We Are Okay

we are okay

We Are Okay

Nina LaCour

Genre: Contemporary

Publication:  February 14, 2017

Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb1/2

 

Any Bangs in July?

YES, TWO MONTHS IN A ROW!!!

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Month’s Reads (Hopefully)

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

Dragons of Nova

dragons of loom

Dragons of Nova (Loom Saga #2)

By Elise Kova

Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk/Dragons

Publication Date: July 11, 2017

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Review: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

There’s Someone Inside Your House

there's someone insise

There’s Someone Inside Your House

By Stephanie Perkins

Genre: Horror/Thriller

Publication Date: September 26, 2017

Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Review bomb 1/2

 

Cruel Prince

cruel prince

Cruel Prince (The Folk of Air #1)

By Holly Black

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: January 2018

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating:  bombbombbomb

Godsgrave

godsgrave

Godsgrave (Nevernight Chronicle #2)

By Jay Kristoff

Genre: Fantasy/New Adult

Publication Date: September 5, 2017

Bang Bang Review bang

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for the spoilers.

Hunting Prince Dracula

hunting prince dracula

Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper #2)

By: Kerri Maniscalco

Genre: Horror/Historical Fiction

Bang Bang Review: bombbombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tarnished City

tarnished city

Tarnished City (Dark Gifts #2)

By: Vic James

Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopian

Publication Date: February 5, 2018

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/4

Review

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

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

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

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

Any Bangs in June?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Read for July-hopefully

Invictus

invictus

Invictus

By Ryan Graudin

Genre: Science Fiction/Time Travel

Publication Date: September 26, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

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

Genuine Fraud

genuine graud

Genuine Fraud

By E. Lockhart

Genre: Thriller

Publication Date: September 5, 2017

Bang Bang Review: bombbombbombbomb 3/4

Overview

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

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

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

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

Song of the Current

song of the current

Song of the Current #1

By Sarah Tolcser

Genre: Pirates/Fantasy/WNDB

Publication Date: June 6, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flame in the Mist

flame in the mist

Flame in the Mist (#1)

by Renee Ahdieh

Genre: Historical Fantasy

Published May 16, 2017

Bang Bang Rating:  bombbombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcast of 10 Things We Hate About YA Fantasy

Did I Read Any Bangs in May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

June TBR

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

Warcross

warcross

Warcross #1

by Marie Lu

Genre: Cyberpunk

Publication Date: September 2017

Bang Bang Rating:  bombbombbombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Ten Disappointed Books from 2017 (So Far)

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

gentleman's guide

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

poisons-kiss

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

wintersong

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

carve-the-mark

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

a-ship-beyond-time

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

valiant

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

violet grenade

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

careful

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

traitor's kiss

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

caraval

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

Best Books of 2017 (So Far)

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

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

 

face like glass

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

the upside

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

x-files

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

goodbye-days

#7 Bang Bang Rating-4.0: Solid story

daughter-of-the-pirate-king

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

the-hate-u-give

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

alchemists-of-loom

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

strange-the-dreamer

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

gilded-cage

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

 

 

DRUM ROLL PLEASE……………..

crooked saints

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

Any Bangs in April?

YES!!

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May’s TBR

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

 

Little Monsters

little monsters

Little Monsters

By Kara Thomas

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Publication: July 25, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 3/4

Overview

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

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

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

Jane Unlimited

jane unlimited

Jane Unlimited

By Kristin Cashore

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: September 19, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: DNF at page 121

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

All The Crooked Saints

All The Crooked Saints

By Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: Paranormal

Publication Date: October 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bang

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spoiler Edition Podcast

The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

gentleman's guide

The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

By Mackenzi Lee

Genre:  Historical Fiction/LGBTQ

Publication Date: June 27, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcast review with Bang Bang Books and Roulette Reader

Any Bangs in March?

NO, DAMMIT!!!

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

What 2017 books have you given five stars?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcasts

 

Face Like Glass

face like glass

Face Like Glass

By Frances Hardinge

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: May 10, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 3/4

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Upside of the Unrequited

the upside

The Upside of the Unrequited

By: Becky Albertalli

Genre: Contemporary/Romance/Humor/LGBTQ

Publication Date: April 11, 2017

Bang Bang Review: bombbombbombbomb

Review

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

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

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

Traitor’s Kiss

traitor's kiss

Traitor’s Kiss (Traitor’s Trilogy #1)

By Erin Beaty

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: May 7, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

Podcast Review

Any Bangs in February?

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

Click the book titles to read full reviews.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Ten Tuesday

Favorite Quotes.

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

The second set are my favorite quotes.

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

Goodbye Days

goodbye-days

Goodbye Days

By Jeff Zentner

Genre: Contemporary

Publication Date: March 7, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

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

A Ship Beyond Time

a-ship-beyond-time

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

By Heidi Heilig

Genre: Fantasy/Time Travel

Expected Publication: February 28, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb 3/4

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hate U Give

the-hate-u-give

The Hate U Give

By Angie Thomas

Genre: Contemporary

Publication Date: February 21, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/4

Review

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

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

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

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

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

 

Valiant

valiant

Valiant (The Valiant #1)

By Lesley Livingston

Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fantasy

Published: February 14, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daughter of the Pirate King

daughter-of-the-pirate-king

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

By: Tricia Levenseller

Publication Date: February 28, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hunted

hunted

Hunted

By: Meagan Spooner

Genre: Fantasy/Beauty and the Beast Retelling

Expected Publication Date: March 14, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 1/2

I received this ARC from Harper Collins at ALAMW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strange the Dreamer

strange-the-dreamer

Strange the Dreamer

By: Laini Taylor

Expected Publication Date: March 28, 2017

Genre: Fantasy

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Review

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

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

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

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

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

Spoiler Edition of Strange The Dreamer

January Read Pile. Any Bangs?

