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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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: 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: 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.

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

hate u give The Hate U Give may be categorized as a fiction novel but make no mistake, there is nothing fictional about it. Yes, Starr, Khalil, Seven, Maya, Devante, Big Mav, Lisa and Kenya don’t actually exist but their story does. Starr is a sixteen year old girl who lives in the hood but goes to school in private school in the suburbs.  Her worlds could not be different.  Over Spring Break, her best friend Khalil gets shot and killed by a police office during a routine traffic stop and Starr is the only witness.  Starr must reconcile her own feelings about what she witnessed and the realities that come with it while also coming to grips how it effects her two different worlds. It gets thrown into sharp relief how her family and neighbors think what happens versus what her friends at school do.  Starr grapples with her own fears and find her own voice to stand up for what rights, stand up to the authorities and her own friends too.  This book is heartbreaking because it’s a story that we have seen played out too many times in the last couple of years.  Khalil was unarmed when he was killed.  Yes, he did sell drugs and had involvement with gangs but none of those facts should be justification for what this officer did.  You could replace Khalil’s name with Michael, Philandro, Tamir, Tayvon or any other young black men unjustly killed by law enforcement and you would go through the same emotions.  Angie Thomas does a brilliant job of outlining all the many view points about this issue.  From Starr’s father, a former gang member and ex-con who is far to aware of how the justice system works to Hailey, Starr’s rich white friend who is willing to protest only because it got her out of class for a day.  As the reader, we see what happened and how it happened at the beginning of the book.  We know it was unjust but since the other characters weren’t there, we get to see how they process it through how they relate to Starr. They accept or deny it depends mostly on their own socioeconomic background and yes race plays apart of it too.  Starr’s family of course understand immediately that Khalil did nothing wrong and that Starr did nothing wrong.  They also know that because of the neighborhood that they live in it could be dangerous for Starr to speak out even if can help bring him justice.  Whatever her decision, they always have her back.  The first thing that really struck me was when Starr and Khalil were pulled over, Starr goes over in her head how she is supposed to act when interacting with cops.  She says when she was 12 her father told her to do as the officer says, don’t talk unless spoken to and keep your hands visible.  She was told this at twelve.  Meaning that her parents thought, even as young as twelve years old she could be in danger.  I tried to think if my parents and I ever had a talk about what to do if I got pulled over and I don’t think we ever did.  Why would we?  We are white, there is no reason for cops to look at me or my sister and assume we were up to no good.  That we were criminals.  That we could be dangerous but Starr’s parents and many black parents have to worry about that for their kids.  That is truly heartbreaking.  Two of the most interesting characters, okay maybe not the most interesting are Chris and Hailey.  Chris and Hailey are both white, privileged and rich.  Chris is Starr’s boyfriend.  They share a love for sneakers, basketball and Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  He at times is completely oblivious to their differences.  He doesn’t notice or bother him that people stare at them when they walk down the hallway.  He wouldn’t say he was racists and most people would agree with him but because of his own privilege, without even realizing it he sometimes falls into the insensitive thinking. He doesn’t understand why Starr is so upset with him or just in general but when she tells him he does try to understand. He wants to be supportive to Starr and that means challenging his own misconceptions and that’s what makes a good ally.  Hailey also wouldn’t call herself a racist either.  She would be one of those people who says, “I’m not a racists have a black and Asian friend.”  Throughout the book she makes insensitive comments and try to pass them off as jokes. When she gets called out on she gets defensive.  “It was a joke” “I didn’t mean anything by it”  “I can’t believe you would think I’m a racist”  Even demands for Starr to apologize to her.  She makes absolutely no effort to see Starr’s point of view or acknowledge that what she said hurt her feelings.  When she does apologize, it isn’t because she sees what she did or said was wrong it’s that she wants things to go back to what they were before.  Since I assume there are going to be a lot of young white readers of this book, Chris and Hailey are important because they may not be able to relate with Starr and her family but they probably can relate to either Chris or Hailey, whether they want to admit it or not.  I hope they take a hard and close look at both of those characters and ask themselves some uncomfortable questions.  Are they more like Chris or like Hailey? This novel really should be required school reading. Not just because it was well written but also because it does outline all the point of views and how much it should be it’s not just black and white but shades of gray.  Only be listening and understanding what people of color and marginalized communities are saying and owning up to our prejudices will we able to end this.  So one day, we won’t have to teach our children how to act in police presence and police won’t make snap judgments about civilians based on skin color.

