Top Ten Disappointed Books from 2017 (So Far)

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

gentleman's guide

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

poisons-kiss

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

wintersong

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

carve-the-mark

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

a-ship-beyond-time

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

valiant

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

violet grenade

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

careful

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

traitor's kiss

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

caraval

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

Best Books of 2017 (So Far)

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

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

 

face like glass

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

the upside

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

x-files

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

goodbye-days

#7 Bang Bang Rating-4.0: Solid story

daughter-of-the-pirate-king

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

the-hate-u-give

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

alchemists-of-loom

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

strange-the-dreamer

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

gilded-cage

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

 

 

DRUM ROLL PLEASE……………..

crooked saints

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

Any Bangs in April?

YES!!

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May’s TBR

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

 

Little Monsters

little monsters

Little Monsters

By Kara Thomas

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Publication: July 25, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 3/4

Overview

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

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

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

Jane Unlimited

jane unlimited

Jane Unlimited

By Kristin Cashore

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: September 19, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: DNF at page 121

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

All The Crooked Saints

All The Crooked Saints

By Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: Paranormal

Publication Date: October 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bang

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spoiler Edition Podcast

The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

gentleman's guide

The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

By Mackenzi Lee

Genre:  Historical Fiction/LGBTQ

Publication Date: June 27, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 1/2

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any Bangs in March?

NO, DAMMIT!!!

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

What 2017 books have you given five stars?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcasts

 

Face Like Glass

face like glass

Face Like Glass

By Frances Hardinge

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: May 10, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 3/4

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Upside of the Unrequited

the upside

The Upside of the Unrequited

By: Becky Albertalli

Genre: Contemporary/Romance/Humor/LGBTQ

Publication Date: April 11, 2017

Bang Bang Review: bombbombbombbomb

Review

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

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

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

Traitor’s Kiss

traitor's kiss

Traitor’s Kiss (Traitor’s Trilogy #1)

By Erin Beaty

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: May 7, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

Podcast Review

Any Bangs in February?

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

Click the book titles to read full reviews.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Ten Tuesday

Favorite Quotes.

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

The second set are my favorite quotes.

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

Goodbye Days

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Goodbye Days

By Jeff Zentner

Genre: Contemporary

Publication Date: March 7, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

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

A Ship Beyond Time

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

By Heidi Heilig

Genre: Fantasy/Time Travel

Expected Publication: February 28, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb 3/4

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hate U Give

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The Hate U Give

By Angie Thomas

Genre: Contemporary

Publication Date: February 21, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/4

Review

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

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

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

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

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

 

Valiant

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Valiant (The Valiant #1)

By Lesley Livingston

Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fantasy

Published: February 14, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daughter of the Pirate King

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

By: Tricia Levenseller

Publication Date: February 28, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hunted

hunted

Hunted

By: Meagan Spooner

Genre: Fantasy/Beauty and the Beast Retelling

Expected Publication Date: March 14, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 1/2

I received this ARC from Harper Collins at ALAMW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strange the Dreamer

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Strange the Dreamer

By: Laini Taylor

Expected Publication Date: March 28, 2017

Genre: Fantasy

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Review

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

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

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

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

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

Spoiler Edition of Strange The Dreamer

January Read Pile. Any Bangs?

 

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

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

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

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

Click the titles for full reviews, except Harry Potter.

The Last of August

Wintersong

Carve the Mark

The X-Files

The Careful Undressing of Love

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

The Careful Undressing of Love

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The Careful Undressing of Love

by Corey Ann Haydu

Genre: Magical Realism

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

Unfortunately, Undressing was formulaic.  I anticipated every turn.

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

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

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

Carve the Mark

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Carve the Mark (Carve the Mark #1)

By Veronica Roth

Genre: Science Fiction/Space Travel

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb 1/2

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Last of August

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The Last of August (Charlotte Holmes #2)

By Brittany Cavallaro

Genre: Sherlock Reimagination/Mystery

Expected Publication Date: February 14, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The X-Files: Agents of Chaos

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

By Kami Garcia

Genre: Mystery/Paranormal

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wintersong by S. Jae Jones

wintersong

Wintersong

By: S. Jae Jones

Genre: Fantasy/Reimagination

Expected Publication Date: February 7, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

You can listen to our podcast or read the review.

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TBR: January 2017

bang-bang-to-reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alchemists of Loom

alchemists-of-loom

Alchemists of Loom (Loom Saga #1)

By Elise Kova

Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk

Expected Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gilded Cage

gilded-cage

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1)

By Vic James

Genre: Science Fiction/Alternate Universe/Fantasy

Expected Publication: February 14, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 3/4

Review

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

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

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

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

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

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

caraval

Caraval (#1)

By: Stephanie Garber

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: January 31, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

Listen to the full podcast

Poison’s Kiss

poisons-kiss

Poison’s Kiss (Poison’s Kiss #1)

By Breeana Shields

Genre: Fantasy/ Indian Folklore/Cultural

Expected Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Bang Bang Rating:

Review: bombbombbomb

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

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

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

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

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

Dreamland Burning

dreamland-burning

Dreamland Burning

By Jennifer Latham

Genre: Historical Fiction

Expected Publication Date: February 21, 2017

Bang Bang Rating:bombbombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

crooked-kingdom

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2)

By Leigh Bardugo

Genre: High Fantasy

Publish Date: September 27, 2016

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

The Bad

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

Overall

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

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

Review of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

nevernight

Nevernight (Nevernight Chronicles #1)

by Jay Kristoff

Genre: High Fantasy

Published

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bad

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

Overall

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

Empire of Storms

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass Series Book 5)

By Sarah J. Maas

Fantasy

Published: September 6, 2016

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb1/4

 

Overview

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

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

The Good 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bad

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

Overall

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

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

 

10 Things We Hate About YA Fantasy

If you are like us and read A LOT of YA fantasies, there are probably several reoccurring things that bother you about them.  Elise from Roulette Reader and I listed our top 10.  These are in no particular order.

Check out our podcast.

  1.  The Waffle House-Make a decision already, GEEZ!
  2. Deus Ex Machina- Fight your own battles, dammit!
  3. The Lonely Island-Get yourself some girlfriends, girlfriend.
  4. The Guinevere Complex-Brown eyes are beautiful too.
  5. Good Morning Info Dump-Spread the wealth.
  6. Tale of a Million Cities-I can’t keep up with all these dang names!
  7. The Evil Plan-Thanks for telling me your plans so I can now defeat you.
  8. I Would Walk 500 Miles-I hope your journey is a long (and interesting) one.
  9. The War Strategist- You were a pickpocket and now you are winning wars? Nope
  10. Empty Affirmation-I’m a good person. People like me.

Join us on September 1st as we talk about our book hangovers.

https://plus.google.com/events/c9tvbcrfqh9igau6m3dnuodh5u4

Beauty of Darkness

beauty of darkness

Beauty of Darkness (Remnant Chronicles #3)

By Mary E. Pearson

Genre: High Fantasy

Publication Date: August 2, 2016

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 3/4

Overview

Lia and Rafe have barely escaped Venda and Rafe must get his entire entourage to Dalbreck before Kaden and the Komizar finds them.

