Genre: YA Fantasy

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Review: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

July 7, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 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.

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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: Moon Chosen by P.C. Cast

December 23, 2016 Diversity 0, Reviews 3

Review: Moon Chosen by P.C. CastMoon Chosen by P.C. Cast
Series: Tales of a New World #1
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on October 18, 2016
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 608
Format: Hardcover
Source: finished copy from the publisher
Goodreads
zero-stars
Chosen to embrace her true identity. Chosen to follow her destiny. Chosen to change her world.

Mari is an Earth Walker, heir to the unique healing powers of her Clan, but she has been forced to turn from her duties, until she is chosen by a special animal ally, altering her destiny forever. When a deadly attack tears her world apart, Mari reveals the strength of her powers and the forbidden secret of her dual nature as she embarks on a mission to save herself and her people. It is not until Nik, the son of the leader from a rival, dominating Tribe, strays across her path that Mari experiences something she has never felt before…

Now evil is coming, and with it, a force more terrible and destructive than the world has ever seen, leaving Mari to cast the shadows from the earth. By breaking Clan Law and forming an alliance with Nik, she must make herself ready. Ready to save her people. Ready to save herself and Nik. Ready to embrace her true destiny…and battle the forces that threaten to destroy them all.

Diversity: -5 – What the Fuck Is This?

Racial-Ethnic: -5 (this is some goddamn racist shit)
QUILTBAG: 0 (one blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gay character; there’s a lesbian couple, but one of them dies soon after being introduced)
Disability: 0 (one blind girl, heavily fetishized)
Intersectionality: 0

This is gonna be a long review and I’m not even covering everything I want to, so I’ve uploaded my notes on Google Drive for easy viewing. Just click the link! All quote citations and page numbers are in that document and based on the US hardcover edition.

Once upon a time, there was Revealing Eden by Victoria Hoyt, a novel that turned white people into the oppressed class and made the white main character donning blackface a narrative necessity. It was rightly called out for racism then and is still ridiculously racist now. If I weren’t already familiar with the Cast family’s brand of racism thanks to their House of Night series, I’d think Moon Chosen was written specifically to out-racist Revealing Eden and all the cultural appropriation and Magical Native American fuckery from the aforementioned series.  Between blackface and all the racial coding, Moon Chosen may actually be the most racist YA novel of all.

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Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

September 2, 2016 Diversity 0, Reviews 2 ★½

Review: Heartless by Marissa MeyerHeartless by Marissa Meyer
Published by Feiwel & Friends on November 8, 2016
Genres: Magical Realism, Retelling, YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: ALA Annual 2016
Goodreads
one-half-stars
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0 (Hatter has a thing for Jest, but it falls into old tropes)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

The gleeful absurdity of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has always been up my alley, but no adaptation of it so far has impressed me. The renowned Disney film annoyed me the many, many times my teacher in elementary school put it on for the class and the live-action film was a boring technicolor nightmare. Heartless made me wonder for a hot minute if the key was to tell the origin story of Queen of Hearts instead, but it turned out to be worse than either film. If I were the Queen of Hearts, I’d want this book’s head in a heartbeat. Read more »

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Review: Entwined by Heather Dixon

August 5, 2016 Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Review: Entwined by Heather DixonEntwined by Heather Dixon
Published by Greenwillow on March 29, 2011
Genres: Retelling, YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 480
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
Goodreads
five-stars
Just when Azalea should feel that everything is before her—beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing—it's taken away. All of it. And Azalea is trapped. The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. So he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest, but there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

Due to a reading slump/me being more interested in video games and trying to get a job, I’ve run out of books to review. Whoops! It’s a good thing there are a ton of posts from my original blog that weren’t imported to WordPress properly, so here’s an old review of a longtime favorite novel: Entwined by Heather Dixon. Enjoy!

Entwined is one of those novels that would have done very well if it were published within the last two years, but it came out before the retelling trend really kicked in post-Cinder. Sad, really. This atmospheric, sweet gem of a book is lost in the backlist. Y’all, go buy this book. You need to experience this book if only for the incredible characters and the strong bonds of sisterhood.

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Review: Guile by Constance Cooper

March 26, 2016 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: Guile by Constance CooperGuile by Constance Cooper
Published by Clarion Books on March 1, 2016
Genres: Magical Realism, YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
four-stars
Yonie Watereye lives in the bayou. The water there is full of guile, a power that changes people and objects. Yonie, 16, makes a living investigating objects affected by guile, but in fact it’s her talking cat, LaRue, who has the power to see guile.

Yonie becomes aware that someone is sending harmful guile-changed objects to certain people, including herself. Her investigation becomes entwined with her hunt for the secrets of her mother’s past and leads her to discover dangers hidden within her own family.

In the suspenseful adventure that follows, Yonie and her furry sidekick face challenges that could end their adventuring forever.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0 (if the characters are POC to go with their Creole accents, it isn’t mentioned)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

There are some books you instantly know you want as soon as you hear about them. Others need some time to grow on you. Guile was neither of these. To be entirely honest, I requested it on a whim based solely on the fact that one of the major characters is a talking cat. REMEMBER, DON’T FOLLOW MY EXAMPLE. I MAKE BAD DECISIONS OFTEN. Surprisingly enough, this was not one of my bad decisions! Guile entranced me and drew me right into the heart of the Bad Bayous that Yonie calls home. Read more »

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Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

March 24, 2016 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★½

Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn HamiltonRebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Series: Rebel of the Sands #1
Published by Viking Juvenile on March 8, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
two-half-stars
She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there's nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can't wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up "wed or dead," Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she'd gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan's army, with a fugitive who's wanted for treason. And she'd never have predicted she'd fall in love with him...or that he'd help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (most characters are dark-skinned, but the culture isn’t there)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 1 (character with a bad leg featured early on, but he disappears)
Intersectionality: 0

This year, I’m trying to be a smarter reader by reading publisher-produced samplers and samples of books I want to read. Then I can get into the groove of the writing and decide if I like how it opens enough to keep going. I save time and money and everyone wins! Well, Rebel of the Sands was one I read a bunch of in a sampler and I expected to come out of the experience in love. Nope. It’s bad, but it’s the kind of bad that comes from the lack of something, not from the presence of something absolutely horrible.
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