Posts Categorized: Reviews

Review: Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

February 6, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Review: Piecing Me Together by Renee WatsonPiecing Me Together by Renee Watson
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on February 14, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 272
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars
A timely and powerful story about a teen girl from a poor neighborhood striving for success, from acclaimed author Renée Watson.

Jade believes she must get out of her neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother says she has to take every opportunity. She has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Except really, it’s for black girls. From “bad” neighborhoods.

But Jade doesn’t need support. And just because her mentor is black doesn’t mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference.

Friendships, race, privilege, identity—this compelling and thoughtful story explores the issues young women face.

Diversity Rating: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (the vast majority of the cast is black)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 5 (the book is 100% focused on the realities of black girlhood; Jade’s family is also extremely poor to the point of barely getting by)

To a class of creative writing students, half of whom were Those Guys and cited Hemingway as one of their favorite writers, I described Renee Watson’s 2016 novel This Side of Home as “a punch in the face–in a good way.” Saying I’m a big fan of what Watson writes? THAT WOULD BE AN UNDERSTATEMENT. But as much as I loved Watson’s debut, I think I love Piecing Me Together even more. Read more »

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Review: Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

January 30, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: Our Own Private Universe by Robin TalleyOur Own Private Universe by Robin Talley
Published by Harlequin Teen on January 31, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from the publisher
Goodreads
four-stars
Fifteen-year-old Aki Simon has a theory. And it's mostly about sex.

No, it isn't that kind of theory. Aki already knows she's bisexual—even if, until now, it's mostly been in the hypothetical sense. Aki has dated only guys so far, and her best friend, Lori, is the only person who knows she likes girls, too.

Actually, Aki's theory is that she's got only one shot at living an interesting life—and that means she's got to stop sitting around and thinking so much. It's time for her to actually do something. Or at least try.

So when Aki and Lori set off on a church youth-group trip to a small Mexican town for the summer and Aki meets Christa—slightly older, far more experienced—it seems her theory is prime for the testing.

But it's not going to be easy. For one thing, how exactly do two girls have sex, anyway? And more important, how can you tell if you're in love? It's going to be a summer of testing theories—and the result may just be love.

Diversity: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 3 (Aki and her brother are biracial, as is Aunt Miranda; lots of Mexican characters in the background)
QUILTBAG: 5 (three bisexual characters, an out-and-proud lesbian, use of the more inclusive LGBTQIA acronym, and the book is basically Forever… for queer girls)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 4 (really engages with the difficulties of being a queer girl and mentions racial attitudes toward queerness at one point)

At some point in your life, I hope you’ve gotten unexpected mail that was so wonderful it made you scream. I’ve had two such moments: when a letter arrived telling me I’d been offered a full-ride scholarship to a college I applied to (I recently graduated from the same college) and when Our Own Private Universe appeared on my doorstep. Talley’s previous novels with Harlequin Teen have seen a lot of criticism lately and they raise valid points. I loved Lies We Tell Ourselves and have no problem admitting that! With Our Own Private Universe, Talley is moving in the right direction and has written a book I expect parents will pass onto their children the way they do Forever… by Judy Blume. Read more »

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Review: Invaded by Melissa Landers

January 26, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Invaded by Melissa LandersInvaded by Melissa Landers
Series: Alienated #2
Published by Disney-Hyperion on February 3, 2015
Genres: YA, YA Sci-fi
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Goodreads
three-half-stars
The romantic sequel to Alienated takes long-distance relationships to a new level as Cara and Aelyx long for each other from opposite ends of the universe...until a threat to both their worlds reunites them.

Cara always knew life on planet L’eihr would be an adjustment. With Aelyx, her L’eihr boyfriend, back on Earth, working to mend the broken alliance between their two planets, Cara is left to fend for herself at a new school, surrounded by hostile alien clones. Even the weird dorm pet hates her.

