Posted in Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (7/5/21) – Iron Widow

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme created by Lauren’s Page Turners. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.

I’m always on the hunt for good YA sci-fi, and this one sounds incredible! I forget where I first heard about it, but everything about it hooked me – inspired by Chinese history, giant sentient machines, and a polyamorous relationship! September can’t come soon enough…

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (7/5/21) – IRON WIDOW by Xiran Jay Zhao

Amazon.com: Iron Widow (9780735269934): Zhao, Xiran Jay: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

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.

So why do I want to read this?

Iron Man's HUD switching to battle mode in the Avengers: MovieDetails

Okay, WHOA. I haven’t seen a premise like this in YA before…

I LOVE all of the different aspects that are coming together in this novel; according to the author, all of the characters are inspired by figures in Chinese history, and they’re all integrated into an entirely new sci-fi world. I can already tell that I’m gonna love Zetian as a protagonist – strong-willed, independent, and willing to fight for her sister’s honor.

And PATRIARCHY SMASHING! MY FAVORITE! There seems to be a thread of fighting against misogynist institutions in Iron Widow, and I’m 100% here for it. Plus, it’s super cool that instead of having a traditional love triangle, there’s a polyamorous relationship – instead of Zetian having to choose between her love interests, she’s in a relationship with both of them, and the love interests are boyfriends as well! Even though we’ve been making great leaps in LGBTQ+ representation in YA, it’s not often that I see any kind of polyamorous rep, so I think it’s amazing that Xiran Jay Zhao is putting out a novel with that kind of rep.

Good For Her GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

All in all, sign me up for the patriarchy-smashing, the sci-fi vibes, and the LGBTQ+ rep!

Today’s song:

Alright I just started listening to this whole album…I’m about halfway through and it’s GREAT

That’s it for this week’s Goodreads Monday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books

Sci-Fi Tropes: Cryosleep, Unhinged AI, and everything in between 🪐

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been trying to think of more original posts to do, and I figured that this one would be something really fun to explore. I’ve seen a lot of posts talking about tropes, but genre-specific ones are always interesting to think about/discuss, and in much of the YA book fandom, I feel like sci-fi doesn’t get as much love. So I decided to look at six tropes that are specific to sci-fi (for the most part). Sci-fi is my favorite genre, so I got super excited thinking about all of these different tropes, and some (mostly) YA books that use them in different ways.

So let’s begin, shall we?

These Are Not The 130 "Star Wars" GIFs You Are Looking For | Star wars gif,  Star wars characters, Star wars episodes

WARNING: This post may contain some book spoilers (Aurora Cycle & Dare Mighty Things series), so read at your own risk!

🛸SCI-FI TROPES🛸

CRYOSLEEP, BUT FOR WAY TOO LONG

Quiz: Ripley, Our Lady of Survival | Bookmans Entertainment Exchange

Ellen Ripley – and Aliens in particular – probably set the blueprint for this one, but as the trope gets more popular, authors have started to push the limits on this one, which I think is a really cool move.

It’s most often the protagonist that this happens to – our hero, on the eve of something great, is put into cryosleep for an interplanetary mission, only for something to go terribly awry and stay in cryosleep for longer than they were supposed to. Ripley got an accidental 50 years, Auri from Aurora Rising got 200 years, and Andra from Goddess in the Machine got a whopping 1,000 years.

This trope presents two main advantages for writing: a vehicle for exploring the novel’s world through fresh eyes, and internal conflict within the character. If your cryosleep character is completely unfamiliar with the world, seeing it through their eyes gives the reader a more in-depth look at the world than they’d get with a character that’s already familiar with it. They’ll inevitably notice more things and fixate on different things than another character might, which gives the reader more insight about what’s unique about the world that the author has crafted.

As for the internal conflict piece, this part’s always touched on, but in most of the novels I’ve read with it, it’s a lot more shallow than you’d think. There’s the existential crisis that inevitably occurs when the character realizes that everything they know and love is all but gone, but beyond the first few chapters from their POV, they get over it…relatively quickly? It seems like the kind of trauma that would leave lasting psychological scars, and probably physical health repercussions as well. I’ve yet to read any book that explores all that in depth, but it seems like the perfect setup for a sci-fi novel.

So this one’s a trope that can make for a lot of creative choices, but often has a lot of untapped potential.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: Aurora Rising (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff), Goddess in the Machine (Lora Beth Johnson)

GOTTEN INTO A SITUATION YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF? TIME TRAVEL!

Best Avengers Endgame GIFs | Gfycat
“Time travel!”

Apparently this one is a lot more common than I thought, but I’ve only started to see it in YA more recently. (Well, there’s Avengers: Endgame, but it took me a while to realize how common of a trope it is…)

This trope has the possibility of ENDLESS freaky hijinks whilst traversing through time. Sometimes it’s just pushing the events of the past so that everything lines up a little bit nicer, and sometimes it’s rocketing back to another time period entirely. It usually happens only with the last book in a trilogy or duology, just so everyone can fix the mess they got into in the first books.

I have mixed feelings on this one; one the one hand, there’s never a dull moment – time travel jokes, fitting VERY badly into a different time period, and very high stakes, most of all. If the first books have followed a similar formula, it might be good to try for something else to end the series with a bang.

On the other, though, something about it almost feels…lazy to me. Often, this trope arises from The Gang™️ getting a situation so bad that there may not be a feasible way out of it, but…maybe they could? If done wrong, it can feel like lazy writing – an easy way out, and one that provides instant comic relief. And often, the means of said time travel are vague, and often reduced to technobabble from The Smart Character™️, which, hey, I don’t know much about the science of it either, but maybe at least put a little time into it?

So this one’s a double-edged sword: instant plot, or lazy writing? The choice is yours!

