The TBR Pile: March Madness

It’s that time of the month again to list the books that are on the pre-order list which is a way for me to be frugal by attempting to whittle down my list a bit-it actually works, sort of (I got rid of three books when drafting this post) .  Though honestly, because I read other blogs with other lists…well….I’ll probably add three books to this list-at least.

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Norse mythology.  Sold.

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Vegas.  Wrongfully convicted parent.  Deal me in.

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Diversity.  Comic con.  And celebrities-internet and actual celebs.  Got to read.

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Witches!

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This one really looks cute.  There’s been Jane Austen and Bridget Jones’s Diary comparisons. That has to mean it’s good, right?  LOL, I’ve been in the blogging business way too long to know how false blurbs can be but I still have to hope.

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Everyone is always talking up Emery Lord, let’s hope I like her stuff.

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Love the first book in this series.  I will be devouring this one.  And how her dress isn’t dragging on the ground is beyond me.

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Another Beauty and the Beast retelling and like usual I’m a sucker for these things.  Bonus points for it, its coming out close to when that movie is coming out which I want to see so bad even though I’m pretty sure they are auto-tuning Emma’s voice or have simplified the arrangement since her range is nowhere near what Paige’s was in the animated movie.  But still “Bonjur, good  day how is your family…I am the only Disney Princess who knows how to read” that point was added on but dude.  Excited about the book and the movie.

Important Topic But…: Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz

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It feels like there’s no ground beneath me, like everything I’ve ever done has been a lie. Like I’m breaking apart, shattering. Who am I? Where do I belong?

Jasmine de los Santos has always done what’s expected of her. Pretty and popular, she’s studied hard, made her Filipino immigrant parents proud and is ready to reap the rewards in the form of a full college scholarship.

And then everything shatters. A national scholar award invitation compels her parents to reveal the truth: their visas expired years ago. Her entire family is illegal. That means no scholarships, maybe no college at all and the very real threat of deportation.

For the first time, Jasmine rebels, trying all those teen things she never had time for in the past. Even as she’s trying to make sense of her new world, it’s turned upside down by Royce Blakely, the charming son of a high-ranking congressman. Jasmine no longer has any idea where—or if—she fits into the American Dream. All she knows is that she’s not giving up. Because when the rules you lived by no longer apply, the only thing to do is make up your own.

Source: GoodReads

I’ve outgrown Melissa de la Cruz’s books.  It’s a sad fact.  At some point I plan to reread the Blue Bloods books, but I feel like it is going to be a sea of disappointment and embarrassment that I ever liked her stuff.  Still, she writes really good premises and I find myself ridiculously attracted to her blurbs.  Like this one.

But still, it sat on my shelf for awhile.  However, after the God awful month of executive orders that the Trump administration has thrown on us I have been wanting to read more issue relevant books.

And I did remember liking Melissa’s Fresh Off the Boat, I at least remember thinking that book had more heart to it than some of her frothier rich people novels-not that some of those can be okay, they just get very stale after awhile.

The thing is, that Something In Between didn’t have that realness quality about it, even though it dealt with some topics that were very near and dear to Melissa’s own personal life.

I got to say, the romance was cringe worthy and completely unrealistic.  Jas and Royce fall ridiculously in love within a couple of pages of looks and text messages.  It make Skyjack (Jack/Schuyler from Blue Bloods ) look more realistic and in hindsight that pairing was illy paced, but to its credit it was a paranormal romance.  Here though, other than he’s handsome/she’s hot I didn’t get the attraction.  Maybe because both of these characters came off as bland.  Like Cinderella and Prince Charming Disney movie bland.

I often think it’s harder to write a contemporary than a paranormal or fantasy novel, because the characters are often the focus of the novel.  Unless it’s bitchy blonde vampire socialites, I always think Melissa’s characters suffer from vapidness and this book was no exception to that.  I honestly did not get how Jas won this big scholarship.  She doesn’t come off as particularly smart or driven, and while she did do some cheerleading she didn’t really have the sort of resume that most Ivy bound kids have.  Royce was even duller than Jas, I can’t even remember if he had a hobby outside of sending really embarrassing texts to his girlfriend and then getting his Paul Ryan Wannabe father go against his core conservative values.

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And that had me roll my eyes and just seethe with anger.  I am already not a huge fan of the Republican party-in fact, I’d say right now I have no tolerance for what they’re preaching at least before the tea party and the racist party of Trump, I could at least sort of get where they’re coming from in the Bush era  but that’s besides the  point.  Here, seeing Royce’s asshole of a congressman make an exception for one family had me rolling my eyes.

