Source: Gifted

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Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

June 8, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 2 ★★★★½

Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuireEvery Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Series: Wayward Children #1
Published by Tor.com on April 5, 2016
Genres: Adult, Adult Fantasy
Pages: 176
Format: eBook
Source: Gifted
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests


Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

Trigger warning for eating disorders.

Diversity Rating: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (good mix of identities among the kids, though the core group of characters is mostly white)
QUILTBAG: 5 (Nancy is asexual (possibly heteroromantic) and Kade is a trans boy)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 5 (basically delivers the message that any kids can have a whimsical adventure)

Portal fantasy books aren’t something I think much about. I didn’t read the Chronicles of Narnia as a kid; though I’ve seen the animated and live action adaptations of Alice in Wonderland, I greatly dislike them both. Even looking at my stuffed-full bookshelf of favorites, I see maybe two books that would fit the definition. But Every Heart a Doorway has an asexual main character and I therefore had to read it. Now I’m mad I didn’t read it sooner. Read more »

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Review: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

January 13, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 1 ★★★★★

Review: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline WoodsonBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books on August 28, 2014
Genres: Memoir, MG Historical
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
Goodreads
five-stars
Jacqueline Woodson, one of today's finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

Diversity Rating: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (her identity as a black girl in both the North and the South is at the center of everything)
QUILTBAG: 3 (doesn’t come up in the book at all, but Woodson is a lesbian)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 5 (Woodson’s black girlhood is basically what the book is about)

Though I pay attention to which middle grade and young adult books are winning awards just like any other more-bookish-than-average person, but I don’t put much stock in the awards. After all, John Green’s books have won quite a few prestigious awards and I don’t think his books are worth the discarded gum I pull off my shoes. Add in the fact I’m simply not a fan of the literary fare that usually wins awards and it’s no wonder I haven’t read Brown Girl Dreaming until now. THAT WAS A BAD CHOICE. I SHOULD HAVE READ IT SOONER. Read more »

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Review: Who R U Really? by Margo Kelly

February 1, 2016 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ½

Review: Who R U Really? by Margo KellyWho R U Really? by Margo Kelly
Published by Merit Press on September 18, 2014
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 240
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
Goodreads
half-star
Thea's overprotective parents are driving her insane. They invade her privacy, ask too many questions, and restrict her online time so severely that Thea feels she has no life at all. When she discovers a new role-playing game online, Thea breaks the rules by staying up late to play. She's living a double life: on one hand, the obedient daughter; on the other, a girl slipping deeper into darkness. In the world of the game, Thea falls under the spell of Kit, an older boy whose smarts and savvy can't defeat his loneliness and near-suicidal despair. As Kit draws soft-hearted Thea into his drama, she creates a full plate of cover stories for her parents and then even her friends.

Soon, Thea is all alone in the dark world with Kit, who worries her more and more, but also seems to be the only person who really "gets" her. Is he frightening, the way he seems sometimes, or only terribly sad? Should Thea fear Kit, or pity him? And now, Kit wants to come out of the screen and bring Thea into his real-life world. As much as she suspects that this is wrong, Thea is powerless to resist Kit's allure, and hurtles toward the same dark fate her parents feared most. Ripped from a true-life story of Internet stalking, Who R U Really? will excite you and scare you, as Thea's life spins out of control.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0 (one character has anorexia, but it’s all handled off-screen)
Intersectionality: 0

Okay, maybe you’re looking at the premise for this book and want to say, “no shit it went badly, Paige! This sounds like an after-school special!” In my defense, I’ve read a book with the same premise that did it well and became one of my favorite books! Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman. Look it up and read it. Get the hardcover binding or an ebook if you can, though. The paperback is super stiff.

ANYWAY. I didn’t expect another Want to Go Private? out of Who R U Really? because I expected this book to blaze its own path. Oh, it blazed its own path, alright. It gleefully drove itself right to hell and into the hall of fame as one of the worst books I’ve ever read. Read more »

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Review: The Crush by Sandra Brown

September 12, 2014 Reviews 0

Review: The Crush by Sandra BrownThe Crush by Sandra Brown
Published by Grand Central Publishing on August 26, 2003
Genres: Adult, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 480
Format: Paperback
Source: Gifted
zero-stars
Notorious contract killer Ricky Lozada is on trial and Dr. Rennie Newton is on his jury. Bringing the same dedication she displays as a surgeon to this job, she delivers a verdict of not guilty-and discovers she has a new admirer. Days after Lozada's release, one of Rennie's professional rivals is brutally murdered. Although Lozada's dark shadow looms over the case, Rennie becomes the prime suspect ... while Lozada stalks her and grows more and more obsessed with having her. She forms an uneasy alliance with Wick Threadgill, a rogue detective with his own personal vendetta against Lozada. Wick has nothing to lose by confronting a hit man, who, like the prize scorpions he treasures, strikes so quickly Rennie may never see it coming.

Whaaaaaaat? A YA reviewer like me reading and reviewing a romantic suspense novel? Yup. See, I was hiding from my niece in a cupboard of a room after she started throwing rocks and became too much for me to handle. Mom found me and handed me this book. “Give it a try,” she said. “You’ll like it,” she said. WRONG, MAMA LLAMA. Quoting my exact words to her, The Crush made me pop a lady-boner of rage. The last time I read any of her bodice rippers and romantic suspense novels, I was fifteen and couldn’t finish a single one because they all bored me. Five years after I thought I learned my lesson, I actually did learn my lesson and finished this book solely because I had to see how its premise would play out. Such wasted potential! It all started so well and then fell into cliche territory. Read more »

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Review: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

August 28, 2014 Reviews 0 ★★★

Review: If You Could Be Mine by Sara FarizanIf You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on August 20, 2013
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: Gifted
three-stars
In this stunning debut, a young Iranian American writer pulls back the curtain on one of the most hidden corners of a much-talked-about culture.

Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.

So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.

Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?

Teenage lesbians in Iran, where homosexuality is a crime punishable by death? Transgender characters everywhere? YES. It took me a long time to get around to this little book because of the mixed reviews, but I finally did it! Some days, you just need lesbians and something short to read, both of which If You Could Be Mine has and is. The mixed reviews aren’t for nothing, but this is still an extremely necessary story that needs to be read. Read more »

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Review: Jersey Angel by Beth Ann Bauman

July 10, 2014 Reviews 0 ★★

Review: Jersey Angel by Beth Ann BaumanJersey Angel by Beth Ann Bauman
Published by Wendy Lamb Books on May 8, 2012
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 208
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
two-stars
It’s the summer before senior year and the alluring Angel is ready to have fun. She’s not like her best friend, Inggy, who has a steady boyfriend, good grades, and college plans. Angel isn’t sure what she wants to do yet, but she has confidence and experience beyond her years. Still, her summer doesn’t start out as planned. Her good friend Joey doesn’t want to fool around anymore, he wants to be her boyfriend, while Angel doesn’t want to be tied down. As Joey pulls away, and Inggy tours colleges, Angel finds herself spending more time with Inggy’s boyfriend, Cork. With its cast of vivid and memorable characters, this tale from the Jersey shore is sure to make some waves.

Jersey Angel was being publicized and came out in the middle of the Jersey Shore hype, which instantly put me off the book. That plus infidelity? NOOOOOOOPE. But then I saw something the author said about YA, sexually unapologetic girls, and how Angel here was a girl without precedent in YA. Suddenly, I needed this book like burning. While I appreciate the idea of Angel’s character and her story, her actual character and story leaves a lot to be desired. A LOT. Read more »

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Review: Evertrue by Brodi Ashton

January 6, 2014 Reviews 3 ★★★½

Review: Evertrue by Brodi AshtonEvertrue by Brodi Ashton Published by Balzer + Bray on January 21,2014
Genres: YA Paranormal
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Gifted
three-half-stars
Now that Nikki has rescued Jack, all she wants is to be with him and graduate high school. But Cole tricked Nikki into feeding off him, and she’s begun the process of turning into an Everliving herself... which means she must feed on a Forfeit soon — or die.

Terrified for her survival, Nikki and Jack begin a desperate attempt to reverse the process using any means possible. Even Cole, who they expected to fight them at every turn, has become an unlikely ally — but how long can it last? Nikki needs to feed on Cole to survive, Cole needs Nikki to gain the throne in the Everneath, Jack needs Nikki because she is everything to him — and together, they must travel back to the Underworld to undo Nikki’s fate and make her mortal once more. But Cole isn’t the only one with plans for Nikki: the Queen has not forgotten Nikki’s treachery, and she wants her destroyed for good. Will Nikki be forced to spend eternity in the Underworld, or does she have what it takes to bring down the Everneath once and for all?

In this stunning conclusion to the Everneath trilogy, Brodi Ashton evokes the resiliency of the human spirit and the indomitable power of true love.

Oh, Evertrue. My dear, dear Evertrue. This is one series finale I’ve been anxiously awaiting since I read Everbound over a year ago and in most ways, Evertrue thoroughly delivers. A major narrative choice in the novel knocks the wind out of its sails, but this is definitely a finale to remember fondly for the most part.

In previous installments, I liked Jack and Nikki and how they were characterized individually, but there wasn’t a good feel for their relationship; Everneath was about it falling apart and being put back together while Everbound had Jack being rescued while we saw a few flashbacks to better times. This time around, we get Jack and Nikki together the entire time, which lets us see how well their present-day dynamic really works. Even though I ship Cole/Nikki for the crack, I ship Jack/Nikki too because they’re good together. SHIP EVERYONE.

However, as much as I like Nikki, I can’t help but wonder how many brain cells she has left. She’s overly silly at times, especially at the beginning when coming up with ideas, and she’s getting outsmarted at every turn. Either Cole is really that smart or Nikki is really that dumb. I lean toward the latter because she should know him a little better by now. Did she really expect to find her heart there? I can’t remember her being quite so dim in other books.

And speaking of Cole, what happens with him is why I’ve rated this installment lower than the others. Nikki and Jack can’t destroy the Everneath without his help and he’d never choose to help them as he is, so readers have to see everything they loved about Cole from the first two books and the novella disappear. He becomes a living, breathing Deus ex Machina with amnesia until our hero and heroine need him to remember something, at which point he remembers what he needs to. It’s the sort of development that takes the easy way out because it’s clear the ending will not happen any other way. It’s nice to see how he really feels about Nikki without his manipulative personality getting in the way, but it’s not quite worth the cost.

Though disappointment lingers and I’ll miss the Cole I came to love in the same odd way Nikki did, the Everneath series will always remain one of my favorites for its creative worldbuilding, all its twists and turns, and its heroine Nikki. No matter how silly she can be, she’s a knockout of a girl who came to life in a refreshing series. It’s a bittersweet goodbye, but the sweetness is so much stronger. I’d definitely recommend this series to anyone who is looking for a good series to binge in its entirety or paranormal YA that does something new.

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