Book Review/Tour: Satellite


Book Review/Tour: SatelliteSatellite by Nick Lake
Release Date: October 3rd 2017
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 464
Source: Publisher

He's going to a place he's never been before: home. Moon 2 is a space station that orbits approximately 250 miles above Earth. It travels 17,500 miles an hour, making one full orbit every ninety minutes. It's also the only home that fifteen-year-old Leo and two other teens have ever known.   Born and raised on Moon 2, Leo and the twins, Orion and Libra, are finally old enough and strong enough to endure the dangerous trip to Earth. They've been "parented" by teams of astronauts since birth and have run countless drills to ready themselves for every conceivable difficulty they might face on the flight.   But has anything really prepared them for life on terra firma? Because while the planet may be home to billions of people, living there is more treacherous than Leo and his friends could ever have imagined, and their very survival will mean defying impossible odds.

Satellite has an interesting plotline. It’s about three sixteen-year-olds, Leo and the twins Libra & Orion, who have spent their entire life in space on the Moon 2 station. They’ve mainly been raised by “babysitters”–aka Company employees–who rotate up to the station every couple of months. The twins’ mother is unable to come back up for medical reasons, and Leo’s mother, while a celebrated astronaut, is distant, to say the least. While everyone talks of home as Earth, these three’s experiences are limited to the stories they hear and the view from the station.

However, at sixteen, their bodies are finally strong enough to withstand the re-entry into Earth. While their trip is less than stellar and full of mishaps, for the first time the teens get to experience the feel of the sun, wind, and most important gravity. The transitions from 0g to life on Earth is less than easy; and much, much harder than anyone ever imagined. Not only that, but the three teens instantly become medical test subjects as they are forced to do tests day in and out. Not quite the Earth they imagined after all.

This basic storyline is what drew me to the book and made me keep with it. This concept of “what is home?” and can home really be something you’ve never been before. All three teens have different reactions, which really made me wish the book had introduced more than just Leo’s point of view. I would have loved to see what Libra and Orion were truly thinking through this all. There just felt like there was so much that was untouched in the other characters because Leo was the narrator. Even his mom and grandpa had a lot to offer.

I would have also liked if the LGBTQ stuff had come to the forefront just a little more. For most the book, all we really got was that he was hesitant to be near Orion because of what it did to him. And I know that’s not what the story is really about, but there was a lot more tension that totally could have been explored.

Of course, there are conspiracy theories and untold truths as well. The Company is probably as douchey as you think, maybe even more so. View Spoiler » The pacing at times is a bit off, but overall, the story made for an interesting and enjoyable read.

On the other hand, if this book had not been for a blog tour I may have DNF’d. The entire book is written in text speak using things like  “i” ,“u”, “c” &” dr.8”. To say it made me cringe was an understatement. It honestly made it hard for me to focus because I wanted to change it all to correct grammar. I’m far from being a grammar freak, but almost 450 pages of text speak would drive anyone crazy, which makes me a bit sad. The story itself is very good, but I can see the format turning some off. In fact, I would even go as far as saying grab this one in audio over print if possible. That way you get to avoid the text speak and only get the mainly fabulous story.

Book Review: I Hate Everyone But You


Book Review: I Hate Everyone But YouI Hate Everyone But You by Allison Raskin, Gabby Dunn
Release Date: September 5th 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 352
Source: ALA

Dear Best Friend,I can already tell that I will hate everyone but you.Sincerely,Ava Helmer(that brunette who won’t leave you alone)

We're still in the same room, you weirdo.Stop crying.G

So begins a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?

I Hate Everyone But You, the debut novel by two emerging major talents in YA, Allison Raskin and Gaby Dunn, is a story about new beginnings, love and heartbreak, and ultimately about the power of friendship.

