Review: Curses by Lish McBride

I adore LIsh McBride’s writing. Her books are full of fun, imaginative and funny characters that you can’t help but love. I mean, how can not love a book named Hold Me Closer, Necromancer? If that give you an idea of her sense of humor, I don’t know what will. Lish McBride is also a bookseller and as a former bookseller, who knows how rewarding and also thankless that job can be, it’s good to see one of us come good. I’m also a sucker for fairy tale retellings as you might have guessed from my past reviews. All of this is to say, I knew I would love this book before I started reading. Curses is new spin of Beauty and the Beast but this time the Beast is Merit, a Baroness and Beauty is Tevin, a con man with a heart of gold. Merit gets cursed by a Godling when she was 15 years old. She refuses to attend her own engagement party because she was in love someone else and the man her mother chose for her was 20 years older. The Godling was annoyed that she wasn’t came all this way for nothing cursed Merit to be a beast until she married for love or a man of her mother’s choosing. She has to do this before her 18th birthday or she becomes a beast permanently. Three years later and she is 6 weeks to her birthday when Tevin’s mom is caught trying to steal a precious flower from Merit’s home. Tevin is traded to take his mother’s place and help Merit break the curse. Tevin has a gift of charming anyone, which helps him in his own scams of making women like Merit fall in love with him so their parents pay him off to leave their daughters alone. Since he is qualified to help Merit find someone not like him that she could find love with, he’s perfect to help her find a husband but this Beauty and the Beast and they fall in love. The suitors are pretty fun. None of them are as bad or toxic as Gaston but it’s pretty clear who is her best match. The biggest rival to Tevin is Prince Eric Latimer from a neighboring kingdom. We learn early on that it was his mother that sent Tevin’s mother to get the flower. The flower, is the main ingredient in medicine to help the curse. You take it and for 4 hours, you are curse free. The Queen wants to grow her own so she doesn’t have to buy it and sell her own. The kingdom is broke and what better way to get the plant they need and expend their territory then marriage. So she sends her son to woo Merit and sabotage the other suitors. I do have to say that my favorite relationship is between Merit and her mom. Their relationship is so strain after years of arguments and hurt that they only know how to argue with each other. They blame each other for their current predicament, not acknowledging that they are both to blame. They are so alike though. Both very stubborn. Lady Zarla loves her daughter but like all mothers she also worries about her future so she tried to marry her off to not only keep on the family legacy but to keep her safe. Despite Merit being cursed, she continues to find her a daughter a match. Merit, just wants to live her life for herself and not having to deal with all the responsibility and she’s been hurt too. She fell in love with someone who ended up only wanting her money and has hard to time trusting anyone, including her mother. As the book goes on, we start to see the mother-daughter relationship grow as they start to listen to each other and realize they both want the same thing. For Merit to be happy. So yes, it was really touching at the end when they reconcile. So yes, I love this book. I’ll admit, it won’t go down as my favorite Lish McBride book but it’s still a wonderful book. I love it and I can’t wait to read whatever she writes next.

Review: Nemesis by Anna Banks

I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. The dueling narratives between Sepora and Tarik was really effective in telling a story of two people from rival nations and differing view points but ultimately want the same thing. The conflicts often arise through misconceptions they have each other but also of each others nations. They both of grown up thinking the other’s nation as the enemy, even though they have lived in a time of relative peace. It also illustrates the dynamic of power and how quickly it can change. Sepora is a Princess and the only forger. She can create a rare metal, spectorium. Spectorium can be used to build, power and potentially heal. Sepora’s nation of Serubel, was thought to be the only nation that had it and was it’s biggest export but the world didn’t know that it was produced by one person. When Sepora’s father wants her to forge more of it so make weapons she escapes to the neighboring nation of Theoria because who would think she would go to enemy territory. Unfortunately, she gets captured and later sold into the new King of Theoria’s harem. She doesn’t stay there long as she annoys enough people to leave the harem and works her away as one of Tarik’s advisor’s. Her knowledge of Serubel is obviously an asset to Tarik but how much can she tell him without betraying her own country. While she works to try to prevent war, he works to protect his own people. Another complication is that Theoria is also dealing with a pandemic that is quickly spreading. (yeah, this was little to close to home) and wouldn’t you know it spectorium is potential cure of for it. So it’s a back and forth between the two of them as they try to trust each other but find it hard because of internal bias’ but also their goals are different. They do want to the same thing to prevent war but going about it differently. Tarik is after all the King of his nation. He has to think about the safety of his people so of course he is going to look at ways to protect his people while also looking into ways to stop war. Sepora bristles anytime Tarik even talks about defensive measures even though they are responsible responses. Like so many conflicts, if they were honest with each other they could resolved so many issues but honesty you need trust and it’s hard to trust something or someone you have taught not to. So yeah, I liked this book and I look forward to reading the sequel.