The Good

  • Team Lia. One of the campaign slogans is Team Lia and if you go to a tour stop, you can get a sticker that says such.  Basically it means that there is no Team Kaden or Team Rafe and that Lia is strong enough to bring down the Komizar, the Dragon, and the traitors in Morrighan.  What’s good about this is that Lia is the same strong heroine she was since book one.  Yes, she has grown but Kaden and Rafe don’t save the day; Lia saves it.  I won’t say how she saves it; you’ll have to read the spoiler edition.
  •  Never Predictable.  We know going in that Venda is going to storm Morrighan and that Lia has to sacrifice herself and that the Chancellor is a traitor. But even though we know all of this, there are several twists to the plot and you never quite know who the bad guys are until the end.
  • Relationships. Lia and Rafe have their squabbles but their arguments are mature.  I think some authors feel pressure to create tension between lovers and their disagreements become immature shouting matches.  I thoroughly enjoyed the relationship between Lia and Rafe and Lia and Kaden.
  • All the other stuff I liked about the first 2 books.  Kiss of Deception Heart of Betrayal. My coworker and I also podcasted a reread of books 1 and 2 so check it out of you are interested in breaking them down chapter by chapter.

The Bad

  • Very Long. 670 Pages Long. The only problem I had was that it was a bit too long.  In the first two books I felt everything drove the plot at 80 MPH but there were parts of this book where the chapter was driving the plot but it was at 30 MPH.  I know Mary was trying to tie up all the storylines but after awhile I just wanted to get to the battle.
  • I actually had one other problem but you read about it in the spoiler edition.

Overall

The Remnant Chronicles is my fourth favorite series of all time and I enjoyed every word of it.  The world building and the characters and the intense plot was one of a kind and although I’m sad to see it end, I’m glad I discovered this wonderful series.

Spoiler Edition

 

A Torch Against the Night

torch against the night

The Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2)

By Sabaa Tahir

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: August 30, 2016

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 3/4

Overview

Torch picks us immediately after Elias and Laia are on the run from the Commandant and the masks to get to Kauf to rescue Laia’s brother.  Now that Elias is an enemy to the empire, it is up to Helene the Blood Shrike to find him and publicly execute him but can will she be loyal to the crown or loyal to her best friend?

The Good

  • Action Packed. From the first page, this book is non stop action. This is basically a “road trip” book and Elias and Laia have several encounters on their way to the prison.
  • Helene. Helene becomes a more developed character.  As Blood Shrike she has to get her men to respect her as a woman and she has to do the bidding of Marcus and the Commandant even when she doesn’t agree with their motives and methods.  We also meet her family and learn more about her backstory.  I really like Helene because she’s strategic and logic and honorable.
  • World Building & Mythology. I enjoy Tahir’s vast, diverse world. We are introduced to the tribe that raised Elias and alternate worlds.  There’s also some good war strategy going on.
  • New characters.  There are a couple of new characters that are interesting-Harper and the warden.  I hope they make an appearance in book 3.

 

The Bad

  • Laia. I do not like this girl.  I didn’t really like her in book one but I was hoping she grew a bit more since the end of book one but I don’t think that’s the problem.  She’s just not a very dynamic character.  Yes, she’s driven to find her brother and that’s admirable but that’s all she’s got going for her. Unfortunately, that’s not an original plot line and there isn’t much that makes Laia’s plight stand out.  There are moments when she’s incredibly brave but at the same time she’s flighty. I know that makes her flawed but not in a good way.  I’ll explain further in the spoiler edition below.
    • I don’t understand why every man she meets falls in love with her. What does Elias see in her? Helene is a MUCH better woman.
  • Marcus. He was terrible in the first book but he’s worse now I feel like there was no character development to make me hate him.  In book 1, the commandant was a great villain and we got some of her backstory and perhaps a reason why she was a psychopath but unless I missed Marcus’ backstory in book 1, I don’t understand why he is the way he is.  I feel like Tahir is turning him into Ramsey Bolton from Game of Thrones and if you are familiar with the series you know what I mean. If you are unfamiliar, Bolton is by far the most vile person I’ve every read/seen in a fictional story.
    • I know Marcus doesn’t have his own chapter so it’s difficult for the reader to learn more about him but something must to be done to develop him because the way it’s written, I can’t hate him if I don’t know him.
  • Info Dumping. Yes, this happened a couple of times which sucks because Tahir writes such great story lines.  I just wish she would write it so the reader can figure it out or spread it out through out the novel and not dump all the major reveal in one chapter.
  • Helene’s Family. I’ll explain in the spoiler edition.

Overall

I gave Ember a 5 so I was really bummed that I didn’t like this book more.  The unlikable heroine and the lack of a meaty story blew out the torch in this book.

Spoiler Edition

The Raven King

raven king

The Raven King (Raven Cycle Book 4-Final Book)

By Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: Paranormal

Published

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Overview

The appearance of Gwenllian and Artemus brings new hope of finding Glendower to Blue and the Raven Boys but when something deadly seeps into Cabeswater and with Gansey’s impending death premonition, the teens now fear they are running out of time.

The Good

  • Characters-Stiefvater is a master at the character development.  I personally feel like the reason why this series is so successful is Gansey, Ronan, Adam, Blue, and Noah.  Even the supporting characters are weird and funny and amazing.  Piper could have easily been a vapid self absorbed character but she’s so over the top it’s not a stereotype; she’s comic relief.  And what the hell was Laumonier?  I don’t know but he was fantastic and I wish there was more of him (them?).
    • There are 20 characters that are mentioned several times and or have their own chapter and ordinarily this would be an issue but because they all have distinctive personalities, I was never confused and they all contributed to the plot.
  • Themes-Everyone will come away with their own interpretation of the plot and according to Ruta Sepetys, it’s not what the author is trying to tell you it’s about what you got out of it.
    • I loved the friendship the main five characters shared and we would all be lucky to have friends like these.
  • Against Tropes– I hope editors are reading this series because insta-love, fight scenes, jealousy and infighting isn’t essential and this entire series proves that.
    • All the characters have common issues-abuse, mortality, sexual identity, depression, retribution, unrequited love, and greed. But it’s told unconventionally.
  • YA at it’s Finest-If there is someone who has disparaging opinions about YA and we all know someone, this series is the perfect starter book to present to them.  Bravo to Stiefvater for writing a book full of character development and world building and folklore and not being afraid to tell a dense story.
    • I read Raven Boys three years ago when I was new to YA and I gave it three stars.  As I reflect back on the series, I don’t think I was fully aware of what YA could be and I found the book confusing.  Dream Thieves changed my mind (after I read it a second time) and besides Harry Potter and Hunger Games this became one of my favorite series of all time.
    • I think Maggie should teach a master class in this series because I know I miss A LOT!

The Bad

  • I had an issue with one of the romances, I won’t say which one but you can read about it in the spoiler edition.  It just seemed out of the blue.
  • I wasn’t sure why Henry was there.  It brought some diversity to the series but other than that, not quite sure I needed him. I liked him but I didn’t need him.