I’ve been sitting on this book and mulling over how I feel for a couple of days now. I loved the idea of the premise. As someone who has moved a lot, a story about dealing with those long distance friendships was a welcomed sight. And while this book did deal with that a bit, it also had things that weren’t so welcomed.

First things first, this a modern-day epistolary book. The whole things is told via Ava and Gen’s emails and texts. This makes for a quick read and generally works okay. You get the basic story and the general emotion of each girl. The emails and texts are sometimes a bit over the top, but that’s to be expected. However, at the same time, I did wish for more details at times. I felt like I was missing something by not being in the moment. I’m also hoping the final version will have dates and time stamps attached. It was really hard to gauge the passage of time between communication unless one of the girls drops a season/how long it’s been in one of their messages.

WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD

There are a couple of things that made the book go south for me. One, is the relationship between Gen and her TA, Charlotte. One moment, Charlotte is simply helping her edit her piece for the paper. Innocent and appropriate enough, right? Well, you blink and they’re suddenly lovers, in the loosest sense of the word. I can hear you saying, what’s the big deal, they’re both adults? Well, yes, but it still feels wrong. For one, Charlotte is in a position of power both as her TA and later as faculty advisor for the paper. Two, Charlotte is 32. That’s a huge difference, especially at that age. Three, Gen is not the only student she is sleeping with. There is at least one other girl, who Gen was also sleeping with, but it definitely sounded like it has been more. It just utterly and completely rubbed me the wrong way, especially when you throw in a transphobic storyline. Without telling the whole story, Charlotte is accused of writing transphobic pieces in the past, which ultimately leads to Gen quitting the newspaper, the whole reason she picked the college she did. If the Gen and Charlotte line had ended there, I would have chalked it up to being at college and experimenting. However, even after all that, Gen ditches Ava, who is visiting over Thanksgiving, to go have a weekend tryst with Charlotte. Considering how much of the book revolved around this pretty unhealthy relationship, I wanted to scream.

With Ava, it was her mental illness. Something about how it all was handled felt a bit off the entire book for me. Ava definitely had OCD, depression, and anxiety. I feel like there may be more going on, but if so, it’s not given a name. I have my own theories, though. The general portrayal is not my issues, but how past events are thrown in. For example, she’s also a cutter. There is a slight edge of urgency to it, but it’s only mentioned a couple times and dropped completely once Gen tells her mom. There’s only this weird spot where it’s nonchalantly mentioned that Ava tried to kill her mom in 6th grade once. It’s meant as a ploy to show how important it is for her to be on the right medication, but it still felt a bit odd. This, however, may go back to the epistolary-no-details issue I had above, but at times I felt like there was just a check list of all the things wrong with Ava mentally.

I’ve debated on if I wanted to mentioned this, but thought I would at least briefly. When Gen comes out, there’s a lot of mislabeling on Ava’s part. Repeatedly, Ava calls her gay. Gen does correct her by saying she still likes boys and does bring up bisexuality, but Ava to a point still implies she’s gay since Gen is mainly sleeping with women. It does seem to stop once Gen labels herself as queer, but it still irritated me a little. Especially when there was a whole passage about how could Gen fantasize about a man when she was gay! I know a lot of this is supposed to be that Ava is a poor sheltered girl (there are several other painful questions especially about trans stuff), but it’s a little unbelievable considering she’s in modern day L.A. I don’t expect her to be fully enlightened, but I would expect her to know more at her age.

In part, a lot of that may have to do that this book felt like Dunn and Raskin maybe took their own college experiences or YouTube stories and crammed them into this book, especially since they name/link dropped their own YouTube channel in the middle of the book.  Honestly, I’m not really sure I would consider this a teen book. Maybe more NA? I don’t know the voices used just didn’t feel too authentic to me. It felt a lot like 30 year olds pretending to be college students.

In the end, this book wasn’t for me at all, but considering how many people are raving about it, this may be a “it’s not you, it’s me” situation. Or maybe if I had been a fan of Dunn and Raskin’s in general, it may have had stronger appeal. I’ll be interesting to see if things shift once the book is out and more reviews are posted.

