Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (1/11/22) – The Kindred

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Ever since I read The Sound of Stars back in 2020, I’ve been eagerly anticipating Alechia Dow’s next book. I preordered The Kindred last year knowing that I’d love it, and although I didn’t enjoy it as much as The Sound of Stars, it was a wonderfully sweet and rollicking novel.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Kindred by Alechia Dow

The Kindred – Alechia Dow

my copy ft. some more purplish sci-fi books & a cool filter

After a violent, class-based revolution ravaged the Monchuri system, the Kindred program is introduced to quell the chaos; in order to ensure equal representation within the kingdom, mind pairings between citizens from all over the system.

Felix and Joy are paired by the Kindred, but their backgrounds couldn’t be more different; Felix is the Duke of the Monchuri system, while Joy is a commoner in the poorest planet in the system. But when the rest of the royal family is assassinated and Felix is put under suspicion, they escape together—only to crash-land on Earth. With the galaxy hunting for them and targets on their backs on Earth, the two must find a way to return home and prove Felix’s innocence.

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TW/CW: violence, racism, fatphobia/bodyshaming, murder, kidnapping

The Kindred wasn’t quite as potent as The Sound of Stars was for me, but in no way does that mean that I didn’t enjoy it. In fact, it’s solid proof that if I see Alechia Dow’s name on a book, I’ll probably read it.

Despite the trigger warnings I listed, The Kindred is fairly light-hearted; even with all of these topics discussed (all with aplomb), it still manages to be a feel-good, tender read throughout. The themes of racism and fatphobia (mostly with regards to Joy) are handled in a sensitive way that doesn’t dull their importance, but the book is consistently light-hearted and warm. It hits the perfect balance of not diminishing these themes and keeping levity within the book, and it’s the perfect book if you want sci-fi that will cheer you up!

Everything I loved about The Sound of Stars was in The Kindred in spades! Felix and Joy were such endearing characters, and their chemistry together was perfect. They had conflicting personalities on the surface level (with Felix being the more reckless one and Joy being more sensible and reserved), but as they bonded, their relationship became the textbook example of “opposites attract” done well! Plus, it’s always wonderful to have queer couples like them front and center. Joy is demisexual/asexual, and I believe Felix is pansexual or queer? (Felix’s sexuality wasn’t specified, but it’s mentioned that he’s been in romantic relationships regardless of gender so I’ll say queer for now.) Alechia Dow never fails to give us the diverse stories we need.

As far as the plot goes, I wasn’t invested in it as much as I was the characters. Most of it was a bit predictable—not much subtext, surface-level political intrigue, a neat and tidy end to the conflict, and all that. But I didn’t mind this time; the focus was supposed to be on Felix and Joy’s romance, after all. The Earth part of the story was funny most of the time; I didn’t get as many of the music references this time, unlike with The Sound of Stars (definitely not a Swiftie here haha), but the fact that there’s a black cat named Chadwick sold me. BEYOND CUTE.

My other main problem with The Kindred was the aliens themselves. It’s one of my main pet peeves in sci-fi in general: aliens that look like humans, but with a few very minor differences. Although there were some side aliens that were described as non-human, Joy and Felix and their species were just…humans with better technology? Eh…I will say though, at least they’re not white this time. In particular, Joy is plus-size and Black-coded, which was a vast improvement from the white-coded aliens that usually end up in the aforementioned trope. I’m willing to let it slide this time (sort of) because a) Alechia Dow is a great writer and b) diversity.

All in all, a romantic, diverse, and all-around feel-good sci-fi from an author that I’ll be sure to watch in the future. 4 stars!

Thor 3 Ragnarok : Le film de tous les changements pour Thor ? | melty
The Kindred summed up in a single gif

The Kindred is a standalone, but it is set in the same universe as The Sound of Stars, Alechia Dow’s debut novel. You don’t have to read one to understand the other, but there are nods to The Sound of Stars throughout The Kindred. Alechia Dow is also the author of the forthcoming Sweet Stakes (expected to be released in 2023), and contributed to the anthology Out There: Into the Queer New Yonder.

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

Book Review Tuesday (1/4/22) – Rise of the Red Hand

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Since I haven’t been able to go to the library lately, I’ve been going through some books on my wish list at the Kindle library. I found this in the sci-fi section, and despite a lot of mediocre to bad reviews, I figured that I would give it a try. And yes, it was a little messy at times, but it presented a unique addition to the YA dystopia genre.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Rise of the Red Hand (The Mechanists, #1) by Olivia Chadha

Rise of the Red Hand (The Mechanists, #1) – Olivia Chadha

25 years after a devastating nuclear war, Ashiva ekes out a living in the slums of the South Asian province. While the rich gorge on new technology, the poor barely get by on secondhand tech and scarce food and water.

Ashiva works for the Red Hand, a revolutionary organization with the goal of dismantling the oppressive government of the South Asian province. As a new sickness ravages the province, Ashiva is forced to ally with Riz-Ali, a rich uplander who may hold the key to exposing a dark conspiracy within the government.

ohapplejuice.tumblr.com - Tumbex

TW/CW: human experimentation, pandemic, graphic violence, emergency medical procedures, death, blood, faked disability, attempted murder

Rise of the Red Hand was more than a little messy, but it had enough unique takes on the average dystopia to pull it through.

