Bang Bang Book Blog is No Longer

I will no longer update this site but I will keep it live for people to find spoilers. I will also add spoiler editions for books that I read so that I can remember what happens in the last book.

If you are interested in my opinions, you can read my reviews on Goodreads-Bang Bang Books is also my Goodreads name.

You can also listen to my monthly podcast with Roulette Reader called Novel Universe. We discuss YA fiction.

Thank you to everyone who has read my book rants.

Advertisements

Top of 2018

We’re midway thru 2018 and if you are looking for one good book before the September books come out, here’s what I suggest.  Some of these books aren’t published yet because I can to include ARCs due to the fact that I couldn’t find five already pubs that I gave a high rating.

Please click the book cover for the full review.

#5

Dance of Thieves_FINAL 9.18

Dance of Thieves takes place a couple of years after the war between Lia and the Komizar.  We follow a new character Kazi who is part of Queen Lia’s special army. Kazi and her three member home girl crew are tasked to infiltrate, locate, and bring back a traitor.

Initial Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Publication Date: August 7th

You can download it on Edelweiss

You do not need to read Kiss of Deception first although you should because it’s amazing. I will warn those of you who do not like a character driven plot. If you didn’t like Kiss of Deception and are thinking, “Everyone else like KOD so maybe I’ll give Pearson’s next book a try,” you probably aren’t going to like DOT either. It’s character driven which means the plot is slow.

Kazi is a good character; she has an interesting backstory and she extremely driven. Jase is similar in his drive to be a great leader and I liked the pair a lot. It did get a little sluggish in the middle and that’s the reason why I didn’t rate it higher.


#4

children of blood and bone

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of this book but just in case you haven’t…Zelie (Zel) lives in Orisha where the non magical king has made it his mission to eradicate the Maji or magical people and he does so by murder. Zel’s mother was one of the fallen and Zel was born a diviner-magical child of fallen maji. Amari, the king’s daughter, is indifferent until an event forces her to take action against the king. She meets Zel and her brother Tzain, and they set off on a journey to restore magic back to the maji before it is gone forever.

Initial Rating: bang

Zel was a pretty well rounded character. Inan realistically struggled with his demons. I enjoyed the world building and the pacing. One thing I liked was that I didn’t immediately root for the good side. I could understand the revenge driven king.  Is it the most original story? No but this version was well done.


#3

sadie

Sadie is told in two perspectives, West McCray a Serial-type- podcast and Sadie. When Sadie’s grandmother contacts West to investigate Sadie’s sudden disappearance, he tracks her through interviews of people Sadie encountered.

Initial Rating: bang

Sadie can currently be downloaded on Edelweiss.

This was a tough book to get thru because of the subject matter but it was very well written.  Some readers might be put off or get confused by Summers quick transitions but I believe it was done on purpose and it was effective. Get out your tissues.

Because the book is about a podcast, the trailers are podcasts which are very good.


#2

thunderhead

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames

Initial Ratingbang

Thunderhead is non-stop all the way to the end. Shusterman went there and that’s all I’ll say. You’ll have to read Scythe first then this book to see what I’m talking about.


#1

furyborn

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

Initial Rating: bang

This is a very polarizing book. The Goodreaders who rated it low was because of the bi representation.  I’m not bi so I didn’t catch that issue.

I did however really like Furyborn and it will end up in the top three of the year because I don’t see me reading much better. I thought the POV’s had different voices and were developed well. Eliana was a conflicted and flawed character who made horrible choices and I enjoyed her character arc. The prologue is basically the middle of the story/series which is different and was intriguing. The world building wasn’t contrived and the story went against trope. There were twists and turns and great secondary characters.

So if you are on the fence because of all the one stars on Goodreads, keep in mind that there are a lot of four and five stars on Goodreads and maybe give it a go.


What have been your faves of 2018 so far.  What did I miss and need to read ASAP?

Grace and Fury

grace and fury

Grace and Fury (Book 1)

By Tracy Banghart

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: July 31, 2018

Bang Bang Review

In this fantasy world, women cannot be literate and the most beautiful girl of every village or whatever must compete to be one of the king’s ladies for reasons I don’t know. Serina is the most beautiful and her sister Nomi goes with her to compete as her handmaiden but things happen-The End.

If you love all the tropes, this book is gonna be your jam!

This book has everything- instalove, a love triangle, an unqualified protagonist who prevails among more qualified characters, a gullible martyr, a girl who thinks she’s unattractive but isn’t, a callous king and all of this in a mere 320 pages.  Please note, if a book one fantasy is under 400 pages-RUN, GIRL, IT’S INFO-DUMPED OR UNDERDEVELOPED!

This book started off okay but I soon realized that the pacing was WAY TOO FAST and that’s problem number all of numbers.

I can’t say too much because it’s a spoiler so scroll down but if my intro turned you off and you aren’t going to read it, highlight the following. The Serina is chosen to compete, she gets to the castle where her sister is chosen over her, the Serina  gets accused of reading and is sent to a prison all within the first 30 pages-WHAT THE HELL?  Serina, has no skills and she really believes in subserviency but within three week of fight training, she’s an adequate fighter.  She plotting to escape with the boy she’s fallen in love with in 3 WEEKS and she planned to unite the women against the male guards cause she’s the smartest one in the whole prison-OKAY. Meanwhile her sister Nomi is a dumbass and believes the heir’s brother who tells her the heir is a monster after two weeks or so. She gets duped into a plan to kill the heir and the reader can see it coming a mile away.

Because the pacing is so fast, there’s no world building which would have been appreciated because this is a world where it’s illegal for women to learn to read for cripes sake. Because the pacing is so fast, there’s no character development. Nomi is supposed to be a rebel and she makes attempts but she’s so wimpy and needs help to do everything at no time did I believe her to be strong or independent or clever. The other sister, Serina, has no skills but man did she manage some amazing feats.