Things look up when Cara is appointed as human representative to a panel preparing for a human colony on L’eihr. A society melding their two cultures is a place where Cara and Aelyx could one day make a life together. But with L’eihr leaders balking at granting even the most basic freedoms, Cara begins to wonder if she could ever be happy on this planet, even with Aelyx by her side.

Meanwhile, on Earth, Aelyx, finds himself thrown into a full-scale PR campaign to improve human-L’eihr relations. Humans don’t know that their very survival depends on this alliance: only Aelyx’s people have the technology to fix the deadly contamination in the global water supply that human governments are hiding. Yet despite their upper hand, the leaders of his world suddenly seem desperate to get humans on their side, and hardly bat an eye at extremists’ multiple attempts on Aelyx’s life.

The Way clearly needs humans’ help . . . but with what? And what will they ask for in return?

Diversity: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (Tori remains the token Latina friend, complete with occasional Spanish)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 1 (Aelyx’s bodyguard and friend has an unspecified disease he gives himself injections for)
Intersectionality: 0

One of the perks of being a book reviewer is that, if you choose to pursue review copies, you can read a book a while before the general populace does. Downside: if there’s a sequel, there’s a good chance you’ll spend more time waiting for it than the general populace does.Still, the three years between me reading Alienated and me reading Invaded is entirely my fault. Once the TBR Jar spat its name out Goblet of Fire-style and I got into the book, I wondered why I hadn’t read it pre-jar system. It’s everything you could want in a sequel: complications and extensions of everything set up in the first book as well as the exploration of new ideas and places.

Read more »

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Review: This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston

January 16, 2017 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: This Is Our Story by Ashley ElstonThis Is Our Story by Ashley Elston
Published by Disney-Hyperion on November 15, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Five went in. Four came out.

No one knows what happened that morning at River Point. Five boys went hunting. Four came back. The boys won’t say who fired the shot that killed their friend; the evidence shows it could have been any one of them.

Kate Marino’s senior year internship at the district attorney’s office isn’t exactly glamorous—more like an excuse to leave school early that looks good on college applications. Then the DA hands her boss, Mr. Stone, the biggest case her small town of Belle Terre has ever seen. The River Point Boys are all anyone can talk about. Despite their damning toxicology reports the morning of the accident, the DA wants the boys’ case swept under the rug. He owes his political office to their powerful families.

Kate won’t let that happen. Digging up secrets without revealing her own is a dangerous line to walk; Kate has her own reasons for seeking justice for Grant. As investigates with Stone, the aging prosecutor relying on Kate to see and hear what he cannot, she realizes that nothing about the case—or the boys—is what it seems. Grant wasn’t who she thought he was, and neither is Stone’s prime suspect. As Kate gets dangerously close to the truth, it becomes clear that the early morning accident might not have been an accident at all—and if Kate doesn’t uncover the true killer, more than one life could be on the line…including her own.

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (one minor black character)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 4 (Kate’s boss has macular degeneration and remains a top-notch attorney)
Intersectionality: 0

Sometimes, you’re sold on the cover moreso than the book’s description. That’s somewhat the case with This Is Our Story, where the choice to depart from the white font to put “his story” in a darker font got me thinking like an academic. Might the book focus on how in patriarchal societies, men’s versions of events often define everyone else’s as is often the case with our history books? After all, history is just “his story” smashed together into one word. I also happen to love YA mysteries. This Is Our Story managed to hit the spot pretty well. Read more »

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Review: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

January 13, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 1 ★★★★★

Review: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline WoodsonBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books on August 28, 2014
Genres: Memoir, MG Historical
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
Goodreads
five-stars
Jacqueline Woodson, one of today's finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

Diversity Rating: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (her identity as a black girl in both the North and the South is at the center of everything)
QUILTBAG: 3 (doesn’t come up in the book at all, but Woodson is a lesbian)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 5 (Woodson’s black girlhood is basically what the book is about)

