Title: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo (The Epic Crush of Genie Lo #1)
Author: F.C. Yee
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy/Mythology
Publication Date (Original): August 8th 2017 from Amulet Books
Pages: 306 (US paperback)
Format: Personal Book
Goodreads Synopsis: Genie Lo is one among droves of Ivy-hopeful overachievers in her sleepy Bay Area suburb. When she’s not crushing it at volleyball, Genie is typically working on how to crack the elusive Harvard entry code. But when her hometown comes under siege from hellspawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are dramatically rearranged. Enter Quentin Sun, a mysterious new kid who becomes Genie’s guide to battling demons. While Genie knows Quentin only as an attractive transfer student, in another reality he is Sun Wukong, the mythological Monkey King incarnate. Suddenly, acing the SATs is the least of Genie’s worries.
I saw that the sequel to this book is currently on Edelweiss and when I saw it last month, I suddenly remembered this book! So I bought the new paperback edition (pictured) and read it this month! I had heard some hype around this on Booktube when it came out a couple years ago. It’s been blurbed as the “Chinese version of Buffy” so that immediately caught my attention. And I have to say that this was funny and very entertaining. I didn’t expect this level of sass from a character like Genie Lo. While this wasn’t a perfect book, this is still very funny, smartly written and has great banter between characters. Here’s the break down of my thoughts:
- Voice of Genie: Even though this book was written by a male author, I loved Genie’s voice! She is very tall, very sassy but also fearless in many ways. Her voice was very authentic, even like some girls I know and her inner thoughts made me crack up at times. She’s trying to get into a great college, study all the time and gets in fights with her mom sometimes. But she is hiding a more vulnerable side and it was interesting to see her fight within herself in this story. The author really created a fully fleshed out female character that in some ways does really remind me of Buffy Summers.
- Chinese Mythology: I knew little bits of different Chinese monsters in Chinese mythology, I learned a lot from this one! There’s a lot of variety of monsters and even old Chinese tales in this story. Books have gotten better these days with showing mythology from around the world, but don’t forget this one! This is a packed adventure story with own voices for the Chinese rep and I can’t wait to learn more about the mythology in the next book.
- Quentin: Quentin is the new student at Genie’s school and also happens to be the Monkey King…literally. The way he interacts with Genie is hilarious, since he’s trying to get her to remember stuff and remember who he is. He also is a good guy who helps people without thinking and tries to fit in. His story arc was interesting to learn as the story goes on, giving him some more dimension. He had so many great moments with Genie that while it’s not apparent at first, there’s obvious chemistry between them.
- Genius Writing/Humor: Oh man this book made me laugh, snicker and cheer out loud! F.C. Yee creates has such snappy writing that the book just flies by and you get immersed into the story really quick. Here are some of my favorite quotes in the book:
“Do you believe in reincarnation?” he asked. “No,” I said flatly. Compared to some of the girls at school, I was about as spiritual as a Chicken McNugget.” (pg. 65)
“The Sun Wukong,” he said, scooping the air with his fingers. “Sun Wukong the Monkey King.”/ “I said, I don’t know who that is.”/ His jaw dropped. Thankfully his teeth were still normal size. “You’re Chinese and you don’t know me?” he sputtered. “That’s like an American child not knowing Batman!”/ “You’re the Chinese Batman?”/ “No! I’m stronger than Batman, and more important, like- like Tian na, how do you not know who I am?” (pg. 41)
- Developing romance: The book is called The Epic Crush of Genie Lo but I never quite felt like the romance was developed well. Genie just seemed too mean to Quentin all the time, so their chemistry was hard to see for me. I did want the book to be a little longer to show the progression of her feelings for him.
- Action scenes: I’m not sure if this was a storytelling choice, but a lot of the action scenes were glossed over. Both Genie and Quentin would find themselves in a fight, but then we don’t see that fight. It skips to a few days or a week later and we don’t see that action. I wanted to see it, but I’m hoping the sequel will have more full length action scenes.
Overall: I really enjoyed this book! Genie is a feisty character with a voice I don’t see much in some YA. Although I would’ve liked to see the actual progression of their chemistry and a bit more growth from Genie herself, I can’t recommend this book enough. The sequel comes out in January, so I’m very excited to see where it goes. If you want a book with Chinese mythology and very smart, funny writing, pick this one up!
