Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Summary:
The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.
When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​
To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for my honest review. I grabbed this one from a ‘read now’ email I got from NetGalley. I saw a few trusted book friends hype it up online and then saw that it was about giant fighting robots and an angry girl. So, that’s really all I knew going into the story. But I was already super interested just from those two things. There was an interesting author’s note before the start of my eARC copy of the book where the author talked a bit about how this story was inspired by the only female Empress that Chima ever had. She mentions that this book is heavily inspired by her own Chinese culture, but that specific woman in history really stuck with her and she wrote this as a retelling of sorts, of how the author thought that Empress might be as a teenage girl in the world that the author created for this story.
We follow Zetian Wu as she’s about to enlist herself as a concubine-pilot for the Chrysalis (the giant fighting robots). This is a position that many families pressure their daughters into singing up for despite knowing that most concubine pilots will die. Zetian isn’t signing up for any reason other than to kill the pilot that murdered her sister and she knows that she will probably die soon after if she succeeds. I’m not explaining the Chrysalis very well, they’re complicated machines that are gifts from the gods, and the actual science behind how they’re built isn’t really explained, but the way that they’re piloted was absolutely fascinating. When Zetian succeeds in her mission, she’s surprised that she isn’t immediately killed afterward. Instead, she’s paired with another pilot: the famous murderer. This is where the story really takes off.
Iron Widow is action-packed and will suck you into the story so quickly. Between the fighting robots and the unlikely team that Zetian finds herself in, it’s hard not to get pulled into the story until you’re spat out at the end left wondering what the heck just happened. The world-building was phenomenal. We see the world through Zetian’s eyes, so it’s easy to be angry about the way women are treated. And when she uncovers some of the military’s secrets that prove this unfair treatment, I raged right alongside the characters. I would have loved to know more about the gods of this world, but I think that’s something we will get in the next book if the ending of this one was giving any hints about what’s to come. I’d also loved to have known more about the nomads that Zetian meets (but it wouldn’t have really made sense in the story if that had happened. I just thought they were really interesting and maybe there was a bit of hinting that we will learn more in the next book.)
The characters were easy to love. Zetian is angry. She’s angry that her sister is dead. She’s angry about how her family treats her. She’s angry about how her mother and grandmother are treated. She’s angry about the way the world treats women. Then she realizes that she just might be able to do something about that unfair treatment. I loved her. I was angry right along with her. The author made it so easy to feel the things that Zetian was feeling. There was a smidge of a polyamorous relationship that I absolutely was rooting for. It starts off between Zetian and her second pilot, but also there’s a romance between Zetian and another character. But both are accepting that she might love them both until they realize that all three have feelings for one another. I wanted more of the three of them. I loved the way the romance was developed. We got to see a slow formation of the dynamic between the three of them, but I wanted more of it. It felt cut short, but I’m hoping that we will get more of that in the next book.
Overall, I cannot say enough good things about this book. It was beautiful and enraging, compelling, and fast-paced. It had characters that were easy to root for and love. There was a romance that I couldn’t help but get invested in. Plus the giant fighting robots, of course.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

Summary:
Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town. Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man—one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him.
By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to. Set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England, Starling crafts a new kind of gothic horror from the bones of the beloved canon. This Crimson Peak-inspired story assembles, then upends, every expectation set in place by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca, and will leave readers shaken, desperate to begin again as soon as they are finished.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for an advanced copy of The Death of Jane Lawrence in exchange for an honest review. This story follows Jane, a woman that is seeking a platonic marriage of convenience so that she is no longer the responsibility of her foster family. She meets with Augustine Lawrence, a local doctor, who eventually agrees to her proposal. But she’s never allowed to stay overnight at his family home, Lindrige Hall. As things tend to go in stories, the first night they are married, Jane’s carriage is washed off the road on its way to town by a rain storm, so the only alternative is that Jane walks back and stays the night with Augustine at Lindrige Hall. This is when things start to get creepy.
I really liked Jane. I thought her backstory and character development were well done. We didn’t get her life’s story dumped on us, but instead got to know her as the story developed. We learned that she was a level headed, logical woman. But the things happening at Lindrige Hall were anything but logical. It was really interesting to see Jane in a situation where her brain couldn’t use reason and logic to explain what was going on around her. I liked Augustine, too. He had secrets that he never thought he would have to share with Jane. It was a marriage of convenience, after all. But when his secrets start coming out, the reader isn’t left with a clear idea of whether or not Augustine is a good or bad person. He was a complicated man and Jane’s growing romantic feelings for him didn’t make things any easier.
The mystery and weirdness of Lindrige Hall made this story excellently spooky. There are ghosts, we think. But they might not actually be ghosts. There’s magic, but is magic actually real? I guess it’s only real if you believe that it’s real. There was so much that defied the logic that Jane depended upon and this really added some confusion to the story, in a good way.
Overall, The Death of Jane Lawrence is the perfect book for October. It’s creepy and atmospheric. It’s weird and confusing. It leaves the reader wondering ‘what the heck is actually going on?’ But all the things that the reader learns are wrapped up for the most part by the end of the story. I liked the characters, the setting, and the magic. I would definitely recommend this one and I will be seeking out Starling’s backlist very soon.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Off The Record by Camryn Garrett

Summary:
When Josie, a teen journalist who dreams of life after high school, wins a contest to write a celebrity profile for Deep Focus magazine (think Rolling Stone), her only concern is that her parents insist she bring her sister as a chaperone. But as Josie joins the cast on a multi-city tour and gets to know the subject of her profile, Marius, she senses that something is off. It’s not long before she learns that a celebrated director has been harassing girls on set and apparently getting away with it for a long time. Josie is reluctant to speak up–she’s not sure this is her story to tell. What if she lets down the women who have entrusted her with their stories? What if her big break ends up being the end of her journalistic career? There are so many reasons not to go ahead, but if Josie doesn’t step up, who will?