Overall

As I sit on a selection committee whose job is to pick the top ten YA books of the year, I’ve learned how to read with a critical eye.  I’ve also learned what journals are looking for when they assign starred reviews and what the upper crust selection committees are looking for when they select the NBA (National Book Award) and the Printz.  Raven King is an example of a book that should and deserves to receive all the stars and all the awards.

Selection committees look for archetype vs. stereotype characters and Gansey and Ronan would be considered archetypes. Ronan could have been the brooding bad boy stereotype but instead he has secrets and he deeply loves his family and friends and he’s wounded.  The plot is original as opposed to hackneyed (overdone plot). We’ve all read a story about a girl who’s cursed or people seeking that one wish but the Raven Cycle adds a new paranormal twist.  Raven also has many themes and conflicts which is essential for a great book.

Although Raven King will get many starred reviews and accolades, it may not win awards because it is a book 4 as opposed to a book 1 which is unfortunate.  If you are reading this review to decide if this series is for you, I strongly suggest you read this series as I believe this is one of the best series of the decade. This was a wonderful ending to wonderful series and I’m sad to see it end. 

If you’ve already read this book and love it as much as I do, please share your love with me.

I must talk about this book in depth, so please read the spoiler edition and discuss The Raven King with me.

Raven King Spoiler Edition

Born Again BEAer

I’m so excited that BEA will be in Chicago this year! I know a lot of the NY people are miffed but you guys get it every year; let us have it for once.

You’d think Chicago would have lots of author festivals because it’s…Chicago but sadly no.    Yes, there’s Anderson’s Bookstore but that is a suburb and not even a Chicago suburb and you can’t get there easily by train like you can Chicago so I don’t count Anderson’s.

Anyway, I went to BEA in 2014 but it was only one day and I didn’t get the full experience so I don’t count that.  So I’m referring to myself as a born again BEAer.

My coworker/copodcaster Elise and I are going together. Check out our podcast all about what we are excited for.

We will be there by 8am on Friday & Saturday for the wristband line so Elise can meet Maggie but I want Ghosts by Telgemeier.  She’s basically the only graphic novelist I’ll read.

Here is my schedule!  

Dawn’s Schedule

If you are going to see any of these people, let’s meet.  I’m black and I’ll have a big braided bun on the top of my head. Or stop me in the exhibit hall and say hey!  I’m awkward too so don’t be shy.

I’m a little bummed by the author list.  It seems like YALLWest had better authors but I’ll stop complaining now.  Based on the list, there will be two authors that I’ll be able to scratch off my bucket list-Jennifer Neilsen & Amy Lukavics.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Sarah Fine, April Genevieve Tuckolke, Julie Berry,  and Jeff Zentner will show up.

Hope to see you there! 

If this is your first time in Chicago:

McCormick Place:  It’s huge and I believe it’s one of largest exhibit hall facilities in the country.

  • It’s easy by cab. Just say “McCormick Please.”
  • Just like the Javits, good luck finding an outlet.
  • Unlike the Javits, the wifi is great.
  • I’ve never had a problem with the floor. I hear the Javits has a concrete floor which is quite uncomfortable but I’ve been to many a conference at McCormick as well as other exhibit halls and my foot pain has been consistent.
  • Plenty of places to eat inside and outside the exhibit hall including Connie’s Pizza, Starbucks, and McDonalds.

Food

  • Portillos-Looks like a little village with great burgers.
  • Garretts-It’s popcorn and it good.
  • Lou Malnati’s or Giordano’s-If you must get deep dish.
  • Eli’s or Cheesecake Factory-Cheesecake, enough said.
  • The Weiner Circle-You want the staff to tell you to go fuck yourself? Order ketchup on your hotdog.  It’s okay, getting cursed out by the staff is part of the experience.

Shopping

  • Remember at the end of every Oprah Show when she said the Magnificent Mile? You can go there.
  • American Girl Store: It’s Huge!
  • Water Tower-It’s an 8-story mall.

The Sites

  • Navy Pier-It’s more than just the Ferris Wheel where they filmed Divergent.
  • Millenium Park-That’s where The Bean is.
  • The Sears Tower-Well, it’s actually called the Willis Tower now but Chicagoans still call it Sears Tower and we always will dammit!
  • Grant Park-That’s where the big fountain AKA Buckingham Fountain is.
  • Museums-Shedd Aquarium; The Museum of Science & Industry & Field Museum

buckingham

Chicago is a great city & I hope you enjoy it!

Have other questions about Chicago or McCormick? Ask below.

Top Ten Tuesday

Ten of the most recent five star ratings (or bang). As I went back through my GR, I realized that I don’t give a lot of bangs so I had to go back pretty far to get ten-fascinating. I do give a lot of 4.5s and 4.75s and I haven’t given any bangs so far this year.

Click on the titles to read my full review.

  1.  Queen of Shadows-By far my favorite of the series.
  2. The Walls Around Us-This is a dark magical realism tale of a ballerina who stops at nothing to be the best.  There’s also a slight nod to Orange is the New Black.  If you like creepy yet empowering books, read this NOW!
  3. Six of Crows-This was my number 1 read of 2015.  If you are waiting to read it, don’t.
  4. More Happy Than Not-This was the first debut I think I’ve ever given 5 stars to.  Adam Silvera is also my favorite author.
  5. Challenger Deep-It deserves the NBA; great book

6.  Bone Gap-This was my second fave of the year and it was my fave when I read it February ’15 and I didn’t think anything was going to top it.  Bone Gap is magical realism with a large dose of feminism.  If you are tired of fluffy books and are ready for a thinker, grab this one quickly.  It just won the Printz award which is awarded to the best YA book of the year and it’s well deserved.

7.  Wolf by Wolf-I hate historical fiction but this book was fantastic.  I think this is an incredibly under rated book so if the idea of Hitler’s plan for an Aryan race prevailed past WWII and a Jewish girl who can skin shift to look like anyone is tasked with assassinating Hitler intrigues you, READ IT NOW.

8. Grasshopper Jungle-I know a lot of people didn’t like this but I usually love books that are extremely different from what I’ve ever read.  If you didn’t like GJ, I encourage you to hear Smith speak, he’s dynamo!

9. Winner’s Curse-I liked this so much I read it twice and I RARELY reread books.  Kestrel has become my favorite heroine and is second only to Hermione.  If you are waiting to read it for all three books to be published, today is your lucky day b/c Winner’s Kiss came out today and when I’m done with this post; I’m off to BAM to buy it!!!

10. Kiss of Deception-This was my favorite read of 2014.  This is 2/4 books I’ve ever reread. Coincidently, my coworker Roulette Reader and I are podcasting a reread of KOD so scroll down for details.  Anyway, the world building and storytelling is AMAZING! I think many people got caught up in the supposed love triangle, but this book is SO MUCH MORE.  If you want to know how much more, I encourage you to check out the first episode of the reread.

____________________________________________________________

Below are podcasts Roulette Reader and I have done.  Please listen and enjoy.  We’ve since changed our format. You can now find The Small Print Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes. You can also follow us on Twitter at @smallprintpod.  Feel free to ask us questions to us to answer on our weekly podcast-every Wednesday.  

