Mini-Reviews: Netgalley

I got all of these books from netgalley for my honest review.

Saints and Misfits

Saints, Misfits, Monsters, and Mayhem is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?

Pub: 6/13/17

(this is an arc so it may be different from the finished novel)

Pros: Getting the viewpoint of one arab-indian muslim teen girls life which is important to mention because throughout the story you see that her identity is important. It is something that is apart of her everyday. One of the things that I had to think about is that this is probably the only book that shows a teen (or adult) whose religion is prominent in their life.

Another thing that surprised me out the gate is how dark this book is (which would not if I had really read the synopsis…). It brought up some Muslim intra-faith and interfaith conversations up (liking these contemporaries bringing up issues in a way that many poc deal with them. Not everyday is a heavy day). It is an everyday contemporary dealing with her everyday issues being a teen: school, dating, and etc.

Cons: I did not like this story as much as I expected/wanted to. Part of it is possibly because I did not like My So Called Life.

Meh: (disclaimer all things that I did not like can probably be attributed to this being from point of view of a teen so yeah) Janna- I did not like her most of the time and her evolution felt out of nowhere. She was so judgmental, selfish, and mean. It felt like she kept people at a distance from her (probably because of the event that happened at beginning of book) but it felt like she was just there at times and nobody was actually her friend.

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Linden Hills (DNF)

Pub: 3/14/17

-20%

Pros:  From what I read so far it does bring up a lot of black racial topics (colorism, assimilation, respectability, and the problematic bits of affluent black neighborhood)

Why DNF? This sounded so good I thought this is going to be a literal or more direct Dante’s Inferno with black folks. In my head it was going to be sci-fi, I think.

What about black women? I can’t tell if it is a good representation of how black men view women during this time period (or in general) or another book with black women as set pieces. Or I did not read it far enough to get to the nuanced women. Overall, I just was not enjoying it and felt it was a conversation that has been had a lot already in more reachable/non-black women exclusionary ways.

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Cinderella and the Furry Slippers

Handsome princes, fancy castles, extravagant balls . . . in this girl-power fractured fairy tale, Cinderella learns that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is, and it’s better to create your own happy ending.

Cinderella is dying to go to the ball. She’s seen pictures of the fancy castle and the handsome prince, she’s heard the fairy tales about true love, she’s found the perfect dress in Princess magazine and she’s even found an ad for a Fairy Godmother. She’s all set.

Except the fairy godmother doesn’t look like the one in the ad. And the castle doesn’t look like the picture. And the prince . . . well, Cinderella decides her fairy-tale ending is going to look different–and be a whole lot more fun.

Pub: 8/10/17

Pros:   It is a unique Cinderella retelling, fantasy world built-in the story (my favorite part of the story), the last three pages of this book which makes me wish that it would have started with Cinderella leaving Prince Charming. Then the rest of the story could have been her discovering herself in the fantasy world  around her.

Cons: I found the last three pages of  this book more interesting than the all the pages before it.

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Tobor

After receiving a special gift, Ben comes to understand that friends come in all shapes, sizes – and types. Ben receives a very special present for his fifth birthday. Unlike Ben’s stuffed animals who can’t move on their own or talk, Tobor is different; with a press of his square nose, Tobor comes alive, suggesting and playing games, talking and asking questions and soon he becomes Ben’s best friend. Sometimes friendship develops where you least expect it.

Pub: 8/11/17

Pros: Art, Idea (toy robot)

Cons:  It does not feel like it has a middle point where problem happens (or that much of) to have a conclusion

 

 

Prom Queen Review

 

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Synopsis

A spring night, soft moonlight, five beautiful Prom Queen candidates, dancing couples at the Shadyside High prom—these should be the ingredients for romance. But instead they’re a recipe for terror…

The Good

I could pretend that I did not read Prom Queen in October of 2016 but I will not.

I liked that it was small and short. I miss the small mass market paperbacks that you can put in your purse. I miss the artsy cover arts of the 90s. I miss feeling like there was an expansive world out there in horror *sigh*

The Bad

I like the idea of Fear Street, the nostalgia, more than what the story is today.