Book Cover

Review:
Off the Record is an eARC I was gifted after attending a virtual event that this author was a part of. Thanks to NetGalley for providing the eARC. We follow Josie, the youngest of three sisters, who is a journalist. She’s done mostly work for her school newspaper, but she’s also done some freelancing work for magazines. She’s waiting to hear about a few things. One is whether or not she won the celebrity profile for Deep Focus and the other is if she’s been accepted to her dream college. I liked getting to see a bit of Josie with her whole family before she and one of her sisters, Alice, goes off to follow along on the press tour for the celebrity profile. We get to see a bit of why Josie feels the way she does about things mentioned later in the story. I really liked Josie. She’s a loner who doesn’t really have friends. She’s a dedicated writer. She’s also bisexual, fat, and has anxiety. Her anxiety is pretty prevalent throughout the book and I really liked how it was portrayed. We see her try different coping methods where some worked sometimes and others worked better another time. I really liked the anxiety representation.
While Josie and Alice are on the press tour, Josie is interviewing the cast and crew of the movie. She ends up making friends with the two younger members, Penny and Marius. Marius is who Josie is writing a profile about, so the two develop a relationship with all of the time they spend together. Penny and Josie end up friends, which leads to Josie learning about a director who has been sexually harassing women he’s worked with. Josie and Penny start working together to get in touch with others who have been harassed by this director and writing a story about it. I really liked this aspect of the story. It didn’t shy away from the details and really talked about how stuff like this is overlooked in the industry.
Overall, I really liked this one. I liked how we got to see Alice and Josie’s relationship change after they managed to communicate better. I liked the little bit of romance that was included. I also liked that when Josie reacted poorly to someone’s story about this director, she was called on it for saying shitty things. I would definitely recommend this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore

Summary:
Four years after Bitterblue left off, a new land has been discovered to the east: Torla; and the closest nation to Monsea is Winterkeep. Winterkeep is a land of miracles, a democratic republic run by people who like each other, where people speak to telepathic sea creatures, adopt telepathic foxes as pets, and fly across the sky in ships attached to balloons.
But when Bitterblue’s envoys to Winterkeep drown under suspicious circumstances, she and Giddon and her half sister, Hava, set off to discover the truth–putting both Bitterblue’s life and Giddon’s heart to the test when Bitterbue is kidnapped. Giddon believes she has drowned, leaving him and Hava to solve the mystery of what’s wrong in Winterkeep.
Lovisa Cavenda is the teenage daughter of a powerful Scholar and Industrialist (the opposing governing parties) with a fire inside her that is always hungry, always just nearly about to make something happen. She is the key to everything, but only if she can figure out what’s going on before anyone else, and only if she’s willing to transcend the person she’s been all her life.

Book Cover

Review:
Winterkeep starts off a few years after the ending of Bitterblue. I thought this was an interesting choice since much of this series has had a focus on Bitterblue. She feels like the heart of this series. But this time, we’re seeing Bitterblue as a fully established Queen. We’re also not only following Bitterblue, but we get Giddon’s point of view as well as a young teenager from Winterkeep. Lovisa Cavenda was my biggest problem with this book. I’ll elaborate on that in a bit.
I really liked getting to see more of this world. I thought it was interesting that instead of seeing more of Monsea or the Dells, we see a whole new part of the world. This book primarily takes place in Winterkeep. A newly discovered place that is a part of Torla. Monsea is Winterkeep’s closest neighbor. I though this new place was interesting. They’re more technologically advanced than Monsea, they have airships which was a fun addition to the story. But not everything is as it seems in Winterkeep. When two of Bitterblue’s envoys die suspiciously, it’s decided that Bitterblue, Giddon, and some advisors are going to travel there.
This is when the story really starts to get going. Like her previous books, this one was a bit slow going. But I still enjoyed it. I listened to the audiobook and I really loved the narrator. They did a great job with all the different characters and voices. I would definitely listen to more audiobooks with this narrator. Now, the characters.
Bitterblue is the same girl we came to know and love from the previous books. But at times, it felt like she forgot that she was a literal queen and made herself smaller because of the situation she managed to get into. I still loved her though.
Giddon was interesting because he’s grieving for most of this book. We see him lose control of his emotions again and again. But he’s still the same Giddon from the previous books. I thought it was interesting to see him express himself, we get to see him let his emotions out, but still mostly manage to focus on the goal he came to Winterkeep to achieve.
Now, Lovisa. She’s the daughter of two people in the Winterkeep parliament. But they are both of opposing political parties. There’s a bit of unrest in Winterkeep as an important vote is about to come up. Lovisa made me mad because she could have been an amazing character. But she finds out about things her parents have done and instead of telling literally anyone, she keeps it all to herself. She eventually tries to fix the situation, but things get so much worse before she does that. I just wanted her to do something, anything really. Because of her inaction, people are killed. I also didn’t like how she used people. She has sex with a few different people in this book, which is fine, but she uses sex to get herself out of trouble and that led to others getting in trouble. She almost used it as a weapon, and then felt bad about it. I didn’t like that. I think people should have sex with whoever they want, but Lovisa always knew she wasn’t doing the right thing and felt bad about it afterward. It also seemed like she was attracted to girls, but that wasn’t ever confirmed so it felt like queerbating. I just genuinely didn’t like Lovisa, which was a bummer because she had the potential to be a really interesting character.
Overall, despite not liking one of the main characters, I still enjoyed this book. There’s interesting politics that we see unfold. There’s action, adventure, but there’s also several different emotional journeys that we get to see unfold. I also was very intrigued by the blue foxes that are well known in Winterkeep. I’ll be interested to see if/how they play a part in future books. I liked that we got to see characters we know and already love, but we also got to get to know some new ones. If you liked the first three Graceling books, I think you’ll like this one too.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.  