I hate to say it but this will probably be at the top of my most disappointing books of 2018. I don’t see myself reading anything worse than this. If I could give it a zero on Goodreads, I would.

Bang Bang Rating-ZERO

The Cheerleaders

cheerleaders

The Cheerleaders

By Kara Thomas

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Publication: July 31, 2018

Bang Bang Review

So I read this two weeks ago and I’ve forgotten a lot so you can probably see where this review is heading.

The Cheerleaders is about a cheerleader (I forgot her name and don’t care to look it up) who (highlight to see the spoiler) is recovering from an abortion from a much older man. She’s trying to get over a break up while the anniversary of her older sister’s suicide looms.  Her step father was the lead investigator of her sister’s case and she accidentally finds her sister’s belongings in his office which sparks her belief that her sister was murdered. 

The first problema is that there is no reason for the main character to be a cheerleader.  Cheerleading does not impact the plot. These girls could have been on the chess team and it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference.  A book like Exit, Pursued by a Bear nicely weaves cheerleading into the story; this book which is called The Cheerleaders-does not.

Problema numero dos- Thomas missed the opportunity to dive deep into the spoiler I mentioned above and the person it deals with. This book contains a very timely issue that not many YA books discuss and it’s unfortunate that it wasn’t explored.

Third-Thomas tried to make the dead sister an unreliable narrator but it didn’t work.  The sister has her own chapters in the book that are set a couple of days/months prior to her death and she’s written as a virtuous virginal saint but in the MC chapter’s she paints her sister as a major bitch.  There’s no way that this girl who preaches just-say-no-to-drugs to her friends and is seen by EVERYONE as pious girl can be so bitchy to her eleven year old sister. We don’t see it on the page; it’s just told to us by the MC. Sure the MC can have her own perspective but at no time do we see the dead sister being manipulative or devious to the MC so it’s difficult to set up an unreliable narrator if we don’t hate her at some point.

Finally, it’s supposed to be a mystery but the MC just looks for people who just info dumps the clues she needs.  She barely finds info on her own. And the MC is not likable.  She’s not unlikable either; she’s just there.

I enjoyed Thomas’ first book and even her second book was okay but this book-YIKES!  If you are looking for a good mystery, I’d recommend The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes or Agent of Chaos by Kami Garcia.

Bang Bang Review bombbomb

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

dark decent

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

By: Kiersten White

Genre: Reimagination/Thriller

Publication Date: September 25, 2018

Bang Bang Review

Our story begins with a despondent Victor already at University leaving a love lorn Elizabeth waiting at the Frankenstein manor. She’s waiting for a letter from Victor after months of silence. She’s waiting for Victor to marry her so she won’t be thrown out of the manor and she reminds us ALL THE TIME.  She’s tired of waiting so the story opens with her and the governess, Justine, traveling to find Victor at his school.

The novel is called the Dark Descent of … but she doesn’t descent darkly enough. She’s jealous and paranoid but that’s about it. She’s worried about her future in the manor because she no longer has her purpose of distracting Victor now that he’s in school and that’s understandable.  White paints the picture of an Elizabeth who is jealous of the governess and friend Justine because she has a purpose and she’s content but White doesn’t go dark enough. If she was truly descending, she would be a manipulative saboteur but White makes her too altruistic. It is possible to make a sympathetic villain-look at Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones.

The writing is too one the nose. White makes is PAINFULLY obvious that Elizabeth is too dependent on Victor and will eventually grow to be independent.  That’s the normal arc of many characters but White pounds it into to reader’s head that Elizabeth is a weak woman who needs Victor to save her. I eventually became bored with the story and just wanted Elizabeth to get a clue, grow a pair, and be her own woman.

White also doesn’t create a creepy atmosphere.  There’s an attempt but I wasn’t transported to the urine smelling mud soaked 18th century German town.

I just wish White had have gone deeper into the mania a person is capable of experiencing. We just get some mild hysteria from a girl we’ve read before.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Sadie

sadie

Sadie

By: Courntey Summers

Genre: Thriller/Contemporary

Publication: September 4, 2018

Bang Bang Review

Sadie is told in two perspectives, West McCray a Serial-type- podcast and Sadie. When Sadie’s grandmother contacts West to investigate Sadie’s sudden disappearance, he tracks her through interviews of people Sadie encountered.

Right away I was intrigued because we are getting the perspective of Sadie, in first person, and in the next chapters we are getting the perspective of someone five months later. It’s different than most YA contemporary I’ve read and I’m drawn to this.  In Sadie’s chapters, we learn that she’s left to find the killer of her 13-year-old sister. Sadie is erratic and angry and determined. She’s vulnerable at times and very strong at other times which made for a believable character. There were times when I found myself doubting some of her incredible feats but I had to remind myself that she raised herself and her sister which forced her to become an adult at a young age so perhaps she is able to think and act that quickly on her feet.

West does not have much character development. There were times where he doubted the public interest of the story and he sympathized because he had a daughter but other than that; there wasn’t much to him.  However, this story is really not about West, it was about his interviews with Sadie’s acquaintances and I thought it was written well.

Courtney Summers is a very good writer. She was able to convey pain and desperation with very few words.  There were several moments of intensity that were stressful to read because you didn’t know who was around the corner.  Sadie suffered a lot of trauma as a kid and there were times when she would jump from a flashback to current and it was disorientating to read because Summers didn’t provide transitions.  Of course this was intentional because the reader is made to feel what Sadie was feeling at the time and it was effective. I fear some readers will struggle with this but keep in mind that it’s not bad writing; it’s good writing.