Book Review/Tour: The Warden’s Daughter


Book Review/Tour: The Warden’s DaughterThe Warden's Daughter by Jerry Spinelli
Release Date: January 3rd 2017
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher

Cammie O'Reilly is the warden's daughter, living in an apartment above the entrance to the Hancock County Prison. But she's also living in a prison of grief and anger about the mother who died saving her from harm when she was just a baby. And prison has made her mad. This girl's nickname is Cannonball.

In the summer of 1959, as twelve turns to thirteen, everything is in flux. Cammie's best friend is discovering lipstick and American Bandstand.A child killer is caught and brought to her prison. And the only mother figures in her life include a flamboyant shoplifter named Boo Boo and a sullen reformed arsonist of a housekeeper. All will play a role in Cammie's coming-of-age. But one in particular will make a staggering sacrifice to ensure that Cammie breaks free from her past.

It’s been a week since I’ve read this book and I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I think. My general feeling is that it’s a decent book, but not without flaws. The concept of a young girl living in a prison is definitely interesting, but Spinelli doesn’t quite hit the mark. The story is told mainly through Cammie in 1959, but we do start, end, and often flashback to current day Cammie. It makes the book feel more like a reflection back than in the moment story. This plot device is also part of the reason I think adults will find this book more moving than it’s intended audience.

For the record, it is moving? Yes, very much so. Cammie’s mother died when she was just a baby and at 12 years old she is desperate for a mother figure. Any mother figure. In fact, she has decided that the current trustee/inmate in charge of her, Eloda, should fill that role. The want is palpable and over the summer, Cammie does everything she can think of to make Eloda give her attention. It starts simple with morning chats while doing her hair, but it’s obvious that Cammie longs for so much more. However, when she doesn’t get the results she wants, she tries smoking and stealing to incite any reaction from Eloda. When it doesn’t work Cammie find herself spiraling more and more out of control. It isn’t until Eloda tell her to finally go to the corner where her mom died/face her mother’s death that Cammie comes out of her dark abyss.

While this scene hits home, the aftermath of it is really wrapped up a bit too fast for my taste. The next day she goes back to school and we’re quickly thrown into the future, when a 17 year old Cammie finally learns the truth; View Spoiler » First of all, what?! At first, I thought it was very moving but the more I thought it about the more I wondered who would actually do that? Who would choose to stay in jail for 3 extra months for some girl. Not to mention, that all her feelings toward Cammie that summer are revealed via a diary. It felt weak and in the end took away more from the story than it added.

Cammie as a character had her ups and downs. There is no way around it was quite entitled, especially at the prison. She is also a bit spoiled and bratty, but what typical 12 year old (almost 13) isn’t? Some of her behavior/actions are things I see day in and day out in my teen department. And while she had moments that made me sigh, she had great ones as well. I especially liked when she finally put an end to her friend romanticizing a murderer. After the third or so time she begged Cammie to get an autograph, Cammie drags her down to the grocery store and to the victim’s mother.  She tells her to repeat to the mother what she is after. That scene was probably one of my favorites and showed that Cammie was growing up and coming into her own.

However, the biggest flaw in the book for me is the racial elements, especially Boo-Boo. Boo-Boo is a black inmate that is described as obese and jolly. She’s attached to Cammie and demands Boo-Boo time at the end of every visit where she fills Cammie with grand stories that are mainly lies. She never moves out of this stereotypical character, especially considering she commits suicide halfway through the book. A death that is used to send Cammie into a darker place/depression, even though their bond felt superficial at best. In fact, Boo-Boo felt more like a plot device than actual character.