Title: A Thousand Fires
Author: Shannon Price (Debut Novel)
Genre: YA Contemporary/Retelling
Release Date: November 5th 2019 from Tor Teen
Format: Kindle ARC
Goodreads Synopsis: 10 Years. 3 Gangs. 1 Girl’s Epic Quest…
An extraordinary debut set in San Francisco and inspired by The Iliad…
Valerie Simons knows the city’s gang wars are dangerous—her own brother was killed by the Boars two years ago. But nothing will sway her from joining the elite and beautiful Herons to avenge his death—a death she feels responsible for.
But when Valerie is recruited by the mysterious Stags, their charismatic and volatile leader Jax promises to help her get revenge. Torn between old love and new loyalty, Valerie fights to stay alive as she races across the streets of San Francisco to finish the mission that got her into the gangs.
*I was able to download this book from Edelweiss and the publisher for a free and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and no quotations will be used.*
I first heard about this book on Meltotheany’s Booktube channel. The plot sounded interesting, giving off major vibes of the classic YA book The Outsiders. It also sounded different from the genres I normally read, so I downloaded it to give it a try. I truly give props to the author for creating one AMAZING first chapter. As soon as I read that first chapter, I was hooked and had to keep reading. You can tell how much potential a book has by how quickly the first chapter can immerse you into the story. I love how intense the first chapter is and how it introduces you to the world and the story to come. The idea of theses three gangs at war feels real at some points and how how badly Valerie wants to join in the Gang Wars to get revenge for her little brother’s death.
But sadly, this book started going downhill at about the halfway point. Many instances didn’t feel like anything useful was happening. The White Stag gang just felt like a frat house of 18+ year olds who party, drink and do whatever they want. They never really felt involved like the Boars and White Herons did with the Gang Wars. There were many times where moments felt repetitive as far as the character’s daily routine and the conversations felt the same: Valerie had to earn her place to learn more about her brother and Jax was secretive and a jerk. Not much else felt useful until the last third of the book. The plot suffers from this book being under 350 pages, so the Gang Wars never felt developed enough to create any intrigue or create more around the other gangs.
The next thing that didn’t work for me was the romance that develops between Valerie and Jax. Valerie had a previous family friend Matthew, which felt like a genuine friend to lovers type love story and that felt more real to me. But with them being apart, she gets distracted by Jax, the leader of the White Stags. I couldn’t get behind this romance at all; this romance reads like one of the older YA books that has a not great love interest. He’s manipulative, makes a lot of threats and doesn’t really treat Valerie nicely. I feel like he uses her anger and desire for revenge and gets under her skin. I didn’t like that he was using her anger to let her trust him and she allowed herself to get distracted by him.
The final thing that didn’t work for me was the rushed ending. Things slogged so much for half of the book and then the ending felt super rushed. I didn’t understand some of the character motivations or the things that happened in the background. It felt like the author was focusing more on a bit of romantic drama mixed with the gang violence and we didn’t get too deep into it. The ending leaves some stuff unanswered and we never get deeper into the Gang Wars origins and what the other gangs were like. It ended so fast and even felt too happy; with a startling event at the end, Valerie felt too happy despite the heavy stuff that happened. If this book is a standalone, the ending didn’t feel genuine enough to pay off the intensity that was somewhat there.
But I will say that this author is very talented. I loved her first two chapters and her overall writing style makes the book a quick read and she doesn’t shy away from talking about class, poverty and other relevant topics. I will try another book by this author, since her talent is one to watch. So while this book was a misfire as far as being too short, a romance I couldn’t get behind and uneven pacing, I can see this book working for some people.
Rating: .5 stars
Title: Tiger Queen
Author: Annie Sullivan
Genre: YA Fantasy/Retelling
Release Date: September 10th 2019 from Blink
Format: Kindle ARC
Goodreads Synopsis: In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.
But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.
