Friday, April 24, 2015

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows [Joint Review!]

5 out of 5 Robots!

The Orphan Queen By Jodi Meadows
Series: The Orphan Queen #1
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Release: March 10, 2015
Hardcover:  400 Pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen
My Copy: Library
Reviewer: Shannon & Julia

Book Summary:
She is a princess. When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne.

She is a spy. Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Wil can’t trust anyone.

She is a threat. Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh horrors. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

Julia & Shannon: Joint Review!
1. In a sentence or two, describe your thoughts.
Shannon: This was another book that I found more enjoyable than I expected.  This book isn't going to break any new ground, but it was fun and exciting.  It is a solid additional to the fantasy genre.

Julia: The Orphan Queen is much more satisfying than I had anticipated! The characters are entertaining and the plot is quickly paced. Definitely an A+ for world building - Without adding anything fresh to the Fantasy genre, it's still a good read!

2. What was your favorite part? Least favorite? 
Shannon: I loved Wilhelmina's interactions with the Black Knife.  I love all the cloak and dagger stuff.  I loved how tenuous Wilhemina's grasp on her situation was and the precariously situation she was in.  My least favorite part was Wil's interactions with the Ospreys.  It was the least interesting part to me.

Julia: My favorite part is exactly as Shannon - Black Knife interactions! Though I kept thinking, how do they not recognize each other or figure it out until the end? I mean, I pretty much knew who the Black Knife was five minutes into the book. My least favorite part is probably the "rebellion" group hashing outs too. They're not interesting and when things happen to them, I feel like I should care, but I don't... Most likely has something to do with Patrick and how yucky he is.

3. Did you find the characters compelling?

Shannon: I really liked Wilhemina. I liked that she was strong and able, but also insecure about her ability to lead.  I also liked Tobiah the Prince (who is very hard to read) and James (his cousin and guard).  James really lightens the mood whenever he is around.  I liked the Black Knife, although I knew straightaway who he was.  But I was ok with it. The other characters I found compelling, but frustrating: Patrick, the de facto leader of the Ospreys and Melanie, Wil's best friend and co-Osprey.  But they were still interesting even if I wanted to yell at them.

Julia: Oh yes! I actually LOVED James, Tobiah's cousin/guard... And Wilhelmina and Tobiah. Their characters are very well developed and likable. The Black Knife is wonderfully mysterious. Outside of those characters, I didn't care much for anyone else. Not because they were badly written, just didn't.  

4. How did you feel about the world building and fantasy elements? Work for you?
Shannon: I liked it.  As I mentioned, this isn't groundbreaking work. It's pretty standard fare.  But instead of being annoyed by it, it was comfortable like an old sweatshirt.  I knew what to expect.  So I was fine with it.  I was more interested in the character interactions anyways.

Julia: It worked for me. I'm hoping that we get to see more magic soon, which I think is a big possibility. But I'm happy with everything about the world building, she painted a vivid picture for me. 

5. How did The Orphan Queen compare to Jodi Meadow's previous Newsoul series?
Shannon:  I liked this one so much better.  I just didn't really get The New Soul series at all.  I was confused half the time and I didn't really enjoy the characters.  But since this book felt safe and comfy, I was much more entertained.

Julia: This is SO MUCH BETTER! The Newsoul series feels sloppy and not well thought out, it is confusing. The characters were lackluster too. I didn't enjoy myself at all reading that series, so for those of you that gave up on Jodi Meadows because of those books, don't! Give this fantasy read a try!

6. How many stars? Who would you recommend it to?
Shannon: I'm giving it 4.5 stars based on my entertainment level.  I don't think everyone will love it, but I was very entertained and delighted.  Fantasy lovers should give this a try for sure.

Julia: 4.5 Stars. I didn't have many complaints and got through it quick enough. It won't be for everyone, but it entertained me muchooo. It isn't high fantasy, but enough to keep me happy.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio [Review]

None of the Above4.5 out of 5 Robots!

None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio
Genre: YA Contemporary
Release: April 7, 2015
Hardcover: 352 Pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
My Copy: Publisher
Reviewer: Shannon

Book Summary:
A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she was born intersex . . . and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.

What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She's a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she's madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she's decided that she's ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin's first time isn't the perfect moment she's planned--something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy "parts."

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin's entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

(Courtesy of the Publisher)

Shannon's Thoughts:
I love that this book exists.  It takes a somewhat well known, but very misunderstood condition and really explores what it means to be intersex.  It helps dispel a lot of the misinformation out there while also showing a range of reactions to the condition.  

Here is what I liked:
**I loved being on Kristin's journey.  She starts the book on the top of the world.  She's popular, has a great boyfriend,  and has a track scholarship for college.  She decides to lose her virginity to Sam on the night of the Homecoming dance.  Things don't go well.  Concerned, she goes to an Ob-Gyn for the first time and that's when her condition is discovered.  She is obviously shocked.  She eventually confides in her two best friends, who are seemingly supportive, but then the school finds out and all hell breaks loose.  I thought Kristin's reactions were very realistic, but I also liked that she found strength and sought out help instead of being completely in denial. 

