like her siblings; she asked Nana/Sky Mother to give which showed patience and wisdom.  Nana/Sky mother gave her power over life and death.  Oya realized that great power could be abused so she only granted the power to those who showed patience and wisdom. These special people have coiled white hair like Nana Buruku.  Soon, the other dieties granted powers to a selected few and the maji population dwindled.

Here’s the plot of book 1 (I took this word from word from chapter 18):

The trio have to take three artifacts to a sacred island.  The bone dagger is a sacred relic carved from the skeleton of the first sentaro.  The dagger is needed to draw the binding blood from the mamalawo who keeps magic alive.  Whoever wields it draws strength from the life force of all those who have wielded it before.  The sunstone is a living fragment of Sky Mother’s soul.  When holding the stone, you tether her to the world keeping magic alive. Every century, the mamalawo carried the scroll, the dagger, and the stone to a sacred temple to perform the binding ritual.  By drawing her blood with the dagger and using the power impbued into the stone, the mamalawo sealted the spiritual connection of the gods into the sentaros’ blood. The mamalawo must say the words on the scroll to complete the ritual. As long as the bloodline survives, magic does too.

What happened 11 years prior when magic died:

King Saran knew of this ritual, came to the temple and killed everyone thus severing Sky Mother’s connection and ripping magic from the world. This ensured that the ritual could not be performed ever again. Lekan was away on a pilgramage that day and returned to a slaughter and the last sentaro alive.  As Saran was killing everyone at the temple, he ordered his army to kill all the maji in Orisha.

Back to the plot:

Although the scroll brings back magic it cannot make a permanent connection the trio has to perfrom the sacred ritual.  They have the scroll and the now the dagger, which they got from Lekan, they have to find the sunstone.  On the centennial solstice, a sacred island appears off the northern coast of the Orinion Sea and is home to the temple of the gods. The trio must take the three artifacts to the temple and recite the ancient incantation on the scroll to restore the connection and secure magic for another hundred years.  They have less than two weeks (?) to get the stone and get to the island. Only a woman can be a mamalawo so Lekan cannot perform the ritual.  He endoctrinates Zel to be the mamalawo.

Back to the story: 

After Lekan’s ritual with Zel to be the mamalawo, they hear Inan and flee but have to cross a rickety bridge.  Lekan holds off Inan and Kaea with magic to give the trio a headstart but when he has to break his hold on Inan and Kaea to save Zel, Kaea kills Lekan.  The bridge is uncrossable so Inan calls in the troops to rebuild buying our trio a headstart.  Inan dreams about Zel and finds out her location. Kaea notices that Inan hesitates to kill or call his dad.  She notices his white hair and tries to convince him to go home and tell his father.  He tries to reason and stop her with magic but he accidently kills her which leaves blue crystals in her hair.

The trio travel to Ibeji and discover a fighting ring.  The winners win the Babaluaye relic that grants eternal life.  The trio finds out that the relic is the sunstone. The trio enters the competition and Zel discovers she can use her magic to conjure an army of dead soldiers from all the spirits of the dead maji who have not passed over.  During the competition, Zel uses all her energy repairing their boat.  The trio wins and everyone thinks Zel is immortal.

As the trio celebrates the victory and the fact that they have all three relics, Inan catches up to them.  Tzain and Amari are taken by masked people leaving Zel and Inan.  They capture one masked man but in the tussle Inan sees Zel’s mother’s capture and feels her pain.  They torture the masked man for info.  They find their camp and see Amari and Tzain.  Inan and Zel agree to call a truce to rescue their family.

The camp questions Amari but don’t believe her because she’s royal.  Their leader is Zu, a  12 year old, and while they are captured; Zu turns 13 and gets her power especially because of the scroll.  Zu is a healer and heals Tzain.  Zel and Inan plan to use her dead army to resuce Amari and Tzain but Kwame has the scroll and can conjure fire.  Inan almost sacrifices himself to save Zel when Kwame attacks. They almost kill each other but Zu stops them because they shouldn’t fight each other.  The camp of diviners are from Warri where the scroll was found.  Everyone celebrates and Zel meets a flirtatous man named Roen.  Zel and Inan go off into the woods and make out.  Tzain is upset because once again, Zel’s carelessness is a detriment to others.  They have a big fight and Tzain leaves the camp with Amari. The king’s guards arrive and Zu and Kwame die saving their camp.

Zel is captured by the king and holds her in a majicite cell, a metal that supresses magic.  Inan tries to reason with his father to no avail.  Inan is taken away as the king carves MAGGOT into Zel’s back. Maggot is a slur for the maji and the worst name you can call them.  Inan does not confess his maji-ness and does nothing to stop his father.

Tzain and Amari go to a nearby tavern to find his diviner friends and ask them for help.  They agree to help rescue Zel. Tzain’s friends create a diversion during the rescue attempt.  One of the diviners melts the guard’s blades.  Another diviner, a cancer, leaks sliver liquid that causes diseases when it touches skin.  The king sees Amari. Inan sees all the destruction caused by the diviners and begins to agree with his father that magic is bad and should be abolished.  He goes to Zel’s cell and when Amari and Tzain rescue her, Inan stays behind. Inan and Zel have goodbye sex in their shared dreams.  After the rescue, Zel realizes that her magic is gone and she only tells Amari.

How it ends:

The trio and Tzain’s friends travel to Jimenta because they are running out of time to get to the island and need a short cut.  Jimenta is a rough place but they need their boat.  They send Zel to ask the ruthless leader for help and it is Roen.  In exchange for their boat and their help, Zel promises them gold and jobs in the palace when it’s all over.  They agree.  While sailing the the island, Zaria, they see the king’s armada. They need to overtake a ship to outrun the king and Roen’s men over take one in an impressive 7 minutes. They dress like the guards to get passed the king who has surrounded the island. When they get to the island, they are met by the King, Inan and Zel and Tzain’s father Baba who has been taken as ransom.  The king will exchange their father for the scroll and the stone and Zel agrees because her magic is gone.  She gives them the two relics but she never told Inan about the dagger and she keeps it.  The king kills Baba anyway.  When her father’s blood touches her, it restores her magic.  She becomes angry about her father’s death and begins to turn people into ash.  Inan grabs the scroll with a plan to end magic.  He baits Zel to hurt him and she burns the scroll, he is happy.  He sees his father coming with the stone and he sees a “guard” ready to kill the king and he uses his magic to stop the guard. The king sees the blue crystals in the guard’s hair and realizes Inan killed Kaea.  The king comes after Inan and tries to stab him. Inan begs for his life as his father says, “You are no son of mine.” Inan blacks out.

In Amari’s chapter, she sees the king stab Inan in the stomach.  Amari kills the king.

During all the chaos, the solstice has begun. The scroll has burned but she takes the stone in hopes she can save it. She cuts her hand and touches the stone to bind her blood and her father’s blood. The souls speak the incantation through Zel.  The sandstone shatters and light invades Zel’s body. As it fades, Zel sees truth in plain sight and hidden all along. “We are children of blood and bone. All instruments of vengeance and virtue.” “It binds me its love as death swallws me into its grasp.” Zel sees her mother. Her mother tells her what she did at the temple is unlike anything the spirits have ever seen. She tells Zel that she will always be with her but tells her she has to go because Orisha needs her. She tells Zel that it’s not over; it’s only just begun. Zel wakes up on the boat with Tzain, Amari, and Roen.  She asks if magic is back and Amari shakes her head and hold up her hand. Her hand swirls with blue lights and she has a white streak of hair.  Zel’s blood chills to ice.

Cliffhanger!!!