Grace and Fury

grace and fury

Grace and Fury (Book 1)

By Tracy Banghart

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: July 31, 2018

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating-ZERO

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The Cheerleaders

cheerleaders

The Cheerleaders

By Kara Thomas

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Publication: July 31, 2018

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Review bombbomb

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

dark decent

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

By: Kiersten White

Genre: Reimagination/Thriller

Publication Date: September 25, 2018

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Sadie

sadie

Sadie

By: Courntey Summers

Genre: Thriller/Contemporary

Publication: September 4, 2018

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Review bombbombbombbomb 1/2

 

May Wrap Up

Any bangs in May? Sadly, no.

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

Please click on the covers for full reviews.

pride

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

Bang Bang Rating:  bombbombbomb 1/2


strange fascinations

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb


life like

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb


June TBR

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

Life L1k3

life like

Life L1k3 (Lifelike 1)

By: Jay Kristoff

Genre: Post Apocalyptic/Cyborgs

Publication Date: May 29, 2018

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbombbomb

Pride

pride

Pride

By Ibi Zoboi

Genre: Contemporary/Re-imagination of Pride and Prejudice

Publication Date: September 18, 2018

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb 1/2