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: Sword in the Stars (Once & Future, #2) (A.R. Capetta and Cori McCarthy), Aurora’s End (Aurora Cycle, #3) (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff)*

*this one doesn’t come out until November [screams] but we know that time travel will play a big part in this one, so…

ALIENS THAT BASICALLY JUST LOOK LIKE HUMANS (BUT WITH A FEW MINOR DIFFERENCES)

Pin on Asteria Academy
I know Jean Grey isn’t an alien, but most of the aliens mentioned below have similar powers to her, so…

Most of the other tropes I’m going to be discussing in this post are ones that I like on some level, but…this one gets on my nerves. For the most part.

Far too many times, I’ve fallen into the trap of picking up a sci-fi book that promises aliens, only to discover that the aliens just look like humans, but with either a) unusual eye colors, b) some sort of powers, or c) a combination of both. And of course, they have to be ✨ridiculously attractive✨ as well. 🙄

Now, I completely get making your aliens humanoid (hey, I’m doing it with some of my aliens for my sci-fi WIP), but there’s a certain point where it feels a bit lazy. Unless there’s some way you can back it up, it seems weird to me that in this entire universe, the only other intelligent beings, by some cosmic chance, are similar to us in almost every way.

But I’ve seen some authors use it to their advantage – in particular, One Giant Leap (the sequel to Dare Mighty Things) does this especially well. The main alien civilization there look exactly like humans, but it’s because of genetic modifications performed so that they could survive on Earth. See? That’s actually a really good way of turning the trope on its head, and doing so in a practical way!

For the most part, this trope never ceases to bug me, but there’s a few ways to turn it on its head.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: One Giant Leap (Dare Mighty Things, #2) (Heather Kaczynski), Amid Stars and Darkness (Chani Lynn Feener)

UNHINGED A.I.

David - Prometheus --- ah! DON'T TELL ME THAT!!! (lol) | Michael  fassbender, David 8, Sebastian moran
BREAKING: Michael Fassbender Sustains Fatal Back Injuries from Carrying all of the Alien Prequels

For me, at least, this trope is the most fun – and it presents some of the scariest and most formidable antagonists in sci-fi.

Villainous AI are some of the most fascinating characters to explore – they have unmatched power, in some cases, and whether they’re a pre-installed ship AI or an android, it’s always interesting to hear their perspective on all of us puny mortals.

Given that humans trust AI a bit *too* much in most sci-fi novels, they often have a fearsome amount of power at their disposal. AI installed inside of a ship? Access to all the security footage, navigation, communications, and controls of the ship. They know their crew up and down, and have the possibility to play everybody’s weaknesses against each other. They have the power to sabotage anything and everything, and more often than not, they do. WITHOUT HESITATION. A corrupt AI often harbors a hatred or jealousy of human beings, and if it’s not that motivating them, it’s some sort of technologically-stemmed god complex, which is always terrifying to watch play out. (Lookin’ right at you, David…) It’s even more of an interesting development if their moral compass shifts over the course of the series – if there’s one thing I’ve learned from sci-fi, it’s that benevolent robot overlords never stay benevolent for very long.

Corrupt AI as antagonists are often more compelling than human or alien ones (for me, at least) partly because so much is left up to the imagination about the inner workings of their minds. We’ve never developed any kind of artificial intelligence that’s become intelligent enough to have devious tendencies like many sci-fi villains, so a lot of it is the author’s personal choice. There are endless possibilities – but more often than not, they’re all terrifying.

And even if they aren’t main antagonists, the addition of a slight unstable AI as a character is always amusing; for all of its flaws, I loved Gregorovich’s existential musings in To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, and his character added some much-needed flavor to the rest of the cast.

TL;DR: There’s nothing more terrifying than a villain that knows everything about everything, and uses that power for its own gain at whatever the cost.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars (Christopher Paolini), Illuminae (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff), Scythe (Neal Shusterman)

HIGH-STAKES COMPETITIONS TO GO TO SPACE…WITH SOME SERIOUS ULTERIOR MOTIVES

artoo, that way

Scared to send your experienced, highly intelligent scientists to space? Send some teenagers instead!

This one tends to crop up the most in YA, as it’s primed for a book that has a primarily teenage cast. The ones I’ve read do tend to follow a formula, but for the most part, it’s one that’s actually a lot of fun!

The worldbuilding/motives behind it are always a little bit messy (again: sending teenagers into space! What could possibly go wrong?), but often times, you just have to hang in there; it’s a given that whatever program is funding the competition is doing something astronomically shady. (No pun intended.) Part of the fun with this trope is the mystery of it; slowly but surely, the competition starts dropping like flies, and things go very wrong very quickly.

More on the mystery aspect – the mystery that often occurs in these types of novels is very slow-burn, building on itself before the heartstopping reveal at the end (often a cliffhanger). From program superiors lying to scheming androids to deaths under mysterious circumstances, there are endless possibilities for many, many things to go wrong. Add in the not-so-friendly rivalries between the competitors (also scheming, along with everybody else), and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a nail-biting sci-fi mystery.

And once/if they get to space? Everything gets way worse. There’s bound to be aliens, but whether they’re intelligent or just parasitic, things are bound to go way, way south. But there’s never a dull moment – there’s no shortage of suspense, and our protagonist is often at a loss as to how to escape their situation.

Plus, for reasons I’ve yet to figure out, these ones always tend to have the most clever pop culture references. (See: all of the Radiohead songs in the Final Six duology)

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: The Final Six (Alexandra Monir), Dare Mighty Things (Heather Kaczynski)

EXPLORING OTHER PLANETS GOES VERY, VERY WRONG (Or, “Don’t do intergalactic colonialism, kids”)

Large yacht passes by gargantuan yacht - boing - Boing Boing BBS

Here’s another common – but by no means overdone – trope that’s always open to endless possibilities!

