Book Review: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

Book: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

Published April 2018 by Simon Pulse|421 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

I liked this one!  It’s cute, and there are a lot of things I liked…but also some things I didn’t like.

So, I liked the non-traditional families in this book, particularly with the relationship Zorie had with her step-mom.  I loved that even though Zorie wasn’t her biological child, she still considered Zorie her kid, and they had such a good relationship.  It’s a nice change from the evil, horrible step-parent who hates the kid from the previous marriage.  As for Zorie’s dad, I wasn’t a big fan of him.  I hated that for the entire book, he hated Lennon, and it was just so weird to me.  I mean, he’s a kid, and though it wasn’t explained for most of the book, something obviously happened for the dad to want Lennon stay away from Zorie.

We do learn what that moment is, and I was a little let down by it.  I understand why her dad was upset, but obviously, appearances mattered more than anything else, and I was glad when he was no longer part of Zorie’s life.

I really liked the maps throughout the book, and it really seemed to fit with the book and the journey through the wilderness.  Zorie and Lennon do suit each other, and they had a lot of chemistry but I also wasn’t into the romance, for some reason.  It’s sweet and cute, and there’s definitely some miscommunication that gets worked out.  The setting worked really well, and it was a good background for them as they figured out what went wrong at Homecoming.  Also, camping and hiking isn’t something that comes up in YA contemporary.  It made it seem a little more unique, but I am slightly disappointed that Zorie’s love of astronomy didn’t really come into play as she and Lennon were hiking to a different park.

Overall, though, I was bored at times.  The camping/hiking descriptions were cool, but I didn’t really get why Zorrie and Lennon were on the trip when one of the girls just wanted to get rid of Zorrie, and Lennon only seemed to be there to keep an eye on Zorrie.

I also didn’t like the references to Homecoming, and how that changed things for Zorrie and Lennon.  There was a lot of build-up to it, and I did feel a little let down by what really happened.  I already wasn’t a fan of her dad, and that made me really hate him.  I’ve already talked about it a little bit, so I won’t add anything else but I definitely wasn’t thrilled with her dad.

3 stars.  I liked Starry Eyes, and the setting was really cool.  I liked the relationship Zorie had with her step-mom, but I’m having a hard time giving it anything higher than 3 stars.

Advertisements

Book Review: Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

Book: Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

Published October 2017 by Viking Books For Young Readers|477 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Akata Witch #2

Genre: YA Fantasy

A year ago, Sunny Nwazue, an American-born girl Nigerian girl, was inducted into the secret Leopard Society. As she began to develop her magical powers, Sunny learned that she had been chosen to lead a dangerous mission to avert an apocalypse, brought about by the terrifying masquerade, Ekwensu. Now, stronger, feistier, and a bit older, Sunny is studying with her mentor Sugar Cream and struggling to unlock the secrets in her strange Nsibidi book. 

Eventually, Sunny knows she must confront her destiny. With the support of her Leopard Society friends, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, and of her spirit face, Anyanwu, she will travel through worlds both visible and invisible to the mysteries town of Osisi, where she will fight a climactic battle to save humanity.

Much-honored Nnedi Okorafor, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, merges today’s Nigeria with a unique world she creates. Akata Warrior blends mythology, fantasy, history and magic into a compelling tale that will keep readers spellbound.

I really liked this one!  I feel like I’ve read a few of her books recently, and I have a couple more on my shelf that I got from the library, so I’m definitely in a mood for Okorafor’s books.

I’ll admit, it’s been a while since I’ve read the first book, so I didn’t remember anything from Akata Witch.  Which was actually fine because I didn’t need to remember too much about it.  It doesn’t rely a lot on the first book, though it is a good idea to read that one first.

It was so nice to revisit this world, and I loved seeing what Sunny and her friends were up to.  I loved how she wanted to protect her brother, and even though it caused a lot of trouble for Sunny, I feel like her heart was in the right place.  I’m glad we got more of her family, and if there are more books in the series, I hope we get more with her family and how she has to balance that with being a Leopard Person.

