Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

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Review: Shutter by Laurie Faria Stolarz

February 27, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★½

Review: Shutter by Laurie Faria StolarzShutter by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Published by Disney-Hyperion on October 18, 2016
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, YA, YA Thriller
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: ALA Annual 2016
Goodreads
one-half-stars
Sixteen-year-old Day Connor views life through the lens of her camera, where perspective is everything. But photographs never tell the whole story. After Day crosses paths with Julian, the world she observes and the truths she believes—neatly captured in black and white—begin to blur.

Julian does not look like a murderer, but his story is full of holes, and his alibis don’t quite add up, either. This time, Day is determined to see the entire picture…whatever it reveals.

Did he kill his parents? Or didn’t he?

While Julian remains on the run, Day digs deeper into his case. But the more facts she uncovers, the longer her list of questions becomes. It’s also getting harder to deny the chemistry she feels with Julian.

Is it real? Or is she being manipulated?

Day is close to finding the crack in the case that will prove Julian’s innocence. She just needs time to focus before the shutter snaps shut.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 1 (Julian’s mom suffered from depression and a painkiller addiction; she attempted suicide multiple times)
Intersectionality: 0

Back when I was just a wee fourteen-year-old just getting into reading, Laurie Faria Stolarz’s Blue is for Nightmares series was a small thing and her Touch series was just beginning. While looking for new reads, her books would always be right there waiting, but I never bothered with them. Well, if their quality is anything like Shutter, I’m thankful little me was never interested.

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Review: Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia

February 24, 2017 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Enter Title Here by Rahul KanakiaEnter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia
Published by Disney-Hyperion on August 2, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
three-half-stars
I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.

Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.

What's a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent's help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.

But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she's already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.

Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)

Diversity Rating: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (POC characters are absolutely everywhere)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 1 (Reshma uses Adderall illegally and has a breakdown at one point)
Intersectionality: 3 (though it focuses on her race more than her gender, Reshma does reflect on how life differs from white girls’ lives at times)

Way back in 2006, I was a budding newsie but not yet a reader. The local news didn’t report on it, so I didn’t learn about of Kaavya Viswanathan and all the plagiarism in her YA novel until years later. It was about thirty kinds of messy and probably hard on her considering she was then a recent high school graduate and brand-new college student. I wouldn’t be able to go through what she did at eighteen. Enter Title Here and Reshma’s attempts to write a novel in order to ensure she gets into Stanford take clear inspiration from Viswanathan’s experience, but it goes far into the territory of being creepy while it does so.
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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.

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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: The Hunt by Stacey Kade

April 24, 2014 Reviews 0 ★★★

Review: The Hunt by Stacey KadeThe Hunt by Stacey Kade
Series: Project Paper Doll #2
Published by Disney-Hyperion on April 22, 2014
Genres: YA Sci-fi
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
three-stars
Ariane Tucker has finally escaped GTX, the research facility that created her. While on the run, Zane Bradshaw is the only person she can trust. He knows who-and what-she is and still wants to be part of her life.

But accepting Zane's help means putting him in danger.

Dr. Jacobs, head of GTX, is not the only one hunting for Ariane. Two rival corporations have their sights set on taking down their competition. Permanently. To protect Zane and herself, Ariane needs allies. She needs the other hybrids. The hybrids who are way more alien and a lot less human. Can Ariane win them over before they turn on her? Or will she be forced to choose sides, to decide who lives and who dies?

While reading The Rules, I was pleased the author of the flufftastic, fun Ghost and the Goth series could write such a good, serious sci-fi novel. That kind of authorly flexibility isn’t easy to achieve! (Plus I didn’t want one of my favorite authors to disappoint me. I don’t think anyone wants that.) Fans of The Rules are sure to find more to love in The Hunt, but they may have problems with the mess of an ending. Read more »

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Review: Dramarama by E. Lockhart

April 14, 2014 Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Review: Dramarama by E. LockhartDramarama by E. Lockhart
Published by Disney-Hyperion on May 1, 2007
Genres: YA Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
five-stars
Two theater-mad, self-invented
fabulositon Ohio teenagers.
One boy, one girl.
One gay, one straight.
One black, one white.
And SUMMER DRAMA CAMP.
It's a season of hormones,
gold lame,
hissy fits,
jazz hands,
song and dance,
true love,
and unitards
that will determine their future
--and test their friendship.