Because our planet was never enough, apparently (or if we destroyed it…probably), there’s a whole host of sci-fi stories that are set on entirely new planets, with the sole goal of making them a new home for humankind. But just like with our planet, it’s always unpredictable, whether you’re dealing with a foreign contagion, carnivorous wildlife, or superiors who aren’t what they seem.

I’m always a nerd for creature design in sci-fi, and life on other worlds presents all sort of possibilities for creatures lurking in the bushes. Whether it’s flora or fauna, exploring these sci-fi worlds along with the characters is an adventure, especially if the author is particularly creative. Of course, most of the wildlife ends up being carnivorous, or malicious on some level, so there’s all sorts of danger lurking.

But beyond that, this trope is often a great commentary on colonialism. Human history is rife with frightening periods of raping and pillaging land that wasn’t ours to begin with at the cost of those who originally lived there; telling the same story on alien planets serves as a particularly potent comment on the malicious tendency of our species to overstep and overstay our welcome. Books like A Conspiracy of Stars and The Pioneer explore what happens when humanity comes in contact with intelligent life and unlawfully sets foot on their land; both of them do an amazing job of exploring the intricacies of the political implications, as well as the tense conflict that results. I think sci-fi as a genre is one of the best mediums for raising commentary on this kind of thing. Exploring new frontiers in space is bound to happen once we get the technology, but we must always ask ourselves if it’s the right thing to do. Just because we can doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. (Let’s be real: I would be SO excited if we found evidence of life elsewhere in the universe, but…let’s not have a repeat of all of human history, okay?)

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: The Pioneer (Bridget Tyler), A Conspiracy of Stars, (Olivia A. Cole), Tangled Planet (Kate Blair)

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are your favorite/least favorite tropes in sci-fi? Have you read any of the books I listed, and what were your thoughts? This’ll probably be one of several posts on the subject, so I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

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Today’s song:

That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books

Feminist YA Books for Women’s History Month

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

I meant to post this earlier in the month, but, alas, school. But hey – March isn’t over yet, is it? And here in the U.S., March is Women’s History Month! So for the occasion, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite YA novels with feminist themes not just for March, but for all year round, because we should all be uplifting the voices of women every day of every year.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Celebrate Women's History Month with Talenthouse

FEMINIST YA BOOKS FOR WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH

Once & Future, A.R. Capetta and Cori McCarthy

Once & Future: Amy Rose Capetta, Cori McCarthy: 9781786076540: Amazon.com:  Books

GENRES: Sci-fi, romance, LGBTQ+, retellings

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I mean, how could the premise of an Arthurian retelling where the reincarnation of King Arthur is a POC, pansexual woman not hook you? Plus, lots of dismantling imperialism, sword fights, and an almost entirely queer cast.

Moxie, Jennifer Mathieu

Amazon.com: Moxie: A Novel (9781626726352): Mathieu, Jennifer: Books

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Can I rant for a minute? I loved this book to death, but the Netflix adaptation of it looks AWFUL. I watched the trailer, and it looks like it COMPLETELY misconstrued the message of the book. The movie makes feminism look like a joke; in the book, Viv was already conscious of the toxic environment of her high school, but in the movie, they (unintentionally?) painted feminism as something that was “trendy” or “what the kids are into.” (In the beginning of the trailer, Viv magically has this feminist awakening from seeing her mom’s old Riot Grrl pictures…) Also in the trailer, she only starts to notice the rampant sexism in her high school AFTER SOMEBODY TELLS HER…

[fumes] okay I’ll stop now but Y I K E S

just stick to the book, okay?

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse, K. Eason

Amazon.com: How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse: Book One of the Thorne  Chronicles eBook: Eason, K.: Kindle Store

GENRES: Sci-fi, fantasy

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Okay, I know this has been shelved as both adult and YA, but…hey, Rory’s 15 for most of the book, so I think I can slip it in this post. Plus, what’s not to love about disobedient, patriarchy-smashing princesses in space?

Sawkill Girls, Claire Legrand

Amazon.com: Sawkill Girls (9780062696601): Legrand, Claire: Books

GENRES: Horror, paranormal, fantasy, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Claire Legrand was a hit-or-miss author for me up until I read this one, but Sawkill Girls is such a powerful novel, both in its paranormal intensity and its resonant themes of sisterhood.

Girls of Paper and Fire, Natasha Ngan

Girls of Paper and Fire (Girls of Paper and Fire Series #1) by Natasha  Ngan, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

GENRES: High fantasy, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

As disappointing as the sequel was, Girls of Paper and Fire still remains a book that stunned me like no other. A powerful tale of rebelling against oppression and corruption – and some lovely forbidden romance!

The Black Coats, Colleen Oakes

Amazon.com: The Black Coats (9780062679628): Oakes, Colleen: Books

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, mystery, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

A super twisty and inventive novel with plenty of morally grey characters and secret societies. Plus, it raises some great points about vigilante justice. And there’s nothing better than getting back at misogynists and rapists, right?

The Sound of Stars, Alechia Dow

Amazon.com: The Sound of Stars (9781335911551): Dow, Alechia: Books

GENRES: Sci-fi, dystopian, LGBTQ+, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Every time I look back at this book, I think something along the lines of “man, I’m so glad I bought this.” Secret libraries, alien invasion, quality music references, cross-country road trips, and more than a little bit of resistance. Very nearly flawless!

Music from Another World, Robin Talley

Amazon.com: Music from Another World (9781335146779): Talley, Robin: Books

GENRES: Historical fiction, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A beautiful romance set against the backdrop of protest and resisting homophobia in 1977 San Francisco. There’s lovely representation for both lesbian and bisexual characters, and it’s such a tender and resonant read!