 

I read everything I said I was going to read except Conjuring of Light by VE Schwab because I thought it came out in January but it comes out in February, so I read a The Careful Undressing of Love instead.

I can say that January was really busy.  I went to ALA Midwinter for four days in Atlanta and I couldn’t enjoy the exhibit hall too much because I was in committee meetings most of the time.  My committee, Best Fiction for Young Adults, was tasked with choosing the top ten YA fiction of 2016 and it was VERY DIFFICULT to narrow it down to 10.  If you’d like to see what our top 10 of 2016, please click here.

I was able to sneak in 6 books and it was a mixed bag-I could have read 7 if I hadn’t have read Order of the Phoenix-LOL. I gave a couple of fours but they were barely fours so that means that there were no bang.

Not counting The Order because this is a reread, the best of the month was The Last of August and the worst was The Undressing of Love

Click the titles for full reviews, except Harry Potter.

The Last of August

Wintersong

Carve the Mark

The X-Files

The Careful Undressing of Love

Onto February where I will try to read 8 books but I can’t make any promises.

The Careful Undressing of Love

careful

The Careful Undressing of Love

by Corey Ann Haydu

Genre: Magical Realism

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Review

Are the women on Debovairre Street cursed?  According to the wise old Angelika, any woman who falls in love on this fated Brooklyn street is destined to lose her lover to death.

Undressing is set in 2008 post 9/11 where the women on this particular street are Affected or have lost a man in the terrorist attacks, to cancer, and other varied circumstances.  This story is about LornaCruzCharlotteDelilahIsla with Lorna as the main character.  According to Lorna these girls, minus Cruz because he’s a boy, are special not just because of their address but because of their long hair.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  Most of the girls think the curse is stupid and they just go along with it to amuse their old neighbor but after some strange events, some of them start to believe.

This is a semi-unique take on love.  I say semi because this is not a new concept but the setting makes it special.  Brooklyn and this street are also characters.  The women on this street have customs and traditions and they help each other.  Although this is the sixth book I’ve read about Brooklyn and their bodegas, I can’t say it’s getting old yet.  Besides the setting, I didn’t feel as if Haydu was adding anything new too the conversation about love.

As stated above, these girls are special because of their long hair.  They travel in a pact indicated by their mashed names and everyone stares.  They probably stare because men can are gross and ogle women with no shame-that doesn’t make you special.  At some point, Lorna sounded a bit self centered because every where they went people stared.  I’m assuming the author is saying they caught attention because of their confidence but she didn’t expound on this.

Unfortunately, Undressing was formulaic.  I anticipated every turn.

The characters were underdeveloped.  Lorna was the main character and she was flat.  She was mopey most of the time.  Her best friend, Delilah, was only interesting because she was Black with an afro and dated a wealthy white guy.  Isla was in the novel to make a point and I’ll explain below. Charlotte and Cruz were not special.  The only round character was Angelika, the wise old Russian lady.

Undressing had a lot to say about teen girls and love.  The older ladies on the block didn’t like the way they dressed and their cavalier attitude about sex.  Isla was the youngest but she also dressed provocatively and danced on the subway pole while men leered and women scoffed.  This is why I felt Isla was just used to make a point and she didn’t drive the plot.  I think Haydu’s message was clear and I liked it but it wasn’t enough to save this book.

Haydu is a good writer and this is my first book by her.  The language was beautiful and metaphorical and it’s clear she has a lot to say.  She wrote about an interesting street with diverse characters but Undressing was a bit too didactic, formulaic, and it never seemed to pick up steam.

Carve the Mark

carve-the-mark

Carve the Mark (Carve the Mark #1)

By Veronica Roth

Genre: Science Fiction/Space Travel

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb 1/2

Review

Akos, son of an oracle, lives on the farthest planet from the son-Thuvhe.  His life along with many others is fated yet, he doesn’t know his fate until all the fates are announced space-wide.  Now that all the fates have been revealed, all the fated including Akos and his family are in danger.

Cyra is the youngest daughter of the Shotet’s elite family.  The Shotets live on Thuvhe but are at war with Akos’ people.  Cyra’s family will stop at nothing to rule their planet including kidnapping and killing to change their fates.

I also forgot to mention that there’s a current or something and all the people in this book have powers and Cyra has chronic pain and I know a lot of people are upset at how that’s portrayed.

This is a brand new world set in space so of course it’s going to take some time to world build but I felt like this book was about 100 pages too long.  The pacing was incredibly slow and considering how vast the Divergent world was, I expected Roth’s world building to be great.  The farthest planet from the sun is the coldest-seen that before.  Colorful festivals-seen that before. Marking your skin after a kill and fighting to the death in an arena-just read that in The Cursed Queen by Sarah Fine. People have varied powers that are a gift or a curse-seen that before.   Then again, Divergent was similar to Hunger Games.

There are two major characters Cyra and Akos and you know they are eventually going to fall in love.  I applaud Roth for trying to avoid the instal-love-trope but I would have preferred it to what we got here.  There was no heat between the two.  I think Roth should consult Bardugo or Maas on how to write a hot romance.