I love how the details come together, and I love the balance between the magical world and the real world.  They’re balanced really well, and I love how they exist together.  They’re very different, of course, and I can’t imagine having to hide part of that from family, but overall, I think Sunny manages to fit in pretty well.

I loved revisiting this world, and it’s just as interesting as the world we saw in Akata Witch.  This book really adds to Sunny’s world, but I wish some things were talked about a little more.  Still, there’s more to Sunny’s world in this book, and it was nice to grow with Suny as she comes into her abilities a little more.

4 stars.  It took me a little time to get into it, and I think a lot of it is not having re-read the first book.  Still, I really liked it, and it was nice going back to Sunny’s world.

Book Review: Frostblood by Elly Blake

Book: Frostblood by Elly Blake

Published January 2017 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|376 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Frostblood #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating – yet irresistible – Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her – and from the icy young man she has come to love.

This is a book I’ve meaning to read for a while, and I finally got around to it.  I liked it, but not as much as I thought I would.

Here’s the thing with this book.  I liked the idea behind it, and I like the contrast in powers- you can’t go wrong with fire and frost on opposing sides.  But what works against it is there are a lot of other similar books out there, and it was hard to love this one.  There were a few books I was reminded of, and it was hard to get into it, though I did like the opposing powers thing.  It made it seem at least somewhat different, at least on the surface.  Maybe if I hadn’t read books like The Red Queen, I would have liked it a lot more.  This book is definitely part of a trend, but maybe I need some sort of distance from the trend.

I couldn’t begin to tell you a thing about Ruby, other than she seems to have some control over her powers.  That was a nice change from her learning she has some sort of ability she’s not supposed to have.

Other than that, it’s your typical YA fantasy, so I wasn’t particularly surprised by what happened.  Still, I’m curious to see what happens next.  While I’m not running out to read the next one, I will pick it up at some point.  On the plus side, the cover is really cool, and I feel like I don’t comment on covers a lot, so this is a pretty good one, in my opinion.

3 stars.  I liked it, and fire and frost are pretty cool opposing powers, but it would have been interesting to see something that’s a little less obvious, as far as powers go.

Book Review: Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry

Book: Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry

Published August 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books|329 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Michael is an atheist. So as he walks through the doors at St. Clare’s—a strict Catholic school—sporting a plaid tie, things can’t get much worse. His dad has just made the family move again, and Michael needs a friend. When a girl challenges their teacher in class, Michael thinks he might have found one, and a fellow nonbeliever at that. Only this girl, Lucy, is not just Catholic . . . she wants to be a priest.

But Lucy introduces Michael to other St. Clare’s outcasts, and he officially joins Heretics Anonymous, where he can be an atheist, Lucy can be an outspoken feminist, Avi can be Jewish and gay, Max can wear whatever he wants, and Eden can practice paganism. After an incident in theology class, Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies. When Michael takes one mission too far—putting the other Heretics at risk—he must decide whether to fight for his own freedom, or rely on faith, whatever that means, in God, his friends, or himself.

I thought this one was an interesting one, and I’ll admit, I was intrigued by a group of outcasts called Heretics Anonymous.

Michael and his friends are quite the interesting but different group of people.  So, this book doesn’t set out to convert anyone, and you get everyone as they are.  There’s a lot of different viewpoints, and I felt like Henry was respectful of all of the different beliefs we see in the book.  I can’t think of any other YA book that specifically mentions atheism, and it made for an interesting read, because you see how Michael reacts to everything at his new school.

Tolerance and understanding is definitely something that comes across throughout the whole book, and I liked seeing the difference in beliefs (and lack thereof) we see in the book.  It felt really natural, and I never had the impression that characters were in there to check off a box.  It was nice to see that different beliefs can actually co-exist and get along, and that it’s okay to have your own belief system.

There were also some really funny moments, which I liked seeing.  I felt like YA tends to make me cry more than it makes me laugh, but I do tend to go for the heavy stuff.  It was nice to read something lighter for once.

