Book Review: Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

New York City. 
1927.
Lights are bright.
Jazz is king.
Parties are wild.

And the dead are coming…

 
After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that early claimed two of their own, the Diviners have had enough of lies. They’re more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off against an all-new terror. Out on Ward’s Island, far from the city’s bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten–ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.
With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must band together and brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them face-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance, and the Diviners will question all that they’ve ever known. All the while, malevolent forces gather from every corner in a battle for the very soul of a nation–a fight that could claim the Diviners themselves.
I…
I just…
I don’t even know where to start with this book. It is amazing. I consider myself to be one of Libba Bray’s top fans. I picked up A Great and Terrible Beauty back in 2003 when it was on the new arrivals shelf, and I’ve religiously followed her work since then. I have read The Gemma Doyle trilogy more times than I can count.
But this… this book is her best yet. It’s amazing – one of the best I’ve ever read. It has everything; gasp-inducing horror, tremendous character growth, an overall sense of dread that left me unable to put it down, and plot points that broke my heart. The cast of characters have grown so much over the first three books in Libba’s four-book series, and I feel as though they have become truly real and fleshed out by this entry.
My favorite thing about this book is that we continue to see more and more diversity throughout the cast. The cast is racially and ethnically diverse, but also includes many characters who identify as various sexualities. I would love to also see some gender diversity present, but I can not complain whatsoever because Libba is doing what I wish more YA authors were… characters who identify as a sexual minority are main characters, and their sexual orientation is not their defining characteristic.
That bears repeating. There are lesbian, gay, and questioning characters whose defining personality traits are NOT their sexualities. 
As I mentioned in my Lair of Dreams review, Libba does not shy away from discussing the harsh realities of being different in the 1920s. Unfortunately, some of these harsh realities described in Before the Devil Breaks You are still reflected in American culture today. Libba doesn’t pull punches.
This book is so intricate, and there are so many things going on, that I can’t say much without spoiling it. Trust me, this is a journey that you should take for yourself – totally spoiler free.
Also, if you have the chance, the Audible version of the book is incredible. January LaVoy is probably the best reader that I have ever listened to. I plan to look up more of her audiobooks just to hear her again!
Here’s to my first 5-Bard review! Before the Devil Breaks You certainly deserves it!

Book Review: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.
Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.
More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King. 

This book. This dang book. I was in a slump before i started this and in all honesty this just made my slump worse because of how good it was. Here is why i loved it so much:

  • I originally didn’t want to get this book because i was holding out hoping for an audio book version(there is one now, get it here). In the end my friend and i both got discount cards for going to a book signing. We were only there for the day so we both ended up getting a book. I picked out this one. I really lucked out because it is a signed copy! I’m super happy i didn’t get the audio book because the way the I visualize the characters is nothing like how it is done in the audio book(this isn’t bad but some days i have to read books and others i have to listen to them. Nothing wrong with doing either.)
  • I’ve seen all of the Pirate’s of the Caribbean movies(spoiler alert, The last one was so anticlimactic. Please just let this series be over.) but this book puts every single one of those movies to shame.  
  • The book is so vibrant and action packed. I loved the adventure. I loved how it sucked me in and i did not want to finish it because of what the world looked like in my mind’s eye. I loved the world building.  I loved how the main character was a feminist and knew that woman were priceless assets to her crew.  I really loved this book.
  • Whenever i’m in the water(specifically the ocean) i finally feel at home.  I feel a sense of peace wash over me. I feel safe. I feel like the she is protecting me. Like she wants to keep me safe.  There is a passage in this book that resonated with me when it comes to my feels about this ocean/sea. It is:

“Even a man who’s spent his whole life at sea has reason to fear her when she’s angry.  But not I. I sleep soundly. Listening to her music. The sea watches over me.  She protects her own.“ Chapter 4

  • Recently i have been having a very hard time with my mental illness and managing it. Ms. Tricia Levenseller wrote a line that when i read it i had to stop reading because i was going to start crying. 

“Everyone has something dark in their past.  I suppose it’s our job to overcome it. And if we can’t overcome it, then all we can do is make the best of it.” Chapter 5

  • Alsoa overcomes so many obstacles in it. She is a very strong heroine.  The more we learn about her, how she thinks, how she acts, how she simply plays the game of life.  She made me want to be strong.

Anyone who wants a strong heroine and who can hold up her own in a fight should pick this book up ASAP.  I can not wait for the sequel to come out in 2018.

This book is in my top five favorite new released for 2017. 5 Bards

Book Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. 

This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now. When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. 

The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. 

She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

I feel like I should preface this with the tweet that I posted as soon as I finished the book: 

That’s right.  To be honest, I was extremely skeptical of this book when I first read the synopsis due to the dark description of Wonderland and how much I’ve loved the original two books with all my heart. However, I finally gave in to my curiosity (tee hee) and immediately fell in love. 

Not only is Howard’s prose indicative of serious writing prowess, but the word choice and diction is perfect to fit such a magical story and the brilliantly written characters. Oh, and the plot?  Genius. Not only does it involve a fair amount of specific details from Carroll’s original story, but they are distorted just enough to fit with the theme and the idea that a little girl could have gotten some of the details incorrect (fitting with the idea that Alice shared her experience with Carroll upon her return from Wonderland).

Specific things I really enjoyed about the manuscript.  The character of Morpheus, because it seemed very much like an homage to The Matrix’s Morpheus (see the gif): 
The description of the card soldiers immediately made me think of the soldiers in Alice: Madness Returns.  Their metal husks, etc. And it really helped me visualize the fight scene.  Another detail that really stuck out to me was the use of the Vorpal Sword on the bandersnatch and the description of it as more of a hand-held knife (something else that reminded me of the amazing Alice: Madness Returns game):

Overall, I think that Howard has provided readers with a unique outlook on a classic story, a creative plot with room for expansion and additional tales (oh, I mean there WILL be another installment: titled Unhinged), and characters so believable and relatable that you will be so invested in their stories.  Don’t forget that there is a love story. 

So please, for me, for yourself, and for the love of Alice, go pick up a copy of Splintered by A.G. Howard. I don’t want to say too much else, or summarize too much because I’d much rather you read it and then gush about it to your friends as well. 

5 Bards for ingenuity, prose, entertainment value, and sheer awesomeness. 


A few of my favorite quotes:  

“I scroll past images every bit as violent and beautiful as Jeb’s paintings: luminious, rainbow-skinned creatures with bulbous eyes and sparkly, silken wings who carry knives and swords; hideous, naked hobgoblins in chains who crawl on all fours and have corkscrew tails and cloven feet like pigs; silvery pixielike beings trapped in cages and crying oily black tears.” 

“He’s a contradiction: taut magic coiled to strike, gentleness at war with severity, a tongue as sharp as a whip’s edge, yet skin so soft he could be swathed in clouds.” 

Now go pick up a copy!

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