This book was tough to read because of the subject matter. I won’t say because it’s a spoiler but there are some serious trigger warnings. I’m not gonna lie; it was a sad book and I don’t like sad books but I’m glad a read it and I recommend you to read it too.

That ending though…I’m meeting Courtney at ALA and I hope someone asks about that ending.

Bang Bang Review bang

 

May Wrap Up

Any bangs in May? Sadly, no.

May was a rough month for reading because there were too many good shows on Netflix so I only read three books.  YIKES!

Please click on the covers for full reviews.

pride

Great setting but the pacing was too quick to get to know the characters.

Bang Bang Rating:  bombbombbomb 1/2


strange fascinations

Too much going on; get to the point, man!

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb


life like

Started off great but the B story weighed down the main story.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb


June TBR

I’ll be at ALA so I won’t be reading much.

Life L1k3

life like

Life L1k3 (Lifelike 1)

By: Jay Kristoff

Genre: Post Apocalyptic/Cyborgs

Publication Date: May 29, 2018

Bang Bang Review

It’s a post apocalyptic America where two tech companies rule. Eve must earn money for her cancer stricken grandfather by competing in Battle Bots style competitions and she’s pretty good.  During one battle, Eve accidentally displays something detrimental to her life and finds herself, her best friend Lemon Fresh, a life like named Ezekiel, and her grandfather on the run. Can’t say too much because of spoilers. Life likes are robots that look like humans but you probably already inferred that.

I love Kristoff’s adult fiction series Nevernight and book 2 in that series was my favorite read of 2017 but I cannot get into his YA fiction. I tried Illuminae three times and couldn’t do it and I won’t be finishing this series.

I was really enjoying it until about 30% in.  The world was gritty and depressing; the characters were interesting, especially Lemon Fresh; and the dialogue was strong and insightful.  This new world was easy to follow and there were several unpredictable plot twists and then enter the Kracken.  There’s a moment when they fall into a body of water, I’m assuming the Pacific Ocean, and enter a large Kraken-SERIOUSLY?!  This damn kraken was several chapters and I didn’t understand the point. It probably came back into the story but I was skipping around so much, I’m not sure if it did.

Then there was this dripping wet love bullshit between Eve and Ezekiel that I couldn’t get over it. I knew Kristoff was a better writer than that and there’s a viable explanation for it but there was so much of it, it bothered me so much that I began to skip over Eve and Ezekiel’s scenes.  I personally think Kristoff writes better sex scenes than romance but then again, I didn’t read Illuminae.

There are two stories happening simultaneously and the sub story, the pre robot uprising story, was by far the worst of the two.  It’s told in first person which almost always leads to info-dumping. It started off very strong because it contained mystery but once it got into the meat and bones, it was like a different author was writing it.  I thought the characters in the sub story were tropey and extremely eye-roll inducing.

Although I skipped through half of it, I feel like I read the important bits because I read the twists which were well done and it ended well.  Even though it seemed like I didn’t like it, I’m giving it this rating because the world was great, the writing was in true snarky Kristoff fashion and the themes were strong.

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbombbomb

Pride

pride

Pride

By Ibi Zoboi

Genre: Contemporary/Re-imagination of Pride and Prejudice

Publication Date: September 18, 2018

Bang Bang Review

Zuri is very proud of her neighborhood and her family and when a new black family moves into the mini mansion across the street, Zuri’s prejudices come out.

I have not read Pride and Prejudice so I had to ask my co-worker who has read P&P every year for many years to help me see the parallels.  With that being said, you don’t have to read P&P to enjoy or understand Pride; it stands alone.

So this book is basically about Zuri, a girl who is sheltered by her parents and RARELY leaves her neighborhood of Bushwick, NY.  When the Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri is forced to “leave” her neighborhood through these outsiders.  The Darcy boys are black but not black enough for Zuri because they don’t talk like her, dress like her, or listen to the same music as she does and she judges them.  However, when she first meets Darius Darcy and he turns his nose up at her, she is furious because he judged her.  This is the main plot and although it’s consistent with its originator, the pacing of Zoboi’s adaptation was an issue.

It’s becomes obvious pretty quickly that Zuri is a hypocrite and that’s fine but she’s completely unaware and has no inner monologue about it so we are forced to read the obvious and yell at this girl for being a hypocrite for 90% of the book.  She’s FINALLY called out on it but it comes way too late and it’s way too brief for effective character growth. Flawed characters are important but there has to be a flow to keep the reader going. At some point Zuri should have been called out by her sister and there was an opportunity but it didn’t happen. Because she’s living in her own world of hypocrisy, there’s no room for her to grow.  Zoboi makes Zuri grow but only in one aspect when there are two issues surrounding Zuri- her prejudice and her sheltered life.

Let’s talk about the unexplored growth which is in the title-prejudice.  I have been accused of not being black enough most of my life because all the way into college I had people tell me I talk like a white girl.  Because when I was ten my black friends called me “a lame” because I knew all the Madonna songs but didn’t know who New Edition was (I’ll admit, that was pretty bad that I did’t know who New Edition was but I changed that).  This still happens and although it’s not an earth shattering problem in the black community, it’s synonymous with identity and many black teens struggle with identity and being accepted.  Although there is a confrontation with Darius about him not being black enough, the payoff was minute considering how much Zuri judged him for it.  Not-being-black-enough is an unexplored topic in YA fiction and I just wished Zoboi had explored it more.

Now let’s talk about the explored growth- being sheltered.  I think Zoboi did a great job in describing Zuri’s block and neighbors and her pride in her community and culture. Zuri’s block is becoming gentrified which is happening all over the country and once again and unexplored topic in YA fiction.  Zuri shares a bedroom with her four sisters so she understandably wants space.  She has an older sister, Janae, who is coming home from college who unlike Zuri wants to travel and see the world rather than be home.  The sister could have been developed a lot better in this aspect. Janae could have been a source of conflict for wanting to leave or a source of envy but she played none of those roles.  Zoboi made a bit of a big deal about her homecoming but Janae didn’t drive the plot-missed opportunity.  At one point, Zuri goes on a college tour to DC and there’s little to no exposition on her experiences leaving the state or meeting other black people when once again, the book is about pride in her neighborhood and is essential to her growth.  She talks about wanting to leave to return and helping her neighborhood but there’s no inner monologue when being in the moment.

