Tag Archives: YA

Free Kindle Books and Maddening Menfolk: My 1 Star Reads from 2018, Part 2

Doctor in Petticoats by Mary Connealy

A penny to anyone who can tell me what this book was doing on my to-read list. Big mistake. First, I don’t read Christian romance novels generally, so it already lost a star in my book. But then, second, it was terrible. A solider-doctor with PTSD ends up falling in love with a woman and refusing to do any doctoring without her so the woman’s parents are like “We can’t chaperone so just get hitched to this maniacal man you just met!” And it all works out because Jesus and the power of a beautiful woman to cure PTSD. Gag.

Belinda Goes to Bath by Marion Chesney

I toyed with Marion Chesney on and off this past semester and generally tolerated what I found. She writes Regency novels, usually crappy ones, but with strong heroines at the center that almost make up for the sucky romances going on around the main characters. But this book went too far. Basically, this story falls in a series about a “Traveling Matchmaker” who rides around England in a stagecoach, has adventures, and sets up the young people around her. Except the young woman in this book should not have ended up with the…the man (I can’t call him a gentleman or hero) who was an absolute creep. Every good sense should have opposed such a couple. I am still furious about it.

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner        

This book was supposed to be a sci-fi novel about two young adults stranded on an abandoned planet. Except it isn’t really a sci-fi novel. It is a freakin’ romance novel that happens to take place on a ‘deserted’ planet in space. And I feel robbed by that fact. There is so much possibility in this story. Or there could be possibility. I mean…it is basically The Titanic meets Cast Away or something, but you know, space! Rich heiress with Daddy issues! Soldier boy with…muscles! Insta-attraction! No wait, enemies to lovers! No wait, mentally unstable and horny teenagers having sex in a cave! It just got worse as the book went on. The ending feels rushed, the conclusion ridiculous, and the danger…just never believable. What a waste of time.

Stone Devil Duke by K.J. Jackson

My only excuse for reading this book is that the cover had a pretty dress and it was free on Kindle. The plot follows a girl who disguises herself as a boy and prowls the slums of London trying to kill the men who killed her father (or something like that) before they kill her. She is joined by this pompous jerk (the supposed hero) who tries to protect her from it all. It started off smoothly enough but the angst, general brutality, and, frankly, vulgarity of the rest of it should have been enough warning to stop. I regret that I didn’t.

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston

Loved the title and absolutely nothing else about this book. Sloppy world building, goody-two-shoes-freaking-perfect characters, and seriously contrived romance made this one utterly boring read. Many reviewers sing this book’s praises because of the multicultural, Utopian world it supposedly presents. The reality is, this world without inequality, racism, ‘homophobia’, etc. is utterly boring and entirely unbelievable. There is 0 conflict, except maybe some drama about the “nepotism” of parents who want to pass on the family business (the nerve!) Also, the romance was so, so horrid, but I am not going to get into it here. Just…avoid.  

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2018 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 4

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Malone Scott

Giving and receiving criticism are two of the most difficult parts of being a boss. This book takes that reality and addresses it head on. I really, really enjoyed and appreciated it. It is somewhat niche as the author’s main case studies come from Google, Apple, and Twitter. However, a lot of the principles she mentions carry over into everyday life. Even as someone not currently managing people, I found a lot of her principles just good advice for every day relationships.

Don’t Cosplay with My Heart by Cecil Castellucci

This Young Adult novel tells the story of a high school girl who copes with her messed up life by cosplaying as her favorite comic book character. I unexpectedly loved the book. It tugged on my heartstrings and wrapped me up in a world of fandoms and cosplay. It wasn’t perfect – a little on the nose with its “all fans are equal” message and I’m never a fan of teenage romance – but it successfully walked the line of emotional and angsty. While it could have been more fleshed out, I liked it because it wasn’t. Short, fun, appealing. It captures what brings people to fandoms and cosplay and how one girl channels her anxiety about life into her costumes. If I have one complaint, it is with the title. It does not do the book justice.

2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious by Shannon Hale

I am officially obsessed with Shannon Hale’s Squirrel Girl. And this is solidly Juvenile fiction. Not aimed at adults at all. Doreen is a Marvel superhero – Squirrel Girl. She doesn’t get to hang out with the Avengers much, but she does text with them! (The Winter Solider is scary…) Her powers include a giant tail that she hides in her pants and the ability to communicate with squirrels. It sounds weird, it is weird, but it works so well. I giggled my way throughout. Also, I am pretty sure I am Squirrel Girl. I need more books in this series PRONTO.