And yes, I did vaguely recall reading about private bills very briefly in the Immigration Law course I took 2L year, but I also remember hearing that they hardly ever happen and other than being briefly mentioned we didn’t discuss them hardly any.  Instead, we talked a lot about work visas and I find it difficult to believe that Jas’s working class family would even acquire a visa in the first place.

Unskilled workers have the burnt end of the deal immigration wise, and this book didn’t seem to even discuss that.  Yes, I understand that Ms. de la Cruz is not a lawyer and that it’s possible in her own case that her family could’ve gotten in on such visas-but it doesn’t happen that often.   Part of the reason why is in order to get a work visa the company has to show that there are no qualified American workers.  Sort of hard to do with an unskilled job.

And then there was that farce of a court hearing…I’m not even going to talk about it.

And while I think there was some work into looking up the immigration process I don’t think it encompassed a lot of the issues on a whole of what is going on.  About how broken the process is-and it’s even more fucked up now, for obvious reasons most involving a big fat Orange Boob.

Look, I can’t fault Ms. de la Cruz too much on the legalities.  Immigration law itself is a beast, and there’s a lot of reasons why attorneys don’t practice it.  And even very seasoned lawyers can’t figure out some of the nuances involving the process-and I’m quoting some lecturer on an online CLE I took a couple of weeks ago almost verbatim on that one.

I just don’t know, having this conservative congressman who is described as being an asshole towards immigrants for a big chunk of the book being Jas’s savior  rubs me the wrong way.  Why is it okay for her to have a private bill while the congressman roots for legislation to harm constant others in her position?  I just didn’t like this congressman and wanted to go to a town hall to tell him what a hypocrite he was and that even though Jas situation was awful and she deserved help all the other undocumented immigrants in his district deserved to be treated like real people and not criminals.  He doesn’t even have a come to Jesus moment in the book and realizes that his hardline stanch is that of an asshole.

But I digress..

If you can look past the hypocrisy and the cringe worthy romance, this one is readable.  That is one thing I will always give de la Cruz, her stuff is readable.  But God there’s so much cringe and hypocrisy that I did close it a couple of times throughout reading it just to rant.  The immigration stuff while researched (enough) isn’t fully researched in some aspects.

The parts that rang truest about the book were the brief insights we got into Filipino culture, but those for the most part were very brief.

Overall Rating: A C

 

 

 

Disappointing: Does My Head look Big In This by Randa Abdel-Fatah

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When sixteen-year-old Amal decides to wear the hijab full-time, her entire world changes, all because of a piece of cloth…

Sixteen-year-old Amal makes the decision to start wearing the hijab full- time and everyone has a reaction. Her parents, her teachers, her friends, people on the street. But she stands by her decision to embrace her faith and all that it is, even if it does make her a little different from everyone else.

Can she handle the taunts of “towel head,” the prejudice of her classmates, and still attract the cutest boy in school? Brilliantly funny and poignant, Randa Abdel-Fattah’s debut novel will strike a chord in all teenage readers, no matter what their beliefs.

Source: GoodReads

Because of the current wave of Islamaphobia in the US, I’ve been trying to find a list of books that feature Muslim protagonist to recommend as a way to counter the hate.  I believe that reading opens doors of understanding and learning and is a gateway to empathy.  Also, for someone who is experiencing oppression it is a good coping mechanism knowing that somewhere out there, there is someone that identifies with you..

This book features a teen who decides where a hijab for the first time a couple of years post 911 (I think the US publication date was 2005, but I’m guessing it came out in Oz a couple of years earlier).  Honestly, the time period did have some similarities to what we’re seeing now-except W was way more tolerant than Trump is and never tried to ban an entire religion .  Still, there were lots of asses in the world during this period of time and I thought if the book was good it might be a good one to recommend.

It’s not.

I had previous read one of the author’s other books (Ten Things I Hate About Meand I’m sad to say that this book is just as problematic as that one.

On the plus side though, the main character wasn’t self loathing.  That’s something.  She did embrace who she was-though honestly, I didn’t really see her connection to wearing the hijab to a Friends episode.  That was sort of grating and really sort of insulting (note, I am not Muslim, but I know if someone compared my religion to a TV show I’d be kind of annoyed).  And honestly, even though she was thinking of wearing the hijab everywhere, the fact that she was more concerned about her popularity level had me shaking my head.