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these novels, and if so, did you like them? What are your favorite feminist YA reads?

Women's History Month

And while I’m at it, might I direct you all to the Women’s History Book Tag? It was created by Margaret @ Weird Zeal, and I had such a blast doing it last March, and I figured I should direct it to your attention. 🙂

Today’s song:

The way this song reminds me of the very beginning of quarantine now –

That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in ARC Reviews, Books

eARC Review: The Brighter the Stars

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

I haven’t done an eARC review in a little bit, and it was nice to see this one pop up after I’d forgotten about requesting it. It was a quick read for me, but although there was clearly a lot of care put into the worldbuilding, much of The Brighter the Stars fell flat for me.

Enjoy this eARC review!

Image result for the brighter the stars bryan prosek

The Brighter the Stars–Bryan K. Prosek

At only twelve, Jake Saunders witnessed the murder of his uncle by Romalor, the tyrant of a distant world. His death shaped him for years, eventually leading him to the Legion, the intergalactic military. For years, he has sought revenge, but only now does he have the chance to avenge his uncle. But when Diane, an ambassador to Earth and a close friend to Jake, is captured, he must find a way to rescue her–and right the wrongs of the murderous Romalor.

Image result for space gif tumblr

TW/CW: violence, loss of a loved one

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and CamCat Publishing for sending me this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Wait, so we’ve got a protagonist who witnessed the murder of his Uncle Ben in his formative years? Wait a minute…[PETER PARKER INTENSIFIES]

(Kidding, kidding…)

Image result for spiderman gif

I always feel pretty bad giving more indie books low ratings. It’s hard to put yourself out there, and especially since this one has hardly any reviews or ratings on Goodreads as of now, it did pain me a little bit to give The Brighter the Stars a lower rating. But hey, I’m supposed to give an honest review here, and to be honest, this novel really wasn’t my cup of tea, even though I’m a huge fan of sci-fi.

Let’s start off with the positives. What stood out most to me about The Brighter the Stars was the worldbuilding; the author clearly put a lot of work into making a fleshed-out, intricate world, and for the most part, he succeeded. Although there were several instances where I felt like the information was being info-dumped, the futuristic world that Prosek crafted was one that felt very lived-in.

I also liked the dynamic between Jake, Cal and Diane. They had great chemistry together as a trio, and even though Jake’s and Cal’s personalities/voices were almost indistinguishable, I liked Diane’s character.

What bothered me most about The Brighter the Stars was the writing. It was often very choppy, with long clumps of sentences that were almost the exact same length. Within at least half of the paragraphs, most of the sentences seemed to start with the same word(s); this, combined with the lack of variation for the sentence length, made for a novel that didn’t really flow. I can usually just scan the pages if the sentences have differing lengths, but even the action sequences failed to flow. Additionally, the descriptions leaned quite a lot on telling instead of showing–there’s a whole lot of “was,” “[they] felt,” “[they] knew,” etc., which also contributed to the lack of fluidity throughout the story.

There’s an interesting combination as far as genres go; The Brighter the Stars is pretty hardcore sci-fi, but there’s some clear Western influences on it. (I really don’t know much about Westerns, so take this all with a grain of salt. I guess The Mandalorian was pretty Western-inspired, soooo…) There were quite a few nods to the latter throughout, and I did kind of like the desert/saloon planet, but plot-wise, it still felt quite flat. It was fast-paced, but everything felt far too easy for Jake (ex. beating the supposedly “unbeatable” fighter in the arena, another plot point that I won’t spoil). Now, I’m all for good triumphing over evil in the end, but there seemed to be little to no struggle for Jake to get over the obstacles in his path. He was definitely more of a Gary Stu-type protagonist, which…mmm, nope.

Overall, a sci-fi that clearly took time to create a fleshed-out world, but suffered from dry, choppy writing and unrealistically skilled protagonist. 2 stars.

Image result for meh gif

Release date: November 10, 2020

Today’s song:

That’s it for this eARC review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Tags

Bookish Blog Tag

Happy Friday, bibliophiles! I’m off a bit earlier than usual because of my school’s asynchronous Friday schedule, so I figured I’d do a nice little book tag. 🙂

I found this tag over at Whispering Stories. I don’t know who originally created the tag, so if anybody knows, please don’t hesitate to tell me and I’ll credit them! It looked super cute, so I figured I’d give it a go.

Let’s begin, shall we?

📚THE BOOKISH BLOG TAG📚

What are 1-3 of your favorite books of all time?

The anatomy of Frankenstein book covers
Amazon.com: Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle) (9781524720964): Kaufman,  Amie, Kristoff, Jay: Books
Amazon.com: Heart of Iron (9780062652850): Poston, Ashley: Books

I’d have to go with Frankenstein, Aurora Rising, and Heart of Iron. In no particular order…kind of? I love them all, but I suppose they have varying degrees of sentimental value/specific memories attached to them…

I love Bruce's expression after Loki said that. He looked so freaked out.  XD | Loki marvel, Loki, Loki thor

What are 1-3 of your favorite authors of all time?

Oooh, that’s hard…Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, and Ashley Poston, maybe? I’d put Mary Shelley on there too, but I’ve only read Frankenstein…

Who is your favorite female character from a book?

Extras – Amie Kaufman

Again, such a hard pick…but I love Auri from Aurora Rising! Since the book came out, her character has spoken to me on so many levels, the most prominent of which being the fact that you don’t have to be brave to change the world.

Who is your favorite male character in a book?

Jeez, that’s super hard too…

Just one? Again? I suppose I’d have to go with Jax from Heart of Iron, maybe.

What’s your favorite fictional world?

