Thursday, March 15, 2018

Book Review: Around the Way Girl

TITLE: Around the Way Girl
AUTHOR: Taraji P. Henson
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction
GENRE: Celebrity memoir
PREMISE: Actor Taraji P. Henson talks about her life.
MY REVIEW: This review will be short because honestly, there's not much to say about this one. It's a very typical celebrity memoir. I can tell you, I really like Taraji, which is why I picked this up. Like most people, I became aware of her when Empire became a thing (I still have not seen it. Sorry guys). I then grew to like her as an actor when I watched Person of Interest a couple of years ago (seriously, watch this show. It's the best). I also highly recommend Hidden Figures, if you haven't seen it yet.
There are a few things in here about her that I actually did not know. She doesn't really tell many dark secrets or anything like that. But it does make me admire her a lot. It's decently written. I can tell she's the one telling me these stories. Which at the end of the day, is all I ask from my celebrity memoirs: that it does actually at least feel like the person is the one telling you their stories and not some ghost writer.
There's no huge bombshells. It's funny and very fast-paced. If you like Taraji and want to know more about her, this is a good one to pick up.
WHO SHOULD READ: fans of Taraji P. Henson
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five solid memoirs

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Book Review: Truly Devious

TITLE: Truly Devious
Book 1 in the Truly Devious Trilogy
AUTHOR: Maureen Johnson
PUBLISHED: January 16th, 2018
GENRE: Mystery
PREMISE: A girl goes to an exclusive private school where she soon becomes involved in solving a decades old cold case...
MY REVIEW: Maureen Johnson is an interesting author for me. Some of her things, I'm a bit ho hum about (like 13 Little Blue Envelopes for instance) but other things she's done I really liked (the Shades of London trilogy). Luckily, I can put Truly Devious in the category of I liked it.
This is a fun little mystery. It is a bit slow in parts, but what it does with characters is great. It does have Maureen's habit of quirky characters. So if you are not into that, this might irk you a bit. But if you don't mind quirkiness, this does turn into a very interesting mystery. On one hand, you have the older mystery with the family, and then things happen and there's a modern day mystery to solve.
I thought this was a very good introduction book. It gives you a larger mystery solve. There are more modern ones for the character to tackle, and some new questions get raised at the end. I'm personally looking forward to the next book.
WHO SHOULD READ: Mystery fans, Veronica Mars fans, fans of boarding school stories
MY RATING: Four out of Five solid mysteries

Monday, March 12, 2018

Notable Releases: 3/4-3/10

Here are the releases that are on my radar for the past week. March 6th was a big release day, so there are quite a lot of books here.


The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

A contemporary about a girl who finds her voice through slam poetry. I've been working my way through poetry this year (haven't reviewed it on here, because I'm honestly not sure how to review poetry yet). So this kind of looks relevant to my interests right now.

Legacy of Orisha Book 1: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

One of my most anticipated debuts of the year. I hope this breaks the meh fantasy debut streak problem that I've been having this past year.

Charlotte Holmes 3: The Case For Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro

When it comes to gender-flipped Sherlock Holmes, I recommend this series. The author takes a well known trope (gender-flipping a popular character. There have been lots of gender-flipped versions of Holmes over the years) and puts a fresh unique twist to it. It is great. After the twist of the last book, I can't wait to get to the third one.

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Another debut fantasy that I'm hoping breaks the meh YA fantasy streak. I don't have much luck with mermaid books, but this one is a Little Mermaid retelling with a dark twist. I have to give that a look.

Of FIre and Stars: Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst

Companion book to Of Fire and Stars. Deals with different characters, but is set in the same universe. I cannot wait. Oh, and it looks like we're getting a sequel to Of Fire and Stars next year!

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

I love books about witches. This one is promising Hocus Pocus vibes. It also reminds me a bit of a trio of Fear Street books that R. L. Stine did called the Cataluna Chronicles. I'm all over this book.

Rebel of the Sands Book 3: Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton

I admit, I wasn't terribly impressed with Rebel of the Sands. To me it was an average fantasy with a different setting. But then the second book happened. And suddenly this average fantasy became a great fantasy. I hope the third book takes that further and it becomes even better.

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk

Looks like a heart-renching contemporary along the lines of Adam Silvera. I've been all about these kinds of books lately for some reason....