This is a romance and it was okay but Zuri felt uneven and I wasn’t invested in the romance. Zuri is a poet and she takes the time to think about her life so she can put her feelings into words.  People like this are insightful and posses many layers.  But Zuri only seems to like Darius because he’s really attractive which I find to be an attribute of a one dimensional character. Yes, she is a teen and teens are hormonal but she’s being set up as a girl who commands respect from boys when she walks down the street. She’s very aware  and proud of her reputation and she’s working very hard to go to college so that she can give back so when she’s met with a very intelligent and round character in Darius and all she sees is his face and body, it’s uneven.  Upon their first encounter, he’s a bit rude and he clearly doesn’t think she’s good enough for him.  He’s short with her and gives her stink eyes but she’s enamored-WHAT?!  She constantly criticizes him for not being hood enough for her but she thinks about him a lot but all we have to go on is his appearance.  I just feel like someone who is insightful like her would look past his appearance and see something else that she finds attractive.  She does eventually say what that is and it’s valid but it’s like 50% in and a bit too late for me.

Finally, I had an issue with the writing and the pacing. It’s almost like I can see Zoboi writing this book and saying to herself, “How can I create conflict with Zuri and Darius? I know, I’ll invite her to his parent’s cocktail party where they are all fish out of water.” Zoboi did this several times where there were BRIEF events that were only meant to be a means to an end.  That aforementioned cocktail party lasted two pages when there was an opportunity to grow Darius’ parents or life before Bushwick. Darius conveniently shows up while Zuri is visiting DC and she conveniently has a conflict at his snobby grandmother’s house. There were several instances where the events in the story weren’t organic but obvious plot devices.  As far as the pacing, one example is her college visit.  Janae tells Zuri she bought her a bus ticket to visit a college and in the very next paragraph she’s on the bus.

I appreciate the culture in the story, Zuri is half Dominican and half Haitia, and I think this was done well.  I liked the love portrayed between Zuri’s parents. However, Pride could be a better critical read if the characters were better developed. Ainsley and Janae were flat and could have played a larger role in Zuri’s development.  Her best friend could also have played a larger role in the story’s theme. The pacing of Zuri’s development relied too much on bashing the reader over the head with her prejudices.  If she was called out earlier by her sister or her friend the pacing would be better and she would have more time to grow.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 1/2

The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotic

strange fascinations

The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotic

By David Arnold

Genre: Contemporary

Publication Date: May 22, 2018

Bang Bang Review

OMG, where to begin.

I consider myself to be an intelligent person who can usually understand books but I DO NOT KNOW WHAT THE FUCK THIS BOOK WAS TRYING TO DO.

First of all the MC Noah is not the most likable character and I think he is supposed to be.  He’s written as this insightful deep thinker but he comes across pretentious asshole who doesn’t have time to be bothered with petty high school problems because his brain is full of Thoreau.  And then there were chapters all about him and how he thinks-OH GOODY, THERE’S MORE TO READ ABOUT THIS ANNOYING BOY. His best friends are trying too hard to be cheeky and cool but they fall flat.  Among the three serious conversations they have, they rest of it is just stupid observances and dumb pop culture debates.

This book is in the category of teens-don’t-talk-like-that.  I mean all of them “talk like that” including his twelve year old sister.  It says she’s in the eighth grade but her behavior is that of a fifth grader but then they say she’s twelve.  I work with teens everyday and an eighth grader is thirteen/fourteen.  This girl did not behave like the was about to go to high school.

The only good bit was the story Philip told about his brother.  I would have rather read that book.

I know this sounds bad but I feel like Arnold is trying to write like John Green.  He seemed to be trying too hard with this book.  Arnold is a talented writer and he has a lot to say; I just wish he would pick one topic and tell that story.  I just found this book meandering and boring and all about a MC that I didn’t like.  I honestly don’t know any teens who could stick with it.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

April Wrap up

Sadly, there were no bangs in April.

Please click on the book covers for full reviews.

34726469

Interesting setting but the story was too familiar

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb


34697399

Elementary writing; poor character development; awful pacing

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb


31180248

High school problems-No bueno

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 1/4


grim lovelies

Plot moves too quickly and there’s not enough world building to connect to any of the characters.

Bang Bang Rating: DNF


15704307

My co-worker and I have a challenge to recommend one book to each other.  Her recommendation was the first three volumes of Saga. I’ve read the first two and I like it so far.  Simple yet complex plot, great characters, and humorous.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb


77197

The plot was a bit obscure and meandering but I really liked it a lot and I plan to finish but these books are so LONG and I really want to finish Game of Thrones this year.  I might do this first because I don’t want to forget what happens.  I watch GOT so there’s no threat of forgetting.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Did you read any of these books? What were your thoughts?



May TBR

Leah on the Offbeat

31180248

Leah on the Offbeat (Simon Book 2)

By Becky Albertalli

Genre: Contemporary/Coming of Age

Publication Date: April 24, 2018

Bang Bang Review

Firstly, I didn’t know this was a book 2 to Simon until I saw it on the cover. I figured the characters would be the same but I just thought it was a standalone.

Secondly, I’ll skip the plot synopsis because you don’t need that.