Amazon.com: Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy) [Assorted Cover image]  (9781250027436): Bardugo, Leigh: Books

The entire Grishaverse is so detailed and beautiful, just the kind of fictional universe that I’d want to get lost in. (Maybe. Probably not. Definitely not the Unsea.)

What book has your favorite cover?

Amazon.com: Skyhunter (9781250221681): Lu, Marie: Books

For me, it’s impossible to pick a single favorite book cover. I have an entire shelf on Goodreads of books with covers that I like, so I just had to trawl through that…

I eventually settled on Skyhunter for this prompt, though. The colors are just so beautiful, and even the inside of the hardback edition I have is gorgeous!

What’s your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?

Fantastic Mr. Fox' Poster | AllPosters.com

Fantastic Mr. Fox, without question! Even though I myself abide by the general “the book is always better than the movie” adage, this is one of the few book-to-movie adaptations that’s even better than the source material. That’s just the magic of Wes Anderson, I guess.

If you could make any book into a movie, which would it be?

Amazon.com: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files) (9780553499117): Amie Kaufman,  Jay Kristoff: Books

Illuminae would make a super tense movie! Now that I’ve seen the Alien/Aliens movies, this novel gives off similar vibes, so I feel like it would be a good fit for the big screen.

What was your favorite childhood book?

The Search for Wondla: Amazon.co.uk: DiTerlizzi, Tony: Books

The Search for WondLa trilogy shaped me as a person in so many ways…it made me fall in love with sci-fi literature, and it made me want to be an author. So for that, I’ll forever be in Tony DiTerlizzi’s debt.

Fantasy or sci-fi? (Or neither?)

The Bookish Mutant – Page 2 – Books. Writing. Film. Music. (But mostly just  books.)
putting this in here because Prometheus has the most immaculate sci-fi vibes

Sci-fi, of course! Can’t say no to having strange adventures while hurtling through space. Plus, aliens are pretty cool, if I do say so myself.

I TAG:

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Today’s song:

“Anonymous Friend” – Jim Noir (Bandcamp link)

That’s it for this book tag! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books

A YA Reader’s Guide to Space Opera 👽

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

Would you look at that…for once, I actually have a post that isn’t a meme, an update, or a book tag…

I’ve been planning for this one a little bit, and I’m excited to get into it! If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know how much I love sci-fi. So for this post, I decided to go semi-in-depth on my favorite subgenre of science fiction and dole out some recommendations of mine.

Let’s begin, shall we?

So first off, what is space opera anyway?

Steam Community :: :: Obi-wan has taught you well.

In all forms of media, space opera is a subgenre of science fiction. It tends to focus less on the heavy science/physics of the universe it’s in, and more on aspects such as plot and characters. There’s often adventures at a breakneck pace, intergalactic war or conflict, strange planets/other locations, and drama between a set of characters. A lot of space opera media that I’ve consumed tends to throw in a ragtag bunch of characters with nothing in common together, and then throws them into an adventure of epic proportions. (Commonly referred to in many of my posts and reviews as “[chaotic] space misfits.”) More often than not, there’s some light elements of fantasy, sometimes as placeholders to explain the workings of the universe. And, as you probably can figure out, it’s usually set in space or on a distant planet.

Star Wars is often used as the quintessential example of a space opera–dogfights in space, romance, strange worlds, and (amazing) lightsaber duels. (What more could you possibly want?) Although it’s probably not *the original* space opera, it’s influenced a huge chunk of space opera/sci-fi media for the last 40-ish years. Guardians of the Galaxy is another widely-known example of space opera, and from= the world of literature, Dune and Foundation are some of the most well-loved space opera classics.

I'm Mary Poppins, y'all! (gif) | Guardians of the galaxy, Marvel cinematic,  Marvel cinematic universe

Sci-fi has only become my favorite book genre in the past…six or seven years; for a while, I was mostly drawn to fantasy, but after reading Tony DiTerlizzi’s Search for WondLa trilogy, there was no going back. And I was raised on a steady diet of Star Wars, so it was bound to happen eventually. There’s a multitude of reasons why I’m drawn to it. Even though fantasy has virtually no limits as far as making up universes goes, there’s just something about about flying through the vast reaches of space and traveling to strange worlds that has always appealed to me. And as someone who’s been something of an outcast for the better part of my life, I’m drawn like a magnet to any kind of found-family tropes. Now, I know full well that it’s not exclusive to space opera, but everything from Star Wars to Aurora Rising has a cast of strange and distinct characters that come to see themselves as a family, and I’ve always loved the theme of finding your tribe of weirdos.

So now, if you say “space opera,” there’s a good chance that I’ll immediately want to read it. (Doesn’t mean I’ll love it–there’s good and bad books in every genre, of course–but I’ll certainly read it.)

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Now, I’ve compiled a list of some YA space opera recommendations! Each one is tailored to different types of readers/tastes, because I firmly believe there’s something for everybody, even if sci-fi isn’t normally your thing. So let’s get to it, shall we?

🪐YA SPACE OPERA RECS🪐

For readers who like character-driven books…

Amazon.com: Heart of Iron (9780062652850): Poston, Ashley: Books

Heart of Iron duology–Ashley Poston

A retelling of the story of Anastasia, this unique duology boasts a diverse and lovable cast of characters, royal intrigue, creepy androids, and some really cool spaceships.

For readers who like fairytale retellings…

Amazon.com: Once & Future (9780316449274): McCarthy, Cori, Capetta, Amy  Rose: Books

Once & Future–A.R. Capetta and Cori McCarthy

A retelling of Arthurian legend where the reincarnation of King Arthur is a pansexual woman of color and a spell gone wrong made Merlin age backwards…into an awkward, voice-cracky teenager. Super diverse, super feminist, and super fun!