What sets Rise of the Red Hand apart from most everything else in the YA dystopian genre is its setting; it’s set in a futuristic South Asia, which is really cool to see, especially since 90% of the dystopias I’ve read are set somewhere in the U.S.! That, along with the atmosphere of the future world that Chadha created and the interspersed South Asian culture and slang, was a breath of fresh air.

Along with that, the highlight of Rise of the Red Hand is that it made dystopia feel…human. There were slices of life that the reader witnesses amidst the horror and destruction—the last real-food vendor in the market, a group of children putting a “kick me” sign on a government robot—that made the setting feel genuine. Dystopias are supposed to be bleak and horrible, of course—that’s the definition of a dystopia in the first place—but elements like these are what make it believable. No matter the circumstances, little pockets of life always thrive. Or, in the words of Jeff Goldblum, “Life finds a way.”

I have mixed feelings about the worldbuilding. On the one hand, Chadha did a good job of making a thorough buildup to the current state of her world, and I didn’t feel as though I were missing anything as I read it. On the other hand, this information was delivered in chunks that were often hefty and distracted from the present dialogue. Good worldbuilding, but ruined by getting dropped on the reader’s head like cinderblocks. Also, on the subject of the provinces…if Asia was divided into the South Asian province and the Asian province, why were North America, South America, and Africa just provinces on their own? It made sense for Europe and Australia, since they’re both fairly small as far as continents go, but…North and South America and Africa are huge. How could that be one province?

The plot itself wasn’t terribly unique; Chadha’s writing made it compelling enough, but underneath all its trappings, it was your garden-variety “take down the oppressive government (that is oppressive for very vague and unspecified reasons) kind of dystopian plot. It’s not to say that it isn’t bad, just overdone. Take away the thorough worldbuilding and unique setting, and this could have been something from 10 years ago, post-Hunger Games. However, I will say that at least it was specified why the government was so oppressive—and a lot of it’s horribly sinister. But again, the setting was the saving grace here—not much else.

Other than that, the characters were decent—not terribly interesting, but not cardboard either. The romance between Ashiva and Riz-Ali felt very rushed and insta-love-y, and was ultimately very unnecessary. Taru’s chapters didn’t feel very necessary, and her voice bothered me. And on the subject of Taru—why exactly did they fake her having brittle-bone disease? Not only are we supposed to be rooting for Ashiva, who conspired to do this, how is that even a solution? That part just felt…weird.

Overall, a dystopia that boasts a unique setting, humanity and atmosphere—but not a lot else. 3 stars.

Dystopia GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Rise of the Red Hand is the first book in the Mechanists duology, and it is followed by an untitled sequel set for release this year. Olivia Chadha is also the author of Balance of Fragile Things.

Today’s song:

the harmony at the very end is so pretty 🥺

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

Posted in Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (1/3/22) – Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves

Happy Monday, bibliophiles! I thought I had another week of winter break, but it turns out that I start back to school on Wednesday after all…[sad harmonica solo] I got my booster shot today though, so I’m relieved about that.

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme originally created by Lauren’s Page Turners, but has since moved to Budget Tales Book Blog. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.

This one comes out a week from tomorrow, and I’ve seen it all over the blogosphere! It’s been compared to Star Wars more often than not, and I’m always up for a good sci-fi read!

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (1/3/22) – COLD THE NIGHT, FAST THE WOLVES by Meg Long

Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves by Meg Long

Blurb from Goodreads:

After angering a local gangster, seventeen-year-old Sena Korhosen must flee with her prize fighting wolf, Iska, in tow. A team of scientists offer to pay her way off her frozen planet on one condition: she gets them to the finish line of the planet’s infamous sled race. Though Sena always swore she’d never race after it claimed both her mothers’ lives, it’s now her only option. 

But the tundra is a treacherous place, and as the race unfolds and their lives are threatened at every turn, Sena starts to question her own abilities. She must discover whether she’s strong enough to survive the wild – whether she and Iska together are strong enough to get them all out alive.

A captivating debut about survival, found family, and the bond between a girl and a wolf that delivers a fresh twist on classic survival stories and frontier myths.

So why do I want to read this?

ATOMIC CHRONOSCAPH — The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Regular survival books? I could take them or leave them. Sci-fi survival books? I’M IN.

All of the aspects in the synopsis of Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves sound so compelling—wolf races, gangsters, and a frozen planet! Ice/tundra planets are somewhat common in sci-fi, but it’s a nice change from the umpteen desert planets that occupy so many sci-fi and space opera books. (Sorry, Dune.) And the prospect of a sci-fi frontier myth of sorts—almost a Call of the Wild callback—instantly hooked me. Plus, it’s cool that it’s casually mentioned that Sena has two moms!