Thirdly, this will be the last book I read by Alberalli and here’s why:

I’m WAY over 18 years old and Albertalli’s books are not written for me.  Most YA contemporary are written for teens, you say.  Yes, but there are a lot of YA contemporary books that contain themes that transcend age and I think Simon did just that.  It discussed love and acceptance and friendship where as Offbeat discussed high school problems-prom and where will I go to college? I could give two shits about those things as I’m no longer in high school and therefore cannot relate.

I had an issue with the love interest because it seemed to come out of left field.  I didn’t see any hints in Simon but if I’m wrong, please correct me.

The whole Morgan is a racist thing was forced tension and took me out of the story.  I don’t think Morgan was racist; I think she said something racially insensitive and took too long to apologize.  In The Hate U Give, Star’s friend repeatedly said racially insensitive comments over time and she tried to justify her behavior.  Morgan said one thing and now all of a sudden she’s racist.  Many of us have said insensitive things; that doesn’t make us the worst name you can call a person. Anyway, it was forced and pointless to the plot.

Leah was a far better character in Simon.  She was insightful and witty and relatable. In her own book, we are stuck in her head all day and it’s full of tropey teen angst and bitchiness-what did she mean when she said that? Why did he look at me like that? UGH- TEEN PROBLEMS! Leah didn’t like her mother’s new boyfriend-how many times have we read this trope.  Leah’s attitude about this situation seemed out of character. Leah is supposed to be a cool chick but her attitude about the new boyfriend was that of a basic chick and once again-TEEN PROBLEMS! Albertalli offered no new insight on a teen dealing with her mom moving on.

Just like The Upside of the Unrequited, this book was not written for me and I couldn’t pull any relatable themes for a person my age.  There were too many characters to connect with any of them and the more round characters displayed no nuance-this includes Leah. Albertalli isn’t adding anything new to the coming of age narrative.  I do think teens will like it and I will recommend it to teens but not to adults.

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbomb 1/4

Devils Unto Dust

34697399

Devils Unto Dust

By: Emma Berquist

Genre: Paranormal/Zombies

Publication Date: April 10, 2018

Bang Bang Review

After a virus killed her mother, Will is left to take care of her three younger siblings. Will’s father, a gambler and drunk, stole money from a zombie hunter and the hunter threatens to hurt her siblings if Will doesn’t return the money. Will hires two hunters to help her travel to find her father. Simple plot? Yes but there are a whole bunch of ways to screw it up.

Let’s begin by saying that this book is 500 freakin’ pages with a whole bunch of short chapters.

Devils began well enough with a teen girl who is left to care for her family in a zombie/virus infested world. There’s some initial tension build up but that fades pretty quickly as there’s little to no world building or nuanced characters.  We don’t learn what year it is until midway through and that’s not neccessarily a problem but it would have helped to picture the world since the author didn’t.  I hate when new worlds are told in first person! In some books such as Dread Nation, the world is info-dumped-no bueno.  In this book, we’re barely told anything.

Another problem with 1st person POV is that if the main character dies, the story abruptly ends.  At one point, Will gets sick and the author tries to create an intensity of her impeding death but we know she’s not going to die because SHE’S TELLING THE STORY!  Some authors have killed the 1st person POV but it’s at the end of the story not the middle.

The writing was elementary. There were several instances in the book where Will and her fourteen year old brother argue like children and not people who have had to grow up really quickly because their parents left.  “She started it.” Yes, this is a sentence uttered in this book a couple of times. There were pages of these pointless and juvenile arguing and it became comical and humor was not the intention of the author.  There was no substance to any of their conversations.  When characters are placed in a situation of dire circumstance, they often have strong opinions of life and love and death but none of that happens in this book.

If you are looking for a good book about the meaning of life and family and hopes and dreams with meaning and insightful dialogue and strong and special characters, this ain’t it. I don’t read a lot of zombie books but I’d recommend In the After by Demitria Lunetta or reread The 5th Wave.

Bang Bang Rating bombbomb

March Wrap Up-Any Bangs?

Hell NO!

March was a slow month for new pubs and my reading reflects it also. I didn’t feel like reading much so there’s that. As always, please click the cover or title for a full review (not all titles have reviews).

Because of my podcast with Roulette Reader, I try to only read books published in the month we are currently in.

Here’s our March best and worst podcast 

35297394

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

Basic writing and weak character development.  This got picked up by Netflix-SERIOUSLY?

Bang Bang Rating bombbomb


Dance of Thieves_FINAL 9.18

Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson

A little sluggish in the middle but great character development and story.

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbombbomb


33810737

The Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro

Cavallaro is a good writer I just wish she would focus.

Bang Bang Rating: DNF


34

The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien

Unpopular Opinion Time-Lots of info-dumping. I’ll watch the movies but I won’t finish the books.

Bang Bang Rating: I’m not rating it-LOL


34726469

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Nothing new to see here folks but I liked the characters.

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbomb 3/4


April TBR

I’ve decided to start some adult fantasy and Robin Hobb came highly recommended. If I like it, I’ll read book two this month.  Roulette Reader and I have a challenge where I’m making her read a book and vice versa.  She recommended Saga, the first three volumes.

Sky in the Deep

34726469

Sky in the Deep

By Adrienne Young

Genre: Fantasy/Vikings

Publication Date: April 24, 2018

Bang Bang Review

The Aska tribe and the Riki tribe are life long opposers and every five years they meet on the battlefield.  During the battle, Eelyn sees her brother she thought was dead fighting for the opposition.  Desperate for answers, Eelyn follows her brother only to find her self in captivity by the Riki.  In an effort to escape, Eelyn and her Riki captors discover a bigger clansman threat and must band together or die.

