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: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.