I put this one on hold at the library last week, and I think it’s still on order, but I eagerly await its arrival…

Today, my heart swings

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (12/27/21) – A Peculiar Peril

Happy Monday, bibliophiles! Last Goodreads Monday of 2021, whoa…

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme originally created by Lauren’s Page Turners, but has since moved to Budget Tales Book Blog. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.

I’ve been meaning to get into Jeff VanderMeer’s books ever since watching and loving the movie adaptation of Annihilation. This one’s apparently his first YA book—I’m not sure if I’ll read it before or after Annihilation or anything else of his, but either way, I’m interested.

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (12/27/21) – A PECULIAR PERIL by Jeff VanderMeer

Amazon.com: A Peculiar Peril (The Misadventures of Jonathan Lambshead, 1):  9780374308865: VanderMeer, Jeff: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

After Jonathan Lambshead’s elusive grandfather dies, the recently orphaned teenager inherits the family mansion—and its contents. Jonathan soon discovers that the mansion’s basement holds more than just oddities: three doors serve as portals, with one leading to an alt-Earth called Aurora, where magic abounds, history has been re-written, and an occult dictator called Aleister Crowley leads an army pillaging alt-Europe. Jonathan learns of his destiny as a member of The Order, a secret society devoted to keeping our world separate from Aurora, and embarks on an epic quest to protect Earth from Crowley’s dark magic.

Over the course of the duology, Jonathan uncovers more of the worlds outside of our own, the magic that permeates them, his own destiny, and the secrets buried in his family history.

So why do I want to read this?

SPINE-Aurora Parlegreco on Designing Jeff VanderMeer's A Peculiar Peril
art by Jeremy Zerfoss (illustrations from A Peculiar Peril)

From what I’ve seen, most of Jeff VanderMeer’s books don’t get the best reviews. From what I’ve read of them, most of the reviewers had problems with either the writing or the hazy worldbuilding. This one in particular has a lot of complaints about very sparse worldbuilding (regarding the alt-Earth, Aurora) and overly flowery prose. Both of those are usually turnoffs for me.

So why am I still on board?

Because this looks weird. The best kind of weird. Alternate Earths? Dark magic? Old mansions with portals and hidden oddities? I’M ALL IN. A lot of reviewers have likened it to a modern Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or compared it to Neil Gaiman, and both of those comparisons are just the kind that hook me in. I’m not expecting a new Neil Gaiman (and maybe comparing a book to him is a bit of a curse—The Absolute Book, anyone?), but given that this is the same mind who dreamt up Annihilation, I have faith.

SPINE-Aurora Parlegreco on Designing Jeff VanderMeer's A Peculiar Peril
art by Jeremy Zerfoss

Today’s song:

I cleaned up some of my room for a good hour or so this morning and I played this album all the way through

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

Book Review Tuesday (11/16/21) – Aurora’s End (Aurora Cycle, #3)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Wow. The day has finally come, folks. 1 and a half years of waiting, and now I have answers. My favorite series has come to a close, and yet it doesn’t feel like the end. It’s surreal to think that this may be it—the series that changed the course of my life, finally capping off. But if this really is the end, then Aurora’s End is the best conclusion that I could have ever asked for, and a book that I will no doubt cherish just as fervently as the first two books.

Now, TREAD LIGHTLY! If you haven’t read Aurora Rising or Aurora Burning and intend to, beware of spoilers! If you want to read my previous reviews, look no further:

Enjoy this week’s review!

Aurora's End by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff | Penguin Random House Canada
F I N

Aurora’s End (Aurora Cycle, #3) – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

my copy ft. Aurora Burning and Aurora Rising, plus a cool filter and some crystals (not Eshvaren crystals oop)
last picture, I promise—here’s Finny boy with Hobbes, one of my cats

For all intents and purposes, the Battle of Terra was the end for Squad 312. They failed to stop the Starslayer from harnessing the Eshvaren’s Weapon, and intergalactic war is imminent. Meanwhile, the Ra’Haam slips in through the chaos, threatening to cover the entire universe in its spores.

But by a cosmic twist of fate, Tyler, Auri, Kal, Zila, Scarlett, and Finian are unscathed. They’ve been separated by time, and the only chance they have at thwarting the Ra’Haam is turning history itself inside out. Time is not on their side, though, and it may not be enough to save civilization itself from being wiped out.

karlmordo - This is how things are now! You and me. Trapped in...
Aurora’s End without context

TW/CW: graphic violence, mild sexual content, blood, near-death situations, severe allergic reaction, emergency medical procedures, loss of loved ones, death, descriptions of injury, body horror

[WARNING: this review may contain spoilers for Aurora Rising and Aurora Burning!]

I still haven’t come to grips with the fact that this is really the end of the Aurora Cycle. But as someone whose life was permanently altered for the better by this trilogy, I can say with certainty that this is the best end to the series that I could have ever asked for. My heart is so, so, so full of love.

