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

What I’m Listening to: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beth and I are in the same book club.  The reader on this audio book is knocking it out of the park.  Each girl has her own voice and it is wonderful!  I checked this out from my public library.  Shout out to the Buffalo and Erie County Public Libraries!

GOOD NEWS!!!! LAIR OF DREAMS IS COMING!!

Good News! Well good news for me.  Lair of Dreams, book two of the Diviner’s series by Libba Bray is actually going to happen!  Last November, I wrote about how the publishing date kept getting pushed back but Miss Bray confirmed on her blog that, Lair of Dreams has indeed been finished and will indeed be released this year!  WOOHOO! I’ll forgive that the release date is even later then the last time I checked. Now the date is August 25 instead of July but hey what’s another month when I’ve already waited 3 years?

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Bask in it’s Glory!!

So why am I so excited about this book?  Well, the first book, The Diviner’s was amazing! Evie O’Neill has been shipped off to New York City to live with her uncle in the middle of the Swinging Twenties.  It’s supposed to be a punishment but how could living in the greatest city in the world among the speakeasies, jazz clubs and Ziegfeld follies be anything but a reward.  Evie gets caught up in a strange murder, when police consult with her uncle who is an expert in the occult.  Soon she is using her strange power to help solve the murder and meeting other exceptional young people with powers of their own.  It kinda has a little X-men type vibe.  Like any moment, they are going to ban together and use their powers to fight evil!

The setting is great.  All the optimism of the twenties.  The characters are all likable and real.  Miss Bray doesn’t shy away from the race and social divide of the characters and make it part of the story.  There is so much going on but it doesn’t feel cluttered.  It also has so much to build on that I really can’t wait to see where Miss Bray takes it.  So finally! Finally!  I’ll get to find out!  In the meant time people, Go read The Diviners before the Lair of Dreams comes out.