Publisher: HarperTeen

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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: The Lost & Found by Katrina Leno

February 23, 2017 Diversity 2, Reviews 1 ★½

Review: The Lost & Found by Katrina LenoThe Lost & Found by Katrina Leno
Published by HarperTeen on July 5, 2016
Genres: Magical Realism, YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: finished copy from the publisher
Goodreads
one-half-stars
Sometimes you have to get lost before you can be found.

Lost: Frannie and Louis met in an online support group for trauma survivors when they were both little and have been pen pals ever since. They have never met face-to-face. They don’t even know each other’s real names. All they know is that they understand each other better than anyone else. And they both have a tendency to lose things. Well, not lose them, exactly. Things just seem to…disappear.

Found: In Louis’s mailbox is a letter, offering him a tennis scholarship—farther from home than he’s ever allowed himself to think of going.

In Frannie’s mailbox is a letter, informing her of her mother’s death—and one last wish.

Setting off from opposite coasts, Frannie and Louis each embark on a road trip to Austin, Texas, looking for answers—and each other. Along the way, each one begins to find important things the other has lost. And by the time they finally meet in person, they realize that the things you lose might be things you weren’t meant to have at all, and that you never know what you might find if you just take a chance.

Diversity: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 3 (Frannie’s cousin Arrow is Vietnamese; Willa and Louis are Indian)
QUILTBAG: 0 (one gay character who is both a major part of the story and barely in it)
Disability: 1 (Willa lost her legs in a childhood accident; Frannie’s mom is problematic schizophrenic rep)
Intersectionality: 2 (all of the above; it’s kinda complicated in Willa’s case)

I wasn’t actually supposed to get a copy of The Lost & Found. It didn’t interest me at all; rather, I was meant to get the similarly titled The Lost and the Found by Cat Clarke. It’s a mistake that happens sometimes! Not reading the book at all felt rude, so I put The Lost & Found on my TBR and its turn to be read came around. This book is an odd case of how the characters at the core of a story can be wonderful, interesting people but be surrounded by things that make their book downright bad. Read more »

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Review: Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson

December 6, 2016 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid PaulsonValkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson
Published by HarperTeen on October 9, 2012
Genres: YA, YA Paranormal
Pages: 352
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Nothing ever happens in Norway. But at least Ellie knows what to expect when she visits her grandmother: a tranquil fishing village and long, slow summer days. And maybe she’ll finally get out from under the shadow of her way-too-perfect big brother, Graham, while she’s there.

What Ellie doesn’t anticipate is Graham’s infuriating best friend, Tuck, tagging along for the trip. Nor did she imagine boys going missing amid rumors of impossible kidnappings. Least of all does she expect something powerful and ancient to awaken in her and that strange whispers would urge Ellie to claim her place among mythological warriors. Instead of peace and quiet, there’s suddenly a lot for a girl from L.A. to handle on a summer sojourn in Norway! And when Graham vanishes, it’s up to Ellie—and the ever-sarcastic, if undeniably alluring Tuck—to uncover the truth about all the disappearances and thwart the nefarious plan behind them.

Deadly legends, hidden identities, and tentative romance swirl together in one girl’s unexpectedly-epic coming of age.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

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

Once in a supermoon, HarperCollins will take an older YA novel of theirs that’s seemingly chosen at random and temporarily make it free free (previous titles have included The Ivy and Sweet Venom). That’s exactly how I ended up with Valkyrie Rising, which has been languishing on both my Kindle and my Nook for what feels like centuries in publishing years. I think that was two or three years ago? It’s been a while and the TBR Jar chose it, so that was that. Nice choice, TBR Jar. Read more »

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Review: Winning by Lara Deloza

July 28, 2016 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★★★★½

Review: Winning by Lara DelozaWinning by Lara Deloza
Published by HarperTeen on June 28, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
four-half-stars
House of Cards meets Election in this wickedly entertaining story about an uber-ambitious high school junior.

Whoever said being nice would get you to the top?

Certainly not Alexandra Miles. She isn’t nice, but she’s more than skilled at playing the part. She floats through the halls of Spencer High, effortlessly orchestrating the actions of everyone around her, making people bend to her whim without even noticing they’re doing it. She is the queen of Spencer High—and it’s time to make it official.

Alexandra has a goal, you see—Homecoming Queen. Her ambitions are far grander than her small town will allow, but homecoming is just the first step to achieving total domination. So when peppy, popular Erin Hewett moves to town and seems to have a real shot at the crown, Alexandra has to take action.

With the help of her trusted friend Sam, she devises her most devious plot yet. She’ll introduce an unexpected third competitor in the mix, one whose meteoric rise—and devastating fall—will destroy Erin’s chances once and for all. Alexandra can run a scheme like this in her sleep. What could possibly go wrong?

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 4 (Sam is lesbian; Erin is either lesbian or bi, but it’s never specified)
Disability: 2 (Lexi’s mom is drug-addicted)
Intersectionality: 1

About five years ago, Charlie Sheen had a meltdown and coined phrase after phrase. One of them was “winning” and it seems apt that this novel has the title it does. Why? Because Winning the novel is just as ridiculous and terrifying as Sheen’s downward spiral and will have you reacting in many of the same ways. (Still more entertaining than most Charlie Sheen-starring shows or films, though.)

Read more »

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Review: Please Don’t Tell by Laura Tims

May 16, 2016 Diversity 4, Reviews 0 ★★★★½

Review: Please Don’t Tell by Laura TimsPlease Don't Tell by Laura Tims
Published by HarperTeen on May 24, 2016
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Joy killed Adam Gordon—at least, that’s what she thinks. The night of the party is hazy at best. But she knows what Adam did to her twin sister, Grace, and she knows he had to pay for it.

What Joy doesn’t expect is that someone else saw what happened. And one night a note is shoved through her open window, threatening Joy that all will be revealed. Now the anonymous blackmailer starts using Joy to expose the secrets of their placid hometown. And as the demands escalate, Joy must somehow uncover the blackmailer’s identity before Joy is forced to make a terrible choice.

In this darkly compelling narrative, debut author Laura Tims explores the complicated relationship between two sisters, and what one will do for the other. It’s a story that will keep readers turning pages and questioning their own sense of right and wrong.

Diversity Rating: 4 – This is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (Joy’s friend is biracial with a black mother and white father; supporting character Cassius is black and lives with vitiligo; another supporting character is half-Vietnamese)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 5 (Joy has more than a bit of an alcohol problem; Grace has OCD with magical thinking; November’s time in an asylum offers commentary on how we treat mental illness and people who get emergency treatment for it)
Intersectionality: 4 (All of the above and then some)

I can’t remember exactly when this book was first announced, but I’m pretty sure it’s been 2-3 years and I’ve been awaiting it since its announcement. I’M NOT USED TO WAITING THIS LONG FOR BOOKS. But my gut told me the wait would be worth it and I jumped on Please Don’t Tell as soon as a copy was offered to me. Good lord, was it worth the wait. If you’re a survivor of sexual abuse or assault, major trigger warning. This book is all about what happens when survivors are afraid or otherwise unable to tell someone about what happened to them.

Read more »

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Review: Trust Me by Romily Bernard

March 28, 2016 Diversity 1, Reviews 1 ★★★

Review: Trust Me by Romily BernardTrust Me by Romily Bernard
Series: Find Me #3
Published by HarperTeen on March 22, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Thriller
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
three-stars
“Trust me.”

Wick Tate’s never heard these words so much in her life. And with all her secrets, who can she really trust?

There’s Milo, her new hacker boyfriend, who’s keeping a dark secret of his own. Griff, the ex who’s always had her best interests at heart but who mostly wants to stay out of Wick’s mess. There’s Looking Glass, an organization that can supposedly offer Wick protection…and a future.

And then there’s her family. They should be easy to trust, right? Not if you’re Wick. Not when “family” means so many different things, including a criminal father who may not stay locked up for long.

Wick is used to relying on herself…and only herself. But she’s going to have to learn to trust someone if she’s going to finally escape her demons...

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (Milo has dark skin; Alejandra may be Hispanic based on her name)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

After three books and endless trials for Wick, I hardly know what’s left for me to say. Used by her father, used by a corrupt detective, and now used by a tech organization that says it wants to help her. Wick being Wick and me being a reader of more than a few YA thrilers, there’s not a lot of reason to trust them. What ensues is a book with more twists than you can count, a significant body count, and the best ending Wick probably could have gotten considering how deep she’s dug herself over the course of the series–and I like it despite it being a mess. Read more »

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Review: Kingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon Thomas

March 17, 2016 Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: Kingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon ThomasKingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon Thomas
Series: A Wicked Thing #2
Published by HarperTeen on February 23, 2016
Genres: YA Fantasy
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
Goodreads
four-stars
Asleep for a hundred years, awoken by a kiss. Aurora’s life was supposed to be a fairytale.

But since discovering that loyalty to the crown and loyalty to her country are two very different things, Aurora knows she can only dream of happily ever after. Once the enchanted princess, savior of her people, she is now branded a traitor.

Aurora is determined to free her home from the king’s tyrannical rule, even if it means traveling across the sea to the kingdom of the handsome and devious Prince Finnegan—someone who seems to know far more about her magic than he should. However, Finnegan’s kingdom has perils of its own, and any help he gives Aurora will come at a price.

As Aurora and Finnegan work together to harness her power—something so fiery and dangerous that is as likely to destroy those close to Aurora as it is to save them—she begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding the curse that was placed on her over a century before…and uncover the truth about the destiny she was always meant to fulfill.

Brimming with captivating fantasy and life-threatening danger, the sequel to A Wicked Thing takes Sleeping Beauty on an adventure unlike any she’s ever had before.

Diversity Rating: NA (because I admittedly can’t remember)

Y’all know I’m all about feminism and not all that here for fantasy. For some reason, the two clash more often than I’d like thanks to copy-of-a-copy fantasies that overdo it on the patriarchies (see: Defy by Sara B. Larson, The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons) and I’d rather not choose. WHY NOT BOTH FEMINISM AND ORIGINAL FANTASY?

A little Spanish girl shrugs and asks

Well, A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas gave me both last year and I loved every page of it. Of course I’d hunt down a copy of the sequel! (aka I got one from my lovely friend Dahlia and then ended up with a second copy from YA Books Central.) The more plot-driven, discovering-the-truth nature of Kingdom of Ashes will do a great deal for readers who weren’t fans of the character-driven first book. Plus there are dragons.

A dragon from Games of Thrones get pet.

They aren’t like this one getting cuddled, though. These dragons have reduced an entire kingdom to a single city.

Read more »

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