Yesterday is History by Kosoko Jackson

Summary:
Weeks ago, Andre Cobb received a much-needed liver transplant.
He’s ready for his life to finally begin, until one night, when he passes out and wakes up somewhere totally unexpected…in 1969, where he connects with a magnetic boy named Michael.
And then, just as suddenly as he arrived, he slips back to present-day Boston, where the family of his donor is waiting to explain that his new liver came with a side effect—the ability to time travel. And they’ve tasked their youngest son, Blake, with teaching Andre how to use his unexpected new gift.
Andre splits his time bouncing between the past and future. Between Michael and Blake. Michael is everything Andre wishes he could be, and Blake, still reeling from the death of his brother, Andre’s donor, keeps him at arm’s length despite their obvious attraction to each other.
Torn between two boys, one in the past and one in the present, Andre has to figure out where he belongs—and more importantly who he wants to be—before the consequences of jumping in time catch up to him and change his future for good.

Yesterday Is History

Review:
Yesterday is History follows Andre Cobb. Andre has survived cancer, but needed a liver transplant to do so. But his new liver comes with a secret, time travel. Obviously, Andre is not expecting to travel back to 1969 when he tries to lay down in his bed. It’s then that he meets Michael. Andre and Michael quickly develop feelings for one another. I think this was the downfall of this book. The concept was a really interesting one, but I just think it fell short. The romance between Andre and Michael felt really under developed. They’re supposed to be super in love, but they’ve only spent a totally of less than a week together. I get that it was more time than that to Michael, but only saw things from Andre’s point of view. We only saw a few days. But I was really invested in Andre’s romance with Blake. Blake was kind of an asshole, but Andre called him on it every time, going as far as explaining how to give an acceptable apology. I liked how their characters both developed both as individuals and as a couple.
I think the time travel love triangle was a really interesting concept. But I think it fell flat for me because it felt under developed. I wanted to see more. It all happened too fast. I think if we had gotten more time to see Michael and Andre together, I could have been invested. The potential was there for me to really love this, but there just wasn’t enough of the story to get me there.
Overall, I think this story was a quick and fun read. I just wanted more from it. I liked Andre a lot. He was quick to call out problematic things that others said to him or around him. But he also made it clear that it wasn’t his responsibility to educate them on their wrong doings. I liked the concept, but the execution fell a bit flat for me. I will be checking out Jackson’s future books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Summary:
Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years. The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.
When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.
As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.
From award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes an incisive, action-packed tale that explores big questions about technology, grief, love, and humanity.
Westworld meets Warcross in this high-stakes, dizzyingly smart sci-fi about a teen girl navigating an afterlife in which she must defeat an AI entity intent on destroying humanity, from award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman.

The Infinity Courts (The Infinity Courts, #1)

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. The Inifinity Courts is one of my most anticipated 2021 releases. The cover is what drew me in at first, but the summary also sounded like something I would really enjoy. After finishing the aARC, I can confirm that I was absolutely correct.
The story follows Nami during the last hours of her life and then continues after her death once she’s arrived in the afterlife. She learns that instead of Heaven or Hell, souls are sent to a play called Infinity. But all in Infinity is not as it should be. The AI that is commonly known and used on Earth, Ophelia, has found her way into Infinity and taken it over. Humans are treated as servants, their free will wiped away upon their arrival in Infinity with a pill. The Residents, all created by Ophelia, are the ruling class. But some of the humans have an instinct that something isn’t right when they arrive in Infinity, these are the Heroes. Nami is a Hero.
I really liked Nami. I liked her when she was alive and I liked her after she’d died. Even though she’s died, her character continues to grow. She gave her life to save a little girl, so she’s dubbed a Hero. But once she’s among the resistance, she’s not sure that she’s in agreement with their plan to wipe out Ophelia, which would mean wiping out all of the Residents as well. I liked that Nami played a sort of devils advocate. But she didn’t do it to cause trouble. She genuinely believes that there should be a way for the humans and the Residents to live together, to coexist. This brings a lot of really relevant conversations to the table about humanities ability to be peaceful and kind. In the eyes of the Residents, humans bring nothing but hate and war all in the name of love, or religion, or gender. I really appreciate how Bowman thoughtfully addressed the many issues that humans are dealing with today in a fantastical setting. I think she did a really good job with this aspect. The question of right and wrong or good versus evil is a theme in the story and I think that too was done really well. It’s shown that there may be redemption for those who do evil, but it’s not the job of the victims to redeem the villains. The gray area that exists in the question of good versus evil was where Nami stood. She didn’t think it was us versus them. She thought there could be a middle ground. I think this personal conflict of hers was a really compelling aspect of the story.
The world was absolutely fascinating. This afterlife, Infinity, is supposed to be paradise. But it’s been taken over by Ophelia and her four sons. Each of her sons have their own kingdom with Ophelia ruling in the capitol. Each kingdom serves a different purpose. I really would have loved to explore the other kingdoms more (even though they sound absolutely terrifying and awful) but I have a feeling we will be doing that in the next book.
Overall, this book was an incredible ride. It made smart and thoughtful statements about the hatred and prejudice that people deal with everyday. But it also asked the interesting question of whether or not people deserve the chance to learn and do better after making mistakes. I think the writing was excellent. There are so many quotable lines that will be sticking with me after finishing this story. I highly recommend this book and I will be doing so for the foreseeable future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

On This Unworthy Scaffold by Heidi Heilig

Summary:
Jetta’s home is spiraling into civil war.
Le Trépas—the deadly necromancer—has used his blood magic to wrest control of the country, and Jetta has been without treatment for her malheur for weeks. Meanwhile, Jetta’s love interest, brother, and friend are intent on infiltrating the palace to stop the Boy King and find Le Trépas to put an end to the unleashed chaos.
The sweeping conclusion to Heidi Heilig’s ambitious trilogy takes us to new continents, introduces us to new gods, flings us into the middle of palace riots and political intrigue, and asks searching questions about power and corruption. As in the first two books, the story is partly told in ephemera, including original songs, myths, play scripts, and various forms of communication.

