Review: Summer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider

November 17, 2016 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Summer of Sloane by Erin L. SchneiderSummer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider
on May 3, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: ALA Annual 2016
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Warm Hawaiian sun. Lazy beach days. Flirty texts with her boyfriend back in Seattle.

These are the things seventeen-year-old Sloane McIntyre pictured when she imagined the summer she’d be spending at her mom’s home in Hawaii with her twin brother, Penn. Instead, after learning an unthinkable secret about her boyfriend, Tyler, and best friend, Mick, all she has is a fractured hand and a completely shattered heart.

Once she arrives in Honolulu, though, Sloane hopes that Hawaii might just be the escape she needs. With beach bonfires, old friends, exotic food, and the wonders of a waterproof cast, there’s no reason Sloane shouldn’t enjoy her summer. And when she meets Finn McAllister, the handsome son of a hotel magnate who doesn’t always play by the rules, she knows he’s the perfect distraction from everything that’s so wrong back home.

But it turns out a measly ocean isn’t nearly enough to stop all the emails, texts, and voicemails from her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend, desperate to explain away their betrayal. And as her casual connection with Finn grows deeper, Sloane’s carefree summer might not be as easy to find as she’d hoped. Weighing years of history with Mick and Tyler against their deception, and the delicate possibility of new love, Sloane must decide when to forgive, and when to live for herself.

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (Sloane and her brother are Native Hawaiian through their mom)
QUILTBAG: 1 (one supporting character is a lesbian)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 2 (Maile, Sloane’s co-worker, is a lesbian and presumably Native Hawaiian based on her name)

If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, you probably have very vivid memories of it. I only went once when I was eleven and my dad won a trip there, but I still remember everything from the trip clearly. That includes my raging carsickness while we drove up a dormant volcano and the absolute monsoon that my family got drenched in at the top of said volcano. Summer of Sloane surfed onto my radar because of its Hawaiian setting and I’m glad it stayed around. Infidelity is everywhere and the characters are the best kinds of messy.

Read more »

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Review: Die for You by Amy Fellner Dominy

November 14, 2016 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: Die for You by Amy Fellner DominyDie for You by Amy Fellner Dominy
Published by Delacorte Press on November 8, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: ALA Annual 2016
Goodreads
four-stars
Not everything is as perfect as it seems in this dark romance by A Matter of Heart author, Amy Dominy.

Theirs was the perfect love story.

After Emma Lorde’s parents’ divorce forces her to move halfway across the state of Arizona to live with her father, Emma must face her senior year in a new school knowing absolutely no one.

Then she meets Dillon Hobbs and something just clicks.

Dillon introduces Emma to friends she can call her own. He provides a refuge from the chaos of her past and the security of a commitment that he promises will last forever. And because circumstances of her messy life forced Emma to put aside her dream of pursuing archaeology, Dillon creates a blueprint for a future together.
He saves her, over and over, by loving her more than she thought anyone ever would.

But just when everything seems picture-perfect, Emma is offered an opportunity that will upend the future they’ve planned. Uncertainty grows, and fear spirals into something darker.

Now Dillon is the one who needs saving.

But how much do you sacrifice for the one you love? What if saving Dillon means losing herself?

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 1 (Dillon has mental issues the author says are purposefully left unspecified)
Intersectionality: 0

Well. After the clusterfuck that was last week, let’s get back to business. Read more »

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Review: My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

November 4, 2016 Diversity 5, Reviews 0 ★★★★½

my-sister-rosaMy Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier
Published by Soho Teen on November 15, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary, YA Thriller
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
four-half-stars
What if the most terrifying person you know is your ten-year-old sister?

Seventeen-year-old Aussie Che Taylor loves his younger sister, Rosa. But he’s also certain that she’s a diagnosable psychopath—clinically, threateningly, dangerously. Recently Rosa has been making trouble, hurting things. Che is the only one who knows; he’s the only one his sister trusts. Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and very good at hiding what she is and the violence she’s capable of.

Their parents, whose business takes the family from place to place, brush off the warning signs as Rosa’s “acting out.” Now that they have moved again—from Bangkok to New York City—their new hometown provides far too many opportunities for Rosa to play her increasingly complex and disturbing games. Alone, Che must balance his desire to protect Rosa from the world with the desperate need to protect the world from her.