So this story is not new. We have a Katniss-like warrior who loves her people over all else and would never betray them.   They mourn their fallen while blaming the enemy never caring about killing the loved ones of their enemies that is until our MC is forced to live and get to know them.  There’s an enemy guy with a compassionate soul and a little boy who loves unconditionally.  Basically, it’s the last two episodes of Game of Thrones where the family squabbles are pointless when the white walkers will wipe everyone out if they don’t fight together.  What’s different is the setting-a Scandinavian type land.

We’re not getting anything new here but the writing is good enough to keep the reader interested.  The pacing however was a problem.  The first half took place over a matter of six weeks or so and the last half took place over six days.  I’ll use a GOT reference again.  It’s like when it took Arya seven seasons to get back to Winterfell but in the seventh season, it took Jon Snow an episode to get to Dragonstone.

There was a slow burn romance that was adequate and sweet. Have I shipped better couples? Yes but they weren’t the worst (Chaol & Nesryn-gross). Although I don’t understand going to war every five years because it’s just what you do, I didn’t hate it. Maybe that’s the Viking way and I don’t know my history.  It wasn’t nuanced enough to give it higher than…

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbomb 3/4

The Dance of Thieves

Dance of Thieves_FINAL 9.18

The Dance of Thieves

By Mary E. Pearson

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: August 7, 2018

Bang Bang Review

Disclaimer: If you are saying to yourself, “Self, I didn’t like Kiss of Deception even though lots of other people loved it. Maybe I’ll try Pearson’s new book.” You are probably not going to like Dance of Thieves because the tone is extremely similar to KOD.  It’s long, 460 pages, there’s a journey on foot early on, and there’s lots of story and character development. If you like plot driven story, you are going to think this is slow.

Now on to the review. It’s six years after the big battle and Lia is the Queen of Venda. She has an army called Rahtan and our main character Kazi is a member of that army.  Kazi was orphaned at six and grew up as a street rat in the Komizar’s Venda. She found herself in Lia’s army and a loyal servant of the new Queen.  There’s a traitor in a nearby settlement and Kazi and her five person crew must infiltrate, locate the traitor, and bring him back to Venda.

Jase is the new leader of his town and his family rules all.  When Kazi and the Rahtan come to his town, he wants answers but is soon publicly humiliated by Kazi and wants retribution.  Originally at odds, Jase and Kazi find themselves chained together by slavers and must rely on each other for survival.

I’m not going to give a long review but DOT has great character development in Kazi and Jase and Pearson is a beautiful storyteller.  The beginning is really strong and I loved Kazi and Jase. Kazi has a heartbreaking history and Jase transforms from a seemingly spoiled brat to a compassionate leader.  It did get a bit sappy between the two and I think it dragged a bit in the middle. This book could have been about 50 pages shorter.

If you are a fan of KOD, which I am, I definitely recommend Pearson’s new series.

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbombbomb

The Wicked Deep

35297394

The Wicked Deep

By Shea Ernshaw

Genre: Paranormal/Witches

Publication Date: March 6, 2018

Bang Bang Review

So there’s these three young ladies who happen along a small seaside town that absolutely HATES outsiders and I know this because the author reminds us ad nauseam. These ladies are not special besides their beauty and all the men, including the married ones, fall in love with them so the town agrees that they are witches and decide to drown them in the lake or sea or some body of water. This has become the 200 year old legend of this SMALL town and every year since those ladies were drowned, three boys are drowned. During the summer, people come from all over the country because of this legend and to see boys drown-the perfect vacation for the family.

Penny, our MC, is a plain gal who never wants to leave her town and is left to take care of her mother who is depressed over the sudden vanishing of her husband. Penny’s mother is also a tea leaf reader and has foretold that Penny will meet a mysterious guy-enter mysterious guy named Bo. Bo of course is dark and brooding. He has a nice body and great hair and he’s O so handy. Bo is a skeptic and doesn’t believe in the bullshit of these three witches but Penny does and she has a secret that I won’t share but I’ll remind you of her secret throughout my review so you can experience the agony I felt while reading this book. For 100/380 pages, Penny, her secret, and her best friend, attend an end of the year party with tropey classmates where Bo comes to her rescue. Penny and her secret spend time with Bo trimming hedges and discussing the town’s legend. The POV shifts from Penny and her secret to introduce the witches 200 years prior.

Finally after 100 pages, someone dies. Then the teens in the town loose their fucking minds and choose some random classmate to lock and tie in a boat house because they believe her to be a witch.  They have no proof and the teen captors then proceed to argue that she’s a witch and no you can’t just be judge and jury.  Hmmm, is this a modern day version of what happened to the witches 200 years ago? YES, WE’RE NOT DUMB. Penny, her secret, her best friend, and Bo just leave that girl locked up for days with no toilet.

Some stuff we all see coming happens, Penny reveals her big secret, Penny and Bo fall in love after a couple of weeks, more boys die, the mystery behind Penny’s father’s disappearance is told, and blah blah blah.

Wicked Deep had an interesting idea but the execution-YIKES!  Ernshaw tried to do something by adding the disappearance of the father and jumping back 200 years to tell the witches story but her writing just isn’t strong enough to make this book stand out. The storytelling is basic. The witches arrive and since they are independent ladies, they go to bars and drink and talk loudly-oooh scandalous.  They jokingly say they are witches and then the townspeople drown them. That’s literally how their story is told; no nuance or character development.  There’s nothing new or special about Penny or Bo and they fall in love too quickly.  And finally, this town has a population of 2000 people so if you do the math, three boys die every year for 200 years-that’s 600 people. That’s 1/3 of their town. If three teen boys were drowned every year in my smallish town, it wouldn’t be a vacation destination, people would be moving in droves.  And that ending-SERIOUISLY?!

I didn’t like this book.

Bang Bang Rating  bombbomb

Top Ten Tuesday

I haven’t done this in a while but I LOVE quotes so here are my favorite book quotes in no particular order:

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish

19547856.jpg

“People really are like house with vast rooms and tiny windows. And maybe it’s a good thing, the way we never stop surprising each other.”


