Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

June 23, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★★★

Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi MeadowsMy Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows
Series: Lady Janies #1
Published by HarperTeen on June 7, 2016
Genres: Comedy, YA, YA Fantasy, YA Historical
Pages: 512
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
three-stars
Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

I like Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly trilogy. I like Brodi Ashton’s Everneath trilogy. Jodi Meadows’s books… Well, I gave two of them a try and they weren’t for me, which happens sometimes. But this collaborative effort still got my attention with its magical take on history. Not even gonna bother with a “read more” cut because this review is gonna be that short.

My Lady Jane is a quick read despite its size and entertaining for as long as you’re reading it. Even if I didn’t feel pressured to finish it quickly because it was due back at the library soon, I think I would have devoured it in short order anyway. Every now and then, it even elicits a giggle!

Even as I say that, the book isn’t particularly engaging or remarkable. I had no attachment to the characters or what was happening to them because they were fairly flat. Edward is the one who gets the most development and he’s still not that interesting to begin with. Even Bess, Edward’s sister whose main character trait is being nice and on her brother’s side, couldn’t get me to cheer for her. Maybe that’s because I recalled the Atlantic slave trade blossomed during her rule as Queen Elizabeth I?

So why did I keep reading if that’s how I felt about it? Reader, not even I can answer that question.

The Eðian/non-Eðian conflict–basically people-people versus animal-people–was a poor metaphor for the Anglican/Roman Catholic tensions that divided England in the mid-1500s. The book is clear about its disregard for the history we know, but in this case, actual history and its context is of much greater interest than its oversimplified metaphor. With the conflict softened thusly, it doesn’t really get why the tensions were so fierce and can’t translate it into the metaphor. Everything falls apart.

Speaking of softening things, the humor felt much more middle grade-level than YA. Most of the moments that got me laughing were actually references to other media–and references aren’t jokes in and of themselves. There’s one to Game of Thrones‘s Red Wedding, another to Monty Python’s Holy Grail, and plenty more. That’s all well and good, but references still aren’t jokes on their own!

Honestly, I disliked Ashton and Hand’s most recent books, Diplomatic Immunity and The Last Time We Say Goodbye (respectively). Is it possible I’m growing out of two of my favorite paranormal YA authors like I grew out of the Twilight books as a younger teen?! Say it ain’t so! But regardless of everything I just criticized about the book, I did give it three stars. For all its flaws, My Lady Jane is very readable fluff and a good way to get your mind off the troubles of modern times.

Summer 17 Bingo 5 My Lady Jane

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Review: Tides by Betsy Cornwell

June 22, 2017 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★★½

Review: Tides by Betsy CornwellTides by Betsy Cornwell
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Children on June 4, 2013
Genres: YA, YA Paranormal
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: ARC won in a giveaway
Goodreads
four-half-stars
When high-school senior Noah Gallagher and his adopted teenage sister, Lo, go to live with their grandmother in her island cottage for the summer, they don’t expect much in the way of adventure. Noah has landed a marine biology internship, and Lo wants to draw and paint, perhaps even to vanquish her struggles with bulimia. But then things take a dramatic turn for them both when Noah mistakenly tries to save a mysterious girl from drowning. This dreamlike, suspenseful story—deftly told from multiple points of view—dives deeply into selkie folklore while examining the fluid nature of love and family.

Diversity Rating: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 2 (Lo is Chinese)
QUILTBAG: 4 (Lo and Noah’s grandmother is gay and in a relationship with one of the selkies)
Disability: 3 (Lo is recovering from bulimia)
Intersectionality: 2 (See: Lo)

Winning a giveaway feels ridiculously good, doesn’t it? I think the only way you lose that exhilarated feeling of winning is to enter and win giveaways all the time. And maybe even then, you might not. I dunno, I’m not a regular giveaway winner. But Tides is one of the few books I’ve ever won from a giveaway! I got it from the “retweet and win” style giveaway the publisher’s account @HMHKids held right before the book’s release date.