The other character is four year old Andrew, a black boy who demands that Cammie take him on a ride around town on his bike, which she does. For hours. She even eventually befriends his family, after being scolded by Andrew’s mother. Nightly dinners are a regular thing as she grows older.  Reminder, dear reader, it’s 1959 and this would have been a big deal. Even if 12 year old Cammie didn’t realize it, I do think it’s something that adult Cammie should have reflected back on. I agree with someone who said it’s the giant elephant in the room that no one talks about. I can understand not wanting to make a book about race, but it was an important issue at the same time.

In the end, this is a book that stayed with me for days. It’s a fast read and does pack an emotional punch. One that I think adults will feel more than kids. And while it was an enjoyable read, it is far from perfect and really misses the mark on racial elements.

Want to see what others are saying? Jump over to the other blogs part of this tour:

January 3: Seeing Double in Neverland
January 4: Here’s To Happy Endings
January 5: My Brain on Books
January 9:  Bookhounds YA
January 10th: Reviews Coming at YA
January 11th: Project Mayhem
January 12th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
January 13th: Readers in Wonderland
January 16th: The Cover Contessa
January 17th: YA Books Central
January 18th: Reading Nook Reviews
January 19th: Xpresso Reads

 

Book Review: The Nerdy and the Dirty


Book Review: The Nerdy and the DirtyThe Nerdy and the Dirty by B. T. Gottfred
Release Date: November 15th 2016
Publisher: Macmillan
Pages: 304
Source: Library

His classmates may consider him a nerd, but Benedict Pendleton knows he's destined for great things. All he has to do is find a worthy girlfriend, and his social station will be secured. Sure, Benedict is different--but that's what he likes about himself.

Pen Lupo is sick and tired of hiding who she is. On the outside, Pen is popular, quiet, and deferential to her boyfriend. On the inside, however, Pen is honest, opinionated--and not sure that she's quite like other girls. Do they have urges like she does?

When fate intervenes, Pen and Benedict end up at the same vacation resort for winter break. Despite their differences, the two are drawn together. But is there such a thing as happily ever after for this unlikely pair?

I wanted to love this book. I really, really did. I first saw it on Edelweiss, but I didn’t get to it before it was published. I love  frank sex talk for teens ala Forever (Blume). I truly believe teens need those type of books; however, this is not it.

But it got good professional reviews and has decent buzz! Indeed it has gotten lots of praise, but I found the book incredibly problematic. I seriously cannot understand why no one but School Library Journal pointed out any of it, even as a precaution. While this is a rant for another day, I will say we need to do better. Hopefully, by the time I’m finished, you’ll agree with me.

Okay, let’s start with the writing. I found most of it to be choppy and stilted, especially when it came to Benedict. I do believe this was done on purpose, to highlight his “tin man” likeness, but it drove me crazy. Here’s an example of what I mean:

When I got home, I wanted to talk to my dad. He would have great advice. He’s brilliant. I’m not saying that just because he’s my dad. He’s a psychiatrist and an author. (p 17)

I know there’s technically nothing wrong with the sentence structure, but most of the book is in this format. For me, it’s jarring and pulls me out of the story. I honestly almost DNF at page 30 because of the writing.

Benedict as character has a lot of issues. I would wager by the way he talks and acts, that it is possible he is on the spectrum. I do not know this for sure, though, so it’s strictly a guess. However, if he is, the whole storyline that he can just be “normal” if he tries hard enough is problematic. Although, even if he is, that does not excuse some of his actions/allow him to be a jerk. I absolutely hate the way he treats his mother. Several times it is mentioned that his mom is the beauty and not the brains. She couldn’t possibly help him because she’s not intelligent enough to help him. It has to be his dad. I know a lot of this was force fed by his father, but it’s still not okay, especially since this attitude is basically applied to all women. I will give points for Benedict back pedaling on this train of thought as the book continued, though.