Adult Fiction

Rainbirds Clarissa Goenawan

First off: look at that gorgeous cover. But most importantly: the story sounds good. Brother learns estranged sister is dead. Brother goes and tries to find out why she was killed. All in a small town in Japan. Sounds like my kind of thing.

Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

LGBT contemporary that has been getting some buzz.

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy: A Novel in Clues by Nova Jacobs

This is being billed as a "literary thriller" which...yeah I hate when people try to put literary in front of a genre to try and make it seem smart or whatever. But I'm still giving it a chance, because mystery. But seriously publishers, stop with the literary fantasy or literary mystery or literary YA nonsense. I don't care if something is literary. I just want it to be an interesting story.

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

Literary fiction debut about a female friendship and issues that women face today. Sounds like it could be good.


Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet by Claire L. Evans

I love hidden history non-fictions stuff.

Ask Me About My Uterus: A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women's Pain by Abby Norman

If you are a woman, you've very likely had a doctor at some point tell you something along the lines of "oh, that's nothing. You don't have to worry about that." Or just out right dismissal when you try to explain to them that something is wrong with your body. This book goes into that issue and it looks like it's going to be interesting (and probably infuriating).

The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote by Elaine Weiss

Good book for Women's History Month. A look at how we got the right to vote (at least the right for white women).

Monday, March 5, 2018

Book Review: Meet Cute

TITLE: Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet
AUTHOR: various authors, edited by Jennifer L. Armentrout
PUBLISHED: January 2nd, 2018
GENRE: Romance, Contemporary
PREMISE: A short story collection featuring a wide variety of meet cutes.
MY REVIEW: This is the first of many interesting looking short story collections out this year. For those that do not know what meet cutes are, they are basically a romance trope. They're just cute circumstances through which two characters meet. Like say...they get stuck in an elevator, strike up a conversation, and a relationship develops from there. That sort of thing.
As with all short story collections, this was a mixed bag. But I will say there were more stories here that I loved then usual. So that's a bonus. There were only two stories I outright did not like. One was a story where the girl was cheating on her boyfriend by kissing the guy. Sorry, I don't find cheating very cute. The second was the story by Ibi Zoboi who is the author of American Street. It pains me that I don't like Ibi Zoboi's stuff. I tried to read American Street last year, but just had to DNF it, because there was so much girl hate and that was taking away from the important stuff she was trying to talk about in it. In this story, it was the same deal: great message about loving yourself when others don't, but hindered by constant girl hate. Also writers: you can write about fat acceptance without shaming skinny girls. It can actually be done. Pushing down one group of people, to prop up another group of people is not okay. I think I'm just going to have to give up on Zoboi. This seems to be a feature in her writing and I'm sorry, I'm just not okay with it. I wish her well, because the stuff she writes about is important, but it's just not for me.
But other then those two stories, I liked a majority of the stories in here. Some...I don't particularly think qualify as meet cutes, but they were cute so I'm okay with them. I'm pleased with the amount of f/f stories in here. There is also one cute story with a trans girl as the main character. I do wish there had been some m/m romances as well, but overall I'm pleased with it. The best stories to me were:
Print Shop by Nina LaCour
Somewhere That's Green by Meredith Russo
The Way We Love Here by Dhonielle Clayton
259 Million Miles by Kass Morgan
The Department of Dead Love by Nicola Yoon
WHO SHOULD READ: romance fans, romantic comedy fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five cute romances

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Notable Releases: 2/25-3/3

Here are the releases from this past week that are on my radar. Note: there was no notable releases from last week, because honestly there weren't that many releases that week I was excited for, aside from one or two non-fiction books.


All Out: The No Longer Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages by various authors

Yes, my friends, a short story collection featuring lgbtq characters in historical fiction stories. Dreams do come true. After this, how about one with fantasy/sci-fi settings? Please, please, please?

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena

Contemporary debut that I've been hearing good things about.

Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond Book 1: The Serpent's Secret by Sayantani DasGupta

I'm really pumped for this one, guys. It's a middle-grade adventure book featuring a demon-slaying girl finding out family secrets when her parents are kidnapped and she's swept off into a magical world. This is my kind of book in so many ways.

