Before The Devil Breaks You

Before The Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray is the third book in The Diviners series.

It’s 1927 in New York City and the jazz age is in full swing. After facing sharp-tooth ghouls and a terrible sleeping sickness, the diviners are ready for the truth. Evie, Memphis, Ling, Sam, Isaiah, Theta and Henry and their non-diviner friends Jericho and Mable are more determined then ever to discover the truth behind their powers and the evil forces threatening their city.

As the diviners uncover clues and come into their powers, they find out that terrible forces are at work. A mysterious entity–The King of Crows–has power over the dead and is working to cause a breach between the world of the dead and the living. Together the diviners must work to reveal secrets that could endanger them all.

Will the diviners be able to uncover the truth before it is too late?

This wasn’t my favorite of the diviner series so far. I don’t know why, but I have a problem with series that get longer and longer with each book. Yes, I understand that the plots get more complicated as the story progresses but sometimes the also get more convoluted. We aren’t quite there yet with this series but I sort of feel like we might be heading in that direction. There were some plot lines that almost feel thrown in and some scenes that I just didn’t feel we needed.

I will say, I love the era the author has chosen to write in. The Jazz Age mixed with the supernatural is just wonderfully done. I love all the lingo and our characters have some really wonderful expressions and characteristics that wouldn’t work well in another time period. This book makes me want to go around using the lingo and of course get crazy looks from everyone!

On top of crafting an atmosphere that perfectly represents the 1920’s, Bray also doesn’t shy away from the political climate of the age. She addresses themes like racism, prohibition, eugenics, gender equality and more. Our cast of characters each face these themes in their own way.

Overall, this was an entertaining read and I will be interested to see how Bray wraps everything up. This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

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Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao is the first book in a new fantasy, fairy tale retelling of the Evil Queen from Snow White.

From the moment she was born, eighteen-year-old Xifeng has been told that she was destined for great things. Beautiful beyond measure and raised to be smart and cunning, Xifeng has been waiting for her destiny to begin. She is no longer willing to wait and decides to leave her cruel, broken home and embrace her future.

All her life, Xifen has been raised by her Aunt, a cruel woman who does not spare the cane. She beats Xifen for any little infraction and uses her dark magic to get her way. She was born a peasant, without a Mother or Father and yet her cards say that she is destined to become Empress of Feng Lu. But to do so, she must give up all she holds dear and embrace the darkness that lives within her.

Will Xifen give in to the darkness or will she allow herself to settle for a life of love and happiness? Who is she willing to step on to get her way and how far is she willing to go?

A lot of people gave this one a mediocre to high rating but I just couldn’t do it. I just could not get into the story and Xifeng was probably one of the least relatable characters I’ve ever read — wow that’s harsh but I could not stand her.

You could tell that that author was really trying to make Xifeng seem like she struggled with her decisions and her destiny but this didn’t come off for me at all. She was wishy-washy and I could not believe she never got called out on some of her blatant lies. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good vicious, manipulative female protagonist but Xifeng was too fake for me, she didn’t embrace the darkness like some of my favorite dark females, instead she put on a show. Some of the reviews I’ve read, said that they loved that Xifeng chose ambition over love but she was never going to choose love. From the beginning the lust for power ruled her.

The first half of the book, when Xifeng was travelling to the Imperial City was just so boring and most of her time in the palace was slow as well. The only time the book picked up for me was toward the end when Xifeng’s true character peeks out… for about a second.

Okay, I don’t normally like to bash books so I am going to stop here. This one gets 1.5 maybe 2 stars from me. Not a favorite.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Wild Beauty

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore is McLemore’s third young adult, magical realism novel.

For more than a hundred year the Nomeolvides women have worked the grounds of La Pradera, creating a lush wonderland of flowers. These gardens are lovely and enchanting and many a rich man will pay dearly for seeds in the hopes that their own gardens will one day bloom as beautifully. But the Nomeolvide women are more than they seem.

This family of females has been gifted with the ability to literally pull flowers out of the ground and if they don’t use their gifts, then their gifts will use them and bloom in sometimes destructive ways, often leaving them with the label: la bruja. But La Pradera has laid claim to them, giving them a home, a safe haven, but also taking from them their ability to leave without deathly consequences. On top of that, the Nomeolvides women are doomed to lose any they love too dearly–their men are taken from them, disappearing like smoke on a wind.

