Quick Review: Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland

Take a bow Justina Ireland. This series is just so good. Zombies, Queer heroine, old western story. It really has it all. At the end of Dread Nation, Jane and Katherine had to escape Summerland after it was overrun by Shamblers Of course, nothing is simple for them and they suffer one tragedy after another. I got a tell you, it was interesting reading this right before Coronavirus became a global pandemic because while I don’t think people are coming back as Zombies but it’s interesting to see how the world even fictional adapted to epidemic. Let’s just say, I am not sure we are doing all that great but I digress. Jane and Katherine through the journey have to deal with some major PTSD other issues. They have seen and done some many terrible things to survive and that will do damage to the strongest person. What I love about this story is how they handle it and the importance of having a strong friendship to get your through it. Katherine saves Jane by just being supportive of her. Being there for her when she needs and taking a step back when she doesn’t. Proof that we can’t always do it alone. A lesson that Gideon could have learned. He was so sure of his own greatness that he was willing to let the world burn to get what he thought he deserved. Yeah, privilege rich white man destroys the world. I know I am not doing it justice with this review but this series is amazing and for all of you quarantined at home, I highly recommend it.

Review: The King of Crows by Libba Bray

The Diviner’s series is such a well crafted story from beginning to end. Libba Bray has said in interviews that she wanted to write a ghost story and it kinda is. Our heroes have to literally fight the ghosts of our nation’s past and the ghosts of their own lives too. While I don’t think it was intended it is also a cautionary tale as well. It takes place in 1927 but so many of the issues that 1920’s America was facing we are still facing now. You all know the quote, History repeats itself? Well, Evie, Sam, Theta, Henry, Ling, Memphis, Isiah and Jericho are faced with racism, sexism, white supremacy, fascism and rapidly improvements in technology. I’ve mentioned this in past reviews of this series that so many of the scenes could take place today and not look out of place. We really haven’t learned from our mistakes or really ever really truly faced the truth of our past. The King of Crow was created by the greed, sorrow and misdeeds of our past. He feeds of the fear and ignorance and uses that to bargain with people for their souls and this has made him powerful. After the events of last book, our heroes have to go on the run. They are being blamed for the death of Sarah Snow, a popular radio star and they are easy targets because they are a group of young people who are black, Jewish, mixed race, gay, disabled and have powers that people do not understand. Once again playing on fear and ignorance they public quickly turns on them. Now the first half of the book have shades of the never-ending-camping trip from Harry Potter. The group has been split up and all of over the country. While it was necessary in some ways for characters to have a chance to grow and the piece together what was going on, it did drag down the narrative. Once they were all united the narrative really took off and become more compelling. They meet up with a new diviner named Sarah Beth. Sarah Beth is totally creepy but she knows how to defeat the King of Crows so our group of diviners seek her out. A lot of things happen and yes it is tragic but in the end they were able to defeat the ghosts of their pasts to defeat the ghosts of our past as well. I don’t want to say too much more because I don’t want to spoil it for you. I highly recommend this series and so relevant to today that you should read it and then discuss our past. We are a great nation but we have also done some terrible things and they will forever haunt us until we actually deal with it otherwise history will continue to repeat itself.

Review: The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson

Over three books, Stevie has been trying to figure out what happened to Alice Ellingham after she was kidnapped in 1936. The truth is truly tragic. I wont’ say what happened to her because I don’t want to spoil it but the whole affair is sad. At the end of the last book, Stevie had solve the mystery who was responsible of the kidnapping but was too afraid to tell anyone. She was too afraid that her evidence was too circumstantial but if she solved it and it’s over than what does she do next. Things have already gotten out of control. Two students have died and Stevie’s mentor has also died. David has run away and after another accident is forcing the school to close down immediately. The students don’t want to leave. There is too much left unsolved so they stay despite the massive blizzard. As Stevie unravels the mysteries we get a glimpse of what really happened and how things went off the rails from the beginning. So many people could have been spared if greed hadn’t taken over everyone. True today as it is back then. Over the series, Stevie has really grown. She has learned to deal with her anxiety. She works through her insecurities because she knows that she has more to discover and learn. A reminder to all of us not to give up despite the obstacles. I did enjoy this series. It was funny and heartwarming and a good mystery. Now if only she would finish her Shades of London series.