The main character had me shaking my head because she acted more like twelve than sixteen and her voice was so grating I decided to quit by page 30.

Which makes me sad.

ojupnrblmnf3gBecause man did I want to like this book.  I was rooting for you book, you didn’t have to do much.  Just have an identifiable protagonist that a teen could read about-say, that’s like me-and find a way to identify with and/or emphasize with the protagonist.  That’s not that hard to do.

Le sigh.

So, despite a compelling and interesting premises I can’t recommend this book.  When researching her catalogue prior to writing this review I did notice that Fatah-Abdel had another book that featuring a compelling issue immigration that’s already out in Australia and will be out in the US this spring.  I’ll be blunt, I am planning on reading it because the issue is really relevant and I’m hoping that maybe her voice has matured since the writing of this book. God knows, we need a book with that premises especially right now.  However, as for this book…shakes head.

No.

Overall Rating: DNF

This Club is so Misogynic: Long Way Home Katie McGarry

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Seventeen-year-old Violet has always been expected to sit back and let the boys do all the saving.

It’s the code her father, a member of the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, raised her to live by. Yet when her dad is killed carrying out Terror business, Violet knows it’s up to her to do the saving. To protect herself, and her vulnerable younger brother, she needs to cut all ties with the club—including Chevy, the boy she’s known and loved her whole life.

But when a rival club comes after Violet, exposing old secrets and making new threats, she’s forced to question what she thought she knew about her father, the Reign of Terror, and what she thinks she wants. Which means re-evaluating everything: love, family, friends . . . and forgiveness.

Caught in the crosshairs between loyalty and freedom, Violet must decide whether old friends can be trusted—and if she’s strong enough to be the one person to save them all.

Source: GoodReads

Sigh, Katie McGarry.  I have a sort of love hate relationship with her books.  They are good in a guilty pleasure type of way, but at the same time they grate on my nerves especially her Thunder Road series.

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I think it’s because there is an underlying current of sexism in this particular series, and even though it’s addressed its sort of pushed aside like it’s no biggie and I’m like no…

Like I said, I’ve gotten really testy about things like this lately so if I read this book a year or so ago, it might’ve not bothered me near as much.

The things that bothered me about this series before: the stupid names, the melodrama, the oh he’s attractive so let’s bang cliche.  All still there.

I had hopes that Violet and Chevy (God, I hate that name…the names in this series are just so fucking appalling but I’m not going to go on that fucking rant again) but they are still just as shallow as the rest of the couplings in this series-or either I have grown cynical to the tropes that McGarry uses.

I think that might be part of the problem.  Though, in terms of library lists, McGarry’s isn’t that big so her books shouldn’t feel so repetitive yet.

But they do.

By all accounts, Long Way Home wasn’t that bad.  It had a defined arc, character developments.  But if felt so cliche.  And again, the blatant sexism.

I kept reading it and shaking my head at how Violet is never even considered to a prospect because she’s a girl-not that she’d want to be a part of that stupid motorcycle gang, it’s just that the fact that the option isn’t even given to her and that the club has their stupid no-women-allowed-save-for-to-clean clubhouse annoys me.

And then there’s Violet’s mother who thinks her daughter belongs to a man.

I want to pull out my hair.

Again, the sexism is sort of addressed but it’s more or less in passing and it’s just shrugged off like it’s normal.

And I just wanted to say fuuuckkk.

So, that’s why I’m giving the book a lower rating besides the fact that it really seemed more or less like a recycled version of McGarry’s books.  Here is the trope checklist:

  1. Two ridiculously attractive teenagers
  2. Both have “issues”/secrets
  3. Multiple dead parents which give issues
  4. Economic difficulties, except no economic difficulties when it counts.  Meaning, they all have cool classic cars that they can surprisingly afford to maintain and/or can do things that normal teens would not be able to do unless they had parents that had money.
  5. Ridiculous melodrama that involves someone getting kidnapped/maimed/etc.
  6. Family secrets
  7. So called bad-assess that’s not really bad ass, but said to be bad ass constantly throughout the book where you think they’re bad ass.
  8. Friends that are only there for spinoffs
  9. “Tough” girl that’s not really tough.
  10. A duel narration that sometimes is compelling and sometimes is not.