I really liked Michael and Lucy, though I could care less about their romance.  While Michael made some bad decisions, I also understand why he acted the way he did.  Also…I hated his dad.  He was terrible for most of the book, and it really bothered me that Michael and his sister were told they weren’t moving for a while, only for it to not happen.  At least, it seemed up in the air at the end of the book and I think some of the things Michael did could have been avoided had his parents been honest.

3 stars.  I liked it, but I can’t pinpoint anything super-specific about what I didn’t like.  It’s worth checking out.

Book Review: Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

Book: Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

Published October 2014 by Algonquin Young Readers|304 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

High-school junior Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is something of a relief. Her Persian heritage already makes her different from her classmates; if word got out that she liked girls, life would be twice as hard. But when a sophisticated, beautiful new girl, Saskia, shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual. Struggling to sort out her growing feelings and Saskia’s confusing signals, Leila confides in her old friend, Lisa, and grows closer to her fellow drama tech-crew members, especially Tomas, whose comments about his own sexuality are frank, funny, wise, and sometimes painful. Gradually, Leila begins to see that almost all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and many are keeping fascinating secrets of their own.

Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel was just okay.  I wanted to like it more, and there were some things I liked, but it wasn’t enough to actually get me to like it.

I did like seeing Leila get involved with the school play, and that her classmates aren’t who Leila thought they were.  I was glad she got to know some of them, and that she started to find her place at school.  I liked seeing her struggle with fitting in, and how different she felt from her other classmates.  It made it easy to relate to Leila, and I could picture it really well.  I also get why

I didn’t care for Saskia, who was cruel and manipulative.  I can’t say I’m surprised by how she acted, especially with everything that happened towards the end of the book.  And I don’t know if it’s just me, but it felt like something out of Mean Girls.  Why, I don’t know, but that was the vibe I got from that one scene in particular.

I didn’t get why she had so many issues with her sister- it seemed like it was the fact that her sister was doing everything she was supposed to and Leila wasn’t.  Her sister turned out to be pretty cool, and I wish there was more depth with why Leila didn’t care for her sister.  Also, I’m an only child, so I don’t completely get the sibling dynamic.

It was pretty short, and I feel like it could have been a little bit longer.  It was a little bit younger than I thought it would be.  At the very least, it read young, and I thought it would have worked pretty well as a middle grade novel.

2 stars.  This book wasn’t for me, but I can see why people love it.

Book Review: Grace And Fury by Tracy Banghart

Book: Grace And Fury by Tracy Banghart

Published July 2018 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|320 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Grace And Fury #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison.

Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace – someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir’s eye, it’s Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.

Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything.

I really liked this one!  In some ways, it’s really predictable, but in other ways, it was really cool.

It’s predictable in the sense that the sister who’s been training to be a Grace doesn’t become one, and the sister who doesn’t want it is the one who becomes a Grace.  There were a couple of other things that were predictable as well, particularly with the heir, but I didn’t mind, for some reason.

When I was reading Grace And Fury, I was very much reminded of The Handmaid’s Tale.  The way women have no choices, aren’t allowed to read or write, and how they get sent to an island prison if they do anything deemed unacceptable.  How the prison was set up was different- all of them are divided into different groups, though I can’t say I’m surprised by how they’re treated once there.

I really liked the bond the two sisters had, and how willing they were to protect each other.  All they could think about, especially after Serina goes to prison for Nomi, was making sure the other one was okay.  I liked the relationship they had, and I liked seeing how both of them changed throughout the book.  They were both so determined to fight and make things better for all of the women in…wherever it is they live.  I, for the life of me, cannot remember where it is, but at any rate, they do want to make things better.

I did want a little more with the world- I wish we knew how they got to this point.  I’m not convinced that we’ll get more in the next one, and I’d be surprised at we did.  I am curious, especially since it’s mentioned that women were in power at one point, and that the history Nomi knew isn’t the one that actually happened.  I get why that history was erased, but I still wish we had more of it.  I just want to know how we got to that point.

4 stars.  I really liked it, and though it was predictable at times, I still want to know what happens next.