*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for a free and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and no quotations will be used*
I was really excited for this book, since I enjoyed the author’s debut novel last year. I was also excited because this was a standalone desert fantasy and was inspired by a short story I had never heard of. I even did an interview with the author that you can read right here. I wanted to see how she tackled a different story, since it was about a girl who fought in the “gladiator” ring to earn the right to rule and also save her kingdom from the Desert Boys who keep stealing precious resources.
But sadly, this book was a disappointment for me for many reasons. The first reason was the main character of Kateri, whose a warrior princess who fights in the ring to not only earn her right to rule but also fights against those people who do wrong. She felt very inconsistent in the book, especially in the beginning where one second, she questions why a young boy is on trial but then quickly acts like a cold blooded killer wanting his demise. She also doesn’t really think “outside the box” so to speak. Something awful happened to her mother and she wants revenge, and she also doesn’t trust her father’s adviser who also helped train her. She never seems to question anyone she’s closed to get answers about her mother; she blindly follows all of this fighting so that she can rule and there wasn’t much else to her. She felt like a coward in some ways before the main story started. Even later in the book, I only felt like what she learned should’ve been so obvious, so her growth didn’t feel as thorough as I thought.
The second thing was the pacing of this book, which vastly affected the plot of the story. The main story line doesn’t even kick in until approximately over 100 pages into the story. The beginning felt like a lot of the same information got repeated and the world building felt too simple. I couldn’t see what made this desert world stand out against other YA desert fantasies that have come out in the last 5-10 years. It felt too generic and small things, like the clothes they wore, how girls wore jewelry to show they were married/engaged and the food they ate were just tiny things to make the world different. Even the battle fights in the arena were over too quickly, so I never got that sense of action or get into the fight sequences and rooted for her fighting ability.
The final thing that bugged me is that this didn’t do anything to YA fantasy books or even a retelling for me. It felt like the retelling aspect was very minimal, so I never got a sense of the original story in the background. I’ll have to read the original story now and compare the two, but this was too generic with weak world building, a very inconsistent main character and a completely predictable romance and ending. I felt like in her previous novel, the main character stayed true to her weakness and eventual growth and the story had enough mystery that I didn’t quite predict what was going to happen. This book was the opposite, which was a major bummer. But I will read her next book, the Touch of Gold sequel, but this was a major disappointment from me.
Title: Stolen Time (Dark Stars #1)
Author: Danielle Rollins (also writes under Danielle Vega)
Genre: YA Romance/Time Travel/Sci-fi
Release Date: February 5th 2019 from HarperTeen
Format: Personal Kindle ebook
Goodreads Synopsis: Seattle, 1913 // Dorothy is trapped. Forced into an engagement to a wealthy man just so she and her mother can live comfortably for the rest of their days, she’ll do anything to escape. Including sneaking away from her wedding and bolting into the woods to disappear.
New Seattle, 2077 // Ash is on a mission. Rescue the professor—his mentor who figured out the secret to time travel—so together they can put things right in their devastated city. But searching for one man means endless jumps through time with no guarantee of success.
When Dorothy collides with Ash, she sees it as her chance to start fresh—she’ll stow away in his plane and begin a new life wherever they land. Then she wakes up in a future that’s been ripped apart by earthquakes and floods; where vicious gangs rule the submerged city streets and a small group of intrepid travelers from across time are fighting against the odds to return things to normal. What Dorothy doesn’t know is that she could hold the key to unraveling the past—and her arrival may spell Ash’s ultimate destruction.
After seeing Noura’s review of this book a few months ago, I looked up this book and found the synopsis very interesting. I haven’t really delved into any YA books dealing with time travel, so I wanted to give this one a chance. So I originally started this way back in April, but ultimately had to put it down and read other ARCs. But this book stayed with me, with its cover drawing my eye to it or thinking about what I had read in general. So finding a bit of free time, I finally read and listened to this book and FINALLY finished it in August. This is a hidden gem that almost NO ONE is talking about this year and it needs more love! This book really caught me by surprise! Here’s the breakdown:
- Fish out of water: I liked seeing how Dorothy, from 1913, sneaks onto Ash’s time travel ship and gets whisked away to the future. She’s jostled by all the technology, a city under water and even seeing women wearing pants. She’s very out of her element in New Seattle and her reactions are very realistic and relatable. She talks about how even driving in a car was amazing back in her time, when people think it’s nothing special anymore. Her sense of direction is thrown off and she’s always surprised by the things she sees. The author did a great job at creating a fish out of water situation, but with a gradual sense of wonder and adapting as well.
