Review: Keeping the Beat by Marie Powell and Jeff Norton

July 17, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★

Review: Keeping the Beat by Marie Powell and Jeff NortonKeeping the Beat by Jeff Norton, Marie Powell
Published by KCP Loft on April 4, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 372
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
two-stars
Fame. Love. Friends. Pick any two.

It was supposed to be the best summer of her life. Instead, seventeen-year-old Lucy finds her best friend, Harper, shot dead in an LA swimming pool. How did things go so wrong? Their band, Crush, was once the top prospect to win an international talent contest. But things fell apart when Lucy discovered Harper’s real reasons for starting a band — which had nothing to do with music. Meanwhile, her other bandmates are throwing themselves into sex, drugs and rock and roll. Can Lucy get the rest of the girls to play to her beat?

One-part wish fulfillment, one-part cautionary tale, readers will be thrilled to go behind the scenes of “reality” TV.

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (a single Mexican man who’s hired help in a Hollywood exec’s household)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 1 (Robyn gets addicted to drugs)
Intersectionality: 0

Once a sucker for books about average kids ascending to superstardom, always a sucker for books about average kids ascending to superstardom. They can be cliche, but they can be a lot of fun if they embrace their natures or at least put a twist or two on things. Keeping the Beat initially left a positive impression on me when I first finished reading it. Thinking on it now, however, I’m less impressed with its story. Read more »

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Review: The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash

July 14, 2017 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz TashThe Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash
Published by Simon and Schuster BFYR on June 14, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 256
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
four-stars
Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. Archie and Veronica. Althena and Noth.…Graham and Roxy?

Graham met his best friend, Roxy, when he moved into her neighborhood eight years ago and she asked him which Hogwarts house he’d be sorted into. Graham has been in love with her ever since.

But now they’re sixteen, still neighbors, still best friends. And Graham and Roxy share more than ever—moving on from their Harry Potter obsession to a serious love of comic books.

When Graham learns that the creator of their favorite comic, The Chronicles of Althena, is making a rare appearance at this year’s New York Comic Con, he knows he must score tickets. And the event inspires Graham to come up with the perfect plan to tell Roxy how he really feels about her. He’s got three days to woo his best friend at the coolest, kookiest con full of superheroes and supervillains. But no one at a comic book convention is who they appear to be…even Roxy. And Graham is starting to realize fictional love stories are way less complicated than real-life ones.

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (Roxy and her family are Iranian, Felicia is Japanese, and Casey is Jewish)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 1

I’ve been to BookExpo back when it was still BEA and I’ve been to ALA Annual, but I’ve never been to a proper geeky convention. That might change soon, but for the moment, I just have other people’s stories and the photos I always seen when SDCC and NYCC come around every year. The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love takes place at the latter and it’s one heck of a ride! Read more »

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Review: American Street by Ibi Zoboi

July 13, 2017 Diversity 5 0 ★★★★★

Review: American Street by Ibi ZoboiAmerican Street by Ibi Zoboi
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 14, 2017
Genres: Magical Realism, YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
five-stars
The rock in the water does not know the pain of the rock in the sun.

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

Diversity Rating: 5 – Diverse as Fuck

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (the entire cast is black save Kasim, who’s Middle Eastern)
QUILTBAG: 4 (Princess is a lesbian)
Disability: 3 (Matant Jo recently had a stroke that’s caused some paralysis)
Intersectionality: 5 (also includes police violence, the difficulties of black girlhood and immigrant girlhood mixed, and so many more intersectional issues)

Back in the fall of 2015, I took a course called Literature by Women of Color, which was specifically focused on Caribbean authors thanks to the professor’s specialization in that field. It was one of the toughest courses I took in college because she demanded the best from my papers, but it was also one of the most rewarding for the same reason. I still own two of the four books we read in the course and I’d like personal copies of the other two.

What does American Street have to do with all that? It’s such an intelligent, gorgeously written book in touch with the modern immigrant’s experience that it would fit right into the course. If I weren’t such a coward, I’d email that professor and let her know about it if she didn’t already know. Maybe she could teach it in a future section or suggest it to students who are enthusiastic about the subject. Taking that class enriched this book for me and I think American Street would enrich the course too. Read more »

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Review: Once Upon a Cruise by Anna Staniszewski

July 10, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Once Upon a Cruise by Anna StaniszewskiOnce Upon a Cruise by Anna Staniszewski
Published by Scholastic Paperbacks on September 27, 2016
Genres: MG Contemporary
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Ainsley never wanted to spend her summer on a fairy tale cruise--especially since, instead of lounging by the pool, she's running around the ship doing favor after favor for her cruise director mom.

Things aren't all bad--it's good to see her mom acting confident again after the divorce, and she's learning a lot about obscure German fairy tales and how to fold towels into entertaining shapes for little kids (um, yay?). There's also a guy who's super cute, even in a dorky dwarf costume--if only Ainsley could get Prince Handsome to stop babbling about himself long enough for her to say more than 'hi' to the cute dwarf!

But once the cruise starts, things start to go wrong: the laundry turns pink, the kitchen runs out of food, the guy playing the Pig King is always in Ainsley's hair, and her mom expects her to be in a hundred places all at once. Is this fairy tale cruise under a wicked curse? Or can Ainsley stand up for herself and make the cruise end happily ever after?

Having had the good fortune to go on three cruises in my lifetime, I can tell you that cruises are pretty darn good when they’re good. When they’re bad, they’re the 2013 Poop Cruise aboard the Carnival Triumph. You’ll probably get a different story from the cruise ship workers, though. Listening to them, you’ll get the idea every cruise is a small clusterfuck hidden beneath a veneer of order. That’s certainly how it seems when you read about Ainsley’s adventures onboard a fairy tale cruise!

Read more »

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Review: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

July 7, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 1 ½

Review: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia LevensellerDaughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Series: Daughter of the Pirate King #1
Published by Feiwel & Friends on February 28, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from the publisher
Goodreads
half-star
There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: -5 (the single gay character is a villain and he dies; also, the book’s magic system relies on everyone ever being heterosexual)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

Is it really so much to ask for if I want a YA fantasy novel free of rape threats and with no superpartiarchy in place? I know there’s plenty of YA fantasy like that out there, but I’m particularly bad at finding them and/or finding them interesting enough to read. I’m a bit fond of pirate books, so why wouldn’t I expect Daughter of the Pirate King to be fun for me?

It wasn’t, reader. It was fun until it got h*ckin homophobic, as @dog_rates might say. Then it wasn’t fun anymore.

Read more »

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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 1 ★★★★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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