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

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


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


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


The Hazel Wood

the hazel wood

The Hazel Wood

By Melissa Albert

Genre: Magical Realism

Publication Date: January 30, 2018


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


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