Quick Review: One of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus

While One of Us is Lying was a steamroller with the mystery happening in the first book. One of Us is Next is more of a slow burn. It eases us into the mystery.. It takes place 18 months after the events of the first book. The “Bayview Four” have all graduated and all have stated college except for Addy, who decided to take a year off and works at a local restaurant. She works with fellow student, Phoebe who also lives across from her and her sister. Maeve, Bronwyn sister is still friends with Addy and hangs out often at the restaurant that Addy works. Usually with her friend and ex boyfriend.Knox. They find themselves once again at the mercy of a mysterious gossip but instead of Simon’s app, it’s a Truth or Dare game via text message. Clearly the student body and really the administration learned nothing from the last time because everyone immediately gets sucked into the game and the gossip and the school teachers are kinda useless. There is mention of a new “no tolerance” policy that was put into place after Simon’s death but obviously not working.. There were some pretty unsubtle bullying happening in plain sight of the whole school and at no time did any teacher or administrated got involved. I would say there are not very good at their jobs. On a whole it was a good companion to the first book and the resolution is pretty devastating. It wasn’t as good as the first one but still a solid read. Mystery readers will want to find out what happened next at Bayview high.

Quick Review: One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Tell me if you heard this one. A jock, A beauty queen, a brain, an outsider and a criminal all get detention. Yeah, it’s basically the breakfast club except for one of them dies and the other four are the main suspects. The victim in question is Simon. He runs a gossip app that spills all of his fellow students secrets. It just so happens that his next post all involve his detention mates so f course they are all the prime suspects when it’s discovered his death wasn’t accidental. Bronwyn, Cooper, Addy and Nate and nothing in common before this but now they must band together if they are going to figure out what happens but when everyone has secrets, it’s hard to know who to trust. This was a fine mystery to read. The characters are all well fleshed out and vulnerable. They are not innocent but they are also not guilty and court of public opinion can be brutal. It’s an interesting study in social media, bullying and the pressures we put on kids to be perfect. With everyone having cell phones, it only takes a second for a picture to go viral and everyone knows your secrets. Not to mention a really good commentary on toxic masculinity and entitlement culture that goes with it. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil anything but there are a lot of twists and turns and while I suspected the outcome it didn’t make it any less tragic or upsetting. Well worth the read.

Quick Review: Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri

Mehr is the illegitimate daughter to the Governor. Her mother is part of the indigenous clan of her home but the Emperor has outlawed their spiirtual practices and this makes Mehr an outsider in her own home but she still practices her mother’s rituals. This of course gets her in trouble, when performs a ritual and garners the attention of the Maha, the power behind the Emperor and is tricked into marrying Amur. The Maha is a very powerful man, seen as a God among his followers and the Empire. His prayers makes the Empire strong and he does this thanks to Mehr and Amur’s people and their rituals. Mehr is a strong and brave woman. She knows this is a fucked up situation but she has limited choices. Choices is a big word in this novel. The ability of choice is sacred so the fact that Mehr’s choice was essentially taken from her is a big deal. Despite this she never stops making choices to figure out ways to save her and Amur from their servitude. She never resigns herself to her situation and gives in. She fights until the end and it’s powerful to see her fully embrace her powers. The other theme of this novel is colonialism. Mehr’s homeland was invaded by the Empire and the Emperor did all that he could to demonize her people’s culture despite the fact the success of the Empire is due to her people’s culture and rituals. It really makes you think how colonist for years have benefited from the resources of the places they colonized while erasing the cultures that they have benefited so much by. Mehr was able to take back the rituals and use them against the Maha and take back that power but so many other cultures are not that lucky.

Quick Review: Welcome to Nightvale

Welcome to Nightvale! A friend made a reference to this and I did’t get it and she was very surprised that I had never listened to the podcast…well, now I’ve listened to this first book. And, it was fun! And, weird. Sooo weird. But, I’m into it. This was a little mystery, I think that’s how you would describe it, set in a town called Nightvale but might be Fox Mulder’s wet dream of a town. Time is weird, people disappear, not everyone seems to age, you have to be careful of lawn flamingos. This was a fun little book. I recommend it, if you also like weird books.