There were so many factors that went into the separate situations that Squad 312 got themselves into, but Kaufman and Kristoff have once again proved that nothing is impossible. Time is distorted, there are future selves to be dealt with, technology and ancient aliens races are as complicated as ever, and of course, Past Pete is here to kill Future Pete. Lucky for us, Kaufman & Kristoff have been rapid-firing Chekhov’s gun, and every detail from the past two books comes full circle. After how mind-boggling the plot and cliffhanger of Aurora Burning were, Aurora’s End brings everything back in superbly clever and surprising ways, making for a trilogy that’s more cohesive than ever before.

And my emotions…MY EMOTIONS! After so long apart, reuniting with Squad 312 felt like reuniting with long-lost friends. Despite this being the last book, the development that many characters got was such a beautiful way to bring them all the way back and display the enormous growth many of them have had over the course of the series. Out of all of them, though, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to see Finian and Scarlett’s relationship develop; they’re such an unlikely couple, but the love they have for each other is so consistently tender and heartwarming. Plus, a) NORMALIZE BI PEOPLE IN STRAIGHT PASSING RELATIONSHIPS! STRAIGHT-PASSING RELATIONSHIPS ARE SO VERY VALID!, and b) DISABLED PEOPLE!! IN LOVING RELATIONSHIPS!! WE NEED MORE OF THOSE!! Nothing can top Kalauri, but Fin and Scar come very, very close. I LOVE those two. Power couple. Finian is the once and future disaster bisexual.

Also, Tyler trying to be all “space pirate”-y after an entire lifetime of being Captain America was a train wreck…comedy gold

One aspect of Kaufman and Kristoff’s writing that I haven’t often touched on is how they build tension. Their skill at developing heart-pounding tension is especially evident in Aurora’s End; they did such a masterful job of raising the stakes over the course of these three books, and bringing it all to a nail-biting cataclysm towards the end. The last 100 pages of Aurora’s End had me stressed out to no end, but…in a good way? It made me genuinely worried for everybody involved. Look, I’ve gotten way to attached to my space misfits over the past two years. Let me off the hook this once.

Along with all that, Kaufman and Kristoff once again more than delivered with everything that made the first two books so strong. The universe was expanded upon in surprising ways, the characters were more fleshed out and lovable than ever, the chemistry was impeccable, the action sequences had me clutching the book in a vice grip, and the dialogue hit the perfect balance of levity, tenderness, and solemnity. The found family of Squad 312 is stronger than ever, and my heart is still bursting with love for all of them.

It’s hard to end this review. It isn’t every day that a series changes my life, but the Aurora Cycle truly did. These books taught me so much about moving through this world as an outsider; Auri taught me that I didn’t have to be brave or strong to be a hero, and that people with the fate of the world on their shoulders can have their big feels too. She was the first time I’d really seen a mixed-race hero, and having a character like her means the world to me. I’ve come to see myself in Finian, and he’s taught me that I deserve love just as I am. And Squad 312 has taught me that no matter who you are, there will always be a home for the outsiders. It cemented, more than ever, that even if you think that you are alone in the world, somebody out there loves you, and will give you a home.

All in all, the perfect ending for a series that changed my life for the better. 5 stars for the sake of Goodreads, but realistically, however many stars there are in the known universe.

Squad 312 forever. 💗

never again shall we submit

Aurora’s End is the final book in the Aurora Cycle, preceded by Aurora Rising (#1) and Aurora Burning (#2). Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff have also written the Illuminae Files together; Amie Kaufman is also the author of the Starbound trilogy (co-written with Meagan Spooner) and the Elementals series, and Jay Kristoff is also the author of the LIFEL1K3 trilogy and Empire of the Vampire.

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 Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (11/15/21) – Entangled

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been a fan of A.R. Capetta for a while, but I’ve never gotten around to reading their debut. I’ll read any promising space opera that I come across, and judging from how fantastic Once & Future was, I’m hoping this novel will be more of the same.

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (11/15/21) – ENTANGLED by A.R. Capetta

Entangled (Entangled, #1) by A.R. Capetta

Blurb from Goodreads:

Alone was the note Cade knew best. It was the root of all her chords.

Seventeen-year-old Cade is a fierce survivor, solo in the universe with her cherry-red guitar. Or so she thought. Her world shakes apart when a hologram named Mr. Niven tells her she was created in a lab in the year 3112, then entangled at a subatomic level with a boy named Xan. 

 Cade’s quest to locate Xan joins her with an array of outlaws—her first friends—on a galaxy-spanning adventure. And once Cade discovers the wild joy of real connection, there’s no turning back.

So why do I want to read this?

Snail Mail - "Heat Wave" (Official Video) on Make a GIF

I’m already a sucker for space opera, but guitars? A cherry-red guitar, to be exact? [aggressively slams credit card on the table]

I’ve read nearly everything of A.R. Capetta’s, so that’s already a motivation for me to read Entangled. Their prose is consistently hooking, and their LGBTQ+ representation never fails. Once & Future is their only other sci-fi book, so I’m hoping that reading Entangled will give me a glimpse of how they’ve grown in the genre since then.

