Book Review #24: Genius: The Game

30532527This book needed some mayonnaise or BBQ sauce because it was dry!

STORY:

“Cameras are eyes… Microphones are ears… (pg 294)”

In Genius: The Game by Leopoldo Gout (320 pages), Rex Huerta’s a regular sixteen-year-old boy who has a knack (and need) for hacking. Unfortunately, his parents are at risk for being deported from the U.S, Teo, his older brother, has run away from home, and school isn’t much fun for him. With all these things weighing on Rex’s shoulders, the announcement of the genius Kiran’s youth-hacking competition sounds promising, not to mention he needs a quantum computer. Of course, Rex’s internet hacker friends Tunde and Painted Wolf are going to be there for their own reasons.

This book needed more detail. To know a character is “tall, thin, and broad-shouldered (pg 125)” is not enough for me! Does the character have dimples, sunken in cheekbones, and are their clothes loose or ironed to perfection? These are the things I want to know!

The visuals like the diagrams, drawings, and photographs were a nice aesthetic, but they felt like a crutch sometimes.

Also, Rex’s—actually, everyone’s— narrative was dry. And there were too many info-dumps that could’ve been weaved into the story better.

There’s a little attraction between Rex and Cai (Painted Wolf). I mean they were alright. Depending on how old Kiran was, I liked him with her better if only for the Batman/Catwoman angle.

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CHARACTERS:

This book has a bunch of diverse characters! Yay! The three main leads are respectively Mexican, Nigerian, and Chinese! Within the Genius competition, there are South Americans, Egyptians, South Africans, and Haitians and others.

Still, I had no favorite character.

Rex is okay, I guess. But he doesn’t really have a personality. He just reacts to the things that happen around him.

“I do not like the term junk. It implies inherent uselessness and I have come to find that nothing is inherently useless. It is only a matter of finding the time, functionality, and place of the object” (pg 40).

I did like Tunde the most due to his sense of wonderment. I didn’t mind his not-translated Nigerian lingo because I could figure out most of it from context.

Cai (Painted Wolf) was supposed to be this baddie/vigilante chick that I just did not get or care about.

Kiran was interesting just a smidge.

OVERALL:

I’m sorry guys but I could not wait for this book to be over. It took me 9 days to finish this because I had to force myself. It was almost a DNF, but I hoped it would get better.

Not a bad idea but I wished it could have been executed differently (and with more detail)! I might read the sequel.

Book Review #22: Learning to Swear in America

23018259I saw this on display at my local library, so I decided to read it.

STORY:

“So he had two problems. He had to save the world, and he had to save himself” (pg 50).

In Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy (346 pages), Yuri Strelnikov’s been brought from Russia to stop an asteroid from utterly destroying California. Along his two weeks, he has to deal with condescending NASA workers, freeing his emotions, and a Russian professor back home trying to steal Yuri’s life research on antimatter. Not to mention he finds a cute girl with brown and yellow hair, a tongue stud, and hippie parents, and NASA bureaucratically kidnapping him.

I really liked the artistic/creative way Dovie (and her family) tried to teach Yuri to deal with his emotions.

The first half of the story was great, interesting and a bunch of anticipation. However, I didn’t like the other half, and it was a struggle to finish. I started skimming through pages that I should have wanted to devour. I like a little romance in my books a lot, but I just did not care for the romantic subplot that began to take over the main plot. Like, why would someone goof off at a high school with their GF when the fate of the world is in their hands? SN: Dovie caught feelings for Yuri way too fast.

There were a few “suicidal” jokes that albeit weren’t particularly bad, didn’t need to be made.

CHARACTERS:

“He wanted to cry. It was okay to cry, he told himself. It was work-related, and men could cry because of job stress. But his cheeks were dry as he fell asleep” (pg 45).

Yuri was okay. Nothing startling interesting about him, but nothing really upsetting about him either. Maybe he was a bit hornier than expected. I like that though he was a foreigner he wasn’t truly the funny foreigner trope. Of course, he didn’t get every American idiom (but not in a way that undermines his intelligence), and he very much wanted to learn some English curse words.

Dovie, I liked and disliked. Sometimes, she seemed so nice and other times a little jealous/petty. She kind of hated this big-breasted girl for getting better grades than her in art class (but good art can be subjective at times, you know). Like, do you hate the unfair grade you received or are you just mad a girl chose to wear a low-cut shirt? Anyway, I enjoyed Dovie when she was a cameo, but then she started taking up too much of the story’s focus.

I didn’t care too much about the cast of characters.

OVERALL:

The beginning started promising, but it ended on a flat note for me. You might think differently though, so check it out for yourself!

Mini Review #5: American Street

30256109STORY:

“Chantal is Brains.

Donna is Beauty.

Pri is Brawn.

I am Brave. No one has to tell me this. I know it for myself” (pg 317).

American Street by Ibi Zoboi (336 pages), was…Whoa. I thought it was brilliant. A real thriller with some gut punches.

I disliked Fabiola’s cousins except for Chantal. I just…Even though they were joking, they just came off as awful a lot of the time.

I loved Kasim as much as Fabiola.