For readers who love a good found-family story…

Aurora Rising - (Aurora Cycle) By Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (Paperback) :  Target

Aurora Cycle–Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

In short, this is what happens when you put Captain America in a spaceship with his sister, his ex, a whole bunch of random students from the bottom of his class, and a girl with a glowing eye that may or may not start an intergalactic war. Hands down, my favorite series of all time.

For readers who love a little romance…

Amazon.com: Defy the Stars (Defy the Stars (1)) (9780316394031): Gray,  Claudia: Books

The Constellation trilogy–Claudia Gray

The worldbuilding and the imagery are beautiful in all three books, but it’s really the unlikely relationship between Noemi and Abel that shines in this one. [🥺 intensifies]

For readers who like plots with high-stakes competitions…

Amazon.com: Crownchasers (9780062845160): Coffindaffer, Rebecca: Books

Crownchasers–Rebecca Coffindaffer

(Would you look at that…another pansexual protagonist!)

I had my expectations a *bit* too high for this one, but it was still a whole lot of fun! A lot of reviewers have pitched it as Aurora Rising meets The Hunger Games, and I’d say that’s pretty spot-on. I’m excited to see what Coffindaffer has up their sleeve for book 2.

For fans of steampunk…

Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor

Tarnished Are the Stars–Rosiee Thor

This one has elements of both sci-fi and fantasy woven in–royal intrigue on other worlds, and lots of clockwork hearts! Plus, it’s a beautiful queer story; we have a wlw romance, as well as a beautiful aro-ace coming out scene for one of the main characters.

For readers who prefer standalones to series…

Amazon.com: Last of Her Name (9781338243369): Khoury, Jessica: Books

Last of Her Name–Jessica Khoury

Another space opera retelling of Anastasia, comin’ right up…

Last of Her Name is a truly beautiful novel, with intricate and detailed worldbuilding, tender romance, and no shortage of twists that I couldn’t see coming. I do wish we’d gotten a larger glimpse into this world, but it was still satisfying as one book.

For thriller fans…

Amazon.com: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files) (9780553499117): Amie Kaufman,  Jay Kristoff: Books

The Illuminae Files–Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Normally, I’d try to avoid putting two series from the same author(s) in a post like this, but Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff are masters of sci-fi, so I kind of *had to.* Composed of interviews, emails, security footage, and more, this is truly a trilogy like no other.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK? What are your favorite space opera books? Do you have any space opera recs for us? Tell me in the comments!

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Today’s song:

That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (11/23/20)–How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme created by Lauren’s Page Turners. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.

I put this one on my TBR at the very beginning of this year, and rediscovered it today after trawling through the middle reaches of my TBR shelf. I’m always down for a good space opera, and if all goes well, I’m hoping that Rory Thorne will deliver!

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (11/23/20)–HOW RORY THORNE DESTROYED THE MULTIVERSE by K. Eason

Amazon.com: How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse: Book One of the Thorne  Chronicles eBook: Eason, K.: Kindle Store

Blurb from Goodreads:

Rory Thorne is a princess with thirteen fairy blessings, the most important of which is to see through flattery and platitudes. As the eldest daughter, she always imagined she’d inherit her father’s throne and govern the interplanetary Thorne Consortium. 
 
Then her father is assassinated, her mother gives birth to a son, and Rory is betrothed to the prince of a distant world.
 
When Rory arrives in her new home, she uncovers a treacherous plot to unseat her newly betrothed and usurp his throne. An unscrupulous minister has conspired to name himself Regent to the minor (and somewhat foolish) prince. With only her wits and a small team of allies, Rory must outmaneuver the Regent and rescue the prince.
 
How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse is a feminist reimagining of familiar fairytale tropes and a story of resistance and self-determination—how small acts of rebellion can lead a princess to not just save herself, but change the course of history.

So why do I want to read this?

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/ Hands down, my favorite movie quote of all time. Period.

Excuse me? “The Princess Bride meets Princess Leia?” Feminist fairytale retelling? SPACE OPERA? JUST SHUT UP AND TAKE MY LIBRARY CARD!

I’m loving all the fairytale allusions peppered into the synopsis, and I’m getting some major Heart of Iron vibes too. I’m not expecting anything deep or impactful, but man, How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse sounds like SO. MUCH. FUN. And why wouldn’t it be, with a memorable title like that? (Oh, and book 2 is How The Multiverse Got Its Revenge…[Magneto voice] “Perfection…”)

And how cute is this cover? The color scheme, the typeface, the little space-themed designs…🥺

In short: if everything gets well-executed, maybe I could get *that much* closer to filling up the Heart of Iron-shaped hole in my heart.

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Today’s song:

Bandcamp link–I can’t find any of the Jim Noir Club Collection on YouTube…

“Dried Up Paint”–Jim Noir

That’s it for this week’s Goodreads Monday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (10/13/20)–To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I think…I think I’m one of the few people that didn’t pick this up after The Inheritance Cycle? My brother loved them, but I never got around to reading them. Hence why I bought this book in the first place–as a birthday present for him. It ended up arriving a good month before his birthday, so I figured I’d read it before I wrapped it up for him. (I was intrigued, anyway–Prometheus vibes, anyone?) The first half was painful to read at points, but it picked up at the halfway mark by a long shot.

Enjoy this week’s review!

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars - Christopher Paolini - Paolini.net

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars–Christopher Paolini

Kira Navárez, a budding xenobiologist, has just uncovered an artifact that could determine the fate of the galaxy. When the coating of dust surrounding it grows a mind of its own, she knows that something is awry. What she didn’t anticipate was to be thrown into the beginnings of interstellar war, and approaching first contact with a potentially hostile species. Can she face the gravity of her consequences alone, or will she succumb to the war inside and outside of her?

