Tag Archives: Anya W. ’20

Foundryside (review by Anya W. ’20)

Foundryside (Founders, #1)Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sancia Grado is quite possibly the best thief in Tevanne. Not in the least because of what exactly the metal plate in her head can do–but it’s safer not to talk about that. She’s still not quite sure how stealing a box from one merchant house turned her into the most wanted person in Tevanne, and the only one capable of communicating with the powerful artifact that has the entire city foaming at the mouth.

Gregor Dandalo is the only living son of the family controlling another one of Tevanne’s four merchant houses and trying his best to bring order and law to the commons: the only part of the city not controlled by the merchant houses. It seems like a stroke of excellent luck when he manages to find the thief who blew up half the docks stealing from a merchant-house safe. Then, he spots the assassins and well, things get complicated.

Orso Ignacio, employee of the Dandalo merchant house, might have made a mistake when he bought an artifact from an excavation site without his employer’s permission. Especially now that the key’s been stolen and he has no hope of learning from the scrivings it contains. Hopefully, the thief Gregor has ‘arrested’ can get the key back in exchange for her freedom.

Bernice is a gifted scriver, and has no idea how she got caught up in fixing her bosses stupid mistake. At least the scenery’s nice.

Bennett’s novel is a study in intricate world-building, and he crafts a diverse cast characters, from heroes to villains to antiheroes, with compelling backstories and motivations all the while seamlessly weaves in ethical quandaries that dissect the foundations of each character. Although sometimes his writing became unnecessarily wordy, this book is an excellent starting point to a very intriguing fictional universe. My main issue is with the side characters. While some are nicely fleshed out, the background villains seem flat and evil for the sake of evil. The romance is also lacking chemistry and feels shoehorned in for no good reason, which is a shame, considering the amazing characters involved in the relationship.
-Anya W. ’20

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Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Justina Chen (review by Anya W. ’20)

Lovely, Dark, and DeepLovely, Dark, and Deep by Justina Chen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Viola Li has a Plan. After the end of her first trip with her aunt, to Africa, she’s working on several more bake sales to raise money for the causes she’s written about. A few more of her scheduled vacations, and she’ll have just the right resume for acceptance as a journalism major to her dream school in Dubai.
Except, as it turns out, sometimes the malaria vaccine can give you extreme, permanent, photosensitivity. Thanks to her professional disaster manager parents, Viola’s entire life and all her plans for the future are permanently deconstructed within a week. All that’s left now is figuring out how to cope.

Chen’s novel is a good beach read, and typical YA. The romance, while not badly-written, is not particularly epic-it would have had the same impact as a friendship. However, her writing is excellent at evoking empathy within the reader, and breathes life into her main characters.
-Anya W. ’20

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The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (review by Anya W. ’20)

The Poet XThe Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What’s a girl to do when she’s got too much to say and no one to pour it out to? Fill journal after journal with words turned into verse, spilling her story across pages for no eyes but her own. A diary of free verse is an indulgence Xiomara can allow, one not banned by the strict rules of her cold home, but what about a poetry club? A boyfriend? A crisis of faith? Covering for her brother? As the walls close in, Xiomara has to grow up and decide what’s important, and how far she’s willing to go to keep it.

Acevedo’s freeform masterpiece is a touching and realistic portrayal of adolescence. She perfectly captures the mindset of someone on the verge of adulthood–the contrast between affection and suffocation day in and day out. -Anya W. ’20

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The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (review by Anya W. ’20)

The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Five PartsThe Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Five Parts by Douglas Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On a rather boring Thursday, a rather boring (but mostly harmless) planet known as Earth is demolished by a Vogon construction crew to clear room for a new hyperspace overpass, along with most of its inhabitants, who rather unfortunately had yet to invent a method of faster than light travel and therefore had neglected to see the clearly posted notice in Alpha Centauri. Ford Prefect, writer for a new edition of the “Hitch Hiker’s Guide” and alien who’s been stranded on Earth for the past decade-and-a-half is not content with vaporization. He takes up his usual pastime, Hitchhiking, bringing along one Arthur Dent, a boring, regular, specimen of humanity if there ever was one, who also happens to be a very good friend.

