Book Review: Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

“The Diviners must stand, or all shall fall.”

(page 16)

“The people are afraid now.

Too much history rises from the graves.”

(page 314)

 

The Diviners series is a quartet of young adult books by Libba Bray. Before the Devil Breaks You is book three, an outstanding continuation of the story about evil, racism, ghosts, flappers, love, and the fight for what is right in a country when too many want to turn away from the ugliness.

BeforeDevilBreaksYou

Before the Devil Breaks You brings back all of our original Diviners characters: Evie, Sam, Memphis, Theta, Henry, Mabel, and Jericho as well as Ling, Isaiah, Will, Sister Walker, Blind Bill, and Jake Marlowe. It’s a story filled with action, intriguing imagery, great Roarin’ 20’s slang, and characters that you both love and hate.

The little group of Diviners, those with special powers like Evie, Sam, Memphis, and Theta, have their hands full. While they may have helped the murderous ghost from book two find peace, the supernatural still runs amok. Ghost sightings have increased around NYC and other places. Equally disturbing, and definitely scarier than the ghosts are the eugenics fanatics who are determined to create a pure race and take America back. Yes, you read that correctly.

It’s between the World Wars and many American-born citizens are in danger facing deportation and worse, the loss of their lives. The Civil Rights Movement is decades away, with laws in most states making it illegal for marriage or even a relationship for a couple like Memphis and Theta. And if you’re gay? Forget it. While you may be able to dance with your partner at some of the speakeasies, there’s no way you can go out in public together and show any type of affection for each other.

In the midst of all this, there’s the ghosts being controlled by the King of Crows. The Diviners figure out a way to pool their special talents and obliterate the ghosts, but can they take down the King of Crows? And what about Jake Marlowe; he’s just as bad.

There’s a lot going on this book, but the pace is good and there’s a nice balance. It was interesting to watch Mabel really grow in this book, a non-Diviner, but equally passionate about her cause. I liked learning more about Ling and in particular more of Sam’s background. Author Libba Bray satisfied my romantic notions as well, allowing more than one couple to evolve their relationship to the next level. Sweet, but sexy.

Always great, quotable moments as well. In addition to the two I shared at the top, I found something that Will said stuck with me. In the chapter titled: Mistakes, I found one of my favorite quotes. Spoken by Will in response to Evie wanting to know why can’t anyone just tell the truth. Will says, “Because it’s so hard to know what the truth is. It shifts, depending on who’s telling it and when.” I find this interesting, because Will says ‘when’ not why. And how accurate is that? Totally—because the when directly affects the why, every time.

If you’re not reading this series, I highly recommend it. It’s a good read for anyone who enjoys paranormal, romance, thrillers, ghost stories, and well-crafted narratives that expertly weave in essential bits of actual history. Although set in the 1920’s, Before the Devil Breaks You is timely, tackling issues we’re still dealing with as a nation today. It’s a must-read.

The first book of the series is The Diviners, my Good Reads review is here.

The second book of the series is Lair of Dreams and you can read my review here on the blog.

For more information about these books and about author Libba Bray, please visit her website here: https://libbabray.com/.

The Summer of Re-Reads

When I was a kid, I looked forward to the Summer Reading Program at my local library. Each summer it had a theme and kids of all ages were challenged to read as many books as they could. As a voracious reader, making the preset “goal” was never an issue. Let's Talk Summer Reading!Usually we were given a flyer that had space to write down titles read on the back and on the front were spots for the librarians to add a sticker for each book read—the sticker, of course, matched that summer’s theme. I can’t remember how many weeks it lasted, maybe four? But at the end, there were prizes. I even remember winning tickets to Cubs and Sox games (not in the same summer!). I LOVED these programs when I was kid.

As an adult, I worked at a library and had the privilege of helping with the Summer Reading Program. It was a blast! And I miss those days.

So while thinking about all this and feeling nostalgic, I decided I really was in the mood to revisit some of the books from my home library. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you may have already seen a few of my posts about what I’ve christened:

The Summer of Re-Reads. summer books

While I’m not going to ignore new titles, I do plan on re-reading several books/series. These include but are not limited to:

Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan

It’s been a least five years, probably more since I read this series and I’m really looking forward to having adventures with Percy, Annabeth, and Grover again.