BadSciFilm: Prometheus | The Other Sociologist

Let’s just start off with something I’d like to discuss: weaving pop culture references into literature. I’m 100% for it, most of the time–I love finding those hidden Easter eggs and discovering that the author may have a like mind. But there’s a certain art to slipping them in–drawing them from a variety of sources, spreading them out, making them subtle; placing them in a way that works for the story, but making them just noticeable enough to pop out in a way that makes the reader go “oh hey, That Thing!” without it being wholly distracting. I’ve read a variety of novels where this works, and lots that haven’t.

Remember how I said that I was initially drawn to reading this from the likeness to Prometheus?

Well…

Can we talk about the first half of the book? For lack of better words, and I hate to say this…it feels like Alien/Aliens fanfic. And it’s almost…self-aware of the fact? There’s no shortage of similar plot lines, and even the references scattered throughout only emphasize the fact. In the first 200-300 pages alone, we have:

  • Kira’s homeworld, Weyland
  • A ship AI called Bishop
  • Several references to a minor character (I think?) named Geiger
  • Kira using Ellen as a fake name (as in Ellen Ripley)

(I may have missed a few, but these are the ones that most prominently stood out for me.)

Paolini’s clearly drawn quite a lot of inspiration from the mythos of Ridley Scott and James Cameron–and I don’t blame him–but it really isn’t subtle. At all. There’s several little threads that felt veeeeeeeery similar to said films…

…And then the second half came along!

For me, the second half saved the novel, really. Whether or not that was influenced by the quote from David Bowie’s “Blackstar” at the beginning of Part 3 is up for debate. (Hey, I’m a woman of simple tastes.)

From there, Paolini’s originality and fast-paced plot truly shone through, making for a tense and riveting sci-fi.

My favorite aspect of the novel was absolutely the Jellies/Wrannui (wait, did I spell that right?). Their design, all of the little intricacies of their culture and society were so well thought out, and I had such a blast getting to know all of the ins and outs of them. I liked Itari a lot, even though they had a fairly small role.

As far as the characters go, I didn’t get super attached to any of them, but they all had at least a decent amount of personality and development. There’s a pretty diverse cast as well, so kudos to Paolini for that as well. The romance between Kira and Falconi definitely felt like an afterthought and didn’t add anything to the story, but all of the other interactions between the characters were alright. But on that subject…is it weird that my favorite character was a ship AI? I LOVED Gregorovich–he was the most fascinating out of all of them for me, and I loved the psychological aspect that Paolini explored with his character. Reminds me a bit of a Kaufman/Kristoff type of AI–a slightly more unstable Magellan, or a far more calmed down and sane AIDAN? You decide!

This is my first exposure to Paolini’s writing, and it was…hit or miss for me? It tended to be quite choppy and terse, which was both a blessing and a curse. (Whoops, did I just rhyme? Would ya look at that…) Sometimes it had the effect of making a scene appropriately tense, but it occasionally erased some of the emotion in the character interactions. The dialogue had a similar quality to it–not quite authentic, but not so bad that it made the characters feel/sound cardboard.

A lot of the reviews I’ve skimmed through have complained about some of how drawn out the scientific aspects of the novel were, but they didn’t bother me at all; in fact, they had the opposite effect on me. The research made the world feel fully fleshed out, and while it did have moments of sounding jargon-y, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment. Apparently Paolini spent years researching the science behind some of this novel’s aspects, and it’s clearly evident in every word. (And yes, it’s a really long novel, but I think that the battle scenes went on longer…maybe parts of those should have been cut out as opposed to all of the aforementioned content.)

All in all, a well-thought-out sci-fi that suffered from too much borrowing in the first half, but rocketed to a tense and gripping second half. 3.25 stars.

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To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is confirmed to be a standalone, but will be the first in Paolini’s future Fractalverse. He is also the author of the Inheritance Cycle, consisting of Eragon (book 1), Eldest (book 2), Brisingr (book 3), and Inheritance (book 4).

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (10/6/20)–All These Monsters

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Yeah, everybody has a different definition of happiness, but can we really deny the universal giddy joy of finding out that your preorder has reached the shipping department? SKYHUNTER WILL BE IN MY HANDS VERY, VERY SOON…[incoherent screaming]

Anyway, I put this on my TBR at the beginning of this year, but remembered it from Amie Kaufman’s recommendation of it in an episode of Amie Kaufman on Writing. Since it was available on the Kindle library, I decided to check it out, and I am SO glad I did! I didn’t think that anything would ever fill up the B.P.R.D.shaped hole in my heart, but All These Monsters very nearly did it.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: All These Monsters (9780358012405): Tintera, Amy: Books

All These Monsters–Amy Tintera

For nearly a decade, the Earth that Clara knows has been decimated by the Scrabs, burrowing monsters that have popped up in cities all over the world and prey on any humans that stumble into their paths.

Clara feels confined in her home, considering dropping out of high school and trapped by her abusive father and absent mother. But when an opportunity to join an international scrab-fighting task force arises, she sees it as exactly the kind of escape she needs. Leaving her home behind, she joins the fight, but soon realizes that fighting monsters is more deadly–and lifechanging–than she ever imagined.

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After B.P.R.D. came to a close last year, I thought that there wouldn’t be anything that could ever measure up to it. I didn’t even go into All These Monsters thinking that the two were all that similar, but somehow, this novel partially filled up the B.P.R.D.-shaped hole in my heart–and seeing how close those comics are to my heart, that’s seriously high praise coming from me.