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.

Very Quick Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

queen tearling It’s a rare thing for me to start a series after all the books have been released.  It’s kinda of thrilling to be able to read from beginning to end without having to wait years to finish.  So with that in mind, I’m going to one big review after I have completed the trilogy.  However I do have some thoughts.  Lately, we have seen how some dystopian and fantasy novels could be prophetic, this is kind of a terrifying thought.  The Tearling was founded by people escaping to the New World because the America we know had fallen in disrepair.  The gap between the rich and poor had widen so far that there was no middle class left.  Cities were nothing more then slums.  Food was scarce.  Martial law was enacted and women were forced out of the workforce to become mothers and housewives.  So they sailed across the ocean, to where we don’t know where, looking for better lives only to losing all our advancements in medicine and technology.  Basically the Tearling have traveled back to the Middle Ages and three centuries, Kelsea has inherited a Kingdom that is illiterate, sick, poor and at the Mercy of the Mortemense, the more powerful nation across the border.  The Mort is ruled by the Red Queen, who is just a mysterious as she is terrifying.  Kelsea, only 19 but is brave in her convictions.  She knows her life may be short but she still sets out to do what’s best for her people, even if it means going against the Red Queen and her more advanced army.  It is an intriguing start to the series and I’m already enjoying book two.

Quick Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

always and forever

**This Review contains some Spoilers**

This series was meant to only be a duology and I thought it worked pretty well as just To All the boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.  So I was a little hesitant but excited when I found out that Jenny Han had decided to write one more book.  On the one hand, I felt that Lara Jean’s story wrapped up nicely.  Yes, it had an open ended ending but there was a sense that Lara Jean had finally started to find her Identity.  And on the other hand, there was some unanswered questions, like were her and Peter really going to make it?  What about their senior year?  Would Kitty continue to be awesome?  The answer is to that last questions is of course.  Reading through this book and getting back to Lara Jean’s world of baking and arts and crafts, I was little disappointed to find that Lara Jean’s new found identity pretty much was all Peter.  Her new friends were all his friends.  Their plans mostly seemed to revolve around his schedule of Lacrosse games.  To be fair, she did build friendships on her own with Lucas and Pammy but she wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for Peter.  This became more apparent when they started to talk about college.  Peter had already been accepted into UVA on a Lacrosse scholarship and Lara Jean had always wanted to go there.  It’s a good school and only 15 minutes away so she could stay close to her family.  Well, when she doesn’t get into UVA, there is a panic because now they have to deal with a long distance relationship.  So she makes a plan to go to William and Mary for one year and transfer to UVA so they can be together.  Things get even more complicated when Lara Jean who gets accepted into UNC after originally being wait listed.  After a quick drive to Chapel Hill, Lara Jean is in love and it’s clear this is where she is meant to be.  Now she will be 3 and half hours away instead of only 2.  All this talk of college and what school would is the best, I can’t remember of any talk about what she wants to study.  We know that she loves to bake and loves to crafting but what else in her life?  Is she going to be an English major?  biology? French?  We have absolutely no idea who she is outside of her family and Peter but I could say the same thing about Peter too.  As frustrating as Lara Jean’s behavior I started to realize that Peter’s identity is just as dependent if not more so on Lara Jean’s.  He is very much the perfect boyfriend.  He’s polite and good looking, athletic and charming.  He organizes her father’s bachelor’s party to not only get on his good side but make her happy.  He is also afraid of losing Lara Jean. Thanks for a moment of true honesty they seem to have finally found each other and where they want to go.  They are going to try to make it work and I hope they do but where does it leave them.  I sort of feel like we are left in the same place as were with the last book.  They both are still growing and finding themselves as they should be at 18 and they are still together and going to fight to make their relationship work despite the distance but their future is still up and the air.  I think it’s a very good development for Lara Jean to spread her wings and live on her own for once.  Her life has always been about her family and then Peter.  Finally in college she will be able to truly find her identity without them around and I think it will only make her stronger.  It will make her relationships stronger and if her and Peter do work out them both stronger.   Now, I hope in a couple of years, we come back to Virginia for Kitty, the high school years because I think that would be the most amazing story of all time.