I had a problem with Akos.  In the beginning of the book, he’s very soft spoken and kind of invisible.  I thought he was eight years old until the text told me he was fourteen.  In one chapter, he talks about how no one can hear him because he’s so soft spoken an on the next page, he’s yelling and threatening and defending his family-totally uneven.  I feel like this is a rookie writing mistake and Roth is not a Rookie.

The big villain is Ryzek and he wasn’t developed enough to be the awful person he was.  We only received two brief instances that turned him into a villain but it wasn’t enough to explain how HORRIBLE he was.

This book had a lack of urgency.  There were two instances when I felt there was a big reveal.  The major plot point was the reveal of a certain person’s fate and it was glossed over for a couple of chapters.  The other was the revelation of a character and no one seemed upset about what this character did even though it was f’ed up.  Because the book didn’t seem to think it was important, I didn’t either which make the book anti-climactic.

Now to address the big issue of race.  I purposely avoided reviews because I didn’t want to be tainted so I had no idea this book made the brown people savages/bad guys.  The first instance is when Cyra’s mother’s hair is described as hard to run your fingers through.  I didn’t equate that with kinky hair/black hair because I know that some white people have really curly hair.  However when Cyra is visiting a doctor on a different planet and the Shotet are described as brown, I thought, “Oh damn!”  I can’t believe that people still make this mistake.  Writing brown people as the savages/scavengers/killers is not diversity; it is perpetuating a stereotype.  Black people are still fighting this stigma.  I still get followed around stores because the employees think I’m going to steal and it’s only because I’m black.  The Black Lives Matter movement is because brown people are unfairly targeting for their skin color. I can’t believe no one at Harper saw this as a red flag. I’m sure Roth didn’t mean for this to happen.  This is what editors and beta readers and reviewers are for.  They are meant to catch this.

I think Roth just tried too hard.  This is a simple plot and all she had to do was add a new spin on it.  She’s a good writer and that’s most of the battle.  The problem with this book is that there was just too much going on and the main characters weren’t written well.

Here are a couple of quick spoilers that really bothered me in this book.

The Last of August

last-of-august

The Last of August (Charlotte Holmes #2)

By Brittany Cavallaro

Genre: Sherlock Reimagination/Mystery

Expected Publication Date: February 14, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review

Picking up from The Last Study in Charlotte, it’s winter break and Holmes and Watson plan to spend their vacation with Watson’s family in London then Holmes’ family in Sussex.  Everything at the Holmes estate is expectedly weird when Charlotte’s uncle mysteriously goes missing.  With the assistance of Charlotte’s brother and August Moriarty, Holmes and Watson find themselves deep in the art forgery world as they travel all over the European art scene to find the beloved uncle.

Last of August is book two in the series with the Last Study in Charlotte being Cavallaro’s debut.  Cavallaro is an exceptional writer.  In book two, Holmes has shut down as the result of a sexual assault in book one all the while trying to figure out her feeling for Watson. The first two chapters reveals a compassionate Watson who is trying to help Holmes open up but he’s met with mixed signals.  Because most of the book is from Watson’s POV, we only see his struggles with their relationship.  The beginning of the novel is a bit slow but Cavallaro is taking her time setting up the extremely complicated relationship between the friends. We eventually get Holmes POV for a couple of chapters and I felt it was honest and quite heartbreaking.  Their relationship could have been predictable with petty jealousy and immature arguments but Cavallaro’s characters are quite mature and behave accordingly.

In true Sherlock fashion, there are several mysteries happening at once which keeps the pacing fast.  Once again, the story is told from Watson’s POV and Holmes intentionally doesn’t share vital information with him but Watson wants to be useful and gets himself in some sticky situations.  Holmes is always five steps ahead of everyone else but she’s so intuitive, you totally buy it.  The running question in this novel and the TV show is why Holmes needs Watson when he, or in this case she, could figure it out on his own.  Last of August explores this and the reader learns why Watson is so vital.

The main mystery is the lost uncle and the art forgery.  I will admit that I’m not an art lover and as a teen librarian, I know that not many teens are either.  I’m worried that the art part of the book will lose some teens because I found myself much more interested in the other mysteries.  With that being said, I think this mystery was written well.  I also loved Cavalarro’s vivid imagery of Berlin and the Wall and Prague.  I Google mapped Prague so I could see the fairy tale city.

We finally get to meet Milo, Holmes’ brother, and August Moriarty.  Moriarty is torn between his family and wanted to end this endless feud.  Although Milo is only on the page for brief moments, you really know who he is which is a compliment to Cavallaro who writes a strong character that doesn’t appear on the page for most of the novel.  I really hope we get to see more Milo in book three.

The ending might leaving you thinking, “Yeah, right.” but if you are a fan of the TV show, you’ll understand that all of this is incredibly plausible.

It’s quite clear that Cavallaro is a BIG Sherlock Holmes fan. Cavallaro takes inspiration from the original Sherlock Holmes stories complete with easter eggs.  If you are a big Sherlock fan, you will have fun finding all of the eggs.  The Last of August is jam packed with complex characters, beautiful cities, and What the Hells!  I highly recommend it for fans of Sherlock and perhaps upper level teen readers.