Even if it wasn’t A.R. Capetta, I would have 100% been on board! We’ve got a whole host of factors that are simultaneously drawing me in—aliens, outlaws, galaxy-spanning quests…what’s not to love? Plus, I already adore the concept of Cade as this reluctant, wandering traveler who just wants to play guitar. I feel you, Cade, I feel you.

The reviews on this one are leaning on the mediocre side (3.54 at present), but at this point, I’m undeterred. Most of the complaints have been about the flimsy science, which, well…I know when a piece of media is just sticking “quantum” onto every other word to make them sound smart, but I also deliberately didn’t take a physics class, so it shouldn’t be a major issue. As for the execution (the other major complaint)…well, I guess I’ll see for myself.

Visual Typing (Socionics) - Page 9 | Cosmos, Space art, Colorful gifs

Today’s song:

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

Book Review Tuesday (10/19/21) – Steelstriker (Skyhunter, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

wHEW okay so I just submitted my college applications I need a minute

Meme Generator - Gavin screaming - Newfa Stuff

So, what do my college applications and this week’s review have in common? My feelings after finishing both of them can be described accurately with the image above.

I’ve been a fan of Marie Lu’s for years now, and I loved Skyhunter, so I immediately jumped at the chance to preorder book two. I got to read it recently, and I can say with certainty that Marie Lu has made another riveting success!

Now, TREAD LIGHTLY! This review contains spoilers for book 1, Skyhunter! If you haven’t read book 1 and intend to, I suggest you skip through this review.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Steelstriker (Skyhunter Duology): 9781250221728: Lu, Marie:  Books

Steelstriker (Skyhunter, #2) – Marie Lu

my copies of Skyhunter and Steelstriker feat. a cool filter

Mara has fallen. The Federation’s colonization sweeps through what was once the last stronghold of freedom, and at its forefront, the young Premier wreaks havoc, fighting to uncover an ancient artifact that could give his empire unimaginable power.

Talin has been captured for the Skyhunter initiative, melded with wings and great power against her will. But her connection to the Premier presents her with a unique perspective that could help her allies win the war. Meanwhile, Red and the rest of the Strikers are intent on breaking her out, but a plot against the Federation could mean the difference between victory and utter chaos.

are you with me? | Rogue one star wars, Star wars ships, Star wars fandom

TW/CW: torture, human experimentation, graphic violence, public executions, murder (attempted and executed), colonization

Let it be known that I was reading the last part of Steelstriker while getting my hair dyed, and that right as I hit THAT CLIMAX, the lady dyeing my hair came in and I had to hold it together long enough for her to rinse my hair out. This is the havoc that Marie Lu has wrought upon my heart.

But it was 100% worth it.

Skyhunter is a very special book to me. Not only was it written by one of my favorite authors, it helped me through what was easily one of the toughest times in my life. When I was weighed down with grief and stress, Skyhunter taught me to maintain hope, even in the darkest of times. Now, here I am one year later, and Steelstriker means just the same to me—a bleak, dystopian world, but with underlying currents of hope and resistance.

Just as with book 1, I can picture the imagery of Steelstriker like it was footage from a TV show. Marie Lu’s writing kept me hooked from page one, and I only found myself putting it down for…well, basic necessities. (And getting my hair rinsed off.) I felt just as invested in Talin and Red’s story as I did last year.

Standing next to Skyhunter, one aspect that set Steelstriker apart was the rich political intrigue. Within the action there are threads of unrest, manifesting in secret plots and uprisings aplenty. Every single plot point had a satisfying domino effect through the rest of the novel, and the constant twists that resulted kept me guessing until the epilogue. Marie Lu’s balance of sci-fi action and realistic dissent and secret plots made for a book that sucked me in for its entire length.

And the characters! Coming back to Red, Talin, and the rest of the striker gang felt like reuniting with old friends. I had a soft spot for Red in book 1, and he was just as well-developed, complex, and outright lovable as ever. Talin’s internal struggle with being a Skyhunter never ceased to tug my heartstrings, and her perspective balanced outside intensity with introspective development. And the two of them together!! I mentioned in my review of Skyhunter that I thought they would work in either a platonic or romantic relationship, and having them be in love was so, so, SO sweet. They’re just perfect for each other. GAAH.

All of it culminated to a climax that threw my heart down the Grand Canyon and an epilogue that pulled it back up. Marie Lu certainly knows how to toy with my feelings [coughcough THE MIDNIGHT STAR cough cough].

It’s bittersweet for me to think that the Skyhunter duology is coming to a close. But Steelstriker was a sequel that was just as heartbreaking, intense, and wholly special as its predecessor. Thank you, Marie Lu, from the bottom of my heart. 4.5 stars!

Steelstriker is the final book in the Skyhunter duology, preceded by Skyhunter. Marie Lu is also the author of the Young Elites trilogy (The Young Elites, The Rose Society, and The Midnight Star), The Kingdom of Back, the Legend series (Legend, Prodigy, Champion, and Rebel), and the Warcross series (Warcross and Wildcard.)

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 Books

Found Family Sci-Fi recommendations

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles!

I haven’t done a recommendations post/something other than a book tag or a review in a while, so I figured it would be fun to mix things up a little bit.