First off, All These Monsters has some great representation–our protagonist Clara is half white, half Latinx [INTENSE HAPPY NOISES], and we have Black, Asian American, and Indian-American side characters. I loved Clara, and the team dynamic Tintera creates with her, Patrick, Edan, and all the rest is lovely! Those of you who have been following my reviews for a bit know that I’ll take found family any time of day, and All These Monsters portrayed it wonderfully.

And monsters. MONSTERS! I loved the scrabs–they gave me major Hell on Earth vibes, and I had so much fun going along for the ride with Clara and the rest of the gang. Not only does Tintera give us baseline physical descriptions of the scrabs, she goes in-depth to explore the international/political implications of them laying waste to the world. It’s certainly a lived-in kind of setting, so…come for the monsters, stay for the worldbuilding.

Beyond that, All These Monsters isn’t just about misfits fighting monsters–it’s a very raw exploration of abuse and toxic relationships. I’ll be clear–it’s not an easy read, but Tintera handles all of these tough topics with grace and aplomb, making you sympathize with some of the characters and hate some of the others with an appropriately fiery passion.

All in all, a dystopian sci-fi that delivers in both diversity and good old fashioned monster fighting. 4 stars!

The Mandalorian' 1x04: "Sanctuary" Roundtable | Fangirlish

All These Monsters is the first in the Monsters duology, concluding with the forthcoming All These Warriors, which is scheduled to come out in July 2021. (I got an eARC of it and read it over the weekend, so expect that review soon!). Tintera is also the author of the Ruined trilogy (Ruined, Avenged, and Allied) and the Reboot series (Reboot and Rebel).

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (9/22/20)–TRUEL1F3 (Lifelike, #3)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles, and happy Autumn Equinox! 🍁

Two reviews of trilogy finales in one week? I’m in rare form…

Anyway, this is the last of my birthday book haul that I’ll be reviewing. TRUEL1F3 was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and with this novel, I can clearly say that Jay Kristoff has never once disappointed me (though I’ve yet to read The Nevernight Chronicle…) The Lifelike trilogy was a sci-fi series to be reckoned with, and it all came together for a third book that surpassed both books 1 and 2–and made me feel ALL the feels, trust me.

WARNING: This review likely contains spoilers for LIFEL1K3 and DEV1AT3, so if you haven’t read them and intend to, tread lightly!

My review of LIFEL1K3

My review of DEV1AT3

(Would you look at that…my review for book one was almost exactly a year ago…) :,)

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: TRUEL1F3 (Truelife) (LIFEL1K3 Book 3) eBook: Kristoff, Jay:  Kindle Store

TRUEL1F3 (Lifelike, #3)–Jay Kristoff

My copy, ft. LIFEL1K3, my guitar amp, and K-2SO

Once, Eve and Lemon Fresh were the best of friends. But war and love, family and fate have torn them apart. Now, the destiny of the entire Yousay is in their hands.

Lemon has been captured by the BioMaas swarm, who are convinced that her Deviate genes hold the key to turning the tides of war in their favor. A rift has come between Eve and her Lifelike siblings, who are bent on unleashing a computer virus–one that will free every android and robot in the Yousay from the programming given to them by the humans. And despite everything that has come between them, joining forces once more may be what tips the balance between salvation and annihilation.

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The simplest way for a book to get me choked up? Separate some of the main cast over the course of a book or two, and let them have a happy, tearful reunion after both parties thought the other was dead. (See The Battle for WondLa, “Frankenweenie,” etc.) It’s the little things, man, it’s the little things.

I was itching to find out what happens to my beloved gang of misfits ever since finishing DEV1AT3 about a year back, but I truly didn’t expect the absolute masterpiece that book 3 would bring. TRUEL1F3 brings back every stellar aspect about the previous two novels, and brings them all together in a blazing fireworks display of a trilogy ender. I laughed, I cried, my eyes bugged out of my head…this novel made me run the emotional gamut, but in the best way possible.

In this end to the trilogy, Kristoff introduces a whole plethora of catastrophic twists and new aspects, especially to the post-apocalyptic android mythos, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The various family ties–be it true family or found family–are explored even more in depth. Even though it’s been nearly a year since finishing book 2, I was fully invested in everybody within the first few pages. (Also, the little recap/glossary/whatever you’d like to call it helped.) All of the varied, multifaceted cast had their time to shine, and shine they did, until the very last page.

Lemon and Cricket are still my favorites, and they were as wonderful as ever in this final book. Solomon and Abe are up there too, but…I’m thinking that Kristoff had a bit *too* much fun playing with our feelings in their department. (No spoilers, but…yikes, can anybody in this book get a rest? Jeez…) There’s no shortage of fascinating themes, from the morally gray to the role of AI in our lives. I loved the plotline with the virus–not only did it make for some great action, there’s some seriously tense psychological business that results from it as well. (Remember what I said about Kristoff having a bit too much fun?)

TRUL1F3 took me a little longer to read because I was still adjusting to online school, but that doesn’t mean that every page was positively action-packed. The tension is higher than ever, and Kristoff’s lush and fast-paced writing never fails to throw you right smack in the middle of the action, making you feel as if you’ve fallen into the Yousay yourself. The worldbuilding was as detailed and immersive as ever, making for a final book that I won’t forget anytime soon.

All of these elements made for a trilogy ender that I ate up every last page. It chokes me up to say goodbye to Eve, Lem, Cricket, and all the rest, but the Lifelike trilogy is one that I’ll never forget. 5 stars!

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Too many Star Wars gifs? Never…

TRUEL1F3 is the final book in the Lifelike trilogy, preceded by LIFEL1K3 and DEV1AT3. Jay Kristoff is also the author of The Nevernight Chronicle, the Lotus Wars trilogy, and the forthcoming Empire of the Vampire (all of which are on my TBR). He has also co-authored The Illuminae Files and The Aurora Cycle with Amie Kaufman.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!