Book Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Book: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Published May 2013 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers|457 pages

Where I Got It: I own the library

Series: The 5th Wave #1

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother-or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

I didn’t like this one as much as I thought I would.  It’s a cool idea, and had a lot of potential, but it didn’t quite work for me.

I wanted to know more about the first 4 waves.  It wasn’t really explained, at least in a way I wanted.  You do see glimpses of what happened before, and I think I just wanted it more clearly explained.  Not only that, but I didn’t like how it was done either- it seemed like it randomly jumped around between past and present, and while I don’t mind flashbacks, I thought they weren’t integrated well into the story.  It made things seem more confusing, and I had a hard time telling the difference between past and present at first.

I also had a hard time with the different POV’s at first.  It’s not clearly obvious who’s narrating, and even though it was initially confusing, I did manage to figure out who was narrating.  It wasn’t until close to the end of the book when I managed to figure out all of the perspectives, because most of them weren’t obvious.

I definitely feel like I had to put in too much effort to figure out what was going on and who narrating, and I just wasn’t in a mood for having to figure everything out.  It’s just a boring, confusing alien invasion.  Alien invasions should not be boring or confusing, but this one was.

The fact that the aliens blended in so well, and that you couldn’t tell who was human and who was Other/Alien, was cool.  I really wish we had more about that, because it is a cool idea.

Overall, I wish this book were for me.  Clearly, there’s a lot I didn’t like, and I really did want to like it more.

2 stars.  Even though there’s a lot I didn’t like, and I found the book to be confusing and boring, I don’t actively dislike it either.

Book Review: Tower Of Dawn by Sarah J Maas

Book: Tower Of Dawn by Sarah J Maas

Published September 2017 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens|664 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Throne Of Glass #6

Genre: YA Fantasy

In the next installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, follow Chaol on his sweeping journey to a distant empire.

Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.

His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent’s mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.

But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.

As much as I like this series, Tower Of Dawn was just okay for me.  It’s been a while since I’ve read the series, so I was a bit fuzzy on the details.  Which was fine enough, since this one seemed like more of a stand-alone than the other books.  But I still wish I had re-read the series, because I spent the entire book trying to remember who Nesryn was.

At least I remembered who Chaol was, though I’m not a huge of Chaol.  Not to the point where I wish I didn’t remember who he was, but I just wanted to get back to what was going on with Aelin.

Anyway, back to this book.  It really dragged for me, and it was both ridiculously slow and boring.  I found myself skimming a lot, because for some reason, I was determined to get through this book and I have no idea why.  It was too long and drawn out, and honestly…as much as I like this series, I would have been fine if this book were a novella instead.  I’m just so confused as to why this book is over 600 pages.

I think the only thing I truly liked was the backstory of Maeve.  That was interesting but it’s the only thing that did get my attention/interest.  For pretty much everything else, I could have cared less.

And Chaol being magically healed?  That really bothered me.  To me, it felt like it was there solely so he could meet Yrene and get his HEA with her.  Also, I’m not a fan of their relationship, mostly because I can’t get it out of my head that she married a former patient.  I just…I can’t with that.  I really can’t, and it crosses a line for me.

Overall, it’s my least favorite in the series.  I mean, at this point, I’m pretty invested, so I’ll keep reading, but this one didn’t work for me.

2 stars.  Clearly, this book was not for me.  It was too drawn out, and could have worked well as either a novella, or part of the previous book, or the next.

Book Review: Impostors by Scott Westerfeld

Book: Impostors by Scott Westerfeld

Published September 2018 by Scholastic Press|407 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Uglies #5

Genre: YA Sci-Fi/Dystopia

Frey and Rafi are inseparable . . . but very few people have ever seen them together. This is because Frey is Rafi’s double, raised in the shadows of their rich father’s fortress. While Rafi has been taught to charm, Frey has been taught to kill. Frey only exists to protect her sister. There is no other part of her life. Frey has never been out in the world on her own – until her father sends her in Rafi’s place to act as collateral for a dangerous deal. Everyone thinks she’s her sister – but Col, the son of a rival leader, is starting to get close enough to tell the difference. As the stakes grow higher and higher, Frey must decide whether she can trust him – or anyone in her life.