The X-Files: Agents of Chaos

x-files

The X-Files: Agents of Chaos (The X-Files Origins #1)

By Kami Garcia

Genre: Mystery/Paranormal

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review

The X-Files Origins is based on the popular 90’s TV show and it’s written from the perspective of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully as teens.  Because Mulder and Scully didn’t meet until their late 20’s, they each have their own book.  If you are thinking about getting into The X-Files by binging on Netflix, I don’t suggest you read these books first because there are A LOT of spoilers.

Although I was in high school when the show was on TV, I didn’t watch it.  I love scary and paranormal stuff so I don’t know why I didn’t watch it but anyway I started binging it on Netflix last year and now I Want to Believe.  I LOVE Mulder and especially Scully because she was a great character.  She was never sexualized and there was never any gender discrimination.  She was an FBI agent and a medical examiner and no one ever questioned her gender-AWESOME!!

Now on to Agents of Chaos.  Book one is about Fox (David Duchovny is sexy as hell on the TV show) Mulder and his turbulent relationship with his father.  At this point in the story, Fox’s sister Samantha has already been abducted thus beginning his obsession.  Because he can’t do much investigation into his sister’s disappearance, he satiates his passion by trying to solve a string of kidnappings. Fox, I’m sorry, Mulder is joined by his new best friend Gimble and his old best friend Phoebe. The trio enlist the assistance of Gimble’s paranoid father and a variety of colorful characters to solve the seemingly ritualistic crimes.

Garcia does a great job of including small details about Mulder as a teen-his wit, his love of sunflower seeds and naked ladies, his insomnia, and his choice to sleep on a couch.  Garcia includes pivotal characters who eventually make Mulder the man we see on the TV.  The other set up is his respect for women.  Although teen Mulder likes half naked ladies which sets up adult Mulder’s fascination with porn, he has tremendous respect for his equally intelligent friend-Phoebe.  This story takes place in the late 70’s when women/girls weren’t so equal but Mulder always trusts Phoebe’s theories and ideas.  He’s in love with her and he fantasizes about her but there’s never any tropey groping or blue balls.  I think this is Garcia’s way of setting up Mulder’s relationship with Scully.

If you are a fan of the show, you’ll see a bit of Dana in Phoebe and an amalgamation of Frohike, Fritz, and Ringo in Gimble.  And my least favorite character on the TV show is in the first chapter-The Smoking Man! This guy will never go away!

The mystery is solid and a bit creepy which is great.  The police are total idiots and you believe that these seventeen year olds totally found this serial killer all by themselves. The character development is pretty good but the intensity could of been better considering the subject matter.  My major issues was the fictional novel everyone was obsessed with.  It got a bit convoluted during the revelation of the motive.  I also didn’t like Phoebe all that much.  She was a strong smart girl but she was a bit of a bitch and not in a good way.

Otherwise, as a BIG fan of the TV show, I thought this was spot on and I’m excited to read book 2 which is Scully’s story.

 

Wintersong by S. Jae Jones

wintersong

Wintersong

By: S. Jae Jones

Genre: Fantasy/Reimagination

Expected Publication Date: February 7, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

You can listen to our podcast or read the review.

Review

Wintersong is a loose reimagination of the 1986 film Labyrinth starring David Bowie.  I have not seen the movie so I cannot comment any further.

Liesl, the plain sister, is our main heroine who permanently lives in the shadow of her attractive younger sister and a musically gifted even younger brother and she constantly reminds you just in case you forgot.  Liesl’s father is a drunk leaving the mother to be the bread winner and Liesl to basically raise her siblings so when her sister Kathe gets taken by The Goblin King, Liesl stops at nothing to get her back.  Pretty simple plot, yes? Well, hold on to your pants because it’s about to get bonkers.

Everyone around Liesl is either incredibly beautiful or immensely talented leaving Liesl to have some series self esteem issues.  As a child, she made friends and composed music for the Goblin King thinking he’s just a fairy tale made up by her eccentric grandmother but Liesl SLOWLY realizes that The Goblin King has been in love with her since childhood for her internal beauty.  Liesl sees the thin austere young man in the market and although she’s seriously insecure, her body is on fire for the King.  Lot’s of things happen but most of the time the Goblin King is testing Liesl all the while falling in love.

Jones is a debut and I think she is a wonderful world builder  with quite an imagination but  I wish she had put more effort into her character development.  All of the characters are toeing the stereotype line. Liesl is the dowdy sister who’s over looked because she a girl; Kathe is the desired one but not that bright, the brother is doted upon because he’s a boy, the father is a sexist drunk, the mom works hard and ignores the kids, and the grandma is an eccentric.  There are some small nuances among all the characters which make them somewhat special but they aren’t archetypes. Jones used too much repetition to develop characters rather than expanding on their foundation.  The Goblin King was also a missed opportunity to develop a great new villain.  He had secrets which was great but once again, his character development was repetitious.  I liken him to The Darkling but The Darkling was a well developed misunderstood manipulative villain while he Goblin King was sort of a manipulator and sort of misunderstood.

I also felt Wintersong could have used a better editor.  There was way too much going on and it took away from the romance between Liesl and The Goblin King.  I know it’s a labyrinth and there are supposed to be layers of weird and there were with Wintersong but the layers seemed to be detached and not cohesive. There was a lot of explaining and not enough opportunities for the reader to figure out the clues.  The pacing also could have been better.

As I began reading, I was picturing Asian characters but slowly realized that this was 19th century Germany (?).  Not that the characters had to be minorities but I come to expect the characters to resemble the author and I should probably stop doing that.

