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/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: Kill the Boy Band


Book Review: Kill the Boy BandKill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
Release Date: February 23rd 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher

Just know from the start that it wasn't supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near them. That's why we got a room in the hotel where they were staying. We were not planning to kidnap one of them. Especially not the most useless one. But we had him-his room key, his cell phone, and his secrets. We were not planning on what happened next. We swear. From thrilling new talent Goldy Moldavsky comes a pitch-black, hilarious take on fandom and the badass girls who have the power to make-or break-the people we call "celebrities."

This is one of those books I wanted to like so much. When I heard about it, I was super excited, but the reality is the book just doesn’t live up to the hype. In fact, it’s highly problematic.

Before I truly dive into what I had issues with, I want to mention that Moldavsky does weave an interesting murder-mystery tale. I was intrigued by the basic plot and it held my attention enough to finish the book. However, whatever potential it had was lost in passages that upset me.

I’m not going to go into the fat shaming because Sarah over at Women Write About Comics did a good job of that already. Anything I would have pointed out, she already has. I will admit that the tackle scene did not bother me as much as everyone else. Mainly, it’s because by this point, I was already outraged by the fandom passages, which I’ll talk about in a moment. However, the passage that did get me was this:

Her appearance was one of Apple’s main hang-ups. That was what she saw in the mirror everyday and the conclusion she always jump to when things didn’t go right in her life. And, I’m certain, it was always a reason she chose Rupert P. —-  out of all the Ruperts —to love the most. I had a theory that choosing which boy to love in a boy band has a lot about a person…..I think April loved Rupert P. because she couldn’t even envision herself being loved by one of the cute boys. She loved him because he was the only one who she thought could possibly love her back.

I think that boy bands don’t worry about having a snaggle-tooth of an ugly member in their otherwise perfect row of teeth — boys — because they know that there are girls like Apple out there. Girls who really don’t like themselves enough to aim higher.  (p 82-83)

No, just no. No. No. No. And I know, there’s a spark to truth in girls thinking they can’t aim higher, but this is because society continuously tells girls like Apple they’re not good enough. Can we please just stop pushing this ideology? Please and thank you.

All right, so fat shaming. Check. Making fandoms look like crazies? HUGE CHECK. I’ll be honest, this is where the book lost me. I know people will come at me and say BUT IT’S A SATIRE, but it didn’t work well as one for me. There are too many moments that speak of reality and what is actually happening in the world of social media that are quite scary. For example, threatening tweets. Here’s the passage about the type of things that Isabel sends:

Isabel’s infamous tweets range from the cartoonish and impossible:

I’m going to pull ur tongue out of ur mouth wrap it around ur neck n strangle u w it so hard ur eyes will pop out. i will pee in the sockets.

To the quaint:

get your funcking hands off him bitch I will cut u. # RupertLIsMine  (knife emojis)

To the cryptically disturbing:

I watch u in ur sleep. (p 24-25)

To me, these are too real. I know people who get tweets like this–or worse. There is nothing funny about them. It’s scary and disturbing and wrong. I suppose if you didn’t know social media well enough you would think they were over the top, but they’re not and they’re many people’s reality. And while the main character does seem to condom those tweets, that type of attitude is basically what Isabel is all about.

The picture of fandoms that Moldavsky paints wildly varies depending on where you are in the book. At one point we get this

There was no point being a fan these days if you weren’t willing to go the extra mile for your idols. It wasn’t enough anymore to send them fanmail and kiss the posters above our beds. These days you weren’t a true fan until you engaged in Twitter death threats and endless stan wars. The fandom landscape was peppered with land mines, and there was no other way to navigate it but to walk until you hit one. You come out the other side a little crazier, yeah, but you’re also stronger. You are a true believer. You’ll do anything for the object of your affection. (p 32)

And then no more than 30 pages later we get this

Other people may have seen fangirls as crazy teenage girls obsessed with a fad, but they couldn’t understand the small but important joy you can get from indulging in these fandoms. They didn’t understand that a new gif of Rupert K. grinning at you could be the difference between a crap day and a beautiful one. They didn’t get the friendship that forms, the community of people who shared in your same joy. Maybe it was obsession, but it was also happiness; an escape from the suckiness of everyday life.  (pg 63)

So, which is it? Are they crazy obsessed teenagers or just a community that finds joy together? I suppose you could argue for both, but that second quote? Man, that’s what fandom is all about. That quote really hits at the heart of what they’re are and why people love and cling to them. When I saw that passage, I had hope that Moldavsky was going to give me something good. Instead, she goes back to painting them all as crazy. In fact, when a plea is sent out to the fangirls by one of the Ruperts to help find the missing Rupert, the girls start climbing the scaffold and busting into the hotel. I suppose you could argue that the over-the-top is where the whole satire/humor comes in, but to me it felt more like shaming than anything else.

There are many other passages that I could point out and use, but I fear they would make this review even longer than it is. And honestly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other issues with race, sexual assault, and homophobia that are being pushed aside because it’s a “satire”. I know this will be a controversial review, but I just can’t support or recommend a book that is this problematic.

Final Verdict: Kill the Boy Band tried, oh did it try, but sadly it failed miserably in my eyes.

Book Review: Up From the Sea


Book Review: Up From the SeaUp From the Sea by Leza Lowitz
Release Date: January 12th 2016
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher

A powerful novel-in-verse about how one teen boy survives the March 2011 tsunami that devastates his coastal Japanese village. On that fateful day, Kai loses nearly everyone and everything he cares about. When he’s offered a trip to New York to meet kids whose lives were changed by 9/11, Kai realizes he also has a chance to look for his estranged American father. Visiting Ground Zero on its tenth anniversary, Kai learns that the only way to make something good come out of the disaster back home is to return there and help rebuild his town.
Heartrending yet hopeful, Up from the Sea is a story about loss, survival, and starting anew.