It had a bit too much cursing, but I enjoyed the storyline immensely. And Fabiola was such an adorable, sweet girl.

SN: Donna and Dray were mad dysfunctional.

OVERALL:

This book definitely has to be added to your tbr (to-be-read).  Even with that ending, I liked this story.

Book Review #19: Piecing Me Together

25566675Diverse fiction? Yes! Diverse fiction with a black main character? Yes, yes! Diverse fiction with a female black main character? So many yes’s! Bonus points for the main character being darkskinned and round. I have read a few (there is a severe lack of them) books centered around black girls and that is a rare combination because in most books the girl is brownskin and thin.

STORY:

“My life is full of opportunities. Give an opportunity to someone else.

But girls like me, with coal skin and hula-hoop hips, whose mommas barely make enough money to keep food in the house, have to take opportunities every chance we get” (pg 7).

In Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson (272 pages), Jade hates that she is labeled as an “at-risk-youth” for many factors but tries her best to take advantage of the opportunities given to her. Instead of being nominated for a study-abroad trip in South America (that she is more than qualified for), she is recommended to apply for an African-American Girls’ Mentorship program, Woman to Woman. Throughout the program, Jade receives a flaky mentor, gets exposed to new places, and has to wonder is it all worth it. Is she just a charity case?

Jade and I have some things in common such as, both our favorite colors are yellow, we both learn Spanish, and love art. I also completely relate to having a mom who always has a comeback ready and not always having a good reply myself.

“It’s okay,” I tell her. It’s not, but what else am I supposed to say?” (pg 39)

See? Jade gets me.

I enjoyed how short the chapters were (bite-sized pieces!), and how they began with a Spanish word (usually infinitives). I thought Jade’s propensity to nickname people in her head like Book Girl, Glamour Girl, and Afro Woman, all characters you will know when you read the story, was cute.

As much as I like reading it, I’m glad that there was NO ROMANCE. Nothing to derail the focus. This book is going to leave you with something.

I liked Jade’s narrative immensely, and many of the chapters ripped off metaphorical bandages. Chapter 21 was real, just real.

“And this makes me wonder if a black girl’s life is only about being stitched together and coming undone, being stitched together and coming undone” (pg 86).

“Maxine is right and wrong. Those girls are not the opposite of me. We are perpendicular. We may be on different paths, yes. But there’s a place where we touch, where we connect are the same” (pg 132).”

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“I don’t know what’s worse. Being mistreated because of the color of your skin, your size, or having to prove that it really happened” (pg 137).

This book is too undeniably real.

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CHARACTERS:

The characters are really human, in a sense, that the nicest characters have flaws and good points, help and hurt, and ignore and understand.

OVERALL:

After reading this, I just want to play Solange’s “Cranes” and persuade someone to buy this book and parade it on their bookshelf.

Piecing Me Together is thought-provoking and will make you do some serious self-reflection and introspection.

FIVE STARS! Read this. Read this. It’s deserving of all its accolades.

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Mini Review #4: SuperMutant Magic Academy

22752445STORY:

“That’s not real life. Not everything has a moral or is tied up neatly with a bow” (pg 168).

In SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki (274 pages), some of the comics were funny, morbid, and/or philosophical. I didn’t particularly like this series because it felt too edgy or a bit tryhard and a lot of the characters’ personalities were horrid (which is actually realistic because people in real life can be horrible).

I couldn’t stand Marsha but unrequited love is pretty sad. Frances the art student, on the other hand, was hilarious!

ART:

The illustrations are loose and lackadaisical, a perfect portrayal of the average high school student.

OVERALL:

I like dark humor sometimes but I just wasn’t thrilled with it in this book. You might think differently though, so check it out!

Book Review #18: Everything, Everything

18692431

Just in time for Mother’s Day! This book has a huge focus on the mother-daughter relationship!

Everything, Everything was everythang! Nicola Yoon has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I reviewed The Sun is Also a Star before this, and Yoon’s first book is just as good (TSIAAS is just a bit more polished).

STORY:

“…The world barely knows I exist. I mean, I exist online. I have online friends and my Tumblr book reviews, but that’s not the same as being a real person who can be visited by strange boys bearing Bundt cakes” (pg 29).

In Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (310 pages), Madeline Whittier (I’m going to be calling her Maddy throughout the review) is sick, in a way, she’s allergic to the entire outside world. Her mom and the best nurse ever, Carla, keep her monitored closely and on a tight schedule. Nothing in Maddy’s life is unplanned or out of the ordinary until (wait for it…) a boy, parkour-black-clothes-only-wearing boy with one dimple in his right cheek, moves in next door.

Yoon is awesome at “showing” and not telling. I love reading her descriptions of characters and things, basically just nouns. She describes nouns well.

“Maddy: What color are your eyes?

Olly: Blue

Maddy: Be more specific, please.

Olly: jesus. girls. ocean blue

Maddy: Atlantic or Pacific?

Olly: Atlantic. What color are yours?

Maddy: Chocolate brown

Olly: More specific, please

Maddy: 75% cacao butter dark chocolate brown

Olly: hehe. nice” (pg 51).

