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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Books I’m excited to read this fall

It’s that time of the year when publishers release titles in bunches so they are out before the Holidays. It also means my to-read list just gets longer and longer.  Here are a few books I just can’t wait to read.

Just released

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake – the sequel to Three Dark Crowns.  Three sisters with three different powers but only one will survive to be crowned Queen.

October 3

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray – Book three of the excellent The Diviner’s series.  To quote Evie, it really is the Bees knees.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan – It really is a shame that this is the last book in the series because Magnus has been amazing.  I do hope he shows up in Rick’s other books the way Percy has.

October 10

All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater – Maggie is awesome and we love her and have no doubt this will be awesome too. Also Yeah! for standalones!

November 7

Renegades by Marissa Meyer – I believe this Marissa Meyer’s first book not based on fairy tales.

The Speaker by Traci Chee –The Follow up the The Reader that both Kate and I loved.

The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin– The first book in the Shaw Confessions series, the companion series to the Michelle Hodkin’s Mara Dyer series.

Books that Rocked My Face off in 2015

This year it was hard to narrow it down to just 10 books as there were so many books I really loved this year.  So to narrow it down, I had to ask myself which ones was I still thinking about even after I started reading the next book?  Those are ones I choose for the list. (These are really in no particular order

  1. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray – This book I really wish I read when I was a teenager as so many of the messages I could have really used.  You would almost think that a book about teenage beauty queens stuck on a desert island would be caricatures but they weren’t.  They were very like girls I know or were me.  I could pretty much identify with all of their struggles.  Plus it was a lot of fun.
  2. Winter by Marissa Meyer -I am really going to miss this series so much.  Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter made me laugh, cheer, angry ( on their behalf) and proud of all of them.  Winter was by far the longest book of the series and it was non-stop action.  There wasn’t any filler or time to relax.  It was the perfect ending.
  3. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell  – A little bit Harry Potter and a little bit of fanfiction.  It was a great final book to an imaginary series.  I was surprised by many of the twists and turns and touched by the romance.
  4. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray – I loved the first book in the series and so I was nervous this one wasn’t going to be as good.  It was better.  Now my only complaint is that she doesn’t write fast enough.
  5. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – It was fun, tense and very interesting.  I thought I knew where things were going and then I didn’t.  I’m looking forward to what lays in store in the next book.
  6. Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow – This wasn’t anything like I thought it would be.  It was surprising.  It was fresh.  It had the sassiest A.I. in the history of A.I.’s.  For that reason alone, you all should read it.
  7. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – It was sorta historical fiction with a dystopian vibe and boy did it work.  It was brutal and it was tense but entertaining.
  8. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – This was very much an Ocean 11’s style caper with a little bit of a magic and darkness in only the way that Leigh Bardugo could do it.  It’s set in the same world but after the events of her last series but a completely different vibe.
  9. The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson – This is the third book in the series so the stakes are so much higher and it didn’t disappoint.  It’s full of humor, action and ghosts.  What else can I say.
  10. The Rose Society by Marie Lu – This is the second book in the series that tells the story from the villainess point of view (though I’m not convinced that Adelina is the real villain but whatever) It was intense and was surprising, maybe a little problematic but worth the read.

There was two books that I enjoyed so much that I read the other books in the that were out in the series this year too.  So I thought they would get their own category.

  1. Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas  – For those looking for a Game of Thrones fill in until George publishes the next book, I recommend this.  It  was has all the twists and turns and is not afraid to kill of a character or two.  I’m never really sure where it’s going to take us next but I know it will be well worth the ride.
  2. Talon series by Julie Kagawa – It has a little bit of everything.  A Romeo and Juliet Love, a love triangle, a betrayal and yeah dragons.  Who doesn’t love dragons?  Ok, the idea isn’t that original but I do love it anyway.

Review: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Featured imageWarning: Spoilers will happen

I’m not even sure where to begin!  There is always a risk that when you loved a book so much and waited so long for the sequel that when it finally comes out, it doesn’t live up to your expectations.  I’m happy to say that didn’t happen here.  Lair of Dreams is same mixture of humor, creepiness, suspenseful mystery and 20’s glamour.  The stakes are much higher since Evie announced to all of New York City and the world that she is a Diviner.  This of course brings up new opportunities for her and her friends but also new complications.  The mystery man in the stovepipe hat is gaining more ground and even though we still don’t know much about him, the fact he lingers in the background only makes everything else that much more of a mystery.  Why now are Evie, Sam, Theta, Memphis, Henry and others just discovering their powers or their powers getting stronger? And what is Project Buffalo? There is so much to talk about so let’s get to it. Continue reading

