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.

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.

Review: The Queen of the Tearling Series by Erika Johansen

queen tearling

**There maybe a few minor spoilers in this review**

First of all, our Cousin Sarah has good taste in books because I really enjoyed this series.  So thank you Sarah for the suggestion.  I’m sorry that I waited so long to read it.

One of the themes I got from this series is how past shapes our present and our future.  As someone who has a degree in history I really appreciate that.  The saying of “those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them” maybe cliche but it’s also true.  History is littered with examples of forgetting or  ignoring the past and then surprised when the results are the same.  Look about what is going on today.  Many of the same rhetoric that is being said on both side of the aisle have all been said before.  There have been so many correlation between what is currently going in the United States with what lead to other Countries descent into authoritarian regimes.  Agree or disagree that is the direction the US is going, one must be a little nervous with what they are seeing happening around our country.  Right now is the perfect time to look back at our past and see what we can learn.

invasion tearling The Tearling was founded by William Tear and his followers by leaving the United States that had fallen into Martial Law and extreme poverty.  They crossed the Atlantic and through a mysterious portal to land in the “New World” to start an utopian society where everyone was equal.  No one was more important then another but this was never truly the truth in practice, even from the beginning of their new colony.  William Tear always stood higher then everyone else even though he tried not too.  His opinion was enough to sway an issue to right or the left.  He was the King without the title.  You add the people’s unwillingness to talk about their pre-crossing life led to the downfall of the society after only one generation.  They failed to learn from their own past.  They felt that had moved beyond the troubles of their past but when things fell apart they resorted back into the old habits and fear that lead the downfall of the past and again fell part again.  Three hundred years later, Kelsea inherits a country with very little assets and has the traffic it’s own people to a neighboring country to survive.  The people are mostly illiterate and live in poverty.  The ideals of William Tear have long been forgotten.  Kelsea with the help of the Mace, try their best to right the wrongs of their past but with little army and even less of a treasury she is fighting an uphill battle.  Kelsea is not perfect herself.  She is young and inexperienced.  She has a temper on her that makes to make rash decisions.  She was also left in the dark about her own countries history, particularly the resent history that she has to learn about her people as she rules them.  She makes some great decisions but she also makes some terrible mistakes.  Which is important because it is sometimes to easy to make the protagonist to perfect.  It would be very easy to make Kelsea a saint, bringing her country back to it’s former glory but Erika Johansen doesn’t do that.  Nor does she give us the perfect happy ending either but I’ll get to that later.

fate tearling The Tearling is a curious place.  It takes place in the future but is clearly a Medieval  society.  They lost most of their medical supplies and doctors in the crossing and 300 later they still haven’t developed any technology.  They don’t even have a working printing press.  The Horror!  They do have a little bit of magic.  Kelsea also inherits two sapphires that give her abilities to see into the past and powers.  The ability to see into the past and the future help her but also make things a bit tense.  She starts to have visions of the past through two women who helped shape the early Tearling.  She sees how life was before the crossing and how the Tearling fell.  She struggles to figure out how the past is supposed to help her but she knows it’s important.  As her kingdom starts to fall apart and those who are most loyal are starting to question.  When she finally figures out what to do it’s ruthless and brave that runs head on into doing not knowing what the outcome will be.  In the end *spoiler* she does bring back William Tear’s vision for the New World even though it’s not how she imagined it.  It’s very bittersweet that accomplished what she set out to do, she righted all the inequality the country had suffered through but it left her a little alone in her victory.  Then again, who knows what the future will bring for Kelsea.  Maybe all we have to do is gleam into her past to see where Kelsea will go next.

Quick Review: Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B. Larson

dark breaks the dawn *** This review may contain Spoilers ***

I confess, I’m not all that familiar with the store of Swan Lake so I can’t say if this is a good retelling or not.  What I can say it was just meh.  I wanted really into it but I also wasn’t bored with it either.  Evelayn is the crown Princess of the light side of the Kingdom.  Long time ago, a curse fell on the  Kingdom years ago and took away their immortality and separated them into two Kingdoms of Light and Dark.  For centuries the two sides lived in peace and keeping balance of the magic until 10 years before when the King of the Dark magic started a war to grasp both sides.  Evelayn is thrust into the conflict when her Mother is killed by the King making her Queen.  Now Evelayn is a fine character.  She’s smart and brave and willing to do anything for country.  She does what she needs to be done.  She’s a fast learner.  She is just coming into her powers and is able to master all of them except for the power to transform into her Swan. Only those with royal blood can transfigure.  Her love interest is Tanvir is kind of bland.  Several times there are hints of him not being worthy, that he has a secret, or that there is something is past that could come back to haunt him.  I was starting to think that he was a spy for the Dark Kingdom and he was forced to be a spy to save his sister who isn’t dead just being held captive by the King.  That would have made him more interesting at least but no.  The Dark Prince, Lorcan is far more interesting to me then either Evelayn and Tanvir and I sort of started rooting for him.  I know he’s technically the real big bad of the story but I was left for interested in what he was going to do then the others.  I also felt how Evelayn reacted at the end was a little out of character.  She never sought out violence before.  She had to do what she had to do for the safety of her Kingdom and keeping balance so for her to threaten the Dark Queen like she did seemed a strange move.  True she is young and obviously scared and desperate but this wasn’t the first time she felt that way and handled things better.  So yeah, it was meh but I’m going to read the second book because I do want to see what Lorcan does next.