This is one of those novels that instantly transports you. You’re there with Kai as the quake hits and as he runs to get to higher ground to escape the tsunami. As the water keeps rising, you see the waves break apart the bridge he and his classmates had run to. And your heart will break as you realize he has, by some miracle survived, but lost so much as well.

While this books takes place in a coastal city in Japan, I feel like the emotions that Kai go through will resonate with everyone no matter where you live. The basic plot may be about the aftermath of a tsunami, but the heart of the story is truly Kai. It’s about his losses, his gains, growing up, and finding joy among the pain. Yes, he is often selfish and self-absorbed, but, at 17, he really is still a kid/teen. Up until this point, his biggest concerns were about finishing high school or what he fought with his mom about. Now, he has to learn how to get one without almost everyone that he loves. I loved that Lowitz didn’t hold back on the depression/survivor’s guilt as it’s an emotion that so many go through. Part of me does wish there had been just a tad bit more on it, but I understand it wasn’t the main focus as well.

I will admit that I found the dad side plot was a bit distracting. For the most part, it felt unneeded. Yes, it made it so that Kai wasn’t an orphan, but it felt out of place. The only really usefulness was to show that Kai had found where he belonged/didn’t want to leave after all, but there were other ways that could have been done. And maybe this will be the start of a real relationship between he and his father, but the whole thing just felt a tad forced.

The 9/11 connection always felt a bit out of place, but I liked this one more than I didn’t. Yes, it’s a bit cheesy that victims of one disaster helping other survivors heal. It’s one of those feel good, humanity still exists plots that I’m okay with. (This sentiment also applies to the lost soccer ball as well.)

Final Verdict: A powerful verse novel that is great for teens for all ages. It’s gives a look into the aftermath of the 2011 Japan tsunami that may otherwise been unknown.

Book Review: Burning Midnight


Book Review: Burning MidnightBurning Midnight by Will McIntosh
Release Date: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher

Sully is a sphere dealer at a flea market. It doesn’t pay much—Alex Holliday’s stores have muscled out most of the independent sellers—but it helps him and his mom make the rent.

No one knows where the brilliant-colored spheres came from. One day they were just there, hidden all over the earth like huge gemstones. Burn a pair and they make you a little better: an inch taller, skilled at math, better-looking. The rarer the sphere, the greater the improvement—and the more expensive the sphere.

When Sully meets Hunter, a girl with a natural talent for finding spheres, the two start searching together. One day they find a Gold—a color no one has ever seen. And when Alex Holliday learns what they have, he will go to any lengths, will use all of his wealth and power, to take it from them.

There’s no question the Gold is priceless, but what does it actually do? None of them is aware of it yet, but the fate of the world rests on this little golden orb. Because all the world fights over the spheres, but no one knows where they come from, what their powers are, or why they’re here.

The start to this one is a bit slow. In fact, it took a good 20-25 pages until I fully understood what spheres were and why they were so important. Admittedly, this was slightly my fault since I didn’t re-read the description to refresh my memory before starting the book, but it also shouldn’t take so long to be introduced to the world. I almost wished that I had a little guide on  spheres, how they worked, and how many there were.

Once I grasped what was happening, I did enjoy the world. I thought it was an interesting concept, especially considering human nature. Who wouldn’t pay a couple hundred here and there for simple things like whiter teeth or ease of sleeping. People pay that now for different medications or gimmicks that aren’t always a sure bet. Of course, the super powerful spheres that increases intelligence or looks are rare and expensive.  Only those with lots of money could afford them. Maybe if you were a lucky hunter, you might who would find a pair to burn, but basically it was the rich get richer situation, which was fully realistic.

I will say the pacing was a bit off for me. There were times where the book moved along at a good speed, but then other times when it dragged. I loved the earlier hunting scenes with Hunter and Sully, but the scenes when they’re searching the water towers felt a bit too slow for me. I understand that McIntosh needed to show that it took a while, but I was quite bored. On the other hand, once they find the Gold, things seems to kick into super high speed. This is also where you have to start suspending belief. Almost nothing that happens after finding the Gold seems truly believable or possible. However, if you allow yourself to just roll with it, it’s a fun adventure.

The only part that I can’t quite get over is the ending. I don’t want to give anything away, but it felt extremely too easy. I could buy into what the spheres actually were, but how they solved it all seemed almost like a cop-out. It tied up way too nicely in a bow for my taste. I guess I wanted more than what I got.

I’m a little torn on how I feel about the love aspect. There is a nice build up between Hunter and Sully, but it also have the feel of insta-love. For most of the book, there a pretty big distrust between them, especially when a deal goes awry. However, they do actually spend a lot of time hunting together, so when you figure in that it’s probably been at least a couple of months it does sort of work. I think it was the out-of the blue declarations that didn’t work for me. Most of the book, Hunter keeps Sully at arm’s length and then suddenly she’s proclaiming how he’s the best thing ever in her life. It was a bit cheesy, but I know know of teens who will probably eat it up.

All that being said, this was a fast sci-fi read. I read it in one day, and while flawed, I couldn’t put it down. I would easily give these to my teens who are just starting in sci-fi or who are looking for an adventure book. It’s a bit on the big side for reluctant readers, but one I do think they’d enjoy.  It would also be a good pairing for 5th Wave, although there aren’t nearly as many mind games or heavy strategy in this one.

Final Verdict: A great new YA sci-fi book. While it does have some flaws, it’s a quick read filled with tons of adventure.