The Diviners by Libba Bray

I plan to re-read the first book in the series, The Diviners and book 2, Lair of Dreams this summer. I need to go back and re-immerse into this world because I bought book 3, Before the Devil Breaks You and I’ve not read it yet.

The New Jedi Order (various authors)

It’s a long series—19 books. Yes, I do own them all, just a portion of my Stars Wars book collection. Trust me, the books, way better than any of the new movies (new movies = any Star Wars movie made after the original trilogy). Will I get to read all 19? Hard to say. I’ve already finished Vector Prime by R.A. Salvatore, so keep an eye out on a review coming soon.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Go ahead, roll your eyes. Are you done? Cool. Okay, so here’s the deal. It’s been at least seven years since I read this book. Yes, I’ve read the trilogy back in the day and I love the movies. But honestly, it’s been so long since I read the book that started it all, I’m curious to see if I’ll enjoy it again. I liked it enough the first time that I did read the rest of the series. I was a bit late to the party, only picking up The Hunger Games after Catching Fire came out. I may even review it here. Who knows? It’s summer, anything’s possible.

The Paranormalcy series by Kiersten White

This is a trilogy that debuted with Paranormalcy back in 2010. I own all three, have read them several times, but it’s been at least four years. I actually finished the first book, Paranormalcy the other day and have up my revised Goodreads review. I’m going to wait until after I read all three, and then I’ll put together a series review for here.

What are you reading this summer?

Book Review: Purple Hearts by Michael Grant

“But she has learned something about fear: you must always listen to it, but you need not give in to it.”

Rainy Schulterman, Purple Hearts, chapter 3, page 41

You can’t read Purple Hearts by Michael Grant and not feel anything. You can’t finish this book and not feel something. Likely you’ll run the gauntlet of feelings—horror, revulsion, admiration, anger, and yes, even joy. Because despite the heavy subject matter, at heart, it’s a story of three young women and Grant did a masterful job weaving it all together.

NewPurpleHeartsThis is the third book in Grant’s Front Lines series featuring Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman. They are soldier girls of World War II in this unique series that combines actual history with a ‘what if?’—what if women were allowed to enlist and were drafted to serve on the front lines during the second World War.

What if these young women kicked ass alongside the men regardless of race, gender, and religion? A female, koummya-carrying platoon sergeant, why not? A female black medic, why not? A female Jewish intelligence agent, why not?

As Purple Hearts opens with D-Day, our three soldier girls most definitely are no longer the young recruits originally introduced in book one. They are war veterans. Soldiers.

They’ve seen the unimaginable, done the unthinkable, and are still standing despite injuries, imprisonment, and the nightmares of war that can never be forgotten. This book takes the reader from D-Day through the end of World War II (and beyond) including their first-hand experiences at the Dachau Concentration Camp.

Like the other two books in the Front Lines series, Purple Hearts is not for the squeamish. It’s brutal, graphic, and immersive. It’s also imaginative, hopeful, and filled with moments that I enjoyed.

Damn, I like these Soldier Girls and I am a bit sorry their story concluded.

The ending of Purple Hearts made me smile, chuckle, and yes, there were some tears. I thought it was a beautiful tribute to these amazing characters we’ve grown to love over the course of three books. Rio, Frangie, and Rainy—I love them for different reasons, but each found a place in my heart and I’ll happily add these young women to my list of favorite fictional characters I’d like to have a drink with.

For more about the author Michael Grant, check out his page at HarperCollins.

 

FrontLines trio

My Silver Stars review (book 2).

My Front Lines review (book 1).

Book Review: The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

“Remember that you are much different now than you were an hour ago, Ceony. Before you merely read about magic; now you have it.”

Chapter 2, page 27, (Mg. Thane)

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg surprised me. This book has a unique magic system that I found intriguing as well as entertaining. I’ve not read another like The Paper Magician and it kept me engaged from start to finish. It’s book one of a trilogy and now I find myself wishing I had bought all three at the same time.