Yeah, that was in 2013. I’M SO SUPER PUNCTUAL, I KNOW. I heard good things about it back then and I’m happy I finally got to read it. Read more »

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Review: The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June by Robin Benway

June 19, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★★

Review: The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June by Robin BenwayThe Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June by Robin Benway
Published by Razorbill on June 2, 2011
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary, YA Paranormal
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought (Used Bookstore)
Goodreads
two-stars
I hugged my sisters and they fit against my sides like two jigsaw pieces that would never fit anywhere else. I couldn't imagine ever letting them go again, like releasing them would be to surrender the best parts of myself.

Three sisters share a magical, unshakeable bond in this witty high-concept novel from the critically acclaimed author of Audrey, Wait! Around the time of their parents' divorce, sisters April, May, and June recover special powers from childhood--powers that come in handy navigating the hell that is high school. Powers that help them cope with the hardest year of their lives. But could they have a greater purpose?

April, the oldest and a bit of a worrier, can see the future. Middle-child May can literally disappear. And baby June reads minds--everyone's but her own. When April gets a vision of disaster, the girls come together to save the day and reconcile their strained family. They realize that no matter what happens, powers or no powers, they'll always have each other.

Because there's one thing stronger than magic: sisterhood.

 

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

Well, here I am. Years after buying all of Robin Benway’s books due to her outspoken support for Wendy Davis during the Texas filibuster of June 2013, I’ve read them all. And I’m honestly disappointed?I’d hoped someone so outspoken about women’s rights and feminism would have really awesome and feminist books, but The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June is such basic feminism. Yay for sisters and all, but wow, is this book white as bread and straight as a line.

Read more »

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Review: Past Perfect by Leila Sales

June 15, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Past Perfect by Leila SalesPast Perfect by Leila Sales
Published by Simon Pulse on October 4, 2011
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Goodreads
three-half-stars
A sweet and clever novel about the woes of (boy) history repeating itself, from the author of Mostly Good Girls.

All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra’s working there too. Which makes moving on and forgetting Ezra a lot more complicated…even when Chelsea starts falling for someone new.


Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off-limits, all Chelsea knows is that she’s got a lot to figure out about love. Because those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it….

Diversity: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (Chelsea is a Ukrainian Jewish girl; her camp’s teens are led in the “war” by a black girl named Tawny)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

Good God, I’ve been waiting to read this for YEARS just for the historical reenactment stuff. History is kinda my thing? I was one of the handful of kids who enjoyed field trips to historical sites like the Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Clinch. (I’ll always regret being a racist little shitnugget and buying a Confederate hat there when I was thirteen.) Still, Sales’s other novels failed me badly. Of course I’d be worried I wouldn’t like it! Read more »

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Review: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

June 13, 2017 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Review: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca ZappiaEliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Published by Greenwillow on May 30, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
five-stars
Her story is a phenomenon. Her life is a disaster.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

Diversity Rating: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 2 (Wallace’s stepmom and half-sister are black)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 5 (Eliza and Wallace are both living with anxiety disorders)
Intersectionality: 3

A couple of years ago, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell came out and everyone loved it and I thought it was pretty awful, honestly. That the fictional fandom in the book got its own massive book last year mystifies me. But Eliza and Her Monsters? Yeah, I’d pay good money to enjoy the entirety of the fictional webcomic since it’s an original story all its own rather than the barely-even-veiled Harry Potter fanfic that Carry On was. Since Zappia’s debut novel Made You Up merely whelmed me, I wasn’t expecting Eliza and Her Monsters to knock me off my feet the way it did.

Read more »

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Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

June 8, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 2 ★★★★½

Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuireEvery Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Series: Wayward Children #1
Published by Tor.com on April 5, 2016
Genres: Adult, Adult Fantasy
Pages: 176
Format: eBook
Source: Gifted
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests


Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

Trigger warning for eating disorders.

