Review: Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

before the devil breaks you Those who do not know their own history are doomed to repeat it. It may sound cliche but it is true.  Libba Bray has set The Diviner’s series in the twenties but in our current political climate it could easily be a contemporary novel.  All she would have to do is change some of the slang and add some emoji’s.  Themes of race, sexual orientation, patriotism, health, sexism and worker’s rights are very prevalent through out Before the Devil Breaks You and The Diviner’s series just as they are today.  The Eugenic’s movement that was full swing in the 1920’s where white supremacist used pseudoscience to prove that the white race was superior to all others.  It influenced government policy, immigration and mental health and would later inspire those in Nazi Party.  The racist policy was dressed up as a way to make America better and stronger.  If we can weed out all the undesirable elements of our a population we would be stronger.  Their “Make America Great Again” so to say.  Our Diviner’s, Evie, Sam, Memphis, Henry, Ling, Isiah, Theta, Jericho and Mabel have now faced two ghosts and are starting to understand the threat they are facing.  They powers are growing but are strongest together.  They start working with Will and Sister Walker to improve their powers but they all have secrets.  Will and Sister Walker both are part of opening the gap between the living in the dead and creating the Diviners.   Making them a little less trust worthy.  Evie is clinging on to her fame as a radio host but also can’t decide between Sam and Jericho.  Theta is afraid the other will find out about her powers and gets an even bigger surprised when her past comes back to haunt her.  Mabel, the one without any kind of powers feels out of place because she can’t read objects or disappear or walk in dreams.  She want’s to change the world but more then anything she was be noticed.   They individual stories are heartbreaking and true and make a for a rich story and speaks to the diverse nature of our country.  The King of Crows is throwing everything at them this time because it’s not just one ghost but many and it’s not just ghost they must fight against it’s prejudice and ignorance.  It’s the balance between wanted to be safe vs. wanting to feel safe.  Those are two different things.  When people are scared they will agree to almost anything to feel safe again even if it doesn’t actually make them safer.  I would point to the entire last election cycles of examples of that.  The Diviner’s came together at the beginning of the book only be torn apart which I can only assume is the perfect set up for the last book.  I’ll give Miss Bray credit, she knows how to tell a story and is not at all sentimental.  The last 20-30 pages. Bray channels her inner George R.R. Martin and racks up a body count that only he could appreciate.  We are living in scary times and anyone who picks this book up hoping to escape will be disappointed because America hasn’t learned from our own history and we are now repeating it.

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Review: One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

one dark throne

***The Review has spoilers from One Dark Throne and the first book Three Dark Crowns.  Read both books first and then come back.  Thank you***

The Ascension year has started and Katharine, Arsinoe and Mirabella are not messing around.  From the very beginning we are deep into plans, schemes and our right combat from the sisters.  They are all are pissed and have good reason too.  They have all been betrayed in one way or another and that’s after they were raised to kill or be killed.  I do wonder, in all of their lessons on how to control their powers and how to kill their sisters, how many lessons did they get about actually governing should they win the crown?  I sort of get the feeling that’s sort of an afterthought but I digress.  Arsinoe has discovered that she isn’t actually a Naturalist but a poisoner, which should have been obvious considering her name.  Right?  It looks and and sounds like arsenic.  Katharine has survived the Breccia Domain and wants revenge on everyone, especially Pieytr and Mirabella is hurt that Arsinoe sent her bear to kill her at Beltane after she saved her life.  This was a very intense read from the beginning which was good.  The first book was kinda slow in places as it tried to flesh out it’s world.  Now with all of that out the way, it really has found it’s footing.  The Sisters are interesting and complex characters.  I found myself wanted all of them to win, well maybe not Katharine, she really has flipped her lid.  Which is  shame since she spells her name right.  The fourth girl in the story, Jules, Arsinoe’s best friend and protector is the strongest Naturalist of her generation and maybe she is that because there wasn’t a Naturalist Queen born since both Arsinoe and Katharine are poisoners. She is also legion cursed, which seems to mean she was born with two gifts and that often makes the person go mad and is often killed at birth.  Her second gift is War, which has been mostly dorment for many years that people don’t really know what she is capable of.  I want to like Jules but I just can’t seem to care that much about her.  She seems to be the classic YA character that doesn’t have much of a personality outside of her love interest or in this case, her best friend, Arsinoe.  And when she is fretting over Arsinoe she’s moping about Joseph. She still is trying to forgive him for sleeping with Mirabella and honestly, I kinda like Joseph and Mirabella together better.  Their relationship may have been only physical and facilitated by Arsinoe’s low magic but to me they had more chemistry and passion in their few scenes together then Joseph and Jules did in their many.  I did get their feel that they loved each other but they loved who they were before Joseph was banished and now feel like they have to hold on to that then discover on who they are now.  Maybe now that Jules will be on her own without Arsinoe or Joseph we will get to know more about her. I hope so since she obviously has a big part to play in how this story turns out.  I like that fact that Kendare Blake is going to drag out their Ascension year beyond this book and that we have a crowned Queen but also the beginning a possible rebellion.  What happens when more then one Queen survives?  And what is really down in the Breccia Domain?  Is Jules really going to be the end of Fennbirn?  So many questions that can’t wait to find out the answers to.

