Source: Bought

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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: Ticker by Lisa Mantchev

January 12, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★

Review: Ticker by Lisa MantchevTicker by Lisa Mantchev
Published by Skyscape on December 1, 2014
Genres: Steampunk, YA, YA Historical, YA Sci-fi
Pages: 270
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
Goodreads
two-stars
A girl with a clockwork heart must make every second count.

When Penny Farthing nearly dies, brilliant surgeon Calvin Warwick manages to implant a brass “Ticker” in her chest, transforming her into the first of the Augmented. But soon it’s discovered that Warwick killed dozens of people as he strove to perfect another improved Ticker for Penny, and he’s put on trial for mass murder.

On the last day of Warwick’s trial, the Farthings’ factory is bombed, Penny’s parents disappear, and Penny and her brother, Nic, receive a ransom note demanding all of their Augmentation research if they want to see their parents again. Is someone trying to destroy the Farthings...or is the motive more sinister?

Desperate to reunite their family and rescue their research, Penny and her brother recruit fiery baker Violet Nesselrode, gentleman-about-town Sebastian Stirling, and Marcus Kingsley, a young army general who has his own reasons for wanting to lift the veil between this world and the next. Wagers are placed, friends are lost, romance stages an ambush, and time is running out for the girl with the clockwork heart.

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0 (one guy might be bisexual?)
Disability: 3 (Penny’s bad heart and subsequent bad replacement heart count)
Intersectionality: 0

Lisa Mantchev’s Theatre Illuminata trilogy is one of my all-time favorite series and I don’t think that will ever change. Its whimsical tone and imaginative use of theatrical mainstays like Shakespeare’s plays (among many others) enchanted me from the very first page. Naturally, a steampunk novel from her would have much the same effect on me! Well, that was the assumption. It was as intensely readable as her past works, but like its heroine Penny, it has a bit of a defective heart.

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Review: The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson

December 30, 2016 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah WilsonThe Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson
Published by Fire & Ice Books on August 15, 2012
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 224
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Everyone knows how all those fairy tales go. The princess gets beautiful, nabs her prince, falls instantly in love, lives happily ever after and leaves her evil stepsisters in the dust.

But what happens when you're the ugly stepsister and your obnoxiously perfect—read pretty, smart, and, worst of all, sickeningly nice—stepsister is dating the charming, tall, devastatingly handsome guy you've had a thing for since you were nine years old?

Quirky, artistic and snarky Mattie Lowe does not lead a charmed life. Her mother is constantly belittling her on Skype. Mercedes, the school mean girl, has made it her personal mission to torment Mattie. But worst of all? Her stepsister Ella is the most beautiful, popular girl in school and is dating Mattie's secret longtime crush, Jake Kingston.

Tired of being left out and done with waiting for her own stupid fairy godmother to show up, Mattie decides to change her life. She'll start by running for senior class president against wildly popular Jake.

Ella can keep her Prince Annoying. Mattie's going to rule the school.

And no one, not even a cute and suddenly flirty Jake, is going to stop her.

Diversity: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0 (Mattie is 1/4 Japanese, but this is mostly cosmetic and never explored)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

Growing up, one of the movies I watched most was A Cinderella Story starring Hilary Duff. It was on ABC Family (now Freeform) practically every other week and I’ve always been a sucker for Cinderella. The Disney film of it doesn’t exist to me because the only true Cinderella film is the 1997 one starring Brandy and Whitney Houston. If you feel the same way and would watch A Cinderella Story immediately if you found it on television, then The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back might be something you’d want to read. 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: Demonosity by Amanda Ashby

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

Review: Demonosity by Amanda AshbyDemonosity by Amanda Ashby
Published by Speak on August 15, 2013
Genres: YA, YA Paranormal
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Goodreads
three-half-stars
An ancient myth + a mean girl + a reluctant warrior = a lively take on good vs. evil

The Black Rose--a powerful ancient force--has been let loose and has taken up residence in Celeste Gibson, popular girl at Cassidy Carter-Lewis' high school. Thomas Delacroix is the spirit of a fourteenth-century knight who is devoted to protecting the Black Rose, but he needs a contemporary living being to take on the challenge. That's where Cassidy comes in. She's a quirky high school junior who just wants to dress in her vintage clothes, hang out with her best friend, and take care of her father, who is recovering from surgery. She's the last person who would ever volunteer for such a task, but no one actually asked her.  Now, like it or not, she finds herself training before dawn and battling demons at parties, the mall, and even at school. But hey, no one ever said high school was going to be easy. . .

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 2 (Cassidy’s best friend Nash is asexual and defies most stereotypes about ace people)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

YA paranormal novels–specifically Ellen Schreiber’s Vampire Kisses series–are what made me a reader, so I’ll always have a soft spot for the genre. Sadly, the YA paranormal market dried up with the majority of Twilight mania. Such is the nature of fads. BUT LO, A MIRACLE: I got pointed to a YA book that was paranormal and had a major character who outright declared his asexuality. As your local aro ace, it was my duty to read Demonosity and enjoy the story of a teenage girl who gets suckered into chopping up demonic knights thanks to a temporary tattoo. (I think?) 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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