One of the landmark novels of science fiction and a great influencer of pop culture, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a must read. Adams writes a ridiculous romp through worlds and galaxies on an unimaginable scale, and mixes ridiculousness with unspeakable horrors in just the right proportion to make his book a comedy instead of a textbook. One of the great advantages of science fiction and fantasy novels is the ability to wave away plot holes with “magic” or “science,” but the methods Adams uses to rationalize his fantastical universe are so creative that they hardly deserve the title of Applied Phlebotinum. – Anya W. ’20

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Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee (reviewed by Anya W. ’20)

Outrun the MoonOutrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s tough to be an American born Chinese girl in San Francisco in 1906, and Mercy Wong knows all about it. But, for all that she was born and raised in chinatown, she’ll let it shape her but not define her. So, after she finishes her last year at the only public school in the city open to kids from chinatown, she seizes the first opportunity she can get to con (beg, borrow, barter, blackmail) her way into a better school. After all, St. Clare’s will help her get a foot in the business world, so one day her weak younger brother won’t have to take over her father’s laundry business. Things go all right, at first. Then they devolve. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going, and Mercy is nothing if not tough.

Lee’s Outrun the Moon is a riveting tale of prejudice, friendship, and loss, set against the wonderfully dramatic background of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Her characters are dynamic and multifaceted, each with their own stories, weaving a well-built picture of many different lives converging by chance. Lee paces her story well for the most part, and my only request is an extra hundred or so pages in the middle to allow more time for characterization. Even though the romance is predictable, it is still fairly sweet, and the rest of the novel more than makes up for it. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. – Anya W. ’20

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Shine by Lauren Myracle (review by Anya W. ’20)

ShineShine by Lauren Myracle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Victim:
Patrick — Cat’s ex-best friend, currently in a coma the hospital after being found beaten at the gas station where he works, the victim of a hate crime against gay people.

The Investigators:
The sheriff — says it’s probably some out of towners from a nearby college. Case closed.
Cat — has her own ideas about it. After all, the sheriff can’t exactly implicate the son of the man who funds his campaign in a hate crime.

The Suspects, according to Cat:
College Boy — out of towner college boy who mocked Patrick at the gas station before the incident.
Tommy — the richest kid in town. For all that they hung out, he never stopped bullying Patrick. He was present at the party where Patrick was last seen conscious. Also, as Cat can attest, he likes to molest 13 year old girls.

The Witnesses
Beef: Cat’s surrogate older brother, who drove everyone home and isn’t talking.
Bailee-Ann: Beef’s girlfriend.
Robert: Bailee-Ann’s 11 year old brother with fetal alcohol syndrome who was there to watch his sister come home.
Christian: Cat’s older brother. Even if he was willing to talk about what he knew, Cat knows better than to believe in him.

Myracle writes a gritty portrait of small town life. Even her side characters are multifaceted and capable of growth. Shine is well paced and satisfying, with the right number of twists and an ending that is not too neat. Definitely a lovely reason to read away a day. – Anya W. ’20

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Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen (review by Anya W. ’20)

SkyscrapingSkyscraping by Cordelia Jensen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mira doesn’t know what she would call a major turning point in her life. Was it the walk when she decided that this year’s yearbook theme would be New York City? Was it the day she found her father in bed with his TA? Was it the day when she found out about her parent’s open marriage? Was it the day she found out that her family had no time left?

At some point though, Mira shut down, and she can’t-isn’t-won’t ever be the same again.