Of course, there is sex in this book. I’ll admit at times it is gratuitous, like telling me which hand is used to masturbate, but most of it isn’t too bad. I do like that most of the sex talk is straightforward. No cute slang for genitalia and consent is usually asked (at least with Benedict and Pen). However, it does at time makes the scenes seem a bit unrealistic, especially the first actual sex scene. It felt a bit too mature, however, that’s me mainly being nit picky. What is not okay is how female masturbation is treated. Pen repeatedly calls herself a freak because she likes to masturbate and think about sex. She even gets sent to in-patient church therapy when her mom discovers her in the act. Benedict does tell her it’s healthy and that more girls should masturbate, but there is still a sense that Pen believes she’s a freak. Also, I do find that hard to believe that none of the girls on school talk about sex, even with religion thrown into the mix. I can remember sitting in 7th grade and listening to girls talk about their sex lives. Considering that was over 20 years ago, I can’t imagine it’s changed too much, especially the amount of times I’ve told my teens our program talk is PG-13.

I’m going to start delving into some of the stuff that really bothered me. The top of my list is abuse. Pen’s (ex) boyfriend, Paul, is highly abusive mentally, sexually, & physically. Here are just some of the passages that highlights how abusive he is:

“You’re not beating him up, Paul,” I say. Shit. I never tell him what to do or not to do. You know. I always do my passive thing….
“Babe, you can’t talk to me like that.” (p 24)

“I love you too.” I always said “I love you” after he did. I said it first once and it weirded him out. So I say it second. Always. (p 34)

After school, Paul grabbed me under the arm and dragged me out to his car. He kept twisting the skin under my arm. It felt like flesh would tear off, and I never told him to stop. Just take the pain, Pen. It’s okay. Paul would never really hurt me…..”If we hadn’t had sex, i would totally break up with you, Pen! But I love you and we’re going to get married. But we’re going to hate each other like your parents hate each other unless you stop acting like a cunt.” (p 52)

“How are you going to make it up to me?” ….Before I even undid my seatbelt, he put his hand behind my head and started guiding me down toward his crotch. It’s not like he shoved me down there. But, I don’t know, I guess I made it up to him. (p 53)

There is more I could pull, but I’ll stop there. Paul is abusive, no excuses. He breaks up with her after her mom decides Paul shouldn’t join them on vacation at the resort. He knows she was sent away for therapy, but doesn’t know the details. Instead, he uses it as an excuse for them to take a break and for him to mess around with another girl. During this break is when Pen hooks up with Benedict. Three days. Three days is all it takes for her to magically break “free”. When the vacation ends disastrously (I’ll get to this in a bit), she goes to see Paul. She doesn’t even care that he cheated and tells him it’s over. He refuses to let her go and then hits her, which she reports to the cops. I’m glad that she that she reported it, but it feels unlikely that after being in an abusive relationship for years she could stand up for herself so fast. It makes it appear that walking away from abusive partners is simple, but in real life it would have been way more of a struggle. Also, I hate how it was kind of swept under the rug/explained away because his own mother was abusive as well. It was odd how Pen was just like “well, that explains it” and go on her merry way.

Pen’s mother is also pretty abusive, which again is swept away with an explanation  as to why it happens. Not only does Pen mother send her away to therapy for masturbating, but she also calls the cops to assure she goes. It’s also implied many times that Pen’s mother is verbally abusive. The reason? View Spoiler »

If that wasn’t enough, the way crazy, retard, & whore are thrown around is horrible. This is the area I’m most upset that professional reviewers didn’t at least call out as a precaution. Pen repeatedly calls her mom or herself crazy or nuts. I hate how loosely the word is thrown around. This passage struck me the hardest

So, yeah, it was a panic attack. I’m crazier than my mother. (p 83)

No. No, no, no, no. I hate the implications this makes on people who experience panic attacks. How would a teen who experience panic attacks regularly feel after that statement? It’s an illness that no one should be ashamed up and it certainty doesn’t make one crazy.