Overall I think Jones has potential and I will probably read subsequent books by her.  Cruel Beauty is quite similar to Wintersong but what sets it apart is the strong character development in Nyx, Ignifex, and Shade.  But if you like a strong theme that focuses on love and music, you’ll enjoy Wintersong.

TBR: January 2017

bang-bang-to-reads

I read 118 books in 2016 and although I’m proud of that, I’m exhausted so therefore I set my 2017 goal for a modest 95 books.

I’ll be at ALA Midwinter for five days and I won’t be able to read and a couple of these books are 500 pages so I’m shooting for five books for January.

Wintersong by S. Jae Jones-I’ve been seeing this book all over the bloggerverse but I didn’t look into it.  I recently had to write a blog post about diverse debuts and after reading this description, it jumped up to the top of the TBR list.  I think it’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast but seeing as I don’t like Disney movies, I don’t know this story.  I have read the original tale though so don’t judge me.  YA Interrobang recently did an interview with Jones where she discusses how she had to cut out the erotica scenes to make it YA-WHAT?  Now I’m intrigued.

Conjuring of Light by VE Schwab-This is the final book in the Shades of Magic Series and although I’ve enjoyed this series immensely, I’m excited to see how it ends.  My only complaint is that I don’t like Lilah but I know she’s going to save the day and I know she and Kell are going to get together so…UGH

Last of August by Brittany Cavalarro-I’m a fan of everything Sherlock and I like Cavalarro’s reimagination of Sherlock as a teen girl.  Cavalarro’s writing in honest and gritty and if you are a Sherlock fan (maybe not that first episode of season 4) I highly recommend Cavalarro’s take.

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth-Although I wasn’t a fan of the Divergent Series, I think Roth’s world building is worth me reading a new series.  Goodreads has it at 3.83 which is scary because loyal fans usually rate high regardless of anything.  I know there weren’t many ARCs so maybe these ratings are from literary critics. 

The X-Files Origins: Agents of Chaos-I was in high school when The X-Files was on TV (yes, I’m old) but I didn’t watch it.  I’m not sure why because I love scary stuff.  Anyway, I binged all 1o seasons last year around this time and I loved it so I’m really excited to see Mulder and Scully as teens.  Let’s hope this doesn’t suck.

Alchemists of Loom

alchemists-of-loom

Alchemists of Loom (Loom Saga #1)

By Elise Kova

Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk

Expected Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Review

Arianna is a Chimera or is she? That’s the big question that doesn’t get answered at the end of this huge cliffhanger.

Alchemists of Loom takes place in a world where dragons, who look like people with varied Crayola colored skin tones, have taken over Loom and dictate their unfair laws from above the clouds.  Loom residents were fine until the dragons learned how to come down from the clouds and now they are forced and branded into specialized sectors (Harvesters, Riviters, Alchemists, & Ravens) which are BRIEFLY described in the novel. Loom residents receive little education and if you don’t pass your tests, you are killed.   Of course Loom residents think this is unfair and they retaliate by killing dragons and selling their organs on the black market.  Since dragons have powers, if you consume their organs you absorb their specialized powers and become a Chimera. And of course many the Loom people have become rebels and are determined to rid Loom of the dragon tyranny.  I also forgot to mention that Arianna is a hired thief who encounters a rogue dragon and instead of killing him, she helps him for a price- one wish. Does this sound like a lot of story? Well it should because it is.

Chapter one drops you right in the middle of the action with little to no explanation about the world or Arianna. Kova slowly explains the world of Loom which includes numbers instead of city names; Arianna’s background; and it’s steampunk so they have airships and goggles and unorthodox guns.  Loom is told from the perspective of four different characters and they are all FASCINATING. I loved every character in this book including the villains because they all have their own motives their own backstories and their own voice.  The majority of the characters are female and they are all incredibly driven and strong.  There’s also a hint of a romance and it’s very sweet.

Loom’s main theme is imbalance of power and disenfranchisement but at the same time race, gender, and sexuality are not focal points. No one is coffee colored or caramel colored; they are crimson and gray and blue.  There are women in powerful positions throughout the novel but no one says, “OMG, you’re a woman!”

When writing new worlds, there are two types of authors.  One author will over share with info dumping and the other type leaves out information because they’ve been living with their world for months and think the reader has too. Kova, however, gives the reader just enough information about her world to keep you satisfied and she spreads it out so that the reader is never overwhelmed.

The only reason I gave Loom a 4.5 instead of a 5 is because I prefer a character driven plot and Loom had more action than I like.  I have a difficult time visualizing action sequences so I don’t enjoy an action packed story.  The action wasn’t bad; I just prefer character and wold building.  If you like action, adventure, world building, and character development, you will love Alchemists of Loom.

P.S. While writing this review, I discovered what/who Arianna is-YaY

Did you like Alchemists of Loom as much as I did? Let’s talk about it.

Gilded Cage

gilded-cage

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1)

By Vic James

Genre: Science Fiction/Alternate Universe/Fantasy

Expected Publication: February 14, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 3/4

Review

In this contemporary alternate universe London, all citizens who are not an Equal (wealthy, influential, magical) are required by law to participate in slavedays-serving ten years as a slave.

Abi Hadley was able to get her parents, her seventeen year old brother, and her ten year old  sister to complete their slavedays at the house of one of the most wealthiest families in London, the Jardines. Although two of the Jardine boys are powerful and mean, the third brother is kind and has caught the eye of Abi.  While servitude in the Jardine house is peaceful, there’s an uprising in one of the slave towns and the Jardine’s and the other wealthy families who make the laws will do anything to keep slavedays law.

