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.

Some of My Favorite Quotes from In Other Lands

in other landsThere are so many great quotes from Sarah Rees Brennan’s In Other Lands that it needed a post of it’s own.  Serene-Heart-in the-Chaos-of-Battle has the best quotes. In Other Lands takes many tropes and turns them on their head.  One is gender roles.  In Serene’s Elven culture, women Elves take on more of what we in the human world would consider male roles.  This often brings up hilarious misunderstandings and some hard truths.  Here are just a couple

“Of course it is,” said Serene. “The woman goes through the physically taxing and bloody experience of childbirth. A woman’s experience of blood and pain is, naturally, what makes women-kind particularly suited for the battlefield.  Whereas, men are the softer sex, squeamish about blood in the main.  I know it’s the same for human men, Luke was extremely disinclined to discuss my first experience of a woman’s menses.”

Another gem by Serene.

“Come now. It’s natural for a young pure gentleman to be abashed by such discussions,” said Serene. “Forgive me for being so frank with you and puttin you to the blush, Luke.”

Another good one.  This from Serene’s cousin, Swift-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle to Elliot.

“No doubt you tempted her. Ah, a man’s morals are frail as they are, sweet silly creatures,” Swift said. “I do think it was up to Serene to control herself, though. She must have known I was considering you as a bride.  Your humanity would not have mattered so very much, up in the wild north where I am stationed, but now you have been sullied, of course it is out of the question.”

The hard truth.  Elliot to Swift.

“Um.” said Elliot. “Maybe both our societies are messed up, and they each only think one type of person is really a person. And the type they think is really a person is allowed to show imperfections and age…whereas the type of person they think is an object should show no signs of being a person. We’re socialized to see the imperfections in those objects.”

And there’s plenty more where that came from.  You should read the rest of the book.

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.