28763485.jpg

“The thing about falling is you don’t have any control on your way down.”


11925514

“KISS ME, HARDY! Kiss me, QUICK!”


19542841

“We all make mistakes… but it’s also a step in the right direction. If nothing else it’s a step away from the wrong one.”


eleanor

“Macho Nachos be damned!”


harry potter 1

“It does not due to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”


six of crows

“I will have you without armor, Kaz Brekker. Or I will not have you at all.”


nick and norah

Technically it’s from the movie and not the book but I’m using it anyway-LOL

“I refuse to be the goody bag at your pity party.”


looking

“They love their hair because they’re not smart enough to love something more interesting.”


winner's curse

It’s more contextual than profound

“I don’t care.”

February Reads-Any Bangs?

YES!!

February was a slow month which caused me to lower my Goodreads goal from 70 to 50-YIKES. But I don’t want to stress myself out when October approaches and I’m 30 books behind.

I read some shitty books and one fantastic book.  As usual, click the picture or the title for a full review.

last beginning

The Last Beginning by Lauren James

I read this for SLJ (School Library Journal) so I can’t review it until after it is published.


losing leah

Losing Leah by Tiffany King

DAMN this book was disappointing.  Leah’s development was poor and there were no answers to her issues.  The pacing was bananas and some things were unrealistic.

Bang Bang Rating: bomb


elena mendoza

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson

Great premise but the execution…Too many people giving Elena too much advice-it dragged down the plot.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb 3/4


immortal reign

Immortal Reign by Morgan Rhodes

I stopped caring. I’m just glad it’s over.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb


furyborn

Furyborn by Claire LeGrand

So this book is pretty great. There’s strong female friendships and complicated villains and uncertainty of identity and cliffhangers and a fascinating world and secrets and you just need to read it.

I want all the SWAG and I want to meet Claire.

bang




February TBR

  • Finally reading Lord of the Rings.  I haven’t seen any of the movies so I know nothing about it.
  • Kiss of Deception is in the top five favorite fantasy series of all time and I’m really excited to read Pearson’s new series. If you haven’t read Kiss of Deception, I highly recommend it but it is not a fluffy read-be prepared to take notes.
  • I highly recommend The Case For Jamie if you love Sherlock Holmes-great character development.

Immortal Reign

immortal reign

Immortal Reign (Falling Kingdoms Book 6) FINAL FREAKING BOOK!

By Morgan Rhodes

Genre: Fantasy/Game of Thrones Read-a-Likes

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Bang Bang Review

So this is the final book in the Falling Kingdoms series, HALLELUJAH, and of course there will be a final battle between good vs. evil.  I’m starting to really hate this trope in YA fantasy-the big battle/war in the final installment.  Anyway, we pick up where book 5 left off.

I’m not going to go into any details but some people live and some people die and some people grow and some people pissed me off.  I like Rhodes and I think she had a good series until she had to extend it to six books.  After book four, I began hating this series.  She brought people back to life and added new characters that didn’t make sense-WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT DAMEN CHARACTER IN BOOK 5? I personally feel like Rhodes was over this series and was phoning it in.

Rhodes does this thing where she writes a callous villain but then tries to make the reader root for them.  I think it’s important to write a sympathetic villain and I’d like to use Cersai Lannister, from Game of Thrones, as an example.  Cersai is unrelentingly callous and evil and she gives no fucks about anyone but she loves her children and she slighted because she’s a woman so we sympathize with her but we don’t want her to prevail over good in the end. I think Rhodes missed this class in villains 101 because she does this with two characters.  Lucia is basically the most horrible person I’ve ever read but Rhodes tirelessly tries to make the reader like her-NOOOOOO! And then something happens with Lucia in the end that PISSED ME OFF!  Highlight the next section to see the spoiler reason why.  Lucia ends up with Jonas-SERIOUSLY!  Why would you put Cersai Lannister with John Snow? 

I skipped thru this book because I just didn’t care anymore.  I read it out of obligation because I spent five years of my life with this series and I had to see how it ended.  What I liked about this series is that it is a bunch of tropey fun.  It’s not trying to be thought provoking or deep; it’s just fluffy fun.  The last two books just convoluted and already convoluted story and I wish Rhodes had stopped at book four.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

 

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza

elena mendoza

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza

By Shaun David Hutchinson

Genre: Contemporary/Paranormal/LGBTQ

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb 3/4

Losing Leah

losing leah

Losing Leah

By Tiffany King

Genre: Thriller/Child Abuse

Publication Date: March 20, 2018

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Review: bomb

 

Furyborn

furyborn

Furyborn (The Empirium Trilogy #1)

By Claire Legrand

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: May 22, 2018

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

Full spoiler edition

Bang Bang Rating:bombbombbombbomb 1/2

I changed my mind…

bang

January Reads

Any bangs in January?  Nope, NOT EVEN CLOSE!

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

the queen's rising

Bang Bang Ratingbomb1/2

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


dark of the west

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


list of cages

Bang Bang Ratingbombbombbomb

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



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

furyborn

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


true queen

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


immortal reign

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


orphan monster spy

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


smoke thieves

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


last beginning

I have to review this for School Library Journal.