E. Lockhart is like my YA queen. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks helped me define myself as a feminist and a woman, the Ruby Oliver series is sweet as candy with so much heart it hurts yours, and Fly on the Wall was… okay. Dramarama marks me reading all her backlist novels and it was a good note to end that journey on considering I have an ARC of her next novel I’m planning to read soon. Dramarama is exactly as dramatic as it sounds, but it actually kinda stabbed me in the heart. In a good way.

Between the lack of chapters and the slow beginning, it’s a difficult start, but Demi and Sayde’s endearing friendship is worth sticking with even though their friendship is clearly going to be hitting a lot of icebergs soon. Sayde herself is worth sticking out the novel for because she’s such a conflicted character that reminds me of Frankie Lauda-Banks in all the best ways. She is combative and negative and consistently challenging people who know the world of theatre much better than she does when she shouldn’t, but she almost never does it maliciously. She wants to contribute and is trying to figure out where she fits after her sudden realization she doesn’t have as much talent as she thought.

To be honest, I was feeling disillusioned with the novel for a long time and felt certain it would be another Fly on the Wall until pretty close to the end. Sayde makes it clear she loves Wildewood, but that the same time, a conversation with Reanne makes it clear Wildewood hurts her at the same time. The drama people are her people, but she doesn’t have the kind of talent all of her friends do. While bonding with them over ten-day shows and hectic rehearsal schedules, she’s constantly insecure about how much more skilled they are at acting and singing.

My college’s Honors Program is like that, so I totally get here. I love being part of it and love being able to shape what it will become in the future through being part of its leadership board, but at the same time, it hurts. Like Sadye, I imagine myself to be a pretty stellar student, but then I meet other Honors students and hear what they’re up to and I have to accept I’m not that special. I’m nowhere near the top of the pyramid. Sadye coming to that realization made me cry, but I ended up crying again for her in happiness when she started to figure out that theater was her place but was not necessarily where she thought it was.

Outside of Sadye, we’ve got a pretty diverse, well-developed cast. From what I’ve heard, living the theatre life isn’t easy and there can be a lot of jealousy going on behind the scenes. With Sadye’s roommate Nanette, already an established Broadway actress, we see what living in that world can do to a person and how having that kind of star-making talent can be a curse. Her two other roommates have their own intriguing situations going on, but I’ll withhold info on those to keep spoilers away. Then there’s Lyle and Demi’s relationship, which = love. They’re such a sweet couple and though characters like Sadye try to erase parts of their identities (Demi is of course black, Lyle is overweight), both of them own who they are.

E. Lockhart is probably going to be one of my favorite authors for a very long time and I’m happy to say this is another gem from her. Here’s hoping her next book We Were Liars can meet the same standards.

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Review: Burn Bright by Bethany Frenette

February 6, 2014 Reviews 3 ★★★★

Review: Burn Bright by Bethany FrenetteBurn Bright by Bethany Frenette
Series: Dark Star #2
Published by Disney-Hyperion on February 25, 2014
Genres: YA Paranormal
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from a swap
four-stars
Audrey Whitticomb saved her entire city.

Well, kind of. The superhero Morning Star (who just happens to be Audrey's mom) might have played a small part, and her sidekick, Leon—Audrey's sort-of boyfriend, who is gorgeous... and frustrating—maybe helped, too.

But after two peaceful months, there is a vicious new threat in Minneapolis. Her name is Susannah, and she's a Harrower, a demon hell-bent on destroying people like Morning Star, Leon, and Audrey—the Kin. Like others before her, she seeks the Remnant, a Kin girl who has the power to unleash the inhabitants of the Beneath. But to what end?

Audrey already has a ton on her plate: dealing with her best friend Tink's boy drama, helping her other best friend Gideon figure out his nightmares, and exploring the highs and lows of "dating" Leon. But when she develops a powerful new ability, Audrey seizes on the chance to fight, despite her mother's protests and Leon's pleas.

As Audrey gets closer to figuring out Susannah's motives and tracking down the Remnant, she'll uncover more than she bargained for. The terrible truth is staring Audrey in the face. But knowing the truth and accepting it are very different things.

Well now. Burn Bright is a difficult one to talk about; in fact, it’s so difficult to put words to it that I originally intended not to review it. Then suddenly, all the words hit me and I’ve got to say something even though there still aren’t as many words as I wish there were. It’s a huge step up from the mixed bag that was Dark Star and a worthy sequel, but at the same time, it has a touched of the dreaded Second Book Syndrome. Read more »

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