We Are Okay

we are okay

We Are Okay

Nina LaCour

Genre: Contemporary

Publication:  February 14, 2017

Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb1/2

 

Dragons of Nova

dragons of loom

Dragons of Nova (Loom Saga #2)

By Elise Kova

Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk/Dragons

Publication Date: July 11, 2017

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Review: bombbombbombbomb 1/2

Song of the Current

song of the current

Song of the Current #1

By Sarah Tolcser

Genre: Pirates/Fantasy/WNDB

Publication Date: June 6, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flame in the Mist

flame in the mist

Flame in the Mist (#1)

by Renee Ahdieh

Genre: Historical Fantasy

Published May 16, 2017

Bang Bang Rating:  bombbombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcast of 10 Things We Hate About YA Fantasy

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.

The Hate U Give

the-hate-u-give

The Hate U Give

By Angie Thomas

Genre: Contemporary

Publication Date: February 21, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/4

Review

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Careful Undressing of Love

careful

The Careful Undressing of Love

by Corey Ann Haydu

Genre: Magical Realism

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Review

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

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

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

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

Unfortunately, Undressing was formulaic.  I anticipated every turn.

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

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

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