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: 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?

What I’m Reading Now: Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick

I’m pretty sure when I bought this book a couple years ago at a Con, I thought it was a Russian retelling of Snow White. This is not that. Instead it’s the story of real life British children’s Arthur Ransome and his time being a reporter in Russia during the Bolshevik revolution. Very interesting but lacking in dwarfs.

Review: Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

This book was heartbreaking as it was beautiful. The reality that Indigenous Women face everyday is kind of horrifying when you think about how susceptible they are to violence and little resources they have to help them. Daunis straddles between two worlds. She’s half indigenous and half white. The white half also happens to be one of the richest families in her town. So rich that one of the dorms in the local University was named after her grandfather. She belongs to both worlds but doesn’t. When multiple deaths due to overdose on Meth, Daunis gets recruited by the FBI to help with the investigation on a possible Meth ring coming from the Rez. Around the same time, a new boy moves to town that is mysterious as he’s attractive and adds a new complication to her life. In the investigation, Daunis uncovers some truths about people in her life that she thought she knew and some even more painful harsh reality. Many of which she had been shielded from thanks to her mix heritage and that she is light skin and easily passes as white. A privilege that has kept her safe up until now. The intersection of racism and misogyny comes in full force in this one as it’s pretty clear that both lead to so many of the issues that led to this happening and it’s hard to read. Daunis is picked to help with the investigation because of her knowledge of her tribes customs but also her understanding of chemistry. I love her Daunis pieces things together and works through the problem to find a solution. She is as brave as she is smart and doing so helps solves the mystery but unfortunately at a personal cost. I have to say, this is not an easy read because the reality that Indigenous women face every day are hard and the lack of empathy and resources they receive is heartbreaking. Even with Daunis privilege of being half white and born into a wealthy family is not enough to shield her from them. So please bare that in mind when you pick it up. It is definitely worth the read and I highly recommend it. It’s a novel that is going to stick with me for a long time.

What I’m Reading Now: Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

A murder mystery. Diverse narrator. Hot Hockey player. Sign me up. This book has been getting a lot of buzz so I’m excited to get into it.

Review: Stormbreak by Natalie C. Parker

I will miss this series. Caledonia and crew are special and took me on a quite of adventure. When the series begins the crew’s motto has run and hide and stay away from bullet ships. They are no longer running or hiding. They are striking back in hopes of creating a new world. Despite of all the trials Caledonia and crew continue to inspire others to join them and fight. They do it by giving the people the power of choice. They can stay and help them or they can go back to their life of servitude but for once it’s their choice. They all grow as characters but this is Caledonia’s story. She starts guilt ridden and angry, seeking revenge on Lir and Arik’s Bullet army to killing her family. Her need for vengeance often got her in trouble. Her inability to let it go and to not let her sisters in made her fail over and over again. It wasn’t until she was able to let go of her own wants and needs and let her crew burden some of the responsibility did they succeed. The book doesn’t sugar coat her flaws. It doesn’t gloss over her mistakes and her bad decisions. Her own personal struggles with who she is and the choices she has to make. She knows that to win they have to be as ruthless as their enemy but how do you do that without becoming them. She does it by again letting people choose their own destiny. When the fight is over it doesn’t mean that everything is now perfect or that she can go back to living as she did because life doesn’t work that way. She may have succeeded but now she has to live with everything she did to get there and that’s not easy. Caledonia wasn’t the only one who grew over the three books. Picses was always Caledonia’s second in command. There to help and follow Caledonia’s lead. She was Caledonia’s moral compass when she ever went to far but seemed at the beginning only wanting to follow. Over the series, she found her voice and began to not only challenge Caledonia more but also take more of the lead until she was the one giving orders. It’s great to see.

This books is full of great characters of all spectrums that anyone can see themselves represented. They all brought their own strengths to the crew and made it possible to win the day. From Amina to Hime to Nettle to Tin to Oran to Pine, Sledge and more. I don’t think there was an unlikeable character. Lir, our big bad was a good villain. He did unthinkable things but it wasn’t just for evils sake but born out of years of violence and abuse. It doesn’t excuse his actions but makes sense to the story and motivation. I do hope that someone buys the rights to this series because it would make a great series or movie. I would say TV show then movie because there is just so much into that it would lend itself well to an episodic format. So yes read this series from beginning to end. Especially if you liked Mad Max: Fury Road. You won’t regret it.