As for retard and whore, once Benedict and Pen are discovered in a warming hut naked, those words are thrown around without care. Her mother repeatedly called Benedict a retard and Pen a whore. A sentiment that his father echoes. A sentiment that Benedict starts to repeat to himself/believe.

Do you think she ever wants to see a boy again whose father called her a whore? Use your brains, retard. (p 225)

If I’m correct and Benedict is on the spectrum, this is unforgivable, especially since no one tries to stop them from saying it. In fact, only Pen says not to use those words, once, to Paul during their fight. That’s it. One could argue it was the parents lashing out, but I’m extremely disappointed by how casually those words are used.

I wish I had more positive things to say about this book, but it was a complete miss in my eyes.

Book Review/Tour: The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog


Book Review/Tour: The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy DogThe Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz
Release Date: September 27th 2016
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 384

1242. On a dark night, travelers from across France cross paths at an inn and begin to tell stories of three children: William, an oblate on a mission from his monastery; Jacob, a Jewish boy who has fled his burning villa≥ and Jeanne, a peasant girl who hides her prophetic visions. They are accompanied by Jeanne's loyal greyhound, Gwenforte . . . recently brought back from the dead. As the narrator collects their tales, the story of these three unlikely allies begins to come together.

Their adventures take them on a chase through France to escape prejudice and persecution and save precious and holy texts from being burned. They're taken captive by knights, sit alongside a king, and save the land from a farting dragon. And as their quest drives them forward to a final showdown at Mont Saint-Michel, all will come to question if these children can perform the miracles of saints.

I can’t say enough good things about The Inquisitor’s Tale. This has been one of the first books in weeks that I devoured and didn’t want to let go of. The basic format reminds me a lot of Canterbury Tales where multiple people are telling the story of these three children and a holy dog. A journey that leaps off the page from the very start.

The story does have a very central theme of religion to it, but it’s secondary to the story of friendship. A peasant, monk and Jew from medieval times are quite the unlikely group. However, it’s not long before the trio find comfort in each other. Yes, it’s their mystical powers and crazy circumstances that bring them together initial, but their friendship becomes deeply rooted in a very short time. Their gifts work beautiful in tandem with each other as they learn how to solve situations and problems head on together.

I also love how there are a few twist and turns in the story. There are moments where you have to question almost everything. When you have to look beyond the surface to discover the truth. Who is good? Who is bad? And who can they truly trust? William, Jacob, & Jeanne have a lot to overcome, but at the same time it was nice to see that they didn’t have to completely lose their aura of innocence and kindness to accomplish it. They weren’t hardened souls by the end of the story, instead they were 3 children (& a holy dog) that have lived through a frolicking adventure with endless possibilities for their future.

I suppose if I had to complain about anything, it would be that the ending felt a bit preachy. Religion really came to the forefront at that point. It kind of made me go “eh” a little, but I completely understand the reasons behind it. It also perfect fit the times and the story as a whole, so it’s kind of a nitpicky point but one I figured I’d still mention.

One last thing I’ll mention is that Gidwitz put a lot of research into this book. I love the author’s not where he talks about where the ideas came from and what was based on truth and what was not. Also, the annotated bibliography is great. I do think this may spur kids to want to learn more about this era and the titles listed will be helpful on that journey.

As a side note, I did read this as an ARC & most of the illuminations were not put it. What I did see I loved and I plan to grab a finished copy ASAP to check them out.

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE:
Monday, 9/26: Green Bean Teen Queen (Review)
Monday, 9/26: MundieKids (Review)
Tuesday, 9/27: Books 4 Your Kids (Review)
Tuesday, 9/27: Novel Novice (Guest Post)
Wednesday, 9/28: Read Write Reflect (Review)
Wednesday, 9/28: The Reading Nook (Guest Post)
Thursday, 9/29: Imagination Soup (Review)
Thursday, 9/29: Middle Grade Mafioso (Guest Post)
Friday, 9/30: All The Wonders (Podcast)