25 Bookish Things About Me

25 Bookish

I saw this tag on Arctic Books and it looked like fun so here goes…

  1. Before I read any book, I always check to see the page length.  I don’t know why. Whether the book is 700 pages or 150 pages, if I want to read it; I will.  All I know is that I’ve done this my entire chapter book reading life.
  2. I hate sad stories so I avoid realistic fiction like the plague.  I’ll only read it if I have to.
  3. I like a happy ending.
  4. I always read the book before I see the movie however, I won’t read the book if it’s a TV show.
  5. I do not buy books sight unread.  I will only buy a book after I read it and loved it and…
  6. Plan on getting it signed by the author.  I only want…
  7. Hardcovers signed by authors-no ARCs or paperbacks.
  8. I usually try to have the author write a quote from their book or BLANK loves BLANK IMG_1503forever.
  9. After reading a book I really liked, I check the author’s site to see if they are speaking in the area.  I also look to see if they live in the Chicago area so I can invite them to my teen book club.
  10. If I only liked one book from a series, I will only buy that book to have the author sign.  I won’t buy the entire series.  For example, I only own and have Stiefvater’s signature on Dream Thieves and I probably won’t buy Raven Boys or Blue Lily.  Don’t judge me.
  11. I am deeply ashamed of this but I don’t buy a lot of books.  Because I’m a librarian, I get free books hand over fist. I’m not bragging, just stating the facts.  I’ve probably only purchased 10 books in the past 2 years. If I kept all the free books I’v obtained over the past three years, I’d own over 300 books. But…
  12. I only own about 30 books. I just bought a bookshelf two months ago.
  13. I prefer to read hardcovers over paperbacks because they lay better but…
  14. I really like eBooks because I can read them in the dark and I seem to get through them faster and I can take notes and I can look up vocab easily.
  15. I always take the jacket off when I first get a book to see if there are any surprises. IMG_1754
  16. I don’t like to read backwards. That means I don’t like to read books from the previous year and prior so I try to read as many books as I can from the current year so I don’t miss anything.
  17. I’m trying to collect every edition of Harry Potter.  This will be an expensive endeavor seeing as there’s a new edition every year.  I’m still working on first editions, so if anyone has any they’d like to trade, let me know. Thanks!
  18. I can only read one book at a time.  I don’ t know how people can read multiple books at once-fascinating.
  19. I have an author bucket list.
  20. Exhibit halls are my sport.  I leave the day in pain and dehydrated but it’s worth it.  I also love to see my coworker’s face the first time they experience an ALA exhibit hall.
  21. I don’t judge books by their cover.
  22. I’ve been told that I’m very picky about the books I read.
  23. I don’t read crappy books-that’s my personal motto.  I ALWAYS check the GR rating.IMG_1611 If it’s under 4.0, it’s highly unlikely I’ll read it.  I check Edelweiss for “much loves” and I check to see how many star ratings a books has.  If it has 20 or more “much loves” or at least 3 star reviews, I WILL read it.  I know this is sad but I make no apologies.
  24. I read an ARC as soon as I get it. I read Winner’s Crime 6 months before it was published so I’ve had to wait a year and a half for the last book.  I don’t wait until all the books are published although I see the appeal.
  25. Bookmail is the highlight of my day.

 

So what do we have in common?

This Week in Libraryland: Eyebrows on Fleek

this week in libraryland

This week in libraryland is my weekly post about life as a YA Librarian.  I have been a YA “librarian” for three years and for two of those years I have been working with Elise.  Being a YA librarian means you are a reader, a programmer, a techie, a listener, a venter, a friend, and so much more.  Everyday is never the same.

Monday: Bring on the Funkos

IMG_1611I bought two new Funkos! I like to buy one every pay period but I splurged this time and bought two.  I also received my Gathering of Shadows pre-order.  (Click the title for my review).

A couple of months ago, a teen came into the office and told us that a book Elise recommended had turned her into a reader.  She was currently working her way through Kasie West books and I told her that she should Tweet Kasie to express her love of her books. Of course she didn’t so I did it for her and Kasie sent the teen some signed postcards in the mail.  The arrived Monday and I gave them to the teen who promptly went home to fangirl to her mother.  This doesn’t happen too often, but when it does it’s a great feeling.

IMG_1610

Tuesday: Bookmail

As I’ve said in previous posts, I am not doing ARC reviews this year because I am on the Best Fiction For Young Adults Committee and we read nominated YA books and pick the top ten titles at ALA.  Because I’m to remain unbiased, I cannot do reviews.  One of the perks of being on the committee is the books.  Sorry, can’t show the titles.  If you’ve read a book in 2016 that you think should be nominated as the best of the year, click here to fill out the nomination form.

As you can imagine, books are constantly coming into the library to be shelved for the public.  Today was a particularly busy book mail day. Here is the tower of boxes from Baker and Taylor.

Wednesday: Pranks and Presentations

IMG_1624Tuesday was Elise’s birthday and we walked into the office to see all of her stuff mysteriously missing and in its place were a bunch of Nick Cage pictures.  So the prank war continues.

Elise and I will presenting at ALA in Orlando with two librarians from Vernon Area in Lincolnshire, IL.  Our presentation is called The Art of the Con and we’ll be presenting on Saturday, June 25th at 8:30-10:00 am.  If you are a library worker and you’re interested in hosting a comic con, maker con, or author con at your library, join us.

IMG_1625

Thursday: Eyebrows on Fleek

IMG_1614This is my Thursday-Good Grief!

Today we went to our district high school to check out mangas to the students.  While we were waiting for the students, we noticed a bald mannequin with stunning eyebrows and we had to take pictures of those fabulous brows.  Incidentally, her name is Beatrix.

 

It was a bit of a long week and we used Elise’s birthday to go out for pizza and Long Islands.

 

Friday: Renaissance Art Walk

The same high school we visited the previous day holds their annual art walk at our library.  This is an world history class assignment where the students make original art based on a classical piece of art in history.  It’s set up like a gallery and parents come to see their students’ work.  The pieces are also judged.  It’s always amazing to see the talent of teens.

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This was supposed to be my short work week but that’s the life in libraryland, you never know what the day holds.

Getting ready to watch the last episode of Downton so see ya next week.

This Week in LibraryLand: President Snow is Dead…Again

This week in libraryland is my weekly post about life as a YA Librarian.  I have been a YA “librarian” for three years and for two of those years I have been working with Elise.  Being a YA librarian means you are a reader, a programmer, a techie, a listener, a venter, a friend, and so much more.  Everyday is never the same.

Monday: New Blog Launch

IMG_1576Today I officially launched my other blog called Teen Services Depot for teen/youth library workers.  It’s a place for program ideas and reader’s advisory. I am looking for a co-blogger because this is a pretty daunting task so if you work in a library and you do programming for teens and you would like to blog on TSD, email me at dawnabron@gmail.com.

I also got some book mail!

Tuesday: Cover Lust

Elise and I podcasted book covers today.  Check out the Small Print Podcast to find out what covers we’re lusting after.

The prank war continues.  Elise and I hid pictures of photoshopped Nicholas Cage all over Madelynn and Rosa’s desk.  Rosa is the other adult librarian in on the prank war.