Quick Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

my lady jane To say this book was delightful would be an understatement. Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows blends the perfect mixture of fantasy and fiction with history.  History will tell you that Lady Jane Grey was the Queen of England for nine days before Queen Mary took the throne and beheaded her.  Well, not in this book.  Lady Jane Grey was the cousin to King Edward, the son of King Henry VIII.  She was named the successor to King Edward because Mary was too Catholic and Elizabeth was a wild card.  Edward’s advisors were afraid that either one of his sisters would take England back to the Catholic church and away for the recently established Church in England.  Well, in this account the fight is over religion but over magic.  King Henry was an Edians, or a person who can turn into animals.  Before his rule, those who had this ability were hunted down and burned at the stack by the Verities or those who couldn’t change into animals.  Mary is very much in the Verities, who blamed Edians for the death of her mother.  Jane at first just a pawn in game of thrones but she soon turns the tables on those who try to control her.  This book is very funny, charming and just plain clever.  I often find myself laughing while riding on the train to the annoyance of my fellow riders.  And it’s a real hoot when you find out what animal Jane turns into.  You will not find a more clever book with horse puns anywhere.  So do yourself a favor and go read it.

Happy One Year Anniversary to The Raven King and Maggie Stiefvater!

April 2016 was our most successful month page views wise.  We had 589 views, which beat our previous record of 552 in December 2015. It made me wonder what were we writing about a year ago to get so much traffic.  Well, The Raven Cycle and Maggie Stiefvater.  It’s hard to believe that the The Raven King came out a year ago.  That it has been a year since we found out if Gansey, Blue, Ronan and Adam would find the sleeping Welsh King and If Blue and Gansey would kiss and if Gansey would die.  Those mysteries have been solved.  Thankfully, we know that we haven’t read the last of the Gang as Maggie is working on a trilogy about Ronan. Whee!!!

And we have another Maggie book coming in October.  So we have a lot to look forward to but let’s take a moment, in honor of the 1 year anniversary of the release of The Raven King and the end of the The Raven Cycle, to look at everything we have ever written about the series.

What I’m Listening to Now: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Public Service Announcement

What I’m Thankful for

Cover Reveal: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Books that Rocked My Face off, Part two

Let’s Do Some Reading: Goals for 2015

Cover Reveal: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Discussion Posts: Re-reading series before the new installment comes out

Books that Rocked My Face Off in 2015

What I Can’t Wait to Read in 2016

First Listen of The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Countdown to The Raven King!

What I’m ReReading Now: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Observations on The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Observations on The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Observations on Blue Lily Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

My To-Read List for the next month or so

Discussion: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater Part 1

Discussion: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater Part 2

Discussion: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater Part 3

Discussion: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater Part 4

Discussion: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater Part 5

Discussion: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater Part 6

Discussion: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater Part 7

What I’m Reading Now: THE RAVEN KING BY MAGGIE STIEFVATER

What I’m Listening to: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Review: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Our Top 5 Posts of 2016

My Top 10 Books I read in 2016

Top Eight for 2016!

Th Raven Cycle as a TV Show Yes Please