Quick Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

warcross This was a lot of fun to read and I really want to play Warcross.  Marie Lu or someone make that happen!  Emika Chen is a hacker and bounty hunter.  Her father died when she was eleven and learned how to hack while in foster care.  She admires Hideo Tanaka, the creator of Warcross because he created Warcross when he was younger then she was and now at 21 owns his own company and a billionaire.  Emika’s life is not going so well.  She has less then $13 to her name and is facing eviction due to being 3 months behind in rent.  In a moment of desperation she hacked in during the opening ceremony of the Warcross Championships.  The next day she is on a plane to Tokyo and is hired by Hideo to track down a hacker named Zero.   Emika goes under cover as a player in the games so she can track down Zero and figure out who he is and what he is trying to do.  Emika is smart and quickly figures out that one of her own teammates is working with Zero.  She tells her findings to Hideo and because this is a YA novel, sparks fly because again YA novel, Hideo is hot!  I figured out who Zero was about halfway through the books but the beauty of it, it didn’t spoil the ending.  There are secrets in the game of Warcross that no matter how much a character opens up, we still don’t know all the facts.  This book was fast paced and full of twists and turns.  I do hope that in the next book that we get to know more about Emika’s teammates Asher, Roshan, Hammy and Ren because I feel like we just scratched the surface of who they are.  I’m really interested in seeing where Emika goes now that she knows the truth of what happened but is not really sure that it’s truly a bad thing.  I don’t want to say too much because it will spoil the ending but it will start some conversations.  So yes, go read it.

Quick Review: In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

in other lands Is this Sarah’s best book?  No but it was fun and enjoyable so I’ll let it slide.  Elliot is one of the most obnoxious people you will ever meet but he’s also kind of charming.  One day, he is picked to go on a field trip where he is asked if he can see the wall in front of him.  He says of course he can, he’s not blind.  He’s taken over the wall and into the Borderlands.  A magical land that has humans, Elves, Dwarfs, Trolls, Harpies, Dryads and Mermaids.  Elliot is in enrolled in the Border camp that trains young soldiers to be in the Border patrol, to keep peace in the Borderlands.  On his first day there he meets the golden boy, Luke Sunborn and the Elven hottie, Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle.  He is immediately in love with Serene and so he chooses to stay beyond the wall.  He thinks that war is stupid and doesn’t understand how this society is made around war and does everything he can to stop fighting.  He manages to make friends with Serene and begrudgingly makes friend with Luke.  Throughout the years, the three of them go through so many ups and down.  They all find themselves and each other.  They rely on each other to get through the years of training but navigate around the camp.  Elliot comes from a very unhappy home.  His mother left when he was a baby and his father is incapable of love.  Elliot tries to make up for it by searching for love though he has no idea how to do it.  The best thing about this book is the positive portrayal of a bisexuality teen and turning gender roles on their heads.  Elliot is in love with Serene and there truly is no question of his feelings or is there any questions of his feelings for Luke either.  Love is love and doesn’t really care if that person is a girl or a guy.  Of course, his success with people depends on whether or not they want to slap him or not.  Like I said he’s very obnoxious.  He thinks he smarter then everyone, he has little patience.  It’s amazing he lasts as long as he has considering that everyone around him are heavily armed and trained on how to use multiple weapons.  It’s kinda unfair that a male character can be so rude but still come off as charming.  Then you have Serene who comes from a matriarhily society that sees women as the warriors and the men as the innocent.  Basically, in Elves society the genders are reversed and it’s hilarious.  I doubt we would have the same reaction for a female character but that’s an argument for another day.  It wasn’t the best book I’ve read this year but it was fun and a quick read.