Wednesday: Smells Like Teen Reading

On April 9th, we are hosting our third annual author event.  Each year we match the theme with the books and this year the theme is 90’s grunge.  We invited local authors: Adam Selzer, Jessie Ann Foley, and Julie Halpern.  We like to use our teen patrons in the publicity so we took pics around the library of Annie and her pics will be on the invites and posters.  This is what they look like-pretty good if I must say so.

ARC Box! The ARC box from Baker and Taylor came today and that’s always a bright spot to our week.

Our grant funded tech program starts next month and we are proofing the flyers before they are sent out to schools.  What do you think?

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Thursday: Minecraft Club

Today is our monthly Minecraft Club and today the teens had to do The Hunger Games challenge.  Instead of the challenge being the last one standing, they had to defeat President Snow.  Elise was our Gamemaker and in the video, she was dropping spiders and lava on the tributes.

We have a volunteer who is redecorating our teen room with some original art.  Isn’t she talented?

This was a very long week and I felt the need to enjoy some hard lemonade.

Saturday: Black History Month

So that everyone will feel welcome, we like to mask our Black History Month programs as something else.  Our BHM program was an ice cream social in honor of the invention of the ice cream scoop that was invented by a black man.

Top Ten Tuesday

I Can’t Believe I Enjoyed This Book!

I don’t like sad stories and I don’t know what made me pick this up but I’m REALLY glad I did because it was one of my favs of 2015.  If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend it.

more happy

I don’t read adult fiction because I try to read as much YA as possible so that I can recommend as many books to my teen patrons as possible.  Many of my coworkers were raving about this book as well as the book world and I don’t like to miss the bus or…train, on book trends so I gave it a go.  This is a polarizing book and I really liked it.  I always enjoy an unreliable narrator and a psycho.

girl on the train

I’d heard of magical realism but decided that it wasn’t for me and then about a year ago I had nothing to read; so I picked it up.  This book got weird real quick and because I’ve decided to not DNF books anymore, I kept going and I’m so glad I did.  This book was amazing and Ruby is a lovely person and it was my 2nd fav or 2015.  I’m also happy to say that it won the Printz award for best YA fiction of 2015.  If you like mysteries; feminism; and a thinker, read Bone Gap.

bone gap

I had to read this for a book club but I’ve always wanted to read it anyway because I’m fascinated by the story.  I thought the writing was beautiful and although it wasn’t the story I’ve seen in the movies, I’m glad I read it.

frankenstein

Once again, I don’t read adult fiction and this falls in the new adult category.  I don’t know what possessed me to read this but because of it, Schwab has become one of my new favorite authors.  Her writing is so creative.

A Darker Shade final for Irene

I loathe historical fiction and I’ll only read it if I have to.  And I didn’t really like Graudin’s first book but because this was speculative, I read it.  It was a good book and I recommend it all the time.

wolf by wolf

 

Because I’ve been told that I’m very critical of books, I can only come up with 6 books.  Did any of these make your list?

This Week in Libraryland: The Runaway Chips Have Lost the Battle

this week in libraryland

This week in libraryland is my weekly post about life as a YA Librarian.  I have been a YA “librarian” for three years and for two of those years I have been working with Elise.  Being a YA librarian means you are a reader, a programmer, a techie, a listener, a venter, a friend, and so much more.  Everyday is never the same.

Monday:  Yes, We’re Open

IMG_1552Today was President’s Day and it’s a federal holiday but we were still open-YaY.  When there’s no school, we don’t have a lot of teens in the teen room so I guess it’s sort of like a holiday.

Elise and I usually podcast today but Elise called in so we postponed it.

I found out today that one of our teens who’s been coming to the library since she was 5 is going into the Navy.  Not sure what to get someone going into basic training, I took it to Twitter and was told stamps and stationary was appropriate.

Tuesday:  Bookmail

BOOKMAIL! I’m on the Best Fiction For Young Adults (BFYA) committee for 2017 and that IMG_1553means I have to read books nominated by the public and pick the top ten YA books of the year.  Because of this, I cannot do ARC reviews for the year but it could be seen as biased.  The perk, however, is that I get lots of books to read. Here’s my first shipment but unfortunately I can’t show you the titles.

Today was our weekly craft series called Designernoons and today teen could design and print their own tattoos.  This is Nate’s and I forgot what it says.

Elise’s happy dance is the Cabbage Patch but she didn’t know that was the title.  I gave her a brief history of it, since I’m A LOT older than her, and she decided to look up an informative Youtube video. She didn’t know I was taking the photo.

Wednesday: #podcastfail

IMG_1557Today was podcast day and we attempted to do our first Soundcloud podcast but Elise’s computer is a bit shitty and it deleted somehow.  Then the Google Hangout wasn’t working because her Java needed an update and my Mac wasn’t recognizing my password.  She got her Java updated and we did a Hangout but I accidentally said some stuff that needed editing and I did edits in Windows Movie Maker and NOBODY accepts Movie Maker so to make a long story short, we recorded two OTP podcasts but were unable to get it to Soundcloud.  We were however able to get out Kiss of Deception Reread: Chapters 14-27 recorded. You’re welcome.

Thursday:  I Am Malala

I mentioned this last week but our Community Reads this year is I Am Malala and all of our bookclub read and discussed it.  This week was our Millennials bookclub’s turn.

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Saturday: Runaway Chips

IMG_2989Today was our first annual Battle of the Books.  This is when teens read from a list of books and schools create their own teams to compete in a trivia contest.  Only one school could gather a team and they competed against the library team-Runaway Chips.  (The name is meaningless. I just didn’t want a bookish name). Three of our teens texted me the night before to say they couldn’t make it and one girl didn’t show up so we ended up with two team members and that is why we came in last place.

We had a watercolor Shakespeare quote program and I like both of those things. Here’s what I created.

The prank war continues! This was a picture of lady who used to work at the library and her picture ended up in my drawer-highlight of my week.

Our third annual author festival, Authors After Hours is in early April, and we are starting the promotion.  Our theme is Smells Like Teen Reading, 90’s grunge, and we get our teens to pose for our promotional materials.

This was kind of an uneventful week but this happens sometimes.  Hope you had an enjoyable week. See ya next time.

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors

I like music but I don’t think about it when it comes to books so I decided to deviate from the music and books topic and go with the top ten authors I’d like to meet and the top ten authors I have met.