Review: The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

Ana is a Fanatasist. One of seven perfect princess in The Kingdom theme park. She and her sisters are hybrids. Perfectly engineered to be what every guests wants them to be and everything that they could ever need is taken care of. Ana loves what she does but she begins to question the Kingdom’s mission when one of her sisters starts to act different and she meets a new worker named Owen. Soon her life gets turned upside down when Owen is missing and presumed dead and Ana is accused of his murder and put on trial. The book’s narrative goes back and fourth between Ana’s first person perspective of her life leading up to the event and transcripts of her trial. Between the two narratives the mystery of what happened to Ana and Owen starts to take place and well things are not what they seem. Ana being partly artificial she only knows at first what she is programmed to know but she is curious in the world and notices when anything is a bit off. It starts when a few of the hybrid animals start to behave aggressively and it leads to public incidents at the park. Then one of her sisters, Nia does something so shocking it really rocks Ana to the core. She finds solace in her new friendship with Owen, a maintenance worker at the park but he is not who she think he is too. As she tries to put together what is going on in the park while also dealing with her new feelings for Owen. It really brings into question what it is to be human. Is Ana a person even though she was created in a lab? Is she capable of love or is she just mimicking emotions she has observed. It is also pretty scary at some of the shit they park does to their Princesses, it’s no wonder they take the drastic measures they do to get out. It’s great story and it has a really satisfying ending. It’s definitely open-ended so if there were to be a sequel there could be.

Quick Review: The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

This book was stressful from the beginning. I mean that in a good way. From the prologue to the epilogue it is none stop from beginning to end. The setting is a sort of old style wild west world. The girls of this world don’t have autonomy. It’s a rough world and for many families the best thing they can do for their daughters is sell them to the Welcome Houses where they will be feed and sheltered and that is why they are called Good Luck Girls because for many it seen as good luck to work in one of these houses and to be taken care of. In reality though they are being sold into sex slavery. It’s billed as a cross between West World and The Handmaid’s tale. I haven’t seen the former but I know the latter and yeah I can see some similarities. Clementine’s first night as a Sundown girl doesn’t go as planned when she kills her first brag. Her sister Aster leads her and her friends Tansy, Mallow and Violet on an escape but that is just as dangerous as the life they left. With the help from rangeman, Zee they fight their way through the wild terrain. They take some of the power back by robbing the kind of men that used to visit the Welcome Houses to get enough money to remove the favors from their bodies. It’s a powerful statement on how they work together. I thought this was a standalone book but it’s at least a duology as there is a planned sequel. To say I enjoyed it is probably the wrong thing to say because it’s not a pleasant read. What these women go through and have been through is horrifying but also gratifying to see them fight back. I look forward to see what happens next to these ladies as they continue to fight for their freedom and the freedom of others like them.

Quick Review: Children of Virtue of Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

Wow. This was gripping from the very beginning. I really love how Tomi Adeyemi has built this world. It is full of such imagination but also so rooted in the the real world. Zelie and Amari completed the ritual to bring back magic but it kinda worked too well. Not only do the Maji have their magic back but Nobles with any Maji ancestries also have magic now. So their enemy is just as powerful and in some cases more powerful. This book really explores how deep the hurt that hatred and bigotry lies and not easy to get over and move on. Amari and Inan both try to get both sides to come together but there are just too many years of hurt and betrayal for either side to trust each other. In fact they are both so sure that the other side is wrong that the only way forward is to eliminate the other. Also the power of grief and how it can really paralyze you to move forward. Pretty much everyone in this book makes big mistakes that will hunt them. Except for Tzain, who is just maybe the best person ever. I really can’t believe it ended the way that it did. It is a much bigger cliff hanger then the first one and I’m not sure I’m okay after reading it. Obviously there is one more book and so the solution couldn’t have been as easy as they thought it should have but the ending was such a twist and confusing mess that it really messes up the reader as much as the characters. I really hope the next books comes out soon.