Diversity Rating: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (good mix of identities among the kids, though the core group of characters is mostly white)
QUILTBAG: 5 (Nancy is asexual (possibly heteroromantic) and Kade is a trans boy)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 5 (basically delivers the message that any kids can have a whimsical adventure)

Portal fantasy books aren’t something I think much about. I didn’t read the Chronicles of Narnia as a kid; though I’ve seen the animated and live action adaptations of Alice in Wonderland, I greatly dislike them both. Even looking at my stuffed-full bookshelf of favorites, I see maybe two books that would fit the definition. But Every Heart a Doorway has an asexual main character and I therefore had to read it. Now I’m mad I didn’t read it sooner. Read more »

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Double Review: Simon vs. the Last Boy and Girl in the World

June 5, 2017 Diversity 1, Diversity 4, Reviews 0 ★★★★½

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda/The Last Boy and Girl in the World four-half-stars

Two books, same high rating of 4.5 stars. I can’t gather enough words to justify writing individual posts for each, so let’s combine them.

Simon vsSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Balzer + Bray (April 7, 2015)
320 pages

Diversity: 4 (well-written, plentiful QUILTBAG and racial-ethnic rep but no disability rep)

C’mon, the hype has been MASSIVE for this since it came out a few years ago. It was enough to make me break my rule of not reading m/m books (they get such disproportionate coverage among QUILTBAG books that I would rather focus on f/f books and others). AND IT WAS WORTH IT.

Simon’s voice flows so well that I’m sure there’s a very jealous river out there somewhere wishing it could move so  naturally. He’s hilarious, the people around him are as excellently characterized as he is, and the book is just really fucking good. Almost everyone else has read this book before me, so I don’t think there’s anything I can add to the conversation! Just know that all those positive reviews are correct.

It teases tropes out the wazoo and is more than happy to subvert them. From Simon’s initial dislike of popular girl Taylor, you’d think she wouldn’t turn out to be a good character, but you’d be wrong! After Simon gets outed, she goes mama-bear levels of fierce on two guys who decide to bully Simon. She’s also an excellent singer and may or may not be my favorite character. Well, she’d be tied with Abby for that title, at least.

My one sticking point was a quote early on in which Simon thinks lesbians and bi girls have an easier time being out compared to gay kids like him. Yeah, it’s him being a very wrong teenage boy and Albertalli has addressed it out of the book as being very wrong, but it’s still in the book and there are a lot of people who are still going to agree with that.

Also, mmmmm, Oreos. I’ve always been a fan of Oreos, but reading this made me need some more Oreos from the store. I love Birthday Cake Oreos because I’m a trash human being with defective taste buds. What else is new?

The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan VivianThe Last Boy and Girl in the World
Simon & Schuster BFYR (April 26, 2016)
432 pages

Diversity: 1 (Disability rep in Keeley’s dad, who has been largely housebound after an injury on the job)

Something you should know if you’ve been around for a bit: I’ll read damn near any book that has to do with a man-made or natural disaster. My previous experience with Vivian’s books didn’t exactly go well, though. Did that stop me? NO SIR, IT DID NOT. Pretty good thing too because I would have missed out on a stellar book had I not given her another chance.

Vivian absolutely nails the melancholic atmosphere of the book even though the book’s narrator Keeley is the class clown. The nostalgic present-self-looking-back balances out Keeley’s personality and keeps her antics from getting on the reader’s nerves.

Really, everything about this book is so vividly written that you can almost feel the book breathing underneath your fingers. Keeley’s community, being driven from Aberdeen by flooding and the planned construction of a new dam, seems so much closer than it is. The efforts Keeley’s dad and other townspeople undertake to try and keep their town could practically come out of a nonfiction book. (I’m pretty sure one of my professors in college told us about a book like that once.)

That perfectly nailed tone and atmosphere genuinely brought me to tears multiple times and made me want to reread it even though it would just mean repeating 432 pages of pain. I like to think I’m good at telling the difference between books that are emotionally manipulative on purpose and books that pull on your heartstrings naturally. The Last Boy and Girl in the World? Yeah, it’s definitely the latter.

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