Though I pay attention to which middle grade and young adult books are winning awards just like any other more-bookish-than-average person, but I don’t put much stock in the awards. After all, John Green’s books have won quite a few prestigious awards and I don’t think his books are worth the discarded gum I pull off my shoes. Add in the fact I’m simply not a fan of the literary fare that usually wins awards and it’s no wonder I haven’t read Brown Girl Dreaming until now. THAT WAS A BAD CHOICE. I SHOULD HAVE READ IT SOONER. Read more »

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Review: Ticker by Lisa Mantchev

January 12, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★

Review: Ticker by Lisa MantchevTicker by Lisa Mantchev
Published by Skyscape on December 1, 2014
Genres: Steampunk, YA, YA Historical, YA Sci-fi
Pages: 270
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
Goodreads
two-stars
A girl with a clockwork heart must make every second count.

When Penny Farthing nearly dies, brilliant surgeon Calvin Warwick manages to implant a brass “Ticker” in her chest, transforming her into the first of the Augmented. But soon it’s discovered that Warwick killed dozens of people as he strove to perfect another improved Ticker for Penny, and he’s put on trial for mass murder.

On the last day of Warwick’s trial, the Farthings’ factory is bombed, Penny’s parents disappear, and Penny and her brother, Nic, receive a ransom note demanding all of their Augmentation research if they want to see their parents again. Is someone trying to destroy the Farthings...or is the motive more sinister?

Desperate to reunite their family and rescue their research, Penny and her brother recruit fiery baker Violet Nesselrode, gentleman-about-town Sebastian Stirling, and Marcus Kingsley, a young army general who has his own reasons for wanting to lift the veil between this world and the next. Wagers are placed, friends are lost, romance stages an ambush, and time is running out for the girl with the clockwork heart.

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0 (one guy might be bisexual?)
Disability: 3 (Penny’s bad heart and subsequent bad replacement heart count)
Intersectionality: 0

Lisa Mantchev’s Theatre Illuminata trilogy is one of my all-time favorite series and I don’t think that will ever change. Its whimsical tone and imaginative use of theatrical mainstays like Shakespeare’s plays (among many others) enchanted me from the very first page. Naturally, a steampunk novel from her would have much the same effect on me! Well, that was the assumption. It was as intensely readable as her past works, but like its heroine Penny, it has a bit of a defective heart.

Read more »

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Review: One Silver Summer by Rachel Hickman

January 9, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★★★

Review: One Silver Summer by Rachel HickmanOne Silver Summer by Rachel Hickman
Published by Scholastic Press on April 26, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 263
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-stars
The thinking girl's summer romance: a gorgeously written story of love and loss with a thrilling royal twist!

After a car accident claims her mother's life, Sass is sent to Cornwall to live with the uncle she's never met. All she wants is to be alone, to come to terms with the new Sass -- the girl who can't forget the screech of tires, the crunch of metal.

With its rocky beaches and secluded fields, Cornwall is the perfect place to hide. It gets even better when Sass glimpses a silver horse and starts sneaking off to spend time with the one creature who makes her grief feel manageable.

During one of her visits, Sass runs into Alex, the horse's owner. At first, he shows nothing but disdain for the trespassing American. But despite his brusque manner, he feels an affinity for the curious girl with the sad eyes, and offers to teach her to ride.

Sass never expected to feel anything again, yet soon she finds herself falling for Alex. But Alex has a secret -- a bombshell that could shatter Sass's fragile trust. . . and force him to abandon the only girl who made him believe in true love.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

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

Warning: animal death in this book. Specifically, a horse dies.

Let’s be real, we’re all here for a romance between a royal and a commoner at some point in our lives. Maybe it’s when we’re kids and we refuse to turn off Cinderella or we’re adults and the once-a-generation royal wedding is happening in the UK, but it’s an attractive trope for more than a few reasons. Even more attractive for book nerds: a royal romance that dives into the nitty-gritty. Does One Silver Summer manage to do that? Well, it tries. Read more »

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