Okay, okay, I know I sound really mean.  And I really don’t care if I do because I got so annoyed with this book.  I think what really annoyed me, that I did finish it in one setting just because I was hoping it would get better and I was interested in seeing how McGarry managed to crossover the two of her series-it wasn’t that great folks.  In fact, I think the crossover bit added to the eyeball worthy-ness and whatever.

If you are a fan of McGarry’s work and haven’t gotten tired of her stuff AND aren’t annoyed with blatant misogyny that’s brushed off, then yeah give this one a try you’ll probably like it better than me.

Will I read McGarry’s next book…probably because the premises does look like something I’ll enjoy but I’m honestly putting her on the probation list at this point.  If that book isn’t stellar I don’t know if I’ll continue.  Like I said the past three or four releases have seemed rinse and repeat.

Overall Rating: A C.

And She Persisted: A Mad Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

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Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.

After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky is torn. Just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

Source: GoodReads

This book takes place 107 years ago, but it is ridiculously timely to what’s going on right now.

Because it deals with women’s rights.

I think if anything can be learned from the past few years, is that while women have made it a long way since the time this book took place, we’re hardly in a place where we have equal rights and sexism very much exists.  We have to keep fighting for our rights every single day.

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Case in point, the whole thing that happened with Senator Warren this week.  In fact, Senator Warren has dealt with a lot of flak the gag order in the senate is only the latest one.  During many of these sham cabinet hearings (because the GOP decided to pretty much gut them to where no one could ask adequate amount of questions and then in turn gut the vote because they are smug little assholes) Warren was patronized multiple times and it was just disgusting.  Add the fact that Trump keeps referring to her derogatory as Pocahontas, mocking the fact that she comes from Native American heritage it just makes me angrier.

And I know I’m about to go on a political tirade, but it’s relevant to this review of the book because sexism does exist in this world and this book shows how we as a society have to fight it and combat it.  The reason I loved A Mad Wicked Folly so much is while it is a discussion of the suffragette movement and feminism, it is as much as a coming of age story.

Vicky really develops as a character and that’s refreshing.  The blurb made me think I’d be getting more or less a water downed version of Downton Abbey, but that’s hardly the case.  Sure, there are bits and pieces that I guess you could say were Downton Abbey-ish but I think this was more of a thought provoking book than fluff.  And it honestly, was sort of inspiring.

Honestly, the cover and blurb were sort of a disservice to this book.

I’ll admit, I’ve been a little depressed lately with current events, but this book sort of gave me hope that things could change.  Victoria had the deck stacked against her, but somehow she was able to make her end choices at the end of the book and get what she wants.  That was refreshing.

I also enjoyed reading more about the historical aspects of the period.  Briggs did a great job describing the time period and there were some things I learned about the suffragette movement that I did not know before.  It didn’t feel like she was spoon feeding it to me either, there was something ridiculously organic about the whole thing.

It was also how scary how some of the misogyny that existed in this period is very much prevalent in the present.    The same techniques and objections that were used to keep a woman from voting in the early 1900’s are still used today.  A woman is too emotional.  Her place is at there home or with the family.  That women with ambitions are evil and unnatural.

It’s just sickening.

And it really makes you want to say fuck the patriarchy and kick some ass.

As frustrating as this is though, it also left me feeling hopeful because progress has been made.  A lot of progress.  But we still have a long way to go, but this book gave me hope that anyone can make a difference.  So, that was a plus.

Overall, I highly recommend this read.  It’s thought provoking and relative.  This book exemplifies my reason for resisting.  I am going to fight for that progress that we’ve made in the past and further it again.  And damn right, I’m going to be persistent about it.

Oh, and yeah, fuck the patriarchy.

Overall Rating: An A.

 

Story Sells Not the Art: Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer

In her first graphic novel, #1 New York Times and USA Today bestseller Marissa Meyer follows Iko, the beloved android from the Lunar Chronicles, on a dangerous and romantic new adventure — with a little help from Cinder and the Lunar team.

In her first graphic novel, bestselling author Marissa Meyer extends the world of the Lunar Chronicles with a brand-new, action-packed story about Iko, the android with a heart of (mechanized) gold. When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers’ leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity. With appearances by Cinder and the rest of the Rampion crew, this is a must-have for fans of the bestselling series.

