A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

Summary:
Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident—or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.
Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion—all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret—one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life—or rescue it from annihilation.

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Review:
I was gifted this book from a friend off of my wishlist. I went into it not knowing much, but I’d heard really good things. I assumed from the little bit that I did know that this was going to be a space opera of sorts. But it felt to me more like a murder mystery set in space and filled with politics. I listened to the audiobook and I think that led to most of my feelings about this book.
I don’t think I can really even talk about the characters all that much because I can’t remember half their names. I think this is because I listened to the audio. The characters have unusual names like 3 Sea Grass and 6 Direction. This is all a part of the culture on the planet that the main character travels to for her new job. I mostly liked the characters. They were quirky and made the story fun.
The politics and mystery were the main focus of this story. Someone has killed the main characters predecessor. She’s been sent as his replacement and she is determined to figure out what happened even though she has a huge gap in her knowledge. So, she’s thrust into political maneuverings that she has little to no information about. She spends most of the book trying to put the pieces together (hence the murder mystery comment earlier in this review.) I thought the way she and her new friends put the pieces together was interesting. It didn’t all fall into her lap. She was a really active protagonist and I thought that kept the pace of the story feeling like it was fast-paced. The politics come into the story because she’s an ambassador for the government of the planet she’s just arrived on. The previous ambassador was murdered and it all has to do with local politics. The idea that there were two sides fighting was easy to understand, but when it got more complicated than that with all the different offices and departments it was hard to keep them all straight. Again, I think this is because I listened to the audiobook.
Overall, this was a good book and I think I would have enjoyed it significantly more if I’d read it in a different format. I’m not sure if I’ll continue the series, but if I do, I’ll definitely read the synopsis of the second book before I start.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

#SciFiMonth: 18 Adult Science Fiction Recommendations

SciFiMonth 2021 (1-30 November): Words full of hope and threat, like the stars
ARTWORK by Liu Zishan from 123RF.com
QUOTE from Babylon’s Ashes by James S A Corey

Hi, lovelies! I’m back one more time before the end of the month wrap up to share some of my favorite adult science fiction books with you all. This is the final part of my science fiction recommendations by age range. I really love adult sci-fi so there are, in my opinion, some excellent books on this list.

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Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
“A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square-shaped hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand. Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved – the object’s origins, architects, and purpose unknown. But some can never stop searching for answers.
Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top-secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the relic they seek. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unravelling history’s most perplexing discovery-and finally figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?”

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This is How You Lose the Time War by Amar El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
“Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future. Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war.”

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Year One by Nora Roberts 
“It began on New Year’s Eve. The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed–and more than half of the world’s population was decimated. Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river–or in the ones you know and love the most. As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, and with nothing left to count on but each other, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier. Chuck, a tech genius trying to hack his way through a world gone offline. Arlys, a journalist who has lost her audience but uses pen and paper to record the truth. Fred, her young colleague, possessed of burgeoning abilities and an optimism that seems out of place in this bleak landscape. And Rachel and Jonah, a resourceful doctor and a paramedic who fend off despair with their determination to keep a young mother and three infants in their care alive. In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain. The end has come. The beginning comes next.”

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Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
“Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission–and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish. Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it. All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company. His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species. And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance. Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian–while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.”

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A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers 
“It’s been centuries since the robots of Earth gained self-awareness and laid down their tools.
Centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again.
Centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.
One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered. But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.
They’re going to need to ask it a lot.
Becky Chambers’ new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?”

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Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen
“Kin Stewart is an everyday family man: working in IT, trying to keep the spark in his marriage, struggling to connect with his teenage daughter, Miranda. But his current life is a far cry from his previous career…as a time-traveling secret agent from 2142. Stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s after a botched mission, Kin has kept his past hidden from everyone around him, despite the increasing blackouts and memory loss affecting his time-traveler’s brain. Until one afternoon, his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late. Their mission: return Kin to 2142, where he’s only been gone weeks, not years, and where another family is waiting for him. A family he can’t remember. Torn between two lives, Kin is desperate for a way to stay connected to both. But when his best efforts threaten to destroy the agency and even history itself, his daughter’s very existence is at risk. It’ll take one final trip across time to save Miranda—even if it means breaking all the rules of time travel in the process.
A uniquely emotional genre-bending debut, Here and Now and Then captures the perfect balance of heart, playfulness, and imagination, offering an intimate glimpse into the crevices of a father’s heart and its capacity to stretch across both space and time to protect the people that mean the most.”

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An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
“The Carls just appeared.
Roaming through New York City at three AM, twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship—like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor—April and her best friend, Andy, make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day, April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world—from Beijing to Buenos Aires—and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight. Seizing the opportunity to make her mark on the world, April now has to deal with the consequences her new particular brand of fame has on her relationships, her safety, and her own identity. And all eyes are on April to figure out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.”

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The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
“Aiden Bishop knows the rules. Evelyn Hardcastle will die every day until he can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest at Blackheath Manor. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others. With a locked room mystery that Agatha Christie would envy, Stuart Turton unfurls a breakneck novel of intrigue and suspense. For fans of Claire North, and Kate Atkinson, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a breathlessly addictive mystery that follows one man’s race against time to find a killer, with an astonishing time-turning twist that means nothing and no one are quite what they seem.”

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The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
“Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total. On this Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now she has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works—and shamelessly flirts—with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security. But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined—and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.”

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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
“Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space-and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe-in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star. Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain. Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.”

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The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley
“The Light Brigade: it’s what soldiers fighting the war against Mars call the ones who come back…different. Grunts in the corporate corps get busted down into light to travel to and from interplanetary battlefronts. Everyone is changed by what the corps must do in order to break them down into light. Those who survive learn to stick to the mission brief—no matter what actually happens during combat. Dietz, a fresh recruit in the infantry, begins to experience combat drops that don’t sync up with the platoon’s. And Dietz’s bad drops tell a story of the war that’s not at all what the corporate brass want the soldiers to think is going on. Is Dietz really experiencing the war differently, or is it combat madness? Trying to untangle memory from mission brief and survive with sanity intact, Dietz is ready to become a hero—or maybe a villain; in war it’s hard to tell the difference.
A worthy successor to classic stories like Downbelow StationStarship Troopers, and The Forever War, The Light Brigade is award-winning author Kameron Hurley’s gritty time-bending take on the future of war.”

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Goldilocks by Laura Lam
“The Earth is in environmental collapse. The future of humanity hangs in the balance. But a team of women are preparing to save it. Even if they’ll need to steal a spaceship to do it. Despite increasing restrictions on the freedoms of women on Earth, Valerie Black is spearheading the first all-female mission to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, where conditions are just right for human habitation. The team is humanity’s last hope for survival, and Valerie has gathered the best women for the mission: an ace pilot who is one of the only astronauts ever to have gone to Mars; a brilliant engineer tasked with keeping the ship fully operational; and an experienced doctor to keep the crew alive. And then there’s Naomi Lovelace, Valerie’s surrogate daughter and the ship’s botanist, who has been waiting her whole life for an opportunity to step out of Valerie’s shadow and make a difference. The problem is that they’re not the authorized crew, even if Valerie was the one to fully plan the voyage. When their mission is stolen from them, they steal the ship bound for the new planet. But when things start going wrong on board, Naomi begins to suspect that someone is concealing a terrible secret — and realizes time for life on Earth may be running out faster than they feared…”

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Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
“In Upright Women Wanted, award-winning author Sarah Gailey reinvents the pulp Western with an explicitly antifascist, near-future story of queer identity.
“That girl’s got more wrong notions than a barn owl’s got mean looks.”
Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her—a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda. The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.”

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Red Rising by Pierce Brown
“Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children. But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class. Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.”

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To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini
“Kira Navárez dreamed of life on new worlds. Now she’s awakened a nightmare. During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move. As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human. While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope…”

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Seven Devils by Elizabeth May & Laura Lam
“When Eris faked her death, she thought she had left her old life as the heir to the galaxy’s most ruthless empire behind. But her recruitment by the Novantaen Resistance, an organization opposed to the empire’s voracious expansion, throws her right back into the fray. Eris has been assigned a new mission: to infiltrate a spaceship ferrying deadly cargo and return the intelligence gathered to the Resistance. But her partner for the mission, mechanic and hotshot pilot Cloelia, bears an old grudge against Eris, making an already difficult infiltration even more complicated. When they find the ship, they discover more than they bargained for: three fugitives with firsthand knowledge of the corrupt empire’s inner workings. Together, these women possess the knowledge and capabilities to bring the empire to its knees. But the clock is ticking: the new heir to the empire plans to disrupt a peace summit with the only remaining alien empire, ensuring the empire’s continued expansion. If they can find a way to stop him, they will save the galaxy. If they can’t, millions may die.”

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Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee
“Gyen Jebi isn’t a fighter or a subversive. They just want to paint. One day they’re jobless and desperate; the next, Jebi finds themself recruited by the Ministry of Armor to paint the mystical sigils that animate the occupying government’s automaton soldiers. But when Jebi discovers the depths of the Razanei government’s horrifying crimes—and the awful source of the magical pigments they use—they find they can no longer stay out of politics. What they can do is steal Arazi, the ministry’s mighty dragon automaton, and find a way to fight…”

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Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
“Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.
Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.
Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.
Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own. Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.”

There we have it. My final list of recommendations. Much like with my YA recommendations, I read these in varying formats, so some of these have really excellent audiobooks. What are some of your favorite adult science fiction stories? Share them with me in the comments!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Truth of the Divine by Lindsay Ellis

Summary:
The human race is at a crossroads; we know that we are not alone, but details about the alien presence on Earth are still being withheld from the public. As the political climate grows more unstable, the world is forced to consider the ramifications of granting human rights to nonhuman persons. How do you define “person” in the first place?
Cora Sabino not only serves as the full-time communication intermediary between the alien entity Ampersand and his government chaperones but also shares a mysterious bond with him that is both painful and intimate in ways neither of them could have anticipated. Despite this, Ampersand is still keen on keeping secrets, even from Cora, which backfires on them both when investigative journalist Kaveh Mazandarani, a close colleague of Cora’s unscrupulous estranged father, witnesses far more of Ampersand’s machinations than anyone was meant to see.
Since Cora has no choice but to trust Kaveh, the two must work together to prove to a fearful world that intelligent, conscious beings should be considered persons, no matter how horrifying, powerful, or malicious they may seem. Making this case is hard enough when the public doesn’t know what it’s dealing with—and it will only become harder when a mysterious flash illuminates the sky, marking the arrival of an agent of chaos that will light an already-unstable world on fire.
With a voice completely her own and more than a million YouTube subscribers, Lindsay Ellis deepens her realistic exploration of the reality of a planet faced with the presence of extraterrestrial intelligence, probing the essential questions of humanity and decency, and the boundaries of the human mind.
While asking the question of what constitutes a “person,” Ellis also examines what makes a monster.

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Review:
Thank you to NetGalley for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I made the mistake of reading some of the reviews of the first book once I finished reading Axiom’s End. I had a lot of fun reading that book and enjoyed it without taking it too seriously. But since I did read reviews, I couldn’t help but think about the things mentioned while I was reading this sequel.
While we get more of the unique alien situation that I enjoyed from the first book, there’s more than just hinting at a romantic relationship with an alien. Some people may want that, but I do not. Something about the idea of Cora and Ampersand going from friends (potentially family members) to something more romantic made me feel uncomfortable. I was sad about this because I really loved their friendship from the first book. We do get more of that friendship at the start of this book, but it quickly turned into thoughts of more, and then they were both having mental health crises’ for essentially the rest of the book. So, I still liked the aliens in this book. I think they’re unique and seem to be well thought out. I just didn’t like the hinting at a romantic relationship.
The idea of the human/alien romance was nixed when Kaveh came into the picture. He’s a reporter for the New York Times. He’s significantly older than Cora (not my preferred romance trope, but I know many people like that). I really liked Kaveh for the first half of the book, but then things about his and Cora’s romantic relationship started to make me feel uncomfortable. He does thinks like think about how he probably shouldn’t have sex with Cora at the moment because she just had a panic attack. Or that it’s very obvious her body is saying no even when her words are telling him to do it anyway. I get that she’s consenting vocally, but she clearly needs some mental health help, and having sex with her while she’s dealing with that didn’t feel right. Small things like this happened again and again in their relationship. I was sad to feel this way because I really liked Kaveh and I wanted to be able to wholeheartedly root for his romance with Cora, but I just couldn’t with all the red flags.
The final thing I want to mention is the writing. I didn’t really notice it in the first book, but after reading reviews where it was often brought up, I couldn’t help it. The writing was not good. Ellis uses phrases like “veins clogged with vehicular cholesterol” and it totally took me out of the story having to think about these metaphors she was trying and failing to use. The one that took me out of the story the most was seeing the word “carefuller” in the book. Even my iPhone (where I’m typing this review immediately after finishing this book) is telling me that this word is incorrect. I think listening to the audiobook for the first book and the skill of the narrator didn’t make the poor writing as obvious, but I read an eARC of this one and there were so many weird metaphors and clunky sentences that I highlighted that I can’t reasonably include them all.
Overall, I finished this book instead of DNF’ing it, so I would say that I was invested enough to finish the story until the end (which was incredibly unsatisfying). I’m not sure if that says more about this book or the first one. But I liked the concept of the aliens and the conversations of the politics of “what kind of rights would humanity give to an alien species on earth.” I think Ellis did a good job with the political aspect of the idea of aliens on earth. I just don’t think, overall, that this was a very good sequel. I ended up disliking many of the characters I grew to care about in the first book. I’m not sure if there are supposed to be more installments in this series, but if so, I probably won’t continue it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis

Summary:
Truth is a human right.
It’s fall 2007. A well-timed leak has revealed that the US government might have engaged in first contact. Cora Sabino is doing everything she can to avoid the whole mess, since the force driving the controversy is her whistleblower father. Even though Cora hasn’t spoken to him in years, his celebrity has caught the attention of the press, the Internet, the paparazzi, and the government—and with him in hiding, that attention is on her. She neither knows nor cares whether her father’s leaks are a hoax, and wants nothing to do with him—until she learns just how deeply entrenched her family is in the cover-up, and that an extraterrestrial presence has been on Earth for decades.
Realizing the extent to which both she and the public have been lied to, she sets out to gather as much information as she can, and finds that the best way for her to uncover the truth is not as a whistleblower, but as an intermediary. The alien presence has been completely uncommunicative until she convinces one of them that she can act as their interpreter, becoming the first and only human vessel of communication. Their otherworldly connection will change everything she thought she knew about being human—and could unleash a force more sinister than she ever imagined.

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Review:
Axiom’s End was an impulse buy a few months ago when I was at Barnes & Nobel looking for new to me science fiction. I figured that Sci-Fi month was the perfect time to pick it up and read it. Plus, I think the sequel is coming out soon.
This story follows Cora, a college drop out that continually disappoints her mother and has a conspiracy theorist father (who abandoned her and her siblings). Her deadbeat dad’s latest conspiracy scoop is that the government has been hiding aliens. The twist is that Cora soon finds out that her father might have actually found something true. One thing leads to another (not sharing too many details here because this part of the story is part of what got me hooked on the story) and Cora finds herself as an interpreter to the aliens that have taken refuge on Earth. She’s the first human that they’ve actually communicated with. It was previously believed that communication wasn’t possible with them until Cora disproved that.
I really enjoyed this story. It takes place in 2007, so I loved all the nods to early 2000s culture like flip phones, a few stores different stores that were mentioned, and President Bush is a part of this story, too. I liked Cora. She had some obvious issues with her father, but she loved her younger siblings and I missed them when they were no longer a main part of the story. She was brave and tried to do the right thing.
Now, the aliens. They were definitely interesting. I thought the parts about their culture were fascinating. I loved learning more about their history, even though it was brutal at times. It was clearly well thought out and very detailed. I’m interested to see what we might learn about them in the next book, but also, I’m curious if we will actually see more of them outside of the ones that have taken refuge on Earth.
Overall, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I think a huge part of the was the audiobook narrator. She did an incredible job telling this story and I will absolutely be seeking out more audiobooks narrated by her. I’m honestly not sure that I would have liked this book as much as I did if I’d read it physically. I also didn’t totally love the romantic feeling I got from Cora and the alien she interpreted for. I think that might just be me though. I still can’t quite tell if their bond is supposed to be more similar to a sibling bond or a romantic one. I guess I will find out in the next book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

#SciFiMonth: 5 Middle Grade Science Fiction Recommendations

SciFiMonth 2021 (1-30 November): Words full of hope and threat, like the stars
ARTWORK by Liu Zishan from 123RF.com
QUOTE from Babylon’s Ashes by James S A Corey

Hi, lovelies! I thought it would be fun this year to talk about the science fiction, but by age range. I like to read middle grade books, YA books, and adult books. So, I have recommendations and TBR lists for all three age ranges. I have compiled a list of recommendations for each age range. For my today’s recommendations, I’m including some middle grade sci-fi books that are also on my TBR list because I haven’t read as much MG science fiction as I’d like.

Middle Grade Sci-Fi Recommendations

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Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
“When Sal Vidon meets Gabi Real for the first time, it isn’t under the best of circumstances. Sal is in the principal’s office for the third time in three days, and it’s still the first week of school. Gabi, student council president and editor of the school paper, is there to support her friend Yasmany, who just picked a fight with Sal. She is determined to prove that somehow, Sal planted a raw chicken in Yasmany’s locker, even though nobody saw him do it and the bloody poultry has since mysteriously disappeared. Sal prides himself on being an excellent magician, but for this sleight of hand, he relied on a talent no one would guess . . . except maybe Gabi, whose sharp eyes never miss a trick. When Gabi learns that he’s capable of conjuring things much bigger than a chicken–including his dead mother–and she takes it all in stride, Sal knows that she is someone he can work with. There’s only one slight problem: their manipulation of time and space could put the entire universe at risk. A sassy entropy sweeper, a documentary about wedgies, a principal who wears a Venetian bauta mask, and heaping platefuls of Cuban food are just some of the delights that await in this mind-blowing novel gift-wrapped in love and laughter.”

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The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix 
“The Greystone kids thought they knew. Chess has always been the protector over his younger siblings, Emma loves math, and Finn does what Finn does best—acting silly and being adored. They’ve been a happy family, just the three of them and their mom. But everything changes when reports of three kidnapped children reach the Greystone kids, and they’re shocked by the startling similarities between themselves and these complete strangers. The other kids share their same first and middle names. They’re the same ages. They even have identical birthdays. Who, exactly, are these strangers? Before Chess, Emma, and Finn can question their mom about it, she takes off on a sudden work trip and leaves them in the care of Ms. Morales and her daughter, Natalie. But puzzling clues left behind lead to complex codes, hidden rooms, and a dangerous secret that will turn their world upside down.”

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Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
“THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD MIN comes from a long line of fox spirits. But you’d never know it by looking at her. To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times. Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds. When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name. Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams.”

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Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
“Luke has never been to school. He’s never had a birthday party, or gone to a friend’s house for an overnight. In fact, Luke has never had a friend. Luke is one of the shadow children, a third child forbidden by the Population Police. He’s lived his entire life in hiding, and now, with a new housing development replacing the woods next to his family’s farm, he is no longer even allowed to go outside. Then, one day Luke sees a girl’s face in the window of a house where he knows two other children already live. Finally, he’s met a shadow child like himself. Jen is willing to risk everything to come out of the shadows – does Luke dare to become involved in her dangerous plan? Can he afford not to?”

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The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel, Alexis Siiegel, Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, & Boys Sun
“The Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. When war erupts, three unlikely heroes will discover there’s more to themselves—and more to their worlds—than meets the eye. . . .Oona Lee, the clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine. An Tzu, a boy from the poorest slums, has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations. Jax Amboy is the star athlete who is beloved by an entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends? When these three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest, it will take not one, not two, but 5 WORLDS to contain all the magic and adventure!”

Middle Grade Sci-Fi TBR

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Under Their Skin by Margaret Peterson Haddix
“From New York Times bestselling author Margaret Peterson Haddix comes the first book in a brand-new thrilling series about twins who are on a quest to discover the secrets being kept by their new family. Nick and Eryn’s mom is getting remarried, and the twelve-year-old twins are skeptical when she tells them their lives won’t change much. Well, yes, they will have to move. And they will have a new stepfather, stepbrother, and stepsister. But Mom tells them not to worry. They won’t ever have to meet their stepsiblings. This news puzzles Nick and Eryn, so the twins set out on a mission to find out who these kids are – and why they’re being kept hidden.”

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Where the River Runs Gold by Sita Brahmachari
“Shifa and her brother, Themba, live in Kairos City with their father, Nabil. The few live in luxury, whilst the millions like them crowd together in compounds, surviving on meagre rations and governed by Freedom Fields – the organisation that looks after you, as long as you opt in. The bees have long disappeared; instead children must labour on farms, pollinating crops so that the nation can eat. But Nabil remembers Before and he knows that the soul needs to be nourished as much as the body so, despite the risk, he teaches his children how to grow flowers on a secret piece of land hidden beneath the train tracks. The farm Shifa and Themba are sent to is hard and cruel. Themba won’t survive there and Shifa comes up with a plan to break them out. But they have no idea where they are – their only guide is a map drawn from the ramblings of a stranger. The journey ahead is fraught with danger, but Shifa is strong and knows to listen to her instincts – to let hope guide them home. The freedom of a nation depends on it . . .”

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The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera
“There lived a girl named Petra Peña, who wanted nothing more than to be a storyteller, like her abuelita. But Petra’s world is ending. Earth has been destroyed by a comet, and only a few hundred scientists and their children – among them Petra and her family – have been chosen to journey to a new planet. They are the ones who must carry on the human race. Hundreds of years later, Petra wakes to this new planet – and the discovery that she is the only person who remembers Earth. A sinister Collective has taken over the ship during its journey, bent on erasing the sins of humanity’s past. They have systematically purged the memories of all aboard – or purged them altogether. Petra alone now carries the stories of our past, and with them, any hope for our future. Can she make them live again?”

These are my recommendations for today. Keep an eye out early next week for my YA recommendations and then later next week for my adult recommendations. Is there any middle grade science fiction that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

#SciFiMonth: Amanda’s Science Fiction Audiobook Recommendations

SciFiMonth 2021 (1-30 November): Words full of hope and threat, like the stars
ARTWORK by Liu Zishan from 123RF.com
QUOTE from Babylon’s Ashes by James S A Corey

Hello, lovelies! Last year, I recommended audiobooks (find that post here!) I have read some really great audiobooks since then, so, I thought I would do another science fiction audiobook recommendations list.

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Unchosen by Katharyn Blair
“For Charlotte Holloway, the world ended twice. The first was when her childhood crush, Dean, fell in love—with her older sister. The second was when the Crimson, a curse spread through eye contact, turned the majority of humanity into flesh-eating monsters. Neither end of the world changed Charlotte. She’s still in the shadows of her siblings. Her popular older sister, Harlow, now commands forces of survivors. And her talented younger sister, Vanessa, is the Chosen One—who, legend has it, can end the curse. When their settlement is raided by those seeking the Chosen One, Charlotte makes a reckless decision to save Vanessa: she takes her place as prisoner. The word spreads across the seven seas—the Chosen One has been found. But when Dean’s life is threatened and a resistance looms on the horizon, the lie keeping Charlotte alive begins to unravel. She’ll have to break free, forge new bonds, and choose her own destiny if she has any hope of saving her sisters, her love, and maybe even the world. Because sometimes the end is just a new beginning.”

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Red Rising by Pierce Brown
“Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children. But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class. Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.”

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Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
“In Upright Women Wanted, award-winning author Sarah Gailey reinvents the pulp Western with an explicitly antifascist, near-future story of queer identity
“That girl’s got more wrong notions than a barn owl’s got mean looks.”
Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her—a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda. The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.”

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Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
“THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD MIN comes from a long line of fox spirits. But you’d never know it by looking at her. To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times. Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds. When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name. Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams.”

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Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds
“Jamal’s best friend, Q, doesn’t know he’s about to die . . . again. He also doesn’t know that Jamal tried to save his life, rescuing him from drowning only to watch Q die later in the hospital. Even more complicated, Jamal and Q haven’t been best friends in two years—not since Jamal’s parents died in a car accident, leaving him and his sister to carry on without them. Grief swallowed Jamal whole, and he blamed Q for causing the accident. But what if Jamal could have a second chance? An impossible chance that would grant him the opportunity to say goodbye to his best friend? A new health-care technology allows Q to be reanimated—brought back to life like the old Q again. But there’s a catch: Q will only reanimate for a short time before he dies . . . forever. Jamal is determined to make things right with Q, but grief is hard to shake. And he can’t tell Q why he’s suddenly trying to be friends with him again. Because Q has no idea that he died, and Q’s mom is not about to let anyone ruin the miracle by telling him. How can Jamal fix his friendship with Q if he can’t tell him the truth?”

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Wanderers by Chuck Wendig
“Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead. For on their journey, they will discover an America convulsed with terror and violence, where this apocalyptic epidemic proves less dangerous than the fear of it. As the rest of society collapses all around them–and an ultraviolent militia threatens to exterminate them–the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart–or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.”

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The Last 8 by Laura Pohl
“Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it. When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth. Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.”

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Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh
“When an Earth-like planet is discovered, a team of six teens, along with three veteran astronauts, embark on a twenty-year trip to set up a planet for human colonization—but find that space is more deadly than they ever could have imagined.
Have you ever hoped you could leave everything behind?
Have you ever dreamt of a better world?
Can a dream sustain a lifetime?

A century ago, an astronomer discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting a nearby star. She predicted that one day humans would travel there to build a utopia. Today, ten astronauts are leaving everything behind to find it. Four are veterans of the twentieth century’s space-race. And six are teenagers who’ve trained for this mission most of their lives. It will take the team twenty-three years to reach Terra-Two. Twenty-three years locked in close quarters. Twenty-three years with no one to rely on but each other. Twenty-three years with no rescue possible, should something go wrong.
And something always goes wrong.”

These are some science fiction audiobooks that I’ve enjoyed since last year. Do you have any sci-fi audiobooks that you’ve loved recently?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Persephone Station by Stina Leicht

Summary:
Hugo award-nominated author Stina Leicht has created a take on space opera for fans of The Mandalorian and Cowboy Bebop in this high-stakes adventure.
Persephone Station, a seemingly backwater planet that has largely been ignored by the United Republic of Worlds, becomes the focus for the Serrao-Orlov Corporation as the planet has a few secrets the corporation tenaciously wants to exploit.
Rosie—owner of Monk’s Bar, in the corporate town of West Brynner—caters to wannabe criminals and rich Earther tourists, of a sort, at the front bar. However, exactly two types of people drink at Monk’s back bar: members of a rather exclusive criminal class and those who seek to employ them.
Angel—ex-marine and head of a semi-organized band of beneficent criminals, wayward assassins, and washed up mercenaries with a penchant for doing the honorable thing—is asked to perform a job for Rosie. What this job reveals will affect Persephone and put Angel and her squad up against an army. Despite the odds, they are rearing for a fight with the Serrao-Orlov Corporation. For Angel, she knows that once honor is lost, there is no regaining it. That doesn’t mean she can’t damned well try.

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Review:
Persephone Station follows a cast of characters that are a team of mercenaries. We follow them while they complete a job, but the job goes wrong and Angel and her team are blamed. So, they retreat to a not very well-known place for two reasons, to hide but also to protect the other people that live there.
I’m really not explaining this very well at all. But if I were to try to explain it more in-depth, I would have to go into a bunch of the world-building and more specific plot details and that’s too much for my brain right now.
So, I really liked the world-building. I think the setting of Persephone was well explained and its history was really interesting. There’s only one city where humans live on Persephone, but there’s much more to the planet than that one city. I thought the native species of Persephone was really compelling and I would have liked to have gotten to know more about them. I think Leicht pained a vivid picture of this planet and those that inhabit it. I liked the way society was portrayed. There was a lot of diversity and none of it was treated as “other.” There are lots of different characters, one of the main cast, Rosie uses they/them and another is bisexual. I’m forgetting something else too. But it was a wonderfully diverse story.
I liked all the characters. They all had different and distinct personalities. I really likes all of them, but I felt a little bit like I didn’t really get to know any of them super well because there were so many main people. I also didn’t see a whole lot of growth and development from the characters. They go through this whole ordeal but remain much the same as they were at the start of the story.
Overall, I had a great time reading this book. The world was interesting and kept my attention. The characters were funny and unique. The story was fast-paced and action packed. It was everything I want from a sci-fi story all packed into one book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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.

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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.

#SciFiMonth: Amanda’s Entire Science Fiction TBR

SciFiMonth 2021 (1-30 November): Words full of hope and threat, like the stars
ARTWORK by Liu Zishan from 123RF.com
QUOTE from Babylon’s Ashes by James S A Corey

Hello, lovelies! Last year, I shared my entire TBR of sci-fi books that I own and I thought I would do it again along with a little check in of how I did with reading what was on my list last year.

You can find my post from last year here, if you’re interested. Out of the eighteen books that I listed last year, there are only two that I still haven’t read. One is a short story collection and the other is the third book in a series and I want to reread the first two books before I finally read the third (but at this point I’ll probably wait until book four comes out in early 2022 and then binge the whole series.)

Physical Books
The All-Consuming World by Cassandra Khaw
The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal
Persephone Station by Stina Leicht
The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
The End and Other Beginnings: Stories From the Future by Veronica Roth
Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson
The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon

eBooks
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
The Lost Signal by J.S. Fernandez Morales
Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha

Graphic Novels
Wires and Nerves by Marissa Meyer, Douglas Holgate, & Stephen Gilpin
The Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way, Gabriel Bá, & Dave Stewart
Vagrant Queen Vol. 1 by Magdalene Visaggio, Jason Smith, & Harry Saxon

ARC’s
The Kindred by Alechia Dow
Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves by Meg Long

I went a bit more in-depth this year than I did last year, but this was the easiest way for me to make the list for organizational reasons. I thought it would be a cool way for me to check back next year (and at the end of the month) and see how I did with each of the formats, though all five of the books that are on both this and last year’s list are physical books.

What science fiction books do you own but haven’t read yet?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Skinjacker Trilogy by Neal Schusterman

Summary:
Not every child who dies goes on to the afterlife. Some are caught halfway between life and death, in a sort of limbo known as Everlost: a shadow of the living world, filled with all the things and places that no longer exist. It’s a magical, yet dangerous place where bands of lost kids run wild and anyone who stands in the same place too long sinks to the center of the Earth.
Allie and Nick don’t survive the car crash, and end up in Everlost, where coins are more valuable than anyone knows, fortune cookies tell the truth, monsters are real, and the queen of lost souls lives in a once-beloved tower. Nick and Allie have to learn to survive in a world with different rules, and figure out who they can trust – and who they must oppose at all costs. At stake is nothing less than the fate of Everlost and the living world they have left behind.
In this gripping trilogy, Neal Shusterman explores questions of life, death, and what just might lie in between.

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Review:
The Skinjacker Trilogy is one of Schusterman’s series that I read years and years ago and remember nothing about. Honestly, I think I only ever read the first book. But I’m glad that I reread it and finished the trilogy. I’m going to review the whole trilogy in this one long post because I read them all back-to-back, so I’d rather just talk about it all overall. I managed to reread this whole trilogy over Mother’s Day weekend because it was super interesting and I just needed to know how everything ended. I made notes for each book, so I’ll briefly mention them before I talk about the series as a whole. The first book, Everlost, was interesting mostly because of the concept of this in-between place for lost souls. I liked the characters well enough, but I thought the plot was lacking. It felt like the first book was just world building and set up for the rest of the series. The second book, Everwild, is where things started to get really interesting plot wise. The story moves slowly, but it’s very clear that Shusterman placed building blocks, little bits and pieces, that would come back into the story later. This goes for the third book, Everfound, too. Some of the things we see and learn about in books one and two come back into play for book three. I loved this aspect where we get to see things come full circle. Everwild is where we really see the characters grow and we see what they’re made of. Oh boy, does Schusterman make his characters suffer in this series. I still loved them all though.
There were a few different romances in this series, I liked all but one of them. I just couldn’t get behind Nick and Mary as romantic interests for one another. I think this was really the only thing I didn’t like about the series. It was there through all three books and I just didn’t find it believable. I did, however, really like Allie and Mikey together, as well as the other couples we see get together. I also want to mention the historical sites that are mentioned and some that play a part in this story. In Everlost, we see the Twin Towers, the Hindenburg airship, In Everwild the characters leave the East Coast and move west across the United States. We get to see the World’s Fair in Chicago and Graceland. The final book we get to see the Alamo and the Trinity Vortex (the site of the first atomic bomb). I think the way that Shusterman included these bits and pieces of history was fascinating and thoughtful. I just overall had a fun time reading this series. It was silly and occasionally ridiculous, but it was also way more serious than I anticipated. There were some really dark plotlines that I was not expecting, but then there were things like Nick being named the ‘chocolate ogre’ so the serious and sometimes dark parts of the story were balanced with a bit of silliness and I liked that.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.  

Amanda’s Beginner Science Fiction Recommendations

Hey, lovelies! I’ve recently had someone ask me what books would be good to introduce them into the science fiction genre. Sci-fi is my favorite genre, specifically dystopian stories, but I love science fiction in all the sub-genres. So, I thought that I would make a list of recommendations that I think would be good for anyone thinking of trying science fiction for the first time.

Dystopian

The Final Six (The Final Six, #1)

The Final Six by Alexandra Monir
This book follows two teens as they’re both selected to train in an astronaut program. Their mission is to make it to one of Jupiter’s moons and terraform it. The Earth is being ravaged by natural disasters and time is of the essence. But not all is as it seems with this mission. With The Final Six, you get teenage astronauts, training to go into outer space, but it takes place on an Earth that’s still mostly recognizable, so you won’t have to learn a whole new world or political system.

Internment by Samira Ahmed
This is set in a near future reality. It’s an extremely heartbreaking and emotional story. Muslim Americans are being taken from their homes and forced into internment camps. We follow Layla as her and her family are put through this. I really recommend the audiobook. I also recommend having a box of tissues nearby.

The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum
This one is perfect for beginners. It’s almost more of a romance than a sci-fi. But there is some stuff to do with astronauts and searching for radio signals. I adore the found family in this book. It will break your heart and the fill you back up with love.

The Last 8 (The Last 8, #1)

The Last 8 by Laura Pohl
I have another end of the world scenario for you, but this one is aliens. Eight teens think they are the last humans left on Earth. We get to see some of them traveling across a deserted country, not another person to see anywhere. This is set in a familiar Earth. The eight teens need to team up to save the world, but some of them seem more interested in hiding so they can survive rather than saving anything.

The Sound of Stars by Alisha Dow
Another alien take over story. This one is filled with a love for reading and music and other art. Humans are cooped up in ‘centers’ that are controlled by the aliens. But when MoRr1S finds Ellie’s illegal library, the two flee to a potential solution that may just save the Earth. At it’s heart, this story is a love letter to music and the arts. It was beautifully written and I highly recommend it.

Books Set in Space

The Martian by Andy Weir
If you haven’t seen the movie, or even if you have, you should read this book. The main character is trapped on Mars, alone, after his crew, thinking he’s dead, leaves him behind. We follow his journal entries as he devises a way to survive and tries to make it know that he is still alive. I liked the movie, but the book had a sense of humor that was lacking in the movie. Even though it’s a life or death survival story, Weir manages to make it funny.

The Disasters

The Disasters by M.K. England
You want a diverse space adventure filled with a found family that starts out hating you? This is what you’ve been looking for. These are not the Academy trained heroes that are wanted, but they’re the only ones left. I loved this book so much and I wish more people read it. I often compare it to Aurora Rising because what I wanted from that book is what I actually got from The Disasters.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown
This is pitched as Hunger Games in space. It definitely is that, but way more brutal. Everyone is classes via color. Red’s being the lowest rung. Our main character is a Red. He manages to disguise himself as a Gold and infiltrate their academy. This whole series is absolutely incredible. It’s violent and gory, but it’s all about fighting for a cause you believe in.

Superheroes

Renegades by Marissa Meyer
I think this series definitely could have been shorter, but I really enjoyed the audiobooks. I know many that really love this series. But I prefer my superheroes in movie format. I think there is a lot to love about this series and it’s not full of a super complicated world or abilities.

The Extraordinaries (The Extraordinaries, #1)

The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune
This is one of my favorite superhero stories. The main character, Nick, has ADHD and the story is told as if we’re in his head. So, it’s a great representation of ADHD. It’s also queer and is filled with the main characters fan fiction. Please, if you like superhero movies and want to try a superhero book, start here.

Time Travel / Alternate Realities

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen
Chen’s debut novel is full of time travel and creating a life when everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong. I really loved this book. I was expecting to enjoy it, but not nearly as much as I did. I think all of the twists and turns were surprising and unexpected. I found myself easily invested in the characters. This is definitely an underrated book. I never see anyone talking about it.

The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix
I found this one randomly at Target and I’m so glad that I let the cover convince me to buy it. This is a middle-grade story that follows three siblings whose mother has disappeared. They discover their mother is missing and further, they are actually from an alternate reality. But things in that reality are not very good. So, the kids ban together, along with a friend of theirs, and try to save their mom. I thought this was a really fun middle-grade story. It’s one that I don’t see talked about often, but I definitely recommend it.

The Space Between Worlds

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
This was one of my favorite read of 2020. I love this world and the science in this book. I would call it more of an intermediate science fiction story because it’s not really on a recognizable Earth. But I think the world building and the science isn’t so complex that it’s hard to figure out. The characters are diverse and some are a bit morally gray and I loved it.

Opposite of Always by Justin Reynolds
A story of love and being stuck in a time loop trying to change a future that’s already happened. I loved this book so much. It’s emotional with characters that you can’t help but root for. I love this story with my whole heart. It’s got tough topics, but it also highlights joy within tough times. The romance is absolutely beautiful and it still manages to be funny despite the heartbreak that the main character faces.

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
Sal and Gabi are some kids I’d really love to be friends with. They’re completely hilarious. Sal can make holes in the universe into other realities. This often comes in the form of accidentally pulling his Mami from other realities because in his reality, she’s dead. Sal also has diabetes. This story is so much fun. It’s full of adventure and kids just trying to save the world.

Other

The City We Became (Great Cities, #1)

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
What would happen if New York City came alive? Read this book and you will find out. It’s bizarre and I really loved it. The idea of a city becoming sentient is a fascinating one.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
This is a contemporary science fiction story, so it’s a bit of both. We get the modern day world as we know it, but also mysterious statues that may or may not be aliens. At least, they’re made from something that’s definitely not of the Earth.

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
Middlegame is a bit more intermediate, but it’s such an incredible story. It’s a story of magic (sort of) and twins that were separated at birth and given to two different adoptive families. Roger and Dodger manage to find their way to each other over and over again. I loved the complex sibling relationship that we focus on, but I also loved the fascinating alchemy that is also a big focus of the story.

Early Departures

Early Departures by Justin Reynolds
What would you do to have the chance to see a loved one again? If they died suddenly and you had the chance to bring them back for a month or more? Would you take it? Q’s mom does, and that’s what this story is. Q is brought back to life, but he doesn’t know that he ever died. There is a bit of a mystery as to why Q what chosen to be a part of the reanimation experiments. There’s also a mystery as to why Q and Jamal are no longer friends. Ultimately, this story is about two friends coming back together before it’s too late.

These are my recommendations for someone trying to get into science fiction for the first time. Every genre has sub-genres, so I did my best to give recommendations for each that I’ve read and enjoy. Some are a bit more sci-fi than others, but I definitely think there will be something for everyone on this list. Let me know if you’ve read or plan to read any of these!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Unchosen by Katharyn Blair

Summary:
For Charlotte Holloway, the world ended twice.
The first was when her childhood crush, Dean, fell in love—with her older sister.
The second was when the Crimson, a curse spread through eye contact, turned the majority of humanity into flesh-eating monsters.
Neither end of the world changed Charlotte. She’s still in the shadows of her siblings. Her popular older sister, Harlow, now commands forces of survivors. And her talented younger sister, Vanessa, is the Chosen One—who, legend has it, can end the curse.
When their settlement is raided by those seeking the Chosen One, Charlotte makes a reckless decision to save Vanessa: she takes her place as prisoner.
The word spreads across the seven seas—the Chosen One has been found.
But when Dean’s life is threatened and a resistance looms on the horizon, the lie keeping Charlotte alive begins to unravel. She’ll have to break free, forge new bonds, and choose her own destiny if she has any hope of saving her sisters, her love, and maybe even the world.
Because sometimes the end is just a new beginning.

Unchosen

Review:
Unchosen is a 2021 release that I didn’t really know anything about before going into it. I hadn’t heard too much chatter from others on the bookish parts of the internet. But the summary sounded pretty good. So, when the audiobook became available through my library shortly after its release, I thought I’d give it a listen. I liked the narrator and thought they did a great job with this story.
This book follows Charlotte after the world ends. The Crimson (a plague-like curse that spreads through eye contact and turns humans into zombies) is ravaging the world and Charlotte is just trying to survive. But her older sister is part of the leadership where they live and always protects her. Her younger sister is the Chosen One (according to legend, they will break the curse). But when their home is raided, Charlotte claims to be the Chosen One to protect her sister.
This story was full of action and high stakes. I thought the concept of the curse/plague was a really interesting one. The whole world thinks the curse was cast by a woman Anne, who plays a role in this story. I think Anne’s part of the story was excellent. The history and backstory of the curse was one of my favorite parts. I think the way that the world as we know it has changed was also super interesting. The different towns and ‘safe’ places were interesting, but I wish we’d gotten to know a little more about them.
The action was high stakes and really kept the story moving. When lives weren’t in danger, we were learning about the world, the secrets that others were keeping, and getting to know the characters. I think the characters were likeable, easy to care about, but not so much that I want to read the story again and again.
I has a few things I wanted more of. Charlotte has had a crush on her older sister’s boyfriend, Dean. And making sure Dean was safe was one of Charlotte’s big motivators. I didn’t like this. It felt a little icky. I get that Charlotte and Dean are best friends, but she’s been harboring feelings all these years and I didn’t like it. I also just wanted more with the sisters in general. I really liked that the ending had all three of them together. But I wanted to know more about their past. I understand why they weren’t all together. Charlotte was finally out from her sister’s shadow, that’s a big part of what this story is about.
Overall, I liked this book. I think it was well written and really enjoyable. The story kept me interested and engaged. I think it was fast-paced, but not too fast. I think many people will love this book despite being about a plague in a less than pleasant time in the real world.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud

GoodReads Summary:
Two identical girls, one a princess, the other a rebel. Who will rule the empire?
After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.
Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris?
Court of Lions (Mirage, #2)Review:
Court of Lions was a 2020 anticipated release I didn’t even know about until August (when I finally read Mirage). Book two starts right where the first left off. I don’t want to spoil the first book because if you haven’t read it you need to stop what you’re doing and go read it now. I listened to audiobooks for the whole series and they were incredible. There were lots of names and worldbuilding things that I would have had trouble pronouncing correctly and the narrator did a wonderful job. She really put emotions into each character and the story. I highly recommend them.
The story starts with Amani being called to Maram for the first time after Maram found some information about Amani’s activities in the first book, and she was not happy about it. This break of trust between the two was so sad for me. They had finally gotten to such a good place. They trusted and confided in one another. I was sad to see that be lost. But on a more positive note, they gained this closeness back. The relationship between Maram and Amani was my favorite thing about this book. The two figured out how to get past Amani’s breaking Maram’s trust and they become as close as sisters. Seeing these two finally work together toward the same goals made me so happy. Seeing them work together to gain allies (and get Nadia out of the way) and work toward a better future for their planet.
Maram had incredible growth. She spends time really learning about her heritage that comes from her mother. I loved seeing her get away from her cold and cruel persona that she wears to prove she is Vathek enough. She’s embracing her mother’s side and it was so great. I loved learning about it as Maram did. I also really loved Maram’s love interest. We really get to know her on a deeper level once the love interest is introduced. Maram shows a completely different side from anything we’ve seen before and I loved it.
Amani’s story focuses on bettering her relationship with Maram. But she also gets a very complicated romance that’s continued from the first book. She battles with her feelings for Idris who is actually Maram’s fiancé (and eventually husband). Pretending to be Maram and Idris’ wife was a difficult task for her because she cared so much for him. It was interesting to see her battle her feelings for him versus what she thought was the right thing to do. I also adored Amani because she has an incredible mind for the politics of the world. We get to follow Maram and Amani as they tour the world after the wedding and I loved getting to see more of this culture. It was beautiful and fascinating. Amani is the mastermind behind all of Maram’s moves, but once the two and Idris start planning together my heart was singing.
This story started with many very unhappy people, but by the end of this book, they are all (mostly) put back together. This is a story of exploring your roots and your history. It’s a story of figuring out who you are and what you want and getting those things that you wanted, that you dreamed of having. I loved every page of these characters finding their way together, to friendship, and to love. I cannot say enough how much these characters and this story weaved its way into my heart. The writing was beautiful and took me right there, into this world, the drama, the politics, and the emotions. This series will definitely be making my 2020 favorites list.

Quotes:

“All of us have suffered one loss of another. All of us live in the shadow of that. And those losses do not absolve us of the choices we make.”

“Sometimes,” she said contemplatively, “all the paths lead where we would rather not go. Sometimes you can’t outrun home or destiny.”

“It’s not about the teller,” I said. “But the fortune. Good or ill, true or false, it haunts the listener.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

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GoodReads Summary:
The daughter of two astronauts, Romy Silvers is no stranger to life in space. But she never knew how isolating the universe could be until her parents’ tragic deaths left her alone on the infinity, a spaceship speeding away from Earth.
Romy tries to make the best of her lonely situation, but with only brief messages from her therapist on Earth to keep her company, she can’t help but feel like something is missing. It seems like a dream come true when NASA alerts her that another ship, the Eternity, will be joining the Infinity.
Romy begins exchanging messages with J, the captain of the Eternity, and their friendship breathes new life into her world. But as the Eternity gets closer, Romy learns there’s more to J’s mission than she could have imagined. And suddenly, there are worse things than being alone….
The Loneliest Girl in the UniverseReview:
I buddy read this book with one of my favorites, Alana @ The Bookish Chick. I think we both felt similarly. This book was a wild ride.
We’re following Romy as she’s traveling alone through space. She was born in outer space to two astronauts that were on a mission to go to a planet thought to be able to support human life. But some mysterious something happened and Romy ended up alone. I think the suspense was done really well. For the first half of the book, I was really interested to find out what had happened to Romy’s parents and the rest of the astronauts on the mission. Sadly, the further into the book I read the less I liked it. I thought the mystery of Romy’s parents and the other astronauts was great, I also liked the representation of anxiety that we get from Romy. But I just really didn’t like the last third of the book.
So, for this last third of the story, we are anticipating another ship joining with Romy’s. Earth has sent another space ship to help her so that she isn’t alone when arriving on the planet she’s headed for. J is the astronaut from the other ship. J and Romy exchange messages while they’re waiting to meet. I liked this at first, but then it sort of felt icky. Romy is only sixteen and she’s falling in love with a 20-something-year-old. It just got worse when they finally met. I won’t go into too much detail because of spoilers, but I didn’t like it.
Overall, I wanted to like this book more than I did. I think Romy was a great representation of anxiety, but that and the mystery of how Romy ended up alone were the only things I liked about the story and they weren’t the main focus of the book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

GoodReads Summary:
This is the way the world ends. Again.
Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.
Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.
The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)Review:
The Fifth Season was an absolutely wild ride and I loved every page. I definitely spent most of this book confused, but that’s really nothing new when it comes to my reading fantasy or science fiction that’s really in-depth like this. I really loved the way Jemisin wove this world. We follow Essun as she’s trying to follow her husband and her daughter while the world is ending. I was immediately gripped by this story. I am blown away by Jemisin’s ability to pull me into a story so quickly. Especially since I really had no idea what was going on most of the time. We also follow two other perspectives, Damaya and Syenite. The twist that involved these two characters really blew me away. I had started to suspect that these two points of view were in a different timeline than the one of Essun (because for Essun the world was ending and that wasn’t happening for the other two girls). But Jemisin went even further and that took this story to a whole new level of greatness.
The world this story takes place in was fascinating. The culture and politics were pretty terrible to those with abilities. I liked that we got to see the way they are raised in Yumenes. But I also really enjoyed getting to see how hard it was for Essun to live free and undiscovered. What I really want to know is whether or not this is happening on Earth in several hundred years. I suspect this is the case, but I didn’t see any concrete evidence in the actual story.
Overall, I am trying to type like the wind so that I can immediately go and pick up the second book. We were definitely left on a cliff hanger, but I’m not even mad about it. I loved this book. I loved its characters and their complexities. I am just fascinated by every aspect of this story. I cannot wait to continue on with this world and the people in it. I also want to mention how incredibly diverse The Fifth Season is. We see several transgender characters, there are many different races and skin colors, we even get a wonderful polyamorous relationship (that I would die for). I loved all of the representation we got.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.