Fantasy · Fiction · Young Adult

Children of Vengeance and Virtue

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Title: Children of Virtue and Vengeance

Author: Tomi Adeyemi

Page Count: 448

Series: Legacy of Orisha, Book 2

Publishing Date/Publisher: December 3, 2019 by Henry Holt and Co.

Format: Hardcover

Review: It pains me to write this review because I had such high hopes for this book.  I LOVED Children of Blood and Bone and checked this book out the day it was available at our libraries.  I immediately dove into it and then….stalled.  No matter how many times I picked it back up, I just couldn’t get into it.  It quickly became apparent that the characters I loved from the first book were gone.  In their place were characters I didn’t even recognize or like.  The relationships that I had hoped would be fleshed out more in this book still felt forced and lacked substance.  The action was sporadic and when I should have felt devastated, I felt nothing.  There was no character development that made me feel invested in the story, so the betrayals and atrocities made very little impact on me.  There had been great potential for character growth after such an epic conclusion to the first book, which leads me to believe that the author rushed this book to meet some deadline.  I read in one of Adeyemi’s interviews that she did not have a break between completing the first book and writing this one, but I had hoped that this would not effect the quality of her story development.  Though these hopes were quickly dashed, I am clinging to my sense of optimism for the next book, which is why I could not bring myself to give this book a lower rating.  Hopefully she takes her time with it because despite it all, I still believe in this story.  The way the book ended, I highly suspect she will be taking a page from history and incorporating elements of the slave trade and African diaspora.  Only time will tell where she decides to go from here.  Until then, my fingers are crossed!

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold

Fantasy · Fiction · Paranormal · Romance · Science Fiction · Young Adult

Obsidian

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Title: Obsidian

Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

Page Count: 335

Series: Lux, Book 1

Publishing Date/Publisher: May 8, 2012 by Entangled Teen

Format: eBook

Review: I can’t say I didn’t know what I was getting into with this.  It was a light paranormal read that didn’t make me think too much.  It follows a very standard formula.  New girl who doesn’t know she is beautiful moves into small town and meets mysterious and attractive boy.  There is instant attraction and they immediately start a love/hate relationship.  The boy, who also happens to be an alien, runs hot and cold, but eventually succumbs to his feelings for human girl.  Throw in some bad guys, a happy-go-lucky sister, a jealous ex and you’ve got a pretty predictable plot for this book.  Admittedly, this is sometimes the type of book I want to read, especially after I have read books with heavier content, but it was nothing new or original.  I will likely not be moving on with the series.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_Goldhalf star

Contemporary · Fiction · Young Adult

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

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Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Author: Sherman Alexie

Page Count: 230

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: September 12, 2007 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Format: eBook

Review: I was looking through available eBooks in our library catalog, and decided it was finally time to read this book.  I recommend it a lot to teens because the format, cartooning, and writing style has made it beloved by many young readers.

I have to admit I was very impressed that Alexie could make such serious content humorous.  Arnold/Junior does not have an easy life, yet he approaches each new situation with courage, wit, and resilience.  There were times when I was both cringing and laughing simultaneously – an odd feeling indeed.

Arnold/Junior makes a very difficult decision to leave the “rez” to attend a “white” school in a neighboring town.  At first he is shunned by both the Indians he left behind, and the kids at his new school who view him as an outsider, but gradually he starts to gain acceptance from his new peers.  In a lot of ways this book was very illuminating regarding life on a “rez,” and reveals some of the challenges that many Native American tribes face today.  Arnold/Junior is very realistic about his situation, discussing in particular the difficulties of poverty and alcoholism in his family, but I never once got the impression that he felt unloved or unsupported by his family members (which is rare in a book that features alcoholic parents).  Arnold/Junior knew he wanted a different situation for himself, thus branching outside the rez, but he never forgot where he came from and he still held out hope until the very end for reconciliation with his tribe.  I would imagine this book has been very inspiring for people in similar situations – those who are afraid to break the mold and step into the unknown.  Arnold/Junior shows that it’s not easy, but it is possible, and sometimes the results can be positive in ways you do not expect.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Goldhalf star

Fantasy · Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

Heir of Fire

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Title: Heir of Fire

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Page Count: 565

Series: Throne of Glass, Book 3

Publishing Date/Publisher: September 2, 2014 by Bloomsbury USA Children

Format: eBook

Review: I personally found this to be the most exciting installment in the series so far.  We see entirely new settings, meet new characters, and get a deeper glimpse into Celaena’s past.  All these additions add more depth to Celaena’s character and make her a more inspiring heroine.

