Joint Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

This book had a lot of hype before its release and it was right up both our aisles. So, we both got it on publication day. We decided we would do something different. Instead of only one of us reviewing it or doing two reviews, we’re doing a joint review. We’ve come up with five questions.

What are your overall impressions of the book?

Kate: the writing was tight and the story sucked me in. The characters were great; I loved that they had obvious flaws and strengths. And the premise of the novel, zombies rising during the Civil War was so interesting.

Beth: I agree with you about the writing and being sucked in.  I was invested in the story from the first page.  The characters felt like real people and allowed to be imperfect and unapologetic about their undesirable traits.  And who doesn’t like a good zombie novel?  I think what I liked the most about it that is that we are seeing the aftermath of the Civil War from the perspective of a Black girl instead of a white person.  How many books are from that point of view?

Kate: Not enough.

What did you think of the historical context?

Kate: I like what-if historical novels but I was a little worried about this one. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer already did the paranormal set during the Civil War and it was meh. But, this was so much better. Where Buffy Lincoln changed the context of the Civil War (the South have to be defeated! they’re evil vampires!) this novel leaves the context intact and to it adds zombies. So, we can’t just write off the uncomfortable Civil War context of the bible being used to justify slavery or the ideology that there is a racial hierarchy because oh no! supernatural beings! And, that made it so much more thought provoking and interesting.

Beth: This could have gone bad very quickly but I think she handled the time period well.  I kinda like the fact that the Civil War never really ended, it sort of was put on hold when the zombies started to come from the dead leaving this uneasiness to every day life.  Sure, slavery ended and they passed laws to educate former slaves and Native Americans but as for the racial hierarchy it was never really addressed.  Much like it is today.  Justina Ireland doesn’t shy away from the the injustices against African Americans and Native Americans pre-and post-Civil War and even though Jane and Katherine are educated and can kill any shambler, they will always be reminded of their place.

Kate: Agreed. She definitely didn’t shy away. I also liked the follow up at the end of the book which included readings about residential schools.

Who was your favorite character?

Kate: Jane McKeene. Obviously. She’s a hero. and a role model. I can’t wait to see what Jane gets up to next.

Beth: Agreed Jane McKeene is my hero.  I want to be her friend.  Not only is she smart, sarcastic, likes to read but she can also kill zombies.  That’s so badass!

Kate: I know this is a little early but, Jane McKeene for best character of 2018!

Beth: Indeed.  She’s going to be hard to top.

What was your favorite part?

Kate: Any time Jane and her friend Katherine fight zombies.

Beth: I loved the zombie fights but I think I loved the most the bickering between Jane and Katherine.  The chemistry between those two was amazing and you can see how the relationship developed over the course of the novel.

Kate: their relationship is so good. I really liked that the most developed relationship was their friendship and not a romantic connection.

Beth: exactly! More of female friendships in YA please!

What are you looking forward to in the next book? (possible spoilers)

Beth: I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s in California and finding out who Jane’s Momma married that betrayed her.  I feel like whoever he is, he’s going to be play a bigger part in Jane’s story.  I also hope we get more of Katherine’s backstory beyond being raised in a brothel.

Kate: Yes! More of Katherine’s backstory! Please! Especially with the role that brothels played in Western expansion in the US! And, maybe some gold rushing in Cali? I also hope we meet Jane’s mom and her Aunties. Oh, and I hope we meet Daniel Redfern again.

Beth: Me too!  I think we will meet Jane’s Mom and Aunties again and I want to know more about Daniel Redfern.  I feel we only have cracked the surface of his character.

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Quick Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

belles The kingdom of of Orleans is obsessed with beauty because their people were cursed with grey skin and brittle straw hair.  The Belles are the blessed few who were born with color and the ability to make others beautiful too.  They can change a person’s skin color, bone structure, hair and make-up and because of this they have a privileged place in the kingdom.  Camille is one of six new Belles and she wants to be the Favorite.  The Favorite lives in the Palace with the Queen and the Royal family.  She gets to help create the laws of beauty and sets the standard.  She will do anything to be the favorite even if it means getting it over her best friend.  However Palace life isn’t what she imagined.  For one thing, the Princess is a nightmare and a psycho.  She’s the technically the second in line for the throne but her older sister has been in a coma so she’s about to named regent.  Camille is smart and ambitions but at times she is so slow I want to scream at her to pay more attention to wants going on!  She at times is so wrapped up in being the best Belle and impressing others that she fails to see that she is falling right into their trap.  It was a good set up to an intriguing series. It had a lot of world building in the this one so now that is out of the way, I think the rest of series will move at a better pace.

Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

children of blood and bone This novel had a lot of hype around it and I’m glad to say it was justified.  From the very beginning I was hooked.  With the exception of one section, it was fast paced and gripping.  I immediately liked Zelie and was rooting for her to succeed.  I was drawn to Amari and struggle to right the wrongs of her family and battling her own fears. Both of these women are strong and brave.  They have their own flaws but when it came to helping those in need they didn’t hesitate to step in.  It’s beautifully written and full of lush imagery that I felt I was taken to an Orisha just as I was taken to Wakanda in Black Panther.  There is so much potential in how this series will unfold that I really can not wait to read the next book.  Like I want it right now!

That being said, there were a few things that I didn’t particularly like and leave that under the cut.  Continue reading

Review: Purple Hearts by Michael Grant

purple hearts The final book in the Front Lines trilogy was fitting ending for all three of our heroines.  The alternate history re-imagined World War Two if women had been allowed to serve and be drafted into the Military.  Rio, Frangie and Rainey all enlisted as the US was on the brink of joining the war.  Throughout the trilogy we have followed Frangie, Rio and Rainey through basic training, northern Africa and Italy all while trying to figure out who they are how they fit in in this new world.  Does being a soldier make them any less feminine? And what future do they have to look forward to after the war is over.  At the end of the last book, they were all awarded Silver Stars for their bravery in Italy.  If they  thought winning a Silver Star would make their lives as soldiers, they were mistaken.  In some cases it only made their mostly male soldiers resent them even more.  Rio’s hometown sweetheart, struggles to deal with the fact he had to be rescued by his girl and she gets rewarded for it.  The gender roles have been reversed and he can’t deal with it.  Our Soldier Girls are preparing for the D-Day invasion to open the final book.  With it comes all the blood and carnage that we come to expect from years of seeing this battle depicted on the big screen.  As the girls progress from Normandy to Paris to Battle of the Bulge in Belgium to finally Germany.  They are faced with hardships and hard decisions as they continue to face the cruel reality of war.  They are fighting a war against the Nazis about also about the sexism and racism in the Military.  It truly speaks to what women face today.  I have to wonder what our country would be like if women had been able to serve in World War Two. How would our world be different and how much would it be the same?  It sort of get the sense that Michael Grant doesn’t seem to think that history would have changed all that much but also could be my own cynicism.  Anyway, it was a good series full of great characters and an interesting ideas.  I’m glad I read it but I can’t help but wonder what if there were stories of real soldier girls that could be told.

Quick Review: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

img_1088 The Princess Diarist is as heartbreaking as it is heartwarming. Carrie Fisher dusted off her old diaries she wrote while filming the first Star Wars movie in 1977.  Like everything in her life, she is brutally honest about what she saw and what she did and tells it with a biting sense of humor.  Reading this a year after her untimely death is definitely after bittersweet as she was more or less correct about her own obituaries would say and what pictures they would use. The bulk of this memoir is focused on her affair with costar Harrison Ford, who as you know played Han Solo.  Passages of her diary talks of her struggle to deal with the knowledge she is having an affair with a married costar and how she is falling in love with him even after telling herself that she wouldn’t.  She also talks about how she struggled on the set, being told to lose weight and hours in hair and make up and keeping up the facade that she was more experienced than she actually was and of course the awkward promotion of the movie after the release.  Carrie Fisher became Princess Leia in this diary and the transition wasn’t smooth.  There was a lot bumps and bruises along the way but she eventually found peace with her alter ego.  Honestly, we are lucky to have had Carrie as our Princess Leia and as our General Organa.

Kate and started this book by listening to it on audio book.  Carrie reads the book while her daugher Billie Lourd reads her diary passages.  I finished the book as an ebook and even though I was reading it instead of listening, I could hear her voice in my head.  Ebook or audio book, Carrie distinctive voice came through.

Quick Review: Immortal Reign by Morgan Rhodes

immortal reign 

So ends the Falling Kingdoms series. It’s been quite a ride. What started as a power struggle to verb who rules all of Mytica turned out to be an all out fight against magic itself. With the Kindred powers of Fire, Earth, Water and Wind have manifested themselves into real bodies and threatened to recreate the world to their liking and forcing former enemies into allies. Magnus, Cleo, Lucia and Jonas must find away to work together to defeat the kind reds and save the world. First they all have to reunite. Not as easy as it sounds in this series that often sends its characters all over the place for seemingly no reason. It’s also seems like everyone gets a redemption story even if they don’t deserve it. King Gauis who is no longer under the spell of his mother finally comes to his sense and realizes what a terrible father he has been and we are so to forget all the things he did to get us into this position in the first place. He was the one who set everything in motion by kidnapping Lucia in the first place. Amara killed her entire family to gain power but she grows a conscience the last minute so she isn’t so bad? This kinda drives me crazy about these kind of novels. Why can’t they let bad guys be bad guys? Also while I always root for happy endings but that doesn’t mean that all the main characters have to survive to make that happen. How many near death experience does one character or multiple characters deserve before it loses its impact? This is a series that has a high body count but still was too afraid to go there when it could have made a real impact on the story. All in all it was an enjoyable series. I just wish at times it was braver than it was. 