Source: GoodReads

While I love the original Lunar Chronicle series (though the last book didn’t quite lead up to the expectations I had), I have been weary of its various bonus installments.  The short story series (save for that epilogue) was a bit of an obvious attempt to cash out.  The coloring book-well, all popular YA series are getting one.  And I waited for the spinoff to happen.  Because spinoffs always happened and then Marissa Meyer announced a graphic novel and I inwardly groaned since I have not been a fan of graphic novel YA adaptations in the past.

Only thing is though…this YA graphic novel actually works.

In part because it is new story.  While it doesn’t take place after the epilogue of the series, or even the epilogue of Winter it does take place between the end of the action and epilogue in Winter.  And its location surprisingly works.

I think a lot fit is because the main focus is on Iko who is the best character in the series.

Yes, I said BEST.

And yes, I know Iko was only a side character in the actual series but I love her.  She was great comic relief at the beginning of the series but grew over time as the books progressed and I’m so glad she’s now getting some narration of her own.

I oddly ship the ship in this too, even though I’m not exactly sure how things between those two would work.  But hey, it worked between Vision and the Scarlet Witch-well, for awhile at least.  So…it could work.  Maybe?

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I am not going to think about that though for now.  Instead, I am going to focus on what a fun and quick read this was-I think it took like forty-five minutes tops.  It went by that fast.

One problem I did have was the artwork.  It really was quite hideous to me, at least.  I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder but a lot of the characters looked the same to me.  Especially the male characters.  And the wolf hybrid characters were just hideous.

I’m sorry, Holgate, I know your art work might be liked by others but it wasn’t my thing.  Beauty of the beholder and all.  But you did an okay job on Iko and the cover was quite nice if that’s any consolation….

Overall though, I really liked this graphic novel.  I might’ve not have been a huge fan of the art.  But….the story made up for it.  But at the same time, I’m like it is supposed to be a graphic novel so I just don’t know.

Overall Rating: A B+ I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel. Meyer did her part.  I just…the art work is a big fat no.

 

Never Ever Will I Finish This: Never Ever by Sara Saedi

Wylie Dalton didn’t believe in fairy tales or love at first sight.

Then she met a real-life Peter Pan.

When Wylie encounters Phinn—confident, mature, and devastatingly handsome—at a party the night before her brother goes to juvie, she can’t believe how fast she falls for him. And that’s before he shows her how to fly.

Soon Wylie and her brothers find themselves whisked away to a mysterious tropical island off the coast of New York City where nobody ages beyond seventeen and life is a constant party. Wylie’s in heaven: now her brother won’t go to jail and she can escape her over-scheduled life with all its woes and responsibilities—permanently.

But the deeper Wylie falls for Phinn, the more she begins to discover has been kept from her and her brothers. Somebody on the island has been lying to her, but the truth can’t stay hidden forever.

Source: GoodReads

I DNF’d this book within 40 pages.

It just wasn’t for me.

I am going to bullet point this review and it’s probably going to be really short.  If you want a more thorough review of this book I suggest you check out other reviews because honestly I gave up on it so soon that I don’t even know if this review is worth a shit.

Anyway, here’s the reasons I DNF’d it.

  • Stiff Style: It was one of those hard to connect to styles that just kind of hard to get into.  This might not bother a lot of people, but it bothered me.
  • Another Evil Peter Pan.  At least there’s no sexy Hook (so far) so it’s not a complete Once Upon a Time rip off yet.
  • A MC who gives a rat’s ass about anything else other than her love life even though she claims to care about her family.
  • Note, she treats her family like crap.
  • Usual sullen teenager dealing with divorce trope.
  • Modernization of the characters names from the original because you know you can’t name characters Wendy, John, and Michael anymore.  Wylie, Joshua, and Micha sound better and Phinn sounds better than fucking Peter Pan.
  • Because everyone has a party on a roof top in New York.
  • That whole going into Neverland drug induced scene-yeah, I stopped after that because that was just so stupid.

Like I said, not really a lot to go off of here if you’re really interested in the book, but just for you to know, it didn’t work for me.  It was just really bad and cliche…and when it’s only redeeming feature is not having the obligatory Sexy Hook! (or at least as far as I know, he still might’ve popped in there after the thirty or so pages I read).

Overall Rating: A mother fucking DNF.

Predictable Fluff: All That Glitters by Holly Smale

 

My name is Harriet Manners, and I am still a geek.