Top Ten Authors I’d Like to Meet

  1.  JK Rowling-It will never happen but one can dream
  2. John Green-I had my chance a couple of months ago but it was a bad snow storm and I don’t wanna talk about it.  (quietly sobbing)
  3. Marie Rutkoski-I love The Winners Trilogy and she’s from Illinois and it should be easy to meet her but it hasn’t happened yet.  She’ll be in the Chicago land area in April but it’s so far. Hopefully she’ll be at BEA or ALA.
  4. VE Schwab-Love her books and she’s also one of those authors that I haven’t been able to meet.
  5. Rainbow Rowell-She was in Chicago a couple of months ago but I didn’t want to go by myself so I didn’t go.  She doesn’t do a lot of appearances so I doubt I’ll see her at BEA or ALA
  6. Barry Lyga-Loved the I Hunt Killers series
  7. Becky Albertalli-She’s been touring a lot but not at any of the places I’ve been.  I’m sure I’ll see her somewhere-not worried about it.
  8. Robin LaFevers-Loved His Dark Assassin Series
  9. E. Lockhart-I liked We Were Liars and I know I’m in a small club
  10. Patrick Ness-No explanation needed

Top Ten Authors I’ve Met and if you get a chance, grab it ’cause they are awesome

  1. Adam Silvera-I was going to see him at a conference and he happened to be at a Julie adam silvera signingMurphy visit the night before. I was just going to say hi and tell him I’d see him the following day but he stopped and talked to me and Elise (my copodcaster/coworker) for about 15 minutes.  He was so funny and cool and the best author I’ve ever met.  Even if you haven’t read More Happy Than Not (which you should BTW; it’s amazing) I implore you to meet Adam.
  2. Leigh Bardugo-I met her at a teen author conference and I was able to sit at a table with her for the entire day.  (I got there early and got lucky b/c her table was one of the popular ones.) She’s so down to earth and she remembered that I was one of the early reviews of her book!
  3. ava annie sabaaSabaa Tahir-Sabaa probably thinks I’m a stalker but I’m not. I was the second person in line of her signing at ALAMW 2015 when Ember wasn’t even released yet and I fangirled hard.  I had lunch with her the following day for a speed dating teen event. The following day, Elise and I were invited by her publisher for a private lunch with her and 6 other book people.  I passed her several times in the exhibit hall that weekend.  Then in May, she came back to Chicago for a different conference and she was sitting a couple rows in front of me.  She happened to turn around to scan the room and she mouthed, “Hi Dawn.” SHE REMEMBERED MY NAME!  My coworker, not Elise, who was sitting next to me was pissed because she also loves Sabaa and Sabaa didn’t say hi to her-HA!
  4. Judy Blume-I had to present at ALA 2014 and she was signing 2 hours before my presentation.  I didn’t care; I stood in her line for 1.5 hours and then hauled ass to my presentation.  I met my childhood hero!
  5. Maggie Stiefvater– I met her a couple of times and she’s always an engaging speaker.
  6. Andrew Smith-I heard him speak and this man is a hoot. He doesn’t give two shits what anyone says or thinks and I love it.
  7. Mary E. Pearson-The Remnant Chronicles is one of my faves and I got the pleasure to meet her at ALA 2014.  Once again, I had to haul ass across 114 degree Vegas weather to see her but it was worth it.
  8. Julie Berry-You know that time when an author’s line is short and you didn’t really like their book enough to gush but it’s a short line so you get a book signed and then two years later you read their second book and freaking love it and you feel bad because you met them but because you half assed your fangirling you don’t count it as meeting them? Well that’s me with Julie.  Hopefully I’ll get to fangirl properly the next time I meet her.
  9. Adam Selzer-Adam is a Chicago author and I see him at these local events.  He’s notTop ten tuesday pic 1 necessarily as big as the above authors but he’s such an engaging man.  I had two teens with me when I met him and they still remember him.  He’s such a cool person and he’s also one of those speakers who could give two shits.
  10. James Dashner-I met him at the same conference as Bardugo and I liked the Maze Runner but not enough to fangirl.  But then I met Dashner. That man is the life of the party.  I was expecting some boring fogey who took himself too seriously but Dashner was the exact opposite.  If you get to meet him, do so. You’ll have a great time.

This Week in Libraryland: I Totally Schruted That!

This week in libraryland is my weekly post about life as a YA Librarian.  I have been a YA “librarian” for three years and for two of those years I have been working with Elise.  Being a YA librarian means you are a reader, a programmer, a techie, a listener, a venter, a friend, and so much more.  Everyday is never the same.

Monday-Tax Season, Yay?

IMG_2946Today was an 11 hour day for me and it began with visiting the Adult Services work room. For those of you who don’t work in a libraryland of your own, behind the scenes of the library; there are magical offices that contain all our projects.  I used to work in the adult department and it is tax season.  You’re a librarian, not the IRS office you say? Well, tell that to the hundreds of patrons who yell at us because we don’t know what form they need to claim their tractor.  So, the government sends tax forms and workbooks to libraries for people and they seem to think we are also tax accountants.  I now work in the teen department so I don’t have to deal with that, YAY!!!

The picture of that sneak is Madelynn. She is the prankster who I mentioned last month.  I’m keeping my eye on her.

Monday jumped off Anti-Valentine’s Week and today, teens made anti love valentine conversation hearts.

RUTA SEPETYS! We went to a local bookstore to meet Ruta as she talked about her newIMG_2949 book, Salt to the Sea.  It’s always interesting to see the demographic of book visits and this one was 97% senior citizens, 2% under 40, and 1% teen.  Salt to the Sea takes place in WWII Europe so that explained the audience.

After Ruta’s speech, which was awesome, one gentleman asked why she’s always a 16 year old girl in her books.  It never amazes me how ignorant adults are about YA fiction. (I’m not using ignorant as the negative connotation as we use it now. I mean it as it appears in the dictionary-lack of knowledge).  Adults still think that YA fiction is fluff and useless and does not contribute anything worthwhile to society.  They still think teens (and adults) only read about vampires and wizards.  Anyway, if you ever get the chance to see Ruta speak, I highly advise you to make the trip.

Tuesday-Lockdown

We live in the 21st Century where we must do lockdown drills instead of atomic bomb drills.  I won’t go into it but we had to go into lockdown and usher about 100 people into safe rooms. Two hours later, the police was called again to remove a woman who was shouting in the adult department.  Fun Times!

Today was open mic night and we normally get about 15 teens but because of all the police activity, we only had 5.  We always get some very talented and brave teens so enjoy Sarah and Phillip’s brief cover of Hello.

Wednesday-Target Practice

This day was a bit mild compared to Tuesday. It was VERY busy in the teen room because The Boys and Girls Club down the street is going through some management changes this week.  They reopen on Monday-Praise the Lord!

To continue Anti-Valentine’s Week, teens took shots at hearts with a suction gun.  I highly recommend a suction cup gun for anyone because it is a rush.  It’s a good time and if you are a librarian, teen LOVE it!

C2E2. I got approved to attend C2E2 in March!  This is a comic/entertainment convention in Chicago.  Professionals get a free pass on Friday and discounted for the weekend.  So, if you are going, I’ll see you there!

Thursday-3D Printin’

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We purchased a 3D printer a couple of months ago and we are just now getting to learn how to use it.  It’s not as difficult as I thought it was going to be.

Elise attempted to make a constellation of her astrological sign and it didn’t work out so well-She totally Schruted it.  Elise loves The Office so these random quotes happen often. I on the other hand, quote Seinfeld but she never gets them. My print is in the video. Can you guess what it’s going to be?

We visit our local high school to promote teen programming and today, their teachers who have a band called, Teacher Band, did some cover music during lunch. That’s cool.

We got a new 58″ TV! 

Once a month, our teen book discussion group meets at Culver’s and this month we discussed Nimona and I Am Malala.  I Am Malala was our community reads book this month.  Everyone loved Nimona as we knew they would.

Well, I’m officially exhausted. See ya next week.