Quick Review: The Body Electric by Beth Revis

the body electric So this book wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either.  It was more meh.  I wanted to get into it but I just couldn’t.  The pacing felt a little off to me.  It started fast a little too fast for me.  Ella’s mother has invented technology that allows people to relive their best memories and Ella has the ability to go into people’s minds and memories and look around their minds.  She does this once and all of a sudden she’s an expert.  She all of a sudden knows how to manipulate minds and search around strangers memories to find what she needs.  Then pacing slows as we try to find out why she can’t remember the hot rebel, Jack and if he’s the terrorist or is it the government?  After it moved too fast and then moved to slowly and then we finally got to the climax and was dragged out and then it was over.  I was a little disappointed because I really loved Beth Revis’ Across the Universe series.  This had so much potential to be a cool book that just never really got going.

Quick Review: Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado

This is a memoir about what it is like to be working poor in America that addresses many of the myths about being poor. Tirado has a blunt style that is sometimes funny, sometimes touching and that I found grating in places. This is a very real perspective on poverty from someone who has lived it, and I think it’s a perspective that is often missing from our economic discourse. It was an interesting read and a quick one. The audiobook was read by the author. So, if you’re looking for a little perspective on class in America, you may want to give it a try.

Quick Review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

truly devious Stevie Bell is starting at a new school.  The mysterious and illustrious Ellingham Academy.  Started by the infamous and rich Albert Ellingham the for the brightest students.  Ellingham opened his school because he believed education was a game, a game that should be open to everyone so he made it tuition free.  However, the history of Ellingham is tragic.  Albert’s wife and Daughter are kidnapped and another student goes missing. While there was a confession and trial many things about the case have been left unsolved.  Stevie is determined to solve the case. What Stevie didn’t count on was another student dying and a new mystery develops.  Maureen does an excellent job setting up the past mystery with flashbacks and FBI transcripts and interweaving it with the present.  At first it seemed that they cases were related and then they didn’t and then it did again.  She always able to keep you on your toes.  Stevie is ambitious.  She knows that her interest are a bit unusual and it makes it hard for her to make friends.  An issue that makes her anxious. As she tries to solve the mysterious before her she also must contend with school work, friendships and other relationships and forging your own path and not necessarily the path expected of you.  I don’t think I have read a book depict anxiety in such a realistic way before.  It really gets to the heart of how anxiety can paralyze a person but also shows how one can overcome those thoughts.  Stevie is a great role model in that respect.  The cast of characters around Stevie are interesting and I’m sure we will get more of them as the series progresses but I have to give a shout out to my boy Nate.  He is the friend that everyone needs because he was willing to put himself in uncomfortable position because he saw Stevie was in a bad place and it was the push that Stevie needed.  That’s a true friendship.

Quick Review: A Cruel Prince by Holly Black

cruel prince I feel like singing “Hello Dolly” except it is “Hello Holly” because she is back to where she belongs.  No one writes about Fairies the way that Holly does. From the Spiderwick Chronicles to  Modern Faerie Tales to Darkest Part of the Forest, her stories are a mixture of faerie lore with modern twists and not one is the same.  The Cruel Prince is a new spin on the changeling story.  Instead of a fairy leaving one of their off spring with humans to replace their own babies, we have twins Jude and Taryn who are stolen from their home after Madoc kills their parents.  You see, Madoc is the general to the High King in Faerie and has an odd sense of honor.  He married their mother and well she escaped, taking their baby, Vivi, with her to the Human world. Ten years later he finds her married to another and in a fit of rage kills both of them and then out of duty he takes all the kids back to Faerie and raises them as his own.  Jude and Taryn were seven when they come to live and Faerie and have come to think about it as home despite living with their parents murderer.  There are only two ways humans can join the court.  They can either marry their way in or earn their way by becoming a knight.  Taryn wants to the former and Jude the latter.  In Jude’s quest to become a Knight she battles against the cruel and spoiled Prince Cardan and his viscous friends.  Like any kid who has ever been bullied, you come to a point where you can no longer just sit by and let things happen and start fighting back.  Jude is given the opportunity to prove herself to Cardan’s brother, Dain, who is expected to be named King by becoming one of his spies but this is Faerie and things don’t go the way you expect.  The coronation didn’t go as planned, people revealed themselves to be not to who she thought them to be.  Despite all the betrayals and double crosses, Jude takes the opportunity to make her own power play.  I love Jude.  She is smart and brave.  Being a human growing up in Faerie is fraught with challenges but she has found ways to turn those disadvantages to her advantage and outsmarts them all.  That being said, the real conflict as the series is going to be if she able to deliver on all the the promises she’s made.  Will her allies continue to support her? And will Cardan and her ever hook up? Fans of Black’s Modern Faerie Tales trilogy will love the surprise cameos from Roiben and Kaye.  This is a great start to another classic Holly black faerie tale.