Quick Review: Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

tower of dawn **Spoiler Alert**

The Throne of Glass series has expanded way beyond the original books and has so many characters that Sarah J Maas basically had to pull a George R.R. Martin and split the characters up in to two books.  Tower of Dawn takes place at the same time that Empire of Storms but this time in the Southern Continent. Chaol and Nesryn journey to meet the Khagan and his family in hopes of swaying them to join their cause but to also heal Chaol paralysis with their famed healers.  Chaol meets the young healer Yrene, who readers first met in one of the prequel novella’s. Yrene and Chaol have the typical antagonizing relationship that turns into a romance but they have more chemistry in their first scene then Chaol and Nesryn ever did.  Chaol is one of my favorite characters and I was total Celaenia/Chaol shipper and was sad when they broke off but it was inevitable since as we know Celaenia turned out to be Aelin the Queen of Terrasan.  Chaol was in love with Celaenia not with Aelin and it’s not that I don’t like Nesryn but they just seemed off.  I’m happy that Chaol found someone who is more his equal.  Now back to the story.  The Khagan and the southern Continent have powerful armies and Aelin and Dorian need all the help they need if they are going to defeat Erawen and the Valg but the Khagan are not easily persuaded.  They have had peace in their lands for years and are not eager to rush into a war on another continent.  They are also in mourning of their youngest daughter who supposedly killed herself but some in the family don’t believe it.  After Chaol tells Yrene how he was really injured, strange things start to happen.  Another healer is mysteriously murdered that not even the healers can figure out how.  Are the Valg already here? Chaol, Nesryn and Yrene piece together who the Valg are and who they are really fighting.  Let’s just say some holes are filled in.  The nice thing about this book was that it only had 3 POV’s.  As the series has grown and the world expanded and more and more characters were introduced, there were more and more storylines and subplots and POV that it was getting a little out of control.  Again, think Game of Thrones.  It was nice to have a much simpler storyline to follow.  It was filled with the same intrigued and action as the previous books and it was nice breather before the finale comes out next year.

Quick Review: Intensity by Sherrilyn Kenyon

intensity I have missed my sassy Cajun, Nick and his friends.  Eight books in and boy that boy has been through a lot.  This is the last book in the Chronicles of Nick but not really as it’s lead in to a spin-off series, I guess? I’m not really sure how I feel about it.  First, the book was fun and zippy.  Just like the other books in the series, it’s no-stop from the beginning to end.  It’s fast paced that I had to slow myself down or I would have read it all in one sitting.  Nick’s son, Cyprian Malachai has come back from the future to make sure that Nick stays on the path to destroy the world.  In doing so, he frames Nick for the murders of his former friends that kicked off the whole series.  That plot line is actually a nonentity in the book itself as it’s quickly resolved but it does lead to Nick start to understand what is really going and how to stop it.  The one thing that has separated Nick from the all the Malachai’s before him is that he was loved by his mother and he has the loyalty of his friends.  Cyprian makes it clear that one of the reasons he hates Nick is that he is well liked while Cyprian is not.  This seems kinda weak to me but who am I to judge.  I’m sure we will get more in the Shadows of Fire series that will feature both Cyprian and Nick.  So how does Nick defeat his foe.  Obviously major spoilers so if you want to read more, check under the cut.
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Quick Review: Every Day by David Levithan