I also like how the real-world references didn’t feel cringy. This book taught me a word that I never knew existed, uxorious. Aww! My favorite English word is pugnacious (or adore), but it might change!

“Maddy: Friends don’t kiss, Olly.

Olly: really good ones can” (pg 123).

I want to say Olly and Maddy were attracted to each other too quickly (instalove!), but if you were basically trapped in an impenetrable bubble your feelings might be intensified. Also, hormones.

There are some mentions of domestic abuse (not with Olly and Maddy btw), and a heavy-handed hint at mental trauma. Oh yeah, there’s a sex scene too, a little edgy but not explicit. Blink and you miss it. I don’t know how I feel about it.

No one had to tell me, but I just knew from the minute I picked up this book that there would be adorable “aww-worthy” moments and some punches in the gut. This book has a mean right hook.

CHARACTERS:

Maddy was sheltered and compliant, but her head was also in the clouds (or rather outer space) and Olly sent her thoughts and health awry.

Olly was agile, witty, and fun. He harbored a lot more pain than he let on, and Maddy intrigued him in every way. He also loved black clothing but wasn’t goth.

Wow. The mom was so believable. I just… She really loved Maddy, almost to a fault.

I loved Carla! She was the absolute best!

OVERALL:

I enjoyed it! The characters, the humor, and, even though it made my heart physically drop, those gut punches. The climax was very climatic. I can’t wait for the movie!

Book Review #17: Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith

34808110Disclaimer: Received a free ebook copy in exchange for an honest review!

STORY:

“Don’t let what your eyes tell you disrupt what your heart already knows” (pg 209).

In Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith by Shaun Hume (468 pages), the book opens with a girl named Betony and her non-talking animal sidekick, a blackbird called Ronan. One chapter later, our real main character is revealed (Guess who. Really, it’s easy. There’s an obvious hint in the book title). Ewan Pendle’s a normal boy with a not so normal ability. He’s being raised by non-affectionate foster parents, so unimportant that their names are John and Jane Doe, and bullied and ignored by his four brutish foster brothers. Ewan’s life has dragged on monotonously until the appearance of a strange lady who announces that he will be shipped to Firedrake Lyceum, a school with other children that see monsters just like Ewan. While there, an assassination attempt made on the Queen of England’s life (not the one you’re thinking of) fails, and it’s up to Ewan and his friends to prevent another one.

Reminiscent of HP’s four houses, Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith has five cliques, Witch (magic-users), Pyros (explosive-users), Stealth (in a sense, ninjas), Vanguard (think knights/swordsmen), and Martial (wrestlers/martial artists). I had assumed everyone would practice magic, but the cliques have their own unique twist. I would most def be in Stealth clique.

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I am not used to so many female characters in a novel centered around a boy hero. Usually, it’s just mom, sister, and female love interest. At one point, I wondered had Ewan been dropped off to an all-girls academy. I think it’s awesome and essential that the girls of this book each played a meaningful role.

“The man wasn’t just old, he looked ancient like his face and body had died a long time ago, but somehow there was still someone home” (pg 21).

There’s also a bunch of old people that aren’t relegated to only all-knowing wise roles.

I have mostly praises for this book, but I have to acknowledge that there were annoying tidbits for me. Way too many references to “coal black dreadlocks” and “liquid black eyes.” You could make a drinking game out of it whenever this character was mentioned. You can’t think for a minute that the girl’s gone bald or wonder what color her eyes were. Also, one of Ewan’s friends Carrie was sweet, but I can’t really stand sickly nice characters.

CHARACTERS:

Ewan’s adorably a bit shy and awkward and definitely confused about his monster-seeing ability, lineage, and Firedrake Lyceum. He’s a little plain like white bread, but when you add his ingredients of cheese (courage), tomato (loyalty), and lettuce (cleverness) he makes an alright sandwich.

One of Ewan’s friends, Mathilde was fun! Bubbly and so optimistic, it’s no surprise her classmates were ignorant of the home life that she was glad to escape from.

Enid, the pirate girl, had a tough disposition and a major attitude in the beginning that stemmed from her upbringing. She hailed from a very large and poor pirate family. I didn’t like her much when she appeared, but she ended up as my favorite character. Little girl can pack a punch!

The Rosethorn twins, Sneath and Scarlett, were a nasty, demonic pair of kids. It was as if someone perpetually spat in their cereal each morning. Just awful!

Enola, the strange woman that brought Ewan to the academy is strange. Ewan could do no wrong in her sight, and I have no clue why. She was a cool lady with a strong air of authority around her with just enough kindness.

OVERALL:

It’s a little long but once you get to know the characters you won’t be bored. I liked the twist at the ending too! Word of advice: If someone offers you a pirate kiss, say no and run away. You don’t need context but just remember that.

I have never read any Harry Potter books (I know the gist of the story though), so I’m not sure if this will excite or disappoint an HP fan. Just have an open mind! Also, I gotta raise my hand because I had no clue what a wraith was until now. Anyway, maybe it’s good I’ve never formally read HP. I was able to read this unbiased and thought it was a fun adventure. I give it four stars!