Image result for Tiara TemplateBook version of jump scares (ugh)

Image result for Tiara Templatefeeling detached/underwhelmed by it all

Image result for Tiara TemplateThere was seriously a point where I was like I do not actually like this book. I wanted to put it down which is never a good sign.

Image result for Tiara Templatecharacters mesh together/they are not distinct. Did not like any of the characters because they were all mean. I am not into this thing where people are mean to each other and call themselves friends (unless it is fun which it was not in this case)

Image result for Tiara TemplateKind of guessed who did it early on (which probably was easy because I read almost all of the Fear Street books as a kid)

Image result for Tiara TemplateI wish I liked it because the books are old enough to be easily and cheaply accessible in used book market. I just did not feel any excitement while reading it. Overall it was blah.

I need some good (diverse) horror books in my life.

(image and synopsis are from goodreads)

280:The Hate U Give

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Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The Good

I have a lot of thoughts which makes me wish that I would have done a readalong for it. I  wish someone else did one too but I think I understand (possibly/more than likely) why. I believe many people did not do a readalong for it because  there are so many touchy subjects in this book. Anyway, on to what I liked about this book…

  • Not white centered: One of my fears was that it was going to be for white people thus watered down/sanitized. My fear came from many other y.a. novels with black main characters that I have read who go to a boarding school or a school that is majority white/mixed racially (which many people see as the dream for interracial harmony but do not talk about the reality of what assimilation has meant for poc in general). My fears were mostly unfounded because Starr was not cut off from the black community.
  • It is set in modern black lives matter world through the eyes of a black girl: black lives matter and police brutality is not all new all different it is a thing in this world.
  • So much black culture is shown: it made me think about how much I do not hear books talk about black culture.
  • Shows the trauma that comes with being involved with police brutality: seeing friend be murdered and people’s reactions to it
  • Allowing Starr to grieve and not fall into the strong black woman trope. Her trauma does not go away after five minutes. Also, she does not just have bad days of her being sad.
  • Bringing police brutality and all the issues in T.H.U.G to a young adult novel-thus a young audience. By putting everything into a young adult novel it can reach a wider audience than a literary novel.
  • Cuts all ties that would lead to respectability politics
  • Poc solidarity
  • White feminism: I mean you can have entire middle grade books about white feminism casually but it is something else to have one about racism
  • Intraracial black issues
  • Reality of interracial relationships: I don’t know how I feel about Chris and Starr relationship. For a long time the only thing we see Chris partaking in is black culture like making references to Fresh Prince of Belaire but at the same not knowing that much about police brutality (appreciation vs appropriation). It annoys me because going along the points above people think that the work of solving racism is just putting poc and white people together. His ignorance/naiveté got on my nerves at many points but he is not terrible like Hailey but still… They are in high school too so growth can come later. Then characters in THUG said he ain’t white he light skinned, nah. Nah!
  • Moral ambiguity to black characters: they are not one dimensional tropes.
  • Stay in hood vs suburbia: suburbia≠utopia
  • White privilege
  • and so so so much more

Emotionally it was an enjoyable book to read.

The Meh

Police are given nuance with Uncle Carlos- which I get but at the same time it is annoying that black people have to go not all cops when talking about police brutality.

The story lightly treads some things that it could go harder on (but also I know it could not be everything, do everything, and hit everything)

The Bad

Do I think it wants to jampack every issue in one book? I can’t get mad because this info all of it, the entire book needs to get out to everyone who can read it.  Nonetheless, there are moments put in the book that felt unnatural/inorganic to the story.

The story wrapped up some things in a way that was too neat and convenient.

Ending Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book a lot. I just would love to see more critique about it (that is not obvious/blatant/just plain anti-black racism because there is a lot of those on goodreads). I am enjoying all the love that her book is getting and cannot wait for her next novel.