Yeah, yeah. I get it. This is a very specific post. But these are the kind of books I love, and I know other people love them too, so I thought I would put this out into the world.

The found family trope is easily one of my favorites in media as a whole; usually, it involves a character, often an outsider, who meets a series of strangers, often outsiders as well, on whatever journey they are on, and these strangers become a family to them. Often, these characters have very different personalities, but their differences are what make them stronger. They come to accept each other no matter what, growing closer than they ever could have imagined. As someone who has been more than a little bit of an outsider over the course of my life, the trope has resonated with me a quite lot; I’m glad now to have found friends that love me for being as weird as I am, and I love them for being weird too. And for those of you who are in the place where I used to be, I promise: someday, you’ll find people who love you and celebrate you for who you are.

In my opinion, sci-fi is the most entertaining genre to see the found family trope in action. Sci-fi has a tendency to throw all of the characters into a life-changing adventure, and if the execution is right, their relationships deepen along the way, making for a tight-knit group of what I love to call “chaotic space misfits.”

Now, the books I’m putting on this list aren’t exclusively space-centric sci-fi. I’ve included a few books from other sci-fi branches, but all have similar found family themes. It’s mostly YA, but I have a few Adult and MG books on the list as well.

So let’s dive in, shall we?

Welcome To The Kingdom Of Geeks And Dorks - Tumblr Blog Gallery

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S FOUND FAMILY SCI-FI RECOMMENDATIONS

Victories Greater Than Death – Charlie Jane Anders

Amazon.com: Victories Greater Than Death (Unstoppable, 1): 9781250317315:  Anders, Charlie Jane: Books

young adult

Fast-paced and full of heart, Victories Greater Than Death is a perfect fit for longtime sci-fi fans and readers that are new to the genre! The relationships in this novel are so sweet, and I’m excited to see how they develop in the sequel!

Aurora Rising – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Amazon.com: Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle): 9781524720964: Kaufman, Amie,  Kristoff, Jay: Books

young adult

Two YA sci-fi books with purple covers with beautiful and VERY powerful space girls on them? In one post? It’s more likely than you think.

Aurora Rising is, in my opinion, the textbook-perfect example of the found family trope, and both the platonic and romantic relationships within it never fail to make me feel soft and happy inside.

The Disasters – M.K. England

Amazon.com: The Disasters: 9780062657671: England, M. K.: Books

young adult

The Disasters is the perfect book for you if you’re a fan of Guardians of the Galaxy-esque characters and banter. This one has action, drama, and misadventures in space aplenty!

Gearbreakers – Zoe Hana Mikuta

Gearbreakers eBook : Mikuta, Zoe Hana: Kindle Store - Amazon.com

young adult

Nothing like taking down giant, overpowered robots to bond a couple of people together…

The bonds between all of the characters in Gearbreakers truly shone, and the balance of soft levity, dystopian grit, and brutality were so well-handled!

Skyhunter – Marie Lu

Book Review: Skyhunter by Marie Lu – RARELY IN REALITY

young adult

Continuing on the dystopian train, here’s an action-packed book from one of of my favorite authors! Amidst all of the horror and desolation in Skyhunter’s ravaged world, the relationships between Talin, Red, and the rest of their ragtag gang of Strikers brings hope to a bleak novel. I read it almost a year ago, and it was just the thing that I needed to get through a rough patch in my life.

The Search for WondLa – Tony DiTerlizzi

The Search for WondLa | Book by Tony DiTerlizzi | Official Publisher Page |  Simon & Schuster

middle grade

Looking back, The Search for WondLa wasn’t just my gateway into sci-fi literature—it was probably my gateway to the found family trope as well. This was my favorite series from late elementary school through middle school, and even when I look back through it, I love it just as much as I did when I was younger. Middle school Madeline would be elated to hear that I still highly recommend it; an intricately crafted piece of sci-fi, filled with an immersive world, unique characters, and beautiful illustrations.

Honor Among Thieves – Ann Aguirre & Rachel Caine

Honor Among Thieves (The Honors, #1) by Rachel Caine

young adult

Spaceships are often the perfect vehicle for interstellar bonding (and anything interstellar, really), but have you considered…sentient, intelligent spaceships? What’s more fun than having your own spaceship join the found family?

Honor Among Thieves, with its diverse and chaotic cast of characters and intergalactic intrigue, is sure to both capture your heart and keep you on the edge of your seat!

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

Amazon.com: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet: Wayfarers 1 eBook :  Chambers, Becky: Kindle Store

adult

I said earlier that the found family trope often involves the characters bonding over some life-changing adventure, but it isn’t always—and never has to be—the case. It seems to me that Becky Chambers has pioneered the “soft sci-fi” novel, one that’s set in a future universe filled with aliens and strange politics, but there are no cosmic, fate-of-the-world wars or over-the-top conflict. It’s more slice-of-life, but in space. (Oh, look at me and all my hyphens…) Which I love.

The relationships of the crew of the Wayfarer made my heart so happy, and I bet they’ll make you just as happy too!