PaperMagician

Author Holmberg introduces readers to Ceony, a young magician embarking on her apprenticeship with Magician Thane. Ceony has selected to enter her post-graduate studies as an apprentice for paper magic. Quite the disappointment to Ceony who had desired something a bit more exciting. Things start out a bit rocky for her as Mg. Thane seems eccentric and not at all what Ceony expected in a Master. However, after a short time, she begins to settle into her new role even when Mg. Thane leaves her on her own for a few days.

Just when Ceony has begun to feel like maybe bonding with paper magic wasn’t the worst thing, her world and life are threatened. A mysterious woman shows up at the Thane home and assaults Mg. Thane, ripping his heart from his chest and stealing away with it. Ceony has to use all her newly developing skills as a paper magician as well as her intellect and bravery to find the woman holding Mg. Thane’s heart and stop her.

Charlie N. Holmberg doesn’t just give us another story with magic and a young apprentice. The Paper Magician is dark, imaginative, and beautifully written. It takes the reader on an intimate journey into one man’s actual heart. Ceony magically enters Mg. Thane’s heart and it’s not a place for the squeamish.

There are lighter moments as well and Fennel the paper dog was a favorite. I didn’t immediately like the character of Ceony, but I grew to admire her and appreciate her as the story unfolded. I am looking forward to reading more about her and this world that Holmberg has created.  

I highly recommend The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg. The next book in the series is The Glass Magician, followed by The Master Magician. You can check out blurbs for all three books here, on the website of Charlie N. Holmberg.

TBR List: 2018 Edition

The #TBR List — every reader has one. It may be a stack of print novels a combination of garage sales finds, library borrows, and new release splurges. Your TBR (to-be-read) list of books may be list on your Good Reads account or a digital pile waiting on your e-reader. Whatever form the TBR list takes, I personally like to take stock of mine a couple of times a year.

My personal TBR List is a combo of digital reads and print books I’ve bought over the last several months, both new releases and used-book store treasures (that’s how I found my hardback copy of Imzadi).

tbr list

In no particular order, my current 2018 TBR List is:

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

Hidden Figures by Margo Lee Shetterly

Zoo by James Patterson

Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig

House of Furies by Madeleine Roux

Safe by Dawn Husted

The Woodcutter by Kate Danley

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Imzadi (a Star Trek novel) by Peter David

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray (book 3 of The Diviners)

The Library Jumpers series by Brenda Drake

Purple Hearts by Michael Grant (book 3 in the Front Lines series)

This is not an exhaustive list, but these are the books that I plan on reading (hopefully) in the next six months. I find that I’m happiest when I’m actively reading. It makes me a better writer and I actually take more joy in writing when I’m reading. Besides I love stories.

I’d also like to read more mythology this year. I love Greek mythology (Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed series is one of my favorite) but after recently reading Brenda Drake’s Thunderstruck with its Norse mythology, I’d like to learn a bit more about that. I’m going to add Norse Gods by Johan Egerkrans to my list as well.

Currently I’m reading Beyond the Edge of the Map (The Mapmaker Chronicles) by A.L. Tait. It’s the fourth book in this series, a series I highly recommend for mid-grade and YA readers. You can check out my thoughts on books 1, 2, and 3. — spoiler: I loved them all!

What are you reading? What’s your 2018 TBR List looking like so far?

Book Review: Thunderstruck by Brenda Drake

“There are more than two choices. Always another way we cannot see for our minds are too close to the heart.”

(Thunderstruck by Brenda Drake)

This weekend I dove into Thunderstruck by Brenda Drake, a YA novel that effortlessly combines Norse mythology, action-adventure, and sweet romance.

Thunderstruck

As a kid, my mom introduced me early to Greek mythology because it was one of her passions. And I fell in love with those stories. Now as an adult, I’ve discovered the Norse myths and they hold me equally entranced. I enjoyed reading Thunderstruck a lot. I had zero preconceptions regarding the story and it’s my first time reading Brenda Drake — so glad I picked up this book!