Review: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Tom Hazard has a condition. He ages slowly. Really slowly. He’s a 400+ year-old man who likes he’s only 40. He knew Shakespeare, Captain Cook and F. Scott Fitzgerald. He has lived many lives and he’s tired. He joined the Albatross Society of other people with his “condition”. They have few rules. 1. Is not to fall in love. 2. They have to move every 8 years so no one becomes suspicious and in between moves, they have to do an errand for the society. Tom is motivated to join the society because he believes they will help him find his daughter, who also has his “condition”. Tom decides that he wants to go back to London and become a history teacher. Who better to teach history than someone who has lived it right. It brings back memories of lives that are so painful, they give him headaches. He also meets Camille who is also a teacher at his school and he starts to question about what he’s been told.

It’s an interesting novel and idea. If you aged slowly and lived for centuries, what would you do with your life? After years of watching humanity make the same mistakes over and over again and centuries after your love ones have died, what would keep you motivated to keep on living? Tom in his lifetime would be a musician for Shakespeare’s company, an explorer on Captain Cook’s expedition among other things. He’s seen the world change for the better and for the worst and yes, he’s thought about ended it but keeps going because he knows that somewhere his daughter is out there. I like Tom. His world wearing experience has a different perspective on things but also doesn’t matter how old you are, you can still be naïve about things and still have a need for companionship and love. That even when we can be anyone we want to be sometimes we just want to go back to what’s familiar to us but we can never really go back. You can’t stop time. You just need to keep on living. I’m glad I finally read this. It had been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years. It just another reminder to everyone once in a while, take a look at what’s on your shelves. There’s probably a hidden gem in there waiting to be read.

Review: Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick

This is based on the real life story of Arthur Ransome, British children’s book author who was a journalist during World War 1 in Russia and also a spy to both maybe Great Britain and the Bolsheviks. I’ll admit I had never heard of Arthur Ransome and I thought this was just another take on Snow White. This is what you get for buying books based on the title but it was interesting. Ransome, had an interest in Russia and before he became a journalist, wrote a book of Russian fairy tales. He wasn’t meant to be a spy but because of his position as a journalist that gave him access to people high in the Russian and Bolshevik’s government including Lenin and Trotsky he became an asset to the British government during the war. The thing he seems to never really know who he’s spying on. In true mediocre white man style, he stumbles into a exciting life thanks to being the right place at the right time and not necessarily based on skills or talent. While in Russia, he falls in love with Evegnia, the secretary to Trotsky. As things become more and more dangerous as Bolshevik revolution goes on, Ransome had many opportunities to go back to England but always goes back to Russia to be with Evegnia, which sounds romantic but we know nothing about her beyond she is Trotsky’s secretary and Ransome is in love with her. He gives up his life in England, his daughter, puts himself in danger for her and yet why? What is so great about her? What does he love about her? It’s almost like she’s afterthought in this story which is where things of this novel fall apart. I understand this is his story but motivations are important and supposedly he does a lot of what he did because she was in love with her but she’s barely a character in the novel. We get more of Trotsky and Lenin then we do her. It’s just disappointing but also not surprising that the stories and lives of women come second or not at all to the men in the lives. That they exist only to further the man’s story. Ransome would eventually marry Evegnia and they would be married until they both die and that’s great but I want to know her story. I want to know more about her. I’m tired of reading stories with full formed men and paper thin women. Male authors do better.

Quick Review: A Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson

You thought the The Truly Devious series was over didn’t you? I did too. I’m not mad that Maureen decided to write another book but I’m also still waiting for the 4th book in her Shades of London series. I think I may have to let that go. Anyway, Stevie’s fame after solving the Ellingham murders is starting to fade and she’s back home for summer vacation when she gets the offer to work at a summer camp and help a new unsolved mystery. In 1978, four teen camp counselors went into the woods to smoke some weed and never came out alive. Stevie makes arrangements with the new camp owner that her friends from Ellingham also have jobs to help her with the case. Stevie is smart and clever and can deduce things that most of us would never think about but she’s also full of anxiety and even though she solved multiple murders, can she do it again? I like that Maureen is exploring this in her work because anxiety is a bitch. It doesn’t matter how successful you are, it never leaves you. I also really like Nate. I feel him. He just wants to be left alone in his treehouse and do nothing. He wrote one great book when he was younger and the expectations to write another great book have almost paralyzed him but it shows some real growth. I wish Janelle got a little bit more to do because she is also a great character. Here’s hoping that there are more and she gets a more central role. For mystery lovers, I do recommend this book. You don’t have to have read the first three books to know what’s going on as this is a standalone mystery but you should read the first three books because they are fun.