Heart of Iron – Ashley Poston

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

young adult

The main cast, along with the rest of the crew of the Dossier are the sweetest, messiest found family, whether they’re human, robot, or alien. If you love retellings, lost chosen ones, and plenty of banter, Heart of Iron is the book for you!

Larklight – Philip Reeve

Larklight: A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of  Space: Reeve, Philip, Wyatt, David: 9781599901459: Amazon.com: Books

middle grade

Here’s another one for middle school Madeline…

Larklight, from my memory, is imaginative, kooky, and perfect if you’re a fan of steampunk. Never a dull moment if there are pirate ships and floating houses in space, right? Plus, all sorts of odd creatures…

LIFEL1K3 – Jay Kristoff

Amazon.com: LIFEL1K3 (Lifelike): 9781524713928: Kristoff, Jay: Books

young adult

Turning back into dystopian sci-fi, LIFEL1K3 is another fantastic example of a novel that finds the smallest bits of hope in the bleakest (and I mean BLEAKEST) of times. This series HURT me, truth be told, but Jay Kristoff is the master of writing friendships that you want to root for with all your heart.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are your favorite books with the found family trope? Have any sci-fi recommendations for me? Tell me in the comments!

StarWars.gif

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (10/5/21) – Iron Widow

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

This novel came on my radar a few months ago, and I just had to put it on my TBR–what could go wrong with giant robots, aliens, and patriarchy-smashing? What more could a reader want, really? I preordered it, and I’m glad to say that it didn’t disappoint–and it got me out of a week-and-a-half-long reading slump too!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Iron Widow (Iron Widow, #1) by Xiran Jay Zhao

Iron Widow (Iron Widow, #1) – Xiran Jay Zhao

my copy ft. a nice filter and some more red and orange books

Hordes of aliens are invading Huaxia. Their last hope lies in the Chrysalises, supersized robots piloted by the best young boys that the country has to offer–and powered by girls, who inevitably die from the exertion.

It’s not a dream that most of the girls of Huaxia would entertain. But for 18-year-old Zetian, there’s more to the job than certain death. There’s a chance of revenge, specifically for her older sister, who was sacrificed by a Chrysalis pilot. Her murder successful murder plot garners her the rare title of Iron Widow, a role reversal where she pilots the Chrysalis and can only sacrifice boys. With her newfound title, Zetian has one more mission–tear the misogynist foundations of Huaxia’s army to shreds.

What Do You Want Jean Grey GIF - What Do You Want Jean Grey - Discover &  Share GIFs

TW/CW: misogyny, rape, graphic violence, death, past loss of loved one, alcoholism/substance abuse, withdrawal, torture

I’m ashamed that we didn’t think of this solution earlier…DESTROY THE PATRIARCHY WITH ROBOTS

After a long slump, Iron Widow was just what I needed. Even if I’d been on a string of amazing books beforehand, though, this book would have been just as much of a wild ride as it was when I read it. Unapologetically feminist and action-packed, Iron Widow is sure to please sci-fi fans and those new to the genre.

The feminist aspect of Iron Widow is what stood out the most for me. Throughout, there’s unapologetic commentary on the harshest treatment of women in society, from the constraints of the gender binary to rape and institutionalized misogyny. Sure, we have hordes of aliens attacking the country in droves, but the rampant sexism and misogynist violence is the real antagonist here. Xiran Jay Zhao did an excellent job of showing all the facets of misogyny–and then having a character like Zetian tear them down little by little.

Zetian was the perfect protagonist for Iron Widow, and she’s a near textbook-perfect example of a flawed but sympathizable character. She’s ruthless, she’s fierce, she’s fiery, but what’s more important than her traits is why she became the way she did. It’s a perfect example of how oppression can shape a person’s character–Zetian might not have been so blindsided by revenge and filled with self-doubt were it not for the ingrained misogyny of Huaxia’s culture. Her character was such a well-crafted exploration of this theme.

On top of that, Zetian’s character made for the perfect catalyst to drive the plot forward! There was no shortage of drama or action that she either caused or that came in her wake, rocketing an already action-packed novel at a fast but consistently entertaining pace. The combination of Zetian and military drama, robots, and aliens made for a novel that never slowed down–in the best way possible.

Another aspect that Zhao handled well was the balance of plot elements. There’s more than a few heavy topics discussed in this book (see the TW/CW at the top), but they depicted their realness while also reveling in the more fantastical plot elements. I hesitate to call the latter “levity,” but there wasn’t an imbalance of either of those sections of the novel.

Now, I’m a little torn on the worldbuilding. For the most part, I loved it, especially the Chrysalises. Each one was based off of a creature from Chinese-inspired mythology, and I was so excited to see all of them come to life. Zhao also did a great job explaining the whole qi system without info dumping–there were just the right amount of evenly-spaced tidbits of information that I wasn’t deluged with anything, but by the time that these elements came in, I was able to go “oh, right, I understand how that works.” I just wish the same care was put into the Hundun aliens! Although I can’t wait to see how the twist with them is resolved in the next book, all of the details about them were so vague that I could hardly picture them.