every day I think I’m going to have to read the next book in the series before I will fully be able to process how I feel about this one. It’s kind of like the Time Traveler’s Wife, which I know everyone else loved but I was just creeped out by the guy fantasizing about his wife when she is still just a little girl.  This wasn’t as bad but I do think A turned out to be more of a stalker.  So A wakes up in a new body every day and has been all of their life or as far as they know.  (Editor’s Note: Because A is gender neutral, I’m going to use they instead of him or her) We have no idea where A came from, what their real name, or parents or even their gender because A doesn’t know these things. A just knows that tomorrow they will borrow someone else’s life for a day and then move on to someone else.  Some days A is a boy and some days A is a girl.  A could be an alien for all we know though I don’t think so.  One day A, inhabits the life of Justin who has a beautiful but sad girlfriend named Rhiannon who A immediately falls in love with.  Soon A is breaking all of their rules to get to know her.  They find out that Rhiannon is going to a party so they take the borrowed body of a boy to the party so they can hang out with her.  Then A, takes another borrowed body, this time a girl, to her school so they can follow her around for a day.  You get the picture. A’s entire life starts to revolve around Rhiannon.  Even convinces her for a time that they could be together despite the fact A has no idea who he is going to be from day to day.  Ultimately it’s his less call obsession with her that get him in trouble.  They only have 24 hours in each body so at the stroke of midnight A is someone else.  On the night they go to the party to see Rhiannon, A doesn’t make it home on time so the boy, Nathan, wakes up in his car 40 minutes from home and thinks he was taken over by the devil.  That story line is far more interesting because that’s where we are going to get the answers about who A is and how A came to be.  That’s what I want to read more about.  I’m hoping to get more of that in the next book and less stalking.

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

hate u give The Hate U Give may be categorized as a fiction novel but make no mistake, there is nothing fictional about it. Yes, Starr, Khalil, Seven, Maya, Devante, Big Mav, Lisa and Kenya don’t actually exist but their story does. Starr is a sixteen year old girl who lives in the hood but goes to school in private school in the suburbs.  Her worlds could not be different.  Over Spring Break, her best friend Khalil gets shot and killed by a police office during a routine traffic stop and Starr is the only witness.  Starr must reconcile her own feelings about what she witnessed and the realities that come with it while also coming to grips how it effects her two different worlds. It gets thrown into sharp relief how her family and neighbors think what happens versus what her friends at school do.  Starr grapples with her own fears and find her own voice to stand up for what rights, stand up to the authorities and her own friends too.  This book is heartbreaking because it’s a story that we have seen played out too many times in the last couple of years.  Khalil was unarmed when he was killed.  Yes, he did sell drugs and had involvement with gangs but none of those facts should be justification for what this officer did.  You could replace Khalil’s name with Michael, Philandro, Tamir, Tayvon or any other young black men unjustly killed by law enforcement and you would go through the same emotions.  Angie Thomas does a brilliant job of outlining all the many view points about this issue.  From Starr’s father, a former gang member and ex-con who is far to aware of how the justice system works to Hailey, Starr’s rich white friend who is willing to protest only because it got her out of class for a day.  As the reader, we see what happened and how it happened at the beginning of the book.  We know it was unjust but since the other characters weren’t there, we get to see how they process it through how they relate to Starr. They accept or deny it depends mostly on their own socioeconomic background and yes race plays apart of it too.  Starr’s family of course understand immediately that Khalil did nothing wrong and that Starr did nothing wrong.  They also know that because of the neighborhood that they live in it could be dangerous for Starr to speak out even if can help bring him justice.  Whatever her decision, they always have her back.  The first thing that really struck me was when Starr and Khalil were pulled over, Starr goes over in her head how she is supposed to act when interacting with cops.  She says when she was 12 her father told her to do as the officer says, don’t talk unless spoken to and keep your hands visible.  She was told this at twelve.  Meaning that her parents thought, even as young as twelve years old she could be in danger.  I tried to think if my parents and I ever had a talk about what to do if I got pulled over and I don’t think we ever did.  Why would we?  We are white, there is no reason for cops to look at me or my sister and assume we were up to no good.  That we were criminals.  That we could be dangerous but Starr’s parents and many black parents have to worry about that for their kids.  That is truly heartbreaking.  Two of the most interesting characters, okay maybe not the most interesting are Chris and Hailey.  Chris and Hailey are both white, privileged and rich.  Chris is Starr’s boyfriend.  They share a love for sneakers, basketball and Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  He at times is completely oblivious to their differences.  He doesn’t notice or bother him that people stare at them when they walk down the hallway.  He wouldn’t say he was racists and most people would agree with him but because of his own privilege, without even realizing it he sometimes falls into the insensitive thinking. He doesn’t understand why Starr is so upset with him or just in general but when she tells him he does try to understand. He wants to be supportive to Starr and that means challenging his own misconceptions and that’s what makes a good ally.  Hailey also wouldn’t call herself a racist either.  She would be one of those people who says, “I’m not a racists have a black and Asian friend.”  Throughout the book she makes insensitive comments and try to pass them off as jokes. When she gets called out on she gets defensive.  “It was a joke” “I didn’t mean anything by it”  “I can’t believe you would think I’m a racist”  Even demands for Starr to apologize to her.  She makes absolutely no effort to see Starr’s point of view or acknowledge that what she said hurt her feelings.  When she does apologize, it isn’t because she sees what she did or said was wrong it’s that she wants things to go back to what they were before.  Since I assume there are going to be a lot of young white readers of this book, Chris and Hailey are important because they may not be able to relate with Starr and her family but they probably can relate to either Chris or Hailey, whether they want to admit it or not.  I hope they take a hard and close look at both of those characters and ask themselves some uncomfortable questions.  Are they more like Chris or like Hailey? This novel really should be required school reading. Not just because it was well written but also because it does outline all the point of views and how much it should be it’s not just black and white but shades of gray.  Only be listening and understanding what people of color and marginalized communities are saying and owning up to our prejudices will we able to end this.  So one day, we won’t have to teach our children how to act in police presence and police won’t make snap judgments about civilians based on skin color.