Tess of the Road Book 1 by Rachel Hartman

New Rachel Hartman book! And it takes place in the same world as Seraphina! ;does a happy geek dance;

Daughter of the Pirate King Book 2: Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller

Daughter of the Pirate Queen was one of the few fantasy debuts from last year that really stood out to me. I'm looking forward to its sequel.

Where I Live by Brenda Rufener

Looks like an intense contemporary dealing with abuse, homelessness, and a couple of other things.


How I Resist: Activism and Hope for the Next Generation by various authors

Essays from various YA authors about activism and how you can help.

In Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons From 29 Heroines Who Dared to Break the Rules by Karen Karbo

Looks like this could be fun.

Don't Call Me a Princess: Essays on Girls, Women, Sex, and Life by Peggy Orenstein

We'll....see how this one goes. I'm all for essays about girls and calling out sexist stuff, but that title reeks of shaming feminine things and I'm not here for that. You can call out sexist things without shaming people who like girly things.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Graphic Novel Review: Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman-Trinity

TITLE: Trinity
AUTHOR: Matt Wagner
ARTIST: Matt Wagner
GENRE: Superhero
PREMISE: Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman all team up for the first time as Ra's al Ghul plans an attack that will destroy the planet..
MY REVIEW: So I have still been reading comics here and there. I just have been reading ones that are part of a series, so I haven't reviewed them here. My rule now is to only review series comics if I am either completely up to date on it, or finished with it, or am five volumes in. With things like DC and Marvel...that takes awhile. Hence, no reviews.
But this graphic novel is a single story arc, so I feel comfortable reviewing it by itself. First thing I'll go over is the art: um...yeah sorry, Wagner, it's bad. Anatomy for characters is inconsistent, and in the case of Diana, outright bizarre sometimes. The faces are awkward and...I'm sorry, I just don't like it. Normally, I don't make a big deal out of art style in comics. Especially for DC and Marvel. Because the way the business works, the style is usually constantly switching around anyway. Seriously, if you read superhero comics, don't get attached to the art style. Especially if it's a long series. My only requirement for art in superhero comics is that it at least be consistent, doesn't do weird things with anatomy, and doesn't do gross sexual poses with its female characters. Wagner was not consistent, had weird anatomy things going on all over the place, and there were lots of strategically placed sexual poses of Diana. So yeah, I hated the art in this.
Story wise...I liked it. It's a fun look at how Bruce, Clark, and Diana all came together for the first time. There's some fun scenes with Bruce not playing well with others. Aquaman makes a surprise cameo. There's good character insight and the plot moved along fairly well. I recommend picking this one up if you're new to DC. It's a self-contained story, that doesn't require loads of knowledge of other comics. If you know the basic back story of these three heroes, you should be able to read this just fine. So I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand: ugly art. On the other hand: decent story.
WHO SHOULD READ: DC fans, those that have seen the Justice League movie
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five good stories with bad art

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Book Review: One Dark Throne

TITLE: One Dark Throne
Book 2 in the Three Dark Crowns series
AUTHOR: Kendare Blake
PUBLISHED: September 2017
GENRE: Fantasy
PREMISE: The battle for the throne continues between Katherine, Arsinoe, and Mirabella....
MY REVIEW: Three Dark Crowns was one of my favorite reads from last year. Sequels can either make or break a series. I'm pleased to say, this sequel made it.
No, this series is not ground-breaking. Dark fantasy books in YA are a dime a dozen these days, thanks partly to Game of Thrones. But this series delivers on entertainment value. The plot keeps you guessing. The author is not afraid to have characters be flawed or unlikable. It's got all that good stuff about Game of Thrones, but without the rape and torture scenes. Sadly, there are no dragons. But there is a bear.
Normally, I am not a fan of series extending beyond what the author originally planned. But in this series case...I actually am all for it. Especially with where this second book left off. I can't wait for the third book. In this case, extending the series actually makes sense. It's when it doesn't make sense that I start to get frustrated.
WHO SHOULD READ: Fans of Three Dark Crowns, Game of Thrones fans, dark fantasy fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five thrones

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Book Review: The Ship of the Dead