- Mysteries: There’s a couple mysteries this book brings up that I thought were refreshing and didn’t feel like common things that are popular in YA. First, the professor is missing that recruited Ash and a few others from their respective time periods. The professor is trying to figure out how to save New Seattle from another devastating earthquake and assembles a team of people throughout history. But then, he vanishes in one of this time machines and Ash and his companions are desperate to find him.
- Brilliant time travel: We’ve all seen time travel either be pretty simple and fun (Back to the Future) or very…very complicated (Avengers: Endgame anyone?), so I know some readers are either nervous to hear about time travel or just don’t like it at all. But this book does time travel so well! You can tell the author did her research and really takes the work to make the time travel both immersive, very intriguing and also still mysterious. It’s cool to read the professor’s logs about building the time machine and how Ash uses his time machine with the others to find the professor. This time travel didn’t feel like I’ve seen it before and they also talk about real life methods of how we examine it. It feels so real that it made me wonder if time travel would be like this if it’s ever true. This is one of the major standouts of this book.
- Budding romance: This was a very interesting budding romance in the first book of this series. Dorothy is a con-artist, learning from her cruel mother who only taught her how to use her beauty to get what she wanted and how she never had any real friends. She doesn’t completely trust Ash, despite getting on his ship. Then with Ash, a WWII fighter pilot, he doesn’t let Dorothy get to him and even teases her by calling her “sweetheart.” Their banter reminds me of Han and Leia and it had me smirking and rooting for their budding romance! I feel like it developed appropriately, with both of them even still questioning their feelings. It didn’t feel like it was rushed, which was refreshing and I can tell there’s more to come in later books. If you like kinda hate to love relationships like Han and Leia, I think you’ll like Ash and Dorothy.
- Great writing style: This is my first book by this author and I could already tell while reading that I’m becoming a fan of her writing style. It isn’t overly flowery or anything, but instead her word choices felt very carefully planned and well executed. Some of my highlighted quotes were:
“The Puget Sound anil’s upper edge curved above the sea like the outline of a great reflective bubble. It looked like a glimmer of light dancing over the waves, a glare from the sun, or a trick of the eyes. Only when he was directly in front of it could he see that it was a tunnel. No, not really a tunnel, Ash thought. A chasm. A nothingness. You couldn’t look right at the anil without your mind skipping around, trying to make sense of the thing that clearly did not make sense. Sometimes it looked like a swirling mess of mist and smoke. Sometimes it looked like a sheet of solid ice. Sometimes it looked exactly like what it was—a crack in time.” (8% mark)
“His friend’s eyes were molten, his mouth a savage crack in the stone of his face. It was a cruel twist of irony that he looked most like a monster when people called him one.” (34% mark)
“Fog clung to the surface of the water, leeching what little color remained of the city at night. Only the trees broke up the darkness, their trunks ghostly white and chalky. The moon must have been shining somewhere, because their bark appeared to be glowing.” (36% mark)
- Ending: I had an inkling of how the story was going to go once I reached the halfway point and while part of it was right, I loved the ending of this book! This went in directions I didn’t expect and the ending had me reeling and wondering how the next book would reveal more of the story. This was another standout part of the novel, so if you’re looking for a book that doesn’t quite go as you thought, try this one 🙂
- Bit more action: As much as I really enjoyed this book, I do think if it had some more action scenes, or some of those actions scenes that were present were a bit longer, it would make the book even more awesome. So while it’s a small nitpick, I am hoping the next books will be a little more action packed.
Overall: This was HIGHLY enjoyable for a time travel romance book! I love how the romance never felt like it took over the story or felt rushed. This was a fun twist of fate with quite the reeling ending that has me DYING for book two! I have to know how the overall plot is going to pay off. I can’t recommend this book enough 🙂
Rating: .5 stars
Have you read any of these? If so, what did you think about them? Are you excited for them? Do you know of other good YA time travel books? Let me know in the comments!