Source: Library

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Review: The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow

March 30, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★½

Review: The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol OstowThe Devil and Winnie Flynn by David Ostow (illustrator), Micol Ostow
Published by Soho Teen on October 15, 2015
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Horror, YA Paranormal
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
one-half-stars
Told as an ongoing letter to a friend, Winnie’s story is a heartrending mystery and a pop culture critique in the vein of Libba Bray’s Going Bovine and Beauty Queens—with illustrations throughout that recall the quirky, dark, and distinct aesthetics of Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Winnie Flynn doesn’t believe in ghosts. (Though she wouldn’t mind a visit from her mom, explaining why she took her own life.) When her mysterious aunt Maggie, a high-profile TV producer, recruits Winnie to spend a summer working as a production assistant on her current reality hit, Fantastic, Fearsome, she suddenly finds herself in the one place her mother would never go: New Jersey.

New Jersey’s famous Devil makes perfect fodder for Maggie’s show. But as the filming progresses, Winnie sees and hears things that make her think that the Devil might not be totally fake after all. Things that involve her and her family. Things about her mother’s death that might explain why she’s never met Aunt Maggie until now.

Winnie soon discovers her family’s history is deeply entwined with the Devil’s. If she’s going to make it out of the Pine Barrens alive, she might have to start believing in what her aunt is telling her. And, find out what she isn’t.

Diversity: 0 – What Diversity?

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

The Devil and Winnie Flynn is one of those books I didn’t know about until a good while after it came out. I like to think I stay on top of current and upcoming releases, so this doesn’t happen often! In addition to finding an ARC in my local used bookstore, I discovered my library had gotten a copy of it. SWEET! Using my loophole that I can check out a book from the library and it can skip my TBR jar whether I already own the book or not, I dove right into this spooky little tale. Except it wasn’t that spooky, just bad.

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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: And I Darken by Kiersten White

January 4, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: And I Darken by Kiersten WhiteAnd I Darken by Kiersten White
Series: The Conqueror's Saga #1
Published by Delacorte Press on June 28, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Historical
Pages: 496
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
three-half-stars
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

Diversity Rating: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (Most of the cast is Muslim once we get to the Ottoman Empire; Lada and Radu are Slavic)
QUILTBAG: 3 (Radu is gay; his arranged marriage enables a lesbian couple to life happily and safely)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 3 (if I remember correctly, Radu’s sexuality and religion don’t come into conflict with one another)

Kiersten White’s debut novel Paranormalcy was one of the first books I read once I started reviewing and I loved it then, but White’s novels have failed to impress me since. Then And I Darken started gathering all sorts of praise from major outlets and even people who disliked White’s previous books like I did. With so many like-minded people saying her latest was very different from her earlier works, of course I’d pay attention! I’ll add my voice to the chorus: And I Darken is much darker, features a brutal, unapologetic heroine, and is just plain good. Read more »

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Review: Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

October 13, 2016 Diversity 4, Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Review: Outrun the Moon by Stacey LeeOutrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons BFYR on May 24, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Historical
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
five-stars
From the author of the critically acclaimed Under a Painted Sky, an unforgettable story of determination set against a backdrop of devastating tragedy. Perfect for fans of Code Name Verity.

San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty of Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.

On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. Now she’s forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Though fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the army to bring help—she still has the “bossy” cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?

Stacey Lee masterfully crafts another remarkable novel set against a unique historical backdrop. Strong-willed Mercy Wong leads a cast of diverse characters in this extraordinary tale of survival.

Diversity: 4 – This is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 5 (Mercy is Chinese and Lee accurate depicts the diversity of San Fancisco’s population)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 2 (a deaf black man appears for a scene and Mercy’s role model Mrs. Lowry is blind)
Intersectionality: 5 (see above; also discussions of how sexism Mercy faces differs from sexism white girls face)

The 2016 US presidential cycle has made it difficult to have any faith whatsoever in humanity and the goodness of people’s hearts. Seeing as one Australian show reported on our election with circus music in the background, I doubt even international readers need me to explain why. We still have a month left of this madness as I write this! This little tangent might seem unrelated, but it really isn’t. Outrun the Moon did what I thought wouldn’t happen until Hillary Clinton’s election as president: It made me believe even the worst people can come together and be good. Read more »

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Review: The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty

August 22, 2014 Reviews 1 ★★★★★

Review: The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn MoriartyThe Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty
Series: Ashbury/Brookfield #3
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on October 1, 2006
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 496
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
five-stars
Bindy Mackenzie is the most perfect girl at Ashbury High. She scores in the 99.9th percentile in all her classes. She holds lunchtime advisory sessions for her fellow students. She keeps careful transcripts of everything said around her. And she has been Kmart casual Employee of the Month for seventeen months straight.

No wonder somebody wants to kill her.

Bindy is horrified to learn she must take part in the Friendship and Development Project--a new class meant to provide a "life raft" through "the tricky seas of adolescence." Bindy can't see how airheaded Emily Thompson, absentminded Elizabeth Clarry, mouthy Toby Mazzerati, malicious Astrid Bexonville, silent Briony Atkins, narcissistic Sergio Saba, and handsome, enigmatic Finnegan Blonde could ever possibly help her.

(Well, maybe Finnegan could.)

But then Bindy's perfect life begins to fall apart. She develops an obsession with the word "Cincinnati." She can't stop feeling sleepy. She fails an exam for the first time ever. And--worst of all--she just doesn't care.

What could be the cause of all these strange events? Is it conspiracy? Is it madness? Is it... murder?

Lots of people hate Bindy Mackenzie--but who would actually kill her? The answer is in Bindy's transcripts. The detectives are the members of her FAD group. But Bindy has made every one of them into an enemy... and time is running out.

Bindy. Oh, Bindy. You know that uncomfortable feeling you get when you read a book and the main character is almost exactly like you? That’s what I got with The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie when I wasn’t expecting it. YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE A FUN, MYSTERIOUS COMTEMPORARY, NOT A MOTHERFUCKING TON OF C4 PLANTED DIRECTLY IN MY HEART. I’ve read one of the other books in this series and enjoyed it, but this is one book I love above most others because even three years after reading it, I’ve only read maybe two books that touched me on a similar or deeper level.

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