Diversity Rating: 5 – Diverse as Fuck

It’s been so long since I read the novel that I can’t recall everything well enough for a proper explanation, but it includes Korean-American sisters, one of whom is a lesbian; a character named Elon whose pronouns are just Elon, putting the character somewhere in the ballpark of agender; a black love interest with lesbian mothers; Che’s ethnic Jewish identity through his paternal family; and serious consideration of whether Rosa’s condition is a mental illness or disability in itself due to her exhibiting symptoms once she hit toddlerhood. It’s earned the 5 rating.

Children creep me out on a good day, so it goes without saying that a tiny, sociopathic child like Rosa would terrify me. Honestly, Larbalestier’s latest wasn’t even on my radar at first! My buddy Lili recommended the book to me and I just happened to have access to it, so I dove right in. Wow. In a nutshell, My Sister Rosa is fucked up and impossible to put down. Read more »

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Review: The Drowning by Valerie Mendes

October 31, 2016 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★½

Review: The Drowning by Valerie MendesThe Drowning by Valerie Mendes
Published by Simon & Schuster Children's UK on August 1, 2005
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 256
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
Goodreads
one-half-stars
More than anything, sixteen-year-old Jenna wants to dance, not just in her studio in St Ives, or in her local class, but professionally, in London, under the eyes of the best teachers in the world. She knows her father will support her all the way; that her aunt will help with the fees and give her a home in the big city. Her mother, however, is a problem. She remains unconvinced of Jenna’s talents and pours scorn on her dreams.

But then a fatal accident blows Jenna’s Cornish life and family apart. Left in her care one hot summer’s afternoon, her beloved younger brother, Benjie, drowns behind some lethal rocks. Blaming herself entirely, guilty and grief-stricken, Jenna puts all her plans on hold. She relinquishes her hard-fought place at ballet school to support her father and their family-run café, valiantly trying to pretend this is the life she wants.

Until she finds Benjie’s diary and starts to probe its secrets. It seems he was being bullied at school; that a pair of twins could have been involved. Jenna finds it impossible to discover who they are and whether they can give her any new details about Benjie’s death.

But a chance meeting with someone who was there with her that tragic afternoon could help. Who is he and what can he reveal? What does Jenna discover that puts the accident in a whole new light?

And will she find the courage and determination to pursue her dancing dream?

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

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

Once upon a time, I knew a website that posted daily about all sorts of free books I could download onto my Kindle and free stuff = good stuff, so I downloaded pretty much all the YA they ever posted about. Then I started reading the books I’d downloaded and realized most of them were awful. That’s why I can’t even remember the site’s name anymore! I just remember The Drowning was one of the titles I found out about through the website and happily acquired. Well, now I’m unhappy four years later because this is just bad.

There’s content here that works well, which makes the end result all the more disappointing. Jenna has the foundation for a great character and I genuinely cared about her. It actually isn’t that easy to make me care for a character, let alone one in a novel as flawed as this, but Mendes did it! As the novel went on, the potential for nuanced emotional scenes was clear on just about every page. Already-cruel mom gets crueler and more depressed? Time to let out some secrets! Dad reconnects with a friend from his youth? Hmmmm, that sounds like a recipe for infidelity.

But we don’t get any character development, nuance, or emotion from The Drowning. Each scene reads like a summary of what’s happening, not an in-the-moment description that readers will get sucked into. An entire eleven months pass from the first page of the book to the last, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Indiscriminate and heavily summarized timeskips are common and even the passages where we are in the moment with Jenna and her family feel like an outline, not a fleshed out scene.

Because the novel skips along like that, we miss character development. Jenna goes from pursuing dance to giving it up to taking it up again because her romance with a lifeguard encourages her to. As if it isn’t problematic enough that she only wants to dance again because of her bland love interest! If she ever longed to get back to dance for her own sake, we never witness signs of it, like her staring longingly at her studio or composing a dance in her head when she hears a good song. That is how to do characterization and character development: showing us the little things.

Once it comes up that Benjie’s brother was enduring bullying at school and his death might have been related to that, it’s a great opportunity to paint the portrait of a sister whose grief turns into anger and she has to question herself about whether she should seek revenge against these middle school bullies or not. The outline of that plotline is there, but once again, there’s no emotional depth to it. When the whole tale unraveled, I felt nothing–and I love a good vengeance story.

It bothers me as well that both major figures in her life as she’s recovering from her brother’s death are men. Her two best friends, fellow dancers, are completely shut out of her life. Jenna only has her pushover of a father and the love interest she decides to take up dance again for. It’s honestly sad to read when I’m used to so many novels with women on every page and plenty of female friendships.