Queen’s Rising

the queen's rising

The Queen’s Rising (Book 1)

By Rebecca Ross

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bomb 1/2

2018 ARCs!!!

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

Now onto the books

pwo4gMIKT8yMWY3yrpuVww

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

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

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

First in Line

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

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

c2wD2GJpTLiHw8fZYT5qCA

Books from this quarter’s box

December 2017: Any Bangs

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

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

one of us is lying

One of Us is Lying

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

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


see what i have done

See What I Have Done

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

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


loneliest girl

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe

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


love hate and filters

Love, Hate, and Other Filters

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

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


rebels of gold

Rebels of Gold

Bang Bang Rating: DNF

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


dear martin

Dear Martin

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

Not very deep.


you bring the distance near

You Bring the Distance Near

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

Too much telling and not enough showing.


everless

Everless

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 3/4

A little info dumpy but the idea was interesting.


batman book

Batman

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Solid story but it was a bit boring.


vicious

Vicious

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 3/4

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


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

2018 So Far

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

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

everless

Publication Date: January 2, 2018

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

You should definitely read this.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 3/4


ink iron glass

Publication Date: February 20, 2018

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb


children of blood and bone

Published March 6, 2018

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

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

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

Bang Bang Ratingbang

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


love hate and filters

Publication Date: January 16, 2018

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb


thunderhead

January 9, 2018

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

This was better than book 1.

Bang Bang Rating: bang


traitor's game

Publication Date: February 28, 2018

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb 1/2


the hazel wood

Publication Date: January 20, 2018

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

Bang Bang Rating: DNF


dread nation

Publication Date: April 3, 2018

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

Read Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin instead.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb 1/2


cruel prince

Publication Date: January 2, 2018

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

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

Read or reread Throne of Glass or Falling Kingdoms instead.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb


batman book

January 2, 2018

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

This is still worth a read.

Bang Bang Review: bombbombbomb 3/4


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

 

Most Surprising Books of 2017

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

city of saints and thieves

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb


thief

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb


gilded-cage

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2


alchemists-of-loom

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2


song of the current

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Everless

everless

Everless

By: Sara Holland

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: January 2, 2018

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spoiler edition to come.

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

Most Disappointing Books of 2017

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

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

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

These are in no particular order

that inevitable victorian thing

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

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbomb


one of us is lying

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb


wrinkle in time

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb


dear martin

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb


flame in the mist

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

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


warcross

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 1/2


a conjuring of light

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 1/2


gentleman's guide

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

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


jane unlimited

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

Bang Bang Rating: DNF


the upside

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb


goodbye-days

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb


a-ship-beyond-time

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

Bang Bang Rating:  DNF


hunting prince dracula

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb


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

Were there any books that really disappointed you this year?

Dear Martin

dear martin

Dear Martin

By Nic Stone

Genre: Contemporary/Black Lives Matter

Publication Date: October 17, 2017

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s My Point?

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbomb

Love, Hate, and Other Filters

love hate and filters

Love, Hate, and Other Filters

By Samira Ahmed

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

Publication Date: January 16, 2018

Bang Bang Reveiw

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

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

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

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

Here’s my point:

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating:  bombbombbomb

Oooh, Cute!

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

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

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

Any Bangs in November

NO!

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

As always, click the title for the full review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TBR for December

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

 

 

Iron, Ink and Glass

ink iron glass

Iron, Ink and Glass (Book 1)

By Gwendolyn Clare

Genre: Steampunk/Historical Fiction

Publication Date: February 20, 2018

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Children of Blood and Bone

children of blood and bone

Children of Blood and Bone

By Tomi Adeyemi

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: March 6, 2018

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for the spoiler edition.

Bang Bang Rating: bang

The Traitor’s Game

traitor's game

The Traitor’s Game

By Jennifer Nielsen

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: February 27, 2018

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb 1/2

Thunderhead

thunderhead

Thunderhead (Arc of the Sythe Book 2)

By Neal Shusterman

Genre: Science Fiction/Post Apocalyptic

Publication Date: January 9, 2018

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bang

FIRST BANG OF 2018!!!!!

Best of 2017

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

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

Top Ten YA Books of 2017 to Have on the Shelves

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

release

#10-Release by Patrick Ness

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

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

landscape with invisible hand

#9. Landscape with Invisible Hand by MT Anderson

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Heartbreaking yet funny science fiction story about optimism.

gilded-cage

#8. Gilded Cage by Vic James

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

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

midnight at the electric

#7 Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Great world building and character development.

strange-the-dreamer

#5. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Beautiful yet gut wrenching story

genuine graud

#4. Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 3/4

Interesting story about an anti-hero.

crooked saints

#3. All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Bang Bang Rating: bang

Thought provoking story about overcoming your fears.

the speaker

#2. The Speaker by Traci Chee

Bang Bang Rating: bang

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

DRUMROLL PLEASE

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

godsgrave

#1. Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

Bang Bang Rating: bang

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

A Skinful of Shadows

skinful of shadows

A Skinful of Shadows

by Frances Hardinge

Genre: Paranormal/history fiction

Publication Date: October 17, 2017

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

City of Saints and Thieves

city of saints and thieves

City of Saints and Thieves

By Natalie C. Anderson

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Publication Date: January 24, 2017

Review

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

The Speaker

the speaker

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

By Traci Chee

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: November 7, 2017

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bang

Any Bangs in October?

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

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

As always, please click the titles for full reviews.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

The Hazel Wood

the hazel wood

The Hazel Wood

By Melissa Albert

Genre: Magical Realism

Publication Date: January 30, 2018

Overview

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

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

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

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

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

perfect mexican daughter

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

by Erika Sanchez

Genre: Contemporary/Mexican Immigrants/First Generation American Teens

Publication Date: October 17, 2017

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

Far From The Tree

far from the tree

Far From the Tree

By Robin Benway

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Adoption/Foster Teens

Publication Date: October 3, 2017

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Books Rating: bombbomb 1/2

American Street

american street

American Street

By Ibi Zoboi

Genre: Contemporary

Publication Date: February 14, 2017

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

Landscape with Invisible Hand

landscape with invisible hand

Landscape with Invisible Hand

By MT Anderson

Genre: Science fiction/Contemporary

Publication Date: 9/12/17

Review

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbombbomb 1/4