Harriet Manners has high hopes for the new school year: she’s a Sixth Former now, and things are going to be different. But with Nat busy falling in love at college and Toby preoccupied with a Top Secret project, Harriet soon discovers that’s not necessarily a good thing…

Source: GoodReads

If we’re going to be honest about it, this series has gotten a bit pedantic (which seems to be the word of the week, FYI).  The good thing is if  you’re reading it with its publication schedule you’re not going to notice as much the repetition.  The bad thing is if you’re an American who has gotten tired of waiting for these things to be released in the states and decided to just buy them at the Book Depository you’re not exactly going to binge on them as I was planning…

Yeah.

The good thing though, is if the real world is being particularly hellish as it has since Biff stole Doc and Marty’s machine and somehow stole the presidency from HRC Donald Trump has become president (that sounds so wrong) this series can at least buy you some hours of peace at least another Executive Order has been dropped.

Sorry for all the current events references, it has really been hard to read or really  lately.  And really do anything else especially when all this shit has been thrown in your face on a 24/7 basis.  If you follow my Twitter feed you know I’ve been very vocal in my disdain.

Anyway, back to the book.  Its the predictable fluff that is needed right now in this world and I am grateful for that.  Honestly, I will probably be reading a lot of fluff in the coming months.  It’s needed and wanted and this book does the trick.  It’s easy to look past the faults, but they are there and it’s pretty obvious to anyone who has read this series what they are.

Harriet is a stagnent character.  She doesn’t grow, and at this point I don’t expect her too.  Most of the books center around ridiculous misunderstandings that anyone with adequate emotional skills would be able to pick up on but this is Harriet we’re talking about.  So…yeah, don’t expect her to pick up on social cues.

And to be honest, her friends are sort of shitty in this one.   I get that they want to help her, but come on.  They should know that she wasn’t going to exactly take their behavior the way she wanted them too.  And really, at this point…ugh.

The more I think about it, the more I want to pull my hair out.  But again, I don’t hate this book.  It’s sort of like the Princess Diaries series.  Sure, there was a slump in the middle of that series where all I wanted to do was deck Mia, but it didn’t make me hate or stop reading the series and I sort of hope that in the next two full installments there’s some growth with Harriet-again, don’t expect there to be but I still can’t help there is some.

As far as the romance department goes, this installment of Geek Girl is ridiculously light on that as well as the modeling stuff.  I did enjoy the modeling antics though.  I think they’re often some of my favorite parts of the book surprisingly.  Even though they are more or less the same-Harriet going to some exotic location and making a fool of herself.

So yeah, there was nothing surprising or really unprecedented about this particular installment of Geek Girl if it was a more serious series, I’d probably would give it a lower rating.  But as it stands, it did its job in getting to me forget about the crap that’s been going on in this world right now.

Overall Rating: A B- it’s flawed but enjoyable.

Disappointing: Dreadnought by April Daniels

Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of the world’s greatest superhero. Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, she was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But then her second-hand superpowers transformed her body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl.

It should be the happiest time of her life, but between her father’s dangerous obsession with curing her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and the classmate who is secretly a masked vigilante, Danny’s first weeks living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined.

She doesn’t have much time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer, a cyborg named Utopia, still haunts the streets of New Port City. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.

Source: GoodReads

Out of all the books I had in my January TBR list, I think I was the most excited for Dreadnought which was a superhero book featuring a trans main character.  That in itself had so much potential and it was an #ownvoices book which made the prospect of it feel even better.  The sad truth of it was, when it came down to it Dreadnought just wasn’t  a good book.  So much, I DNF’d it.

Before I go into my criticisms though I want to praise the book for what it did do right: the premises.

The premises was just awesome.  A trans character being a superhero and fighting crime, talk about empowering.  I had great hopes for this one especially since it’s not often we have a book featuring a non-WASP character that isn’t an “issue” oriented book.

However….well, this book didnt’ focus that much on superheroes.

Mostly it was about Danielle coming out as trans in probably one of the most awful ways possible-her body changes in the first chapter of the story so she’s sort of forced to reveal her true self like it or not.  And unfortunately, pretty much everyone acts like a MAGA asshole.

I kid you not.

Her father is transphobic and her mother is just an enabler.  Which would be fine for the book if there was anyone that Danny could talk too.  But her best friend is a perverted dick and other than a new girl where I think-hope-something might be brewing between those two she really has no one to talk to and it sucks becuase girl needs to have someone to lend an ear too.

And I get it, trans people often are isolated it’s a sad reality which why having books like this is important, but it just angered me so much and I really wanted there to be some mentor or someone else Danny could talk too.  Even a trans support group would be nice.