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

Sometimes, Young Adult novels are really terrible, and sometimes they are written by Maurene Goo and are amazing. This book hit me right in the feels. Clara Shin doesn’t take life too seriously. She loves pulling pranks, though, and finally her pranking goes too far and her Dad forces her to work at his Korean-Brazilian food truck over the summer with her arch-nemesis. I loved Clara from the start. I loved the diversity in this book. The character growth. The food truck. I d that even though it is packaged as a sort of Sarah Dessen teeny romance, the real focus is on female friendships and learning to care. The romance hits the right note of important, but not all consuming for the plot. Just good.

My Plain Jane by by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton

This is the second book in the The Lady Janies series. The first one told the story of Jane Gray – the fated 9-day, English Queen – and the third one will tell the story of Calamity Jane (I wanttttt). My Plain Jane, however, tells the story of Jane Eyre. But not the story you know. As always, the Lady Janies mess with history (or in this case, literature) to include a host of fantastical characters and hilarious, witty plot points. It is so fun and creative. You can read it with without reading the first one (only the names connect them.)

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt

Using psychology, philosophy, theology (ish), and some biology, Jonathan Haidt digs into what brings true happiness and how we define it. I like how intellectually engaging the book was. Most of the studies, philosophies, and ideas he presented were familiar. However, I’ve never seen them combined like this. It really is about “modern truth” born from “ancient wisdom.” I might disagree with how he reaches his conclusions, but overall I liked chewing it over.


Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

Image result for brightly burning alexa donne

4 words: Jane Eyre in space.

Does that sound awesome to you? Then you’ll probably like this book. 

Does that sound horrid? You’ll probably hate it. 

On the fence? Well, do you like YA? If yes, read this book. If no, avoid. 

 

I found it pleasant and pretty clever but nothing above 3 stars. 


Pride by Ibi Zoboi

I’m a sucker for all things Pride and Prejudice and thankfully have good friends who know this and lend me their copies of the latest P&P retellings before they’ve even read it…

And you know, this was a pretty excellent retelling. But not my new favorite.  

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Pride by Ibi Zoboi takes Pride and Prejudice, modernizes it, and re-imagines it in a hood in Brooklyn. 17-year-old Zuri Benitez is proud of her Afro-Latino heritage, her large family, and her corner of the world. But the world around her is changing. When the house across the street gets bulldozed and rebuilt into a McMansion by the wealthy Darcy family, Zuri views the snobbish Darius Darcy as everything wrong with the change. But as she begins applying for college and experiencing the world outside of her hood, Zuri’s opinions shift as she grapples with what really makes a place home.

The author does a good job translating the socioeconomic realities of Pride and Prejudice into a modern setting with Pride. The 5 Benitez sisters, the landlady’s nephew Colin who will inherit the place, the street savvy Warren with his smooth talking ways, all convert easily to this new world. 

Pride also holds its own with interspersed spoken word poetry and a deeply poetic (okay, often over-the-top) writing style. 

However…Zuri Benitez is a really annoying character. She has a chip on her shoulder and it is firmly embedded in her personality. While the plot uses her naive confidence to create some depth and character change, it prevented me from liking her as a character. And 300 pages adds up when you cannot stand the main character. Zuri’s world may expand throughout the story but she never loses her pride, and unfortunately pride is a stand-in here for judgmentalism and general rudeness. 

But as much as Zuri doesn’t change, we get even less form the purported Mr. Darcy of the piece, Darius Darcy. In fact, the reader gets basically nothing from Darius. I guess that is the reason the author drops “Prejudice” from the title. He is a part – but only one part – of Zuri’s discovery of the world outside her hood. But he doesn’t change. We get glimpses of deeper personality, like the reason his family moved in the first place, but then Zuri intrudes again. This is her story and her life. Which in some regard, I applaud. But this is also a Pride and Prejudice retelling, excuse me, “remix.” You don’t just drop the character who arguably goes through the most change. 

This book reaches for something great and brushes it. I really liked where the author was going. Unfortunately, I don’t think she makes it. The characters need to finish their character change. Otherwise, you’re leaving the reader with a character only slightly less judgmental and unlikable than when we met her. Which, of course, might be all part of some greater, meta-theme I’m totally missing. I’ll keep an open mind. I just feel like this could have been the next Pride and Prejudice and because it dared so greatly, it also feels extra painful that it misses so greatly. 


2017 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 1

For those of you who don’t have time to read 119 books in 365 days (and even those of you who do), here are my favorites from this year! They all come with my recommendation. 

Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t by James Collins

A business book full of interesting case studies and general principles for building a successful (“great”) business. Like many books in this genre, I enjoyed it because I saw elements of Good Profit in it. Since I love Good Profit, I was bound to like this one too. Overall a bit dated but intellectually engaging and well worth the time. 

Enough Rope by Dorothy Parker

I don’t normally like poetry, but I loved this little volume of poems. Parker is cynical, depressed, and heart-sore yet so real. She is occasionally trite and sarcastic but rarely dull. Sad, beautiful poetry.

Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer

Sir Gareth Ludlow has decided it is time to marry…but on his way to propose to his childhood friend, he meets a lovely young runaway! Determined to return her to her family, he enlists the help of his erstwhile fiance. Chaos ensues. This is a fairly standard Heyer plot yet perhaps one of her better uses of it. A fun, romantic romp! 

The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer

Gervase Frant returns from the wars to claim his inheritance and take over the family estate. His family accept his return with hostility. Several “accidents” later and Gervase starts to wonder…do they hate him enough to murder him? This book perhaps deserves closer to 4 stars because the mystery is quite clunky. However, Gervase is charming and Miss Morville, the leading lady, absolutely wonderful. Another charming Heyer read. 

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis 

I was twelve years of age when I chopped of my hair, dressed as a boy, and set off to save my family from ruin. I made it almost to the end of my front garden.” So begins a charming, fun story about a girl who discovers she has magic and tries to use it to save her family’s waning fortune. Kat was a likable, spunky heroine and I loved her relationship with her sisters. The whole book kept me guessing with its twists and turns. A creative, magical adventure set in the Regency era written for middle schoolers. 

Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner  

Megan Whalen Turner is seriously the best. Thick as Thieves is book 5 in the Queen’s Thief series and let me tell you, it is just as good as the others. I won’t say much more because spoilers. If you haven’t already, go pick up The Thief. It is slow at first but worth it for the end. (And the rest of the books.) Definitely one of my favorite fantasy series! 

Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson 

Sixteen-year-old Alison lives in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found. According to Alison, the body just disintegrated. But that’s impossible…right? This book particularly stuck out because I went in assuming it would be another YA fantasy and it turned out to be sci-fi. While this jarred with a lot of readers, I enjoyed the switch. The novel avoids most cliches and really nails the YA genre with its originality. 


Young Adult Literature – PG or PG13?

I was around 12 when I made the “jump” (as I considered it) from the Juvenile Fiction section of the library to the Young Adult side. Besides a geographical relocation, the biggest impact of the move was that I now had to be extra careful with the books I selected. Compared to Juvenile Fiction (where anything besides a chaste kiss would have been shocking), the Young Adult books I perused seemed chalk full of sex, language, and dark, mature content. Where I once read broadly from all genres and authors, I now tiptoed, jumping from safe series (like the Hardy Boys Classified) to familiar authors (like Jessica Day George). In fact, it wasn’t until college that I fully embraced YA as a genre and felt comfortable trying books at random.  It seems silly now, but at the time this search for “safety” involved quite a bit of soul searching and boundary stretching on my part. 

Part of what got me reading YA broadly was that I moved libraries. The tiny, local library in Dayton, TN didn’t have the resources for a kids’ section and a teens’ section. The result was a sort of hodgepodge of the two, broadly called “Young Adult.” A part of me always felt they got it wrong. Either you have “clean” books, or you don’t. You can’t mix them. 

However, looking at it now, I’ve started to wonder about my definition of “young adult.” I’ve always considered it like a PG13 movie rating. When you enter, you go in with the knowledge that there is “mature content ahead.” Many books I’ve seen placed in YA recently seem to belong to the more innocuous PG rating, however. It is somewhat more mature than a G rating (or traditional Juvenile Fiction), but comparatively clean. Or perhaps they are just coming of age stories a grade schooler wouldn’t find interesting, particularly if it contains older characters or more subtle themes. 

I suppose the YA genre is a mix of PG and PG13, though it still seems like a nuanced jump to me. How would you define YA? Do you have a particular way of categorizing it in your mind?


Can’t Wait Wednesday

I love following kattiescottagebooks…I learn about so many different weekly spotlights (like Teaser Tuesdays) and now, Can’t Wait Wednesday! If you like reading about books, you should definitely follow her here.

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted here, at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released.

This was an easy pick for me. I can’t wait to read…

I Believe in a Thing Called Love

Title: I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Publishing date: May 30th, 2017

Plot: Desi Lee knows how carburetors work. She learned CPR at the age of five. As a high school senior, she has never missed a day of school and has never had a B in her entire life. She’s for sure going to Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation-magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds her answer in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Rules for True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and fake car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

 

KOREAN DRAMAS AND YOUNG ADULT FICTION.  It is the combination of two of my favorite things; I’m psyched. There is no way this book will live up to my expectations. It just isn’t possible. I also know this because the synopsis says, “where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten.” That is a blatant lie. Everyone knows that if the heroine is in her true love’s arms in episode ten, something horrible is going to happen because there are 6 more hours to go. HOWEVER, I’m super excited anyway. Hopefully this won’t be the next Girl Online