Here is a critique of the book that is notable: http://blacknerdproblems.com/the-hate-u-give-blm-gets-the-novel-treatment/

Allegedly Readalong: Chapters 17-18

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Pre-reading Thoughts Before Final Chapters:

I get that there are no easy answers so it makes sense if the ending is open but I will probably not like it. Again, this I do not feel like talking thing with Mary is old on page 200/218.

Chapter 17

I can see they are trying make Mary’s mom three dimensional but eh.

Q: So Mary brother died of natural causes or what? And is that what made her mom become who she is today?

Q: How believable is Mary (as a nine year old) keeping the cross and burying it all without prints?

Like she knew she would have to testify now. Unrealistic! Also, you could have had this ready 50 pages ago when you first met the lawyers.

Q: So the whole Dr. Cross meeting was dropped or what?

Chapter 18

Okay, Dr. Cross meeting came through. Mom and daughter thing is annoying!

Q: Why is Mary changing her story now? Weak!

Ending (Initial reaction):

It feels like an unpolished mess in ways. She either (or both) could not commit to one true ending and/or could not create a future for Mary because “realism”.

Q: So all of this was a plot to be the perfect daughter for white people? So did she kill Alyssa or not?

Ending (after a couple of days and further thought. since I finished the book before I could finish doing these posts week by week I had the time to actually go over what I wrote while drafting them. It has given me greater perspective.)

I think that the ending makes sense now but I still do not like it.The story did build up the idealization Mary has of Alyssa and her family. In the earlier chapters I did actually find it weird how Mary was acting.

I was ranting to my brother afterwards saying having the main character hold something back from the reader is one of the things you just do  not do in a first person narrative. It is probably one of the rules of writing to not do (especially in the mystery genre).

Q: Do you think the story left itself open for a sequel?

Yes! There are so many unanswered questions left behind. The only thing she would have to deal with is this whole Mary doing this for this idealized image of Alyssa family. Basically, making it where Mary is guilty.

I am definitely going to do a review that talks that collects all (or most of) my thoughts on the book after having some time to think about the book as a whole.

Allegedly Readalong: Chapters 13-16

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Chapter 13

I forgot about Alyssa father. We are going to see more of outside reactions now (also, misogynoir). I guess it is good for her to make strides without Ted.

Chapter 14

I told you new girl is a psychopath.

Q: Why is Dr. Cross so creepy? Is she lying about files she has on Mary? How does Mary know her?

I think she met Mary as a child way before Mary could remember and will serve to fill gaps in Marys past. I do not think she is lying about the files she has on Mary. If anything the files “conveniently” disappeared some other way since everyone hates Mary.

Chapter 15

So sick of Mary hoarding secrets so the plot can continue!

I do not know how I feel about new girl turning into a villain.

Q: Can you get into school with a big criminal record?

I get running away thing but this plan seems (sounds) good on paper but not actually  good. I do not know if I completely feel either plan (Ted vs Lawyer). Long term if she wants to be a teacher or almost any professional profession she needs to be exonerated.

Chapter 16

Q: Are we ever gonna find out  who Mary real parents are?

Please Ms. Richardson do not adopt Mary baby!

Mary is being real dumb about meeting Ms. Richardson thing. I get that it may have had to happen for plot reasons but ugh.

Overall

We had a lot of “realistic” conclusions- Ted having to be distant.

I feel I am going to be disappointed with the ending since it is more than likely going to be open ended. It will not solve anything thus making Allegedly a contemporary and not a mystery.

Personally, I wanted them to get more into the actual court proceedings. If they don’t drop this bomb with mom (that mary has been hoarding from reader even though this is first person story) it will probably get a star knocked off.

Allegedly Readalong: Chapters 9-12

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Chapter 9

Q: Does new girl have a plot with lawyers and/or Kelly? Did Kelly do crimes on purpose?

I think she did it on purpose.

Questions Marys mental stability.

Interesting that Mary is friends with the white (innocent) girl. Again, thinks about the questionable race stuff in this book.

Chapter 10

I feel like the lawyer is exploiting Mary.

