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


The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotic

strange fascinations

The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotic

By David Arnold

Genre: Contemporary

Publication Date: May 22, 2018

Bang Bang Review

OMG, where to begin.

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbomb

Leah on the Offbeat


Leah on the Offbeat (Simon Book 2)

By Becky Albertalli

Genre: Contemporary/Coming of Age

Publication Date: April 24, 2018

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbomb 1/4

Devils Unto Dust


Devils Unto Dust

By: Emma Berquist

Genre: Paranormal/Zombies

Publication Date: April 10, 2018

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating bombbomb

The Wicked Deep


The Wicked Deep

By Shea Ernshaw

Genre: Paranormal/Witches

Publication Date: March 6, 2018

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

I didn’t like this book.

Bang Bang Rating  bombbomb

Immortal Reign

immortal reign

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

By Morgan Rhodes

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

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb


Dear Martin

dear martin

Dear Martin

By Nic Stone

Genre: Contemporary/Black Lives Matter

Publication Date: October 17, 2017

Bang Bang Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s My Point?

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

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

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

Bang Bang Rating bombbombbomb