Top Ten Tuesday

Ships that Pass & Crash in the Night

My Top Ten subject is five ships that I LOVE and five ships that I LOATHE

LOVE

  1. My Favorite Ship in a Long TimeKaz & Inej (Six of Crows)
  2. She Completes HimMagnus & Cleo (Falling Kingdoms)
  3. Steamiest ShipAelin & Rowan (Throne of Glass)
  4. They Better Get Together ShipGansey & Blue (Raven Cycle)
  5. Fav New ShipEli & Oskar (Impostor Queen)

 

LOATHE

  1. Oh God, Please No!Kell and Lila (ADSOM)
  2. The Snooziest Ship in TownSafi & Merik (Truthwitch)
  3. Pick the Bad Boy, Please-Feyra & Tamlin (ACOTAR) I like Rhy better.
  4. Not Feelin’ ItKhalid & Shahrzad (Wrath and the Dawn)
  5. This Ship Made no SenseDumplin’ & Will (Dumplin)

 

This Week in Libraryland: Super Batch

this week in libraryland

This Week in Libraryland a weekly post about life as a YA Librarian.  I have been a YA “librarian” for three years and for two of those years I have been working with Elise from Roulette Reader.  Being a YA librarian means you are a reader, a programmer, a techie, a listener, a venter, a friend, and so much more.  Everyday is never the same.

This was a very quiet week for us because we didn’t have many programs or school visits. But we aren’t complaining.

Monday

We started the week with our bi-monthly podcast called The Small Print Podcast.  For the next several weeks , we will be

hosting a reread of Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson.

 

IMG_1468My last package from my secret sister came.  Mariah from @readeradventure was an amazing sister and Elise and I get to look at Benedict Cumberbatch for a whole year!

I am also getting ready for our Anti-Valentine’s Day Week of activities.  Most teens don’t have a valentine so anti-Valentine’s Day activities are always a big hit.  I also prepared valentines for our regular teen participants to say thank you for being an awesome patron and supporter of their local public library!  We will also send valentines to all the district IMG_1456teachers who support the library.

I also walked into the office to see that someone had been messing around with my Funko Pops.  Danaerys and her dragon were missing from my shelf.  I found Danaerys in my desk but the dragon went missing for two days only to find that a coworker, Madelynn, has started a prank war-IT’S ON!

Tuesday

The first Tuesdays of every month is our Digiminds Engineering Club but the last couple of months have been a bust.  Unfortunately, no one came and I had to cancel it for the rest of the year.  This happens sometimes and it’s important to not let it affect your programming.  Most librarians are now forced to do programming without any education and the important thing to remember is to do some research and try again.

I started giving our avid readers information on BookCon since it will be in Chicago this year.  Last year we took nine teens to ALA and they still talk about it being the best day of their life.  We are a poor district and there are teens who won’t be able to afford the ticket so Elise and I are trying fund raise to get them to BookCon.  If you have any fund raising ideas, please tell me in the comment box.

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Wednesday

IMG_1475Today was retro gaming day.  We set out a vintage Chutes and Ladders game and Operation that we borrowed from a co-worker.  It’s nice to see that Chutes and Ladders never gets old.

Elise and I like to stay current on popular technology and we were recently able to purchase four Raspberry Pi’s but neither one of us know how to use it.  We don’t have the luxury of having an IT dept. that knows all this techy stuff so we have to teach ourselves or go to Tinker- a networking group of librarians who share techy know how.  Ask librarians in your region if there is a Tinker-like group near you.  Anyway, a 5th grade boy showed us the website he created and we wondered if he new how to use a Raspberry Pi.  He did and he was able to give us some direction.

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Thursday

Found out that Madelynn has been on a prank rampage and it was time for payback.  IMG_1492Before she came in for the day, I took everything out of her desk drawer except one piece of gum and a paperclip.  I now fear for my life.

I had to kick out three boys from the teen room for 3 months for being disrespectful.  Of course all the other teens got quiet because they are nosy and I took the opportunity to inform them that being disrespectful to adults gets you nowhere in life.

It’s Harry Potter World Book Night and I didn’t realize it until 10pm the previous night-#librarianfail.  We always have HP stuff laying around so I found our old Azkaban mug shot photo prop and gave out chocolate galleons as prizes.

Saturday

We had a Madden Super Bowl program.  It was going to be a big deal with themed chips and a big screen but sadly we only had five participants.

madden superbowl

This is a week of program fails and pranks but next week will be different.

That Inevitable Victorian Thing Spoilers

This is the spoiler edition of That Inevitable Victorian Thing by EK Johnston.

Overview

In this alternate world, the coming out season is soon underway.  Yes, the coming out season where girls and boys of age and class attend parties during a season.  Helene is a plain jane who comes from humble means, Elizabeth is a celebrity socialite, and Margret is the princess of England and they all end up at the same party. In this world, people are matched by a Computer.  You upload your DNA and it finds your perfect match.  Some people live by the Computer and marry their match while some believe in free will.

Spoilers

So let’s begin with the okie doke-Henry and Lizzie were Helene and Margret.  I didn’t see that coming and I thought Johnston set that up quite well.  At the point of this reveal, I was really liking this book but I soon found myself not caring about their romance.  I thought it was sweet but I didn’t have an attachment to either of the ladies (they were boring as hell) so I wasn’t invested in their romance.

I hated that the American States were not explained during the novel.  All we got was that we were bigoted pirates with horrible food.  There was no explanation about what happened after the failed American Revolution but Johnston added it to the author’s note.  I know this book isn’t about American but considering a LARGE amount of people that will read/buy this book will be American, I think she could have added a little bit more backstory.

I was pretty confused through half of the book.  I wasn’t sure how the Computer came to exist.  Was it because one of the early queens didn’t want her kids to marry politically? I don’t know.  I also wasn’t sure if New London was New York or Helene’s mom actual occupation.

That entire storyline about August and the pirates was so anti-climactic-COME ON!

THAT ENDING! So August, Helene, and Margret are going to have some weird polygamist situation?  Is Helene going to be banging both of them? Or is August going to left out in the cold to watch? I’m so confused but at any rate; Johnston fairy tale endings are killing me.

That Inevitable Victorian Thing

that inevitable victorian thing

That Inevitable Victorian Thing

By: EK Johnston

Genre: Science Fiction

Expected Publication: October 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

Review

In this alternate world, the coming out season is soon underway.  Yes, the coming out season where girls and boys of age and class attend parties during a season.  Helene is a plain jane who comes from humble means, Elizabeth is a celebrity socialite, and Margret is the princess of England and they all end up at the same party. In this world, people are matched by a Computer.  You upload your DNA and it finds your perfect match.  Some people live by the Computer and marry their match while some believe in free will.  I can’t say much more because it’s full of spoilers but if you want to read the spoilers, click here.

I wanted to like this book because I liked Exit, Pursued by a Bear and this has a similar formula.  It begins as a simple story but it slowly reveals a serious subject.  Victorian Thing began quite well-it’s a new world and it was organized very strategically.  Midway through however, it began to fall apart for me.