Beauty Queens and Music Videos

I’ve found myself thinking about Libbi Bray’s Beauty Queens a lot in the past few days. (That link is to Beth’s awesome review of the book.) As Beth mentions in the review, Bray does a good job of capturing certain expectations about women. (spoilers ahead). In the book, there is a subplot about the Corporation, a mega-company bent on continuing to push into illegal markets and trades, and the beauty queens throw a wrench in the works by crash landing in the middle of the operation. From the moment of the crash landing, the queens are completely underestimated. As Beth said, “They are just girls so they are not that important. They won’t survive long. Right?” This part of the book captures how old ideas about gender still cling on even though advancements have been made. But, Bray did a good portraying another dynamic as well and this is what I want to talk about today. Changing norms have made some space at the top of many fields for women to succeed, but it hasn’t really leveled the playing field. Some women have an advantage over other women because of other ways our societies are unfair. This plays out in the book through the interactions of two non-white characters Nicole, an African American woman, and Shanti, an Indian immigrant. In the book, they know that there is only room in the top ten for one non-white contestant and that makes them leery of each other. They also know that their faults will be scrutinized more than their white counterparts, a subplot seen through the eyes of Nicole as she remembers the last time an African American contestant had a sex scandal and it ruined her chances of success (even though the consequences for white contestants wouldn’t be as severe).

This has been on my mind because some of those dynamics have been in the news recently. If you are at all interested in pop culture, you may have heard that the 2015 MTV VMA award nominations are out and that Nicki Minaj is not happy with them. After the release of the nominations she took to twitter and stated that she felt that her videos for Anaconda and Feeling Myself were slighted because of the type of artist she is and that other artists doing what she does in her videos are rewarded. She also stated that because she wasn’t celebrating particular types of bodies, she wasn’t getting as much love from the awards committee. I don’t watch a lot of music videos, any really, and I don’t think I’ve seen any of the videos nominated (although, I have seen Anaconda). Then, Taylor Swift took Minaj’s comments personally. I would like to suggest that part of the reason why Swift might take Minaj’s comments personally is that she knows that there is a limited amount of space for women at the top of her field and she works hard and is unwilling to give up that space. Minaj’s twitter criticisms are valid: as a society we do value certain bodies higher than other bodies and this is not only seen in how we reward people but also in how treat people in general.

Beauty Queen was an interesting book because it brought intersectionalism, the idea that people may be operating in a space under more than one type of oppression, into the conversation meant for teen audiences about how women are treated. And, while I found the book to be funny and moving, this broadening of the conversation of what feminism is and who it best serves might be the most important part of the book.

Reasons I love The Diviners by Libba Bray

Featured imageLet’s try something different in this review.  Let’s just talk about what I love about this book and this series (now that I have finished Lair of Dreams!!!)

1. Evie O’Neill is the Elephants Eyebrows, which I assume in 20’s slang for the Bees Knees.  She’s joyful, funny, sarcastic, brave and yes a bit spoiled but at her core she wants to help and make difference. If that happens to get her name in the papers so be it.

2. All of the female characters are awesome.  Mabel, Evie and Theta are all completely different.  I mean seriously, I don’t think you could find different girls.  Well, you probably could but as different as they are they compliment each other.  Yes, they fight, yes they have their falling outs but when it matters, they are there for each other.

3. The guys are not bad either.  Sam, Jericho, Henry and Memphis all have book boyfriend potential.  You have bad boy Sam with a heart of gold.  Studious Jericho who is more then he appears to be and mysterious Memphis with a poets heart and brother’s loyalty.  Henry is the class clown.

4. Libba Bray does a great job of setting a tone of 20’s optimism with darkness and foreboding of something big that is about to happening.

5. You can tell that a lot of research went in to writing of this novel.  Everything from the tone, to the slang to the description of clothes and city to the politics and social issues that really brings you into the time and truly makes for a lush reading.

6. I sorta can’t believe that I’ve made it this far without mentioning their super powers! The story revolves around a group of 17-18 years old who start to discover they have strange powers.  Like, walking in dreams, reading objects for a person’s past, seeing into the future or healing the sick.  It’s like an X-Men origin story!

7.The big bad is truly terrifying but nothing is truly terrifying to me then someone who truly believes that what they are doing is for good even though it is bat shit crazy!

8.Speakeasies, night clubs, Follies and so much more of the Roaring 20’s.

9.For all the optimism of the 20’s, Bray is not afraid to touch on the less happy things from the era, like racism, the Chinese immigration laws, religious fervor and eugenics movement.

10. The diversity of characters.  Memphis is black and Henry is gay.  Not to mention it’s filled with characters from all spectrums of life in smaller roles as well and more of those characters to come in the sequel.

Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Featured imageStop what you are doing right now and read this book.  I mean it!   I really wish it had been written when I was a teenager because I could have used this book.  That being said, my 32 year-old self needed this book too.  It works on so many levels.  Taking on feminism, sexism and the unrealistic expectations of beauty on it’s head.  Let’s be honest, no one really expect much from teenage girls.  We expect them to be agreeable, charming, pretty, and happy and not much else. Just like you probably wouldn’t think much about a book about beauty queens stranded on a deserted island either but this is one fine satire.

Continue reading