Also, a big selling point about Iron Widow was that there was a love triangle solved by polyamory. I was so excited to see it come into play, but…it never seemed to happen? Maybe I missed something (is it just going to be slow-burn?), but I swear there was only some romantic undertones with both Li Shimin and Yizhi and the three of them haven’t been together for a very long time. Again, maybe I missed something, but I was a little disappointed by that. Maybe it’ll appear in book 2…

All in all, a raw and unapologetically feminist piece of YA sci-fi. 4 stars!

Iron Widow is Xiran Jay Zhao’s debut novel and the first in the Iron Widow series. The series will be continued by an as-of-yet untitled sequel set for release in 2022.

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 Books

Undercover LGBTQ+ Books for Closeted Readers

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

I’ve seen lists like this floating around on some bookish Reels on Instagram, and I figured that I wanted to make a list of my own for the blogosphere.

What I mean by “undercover” is this: if you’re a closeted reader and you’re in a homophobic space/community, you can read these books without anyone else knowing that you’re LGBTQ+, but you can still get the LGBTQ+ rep that you want to see. These are books that have great queer representation, but aren’t explicitly queer from the cover or synopsis. That way, if you’re in an unsupportive/homophobic space, you can still seek out good LGBTQ+ books without outing yourself. These are mostly YA books, but we’ve got several genres in the mix. I know I’m lucky to have supportive family and friends, but it sadly isn’t the reality for all queer people, so I thought I’d provide this list for others in that situation.

And as always, never forget: you are loved, you are valid, you are beautiful, and nobody has any say in your identity except for you. 💗

Let’s begin, shall we?

🌈UNDERCOVER LGBTQ+ BOOKS FOR CLOSETED READERS🌈

Dare Mighty Things – Heather Kaczynski

Amazon.com: Dare Mighty Things: 9780062479860: Kaczynski, Heather: Books

GENRES: sci-fi, thriller

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

Cassandra, the main character, is asexual, and there’s also a secondary character who is bisexual! This one’s a must read if you love high-stakes competitions and sci-fi mysteries and thrillers.

Fire With Fire – Destiny Soria

Fire with Fire by Destiny Soria

GENRES: fantasy, paranormal, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I got this one as an eARC last year, and it was such a fun fantasy! Dani, one of two POV protagonists, is bisexual as well as mixed-race (white/Latine), and frankly, there’s not much better than queer girls and dragons, so this one’s a must-read.

Spellhacker – M.K. England

Amazon.com: Spellhacker: 9780062657701: England, M. K.: Books

GENRES: sci-fi, urban fantasy, fantasy

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

There’s no shortage of great LGBTQ+ rep in this novel – Diz is queer, her love interest is nonbinary (as well as the author!), and there’s several wlw and mlm couples interspersed throughout. I’ll always recommend this one for fans of both sci-fi and fantasy – it’s a great blend of the two genres!

Victories Greater Than Death – Charlie Jane Anders

Victories Greater Than Death | Charlie Jane Anders | Macmillan

GENRES: sci-fi, space opera

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This one’s sure to please all the YA space opera fans – lots of strange aliens, sudden powers, and intergalactic battles. There’s no shortage of good queer rep in this one – Tina is bi/pan, her love interest is a Black trans woman, and there’s a wide variety of pronouns used for the many (MANY) characters!

On a Sunbeam – Tillie Walden

Amazon.com: On a Sunbeam: 9781250178138: Walden, Tillie: Books

GENRES: graphic novels, sci-fi, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t use masterpiece lightly, but On a Sunbeam absolutely is one. With simplistic but stunning artwork and a multiracial wlw relationship told in alternating timelines, there’s no excuse to pass this one by.

Sawkill Girls – Claire Legrand

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand – The Hub

GENRES: horror, paranormal, fantasy

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t normally go for horror, but this was an unexpected 5-star read for me! All three protagonists are queer – Marion is bisexual, Zoey is asexual, Val is a lesbian, and there’s a wlw relationship!

Other Words for Smoke – Sarah Maria Griffin

Amazon.com: Other Words for Smoke: 9780062408914: Griffin, Sarah Maria:  Books

GENRES: paranormal, horror, magical realism

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

None of Sarah Maria Griffin’s books are talked about enough – Other Words for Smoke is hauntingly beautiful and well-written in every sense of the word. There’s a lesbian relationship in this one, and it’s unrelentingly feminist as well.

Wild Beauty – Anna-Marie McLemore

Buy Wild Beauty: A Novel Book Online at Low Prices in India | Wild Beauty:  A Novel Reviews & Ratings - Amazon.in

GENRES: magical realism, fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I highly recommend anything of Anna-Marie McLemore’s – their novels always have the most gorgeous prose, combined with fairytale-like fantasies and Latine culture and mythology. Their books always include queer characters, but this one in particular features an entire cast of queer sisters and a genderqueer love interest!

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Did you like any of these books? Do you have any undercover LGBTQ+ recommendations? Tell me in the comments!

Books to Celebrate Pride Month | Penguin Random House Canada

Today’s song:

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