This book is set in Canada, Johnston’s homeland, and although I live mere hours from Canada I know literally nothing about our neighbors to the north. Here’s what I know about Canada: their bacon is round ham; they make a lot of maple syrup; they dip potato chips in ketchup; it’s cold; and their prime minister is cool as hell.  I didn’t realize how little I knew about Canada until I read this book and I know this sounds bad and I apologize but I’m not interested in Canadian history.  I applaud Johnston for including Canadian historical fiction and I think teens will benefit but I didn’t know what was historical fiction and what was Johnston fiction and I usually research but I didn’t because I didn’t care.

Although all the characters were likable, none of the characters were memorable.

The world had potential because it’s the 21st century and everyone is still wearing corsets and the monarchy is head of state and everyone uses Match.com and the American Revolution didn’t happen.  I have, however, read several books where computers are a cautionary tale but Victorian Thing didn’t really do anything special with this overused plot device-bummer!

Overall, this is one of those books where at the midpoint it was pretty good but it slowly started to decline and the last 10 pages tanked it for me.

The Thief

thief

The Thief (The Queen’s Thief #1)

By Megan Whalen Turner

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: 1996

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Overview

Book 5 is coming out and it’s receiving a lot of hype so I decided to start the series to see if it’s all that.

Disclaimer: I don’t know Greek mythology so this added to my enjoyment.

Gen is a thief but not a good one because he got caught by the King of Sounis in this parallel Grecian world. One day the magnus, the king’s scholar, frees Gen and tells him he needs his expertise and thus begins their long journey.  Accompanying Gen and the mangus is a soldier named Pol, a duke’s wimpy son named Sophos, and the magnus’ asshole of an apprentice named Ambiades.

Gen has been in prison for a while and he’s a bit of a dick.  Some people may find him insufferable but I concluded that Gen knows he’s needed and he’s been in prison so he’s going to milk this for all it’s worth and it works because when he’s hungry (which is a lot) they feed him and when he’s tired they rest.  The bulk of this novel is their journey on horseback and during this time, Turner begins her character development and world building.  I was afraid that this old ass book would not provide anything new by the way of character, plot, or world building but I was pleasantly surprised. When the story opens, you don’t know anything about anyone including Gen but during their long journey, you learn everything about everyone so therefore I didn’t find it boring.  Sure, some of the characters were a bit tropey (Pol and Ambiades) but I found the magnus to be a refreshing character. The revelation of the three countries and how they intersect was well written but I really needed a map.  Hopefully the new covers/new editions include a map.

I think Turner is a good storyteller. She gave you all the information you needed to follow along.  I don’t know if this is a 1996 thing but no one had ages.  If this were published today, there would definitely be ages. Also, did anyone catch the gay undertones? Overall, this was a solid intro into a new series that I’m excited to dive into it.  I just hope that if there’s a book 6, Turner doesn’t take five years to write it.

I highly recommend you begin The Queen’s Thief Series. Don’t read any reviews because they might contain spoilers. I found some fan art that I think was spoilerish and I exited immediately.

All The Crooked Saints Spoilers

As I stated in the spoiler-free review, Crooked Saints is full of symbolism and themes so I’ll discuss spoilers through my interpretation but please be aware that I could be wrong.

Daniel: Daniel’s parents died while accidentally helping a pilgrim.  They turn into wood (not quite sure the significance of wood and if you have an idea, please share).  Before they are completely engulfed, Daniel is chopped out of his mother’s womb.

Daniel was a hellian until he tried to steal The Holy Child of Atocha painting.  He physically couldn’t lift the painting any longer and found the dedication to all the crooked saints on the back.  (This is the only time the title in mentioned in the book so here’s the significance of the title). This is a real painting with a historical significance and I think this painting awakened Daniel to fulfill his higher purpose which is to become the saint.  My copodcaster and I concluded that Daniel was a hell child because he was angry about the death of his parents and he didn’t want the responsibility of sainthood so if he was a bad person, he wouldn’t have to become the saint.

The thing Daniel wanted was to help someone he was not allowed to but he feared this desire would ruin his family like it ruined his family when his father tried to help a pilgrim.  Daniel makes the conscious decision to help Marisita, a pilgrim he loves, (I’ll talk about her later) and he runs away so he won’t bring darkness to his family.

Beatriz: The thing she wants is to devote time to understand why the butterfly is similar to a galaxy.  I tried to do some research into butterflies and galaxies and similarities but I couldn’t find any so I concluded that Beatriz wants to spend her time philosophizing and her fear is to be asked to do anything else.

When Beatriz and Daniel were 10 and 12, they discussed animals and if they could be cured with a miracle. (The Soria family had an untamed horse.) Beatriz philosophized that because horses were not human and didn’t have the concept of right and wrong, they could not posses darkness and could not be cured of a miracle.  My copodcaster and I concluded that when Daniel was still in the womb, he didn’t pass along the darkness because he had no concept of right and wrong and therefore did not need a cure.  We could be reaching here but regardless, it’s a great topic of discussion and the reason for the abortion debate.

Joaquin:  His desire was to be famous and he feared dying alone.  He wants to be a DJ and some historical fiction is his pirate radio station and the music of the 60’s makes an appearance in the novel.  Joaquin and Beatriz want to find Daniel and help him but they know if they do, the darkness will get them but they find a way to help him and all the pilgrims through music.  This was a minor theme; music has healing power/it can bring you out of the darkness.  Because of his new new DJ job, Joaquin will never die alone because he’ll always have listeners.

Marisita (Pilgrim): Marisita literally has a dress of butterflies and is constantly under a cloud of rain.  We learn that Marisita was guilted to take care of her family by marrying a man she didn’t love and concluded that she was depressed. The butterflies could symbolize not being able to take flight or Marisita not being able to be free.  Butterflies symbolize the soul/resurrection/growth.

Marisita also loves Daniel and when she admits it, her guilt releases, the rain ceases, and the butterflies fly away thus her second miracle.

The Other Pilgrims: The journey of the other pilgrims are pretty obvious and my favorite was the skirt chasing priest who had the head of a coyote.  Coyote’s are both a trickster and a teacher.

The Ending and Themes: The Soria family is afraid to interfere with the pilgrims because they don’t want to invite the darkness and this in itself is an issue-fear.  Fear is a major theme and Beatriz finally realizes that her family lives in constant fear and they too need a miracle. Beatriz decides to perform both miracles for her family by helping Daniel.

When she finds Daniel, he is dead in the arm of Marisita (Oh the feels).  As Daniel was dying, he was seeing an owl and I’m not quite sure what that means. Anyway, Beatriz sees the same owl with Daniel’s eyes and mouth.  When she tries to grab the owl, it backs away until she realizes that she needs to want a miracle for the owl to approach her.  When she relents, it approaches her and she grabs Daniel at the same time to give him back his eyes and breath but of course helping him causes the darkness to travel to Beatriz and she is now going blind. In order for Beatriz to perform the second miracle on her own, she has to admit that she does have feelings and she does love Pete before she goes completely blind.  Pete finds her, helps her, and also becomes blind but after admitting their feelings, they complete the miracle.

Themes:

  • Darkness is about shame and not because you are terrible
  • Face your demons and you can’t conquer demons alone
  • Fear holds you back
  • We must come together to be better than doing it on our own