Thursday, December 18, 2014

Review: Cannon Fodder by Margaret Taylor

December 18th, 2014
Cannon Fodder by Margaret Taylor

I received this book a while back for an honest review. I've tried to read it a few times on different occasions, but only recently finished.

Cannon Fodder follows the exploits of Alec Nightshade, a 15 year old boy who is an evil overlord in the making, with hopes to stop heroes from killing everyone he knows!

I definitely think the idea of the book itself has an interesting premise. I think there were points that I didn't connect with as much as I liked, but I think the book itself is an interesting story.

I'd rather break the plot down with things I could, and didn't connect with, as it would be easier to tell whether this is a story is or isn't for you.

What I liked:

The plot itself. I think you have to actually read the book to come to this conclusion, and while it isn't down to a science or anything, it reminds me of "Despicable Me" , maybe even a little bit like "Sky High" just not as kiddish.

I think I'd like to read more villain-kind-of-hero stories more often, mainly because I think the best villains are three dimensional characters, who should have goals and strong character development as much as the hero of the story, otherwise they come off as rather campy.

I suppose Alec isn't a true evil overlord in the making. To quote Rocky from my favorite show "Some Girls"

"Tryin' to be bad but, not very good at being bad"(Imagine in a hot Cockney accent XD )

Being raised in the Norgolian Society of Evil Overlords(or NSEO) environment, he has a lot of street smarts(knowing to trust no one, even your own kind, because, who can really trust an evil overlord right?) but I think there was too much good in him to truly be evil.

Alec was a hero that was flawed and made mistakes(really questionable ones, those types you can't go back from, good or evil) which is what I found relatable about him. I think that I liked his character so much, I kinda thought most of the other characters kind of paled in comparison. I'd rather talk about that a bit later though.

The story has it's own world, which seemed interesting. Villains and Heroes seemed to have their own networks, ways of communicating with one another, transits they used, and many other things that matched the world.

While the character names were pretty out there, I'd rather give an A for effort, because they were different, and I always go for different versus common. The only thing I'll say about them, is I'd have no idea how to pronounce a name like "Ionantha!" 

The humor! It was funny. I thought that was very cute, especially because most books in the YA category aren't very funny. Sometimes it was most funny, when the characters were trying to be taken seriously, and after a few books that were really serious(no breather moments) it was a breath of fresh air to read something that didn't give me a night terror or two.

What I didn't connect with:

The language. Not the writing style itself, but much of the terminology that was specific to the story never slowed down enough for me to understand what it meant. Much of the time, I'd have to read further into the book to understand something, that took me chapters to understand, well I'd read and forgotten the detail. 

I know books only have a certain amount of pages to grab you, but I think if it's intended for children or young adults, with their short attention spans, they may not continue a book that doesn't gain their attention long.

I didn't always find the POV clear, but it could've been because it was 3rd person, and I just assumed the story would be told from Alec's POV, even if it was a bird's eye view. Whenever it wasn't told from the POV of Alec's I was a little bored, and couldn't wait to get back to him.

Race didn't seem like a huge issue in this book, but because of the world, outside of someone being dark skinned, I couldn't always tell if there was a ton of diversity. There are a bunch of cool female characters, and as far as I know Alec is definitely a man of color(possibly something else too XD lips are sealed) but I just think I would've like to see more.

The title. I think it suits the plot(or at least to me, considering the clash between hero and evil overlord) but I don't think the intended audience would automatically get the reference unless they read it. The title wouldn't normally provoke anything from me, even though it's not a bad one. I just don't connect to it.

I think the cover is ok. Im not saying it could've been better, because it is a cool picture, Im just saying I wouldn't pick it up in a bookstore. I like that Alec is front and center, but maybe I would've liked it better if it'd just featured him on the cover.

Scrolling up, Im realizing this review is longer than I intended it to be XD I just really want a reader to make up their own mind, as these are just words. What I didn't connect with, might be the few things another reader loves.

I definitely think anyone who likes reading a non-conventional hero would really like "Cannon Fodder!"

I only really pictured Alec, because he was my favorite character(kind of a stand out for me) but he in my mind seemed as though he could've looked like Ryan Potter(an actor of Japanese and European descent).

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2nd Annual Diversity Month Day 18: Blogger Interview w/ Librarian Faythe +Kindle Fire 6" and Book Giveaway!

Today we have another lovely guest post from a librarian from California named Faythe we had the honor of meeting at kidlitcon(we had so much fun there, met so many people!)

There are some topics we readers just blatantly ignore and rather, don't think about. Size diversity is one of them but one thing that rarely gets discussed is the lack of socio-economic diversity. When Faythe spoke about this our ears were open! 

My sister and I came from very meager beginnings, so nearly ever word she spoke about being a poor kid living what we'd refer to as normal lives(many think that being poor some how victimizes you or worse that you come a broken home, which is certainly NOT the case!)rang true.
You might ask yourself why the lack of social status in YA is or should be an issue, but we think it's important to also represent characters who live below poverty levels because lots of people have this idea that everyone poor is "suffering". We need more representation in all fields, and socio-ecomonic diversity is definitely a place to start!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

2nd Annual Diversity Month Day 17: Author Interview w/ Sarah Benwell +Kindle Fire 6" and Book Giveaway!