TITLE: The Ship of the Dead
Book 3 in the Magnus Chase Trilogy
AUTHOR: Rick Riordan
PUBLISHED: October 2017
CATEGORY: Middle-Grade/YA
GENRE: Fantasy, Adventure
PREMISE: Magnus and his friends go on a quest to try and prevent Ragnorak from coming...
MY REVIEW: Do I even need to review these books anymore? Probably not. I'm sure you all know what I'm going to say and how I'm going to rate this.
In short: another fun one from Rick Riordan. It tied up the series nicely. I love the way it ended. There was some great character stuff here and there. It all comes with the humor I've come to expect from this series. I'm a little concerned about why Anna and Percy are sad. I am now really nervous for the last Apollo book, coming in May.
WHO SHOULD READ: Those that have read Magnus Chase books 1 and 2, Rick Riordan fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five Lokis
RATING FOR TRILOGY: Four out of Five

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Book Review: Before the Fall

TITLE: Before the Fall
AUTHOR: Noah Hawley
GENRE: Contemporary
PREMISE: After a plane crash, a survivor tries to make sense of what happened and deals with the fallout.
MY REVIEW: I have...very mixed feelings about this one. I picked it up because it promised me a mystery and I love those. Unfortunately, it wasn't really a mystery, it was a character study. Which...okay, I like those too. But if your summary is promising thrilling mystery things, maybe...give that in the book?
Instead of a mystery plot, we get a meandering plot where the author goes into the backstory of every person on the plane. He keeps trying to mislead you into thinking there was some sort of conspiracy, only to later give the most inane reason for the crash at the end. There was a lot of build up, but not really much pay off. I would be fine with no mystery if there was at least some sort of thing the author was trying to say. But it was kind of like the author was going out of his way not to say anything. Especially anything political. Which was weird considering how much politics got brought up. Every time I thought maybe he was trying to make a point about something, he would quickly turn around and then back track with something. Basically, he was trying his best not be conservative or liberal. Which...okay. You don't want to tie yourself to a political party, that's up to you. But if you're unwilling to say anything about your ideas on politics...maybe don't bring up politics. Just a thought.
If you want a character study book, I suppose this does the trick. It's just that's not what I picked this book up for. So I was a bit disappointed in it. Writing was okay, but honestly, this was mostly a bit of a let down for me.
WHO SHOULD READ: those that like character study books
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five wandering plots

Monday, February 26, 2018

Book Review: Everless

TITLE: Everless
Book 1 in the new Everless series
AUTHOR: Sara Holland
PUBLISHED: January 2nd, 2018
GENRE: Fantasy
PREMISE: In a world where years of your life are used as currency, a girl goes to work in the kingdom of Everless, a place she and her father were banished from years ago...
MY REVIEW: My first book that came out in 2018! I'm sad to was just okay. It pains me to say this was mediocre. I have been waiting for YA fantasy to get its butt in gear like YA contemporary has, but sadly, that has not been happening. There were some good YA fantasy books from last year, but a majority of them were from seasoned authors. Among the new authors, the only stand-out ones from last year for me were Caraval. Daughter of the Pirate King, and Daughter of the Burning City. Three books in all of those debuts we had last year is...not very promising. I was hoping this year would break that cycle.
Alas, this book does not give me much hope that YA fantasy will step it up this year. There is nothing terrible about it. It has decent writing. The world is somewhat interesting. There is plot, characters, twists, etc. My problem with this was the same problem I kept having with a lot of the YA fantasy from last year: it played it really safe (heck, even Caraval and Daughter of the Pirate King played it safe. I liked those books, but they weren't exactly ground-breaking). Everything in this book, I predicted from the first chapter. If you read a lot of fantasy, you can pretty much immediately tell how it's going to go. It's that paint-by-numbers. I could go on about how white and hetero-normative it also is, but I'll refrain. I even can't give much credit for the clever premise. The whole thing about using people's years of life as currency has been done before, in a movie.
I might read the second book. Because, I have had fantasy trilogies suddenly become amazing in the second book (for example: Rebel of the Sands or The Young Elites). I just am sad I didn't like this one. I really really wanted to like it. Again, there's nothing really BAD about it, which is why it will get an average rating from me. It's just...not mind-blowing and like other YA fantasy lately: played it really safe. Playing it safe is not good enough, authors. With the amount of books out there nowadays, you need to be better then just safe.
WHO SHOULD READ: those that don't mind predictable fantasy books
MY RATING: Three out of Five plot ideas I saw coming a mile away