After generations of these vanishings, a strange boy appears out of no where and is a mystery to both the Nomeolvides women and to himself. What does this strange boys sudden arrival mean for the women? And when La Pradera itself is threatened, what will the women do, what will they risk, to learn the truth?

I really love this genre of magical realism; where we are living in this real world setting with real world problems but there is just a sprinkle of something magical thrown in. In the case of Wild Beauty a beautiful ability to grow flowers and a curse on love. It makes you wonder about the world around us and what might or might not be.

Now, I’ve read McLemore’s other magical realism books–The Weight of Feathers and When the Moon Was Ours. I just loved When the Moon Was Ours, it was magical in all the right places, touched on subjects many authors shy away from and was extremely well written. The Weight of Feathers on the other hand, just didn’t hold up. It lacked that pull and the characters weren’t my favorite. So, I figured Wild Beauty would probably lean one way or another and fortunately for me, toward the better.

Wild Beauty was just beautifully written. Much of the prose felt almost poetic, as lovely as the flowers the women grow. The book was romantic without smothering it’s reader. There was also this sense of mystery throughout the book that kept a good pace, where otherwise the story might have lagged.

Ultimately, this was a quick read that met my expectations. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

A Poison Dark and Drowning

A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess is the second book in the Kingdom on Fire series.

At the end of book one we leave Henrietta pretending to be the sorcerers chosen one, when in fact she is only half sorcerer, half magician. Henrietta is supposed to be the savior of magic, the one meant to put down the Ancients and stop this brutal war. But Henrietta isn’t the chosen one and pretending to be so has put her and those she loves in terrible danger.

As Henrietta digs into the Ancients past, hoping for a way to defeat them, she stumbles upon terrible secrets and dark truths that upend her world and risk ruining everything she’s fought for. With her friends in tow, Henrietta will risk everything to make things right. Will Henrietta be able to wage a war built on a field of lies? And what will she do when the cards are stacked against her?

Sigh. I have this problem… If I start a series, I have to finish it no matter how lackluster I feel about it. Kingdom on Fire is a prime example of this. It’s not a bad series, I just wasn’t overly interested in the first book and, unfortunately, that feeling has carried into the second. I kind of like the politics of the magicians vs the sorcerers and their fight against the ancients but that’s about it. Again, in no way is this a bad read, I am just not into it.

There are a few things that could make this better for me… First and foremost, the Rook/Henrietta plot line. I hated this doomed relationship in the first book and it did not get better in the second book… at all. I kind of got annoyed every time Rook even showed up. Harsh, I know.

I also don’t know why every male character has to be in love with Henrietta. Even after they agree to be friends… wait! I still love you. And she like has separate, potential love, connections with each of them. If it were me, I’d be like can’t a girl just be friend! Just too much romance drama in this book for me.

And Blackwood! He was actually one of the characters I really liked and I was sort of rooting for him and Henrietta to get together because they were friends and have a bond and their wasn’t this wish-y wash-y-ness about their relationship. But his character does a complete 180 after about the first 50 pages or so. This almost irked me as much as Rook.

Sorry if it seems like I am bashing this series. It just isn’t my cup of tea. I gotta give it 2.5 stars. Better then the first book but not by much.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Warcross

Warcross by Marie Lu is a futuristic–but not too futuristic–young adult novel for all the gamers–and non-gamers–out there. <<how’d you like that description 🙂

Millions of people across the globe log into their Warcross accounts every day. Warcross isn’t just a video game, it’s virtual/augmented reality that is literally hooked up to almost all aspects of life. People make a living off Warcross–playing the game, selling items and in the case of teenage Emika Chen, as a bounty hunter.

Emika works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But bounty hunting isn’t easy and desperate and in need of some quick cash, Emika risks hacking into the opening ceremony of the international Warcross Championships and after accidentally glitching herself into the game, becomes an overnight sensation.

Thinking she is going to be arrested, Emika is shocked to be offered a job by the Warcross creator, Hideo Tanaka. Now Emika is working undercover as a player in the Warcross Championships, searching for a dangerous hacker known only as: Zero.

Can Emika catch Zero without being caught herself? And what will she do when Emika learns that this final bounty comes with real life risks and complications that she wasn’t prepared for?

