Devil in the Device by Lora Beth Johnson

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.

Devil in the Device by Lora Beth Johnson

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.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson

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?

Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson

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.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Dustborn by Erin Bowman

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.

Dustborn by Erin Bowman

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.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

Summary:
Spensa’s life as a Defiant Defense Force pilot has been far from ordinary. She proved herself one of the best starfighters in the human enclave of Detritus and she saved her people from extermination at the hands of the Krell—the enigmatic alien species that has been holding them captive for decades. What’s more, she traveled light-years from home as an undercover spy to infiltrate the Superiority, where she learned of the galaxy beyond her small, desolate planet home.
Now, the Superiority—the governing galactic alliance bent on dominating all human life—has started a galaxy-wide war. And Spensa’s seen the weapons they plan to use to end it: the Delvers. Ancient, mysterious alien forces that can wipe out entire planetary systems in an instant. Spensa knows that no matter how many pilots the DDF has, there is no defeating this predator.
Except that Spensa is Cytonic. She faced down a Delver and saw something eerily familiar about it. And maybe, if she’s able to figure out what she is, she could be more than just another pilot in this unfolding war. She could save the galaxy.
The only way she can discover what she really is, though, is to leave behind all she knows and enter the Nowhere. A place from which few ever return.
To have courage means facing fear. And this mission is terrifying.

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

Review:
Cytonic is the third installment in the Skyward series. So, I won’t go into too much detail with the summary considering that there would be major spoilers for the first two books.
We’re once again following Spensa, who sort of disappeared at the end of the Starsight. We follow her to where she disappeared and in this place, we discover lots of secrets. Considering this is the third book in the series, it felt like it was mostly a build-up for the fourth and final book. While we did get to see Spensa reappear, and we got to see some familiar faces while she was disappeared, it felt like this book was a fact-finding mission all to work toward the final whatever it may be in the final book. I’m certainly not upset about that, but I still missed the crew from the first book being all together. Spensa is mainly on her own, aside from M-Bot (who I still love with my whole heart even though he was mildly annoying in this book), while she’s on her mission. I definitely think there was so much character growth for her in this story because of the things she experienced. Part of that is also absolutely because she’s on this particular mission by herself. She learns more about her cytonic abilities as well as details about the enemy, but most of all, she really dives deep at times and learns more about who she is and what kind of person she wants to be.
Overall, this was another stellar installment of this series. I love Spensa and M-Bot. I love Doomslug. I liked the new characters well enough, but like I said above, I miss the original Skyward Flightcrew being all together. Even though this book felt like it was all leading up to the big resolution that has to be coming to the conclusion, I really appreciated the way this story took the time to develop Spensa on her own as a character. I think because her mission was solo, it really allowed for some focused character development. But I’m incredibly eager to see the team back together again in book four.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blog Tour: The Kindred by Alechia Dow

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.

The Kindred by Alechia Dow

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.

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.

Book Cover

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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.

Book Cover

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.  

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.