Gilded Cage is an allegory to what our world could have looked like if slavery had not been abolished.  In this book, the lawmakers are Skilled and have immense magical powers and although our lawmakers do not posses magic; they still posses the power to oppress.  The powerful ones on the outside think slavedays are not that bad because the slaves have jobs and are fed so therefore life is good for them until someone sheds light on reality-hunger, police brutality, and sloven conditions.  Similar to the start of the Civil Rights Movement where the North witnessed the fire hoses on TV, people began to take action to end slavery and this where Gilded Cage begins.

In addition to the politics, there are feminist themes and themes of unconditional love. Wonderful character development considering there are a lot of characters and James has created an interesting world.  Gilded Cage was thrilling and exciting and I can’t wait to see what happens in book two.

My only issue was the family tree.  The Parva-Jardine family is quite extensive and confusing so a glossary or a simple family tree would be a helpful addition to the final book.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

caraval

Caraval (#1)

By: Stephanie Garber

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: January 31, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Review

Scarlett has dreamed of the Caraval circus since she was a little girl. She mailed the ringleader, Legend, every year hoping to get a ticket only to learn that the Caravel was no longer touring.  Days before her wedding, which she reminds us of 30 times, Scarlett finally receives an invitation for three.  While Scarlett sees this as an adventure before her wedding, her sister Dontella sees this as a way to escape their abusive father.

Because Caraval will coincide with Scarlett’s wedding (are you tired of me mentioning the wedding? Well get over it because you’ll hear about it 50 times if you read this book) she’s reluctant to go but Dontella and her new guy friend (who’s extremely hot) force Scarlett to attend.

Once at Caraval, Scarlett is mesmerized by the tents, the hot brown guy she’s traveling with, winning the game to get the wish, her clothes that change for some reason, trading with things other than currency, her flimsy gown that she always seems to be wearing around all the men, secret passages, and the hot brown guy who’s constantly flirting with her.

Caraval had such potential to be cool and mysterious but it’s weighed down with tropes-the girl who thinks a man will save her, her sexual sister who knows otherwise, her hot guy, and the villainous father.  The uneven writing is also a problem. The dialogue was not particularly dynamic but it was peppered with metaphorical language.  This book also failed the Bechdel test-every conversation between two women were about men. This was a shame because the sisters had a great relationship but it was never explored.  Finally, the info dumping at the end didn’t help.

Listen to the full podcast

Poison’s Kiss

poisons-kiss

Poison’s Kiss (Poison’s Kiss #1)

By Breeana Shields

Genre: Fantasy/ Indian Folklore/Cultural

Expected Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Bang Bang Rating:

Review: bombbombbomb

Marinda is a visha kanya, a killer with one touch, who works for the Raja.  She’s been a visha kanya since she was five and she rationalizes her job by believing she is killing bad men.  Marinda also takes care of her seven year old brother, forgot his name, who has a lung infection and needs medication to survive.

Of course everything is okay until Marinda meets a hot nice guy-Deven. And of course she is ordered to kill him.  This is not a spoiler; it’s on the book jacket.  I’m not mad at this because this just means that the book is not about her order to kill Deven but about what Marinda does to save him and what she does isn’t necessarily the problem I had with the book.

My major issue was Marinda-she was a dumb dumb. This girl works for an evil man, can’t remember his name, who is a sadist. Marinda is a blind believer of an evil system.  She asks questions but she only asks one and believes everything people tell her. SHE WORKS IN A BOOKSTORE; READ A FUCKING BOOK!

The folklore is interesting and everyone is brown which is great.  The relationship between Marinda and Deven was sweet and believable.  The book’s flow was okay; it was never boring. The character development, however, is what killed this book.  It’s only 300 pages and I believed the villain and the best friend could have been developed better with more pages.

Did you read Poison’s Kiss? What did you think?

Dreamland Burning

dreamland-burning

Dreamland Burning

By Jennifer Latham

Genre: Historical Fiction

Expected Publication Date: February 21, 2017

Bang Bang Rating:bombbombbomb

Review

Rowan Chase found a body during the renovation of her house in contemporary Tulsa.  With a DA for a mother and an interest in medicine, Rowan (half Black half White) and her best friend James (self proclaimed asexual half Black half Native American) decide to investigate.  In alternating chapters, we meet William Tillman (half White half Native American) who sells victrolas in Tulsa in 1921. William befriends a Black teen and his younger sister who is the only interesting character in the entire novel.  In the days after William meets his new Black friends, a race riot breaks out changing Tulsa forever.

In Rowan’s chapters, we meet a teen whose lived in a privileged home and has little knowledge of the Tulsa race riots of 1921.  Rowan attends the good high school in the good part of town and is interning to get into a good college and although she knows about racism; she isn’t exposed to it in her daily life but James is and makes her aware of her bubble existence.  Rowan gets a taste of the wrong side of the tracks while interning in a clinic thus beginning her slow and boring growth.

In William’s chapters, we meet a meek boy who learns lessons about doing business with Negroes from his father.  His father deals with the situation the best he can but his decisions later in the novel are uneven to the majority of his presence.  Considering he has a wife that’s Native American, you’d think he’d be more sensitive to the plight of the Black man in 1921.  William has lots of growing to do but in the meantime, he is not a dynamic character.  He’s not witty or smart or remotely interesting.