I really liked this one. Talk about taking virtual reality to the next level. Warcross takes place in a world where virtual reality has basically taken over everything. The world looks normal without your Warcross glasses but with them on, everything is augmented–signs are animated, you can get data about buildings and people, you just get more. I pretty much compare it to living life without glasses and then one day putting them on to find out that that green blob was actually a tree.

Warcross is techie without being intimidating and could easily be read by both digital natives and digital immigrants. There was just this perfect balance between the gamer/hacker side of things and the characters themselves. And even though our main character is female, I think this is a book boys and girls would enjoy equally.

There’s a little something for everyone in this book. A bit of romance, fighting and action sequences, suspense, puzzles, assassination attempts and at one point there is even an explosion. There is also so much to build upon, what with the Warcross underground and the conflict introduced at the end. Also, Emika is just a cool character.

This was just a unique and really entertaining read. I give this one a very high 4.5 stars.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Last Magician

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell is a YA fantasy novel with magic, mayhem and more.

In a battle that has gone on for decades, Mageus, those with magical abilities, have had to hide in the shadows or risk being persecuted by the Order, a secret society that wants to exterminate all magic in favor of science. In the hopes of winning this fight, the Order created the Brink, a magical barrier that traps all Mageus on the island of Manhattan. Any who wish to cross the Brink, risk losing their magic or sub-coming to death entirely.

In modern day New York, magic is fading and a teenage girl is the only one who can help strengthen magic and destroy the Brink. Esta is a thief and has been training all her life for this one task, to travel back in time and collect an ancient book of magic before a man, known only as the Magician, destroys it and ruins any chance of saving magic.

But things and people aren’t what they seem and Esta becomes torn between doing what is right and doing what must be done. The past is a dangerous place and Esta must make even more dangerous allies in order for her plans to succeed. Can Esta complete her task? Will she be able to help save magic? And who can she trust when time doesn’t always stand still?

There is something about a ragtag group of misfits I just can’t get enough of. You just gotta love characters on the outskirts of society, who live in the shadows but still have a heart. We get quite a few of those in this book. In fact, I couldn’t help thinking about  Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows a few times when Dolph, Esta and the team were all working together, each with their own motives and secrets.

I wasn’t actually expecting to like this book, but it turned out to be a lot more dynamic then I thought it was going to be. The story is actually pretty straightforward until about 3/4 of the way through and then we learn a whole lot more. At first, I wasn’t sure how this book was going to be anything other than a standalone but the last few chapters gave us a lot of branches to go down for a sequel. I am sort of hoping this one will be a duology though and not a series because I just don’t know if there is enough there to keep it going at the same level.

Overall, this was an entertaining read and I am looking forward to the next one. This one gets a solid 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

One Dark Throne

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake is the second book in the Three Dark Crowns series– a YA fantasy series, which is now a 4 book series instead of two.

The ascension year has begun and Katharine, Arsinoe, and Mirabella must fight for the crown. But each of their sisters have their own struggles to face, along with the death that is threatened by each of their hands. Once weak Katharine is now strong and changed since surviving being thrown down a ravine. Arsinoe is still coming to terms with the fact that she is a poisoner and not a naturalist. And Mirabella’s memories of her sister’s haunt her, making her unwilling to kill them.

As the game continues, each sister must look within themselves and figure out what they truly want and to what lengths they are willing to go to get it. But will they do what must be done when poison, bears and lightening threatens? And what if the island itself doesn’t like the decisions they make?

We learned so much more in this book! Reasons I thought Katharine survived the ravine are completely wrong and there is so much more to the island then I originally understood. There are also several characters who do things so out of character that it is a real shock. I want to say that this one is just a bit more dynamic than the first one and thankfully there isn’t as much Jules/Joseph drama.

I have to say I am still rooting for Arsinoe in this one, although both of the other sisters have grown on me at least a little. I hated Mirabella’s character in the first book and I still don’t find her super interesting in this one, but at least I didn’t mind reading her chapters. I do really like Billy as a character and the whole Billy/Arsinoe ship. And even Jules’ plot-line gained a bit more momentum.

Ultimately, I thought Blake really added a lot to the series in this one. I liked the world building in the first one but I think she fleshes it out even more in One Dark Throne. I like where the series is heading and am interested to see how the story plays out. This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-