I’ll admit, I was both really nervous and really excited about this book.  Excited, because we get to revisit the world of the Uglies, and way after the end of Specials.  But I was also nervous, because I wasn’t too enthused with Extras, which felt tacked on when I originally read.  I was nervous it would be the same with Impostors.

I’m glad I read it, though, because I ended up being nervous for no reason.  One thing I really appreciated is the fact that you don’t need to read the first 4 books in order to know what’s going on with this one.  Even though it’s the 5th book in the Uglies series, it also felt like a sequel or spin-off series.  You get an idea of what happened before, and it was worked into the book really well but it’s also a completely different story, and you can follow what’s going on pretty well.  I’d still recommend the previous books because they are really good, and the 4th might feel like less of an afterthought now that the series is continuing.

I really liked the characters, and part of me wishes we saw more of Rafi.  We get a good sense of who she is, especially by the end of the book, but I have the feeling there’s more going on with her than what we get in the book.

I liked Frey too, and I liked that she wasn’t always sure what to do, or how to act.  It’s understandable, considering she didn’t get the education Rafi did.  That was something that took me out of it a little, though.  I mean, I know she’s a body double and all, she’s just a stand-in for when they need to make an appearance in front of a crowd, but what if something were to happen to Rafi?  Eventually, it might become obvious that there’s something going on, and I feel like she should have had the same education Rafi did for it to really work.  It seemed like Frey really needed but her father obviously had other plans.

There is a lot of action, and it does move pretty fast, which is good.  There’s also a lot of twists and turns, and it was fun to go along for the ride.

4 stars.  I didn’t love it, and Frey not having the complete education Rafi did took me out of the story a little bit.  Still, it’s worth reading, especially if you liked the original series.

Book Review: Flygirl by Sherri L Smith

Book: Flygirl by Sherri L Smith

Published January 2009 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers|288 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Ida Mae Jones dreams of flight. Her daddy was a pilot and being black didn’t stop him from fulfilling his dreams. But her daddy’s gone now, and being a woman, and being black, are two strikes against her.

When America enters the war with Germany and Japan, the Army creates the WASP, the Women Airforce Service Pilots – and Ida suddenly sees a way to fly as well as do something significant to help her brother stationed in the Pacific. But even the WASP won’t accept her as a black woman, forcing Ida Mae to make a difficult choice of “passing,” of pretending to be white to be accepted into the program. Hiding one’s racial heritage, denying one’s family, denying one’s self is a heavy burden. And while Ida Mae chases her dream, she must also decide who it is she really wants to be.

I liked Flygirl!  It’s definitely worth checking out, and I really liked reading Ida Mae’s story.

So one thing I didn’t particularly like was how old Ida Mae was.  It’s mentioned in the book that she’s 20, which I thought was really strange.  I mean, it reads as YA, and I thought Ida Mae was a lot younger than she really was.  That didn’t particularly work for me, but it is what it is.

I did like the friendships she formed with some of her fellow WASP’s, and being a WASP really brought them together.  You really saw how Ida just wanted to be a pilot, like her dad was.  You see her struggle with her fellow WASP’s finding out she’s black, and you see what it’s like for her to be a pilot in a man’s world.  One scene that was really heartbreaking was when her mom came to Ida’s flight school, pretending to be the family maid so people wouldn’t know that Ida was passing as white.

There is some conflict with her family and friends back home about passing for white, but it’s not something that really comes up in her time as WASP.  I think I thought (based on the summary) that it would play more of a part than it really did.  I’m white, though, so I could be completely wrong about that.

The book ended with a lot of things being pretty open-ended.  You’re not sure if Ida Mae goes back home to her family, or if she tries to make it as a pilot once the WASP program ended.  I don’t mind it when books have an open ending, but in this case, I wanted to know more about Ida Mae’s future.

3 stars.  I liked Flygirl, and how Ida Mae was caught between two different worlds.  It’s a great book if you want World War II historical fiction about a part of history that doesn’t come up in your average history class.  I didn’t love it, but it was an interesting read.