The formatting isn’t great either. For some reason, the first paragraph of each chapter or section would be single-spaced and then the rest would be double-spaced until the chapter ended or a new section began. Rinse and repeat. Commas often lacked the necessary space after them. You take away the space that follows a comma and everything just looked smushed together.

As the saying goes, I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed. The Drowning is what happens when you take part in NaNoWriMo, get your 50,000 words by writing summaries of scenes you expect you’ll expand on later, and then you decide you’ll publish it as-is without any editing whatsoever. I’m honestly glad The Drowning is no longer available in the Kindle store because work so poor isn’t ready for the public eye no matter how old it is.

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Review: Avenged by E.E. Cooper

October 28, 2016 Diversity 4, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Avenged by E.E. CooperAvenged by E. E. Cooper
Series: Vanished #2
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on November 8, 2016
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Thriller
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Avenged is the conclusion to the Vanished duology, an absorbing, psychological suspense story about friendship, deception, jealousy, and love.

Everyone believes Beth’s death was an accident, except for Kalah. The girl she loved was stolen from her, and now Kalah’s broken heart wants revenge. In order to crack Brit’s perfect alibi, Kalah pretends to be Brit’s best friend—with the sole mission to destroy her.

Kalah knows that playing Brit’s game is deadly. One wrong move could cost someone their life, including her own…but the more lies Kalah tells, the closer she is to the twisted truth.

Diversity Rating: 4 – This is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 2 (Kalah is Indian)
QUILTBAG:
4 (Kalah and Beth are bisexual, a gay couple is in here somewhere)
Disability:
2 (Kalah has OCD and anxiety)
Intersectionality:
4 (See all the above about Kalah)

Return of the bisexual Indian girl with anxiety! Vanished remains fresh in my mind even though I read it close to a year and a half ago thanks to its characters and well-written mystery. Also, diversity and intersectionality are fantastic. Naturally, I was excited to see its sequel Avenged land on my doorstep! Cooper writes a solid conclusion to her duology and the mystery remains as engrossing as ever, but I have more problems with the ending than I can discuss. That’s very literal. I can’t discuss them without spoiling everything. So I don’t! Read more »

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Two Cool Pre-Order Campaigns to Get In On!

October 26, 2016 Uncategorized 1

I don’t pre-order books very often. The last time was around January when I pre-ordered the fantastic This is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp and got a sweet lanyard for doing so. Pre-order campaigns for books I’ve already read and loved or are super excited for = my catnip!

In the last few days, I saw two really cool pre-order campaigns I wanted to spotlight. One comes with unusual and very cool swag; the other comes with character cards and the author talking about her characters in unlockable videos.

Back in mid-September, Stacee of The Book Junkie announced a pre-order giveaway/campaign for This is Our Story by Ashley Elston. All US readers who pre-order the book will receive a branded pouch, deer antler necklace, signed bookmark, sticker, tattoo, and pin. They’ll also be entered into a larger giveaway for signed copies of all three of Elston’s novels. All international readers who pre-order the book will be entered into two different giveaways: one for signed copies of Elston’s novels and one for a $50 gift card to anywhere they choose. Further details and how to take advantage of the campaign are on page linked above.

Seeing as I’m super excited for This is Our Story, I’m almost certainly going to pre-ordering the book and taking advantage of this campaign!

The second is for Audrey Coulthurst’s Of Fire and Stars, a f/f fantasy novel, and her campaign is operating on a tiered system. As of the time I write this, the campaign is still on its first tier, which unlocked a video of Coulthurst talking about the main character Dennaleia and a limited edition art card of her guaranteed to anyone who pre-orders. Each new tier reached unlocks more videos and more art cards of different characters for readers. If all four tiers are unlocked by the novel’s release on November 22nd, everyone who pre-ordered will be entered in a drawing, its prize a choice of a Kindle Paperwhite or s $100 gift card to a bookstore of the winner’s choosing. Again, full details on the above-linked page.

I really really REALLY want Of Fire and Stars to sell well and do well so we’ll see more f/f fantasy in the future, so get on it, people! Also, Audrey is hilarious on Twitter and you should follow her if you don’t already.

Know of any other YA books with pre-order campaigns like this? Let me know! I’d like to start compiling them for people on a regular basis.

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