**I liked how Gregorio teaches us about intersex through Kristin.  Sometimes it comes across as a little like a PSA/Very Special Episode, but mostly I appreciate all of the logistical information and the willingness to explain certain questions.  I also liked that she introduced us to other intersex girls too so we have multiple points of view on what it is like being intersex.

**I also loved the discussion about sexual orientation, gender identity and biological sex and how they are all different.  There is a neat scene where Kristin's doctor explains the difference between all three.  I thought it was a good, clear way to explain how the three are related but not mutually exclusive.  

**Kristin's journey is very emotional and heartwrenching.  I thought Gregorio did a great job showing her ups and downs and struggles with her condition.  Sometimes I found Kristin incredibly naive, but mostly I just really felt for her.  Especially since she had the added bullying problems on top of trying to sort out her new identity.

Here is what I didn't like:
**I was a little put off that the only males who were accepting of Kristen's condition was her friend Bruce and her dad.  Other males in her life reacted horribly, even violently.  I don't doubt that these can be realistic reactions, but I would have liked to see a wider range of reactions from males.  I think it is doing a little disservice to males to assume that most guys would react so terribly and violently.  

**I would have liked to see more resolution between Kristen and Sam.  Sam does not take it well and things between them unravel very quickly.  But I would have liked to see more interaction between them once Sam finds out.  I felt like his reaction was so strong that I would have liked to see more where those strong reactions were coming from.  I just wanted a little more exploration of their relationship.

**I wish Bruce was more developed.  I thought he was a great friend for Kristin, especially since he went through his own situation and could relate to a lot of what Kristin was going through.  But he was almost too perfect and lacking in some personality.  I felt the end was rushed between them.  


No matter what my complaints are, this is a very important book.  It was compelling, emotional, and well written.  It sheds light on some very "hot" topics and does it really well.  I highly recommend this book!  I also think this would make a fantastic book club pick too.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens [Review]

Murder Is Bad Manners (Wells and Wong, #1)3.5 out of 5 Robots!

Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens

Series: Wells & Wongs Mystery
Genre: Middle Grade/Historical Fiction/Mystery
Release: April 21st, 2015
Hardcover: 320 Pages
Publisher: Simon and Schusters Books for Young Readers
My Copy: Publisher
Reviewer: Shannon

Book Summary:
Deepdean School for Girls, 1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia's missing tie. Which they don't, really.)

But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident - but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there's more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.

Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?

(Courtesy of the Publisher)

Shannon's Thoughts:
I was pretty excited to give this a try because I love this type of setting.  I am fascinated by boarding schools because it is about the furthest thing from my childhood.  I didn't even live in the dorms in college.  I'm an only child.  I lived close enough to my schools to walk to them.  So the idea of all these kids living together without their parents is a strange concept.  I also love plucky kids.  I was hoping for a Flavia de Luce vibe.  And it was a cute book.  But I just didn't connect to it as much as I hoped.

Here is what I liked:
**As I mentioned, I loved the setting.  Especially as it was set in 1934.  That boarding school/historical fiction intersection is kind of my jam.  

**I loved the description of the teachers.  They were not perfect and had messy lives.  The love triangle between some of the teachers was amusing. 

**I liked the quirkiness of the book.  It reminded me a bit of the movie Clue.  Just a little dark humor sprinkled here and there.  

**I also liked Hazel.  I wish she would grow a backbone, but I found her a fun, if not a bit clueless.  

**I liked Hazel and Daisy's relationship.  Hazel, coming from Hong Kong and thereby being very foreign to the other English girls, desperately wants to fit in.  Daisy befriends her, but is not entirely nice to her.  Daisy is very much used to be the star of the show and does not like her authority to be questioned.  Hazel is dazzled by Daisy, but also put off by her behavior.  But she doesn't want to rock the boat, so she mostly keeps her mouth shut.  Hazel and Daisy's relationship is complicated and I appreciated that.  It felt like they were more "frenemies" than best friends.  But their relationship grows by the end, which is good because...

Here is what I didn't like:
**I found Hazel and Daisy's relationship to be extremely frustrating!  I wanted Hazel to grow a backbone and stand up to Daisy a lot more than she did.  

**The mystery should have been a lot more interesting...but it wasn't really.  I mean, some one was murdered!  That should be intense.  It was pretty anti-climatic.  

**I didn't always like the way Hazel's Chinese ethnicity was handled.  It wasn't that I expected her to fit right in, especially in 1934 England, but there were some stereotypes that made me deeply uncomfortable.  For example, her father had concubines.  That seems extremely stereotypical to me, but after poking around the internet, it may have been more common during that time period than I thought.  It was seemed...unnecessary.

**Lastly, I was just a little bored.  Not enough happens to keep my interest for long periods of time and I wasn't that invested in the characters.  I got a little tired of Daisy "Mean Girl"-ing Hazel all the time.


Super cute premise, but could have used some more zip.  I would love the read the sequel though to see if some of these issues are smoothed out.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.


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