But nope.

The superhero aspect of the book was extremely weak.  The powers and origin stories are explained in paragraphs at most and there’s really not much to them.  Even fighting crime is sort of boring.  And of course, we get the obligatory asshole superhero transphobic character too.

Really, I would say that a good 80% of the cast in this book were transphobic or pervy.

It is not good.

The vague world building with hodgepodge to non-existent plot made the book hardly enjoyable to the point where I reluctantly DNF’d it.

Which I’m actually sort of upset about because again that premises.

Sigh.  I feel like this book might be interesting enough if you’re not trigger sensitive to extreme bigotry but really everything is only halfway done.  It really would’ve been nice had this book lived up to half of the potential that it had.

Overall Rating: A DNF.

X-Men in the USSR: Sekret by Lindsay Smith

An empty mind is a safe mind.

Yulia knows she must hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive in Communist Russia. But if she sometimes manipulates the black market traders by reading their thoughts when she touches their skin, so what? Anything to help her survive.

Russia’s powerful spy agency, the KGB, is recruiting young people with mind-reading capabilities for their psychic espionage program. Their mission: protect the Soviet space program from American CIA spies. Why shouldn’t the KGB use any means necessary to make the young psychic cooperate? Anything to beat the American capitalist scum to the moon.

Yulia is a survivor. She won’t be controlled by the KGB, who want to harness her abilities for the State with no regard for her own hopes and dreams. She won’t let handsome Sergei plan her life as a member of elite Soviet society, or allow brooding Valentin to consume her with his dangerous mind and even more dangerous ideas. And she certainly won’t become the next victim of the powerful American spy who can scrub a brain raw—and seems to be targeting Yulia.

Source: GoodReads

I think a lot of YA authors are obsessed with X-Men.  May it be the comic book, the awesome 90’s cartoon, or the movie series, X-Men themed plots have sort of saturated the YA market first in dystopias, then in fantasies, and now it appears in historical fiction as in the case of Sekret.

Note, I DNF’d Sekret mainly because it had nothing new to add to the YA meets X-Men formula.  Don’t believe me.  Tell me if this seems familiar (this another time I wanted to make a top ten list but had to stop at like eight because I found myself repeating myself) :

  1. A Main Character Who Has Powers She Must Hide: Usually in X-Men YA books they go for the Rouge type.  Meaning, that the character usually  has some sort of power to impediment the relationship-with the Rouge character herself, she couldn’t touch anyone  without drawing off power and a kiss could kill them-if I recall correctly.  Luckily, Yulia isn’t a Rouge wannabe so props for the book on that but she still has a devastating power of being a psychic like Jean Grey so…I think a check mark can be put in this category.
  2. A boarding school or training school for the gifted: Check.  There’s just no bald guy in a wheelchair here to train them.  Just Russian spies with guns.
  3. Other kids with psychic powers.  Check, check, check.  Sort of goes with the school of the gifted trope.  But often these kids because the lead’s team mates and/or love interests.
  4. Powers are viewed as strange in the universe.  Yep, happens here main character is on the run becuase of them.  Only robots don’t capture her like they did with Jubilee in the cartoon series.  Though, I don’t give the robots much credit for catching Jubilee in the cartoon version since she was very easy to spot-I mean, she wears dishwashing gloves as every day wear.
  5. There are evil people with power.  Some work for the government.  The government wants to make sure they have all the people who have powers in check.
  6. People who have powers are in danger of getting killed/maimed/taken by the government.
  7. Did I mention super powers.
  8. Psychic powers are used to find other psychics.  Though to be fair, I don’t think this facility has a Cerebro but still.

Yeah, see an X-Men wannabe.  That’s not exactly a bad thing, BUT (yeah, that but is in all caps for a particular reason) when you add nothing else to the story it gets to be grating and fast.  I mean, I really felt like I was going through the motions with this one.  So much that I just DNF’d it there wasn’t anything interesting that was holding my attention.  Really, despite one brief mention of the Cuba Mission Crisis this book could’ve taken place anywhere.

Which is why I DNF’d it.

Le sigh.

Anyway, if you really like the X-Men formula you might want to read this one.  It didn’t hold my interest, but I could see some people liking it which is why on GoodReads I gave it a two star DNF rating rather than a one star DNF rating.

Anyway, going to watch some reruns of the X-Men cartoon right now.  Righting this has gotten that theme song stuck in my head again.