Dreamland Burning read more like a history book and would have worked better as a mystery. Instead of giving the reader a chance to solve the mystery with Rowan and James, we are just told information and eventually the identity of the dead body by other characters.  Latham seemed to try too hard with all the diverse characters.  William’s mother was Native American and her story in relation to the time period was interesting but because the focus was heavily on Blacks, her story seemed like an after thought and had little to no impact on the plot.  Latham should have left that out and made William White.

In the author note, Latham who is from Tulsa said that this part of history in not discussed which makes it all the more interesting but the parallels to today’s race struggles with #blacklivesmatter (which was mentioned) was too on the nose.  Coupled with the weak character development and the telling rather than showing, Dreamland Burning was a missed opportunity to tell an important story.

I will buy it for my collection because it’s about a little known time in American history (I didn’t know anything about it) but I won’t give it to a teen who’s looking to be challenged.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

crooked-kingdom

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2)

By Leigh Bardugo

Genre: High Fantasy

Publish Date: September 27, 2016

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Overview

Kaz and his gang return from their heist with their precious cargo only to find that the person who hired them won’t pay up.

The Good (THIS IS THE SPOILER FREE REVIEW.  CLICK HERE FOR THE SPOILER EDITION)

  • Ketterdam.  Ketterdam is the world the Six of Crows series is based in and it’s a horrible and fantastic place.  It’s reminiscent of Vegas if Vegas exploited the young and the female.

Ketterdam is also very diverse culturally and sexually but it’s never part of the story.  People are who they are regardless of what they look like or who they share their bed-  power is what matters in Ketterdam.  I enjoyed this quite a bit because it’s RARE to see brown and LGBTQ characters in fantasy novels.  I hope readers don’t get hung up on that because this book is about their relationship and survival and their race has nothing to do with the mentioned themes.

  • Kaz & Inej.  They are my FAVORITE couple of all time and they didn’t even touch in the first book.  How Bardugo managed to create such a dynamic couple without so much as a hug is beyond me but it’s all fabulous. I’ll explain more in the spoiler edition.
  • Characters.  This series is completely character driven and there are six main characters that all require backstory.  We received everyone’s story in book one with the exception of Wylan who didn’t have his own chapters in book one-very clever Bardugo.  We get to learn more about Wylan because his father plays a major role in Crooked.  Crooked is more about how the main six deal with their issues and if and when they will find their happiness.
  • Pacing.  Although the series is character driven, there’s a lot of action for all of those readers who need things to happen between all the dialog.  Just like Six of Crows, Kaz was always ten step ahead of everyone else and several times during the story you weren’t sure if they were done for of if it was part of the plan.

The Bad

  • Nothing.  I liked everything in this book so I have nothing to add in the bad portion.  Because Six of Crows was so new and different and refreshing, I couldn’t give Crooked Kingdom five stars.  I know it sounds weird but one of the reasons why I gave Six of Crows five stars was because it was different and since Crooked was similar in story and writing, it’s no longer different.

Overall

Crooked Kingdom stayed true to book one in characterization, writing, and plot.  I envy the friendships in Crooked Kingdom but I thank the lord I do not have to survive the way they all do.  The character development and the world are top notch and I’m excited to see what Bardugo will come up with next.

To see the spoiler edition of Crooked Kingdom, click here.

Review of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

nevernight

Nevernight (Nevernight Chronicles #1)

by Jay Kristoff

Genre: High Fantasy

Published

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Overview

Set on revenge, Mia Corvere trains to be a blade so that she can repay the Luminatii who killed her family and left her for dead.

The Good (THIS IS THE SPOILER FREE REVIEW.  CLICK HERE FOR THE SPOILER REVIEW)

  • World Building, obviously!  So this is “Italy” and I’ve seen a lot of maps and I have to say, this is my favorite map.  You can even see little houses and streets.  This world is RICH with backstory and religion and tradition and politics and geography and internalized racism and classism and mythology.  This is what I love about new worlds. If you are going to write something new, go for it and I think Kristoff did a great job.
  • Story.  Let me begin by saying that I’ve never read a Kristoff book. (I tried to read Illuminae three times but it was information overload for me and I couldn’t get passed page 50).  Secondly, I thought this was YA until I got to the sexy part mid way through and had to do some investigating.  Barnes and Noble has this as adult fiction and even though the main characters are teens, I agree with B&N.

 Back to the writing.  There was A LOT of information but Kristoff managed to avoid the dreaded info dump with footnotes-GENIUS!  I will drop a whole star if a book info dumps-that’s how much I hate it.

Kristoff drops you right off in the middle of the story and works his way back and then forward and I was never confused.  Kristoff’s writing is very descriptive and although I struggle with vivid novels, I was able to picture it.  I would love to see the ending in a movie.

There is a great villain and some wonderful mentors.  There are a lot of characters and there’s a competition to be the best but the characters were archetypes and well developed. I liked the use of shadows as characters.

There were several subplots and characters with mysterious backstories that kept the book intriguing. Even Mia’s backstory was a mystery for most of the novel.  There were enough unanswered questions for the next book but it didn’t leave you with a huge hangover.

Can’t say too much without spoilers but clearly I enjoyed this book.  If you want to read the spoilers, click here.