On This Unworthy Scaffold (Shadow Players, #3)

Review:
I want to start by saying a huge thank you to Heilig’s publicity team that reached out to me to see if I was interested in reading an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. On This Unworthy Scaffold is one of my most anticipated releases in 2021 and I literally screamed a little when I got the email asking if I was interested.
On This Unworthy Scaffold is the third and final book in the Shadow Players series. I won’t go too much into a summary of the book because there is a summary above and also this is the third book in a series. If you haven’t read the first two books you can read my reviews for For a Muse of Fire and A Kingdom for a Stage. This series follows Jetta, her family, and the friends she makes along the way. I’ve come to really love all of the side characters that make up the main group. Jetta and the rebels have a plan. But as things usually go, nothing goes according to plan. The plot of this story was really compelling. Jetta and Theodora go off on one mission. With this we finally get to see Aquitan. I liked this part of the story. We get to see Jetta think on her feet. She’s still often worried that her malheur. I liked that there was talk of her taking the elixir, a version of modern-day medication. I liked that she was aware of it and questioned herself sometimes to wonder if she was making good choices or not. I also really liked Jetta’s problem solving. She’s not afraid to stand up to those in power. I thought it was really clever the way that she brought things full circle when she finally performed in Aquitan. I just genuinely enjoyed seeing her in her own element, making choices on the fly to get herself out of the situation that she found herself in. I also loved Theodora. She’s an engineer/inventor. I feel like I didn’t get to see as much of her as I would have liked, but I still liked what we did see. She’s smart and unafraid to say what she thinks. Jetta and Theodora working together was really fun to read.
The other team is the Tiger, Leo, Akra, Cheeky, and Tia. Cheeky and Tia are absolutely the comedic relief of the story. But they bring good conversations to the table. They are sex workers and it’s always talked about in a positive way, never with any shame. I also still love Akra. He and Jetta have their ups and downs that come from her bringing him back from the dead, but I loved their relationship. And my dear sweet Leo. I hate the way his story ended. No, I don’t hate it. I hate how fitting it was for his part of this story to end that way. Leo has tried so hard to do good and be loved. He faces his own challenges through this series, but he never lets anything get him down for long. His love for Jetta is so clear. Jetta and Leo lift one another up and I couldn’t help but root for them.
Overall, this was a beautiful and heartbreaking finale to a series that I will reread and love for years to come. I love these characters. I love this story. It includes a lot of important things, like colonialism and bipolar. It’s filled with diverse and queer characters. It’s also written in a unique format, with sheet music, play scripts, myths, and prose. I cannot recommend this series enough.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Crown of Gilded Bones by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Summary:
She’s been the victim and the survivor…
Poppy never dreamed she would find the love she’s found with Prince Casteel. She wants to revel in her happiness but first they must free his brother and find hers. It’s a dangerous mission and one with far-reaching consequences neither dreamed of. Because Poppy is the Chosen, the Blessed. The true ruler of Atlantia. She carries the blood of the King of Gods within her. By right the crown and the kingdom are hers.
The enemy and the warrior…
Poppy has only ever wanted to control her own life, not the lives of others, but now she must choose to either forsake her birthright or seize the gilded crown and become the Queen of Flesh and Fire. But as the kingdoms’ dark sins and blood-drenched secrets finally unravel, a long-forgotten power rises to pose a genuine threat. And they will stop at nothing to ensure that the crown never sits upon Poppy’s head.
A lover and heartmate…
But the greatest threat to them and to Atlantia is what awaits in the far west, where the Queen of Blood and Ash has her own plans, ones she has waited hundreds of years to carry out. Poppy and Casteel must consider the impossible—travel to the Lands of the Gods and wake the King himself. And as shocking secrets and the harshest betrayals come to light, and enemies emerge to threaten everything Poppy and Casteel have fought for, they will discover just how far they are willing to go for their people—and each other.
And now she will become Queen… 

The ​Crown of Gilded Bones (Blood and Ash, #3)

Review:
The Crown of Gilded Bones is the third book in the From Blood and Ash series. If you’d like to read my reviews for the first two books, they’re linked here: From Blood and Ash review and A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire review. I’m going to start this review by saying that if you haven’t read the first two books and you plan to, eventually, maybe come back to this review after you’ve done that. I won’t be spoiling anything from The Crown of Gilded Bones, but I will probably be spoiling events from the first two books.
In this third installment of the series, we start right where book two left off. Poppy and Casteel have arrived in Atlantia. There is so much new information being thrown at Poppy. I really liked the way that Armentrout deals with this. Instead of info-dumping, Poppy sort of absorbs everything she’s hearing, maybe asks one or two questions, but saves most of her questions for when there’s actually time for her and Casteel or her and Kieran to sit down and talk about it all. Poppy is the rightful Queen of Atlantia. She has a choice to make whether or not to accept this responsibility. I liked that Poppy wasn’t forced to become the queen just because she is the rightful ruler by blood. Her choice isn’t taken away from her once again, it’s up to her to decide if she wants to be queen. I liked the interactions between Poppy and Casteel and Casteel’s parents. I liked that everything wasn’t just fine and dandy. There was conflict and conversation before being able to actually develop Poppy’s relationship with her mother and father-in-law.
The Wolven come into play often in this book. As Poppy is Queen by blood, the blood of a God, they are loyal to her. I loved this aspect of the story. She’s a little bit uncomfortable with it and her moments spending time with the Wolven definitely added some moments of levity to an action packed and otherwise serious story.  I liked meeting more of the Wolven and even the infamous Gianna. I think Poppy’s bond to the Wolven was a really interesting aspect of the story. She’s exploring what that bond entails (communicating telepathically??) and how it works.
This leads me into Poppy’s godly abilities. There isn’t anyone alive to teach Poppy how to use her abilities. She is a descendent of Nyktos, so she has power over life and death, but as she’s learning in this book, her powers are so much more than that. I really liked seeing Poppy explore her abilities and figure out what she can do and how to do it. I think that it’s another great way that Poppy gains control over her own life. She can do these incredible things, like healing people from the brink of death or the opposite. But she has to choose to learn how and choose to use her powers.
Now, the sex scenes in this book are to die for. There were so many specific sex scenes that I wanted to happen and Armentrout blessed us with them. And not at all surprising, these scenes were even better than what I’d hoped for. I think Armentrout is doing an incredible job showing sex as something natural and fluid thing. Poppy watches someone doing something, because Wolven are very open about their nudity and attraction, and then she tries it with Casteel. I think this is such a great part of the book. There is no shame when it comes to sex for any of the characters and I think that’s such an important thing. I think sex is today’s world can be considered such a taboo and sometimes shameful thing to talk about and I’m so glad that Armentrout only shows it in positive ways.
The world is also opening up so much more. We learn more about the history of the world and we visit new places in Atlantia as well as a secret new place. I think this world is such an interesting one. I have a feeling we will be seeing even more, as there was definitely some foreshadowing of places to come for the rest of the series. It’s here that I also want to mention all the answers we finally get. I was left with so many questions at the end of A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire and almost all of them were answered, though Armentrout certainly left me with an entirely new set of questions. It’s interesting because I had the questions I went into this book with answered but I finished the book and still have so many questions and yet I still feel satisfied with the answers I did get.
Poppy and Casteel are absolutely one of my favorite bookish couples. I think the development of their relationship is so incredibly done. They really are so well suited. Casteel gives Poppy the freedom of choice that she so desperately needs and Poppy gives Casteel the love and support that he needs. They both manage to know exactly what the other needs when they need it. And their sexual chemistry is nothing short of perfection. I loved that even in the most serious of moments, they are joking and being completely inappropriate with one another. It’s just so fitting for who their characters are and how they are together.
Overall, this series just keeps getting better and better. I was absolutely devastated by the events in the final 100 pages of this book and I will be anxiously awaiting book four to see how things play out. I can’t say that I’m not incredibly excited to see a rage filled Poppy take on Solis. It’s going to be glorious and there are so many new things and new information in play. I think the series will just continue to get better and better and I cannot wait.

