Quick Review: Ally by Anna Banks

The first book I was surprised by how much I enjoy it. It’s not that I didn’t like this one but I guess it didn’t have the same impact as the first. The surprise was gone. Sepora and Tarik are in engaged in more then one. They are physically engaged to be married and also engaged in a war of wills. They both feel like each other betrayed each other but the real threat is still out there. Will they be able to trust each other long enough to save both of their homes? Spoiler Alert. Yes. Sepora is still an amazing character. She’s still stubborn as ever but she is still brave and caring. She knows what she wants but at times unclear as to how to get it and who to trust. Tarik is the same. They both want to avoid a war but they have different priorities. Tarik is king and has a whole country counting on him. Sepora does not so I think at times she is a bit unfair to Tarik when he priorities his own country over everything else. This was a fun series. I’m glad I picked it up.

Review: Curses by Lish McBride

I adore LIsh McBride’s writing. Her books are full of fun, imaginative and funny characters that you can’t help but love. I mean, how can not love a book named Hold Me Closer, Necromancer? If that give you an idea of her sense of humor, I don’t know what will. Lish McBride is also a bookseller and as a former bookseller, who knows how rewarding and also thankless that job can be, it’s good to see one of us come good. I’m also a sucker for fairy tale retellings as you might have guessed from my past reviews. All of this is to say, I knew I would love this book before I started reading. Curses is new spin of Beauty and the Beast but this time the Beast is Merit, a Baroness and Beauty is Tevin, a con man with a heart of gold. Merit gets cursed by a Godling when she was 15 years old. She refuses to attend her own engagement party because she was in love someone else and the man her mother chose for her was 20 years older. The Godling was annoyed that she wasn’t came all this way for nothing cursed Merit to be a beast until she married for love or a man of her mother’s choosing. She has to do this before her 18th birthday or she becomes a beast permanently. Three years later and she is 6 weeks to her birthday when Tevin’s mom is caught trying to steal a precious flower from Merit’s home. Tevin is traded to take his mother’s place and help Merit break the curse. Tevin has a gift of charming anyone, which helps him in his own scams of making women like Merit fall in love with him so their parents pay him off to leave their daughters alone. Since he is qualified to help Merit find someone not like him that she could find love with, he’s perfect to help her find a husband but this Beauty and the Beast and they fall in love. The suitors are pretty fun. None of them are as bad or toxic as Gaston but it’s pretty clear who is her best match. The biggest rival to Tevin is Prince Eric Latimer from a neighboring kingdom. We learn early on that it was his mother that sent Tevin’s mother to get the flower. The flower, is the main ingredient in medicine to help the curse. You take it and for 4 hours, you are curse free. The Queen wants to grow her own so she doesn’t have to buy it and sell her own. The kingdom is broke and what better way to get the plant they need and expend their territory then marriage. So she sends her son to woo Merit and sabotage the other suitors. I do have to say that my favorite relationship is between Merit and her mom. Their relationship is so strain after years of arguments and hurt that they only know how to argue with each other. They blame each other for their current predicament, not acknowledging that they are both to blame. They are so alike though. Both very stubborn. Lady Zarla loves her daughter but like all mothers she also worries about her future so she tried to marry her off to not only keep on the family legacy but to keep her safe. Despite Merit being cursed, she continues to find her a daughter a match. Merit, just wants to live her life for herself and not having to deal with all the responsibility and she’s been hurt too. She fell in love with someone who ended up only wanting her money and has hard to time trusting anyone, including her mother. As the book goes on, we start to see the mother-daughter relationship grow as they start to listen to each other and realize they both want the same thing. For Merit to be happy. So yes, it was really touching at the end when they reconcile. So yes, I love this book. I’ll admit, it won’t go down as my favorite Lish McBride book but it’s still a wonderful book. I love it and I can’t wait to read whatever she writes next.

Review: Nemesis by Anna Banks

I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. The dueling narratives between Sepora and Tarik was really effective in telling a story of two people from rival nations and differing view points but ultimately want the same thing. The conflicts often arise through misconceptions they have each other but also of each others nations. They both of grown up thinking the other’s nation as the enemy, even though they have lived in a time of relative peace. It also illustrates the dynamic of power and how quickly it can change. Sepora is a Princess and the only forger. She can create a rare metal, spectorium. Spectorium can be used to build, power and potentially heal. Sepora’s nation of Serubel, was thought to be the only nation that had it and was it’s biggest export but the world didn’t know that it was produced by one person. When Sepora’s father wants her to forge more of it so make weapons she escapes to the neighboring nation of Theoria because who would think she would go to enemy territory. Unfortunately, she gets captured and later sold into the new King of Theoria’s harem. She doesn’t stay there long as she annoys enough people to leave the harem and works her away as one of Tarik’s advisor’s. Her knowledge of Serubel is obviously an asset to Tarik but how much can she tell him without betraying her own country. While she works to try to prevent war, he works to protect his own people. Another complication is that Theoria is also dealing with a pandemic that is quickly spreading. (yeah, this was little to close to home) and wouldn’t you know it spectorium is potential cure of for it. So it’s a back and forth between the two of them as they try to trust each other but find it hard because of internal bias’ but also their goals are different. They do want to the same thing to prevent war but going about it differently. Tarik is after all the King of his nation. He has to think about the safety of his people so of course he is going to look at ways to protect his people while also looking into ways to stop war. Sepora bristles anytime Tarik even talks about defensive measures even though they are responsible responses. Like so many conflicts, if they were honest with each other they could resolved so many issues but honesty you need trust and it’s hard to trust something or someone you have taught not to. So yeah, I liked this book and I look forward to reading the sequel.

Review: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Tom Hazard has a condition. He ages slowly. Really slowly. He’s a 400+ year-old man who likes he’s only 40. He knew Shakespeare, Captain Cook and F. Scott Fitzgerald. He has lived many lives and he’s tired. He joined the Albatross Society of other people with his “condition”. They have few rules. 1. Is not to fall in love. 2. They have to move every 8 years so no one becomes suspicious and in between moves, they have to do an errand for the society. Tom is motivated to join the society because he believes they will help him find his daughter, who also has his “condition”. Tom decides that he wants to go back to London and become a history teacher. Who better to teach history than someone who has lived it right. It brings back memories of lives that are so painful, they give him headaches. He also meets Camille who is also a teacher at his school and he starts to question about what he’s been told.

It’s an interesting novel and idea. If you aged slowly and lived for centuries, what would you do with your life? After years of watching humanity make the same mistakes over and over again and centuries after your love ones have died, what would keep you motivated to keep on living? Tom in his lifetime would be a musician for Shakespeare’s company, an explorer on Captain Cook’s expedition among other things. He’s seen the world change for the better and for the worst and yes, he’s thought about ended it but keeps going because he knows that somewhere his daughter is out there. I like Tom. His world wearing experience has a different perspective on things but also doesn’t matter how old you are, you can still be na├»ve about things and still have a need for companionship and love. That even when we can be anyone we want to be sometimes we just want to go back to what’s familiar to us but we can never really go back. You can’t stop time. You just need to keep on living. I’m glad I finally read this. It had been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years. It just another reminder to everyone once in a while, take a look at what’s on your shelves. There’s probably a hidden gem in there waiting to be read.

Review: Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick

This is based on the real life story of Arthur Ransome, British children’s book author who was a journalist during World War 1 in Russia and also a spy to both maybe Great Britain and the Bolsheviks. I’ll admit I had never heard of Arthur Ransome and I thought this was just another take on Snow White. This is what you get for buying books based on the title but it was interesting. Ransome, had an interest in Russia and before he became a journalist, wrote a book of Russian fairy tales. He wasn’t meant to be a spy but because of his position as a journalist that gave him access to people high in the Russian and Bolshevik’s government including Lenin and Trotsky he became an asset to the British government during the war. The thing he seems to never really know who he’s spying on. In true mediocre white man style, he stumbles into a exciting life thanks to being the right place at the right time and not necessarily based on skills or talent. While in Russia, he falls in love with Evegnia, the secretary to Trotsky. As things become more and more dangerous as Bolshevik revolution goes on, Ransome had many opportunities to go back to England but always goes back to Russia to be with Evegnia, which sounds romantic but we know nothing about her beyond she is Trotsky’s secretary and Ransome is in love with her. He gives up his life in England, his daughter, puts himself in danger for her and yet why? What is so great about her? What does he love about her? It’s almost like she’s afterthought in this story which is where things of this novel fall apart. I understand this is his story but motivations are important and supposedly he does a lot of what he did because she was in love with her but she’s barely a character in the novel. We get more of Trotsky and Lenin then we do her. It’s just disappointing but also not surprising that the stories and lives of women come second or not at all to the men in the lives. That they exist only to further the man’s story. Ransome would eventually marry Evegnia and they would be married until they both die and that’s great but I want to know her story. I want to know more about her. I’m tired of reading stories with full formed men and paper thin women. Male authors do better.

Review: The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

Jo is a Chinese American living in Reconstructionist Atlanta in 1890. She wants to make her own way but being Chinese in the 19th Century America, her options are limited. When we meet her, she is fired from her hat making internship even though she is talented because clients feel “uncomfortable”. She is forced to go work as a ladies maid for spoiled rich girl who she worked for as a child and was often cruel to her. She lives in the basement of a house unbeknowst to the family who lives above them. They publish a local newspaper and well subscriptions are dwindling and they might have to fold the paper and move. Jo can’t risk them leaving and losing their home so she comes up with a plan to become their new “Agony Aunt” advice columinst. Her first couple of articles are instant hits thanks to her controversial takes on marriage and riding a bike among other things. It also helps her discover who her parents are and that’s a whole other story. This is such a lush book with so many great characters and details about reconstructionist south and the beginning of Jim Crow. It’s kind of a perfect storm in American history because while we see the South embrace segregation, we also see the beginning of the suffragist movement. In some ways, the fight for women’s vote worked hand in hand with segregationist movement and it’s kind of frightening how quick we regressed after the Civil War. It’s also a different look at race relations in America. We usually only examine it by Black and White but forget about other minorities. When slavery was outlawed, plantation owners brought in Chinese workers to replace them, thinking they would be harder workers but to find they also didn’t like to working for low wages. Then the Chinese inclusion act passed and many Chinese in America found themselves alone in a country that did not want them and no way of bringing their families over from China. Jo knows her realities but also doesn’t stop her from dreaming of a future where she pays her own way and though she’ll never get the recognition she deserves she still found a way to change her world.

Quick Review: Mr. Impossible by Maggie Stiefvater

If you are a regular reader of this blog then you know Kate and I love Maggie Stiefvater. Especially me. And I especially love her Raven Cycle and it’s spin-off, The Dreamer’s Trilogy. Ronan character is such a good character. He’s such an asshole but also such a softie at the same time. He also has the power to make anything in his dream and bringing back with him when he wakes up. This has caused him a lot of issues throughout his life but most recently since the Ley Lines he uses to dream are dying and he and fellow dreamer Hennessy are on the run from those who want to kill them because they believe they will bring the end of the world. Honestly, with Ronan that wouldn’t be that shocking if he did. We begin Ronan and Hennessy are trying to learn how to control their powers from Bryde but things aren’t as they assume. They never are. Meanwhile, Jordan and Declan are trying to find solutions to keeping themselves and their loves alive if something should happen to their dreamers. It’s a fast paced and fun. I suspected who Bryde might have been but we still kind of shocked when the revealed happened because it definitely changes things. I can only hope that Ronan and others get their shit together soon because the end of the world is coming sooner than later.

Quick Review: Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

Victoria Aveyard after finishing the very popular Red Queen series, she decided to go full blown fantasy. Not that surprising because if you follow her on twitter you know how much of a Lord of the Rings fan she is. Here we have a new Medieval type world that used to be one of many realms but hundreds of years ago the other realms were closed to them. But now Taristan who has old blood has been opening up the realms and now a rag tag group of underdogs have to stop him. Corrayne, the daughter of a pirate queen and Taristan’s neice is the only one who can stop him since she is of the same blood. She has Dom, an Elder and an immortal warrior. Andry, a squire who hopes to be a Knight. Sorasa an outcast assassin. They this strange team but also kinda affective. Corrayne is great. She is not the strongest or a great fighter but she’s smart and caring. When we first meet her, she tries to convince her mom to take her on her ship because she needs an adventure and boy she does. She doesn’t hesitate when she is told of what she needs to do to save the realm. She knows it’s the right thing to do so she goes out to do it even though she has no idea how to do it. It’s a good start to the series. I really love the dynamic of the characters and I can’t wait to see them grow more as a team as the series progresses. I also really love Queen Erista. She’s a young queen who is smart and very ambitious. Very ambitious and I love how she isn’t shy or embarrassed by it. Yes, she may be going about getting what she wants by embracing destruction of the realm but you have to love her confidence. Woman are often shamed for showing any kind of ambition. So ladies don’t feel bad about it. Go for it. Just try not take over any neighboring countries by opening the gates to other realms and other evils. okay?

Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

What would you give up for immortality? Would you bargain your soul away for freedom? Addie LaRue is 23 years old in 1714 France. She’s about to be married off to a man she doesn’t love or have any interest in. She does not want to be a wife or a mother. She wants to live and see the world. She wants to love but not have attachments. In a moment of desperation, she bargains her soul away with a mysterious stranger to live a life away from the obligations of her small village. Unfortunately, she gets more than she bargains for because she is not able to leave a trace behind. People forget her as soon as they meet. She can’t say her name or even write it down. She can’t hold on to anything or own anything because it’s all easily forgotten. She has immortal life but she can’t make or keep any connections with anyone but her mysterious stranger, who she calls Luc. Addie is clever and stubborn and won’t let this get in her way. She finds ways to survive. People may not remember her but she finds ways to make her presence known. She inspires artists to draw and paint and write music. She lives on through various pieces of art and music for centuries. She has learned to be invisible and how to navigate the world without anyone every remembering she exists. That is until she meets Henry, who is the first person in 300 years who sees her and remembers her.

I enjoyed this book but it does take a while to get into it. The narrative goes back and forth from 2014 and the past and the transitions are not always clean. It does take a bit to figure out what is going on and how all this pieces together. However once all the characters have been introduced and we’ve seen the deal being made and how the curse plays itself out, the story picks up and you can only feel like this is not going to end well for everyone. I felt for Addie. She wants more than what is offered to her in 1714. Let’s be honest, it almost doesn’t matter when a woman lives, their options are limited. I could understand her desperation when she made her deal and her heartbreak as she then tries to navigate the world after. How even with immortal life, she has to make some truly terrible decisions to survive but she does. Partly because she is still curious about the world but also partly to spite Luc, who tries everything to break her. She learns to adapt. She learns to use Luc as inspiration but she also learns that as much as she hates him, she loves him because after all these centuries. He is the only one who knows her. So she lives on and will continue to live on and it’s kind of inspiring. The ending is really the only way a story like this could end. It’s neither happy or sad but bittersweet. Everyone gets what they want but also not what they want either. It’s an interesting premise and has so much more going on then what I’ve touched on here. It’s worth sticking with it to the end.

Quick Review: Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

**THIS POST CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS FROM THIS BOOK AND PREVIOUS BOOKS FROM THE GRISHAVERSE**

In the latest book in the Grishaverse, King Nikolai, Zoya and Nina all prepare for war on many fronts. The biggest threat comes from the north as the Fjerdians have the military might but in the South, the Shu Hans are taking a more subtle approach. Not to mention, the people of West Ravka are looking to succeed. Nikolai has to deal with all of this while also deal with rumors that he may not be a legitimate Lantsov and there’s also the whole demon living inside of him. Leftover magic from the Darkling and the fold. There is a lot going on but the pacing is good so it never feels overwhelm. Nikolai is worried he won’t be able to keep Ravka together. Zoya is afraid of her power and that she will fail her country and Nina can’t let go of her anger of losing Matthias while falling in love with Hanne. The book goes back and forth between Nikolai, Zoya and Nina as well as a few new characters as we untangle all the various threads of the story. They weave together really well and is never overwhelming. It was good to give a few characters some closure but don’t worry. This will not be the last book in the Grishaverse as it ends on a clear set up for a new series. Guaranteeing that some sidelined characters will be back in a big way.