Today we have a very special guest in our Diversity Month series and we're so happy to have gotten to know a little better through social media. Her name is Sarah Benwell and she's queer & proud, extremely dedicated to diversity in books and if it couldn't get any better, she's English.(Love English authors!)
 If you don't know much about her now, trust me in a few months YOU WILL! 

  We hope you will keep an eye out for what she has in store. She's already managed to make fans out of us!

Monday, December 15, 2014

2nd Annual Diversity Month Day 16: Author Interview w/ Barry Lyga+Kindle Fire 6" and Book Giveaway!

Okay, okay, okay!So this next author a part of our series is someone we've tried to catch up with for a while and we're so happy to have FINALLY gotten a chance to interview him. 

For those of you like us who have a penchant for...unorthodox themes or topics in YA, you might already know Barry Lyga. He's not out there writing about skin that glitters in the sunlight or predictable love triangles, instead he chose a risque theme to center off his successful Jasper Dent books:

Serial Killers

So for those of you that don't know him, get to know him. You won't regret it when you do!

Review: Niko by Kayti Nika Raet

December 14th, 2014
Niko by Kayti Nika Raet

I'd recently finished this book after a long stint of not finishing any books. Niko follows the exploits of "Niko" , the titular heroine. "Niko's" universe is a dystopian one, in which the world's conditions have become extremely harsh, and the world also has a dangerous threat known as a "Slither." Slithers are humanoid cannibalistic creatures, and only people of a certain grade can kill them.

I liked Niko. I definitely think it has a lot of potential. There were some things that I thought would've made it a stronger book, but I did enjoy the outcome.

What I liked:

I did like the world building. I think most dystopian books make clear depictions of the conditions and how they differ from how many of us live today. In "Niko's" universe, it rained acid, which was sometimes worse than being killed by a Slither. Much, much slower....

It made food and water that much scarcer, and often made me believe there was very little hope for the "Outsiders", or those who didn't live in a big city. Which was nearly everyone.

I did really like Niko. I thought she was a cool heroine, who didn't need to seek anyone else's validation, could take care of herself, and had an unyielding determination to find her lost younger brother. But I did think she was my favorite character until Norm and Lo were introduced.

Maybe I just don't think f/f relationships are depicted enough in fiction, especially speculative fiction. But the minute they were introduced, Niko kinda got demoted XD

Niko did give some awesome copy that made her a Han Solo for real XD But aint nothing like a powerhouse lesbian couple to shake shit up.

There was plenty of conflict. Perhaps too much conflict for just 200 pages though. Sometimes I think conflict was thrown in just to add action, perhaps even when it wasn't always necessary. But I'd rather discuss that later.

Not every dystopian book has given me this much diversity in one book. It was unique for that, but I'll bring that up later when I talk up the diversity.

I think the stronger element of the editing side of the book was the formatting. It was formatted well enough not to take a point away for that.

The book's strongest element is the diversity. I will most likely offend someone for this, but it was nice to see a book where people of color received more copy, and lines than the white characters. I can only think of two white characters in a sea of characters of color, and to be honest, this is where most dystopian books fail.

How are we supposed to believe only white people survive the apocalypse? Statistically, Blacks, Latinos and South East Asian folk tend to be more likely to suffer from poverty. Yes many overcome these setbacks, but if the world went to shit, I'd say we'd be the most likely to survive. 

I can't speak for all people of color, but my childhood under poverty levels taught me how to survive with very little. While I've managed to live above the poverty line since becoming an adult, I know damn well I'd more prepared than my middle class uppity white boyfriend.

Race was never mentioned, but there were a few characters of South East Asian descent(because their names? Clearly Vietnamese.) several East Asian characters, I think a character of South Asian descent(To be honest I though the character was Black, until I saw the author's fan cast) and four Black characters. All main characters!

And because my two boos were lesbians?

People of color-Check 

A character introduced later is partially blind, with the possibility of a character with a limp. I'd say yea, that got me.

There was so much that wasn't left out, that many dystopian books neglect. Guess what? We do make it to the end of the world!

I think the title and cover suit the book, but one thing about the cover I didn't connect with. I didn't get the impression that Niko was big breasted or dangerously curvy. Niko wasnt sexualized too much in the book. I just wonder why she was on the cover.

I think the character names were cool. Some names stood out more than others, but Im just like that when it comes to ethnic names. I like them better. When you have to think about their pronunciation , they command something from you, that a common name just can not. But I'd say for the most part they suited the characters well.

Not every character was described in the detail that Duc was. Duc was my favorite boy in the book, and I know ALOT of Vietnamese dudes, just because I really like dancers, who look like him in my head. Ari, I thought was Black, but I think she was meant to be South Asian. Ben I actually thought was white, until I saw a fan cast, so I immediately discarded my initial thought of him.

They were described well enough where I could make up my own mind of them, but maybe I would've liked more.