Quotes:

“I would kill any and all who stood between Casteel and me because we deserved to be together. We deserved a future, a chance to explore each other’s secrets. To love one another. We deserved to simply…live. I would do anything to ensure that.”

“You are the foundation that helps me stand. You are my walls and my roof. My shelter. You are my home.”

“I’d spent the better part of my life clothed from chin to floor, and more than half of my face covered. I knew how to hide. I was only now learning how to be seen.”

“I do not want to be party to forcing you into yet another role you did not ask for nor desire. I will not replace the veil you loathed with a crown you hate. If you do not want to take the Crown, I will support you,” he swore, and the intensity in his words captured me. The irrevocable oath he was making. “And if you decide you want to take what is yours, claim the throne, I will set this entire kingdom on fire and watch it burn if that ensures that the crown sits on your head.”

“Bravery is a fleeting beast, isn’t it? Always there to get you into trouble, but quick to disappear once you’re where you want to be.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

Summary:
It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.
Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.

Lost in the Never Woods

Review:
Lost in the Never Woods was provided to me via NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review. This book follows Wendy Darling years after she and her brothers disappeared in the woods. But while Wendy reappeared with no memory of the time she was missing, her brothers did not. Wendy is turning 18. She’s about to go off to college and start life on her own. She volunteers at the hospital with the kids. When kids from her town start disappearing, they’re kids that Wendy knows. So, she feels like she needs to do something to help get them back. But things get weird when Wendy finds Peter Pan late one night near the woods while she’s driving home.
I really liked the retelling aspect of this book. Things took a really dark turn that I wasn’t expecting. I’ve never been a super fan of Peter Pan, so I don’t know if this twist was one from Thomas’s imagination or if it stems from previous Peter Pan stories. But it shocked the heck out of me, so there’s that. I think the plot of the story, Peter and Wendy trying to rescue the missing kids was a good one. But I think the story felt really slow. They meet to brainstorm, try to find the kids, and figure out a general plan of action several times. Some of these times end up with them getting ice cream or doing something completely unrelated to their goal of finding the kids. I just felt like the story was pretty slow and drawn out.
Now, I will say that the writing and the other topics covered in the story made this slow pace a bit more enjoyable. Wendy is suffering from survivor’s guilt. She made it out of the woods with no memory of what happened or where her brothers are now. So, this was a big focus of the story. I liked this aspect. It was hard to read at times, but I think the grief and guilt was really well done. Wendy’s parents are also pretty neglectful. As a parent myself, I felt for them. They lost their two youngest children with no sure knowledge of whether they’re dead or alive. This loss consumes Wendy’s parents and after her return they are not the same parents they were before. I liked the conclusion with Wendy’s parents. As hard as it was to read their suffering and grief, I really liked how their relationship with Wendy changed.
Peter as a character was absolutely fascinating. I saw a review where he’s described as a ‘manic pixie dream boy’ and I think that perfectly explains his character. He’s mysterious, curious, and a bit wild. He’s dealing with losing his magic and growing into an adult, which he isn’t supposed to do. But it’s clear he knows things that he isn’t telling Wendy. They mystery of Peter and his secrets was really well done. Small things were revealed overtime to keep us interested until the big reveal. Wendy however, felt a little bland. She was pretty much only her grief and guilt. We get a little bit other than that with her volunteering and plans to go off to college, but it felt like she had no personality.
Overall, I enjoyed this story. I think many will really love this story. It brings heavy conversations to the table and talks about them thoughtfully and with respect. It had characters you want to root for. The writing is beautiful and memorable but still easy to read.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

Summary:
Welcome to Amontillado, Ohio, where your last name is worth more than money, and secrets can be kept… for a price.
Tress Montor knows that her family used to mean something—until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. She might still be a Montor, but the entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo,” – a wild animal attraction featuring a zebra, a chimpanzee, and a panther, among other things.
Felicity Turnado has it all – looks, money, and a secret that she’s kept hidden. She knows that one misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is… only that she can’t look at Tress without having a panic attack.
But she’ll have to.
Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity – brick by brick – as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. With a drunken party above them, and a loose panther on the prowl, Tress will have her answers – or settle for revenge.
In the first book of this duology, award-winning author Mindy McGinnis draws inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe and masterfully delivers a dark, propulsive mystery in alternating points of view that unravels a friendship… forevermore. 

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

Review:
McGinnis’ books have been hit or miss for me. I either absolutely love them or I don’t really like them very much at all. The Initial Insult was one I really, really enjoyed. It was dark and gritty. It was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and that absolutely comes through in the story. It follows Tress and Felicity in alternating chapters.
Tress and Felicity were best friends, but then Tress’s parents disappear late one night while they were giving Felicity a ride home. Felicity doesn’t remember what happened. She didn’t see anything, but vaguely remembers being carried away from the car. Since then, she’s become one of the popular girls in high school. She also has seizures that she doesn’t let anyone know about. I thought it was really interesting to see how Felicity deals with this. She uses drugs and drinks to excess. While I didn’t like Felicity for most of the book, especially after we flashback to story after story of her not handling things with Tress well, it was hard not to feel for her. She’s been pushed this way and that by her mother, her friends, even by Tress. The way her story ended was definitely shocking and I am very eager to see what will happen with her in the next book.
Tress was a very unlikable character as well. But in a different way. Her parents went missing and she was sent to live with her grandfather. Her grandfather owns an exotic animal zoo (think Tiger King). It’s certainly an adjustment for her, moving from a stable home with two parents to a trailer on land with incredible dangerous animals that she’s now been enlisted to help take care of. To say that Tress is unhappy doesn’t accurately explain her feelings. She has never gotten over her parent’s disappearance. This is what fuels Tress to trick Felicity into the basement and question her about what Felicity remembers from that night.
I think this story was a wild ride. It had so many different things going on, but it wasn’t too much. None of the plotlines took away from any of the others. I loved how dark this story was. Tress was a really dark character. She did illegal things to make money. She essentially tortures Felicity, who used to be her best friend. But also, I sort of loved her.
The way the story was told was really well done. We start in present day, leading up to the Halloween party where most of this story happens. But while Tress is questioning Felicity, we get flashbacks into the past that show us both Tress and Felicity’s points of view in these moments. I thought McGinnis did an incredible job getting me to like both of these terrible girls. They’re so different from one another, but they’re both terrible.
Overall, I really enjoyed this. I think anyone that likes dark books will like this one. I loved the way the story was told, the characters, the mood and tone of the story. I loved it all. The ending matched the rest of the story by being totally wild. Also, I just have to mention the chapters from the panther’s point of view. They were weird and I completely loved them. I definitely recommend this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Namesake by Adrienne Young

Summary:
Trader. Fighter. Survivor.
With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems.
As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception she learns that her mother was keeping secrets, and those secrets are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.

Namesake (Fable, #2)

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with this eARC in exchange for an honest review. Namesake is the sequel to Fable (which I reviewed here). I really loved Fable, so I was very excited to get approved to read its sequel. Namesake did not disappoint. I’m just going to say right now that there will be spoilers for Fable, so stop reading now if you haven’t read the first book.
Namesake follows Fable, our main character, after the cliffhanger ending. Fable has been kidnapped and once again separated from her crew. I missed seeing the crew together, but I loved all of the secrets that we learned and getting to see more of this captivating world. We get to see more outside of the Narrows that we learned about in Fable. The mysterious Bastian is finally revealed. We also get to meet the infamous Holland. I really enjoyed seeing this world open up. Young’s writing is so great. It’s detailed enough to give a clear picture of the story and the characters, but not so flowery that it danced around.
Fable is the same badass, intelligent, fierce main character that she was in the first book. She’s faced with a lot of revelations about the past that she’s forced to deal with in her present. I thought these secrets and twists were well done. I didn’t see any of them coming and they really did great things for the overall story.
Now, I’m sad to say that I didn’t love the romance between Fable and West as much in this book. I still liked it and was invested in their happy ending, but there was something about it that I just didn’t like in this book. I think the conflict that was introduced, specifically for the romance, wasn’t needed at all. I didn’t care for the comparisons to Fable’s father and the doubt that it caused for Fable. Especially since I don’t feel like any of that was really worked through.
Overall, this was another action packed, high stakes story that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved Fable. I loved seeing her faced with challenges and working through her choices. I liked seeing her try to solve problems and figure out the next steps. I loved seeing more of this world. I especially loved the writing. I will definitely be looking into Young’s backlist soon.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

Summary:
Eleanor Zarrin has been estranged from her wild family for years. When she flees boarding school after a horrifying incident, she goes to the only place she thinks is safe: the home she left behind. But when she gets there, she struggles to fit in with her monstrous relatives, who prowl the woods around the family estate and read fortunes in the guts of birds.
Eleanor finds herself desperately trying to hold the family together — in order to save them all, Eleanor must learn to embrace her family of monsters and tame the darkness inside her.
Rose Szabo’s thrilling debut is a dark and thrilling novel about a teen girl who returns home to her strange, wild family after years of estrangement, perfect for fans of Wilder Girls.

What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

Review:
Generally, I start my reviews with a bit of a summary of the story in my own words. Well, I can’t do that with this review because I honestly have no idea what just happened. I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed the narrator. I felt like the story itself wasn’t super fast-paced (until the end anyway) but it still felt like I flew through the story. I think part of this is because I was so confused and filled with questions that I just needed to keep going so I could get some answers.
I gave this book 4 stars, but honestly, I’m still so confused. The story follows Eleanor after she flees her boarding school and returns home to a family she hasn’t seen in almost ten years. Her family is filled with monsters and she is missing quite a few important pieces of her memory. The things that Eleanor couldn’t remember was one of the more frustrating aspects of this book because it clear that her family remembers more than she does, but because she’s been gone so long with no communication from anyone aside from her grandmother, there’s a lot of distrust between all of them. Eleanor’s grandfather, sister, father, and cousin are werewolves (they’re never called that because their origin is a whole other thing. But they’re basically werewolves). Her paternal grandmother (the one that sent her away in the first place) is a witch of some sort and her mother is hinted to be something, but it’s never really addressed. Now, with all of this, it was easy to assume that Eleanor was also something, but we didn’t know what exactly that was. This was one of the big plot lines of the book. What is Eleanor? Well, we learn that what she is played a big part of everything that’s happened to her.
So, the things that I liked about this story were many. Despite being confused as heck for most of this story, I was interested. The setting was atmospheric and vivid. The author did an excellent job with stunning imagery. I liked seeing Eleanor uncomfortable. I think this was because I didn’t really like Eleanor. She doesn’t make good choices (her grandmother gives her advice on her death bed and Eleanor basically never thinks about it again even though following that advice would have saved her from literally everything in this book). But what compelled me to continue on in this story was that I couldn’t help but understand why Eleanor did the things she did. It wasn’t hard to sympathize with her even though I didn’t really like her. There were some things that were so clear to the reader that Eleanor didn’t want to see them, so she didn’t. But with her backstory, it was easy to understand why she was this way. I loved all of the fantasy/horror elements. The monsters and the magic, the stories that we heard the family tell, it was all so creepy in the best way. I also really loved Margaret. She’s Eleanor’s aunt. I liked the slow development of the relationship from actively disliking one another to finding themselves on the same side and working together. Margaret doesn’t speak and doesn’t like to be spoken to, so we get some fun charades scenes.
I would have liked to have gotten a bit more from some of the other characters though. We got a lot of Arthur (a family friend) because he is a love interest. I think the ‘romance’ was absolutely not needed for this story to work. Romance is in quotes because there was a sort of happily ever after that I didn’t really care for. I would have totally been okay with all the other bits of the ‘romance’ if they hadn’t gotten that HEA moment, especially after learning all the details of Arthur’s backstory. We didn’t get much from Eleanor’s cousin and sister other than the fact that they were spoiled adults that acted like children because they’d been given or had taken anything they had ever wanted or needed.
Overall, this was a wild ride that was spooky, creepy, scary, and a whole bunch of other things. I think it was written well. But sometimes there was just a bit too much going on. I loved all the monsters and magic and mayhem. I will definitely be reading more work by Szabo.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

This Will Be Funny Someday by Katie Henry

Summary:
A girl walks into a bar… then onto a stage, and up to the mic.
Sixteen-year-old Izzy is used to keeping her thoughts to herself—in school, where her boyfriend does the talking for her, and at home, where it’s impossible to compete with her older siblings and high-powered parents—but when she accidentally walks into a stand-up comedy club and performs, the experience is surprisingly cathartic. After the show, she meets Mo, an aspiring comic who’s everything Izzy’s not: bold, confident, comfortable in her skin. Mo invites Izzy to join her group of friends and introduces her to the Chicago open mic scene.
The only problem? Her new friends are college students—and Izzy tells them she’s one, too. Now Izzy, the dutiful daughter and model student, is sneaking out to perform stand-up with her comedy friends, and she can hardly remember all the lies she’s telling to keep her two lives separate.
Her controlling boyfriend is getting suspicious, and her former best friend knows there’s something going on. But Izzy loves comedy and this newfound freedom. As her two parallel lives collide—in the most hilarious of ways—Izzy must choose to either hide what she really wants and who she really is or, finally, truly stand up for herself.

This Will Be Funny Someday

Review:
This Will be Funny Someday is a story that follows Isabel, the youngest child (an unexpected pregnancy for her parents), feels like a pig among a family of puppies, always trying to keep up and never succeeding. She has learned to keep her thoughts to herself, never speaking up. So, this pattern follows with her boyfriend, Alex. He is controlling and abusive, though Isabel hasn’t realized that yet. But when she worries that she’ll get in trouble if he sees her, she sneaks into what she thinks is a restaurant. Isabel has hearing issues. It’s not her ears, but some sort of auditory processing disorder. So, she manages to find her way into a loud club and can’t understand what is being said. Little does she know, she just signed herself up to perform as a stand-up comedian. On stage, she becomes Izzy V. She finds a place where she can use her voice.
Izzy meets Mo and some of Mo’s friends. Mo brings Izzy into the stand-up comedy world. I loved all of the parts of this story that had Mo and their friends in it. They were funny because they’re all teaching Izzy about comedy and how to write good jokes. But they’re a diverse group so, they also talk about the struggles of stand-up comedy as a person of color or as someone queer. These are topics Izzy wouldn’t generally have thought of, as she comes from a place of privilege. I thought it was a really great part of the story. Izzy is in a place in her life where she is learning who she is and what kind of person she wants to be. So, learning about the experiences of others is an important thing for her. She doesn’t always act the right way or say the right thing, but I think that was realistic. I didn’t love that she lied about her age, but I think that whole situation was handled well when the truth finally came out.
Now, Isabel’s relationship with her boyfriend was not a good one. It wasn’t completely clear from the beginning, but the more we saw of their relationship the more obvious it was that it wasn’t a healthy one. My favorite thing about this book was that when Izzy started wanting to speak up. Through her stand-up routine, she gains confidence. She starts to believe that the things she has to say matter. So, she starts using her voice in other areas of her life. Like her friendships and at school.
I think this book does so many things all in one story, but it did them all really well. There are some really tough topics (most obvious is the toxic relationship, but there are also discussions of racism and discrimination). I thought that all of these tough topics were discussed thoughtfully and with care. But take that with a grain of salt, as I am not a part of any of those represented in these conversations (aside from queer and female). I love all of Henry’s work so far and I am very eager to see what she will write next.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

All the Tides of Fate by Adalyn Grace

Summary:
Through blood and sacrifice, Amora Montara has conquered a rebellion and taken her rightful place as queen of Visidia. Now, with the islands in turmoil and the people questioning her authority, Amora cannot allow anyone to see her weaknesses.
No one can know about the curse in her bloodline. No one can know that she’s lost her magic. No one can know the truth about the boy who holds the missing half of her soul.
To save herself and Visidia, Amora embarks on a desperate quest for a mythical artifact that could fix everything―but it comes at a terrible cost. As she tries to balance her loyalty to her people, her crew, and the desires of her heart, Amora will soon discover that the power to rule might destroy her.

All the Tides of Fate (All the Stars and Teeth, #2)

Review:
All the Tides of Fate is the sequel to All the Stars and Teeth (which I reviewed here). I really liked All the Stars and Teeth. I think it had so many of the things I love in fantasy books. I was a little worried that All the Tides of Fate wasn’t going to compare to the first book, but it definitely did. I think this was a great conclusion to this world and its characters. Grace did an excellent job wrapping up all the different plotlines and giving the reader a solid close for these characters that we’ve come to care about. I’m going to do a bit of a disclaimer here. If you haven’t read All the Stars and Teeth, you should stop reading this review because I will be talking about a few things that happened in the first book. If you don’t want to be spoiled for the first book, please come back to this review after you’ve read that book.
So, All the Tides of Fate follows Amora Montara now that she is Queen. She has very lofty goals and things she wants to accomplish in her kingdom. One of those things is to be more honest with her people. Her family has been lying to them since their kingdom was created. Amora was cursed in the end of the first book, so this one starts off with Amora struggling without her magic. The people don’t completely trust her. So, Amora and the gang (Bastian, Ferrick, and Vataea) set off on a tour of all the islands so that Amora can meet eligible bachelors and maybe find a husband. One of the things I really likes about this book was the discussion surrounding Amora being Queen and facing issues that her father never would have even had to think about. Even though she is Queen, she is still a woman and she faces challenges because of this. I liked that Amora’s mother actually talked outright about this with Amora. I really appreciated this aspect of the story. Another thing that Amora deals with in this book is panic attacks. She very obviously has PTSD from the events in the first book and we see her experience panic attacks several times. I really liked how these moments were handled by the other characters. There wasn’t anyone looking down on her or treating her differently. It was treated like something that happens after something traumatic. I liked seeing her friends support her through these moments and do their best to help her. (Also, Vataea suggests singing a song to help calm herself and Amora sang sea shanty’s so yes I 100% heard the Tik Tok sea shanty that was going around everywhere a little while ago).
I think one of my favorite things about this book was getting to see more of the world. The characters travel to several different islands on their supposed husband tour. I really enjoyed seeing the different islands that we only heard about in the first book. I think this really opened up the world a bit. I also liked that we got to learn more about some of the mythology of the world. Along with that, we learned more about some of the characters backstory which I thought was interesting.
Overall, I really loved this book. I think it did a lot of things and it managed to do all of them well. There were so many great moments in this book and I think Grace did an incredible job telling this story and giving these characters a satisfying ending. I absolutely recommend this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel

Summary:
Showing that truth is stranger than fiction, Sylvain Neuvel weaves a scfi thriller reminiscent of Blake Crouch and Andy Weir, blending a fast moving, darkly satirical look at 1940s rocketry with an exploration of the amorality of progress and the nature of violence in A History of What Comes Next.
Always run, never fight.
Preserve the knowledge.
Survive at all costs.
Take them to the stars.
Over 99 identical generations, Mia’s family has shaped human history to push them to the stars, making brutal, wrenching choices and sacrificing countless lives. Her turn comes at the dawn of the age of rocketry. Her mission: to lure Wernher Von Braun away from the Nazi party and into the American rocket program, and secure the future of the space race.
But Mia’s family is not the only group pushing the levers of history: an even more ruthless enemy lurks behind the scenes.
A darkly satirical first contact thriller, as seen through the eyes of the women who make progress possible and the men who are determined to stop them…

A History of What Comes Next (Take Them to the Stars, #1)

Review:
I want to start off by saying that while I was approved for an eARC of this book (three days before it’s release date), I actually read the finished copy that I got from my local library. So, thank you NetGalley, but technically I didn’t read the ARC. Now, 3.5 stars, that makes me a little sad because Neuvel’s previous series, the Themis Files, is one of my all time favorite series, so you could say that I was very excited for this new release. I don’t want to say that I didn’t like it because that would be a lie. I did like it. I enjoyed reading it. I thought it was interesting. But I didn’t completely love it like I thought I was going to (though I will say I didn’t really even know what it was about until after I picked up my copy from the library).
This story follow Mia and her mother, Sarah, and occasionally some bits and pieces about their ancestors. They are the Kibsu and they have been tasked with helping humanity reach the stars and successfully figure out how to travel through space. Why? I literally have no idea. Are they aliens? Time travelers? Why don’t you tell me because I honestly don’t know. (Edited to add: I’ve reread the synopsis and it says it’s a “first contact” story, so they are definitely aliens.) So, the whole time Sarah is training Mia to take over and start the next generation tasked to reach the stars, there is another alien/time traveler/whatever in play. There is the Tracker that is following them. Neither Mia nor Sarah is completely sure that the Tracker even exists. But if he does, he will kill them both if they let him find them. Some parts of the story are told from his point of view as well. I thought this was an interesting choice because it opened up the story a bit more. It gave us more insight into the history of the Kibsu (which I believe I am correct in assuming that the Tracker is also Kibsu).
Now, I think I just didn’t love this book because a lot of the finer details went right over my head. After reading the authors note at the end, it’s clear that Neuvel put so much thought and research into this book. I don’t often pick up historical fiction and that’s what this was. This is a historical fiction book with a sci-fi twist (a few characters that are aliens). I think it’s the extreme amount of detail that is what put me off the story a bit. There’s so much science that Mia is doing to help different people build rockets. But also, I feel like I was left with all of the same questions that I had while I was learning about Mia and Sarah. I feel like we didn’t really learn anything, aside from what we learned from the Tracker, but that dude murder so many people and I don’t trust him. I also think that so much information has been lost or changed through 100 generations. It’s like a game of telephone.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. Once I got past the 100 page mark, I was intrigued enough by the story to keep going. But it was dense in history and science, the writing style was a bit odd and took some getting used to, and while I learned a lot about the history of the space race I feel like I didn’t learn anything about the characters. I believe this is a series so I do plan to continue it, but I think I might see how the audiobooks are done. Anyway, if you’re a space or history nerd, you’ll probably love this.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.