Quick synopsis (or read the full one on Brenda Drake’s website):

Blake Foster is not your average high school kid. He’s actually Einar, the son of Norse god Thor. He’s been sent to retrieve the powerful horn of Heimdall before all the worlds fall into chaos and destruction. Stevie Moon is your average high school kid, well mostly. She does have a heart condition and a secret identity as well. She’s not a Norse god but she is Comic Cam, a vlog celebrity who unknowingly has ties to Asgard. Blake and Stevie, along with Blake’s brother Kyle/Lajos will work together to prevent Ragnarok and save both Midgard/Earth and Asgard.

Overall, Thunderstruck had a nice balance between the mythology and modern world. I loved watching Blake learn about being a Midgard teen and the distinct contrasts between him and Kyle. There were several little moments throughout the book that made me chuckle and smile. I loved some of Blake/Einar’s observations and thoughts about Midgard. Things like,

“He tugged at the gray tie around his neck. He hated the contraption and wondered why it was a style on Midgard. Was it a leash for lovers to keep their men at bay?” (page 92)

I also enjoyed Stevie’s character. She’s not a damsel in distress — she’s smart, funny, and a good friend. Her parents were slightly absent, but their absence was plausible and offset by the presence of Dr. May Hompluem, a veterinarian who has firsthand knowledge of Norse gods and Asgard.

Thunderstruck is a stand-alone read, not super long, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys engaging characters, a fast-paced plot, and a bit of romance while battling trolls and evil gods.

Discover more Brenda Drake books here. She’s the author of the Library Jumpers series and The Fated series as well.

Book Review: The Last Star by Rick Yancey

“Because love is the most dangerous weapon in the world. It’s more unstable than uranium.”

(The Last Star by Rick Yancey, Chapter 52, page 188)

Dystopian YA has always been a favorite of mine to read. I began reading The 5th Wave series by Rick Yancey because I saw the movie and the basic premise captured my attention. As it often happens, I did like the first book of this trilogy, the one the movie was based upon, way better than the movie. And I liked Cassie, named for Cassiopeia not Cassandra, a lot better in the book as well.

Last Star

Fast forward to book 3, The Last Star. (I’ve already written reviews of book 1 and book 2 if you need to catch up.)

So. The Last Star. For me, a solid 4 of 5 stars is how I rated it on Good Reads. It kept me entertained, continued to develop the remaining characters, and tied up loose ends fairly well. Yes, some of it was predictable, but so are many books and movies of all genres. However, there were several strong moments and ultimately, I liked how our main characters were left.

What I had mild issues with was what I felt was rambling. It felt like (in book 2 as well) that Yancey drones on a bit long in places as characters muse over the “why” of everything. After a while, it felt repetitive and I wanted to skip certain passages. Beyond that, I really liked the series. And I have every intention of rereading it again, maybe later in the year. I’m sure I missed some nuances and with a dystopian series like this told from multiple POVs, things can be misinterpreted or missed completely.

According to Den of Geek, author Rick Yancey has plans to publish three more books in the 5th Wave series. This was reported back in March 2017. If Yancey does publish more books in this series, I’ll read them.

As for The 5th Waves series, I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA end-of-the-world tales with strong female characters and very likable secondary characters.

Added “Everything, Everything” to TBR List

If you’ve been following my book review posts since Christmas, you know I’ve been reading the Rick Yancey YA series The 5th Wave. I’ve already posted my thoughts and reviews about book 1 and book 2 — yes, I liked both.

Currently, I’m reading book three, The Last Star. I had hoped to finish it this morning, but instead found myself sucked in and watching the movie “Everything, Everything” which is based on the book of the same name by author Nicola Yoon. The story held my attention and I loved Maddy, played by actress Amandla Stenberg.

I have not read Nicola Yoon’s YA book Everything, Everything, but now I want to and I’m adding it to my 2018 TBR list.

Wait, what? You’ve not made a TBR list for this year yet? That’s okay! I’m still working on mine and will post it (or whatever I have of it) later this week.

So, I guess that leaves us today with two things:

  1. Keep your eye out for my review of The Last Star by Rick Yancey, the last book in The 5th Wave trilogy.
  2. Share with me your book recommendations for 2018 so I can add them to my TBR list. Pop your number one favorite recommendation in the comments. Thanks!

Book Review: The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

“That’s the lesson they taught us, Razor. What matters and what doesn’t. The one truth at the center of all the lies.”

(The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey, Chapter 82, page 292)

Starting off the New Year by finishing The Infinite Sea, the second book in Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave series. The opportunity to tuck in with a good book for some quality reading time during the hectic holiday season has been pure bliss. I received the boxed set of The 5th Wave series for Christmas and have been making my way through this action-packed, end-of-the-world trilogy that combines just the right amount of YA angst with gritty fight scenes, layers of lies, and relatable characters.

Infinite Sea

The Infinite Sea continues the story of Cassie and Sam Sullivan, Ben “Zombie” Parish, Evan Walker, and the Others who’ve decimated the human the race in five distinct waves. The 5th Wave (book one) ends after the destruction of Camp Haven. Book two picks up shortly after with Cassie, Zombie, Sam, Ringer, Poundcake, Dumbo, and Teacup regrouping, healing, and coming to terms with the revelations they’ve uncovered regarding the Others.

While The Infinite Sea continues along with the storylines for Cassie and Zombie, it also gives readers more Ringer—and believe me, that’s a very good thing. Ringer’s story in book two was my favorite. Loved the insight into her background and Yancey’s development of her character was interesting, riveting, and revealing. In addition to Ringer’s backstory, we also get a deeper look at Poundcake and since I won’t do spoilers I will only say, Poundcake now has to rate as one of my favorite characters of the story.

New characters also are introduced, including Razor. I’m still making up my mind if I like him or not. I think Ringer may still be trying to make up her mind as well. Or not. Hard to say.

What I will say is that there’s a lot to contemplate in this book. Who are the Others really? Why the five waves? Why not just drop a big-ass rock on the planet and be done with it?

Like any good second installment of a trilogy, The Infinite Sea not only moves the story along, but it also leaves it with unresolved conflict and a questions that must be answered in book three.

Overall, I like The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey and I’m anxious to begin book three The Last Star.

Book Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

“Luck had carried us through the first three waves. But even the best gambler will tell you that luck only lasts so long.”

(The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, Chapter 16, page 75)

Author Rick Yancey packs pages of twists and turns into an epic tale of survival during and after a cunning alien invasion. Told from multiple points-of-view (POVs), The 5th Wave is book one in a trilogy. The 5th Wave offers readers a fast-paced, action-adventure wrapped in paranoia and sprinkled with a range of deep emotions—from fear to love and horror. It’s all there.

5th WaveWith the first wave they took out all power. No lights. No motors. No cell phones. All grids down, just a taste of what was to come.

The second wave hits differently. Tsunami. Coastal cities across the globe wiped out. Still, the survivors press on. There is always hope, right?

The third wave decimates. A plague that kills almost everyone it touches. There’s no hiding from the pestilence they’ve unleashed.

Then comes the fourth wave. The Silencers emerge.

What’s the fifth wave? It’s the unthinkable.

Readers ride the waves of the world’s decimation with a variety of characters that include high school kids Cassie Sullivan and Ben “Zombie” Parish. Then there’s Evan Walker, a bit older and definitely different. He saves Cassie’s life, but can we really trust him? Author Yancey weaves a distinctive dystopian story that resonates because it’s just enough to have a reader thinking, hmmm, what if and yes, I could see this, crap—what would I do if I were Cassie or Ben or any other human trying to survive this invasion?

I found The 5th Wave to be a great escape book. It swept me away into its world, and that’s exactly what a good book should do. I didn’t want to put it down and I’m so happy that I have the boxed set so when I finished I was able to grab book two and soldier on with story.

You can find out more about author Rick Yancey here. And I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a well-written end-of-world story told from multiple perspectives and that doesn’t lose its sense of reality.