The Bad

  • Midway Slump. There was a point in the middle where I got a bit bored-about 50 pages or so.
  • Mia and Tric. I got a bit angry at how she handled something in the end.  I just didn’t think her reaction was realistic.
  • There was a major part in the end that bothered me.  I explain in the spoiler edition.

Overall

This book was great.  It’s a well rounded fantasy and we don’t get that very often.  The world and the characters were very refreshing.  I’m extremely bummed that this isn’t YA but overall, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND NEVERNIGHT!

Empire of Storms

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass Series Book 5)

By Sarah J. Maas

Fantasy

Published: September 6, 2016

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb1/4

 

Overview

Aelin, Rowan, Aedion, Lysandra, and Evangeline are making their way to Terrasen for Aelin to take the throne.

THIS IS THE SPOILER FREE EDITION.  CLICK HERE FOR THE SPOILER EDITION

The Good 

  • Writing.  I think we all can agree that Maas’ writing has grown tremendously since books 1 & 2 and it remains in book 5.

There seems to be homages to several novels including Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and Harry Potter to name a few.  I haven’t read LOTR so I can’t speak on this (my coworker pointed out the LOTR references) but I can speak of the similarities of GOT & HP.

Aelin is kind of the Daenerys of the group.  She’s trying to claim her throne and her entourage has similarities to GOT.  There’s a king of the north and large family dynasties.  They also travel quickly in this book much like in GOT.  There’s no fight for the throne from a bunch of people like in GOT but I see Aelin as a Daenerys.

As for Harry Potter, there’s strong good vs. evil theme and Erawan has been called the Dark King.

I wasn’t bothered by all the homages and I actually commend Maas for creating vast landscapes and families.

  • A Certain Ship but that’s a spoiler so I’ll save it for the spoiler edition.
  • Separate Storylines.  Maas is great at creating separate storylines within her books.  Some people don’t like to be taken out of a storyline but I don’t mind it.  I really like the anticipation of the inevitable convergence.
  • Characters.  I liked all the characters that you are supposed to like and hated all the characters that you are supposed to hate.
  • Manon. No explanation needed.

The Bad

  • OMG, I WAS SO CONFUSED!  My biggest complaint is the convoluted execution to a very simple plot.  The plot is basically to find a lock and all three keys to stop Erawan.  Simple right?  NOPE!!! I was hanging in there and then something happens to Aelin (won’t say here) and then I got confused again but then I was okay until an old character resurfaced but I was kind of getting it until the last 20 pages.  Maas seemed to try to cram in too much into a 700 page book.  I know, right?
  • My other big complaint was all the hooking up.  That’s all I’ll say about that.

Overall

I didn’t quite get the prologue and I ended the book confused and the book references events from book 1 and .5 and I forget a book as soon as I put it down so I my memory is shotty.  Although it’s my responsibility to remember stuff I still felt this book tried a bit too hard.

Queen of Shadows is by far my favorite of this series.

 

Cruel Prince Spoiler Rants

Quick 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.

On to the RANT

My ultimate issue with this book was the actions of the characters.  Let me start with something minor that was the beginning of the end.  When Valerian forced fairy fruit in Jude’s face that made her take off her clothes, that was IT but then Carden pricked her finger because salt is the antidote and blood contains salt, I couldn’t… Don’t you think the first thing you learn that if you are given a drug and you don’t have salt, human blood can be used as an antidote?  I know that’s minor but it’s a sign of spotty writing.  Back to the drug-make-her-get-naked-and-bow-down part.  First, this was just for shock value. Second, she went off with one of the torturers. Third, she went back to school a day later and never had an inner monologue about being scared.  That’s unrealistic; I don’t care if you are the strongest girl alive.

Valerian literally tried to kill Jude twice and his only motive is that he likes to fight. WHAT??? His character was only in the book so that Jude had someone justifiable to kill so that she could prove to herself that she can kill someone because her step-father said she didn’t have the guts. So you mean to tell me that she dragged a dead body, I think down a flight of stairs, buried it and no one saw her? REALLY?

This girl has NEVER been a spy but she manages to infiltrate a prince’s castle, find the correct room, obtain the key piece of evidence, and escapes without problems.  I’m supposed to believe that? This girl is the daughter of the GENERAL. Everyone knows what she looks like but no body recognized her? REALLY?

The hot fairy who happens to be friends with her tormentors, invites her to a party where they will all be but she’s cool with it even though they just humiliated her and tried to kill her twice.  I get it; she’s strong and isn’t going to let bullies stop her from living but that’s sooooo unrealistic.  I could see if they were just calling her names or just kicking her lunch in the lake but no, they tried to make her jump to her death.

This is just the little stuff that bothered me.  The big one, and you know what I’m about to say, is that Locke was dating her sister Taryn and she didn’t do anything about it.  And then, this strong heroine, challenged her twin sister to a duel over a GUY!  That is the exact opposite of what she should have done.  She should have challenged Locke to a duel for being a dick not your sister over some dude and I don’t care if she did choose him over family. Never over a dude; that is rule #1.  That is such a weak woman trope. And I get it, she was angry because her sister chose a guy over her but you don’t challenge them to a duel. You get in her face and say, “How could you do this to me? We are sisters and you are going to choose a man over me? Get out of my face!” And then you forgive her and never trust your man around her ever again.

This is not part of my character motive rant but I couldn’t with that Red Coronation scene and if you watch/read Game of Thrones you know what I’m talking about. That whole death scene was right out of Game of Thrones and I totally wasn’t shocked by it.