Best of 2017

Yes it’s only the beginning of November but all the good books have been published so I doubt I’ll be reading any 4.5-5 star books.

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

release

#10-Release by Patrick Ness

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

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

landscape with invisible hand

#9. Landscape with Invisible Hand by MT Anderson

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Heartbreaking yet funny science fiction story about optimism.

gilded-cage

#8. Gilded Cage by Vic James

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

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

midnight at the electric

#7 Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Great world building and character development.

strange-the-dreamer

#5. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Beautiful yet gut wrenching story

genuine graud

#4. Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 3/4

Interesting story about an anti-hero.

crooked saints

#3. All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Bang Bang Rating: bang

Thought provoking story about overcoming your fears.

the speaker

#2. The Speaker by Traci Chee

Bang Bang Rating: bang

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

DRUMROLL PLEASE

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godsgrave

#1. Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

Bang Bang Rating: bang

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

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A Skinful of Shadows

skinful of shadows

A Skinful of Shadows

by Frances Hardinge

Genre: Paranormal/history fiction

Publication Date: October 17, 2017

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

City of Saints and Thieves

city of saints and thieves

City of Saints and Thieves

By Natalie C. Anderson

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Publication Date: January 24, 2017

Review

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

The Speaker

the speaker

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

By Traci Chee

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: November 7, 2017

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bang

Any Bangs in October?

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

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

As always, please click the titles for full reviews.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

The Hazel Wood

the hazel wood

The Hazel Wood

By Melissa Albert

Genre: Magical Realism

Publication Date: January 30, 2018

Overview

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

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

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

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

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

perfect mexican daughter

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

by Erika Sanchez

Genre: Contemporary/Mexican Immigrants/First Generation American Teens

Publication Date: October 17, 2017

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb