Summary: Alyssa Farshot has spent her whole life trying to outrun her family legacy. Her mother sacrificed everything to bring peace to the quadrant, and her uncle has successfully ruled as emperor for decades. But the last thing Alyssa wants is to follow in their footsteps as the next in line for the throne. Why would she choose to be trapped in a palace when she could be having wild adventures exploring a thousand-and-one planets in her own ship? But when Alyssa’s uncle becomes gravely ill, his dying wish surprises the entire galaxy. Instead of naming her as his successor, he calls for a crownchase, the first in seven centuries. Representatives from each of the empire’s prime families—including Alyssa—are thrown into a race to find the royal seal, which has been hidden somewhere in the empire. The first to find the seal wins the throne. Alyssa’s experience as an explorer makes her the favorite to win the crown she never wanted. And though she doesn’t want to be empress, her duty to her uncle compels her to participate in this one last epic adventure. But when the chase turns deadly, it’s clear that more than just the fate of the empire is at stake. Alyssa is on her most important quest yet—and only time will tell if she’ll survive it.
Review: I’m going to preface this review with the fact that I listened to this book and wrote this review mostly while taking care of my six-week-old baby, so it’ll probably be a little more disorganized than my usual reviews. I’m not really sure if I have the brain space to write this review, but I really loved this book so I want to share that love and recommend it. Crownchasers follows a group of characters that are racing around space on what was essentially a scavenger hunt for the ability to become the next ruler. That’s an incredibly simplified explanation of this book, but I don’t think I could coherently explain it all in more detail without spoilers. I really enjoyed the universe. It was explained well and easy to understand despite the characters jumping around to a handful of different planets. I thought the politics and plot were compelling. I was very interested to see what was going to happen next. The author did a great job of raising the stakes, leaving the reader in real fear for some of the characters and real anger at others. I really grew to love the romance with one of the main characters. It felt really realistic and I felt my feelings for him growing alongside hers. Overall, I highly recommend this book and I’m very eagerly awaiting my library hold for the second book. I listened to the audiobook and I really loved the narrator. She did a great job telling this story in a way that kept me interested. I’ll definitely be recommending this book on lists in the future.
Summary: Zhade’s power might be going to his head. He’s still getting used to wearing Maret’s face, but he can’t deny that the influence it affords him has its perks. But when the magic of Eerensed starts to turn deadly, Zhade must master the Crown if he’s going to save his people, and Tsurina’s destructive plans for Eerensed aren’t going to make that easy. Worse, he’s starting to see her point. Meanwhile, Andra is in hiding. Assumed dead by the people of Eerensed, she must stay underground if she’s going to live long enough to build the rocket that will finally save the colonists from this dying planet. But when Andra hears voices urging her to destroy everything, she starts to dig deeper into her subconcious. What she finds leads her to question whether she’s destined to be a savior after all. Battling the dangerous forces buried within their minds, can Andra and Zhade truly decide their own fates? They must find a way to work together before two power-hungry leaders and a deadly swarm of rogue technology destroy humanity for good.
Review: I am so glad that my library had this ebook so that I could devour this sequel. I really loved Goddess in the Machine but I think I liked Devil in the Device even more. Devil in the Device starts off after everything basically blows up at the end of the first book. This sequel picks up right where we left off. Zhade is thinking that everything is going according to his plan while Andra is trying to figure out what the hell she is supposed to do next. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil anything from the first book. Let’s just say that things go from “according to plan” to hell in a handbasket incredibly quickly. Because we’re already familiar with the world, this book felt like it had a way faster pace. I think maybe that’s why I liked it more. I wouldn’t say there was non-stop action, but there were twists and turns and all kinds of things that made it feel like these characters never really had a moment to catch their breaths. There were a few twists that I had suspected, but even more that had me totally shocked. I think the plot of the story was clearly well executed. I liked that the stakes were high and you could never quite tell how things were going to play out. As I said in my review for the first book, the characters were really what made the story. Zhade is slowly realizing that what he thought he wanted isn’t going to satisfy him because it’s not what he really needed. He’s realizing that his plan might not actually be working out how he thought it was. Andra was basically floundering (which isn’t all that different from the first book) but she’s doing the best she can and that’s what really matters. She truly learns and adapts to all the things that are thrown at her. I really enjoyed seeing her fight against the negative influences and choose the right side of the conflicts. The only thing that I didn’t like about this book was that for the first third of the book Zhade and Andra stay away from each other for literally made-up reasons. Zhade has ideas in his head about why Andra couldn’t possibly feel the same, romantically, about him as she did before he did certain things. While Andra is doing the same thing, making up ideas that Zhade couldn’t possibly still care about her now that he knows the secrets about her that we’re revealed in the first book. But if they had just talked to each other (which they ended up doing about a third of the way into the story) they would have realized they were both being dumb. And then, once they did finally talk and resolve this issue, everything was amazing for them again, for about a day. I was so frustrated when almost immediately after their reconciliation, another conflict was created to keep them apart. It took entirely too long for them to both get it together long enough to finally work things out. Overall, I loved this book. The world is absolutely fascinating and I loved learning more about how the planet ended up the way that it is. I think the way humanity grew and developed and changed was incredibly compelling. The characters were engaging and I couldn’t help but love them. I just wanted more of Andra and Zhade together. Also, did I see hints of a spin-off for Zhade’s brother in the epilogue, I’m absolutely all about that.
Summary: When Andra wakes up, she’s drowning. Not only that, but she’s in a hot, dirty cave, it’s the year 3102, and everyone keeps calling her Goddess. When Andra went into a cryonic sleep for a trip across the galaxy, she expected to wake up in a hundred years, not a thousand. Worst of all, the rest of the colonists–including her family and friends–are dead. They died centuries ago, and for some reason, their descendants think Andra’s a deity. She knows she’s nothing special, but she’ll play along if it means she can figure out why she was left in stasis and how to get back to Earth. Zhade, the exiled bastard prince of Eerensed, has other plans. Four years ago, the sleeping Goddess’s glass coffin disappeared from the palace, and Zhade devoted himself to finding it. Now he’s hoping the Goddess will be the key to taking his rightful place on the throne–if he can get her to play her part, that is. Because if his people realize she doesn’t actually have the power to save their dying planet, they’ll kill her. With a vicious monarch on the throne and a city tearing apart at the seams, Zhade and Andra might never be able to unlock the mystery of her fate, let alone find a way to unseat the king, especially since Zhade hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with Andra. And a thousand years from home, is there any way of knowing that Earth is better than the planet she’s woken to?
Review: Oh man, I’m so glad I impulsively bought this book. Goddess in the Machine follows main characters Andra and Zhade. Zhade is a prince of the world that Andra has awoken on. Andra is the third goddess. She’s been frozen in a cryogenic pod for 1,000 years. Except, it was supposed to only be 100 years. So, while Zhade is trying to use the goddess for his own ends, Andra is trying to figure out what the hell went wrong and what to do next. This book was a wild ride. The story goes all over, but not in a way that made it seem like there was too much going on. There absolutely was a lot going on, but it was balanced really well and made sense for the story. I think the pacing of the story was well done as well. The author lets us get our bearings as we get to know the world and the characters and then incrementally turns things up with a well-placed twist here and there. I think the story was incredibly well written. The characters were really what made the book though. Andra is the daughter that never made the cut. She was always the disappointment of her family. And she’s still dealing with these feelings. So, she’s not the most confident of main characters, but honestly, she’s doing the best she can and that’s actually pretty damn good. I loved following her growth and progression and the way the story ended! Oh, my goodness, I am going to start the second book immediately after finishing this review. Zhade was not hard to love. He was funny and charming. But also, the guy that you know you can’t trust for anything, but you can’t help but trust him anyway eventually being completely unsurprised when he betrays you. I think his plan was so dumb, but I am incredibly excited to see where it leads. Overall, I loved this book. There were twists and turns that I didn’t see coming at all. A few that had my jaw-dropping. The story was well-paced, engaging, and kept me interested the entire time. The characters were, mostly, easy to root for and I can’t wait to see how they develop further in the sequel.
Summary: Delta of Dead River has always been told to hide her back, where a map is branded on her skin to a rumored paradise called the Verdant. In a wasteland plagued by dust squalls, geomagnetic storms, and solar flares, many would kill for it–even if no one can read it. So when raiders sent by a man known as the General attack her village, Delta suspects he is searching for her. Delta sets out to rescue her family but quickly learns that in the Wastes no one can be trusted–perhaps not even her childhood friend, Asher, who has been missing for nearly a decade. If Delta can trust Asher, she just might decode the map and trade evidence of the Verdant to the General for her family. What Delta doesn’t count on is what waits at the Verdant: a long-forgotten secret that will shake the foundation of her entire world.
Review: Dustborn is another book that I read for the 12 Challenge from instagram, but also, I bought it impulsively at the Barnes and Nobel 50% off hardcovers sale. I have absolutely no regrets. Dustborn follows Delta of Dead River as she fucks shit up. That’s it, end of summary. Just kidding. The story starts with Delta rushing to save her sisters life. Things get messy and when she returns to where her people have settled, she learns that they’ve been attacked and kidnapped. While on her way to rescue them, things go from bad to worse when she’s kidnapped and brought to be sold as a slave. The issue is that Delta has a map of the Verdant branded onto her back that no one is supposed to know about. So, when instead of being sold as a slave, she’s brought to the General (who is the person that had her people kidnapped), and he already knows about her brand, things get complicated very quickly. I liked Delta. She’s just a girl that makes an incredible number of mistakes and missteps. But she’s trying her hardest to save the lives of the people she cares about. She was all heart and minimal brains. That’s mostly a joke. She just is impulsive and often reckless. But I think that’s why I liked her so much. She doesn’t always think things through, but that just made the story that much more interesting. The world was compelling and learning more about this mysterious Verdant really kept me interested in the story. I wanted to know if they were going to make it there and what the whole Verdant myth was really about. The politics of the world were easy to understand. Survival is everything and those that have the power determine how you survive, or don’t. I absolutely loved when we finally started to get some answers about this world and its history. I think the mythology (religion?) of the gods in the stars was super interesting, but even more so once we learned where it came from. Overall, this was an engaging story that was full of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. It’s set on a planet that’s not terribly easy to live on, which created some high stakes. And the characters were interesting and entertaining. I will absolutely be reading more books by this author.
Summary: Read FM’s story between Starsight and Cytonic. When a planet-destroying Delver suddenly appears in the sky of Detritus and vanishes just as suddenly, FM knows that the last free human society got lucky. Her Skyward Flight companion, Spensa, figured out how to draw this Delver away, but it won’t be so easy next time. The forces of the Galactic Superiority will be back—and if the Defiant Defense Force can’t figure out a way to escape the planet, humanity’s destruction is only a matter of time. Spensa’s mission to infiltrate the Superiority unveiled the secret to their hyperdrives—a cytonic slug species called the Taynix. Now FM’s flightleader, Jorgen, has found a large group of Taynix hiding in the caverns far below Detritus’s surface. FM and Jorgen must work together with the engineer Rig to awaken the mysterious alien Alanik and unlock the powers of the Taynix, or humanity will be trapped. With Spensa’s friend Minister Cuna of the Superiority stranded at the outpost of Sunreach, they need to figure out how to rescue her—or the Superiority government will be in the sole clutches of those who want to wipe out Detritus once and for all. Review: Sunreach follows FM alongside the ending of Starsight. I really liked this insight to another character in the Skyward world. FM was always an interesting supporting character, but I really enjoyed being in her head. I really felt like we got to know her better. I also especially liked that we got a bit of romance in this novella. There are little bits and pieces taken from the first two books that push the plot forward in this story and I really enjoyed seeing those pieces finally come together.
Summary: Read Alanik’s story between Starsight and Cytonic. “Don’t trust their lies. Don’t trust their false peace.” That is the warning that Alanik of the planet ReDawn gave the human pilot Spensa after Alanik’s ship crash-landed on Detritus. While accepting an invitation to meet with her people’s enemy, the Galactic Superiority, Alanik heard Spensa’s cry for help across the vastness of space, and she used her cytonic powers to hyperjump her ship to the source of that cry. What she found there was a shock—a whole planet of free humans fighting against the Superiority. Were they the allies her people desperately needed? When she recovered from her injuries and met the friendly humans Jorgen and FM of Skyward Flight, she found that her warning to Spensa had gone unheeded by the government of Detritus, and they were considering a peace overture from the Superiority. Now having returned to ReDawn, Alanik is dismayed to learn that her own people are falling into the exact same trap. The faction in ReDawn’s government that wants to appease the Superiority has gained the upper hand. With Alanik’s mentor, Renakin captured, she has no one to turn to but Jorgen, FM, and their friend Rig. An ancient technology may have the power to save both of their planets from disaster, but can they discover its secrets before it’s too late? Review: This one was a little bit harder to get into because we’re following the alien, Alanik, that we met in Starsight. So, we’re mostly unfamiliar with her world. I thought the world building was well done. I could only sort of picture her world considering she’s from a gas planet and some of it just didn’t make any sense to my brain. I did really appreciate this new perspective though. We’re seeing another species and how they’ve been treated by the Superiority and the things that are happening politically because of that treatment. I liked, much like the first novella, how the plot tied together with the wider series. I thought it was interesting and engaging.
Evershore (Skyward 3.5)
Summary: Read Jorgen’s story along with Cytonic. With the government of Detritus in disarray because of Superiority treachery, and with Spensa still away on her mission in the Nowhere, Jorgen must work together with the alien Alanik to pick up the pieces. They intercept a strange transmission from the planet Evershore and its Kitsen inhabitants, who say they have some of Jorgen’s people and want to return them—but can the Kitsen be trusted? And can Jorgen learn to master his increasingly erratic cytonic powers before they spiral out of control and destroy all hope of forming an alliance against the Superiority? Review: Jorgen’s story was probably my favorite of the three novellas. I love Jorgen and I really liked being in his head. It was interesting to see inside his head after seeing him through Spensa’s eyes for two full books. I think he’s an excellent leader and this novella only showed that further. Like the first two novellas, I especially enjoyed how the plot tied to the rest of the series. I liked being on another new planet and seeing Jorgen learn about things I won’t specify because of spoilers. I am absolutely excited to see how these three novellas will be tied into the events of books three and four in the Skyward series.
Summary: To save a galactic kingdom from revolution, Kindred mind-pairings were created to ensure each and every person would be seen and heard, no matter how rich or poor… Joy Abara knows her place. A commoner from the lowly planet Hali, she lives a simple life—apart from the notoriety that being Kindred to the nobility’s most infamous playboy brings. Duke Felix Hamdi has a plan. He will exasperate his noble family to the point that they agree to let him choose his own future and finally meet his Kindred face-to-face. Then the royal family is assassinated, putting Felix next in line for the throne…and accused of the murders. Someone will stop at nothing until he’s dead, which means they’ll target Joy, too. Meeting in person for the first time as they steal a spacecraft and flee amid chaos might not be ideal…and neither is crash-landing on the strange backward planet called Earth. But hiding might just be the perfect way to discover the true strength of the Kindred bond and expose a scandal—and a love—that may decide the future of a galaxy.
Review: Thank you, NetGalley for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. I was invited to be a part of the blog tour for this book by HarperCollins and I’m so glad. I absolutely adored The Sound of Stars and I had high hopes for Dow’s sophomore novel. I absolutely was not disappointed. The Kindred follows Felix and Joy in alternating perspectives with the occasional memory included. Felix is a duke, but he shies away from any sort of responsibility. He wants to play music and travel. Joy is a poor girl that is about to marry Maxon (a huge jerk) because it’s what she’s “supposed” to do. But Felix and Joy are one another’s Kindred. In this society, everyone is paired with another, their Kindred, at birth. But due to the political maneuvering of others, Felix and Joy are not allowed to meet. They’re not allowed to love one another the way that many other Kindred do. And then all hell breaks loose when the rulers of this society are assassinated. Secrets are revealed and Joy and Felix must meet and flee to keep themselves safe. I really liked both Joy and Felix. Joy really struggles with her sense of self. She doesn’t think very highly of herself. So, her gaining confidence and finally disregarding the things she’s believed about her body was incredibly satisfying to follow. Her emotional growth was one of my favorite things. I also enjoyed Felix starting to take things more seriously. He seems like a party boy when the story starts, but as the story picks up, we see him take charge and responsibility. I think both characters had really well-done development. My favorite thing about this book was the world and the ways that it connected to The Sound of Stars. I think the world was incredibly well built. It’s clear that Dow put a lot of work into creating this universe and its history. The history and culture of this book were so interesting. I loved how intricate and detailed the story was about the settings and religions. The plot of the story was engaging and compelling. We find Joy and Felix, two aliens, crash landing on earth and that’s when the connections to The Sound of Stars being to reveal. I didn’t realize that this book was going to be related to her previous book in any way, but this was almost a prequel and I absolutely loved it. I think the story was really fast-paced and I really liked that. It was a quick read or felt like it because of the pacing of the story. Overall, I cannot wait for more books from Dow. I hope there’s another set in the same universe that includes all these characters that I’ve come to love. I think the characters were easy to care about. I think the world and culture were fascinating. I loved the outcome of the story. I also really loved the messages of the story. It’s a story that speaks to the necessity of compassion and love. We need these things in the world and this story is all about that. I absolutely recommend this book and I think it will be a very loved story.
Summary: After angering a local gangster, seventeen-year-old Sena Korhosen must flee with her prize fighting wolf, Iska, in tow. A team of scientists offer to pay her way off her frozen planet on one condition: she gets them to the finish line of the planet’s infamous sled race. Though Sena always swore she’d never race after it claimed both her mothers’ lives, it’s now her only option. But the tundra is a treacherous place, and as the race unfolds and their lives are threatened at every turn, Sena starts to question her own abilities. She must discover whether she’s strong enough to survive the wild – whether she and Iska together are strong enough to get them all out alive. A captivating debut about survival, found family, and the bond between a girl and a wolf that delivers a fresh twist on classic survival stories and frontier myths.
Review: Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves follows Sena, a girl that’s just trying to earn enough money to escape the ice-covered planet she grew up on. I don’t know that I can say I liked or disliked Sena. I think I liked her by the of the story but she did so many self-destructive and just plain dumb things. Her story was compelling for sure though. So, even when I was rolling my eyes at her actions, I was interested to see what she would try next. I liked the supporting characters as well but I felt like we didn’t really get to know them very well. The world was fascinating. Sena lives on a frozen planet where mining and the yearly races attract the wealthy and other corporations. The draw of the planet’s natural resources and the money to be made from them was a really interesting one. I think the negative light the corps were painted in was very much compared to modern society and I liked that. Aside from these, the setting was stunning with the frozen rivers and lakes and the woods full of deadly predators. But most of all, I was interested in the culture of Sena’s ama. One of Sena’s mothers left her home of the native population to be with Sena’s mom. But she still taught Sena about the culture she was raised in and I liked learning about that culture the most. Overall, this was a pretty nicely paced story. Long did a great job of showing things instead of telling them to the reader (though there were things told, mostly bits of backstory here and there). I think I will probably read more by this author.
Summary: The freeway is coming. It will cut the neighborhood in two. Construction has already started, pushing toward this corridor of condemned houses and cracked concrete with the momentum of the inevitable. Yet there you are, in the fifth house on the left, fighting for your life. Ramey, I. The victim of the bet between two manufactured gods: the seductive and lethal Roxy (Oxycontin), who is at the top of her game, and the smart, high-achieving Addison (Adderall), who is tired of being the helpful one, and longs for a more dangerous, less wholesome image. The wager—a contest to see who can bring their mark to “the Party” first—is a race to the bottom of a rave that has raged since the beginning of time. And you are only human, dazzled by the lights and music. Drawn by what the drugs offer—tempted to take that step past helpful to harmful…and the troubled places that lie beyond. But there are two I. Rameys—Isaac, a soccer player thrown into Roxy’s orbit by a bad fall and a bad doctor and Ivy, his older sister, whose increasing frustration with her untreated ADHD leads her to renew her acquaintance with Addy. Which one are you?
Review: Roxy follows two siblings, Isaac and Ivy, as they use and eventually abuse drugs. But this book isn’t the usual story where we follow them down the path of addiction, Neal and Jarrod Shusterman have added a very interesting twist to this story. They’ve written the drugs into the story as characters, giving life to these substances. The two main drug personifications that we see are Roxy, who is OxyContin, and Addison, who is Adderall. But we also see morphine, marijuana, heroin, molly, alcohol, cocaine, and a few others. I have to admit that I had to use an embarrassing amount of brainpower to puzzle out what some of the drugs were because they all have names and not all of them are obvious. (Morphine being named Phineas took me way too long to figure out.) The plot of this story was incredibly well done. The story was fast-paced and never missed a beat even though it wasn’t a super action-filled story, instead, using smaller events to build up the story to its climax. I really liked the interludes that we got from the drugs other than Roxy and Addison. They were almost sweet? By that, I mean that this book didn’t just say “drugs are bad” and try to pound it into your head. In one interlude we see Mary Jane (marijuana) being used by an older gentleman with cancer. There’s still a negative connotation with it because this man doesn’t want to be using drugs, but Mary Jane made him feel better. I think the authors absolutely could have used this book to be preachy about how drugs are bad, but I don’t think that’s what they did. Let me explain via the two main characters. Ivy has ADHD, but she also just likes to party. But the authors did a really great job showing how much Ivy changed once she finally got on the right medication. Once she started taking Adderall, there’s a stark and obvious improvement in her schoolwork and across many other things in her life. They showed how taking the medicine that she needed helped her. But they didn’t shy away from showing possible negative side effects (loss of appetite leading to losing weight, inability to sleep, and things like that). They showed that Ivy, who had a history of drinking and using other substances, could go from taking her medication how she was supposed to, to abusing it and doubling her doses thinking it will be doubly effective. Things for Isaac though, it was clear they were only ever going to follow one path, so the authors showed proper use of medication in other ways. Isaac hurts his ankle pretty badly, so his grandmother offers him a pill, and this is how Isaac meets Roxy. He slowly descends into addiction, not really realizing how deep he’s gotten until it’s too late. I really liked that the authors showed him trying to stop taking the drugs and how hard something like that is to do on your own. Overall, I think this was a really fascinating twist on writing about drugs and substance abuse. I think I could have done without Addison and Roxy making a deal to see who can literally kill one of the siblings first because that didn’t really sit right with me. But I really think it shows how much thought and effort the authors put into this story. I don’t want to say that I liked how the story concluded because someone actually died and it was incredibly sad, but I have to say that I was gripped by this story right from the first page.
Hey, lovelies! I’m back with my second installment of my genre specific gifts for bookworms. Today, I want to recommend some underrated science fiction books that I absolutely think you should gift to the sci-fi readers in your life. Science fiction is my favorite genre, so, I’d like to think that these are some pretty good recommendations.
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.”
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.”
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.”
Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia & Anna-Marie McLemore “There hasn’t been a winner of the Miss Meteor beauty pageant who looks like Lita Perez or Chicky Quintanilla in all its history. But that’s not the only reason Lita wants to enter the contest, or why her ex-best friend Chicky wants to help her. The road to becoming Miss Meteor isn’t about being perfect; it’s about sharing who you are with the world—and loving the parts of yourself no one else understands. So to pull off the unlikeliest underdog story in pageant history, Lita and Chicky are going to have to forget the past and imagine a future where girls like them are more than enough—they are everything. Witty and heartfelt with characters that leap off the page, Miss Meteor is acclaimed authors Anna-Marie McLemore and Tehlor Kay Mejia’s first book together.”
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.”
Adaptation by Malinda Lo “Reese can’t remember anything from the time between the accident and the day she woke up almost a month later. She only knows one thing: She’s different now. Across North America, flocks of birds hurl themselves into airplanes, causing at least a dozen to crash. Thousands of people die. Fearing terrorism, the United States government grounds all flights, and millions of travelers are stranded. Reese and her debate team partner and longtime crush David are in Arizona when it happens. Everyone knows the world will never be the same. On their drive home to San Francisco, along a stretch of empty highway at night in the middle of Nevada, a bird flies into their headlights. The car flips over. When they wake up in a military hospital, the doctor won’t tell them what happened, where they are—or how they’ve been miraculously healed. Things become even stranger when Reese returns home. San Francisco feels like a different place with police enforcing curfew, hazmat teams collecting dead birds, and a strange presence that seems to be following her. When Reese unexpectedly collides with the beautiful Amber Gray, her search for the truth is forced in an entirely new direction—and threatens to expose a vast global conspiracy that the government has worked for decades to keep secret.”
The Final Six by Alexandra Monir “When Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, and Naomi, a science genius from California, are two of the twenty-four teens drafted into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever altered. After erratic climate change has made Earth a dangerous place to live, the fate of the population rests on the shoulders of the final six who will be scouting a new planet. Intense training, global scrutiny, and cutthroat opponents are only a few of the hurdles the contestants must endure in this competition. For Leo, the prospect of traveling to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—to help resettle humankind is just the sense of purpose he’s been yearning for since losing his entire family in the flooding of Rome. Naomi, after learning of a similar space mission that mysteriously failed, suspects the ISTC isn’t being up front with them about what’s at risk.As the race to the final six advances, the tests get more challenging—even deadly. With pressure mounting, Naomi finds an unexpected friend in Leo, and the two grow closer with each mind-boggling experience they encounter. But it’s only when the finalists become fewer and their destinies grow nearer that the two can fathom the full weight of everything at stake: the world, the stars, and their lives.”
Tarnished are the Stars by Rosiee Thor “A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher’s chest: an illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog — donning the moniker Technician — to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner’s tyrannical laws. Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner’s son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father’s respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father’s elusive affection is worth chasing at all. Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner’s secrets at any cost — even if it means betraying her own heart. When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic — before the Commissioner ends them first.”
I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi “Seven days. Seven days. The Earth might end in seven days. When news stations start reporting that Earth has been contacted by a planet named Alma, the world is abuzz with rumors that the alien entity is giving mankind only few days to live before they hit the kill switch on civilization. For high school truant Jesse Hewitt, though, nothing has ever felt permanent. Not the guys he hooks up with. Not the jobs his underpaid mom works so hard to hold down. Life has dealt him one bad blow after another — so what does it matter if it all ends now? Cate Collins, on the other hand, is desperate to use this time to find the father she’s never met, the man she grew up hearing wild stories about, most of which she didn’t believe. And then there’s Adeem Khan. While coding and computer programming have always come easily to him, forgiveness doesn’t. He can’t seem to forgive his sister for leaving, even though it’s his last chance. With only seven days to face their truths and right their wrongs, Jesse, Cate, and Adeem’s paths collide even as their worlds are pulled apart.”
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 . . .”
These are some of my favorite underrated science fictions stories. I think each one of these books deserve more love and attention, so please, I beg you. Buy these books for the science fiction lovers in your life.
Summary: When a teenage girl thinks she may be the only person left alive in her town—maybe in the whole world—she must rely on hope, trust, and her own resilience. Paige Miller is determined to take her basketball team to the state championship, maybe even beyond. But as March Madness heats up, Paige falls deathly ill. Days later, she wakes up attached to an IV and learns that the whole world has perished. Everyone she loves, and all of her dreams for the future—they’re gone. But Paige is a warrior, so she pushes through her fear and her grief. And as she gets through each day—scrounging for food, for shelter, for safety—Paige encounters a few more young survivors. Together, they might stand a chance. But as they struggle to endure their new reality, they learn that the apocalypse did not happen by accident. And that there are worse things than being alone.
Review: Any Sign of Life follows Paige after she wakes up to a whole new world. She remembers feeling a bit sick when she went to sleep, but she soon realizes that she was essentially in a coma for a week and that everyone she’s ever known is now dead. She leaves her home to see if she can find other survivors and the few people she does find have theories that the plague was introduced to humanity via aliens. This sounds totally weird but it was fun. This was my first time in many months reading a plague/quickly spreading illness story. I thought I would be totally fine and it wouldn’t bother me at all since I don’t usually have issues reading about things like that. But I found that I had to take a few breaks in the first 150 pages to so just to take a breath from the darkness of the story. Despite that, once the alien twist came into the story, I really flew through it. It’s a sort about the end of the world, so it’s a bit dark. But Paige and Trey, and eventually Tanq and the others they meet were a fun group. I really liked the way things went when Paige and Trey met for the first time. It had me tearing up a little, honestly. I think the characters were all interesting and well developed. We had a pretty diverse cast too. Trey is black. Tanq is asexual. Wyatt has asthma. I would say sarcastically that all the diversity boxes were checked off, but they all were likable characters that had a purpose in the story. To me, it didn’t feel like these things were just thrown in there to claim the diversity card. My one complaint about the story was that it was trying to do too much. I was totally on board with the world-ending flu that we later find out is caused by aliens. And even when we found out the reasoning why Trey, Tanq, and Wyatt survived, I bought it. But the twist with Paige felt like it was pushing things a little too far. I think there were so many more things that could have been explored in the story and there just wasn’t enough time to do it all. I believe this is a standalone too, so it’s not like those details we find out in the final third of the story will be explored later in the series because it isn’t one. Overall, I enjoyed this book. It’s not a new favorite or anything, but I had a good time reading it. It was fast paced and thrilling. It was compelling and had characters that I was easily invested in. Oh! There’s also a dog that’s super well-trained, adorable, and survives the whole book. I would definitely recommend this book to readers that enjoy YA science fiction.
Summary: When a deadly Fly Flu sweeps the globe, it leaves a shell of the world that once was. Among the survivors are eighteen-year-old Nico and her dog, on a voyage devised by Nico’s father to find a mythical portal; a young artist named Kit, raised in an old abandoned cinema; and the enigmatic Deliverer, who lives Life after Life in an attempt to put the world back together. As swarms of infected Flies roam the earth, these few survivors navigate the woods of post-apocalyptic New England, meeting others along the way, each on their own quest to find life and love in a world gone dark. The Electric Kingdom is a sweeping exploration of art, storytelling, eternal life, and above all, a testament to the notion that even in an exterminated world, one person might find beauty in another.
Review: The Electric Kingdom was the book for my book club in May. This is a post-apocolyptic pandemic story so I thought it was going to be tough to read at times, but thankfully, the story didn’t go too much into detail about the illness that comes from the Flies. Also, it’s a much more vicious story. There are genetically engineered Flies that swarm and devour anything, and we get to see it a few times. But this story was more about survival than the actual Flies and accompanying sickness. It’s a story of loss and grief, survival and found family. We get to follow a few different points of view. I will say that I was confused for most of this book. There also wasn’t one moment where all of the pieces finally come together. It’s confusing for a number of reasons. One is that there are jumps in time all over the place. Each point of view often spends time remembering things, so there’s little to no warning that we are reading about the past. While these flashbacks did share meaningful information, they were a bit confusing at times. But they did add to the overall story, they just took some getting used to. We are also missing a lot of pieces in the beginning of the story. I spent a lot of time guessing how everything was connected. I liked the characters and the overall plot, but I was dissatisfied with the ending. There wasn’t any real resolution, more of just hope for the future. But I don’t like that. I can be satisfied with open ended conclusions, but there wasn’t enough for me to be happy with this one. Now, all of this makes it sound like I didn’t like this book. But that’s not the case. I flew through this book. It was compelling and I couldn’t put it down. There were characters I could easily root for and so many questions that I needed answers to. Overall, nothing I thought was going to happen or connected in the way I thought it would. The Electric Kingdom kept me guessing right up until the final pages. I had fun reading this even though things got pretty dark at times. The story twists and turns, and ends in a way that I never would have guessed. I really enjoyed it and my only big complaint would be the unsatisfying ending.
Summary: There hasn’t been a winner of the Miss Meteor beauty pageant who looks like Lita Perez or Chicky Quintanilla in all its history. But that’s not the only reason Lita wants to enter the contest, or why her ex-best friend Chicky wants to help her. The road to becoming Miss Meteor isn’t about being perfect; it’s about sharing who you are with the world—and loving the parts of yourself no one else understands. So to pull off the unlikeliest underdog story in pageant history, Lita and Chicky are going to have to forget the past and imagine a future where girls like them are more than enough—they are everything. Witty and heartfelt with characters that leap off the page, Miss Meteor is acclaimed authors Anna-Marie McLemore and Tehlor Kay Mejia’s first book together.
Review: After reading and loving books by both Mejia and McLemore, I knew I needed to give Miss Meteor a try. The cover is stunning and the summary makes the book sound so enjoyable. I was not wrong at all. I really loved this book. We follow Chicky and Lita in alternating points of view. The two used to be best friends, but Chicky doesn’t feel like she can be honest about who she is and Lita was bullied and is ashamed of it. So, the two stopped being friends. But now Lita is being returned to the stars (it’s not mentioned in the synopsis, but Lita and her mother figure are aliens that came here on a meteor. This aspect of the story is a mix of both science fiction and magical realism, which I completely loved). Lita has decided that if she’s being returned to the stars, one of the last things she’d like to do is try to win the Miss Meteor beauty pageant. While this is happening, Chicky is being bullied by a mean girl named Kendra. Chicky decides that she needs to do something that will cause Kendra to lose. The best way for that to happen is for Chicky and Lita (and Chicky’s sisters) to team up and make sure that Lita wins Miss Meteor. While this story is about an unlikely girl winning a beauty pageant, it’s also about so much more than that. Both Chicky and Lita experience racism and prejudice. Chicky is pansexual. Lita is plus sized. Both are Latinx. There is also a side character, Cole (Kendra’s brother) who is friends with both girls. Cole is trans. There is so much representation in this book and the way that things like racism and fatphobia were talked about was really excellent. It was so easy to love both Chicky and Lita. Chicky is really struggling. She’s working on accepting herself and being able to proudly claim the label of pansexual. But she’s often bullied at school for being a lesbian, even though she isn’t one. So, she’s pushed away her best friend, but this pageant is a chance for her to mend things with Lita. We also get to see a lot of Chicky’s sisters which I loved. I loved all of them. They’re all so full of personality and different from one another. Seeing them all work together to help Lita was the perfect comedic relief from the more serious parts of this story. Lita is being taken back to the stars. Parts of her body are literally turning into stars. This aspect was magical and whimsical, but also suspenseful because Lita realized she can prevent her changing, but she’s failing to do so. Seeing the whole group together, Chicky, Lita, Chicky’s sisters, and also Cole and Junior, was so much fun. I loved this group of friends so much. I loved seeing their growth and supporting one another. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Yes, it is about two ex-best friends trying to win a beauty pageant, but it’s about so much more than that. It’s about friendship, standing up for those you love, trying to create change, and most of all, loving yourself. There are so many positive things about this book. The characters were my favorite, but I also have to say that the writing was stunning. It was lyrical and beautiful without being overly descriptive. I will continue to pick up and love both McLemore and Mejia’s books.
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.
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.
Summary: The danger rises and the deception grows in the heart-stopping third book in the New York Times bestselling Impostors series! Frey’s return to the city of her birth isn’t going to be an easy one. She and her love Col must surge on new faces and bodies in order to infiltrate Shreve by dropping from the sky and landing undetected. Frey’s sister Rafi — no longer a twin in features, but still a twin by birth — is the wild card. Are the sisters on the same side . . . or are they playing to their own agendas? If their father is deposed from Shreve, who will take control? And what other forces may be waiting in the wings? Mirror’s Edge is another brilliant blockbuster from one of the greatest speculative writers YA fiction has ever seen, set within the world of Uglies . . . and about to converge with Uglies in a spectacular way.
Review: Mirror’s Edge starts off with a group of characters that we know from the first two books skydiving into Shreve. This group must infiltrate Shreve to depose Frey and Rafi’s father. This book was action packed and full of twists and turns. I really enjoyed seeing more of the world, seeing the other cities coming together to try to help Shreve. I think there are two things that really make this book and series shine. The first is the characters. Frey is such an interesting main character. All she’s ever wanted to be was her own person, outside of her sister’s shadow. She manages to do that in this book in sort of an extreme way. Frey’s appearance is modified so that she can go undetected in Shreve. She’s fierce and determined to make her home a better place. She gets to see more of what it’s like to actually live in the city. Frey’s growth in this book and the series so far has been such a journey to follow. She’s always been a leader, but in this book, we see her be a part of a team. We see her let go of the leadership position that she’s working toward. I am beyond excited to see what’s going to happen in the next book, especially with the way this one ended. The second thing that makes this book shine is the politics. I think the twists and turns of the plot are included in the politics because most of the twists are of a political nature. The whole book is leading us toward Frey taking leadership in Shreve, but when the conclusion comes, nothing goes as we’ve been led to expect. I loved this. I think the politics involving the other cities in this world were interesting too. They’ve left Shreve alone for such a long time, but they’re finally stepping in. The things we learn about what Frey and Rafi’s father is doing was wild. Westerfeld gives us little bits and pieces to try to put together (which of course I didn’t) before finally revealing everything. Overall, I think this series, even though it’s not actually a part of the original Uglies series, will always hold a place in my heart because of nostalgia. The Uglies series is one I’ve read dozens of times and the Impsotors series is just more pieces of that world. A world that I spent so much of my formative years escaping to. So, while this may not be a masterpiece of literature, it’s one dear to my heart. I cannot wait for the next book with the surprise that was dropped in the final pages of this book. On a final note, I listened to the audiobook and I really liked the narrator.
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.
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.