Jensen’s novel written in free prose is a heart wrenching expose on the beautiful, terrible mess we call family. She writes unflinchingly of parents’ mistakes and the intolerance of youth, and manages to still infuse it all with a sense of understanding, and of the importance of acceptance and compromise. I love how dynamic her main character is, and how Jensen still allows the side character be multifaceted, with their own emotions and goals. While some plot points may seem trite, they are at least comparatively minor. This is a good, solid read that won’t leave you feeling like you wasted your time. – Anya W. ’20

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Powerless (The Hero Agenda, #1) by Tera Lynn Childs (review by Anya W. ’20)

Powerless (The Hero Agenda, #1)Powerless by Tera Lynn Childs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A mark to determine it all: a Hero, a Villain, or nothing–like Kenna, daughter of the late head of the superhero league. Kenna is sick of living life as an extra, and as the only child of Dr. Swift, the superhero league’s most loyal scientist, she has the resources to work on her project–even if it’s not technically approved. She’s determined to make her own place in the world, come hell or high water, or (hot) Villians, or shadowy conspiracies from the Heroes she reveres, or kidnapped teenagers, or friends dating on the dark side, or missing mother, or… you get the idea.

The book is good, and has great potential as part of a series, however, as a standalone, it feels like it could use some work. While Powerless‘s exposition is folded seamlessly into the storytelling, there isn’t quite enough worldbuilding. At the end of the novel, a snippet of the next book in the series reveals some crucial details that the main character would have known (and should have thought of) during her long periods of questioning everything in the first book.

The requisite YA romance is impulsive in a way that is rather out of character for Kenna. It also suffers a bit from the “guy can ignore boundaries if it is to protect the girl, because it is romantic” trope. If the main couple’s relationship is ignored, however, Powerless is an excellent story with a realistic main character (even if the others are somewhat flat), an intriguing (if somewhat rushed) plot, and strong friendships. – Anya W. ’20

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The Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani (review by Anya W. ’20)

The Village Bride of Beverly HillsThe Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Priyanka’s aunt told her she would be happiest if she didn’t expect too much from marriage if she was obedient and kept quiet and kept the house. So a week after meeting Sanjay, like a good daughter, she packs up for a new name, a new family, and a new country. Of course then, when her new in-laws inform her that she is to take a job and contribute to the household finances, that’s exactly what she does. She’s still not quite sure how she went from a secretary to a reporter, though.

Kavita Daswani’s bittersweet novel is a story about finding oneself in the midst of difficulties. While I first read the novel several years ago, I feel that a second read allowed me to understand better the facets of the characters: how Priya’s hopeless malleability stems from naivetee and fear, but not weakness of character, Sanjay’s blind but well-intentioned misogyny, and how most characters, no matter how kind or cruel they seem, are simply attempting to fulfill their own motivations, even if it means using Priya, and how her failure to completely escape the cycle that chains her down for being a women is not a romantic ending but a precursor to future tragedies.

At its surface level, The Village Bride of Beverly Hills is an enjoyable beach read; beneath, it has enough questions and conflicts to prompt several essays. – Anya W. ’20

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What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi (review by Anya W. ’20)

What You Left BehindWhat You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ryden Brooks has a thousand problems. Soccer. Getting a UCLA scholarship. His not technically *together* relationship with his coworker at Whole Foods. His deteriorating relationships with his friends. The fact that his mom is dating again. Getting over his dead girlfriend, who he might as well have killed and finding the notebooks that he is absolutely certain she left him–even if no one else believes him. Making sure his six-month-old daughter, Hope, is being taking care of.

What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi is good. It remains truthful. While often selfish and prone to questionable decisions, Ryden felt real. Authors often have a difficult time creating teen characters without making them far too immature, or irredeemable. He was just a kid who wanted a life, but life is forcing him to make adult decisions early, and sometimes, he has difficulty handling it. I would have liked a bit more depth to Jessica Verdi’s other characters, especially Ryden’s mother, Alan, and Joni. I love the way she wrote. –Anya W. ‘20

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