(We finally get the events of what happened with Alyssa according to Mary)

Q: So what was all this about Mary blacking out? The story and some of what we read do not match.

File:Broken Heart symbol.svg

Ted has a point! Remember he has no experience and a record of doing the horrible crime he has done. It is real that he would get involved into some shady stuff to have somewhere to stay.

Q: Did Ted low key say he is a pimp?

Chapter 11

Word of the day: Exploitation

Mary is not getting any money for anything that profited off of her. If Allegedly says anything it says something about the exploitation that happens on these murder cases.

I do not like Alyssa mom (I get it and all). Nonetheless, I do not like Alyssa mom. So she thought Mary did not do it but she still carried on letting Mary go to jail. She really made me mad.

Chapter 12

The reality is that even if she is found not guilty people could still not believe her. Mary could still deal with condemnation especially since she is a black girl.

All these people do not care about her. The only people she had in her life have left her in the cold. Her mom let her take fall for a crime she did not commit. Alyssa mom just let her take fall even though in her heart she felt she did no do it. It made me feel like so any black woman/girl would do.

Mary very much mythicizes Alyssa mom and white people in general- dad is white savior, Alyssa mom is greatest mom ever.

What I do not think we are going to get answers to:

  1. Who is Mary father?
  2. What did the other girls do?
  3. Does her father know about her?
  4. Does her mom even know who her father is?

What we have left to cover in book:

  • trial
  • all reveals/reactions of people

Q: Do you think the portrayal of mental illness is done well? A lot of books use it for short hand=criminal.

The story overall has been a mix of hopefulness with dose of  “realism”.

Allegedly Readalong: Chapters 5-8

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Chapter 5

Q: Why did Mary’s mom kill Alyssa?

I want to know more into Alyssa’s family.

Q: What did Alyssa mom see?

Q: What does “I didn’t mean to throw her” mean?

Q: How is stirring things back up going to go?

Chapter 6

We get a bit of the public view  of Mary’s “alleged” crime. There were activists and stuff which felt current.

Q: What is life like for a famous killer after serving their time in real world?

Alyssa was bruised before death according to mom.

I like the idea of Mary getting someone beyond Ted.

Commentary on Push (or Precious) by Sapphire was interesting. Push has been such a controversial book for its representation of black women (and black men).

Mary has an anger inside her. It makes sense seeing everything she has gone through but you know it is one of those red herring she may have done it moments.

Chapter 7

Showing actual  psychopathic killer which matters because they do exist in foster care systems too. The scary thing is that they are there alongside the non-psychotic killers.

Q: Is the girl trying to kill Mary dark skin? That is questionable since Mary is light skin (possibly biracial). It feels like all the white/light skin people so far are good while the poc/dark skin characters are bad/against Mary.

Q: So what did Kelly “new girl” do?

Chapter 8

Q: What is Alyssa and Mary relationship again? The way Mary talks they had more than an acquaintance relationship.

Doubt (for me ) is casted on Alyssa mom from this chapter. Think about it all we know from Alyssa mom point of view is from second person information so Alyssa death could have been a set up (between Alyssa’s mom and Mary’s mom).

There is still reasonable doubt if Mary still did it or severity of what she did. She blacked out and the story is still side stepping what happened that night.

I like the idea of restorative justice more than just throwing people in jail.

Q: Are the lawyers exploiting or not?

Beautiful landscape lake - Public Domain Picture
Ted+Mary

 

Q: Does Ted have the right to explain? What could have happened?

(I have a theory but I will keep it for now.)

Q: Who is Mary father? We learn that he is n/a on the birth certificate so either Marys mom does not know or she just did not put it on there.

50% Feelings:

Pros: naturally brings up race in a way that black people would bring it up

Cons: Allegedly has q

uestionable things in terms of certain things (such as colorism). Lack of transitions can be annoying and confusing (I cannot tell if it is because it is an ebook)

Randomish Thoughts:

I wonder if Mary being isolated is about being a self-insert /more relatable to teens (middle to upper class teens) than a more hardened (by system/world) kid.