This book also introduced an entirely new character point of view, that of the witch Manon.  I LOVED her storyline, even though at this point it is hard to see how it will play into the larger plot.  Her chapters literally had my heart pounding and there were some scenes that literally gave me goosebumps.  I would finish the chapters feeling exhilarated and utterly disappointed to be moving back to another character perspective.  I had to strongly resist the urge to skip ahead to her next chapter.  I took a bit of a pause between reading books 2 and 3 in this series, but as soon as I turned the final page of this book I snapped up book 4 because I cannot wait to pick up her story again.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Goldhalf star

Contemporary · Fiction · Young Adult

SLAY

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Title: SLAY

Author: Brittney Morris

Page Count: 323

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: September 24, 2019 by Simon Pulse

Format: Hardcover

Review: I liked the concept of this book, but unfortunately the execution just didn’t work for me.  I know little to nothing about VR and video games, so I did a little Googling to get a better idea of what creating a VR game would entail.  Although it is fully plausible that two young women could create a VR game, it seems to me that building and maintaining a game of the caliber described in this book would take a team of elite developers years and $100,000s, if not millions, of dollars.  Even if I were to remove these factors, it seems unlikely that a teen would be able to almost single-handedly maintain this game (including regular updates) while still maintaining a high GPA, a tutoring job, and a social life (including a long-term boyfriend).  What made it even more implausible was that this game, which supposedly took up a huge portion of her free time, was a secret from everyone in her life.  This confused me largely because these people would have to be super unobservant to not have even have an inkling of what she is working on.  I was also confused that she would not even mention her vast coding knowledge on her college applications.  Women of color are unfortunately still a huge minority in the gaming industry, and it seems a shame that Kiera doesn’t even seem interested in pursing it as a career path.  Colleges would be chomping at the bit to get a student as talented as Kiera into their programs.  She would probably be offered scholarships, internships, and possibly even have jobs lined up well before she graduated.

As for the premise of the game, it sounded fun and awesome, but was still a bit problematic for me.  The idea of “safe spaces” for minority groups is not inherently bad, but it is certainly a slippery slope to create a game that completely excludes people of other races.  Although Kiera personally designed the game to be inclusive of all people who identify as Black, it sadly still leaves the door open for discrimination.  The passcode system lets people ultimately decide who is Black enough to play.  This is addressed to an extent when Cicada makes her “confession” to Kiera about her mixed heritage, but it was not addressed to my satisfaction.  Much of the conflict in the book surrounds the fact that this game is specifically excluding Whites, but it is never mentioned that other minority groups, who may very well be experiencing similar discrimination in mainstream games, are excluded as well.

I was also not a big fan of Kiera’s relationship with her boyfriend, Malcolm.  He is very radicalized, manipulative, and aggressive.  Kiera repeatedly states that she is with him because she feels like he is the only one who she can truly be herself with, yet she is constantly lying to him and editing her behaviors because she is afraid of how he will react.  For someone who claims that SLAY is such an integral part of who she is, it seems contradictory to completely hide that part of herself from the man she claims to want to share her future with.  I have other issues with Malcolm’s character, but I don’t want to say too much more for fear of giving away spoilers.

Despite my heavy criticism, there are certainly things to applaud about this book.  It has a strong, female heroine who kicks butt at coding, it celebrates Black cultures around the world, it brings light to the issue of discrimination and non-inclusivity of people of color in mainstream video games, and the cover art is stunning.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_Goldhalf star

Fantasy · Fiction · Paranormal · Romance · Young Adult

A Violet Fire

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Title: A Violet Fire

Author: Kelsey Quick

Page Count: Unknown

Series: Vampire in Avignon

Publishing Date/Publisher: December 9, 2019 by Kelsey Quick

Format: eBook

Review: I typically do not have high expectations for self-published books, but this one surprised me.  I found it to be an easy read, and I enjoyed the concept of living vampires.  I also enjoyed that humans could not be simply be turned into vampires.  They could in theory make offspring with vampires, but they were genetically different enough that a human could not become one.

In some ways this book follows the typical tropes of paranormal romances, but it was different enough that the story kept me engaged.  I felt that the weakest aspect of the story was the development of the central romance.  It’s not insta-love, but not a lot of dialogue is shown between the two characters to help the reader understand the relationship.  The reader is aware that time is passing, but aside from a first interaction and a final interaction, there isn’t much substance in between to make the relationship feel real.  In fact, when the final twist is revealed, I was not at all affected because I was not made to be invested in the relationship in the first place.

I will say, however, that I liked the direction the story was moving in, and I would most certainly continue reading the series if it were to become available to me.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold

Fiction · Science Fiction · Young Adult

The Grace Year

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Title: The Grace Year

Author: Kim Liggett

Page Count: 416

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: October 8, 2019 by Wednesday Books

Format: Hardcover

Review: This book has been likened to the Handmaid’s Tale, and I would say that is fairly accurate.  Liggett took a page from Atwood’s handbook and created a world ruled by men who will do everything in their power to subjugate women.  It was bloody, it was brutal, and it was ripe with misogyny.  In this society, young women are blamed for their sexuality and are sent to a special camp to “burn off their magic.”  Rather than band together, the girls are torn apart by jealousy and girl on girl cruelty.

My biggest issue with this book is the lack of world building.  The reader is simply dropped into an insular society of undetermined size that is using a story from the Bible to justify the dehumanization of women.  The society is very primitive, and it is unclear to me how this dystopian society came into existence.  I generally like some context for dystopian novels, so I had great difficulty buying the setting.

I think this book has the potential to garner some popularity because there are still many readers who love dystopian fiction, but I do not think it does anything new to revolutionize the genre.

Reader: Bekah

Rating:

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold