Review: Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

***Contains Some Spoilers***

There are many “chosen one” stories out there. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Frodo from Lord of the Rings, etc. All of these stories end with the hero vanquishing the villain and living happily ever after. But do they really? We really never see what happens to them as they grow old. Well, we get a glimpse of Harry’s ever after if you have seen the Cursed Child and well, it’s not pretty for him. Anyways, Chosen Ones grapples with what happens to child heroes after they have saved the world and grow up. Sloane, Matt, Albie, Esther and Ines were all kids when they were charged with fighting the Dark One and after years of fighting they do. The story picks up at the 10 year anniversary of their victory and all 5 of them are have moved on one way or another. Well, all except for Sloane. She still has nightmares and panic attacks. She was heavily scared from what she did to take down the Dark One that she can’t really move on and when one of the five dies suddenly, it brings everything into a whirlwind. Maybe, the Dark One isn’t gone after all? They get kidnapped into a parallel universe, who’s Dark One is still out there and they must take him down all over again. However, Sloane is older now and more weary. As a kid, she may not have questioned what she was asked to do but now she does. She is no longer going to do anything until she is given a reason why and has no problem with asking questions or just finding out for herself. I really enjoyed reading this book. It was the best book from Veronica Roth since Divergent. I really felt for Sloane and her struggles. As a young girl, she was given over to the government to fight a force she knew nothing about and really didn’t have much chose. It broke her and scarred her ways that she is still is dealing with and forced to act like everything is fine. Like she didn’t spend her childhood in perpetually peril. So when she takes things into her own hands, I could only cheer her on. So, yes this was a good book and I think you all will enjoy it too.

Beth’s Favorite 5 books of 2021!!

Well it was a year. I did read more books then I did last year but not anywhere near my pre-pandemic levels. But who is. I have found it harder to write reviews recently. You may have noticed. I’ll try to do better in 2022. Anyways, without further ado. These are top 5 favorite books of the past year. In order of which I read them.

  1. Stormbreak by Natalie C. Parker – I just loved this whole series of women pirates taking on the systems keeping society down. It was just one adventure after another and it a great ending. I highly recommend the whole series.
  2. The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeiine Boulley – This book is just so heartbreaking. What Daunis and her people have gone through is just so painful and yet the strength they processed is just amazing. Boulley’s writing is very striking. She doesn’t sugarcoat the experience her characters experience. Be aware. It does deal with sexual assault, drug use, racism and domestic violence.
  3. The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab – Addie Larue made a deal that she wanted to live her own life but in exchange no one remembers her. 300 years later, she finally remembers her and it seems like things maybe turning around but of course things are not as they seem. This book is such a rich book. Fantasy and historical fiction all in one. Loved it.
  4. The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee – Jo is lady’s maid. Not by choice but because her options are limited. When an opportunity presents itself to write an advice column under a secret identity she takes it. It gives her the freedom that she doesn’t have in day to day life. I loved reading about Jo because despite the card stacked against her she doesn’t give up.
  5. The Naturals series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes – I’m choosing this series as a whole since I read them all at once. It was recommended by a coworker and she knows her stuff. Cassie and her fellow Naturals are not your normal teenagers. They know how to read people and for that makes them useful to the FBI. I just got sucked into the mystery of this series and I was so happy that I waited to read it all at once.

What were your favorite books of the last year?

Review: The Naturals Series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I’m behind in reviews so I decided to do a review of the Naturals Series as a whole instead of each book individually. So here we go.

The Naturals is centered around Cassie. She’s a profiler. She can tell you about anyone just by observing them. She was taught this by her mother who would travel the country as a psychic. Reading people was how she made a living. One day she is recruited in a secret group by the FBI of other “naturals” teenagers to help them with solve cold cases. Each naturals has their own skills. Michael can read people’s emotion. Lia can tell who is lying and telling the truth. Sloane sees the world in numbers and Dean is also a profiler. They all learn their skills thanks to traumatic pasts that forced them to cultivate their skills and oh boy, they are tragic. Cassie’s own backstory is that her mom was brutally murdered but her body was never found. This backstory plays a huge part in the series. Actually all of their back stories play a huge part of the plot. The other big part of the story is how each of them cope with their trauma. As they go through the cases, they are forced to deal with their pasts and it’s a rough road for all of them.

I do want to say, it’s not all sadness. This was a very fun series to read. The mysteries have so many twists and turns that it kept me guessing of how it would turn out. The team is all so likable and wanted them all to be happy and safe. Sloane is my favorite character. She is so endearing. She is the comic relief but often time she doesn’t understand why she is funny. She is also, out of all of them, the most heartbreaking. I really feel for her. I wanted more of her.

So for mystery readers this is a must read. It’ll keep you on your toes.

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 naïve 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.