Things I didn't connect with:

I think the editing could've been stronger. The editing effects more than grammar and misspelled words. Some of the developmental editing could've afforded to be stronger as well. 

Many of the conflicts in the book seemed misplaced, or could have went different directions to capture the reader more. Sometimes certain situations told more than showed, so if they were meant to be super climatic, they didn't capture me in the way they were meant to.

I'd rather give an example, though I won't go super nitpick crazy.

Example: A antagonist named Phin was introduced toward the end of the book to create conflict. He was the leader of a gang that exploited people for protection. More time was given telling me he was a dangerous guy, that showing me.

So when he and Niko were forced with a confrontation, it made me think Niko taking care of him was unnecessary.

Mind you, if I'd seen some of his terror, I would've thought that was ok. But just because Niko knows he was dangerous on the outside, doesn't mean the reader will automatically get that vibe just by being told.

Some of the backstory on the birth of the world, and the slithers could've taken a paragraph or two more to describe. While I did like the world building, I felt as though several times, the story would unfold itself more, only to be more confused about certain aspects of it.

I didn't think the editing was perfect. If that doesn't bother you, I'd still highly suggest the book. You're not going to get a dystopian book that is this diverse in the traditional publishing world. 

I didn't have clear pictures in my mind of everyone, but I did dream cast Niko, Duc, Ben and Lo & Norm!

Samira Wiley was my Niko, and Michael B. Jordan as Ben

 I saw Jabawockeez crew member Tony Tran as Duc. Tony has a bunch of face piercings, and Duc was known for twirling his lip ring a lot.

Arden Cho and Brook Soso were my Norm and Lo!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

2nd Annual Diversity Month Day 15:Author Interview w/ Zetta Elliot +Kindle Fire 6" and Book Giveaway!

We've been so honored to meet a truckload of authors in our beginning stages of being bloggers. Not every author exceeds your expectations and lots of times when you do meet one, they continue to be those untouchable entities that you connect with on paper but in real life...not so much. 

Luckily, the next author in our series, Zetta Elliot is amazing both on and off the pages and we're so happy to have finally caught with her(she's so super busy)to better introduce her formally on our blog!

*That time we met Zetta Elliot @Kidlitcon! When you meet one of your fave authors, you will look as stupid as Libertad has in this photo =)*

Ready for Week 3? Twinja Book Reviews 2nd Annual Diversity Month+Kindle Fire 6" and Book Giveaway!

 It's safe to say we've survived yet another week in guest posts and interviews but the good news is we still have a whole ton of new authors and bloggers to introduce you to, so let's take a quick peek of who we have scheduled for this week. Follow, comment or share to help us getthe word out on these awesome people. The work starts here but let's not let it end!
Week 3:
December 15th-Author Interview w/ Zetta Elliot, author of Ship of Souls and A Wish after Midnight
December 16th-Author Interview w/Barry Lyga, author of I Hunt Killers and BoyToy
December 17th-Author Interview/ Sarah Benwell, author of
December 18th-Guest Post by Librarian/Blogger Faythe, a contributor for YALSA The Hub
December 19th-Blogger Interview w/ Terry Hong @ Smithsonian BookDragon
December 20th-Author Inteview w/Veronica Chambers, author of Marisol and Magdalena
December 21st-Author Interview w/ Mike Jung, author of Geeks, Girl and Secret Identities

 Happy to say that we've added a few more books to the giveaway so don't let the chance to win a book from our lovely hosts slip away!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2nd Annual Diversity Month Day 14: Blogger Interview w/ Deva @UPBookBlog +Kindle Fire 6" and Book Giveaway!

We first discovered this blogger well before we started blogging ourselves and were happy to see that other people were really interested in diverse characters enough to dedicate a blog to it. There were a bunch of us already talking about the diversity in books movement well before it became this gigantic hashtag and this opinionated blogger was one who kept the conversation going. Let's hear a round of applause for Deva @ Urban Paranormal...

Friday, December 12, 2014

2nd Annual Diversity Month Day 13: Guest Post w/ Librarian Kelly Jensen+Kindle Fire 6" and Book Giveaway! @catagator

OMG this next post comes from the amazing Librarian/Blogger Kelly Jensen, who we didn't get the chance to talk to at kidlitcon but during her panel her words just really stuck out to us. 

She was the only one to talk about a topic that many rarely include in the diversity conversation:

*Plus Sized Protagonists*

We're so pleased to have her express her feelings in a post and we totally promise you, it's so worth the read! So without further delay...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

2nd Annual Diversity Month Day 12:Book Tour-Author Interview w/ Madhuri Blaylock +Kindle Fire 6" and Book Giveaway!

dbt presents the sanctum

Are we on Day 12 already? Seems like it. Today's guest is totally bad-ass and absolutely amazing and the best part? She's amazingly Indie. Say what you want about Indie authors, but they'll always have a space on Twinja Book Reviews for their inclusion, something sometimes we don't feel like the traditional world isn't doing enough of. If you don't know Madhuri Blaylock, we hope with this next interview, you'll look her up and look into her work because we promise, she's got some awesome books in the works!