Quick Review: Reunited by Colleen Houck

reunited So I’m just going to come and say it, this wasn’t Colleen’s best work.  To be honest, I was kinda bored through most of it.  The first 2/3 of the book was kinda like the never ending camping trip in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Lily and Ahmose had to must trek through the cosmic universe, through the land of the dead to battle mythical creatures to help the Egyptian Gods and wake the other other Sons of Egypt, Amon and Asten.  All while having internal arguments with the two other people inhabiting Lily’s body, Tia and Ashleigh so they can altogether form a fourth person to defeat Seth.  Yeah, there was a lot going on there.  Maybe it would have been better if I cared more for Lily, Tia or Ashleigh.  Maybe it was just the pacing of the book.  It felt repetitive and throwing all these unnecessary tasks and battles in her way.  All these life or death situations that you knew she was never really in danger since she is the heroine and we have another 300 pages to go. To be fair some of those run-ins turned out to be important to the finale but most of it could have been completed left out and it wouldn’t have effected the narrative.  I’m glad that this series is now over and she can refocus on her better series, Tiger Saga, which the fifth book has been in the works for at least four years now.  Bring me back Kelsey, Ren and Kishan ASAP.

Quick Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

labyrinth lost

**Spoilers Ahead**

I knew I was going to like this book when it was revealed that Alex and her family of Brujas live in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.  I may be a little bias but Sunset Park is the best neighborhood in Brooklyn.  Anyway, Alex is from a long line of Brujas or as we say in english, Witches.  While her family sees their powers as gift sees them as only curses.  Her Deathday is coming and Alex will do anything to get rid of her powers.  She blames them for the misfortune of her family.  She believes they made her father leave when she was a child.  When she accidentally banishes her family to Los Lagos, she must venture there herself with a mysterious but handsome Brujo Nova to guide her.  This is a story about acceptance.  Alex for so long was afraid of herself, believing that her powers were the source of her families troubles and that if she only got rid of them then they would be okay.  Over time she realizes that her powers are part of her and ridding them would only getting rid a part of her.  For too long she tried to hide who she was that she didn’t even know who she was.  The only person she felt she could be herself around was with her friend, Rishi but even there she had to keep herself a secret.  As Alex, Nova and Rishi navigate the dangers of Los Lagos, she becomes more at home with her powers but things are not as they seem.  For one Nova is not who she thinks he is.  It bothered me that she never really questioned why he knew so much about Los Lagos.  He is quite knowledgeable about the place that only existed in myths and legends before.  The best surprise was who Alex’s love interest ended up being.  It was all set up to be Nova when it ended up being Rishi.  How refreshing to see Queer representation of Latina and Guyanese girls.  Their relationship starts as a sweet friendship.  Accepting each other for who they are and not caring that one is a little odd to seeing each other for who they truly are.  Alex and Nova shippers have some hope but I do hope that Alex and Rishi are the endgame.  As for the rest of the story, it wasn’t perfect but it was entertainment. It’s great to have a strong Latina lead character and being kickass.  Now that Alex has come into her powers, it’ll be interesting to see what comes next for her and her family.