Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (3/1/22) – Devil in the Device (Goddess in the Machine, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles, and happy Women’s History Month! Can’t believe it’s March already…

I got hooked on the Goddess in the Machine duology back in 2020, and I stuck around for how creative and suspenseful Goddess in the Machine was. Devil in the Device came out last August, but I hadn’t been able to get around to finding it/reading it until last week. It was a little rocky at first, given that I didn’t remember parts of book 1, but once it got going, it was a wild and twist-filled ride!

Now, tread lightly! This review may contain spoilers for book 1, Goddess in the Machine, so if you haven’t read book 1 and intend to do so, proceed with caution.

thought I reviewed book 1 but apparently not oops 😵‍💫

Enjoy this week’s review!

Devil in the Device (Goddess in the Machine, #2) – Lora Beth Johnson

Eerensed has been plunged into chaos.

In hiding underground, Andra grapples with her new identity and the secrets that she has uncovered. The rest of her fellow colonists, still in cryosleep, are relying on her to get off of their dying planet. But the further she gets on her mission, the more Andra realizes that the situation is far more complicated than she could have ever comprehended.

Aboveground in Eerensed, Zhade grapples with ruling the people while in disguise as Maret. His power holds tempting amounts of influence, but his people are in chaos, overrun by rogue Angels and unruly magic. Can he take control of the situation—and find out what became of Andra?

TW/CW: murder, loss of loved ones, blood/gore, substance abuse (alcohol), violence, grief, mind control, mild sexual content/innuendos

wordpress please stop autocorrecting “Zhade” to “Shade” challenge

Even without remembering…oh, at least half of Goddess in the Machine, I enjoyed reading Devil in the Device quite a lot—not quite as strong as book 1, but still endlessly twisty!

Getting into a sequel without a proper re-read or recap is always rocky; that was the case with Devil in the Device, especially the fact that I completely forgot about the weird, future Eerensed dialect of English that Zhade’s POVs were written in. I have mixed feelings on that part in general, but although it read in a very cringy way, it makes sense. I could have done without “certz” and “for true” and all that, but just like those corny Star Wars alien idioms that make no sense without context, they’re a necessary evil.

But once I got my memory jogged of book 1, Devil in the Device was a great sequel! Having the characters split up usually isn’t something I go for in sequels, but since there were only Andra and Zhade to deal with, it worked a lot more smoothly. Their split POVs gave a broader insight onto different parts of the worldbuilding, and beyond that, they created a lot of tension; most of the major revelation on Andra’s end of the line, and having Zhade be completely ignorant of almost all of it created a lot of suspense and buildup.

The fast pace was also a highlight of Devil in the Device, and with the amount of curveballs that Johnson throws throughout the course of the book, it makes for a very tense and exciting read! Secrets, deception, and betrayal all ran rampant through this book, and every page invited a new revelation. There are twists aplenty, but in the case of Devil in the Device, it turned out to be a double-edged sword; most of the twists were mind-boggling and earthshattering (@ Dr. Griffin WHOA CHILL JEEZ), but almost all of them were crammed into the last quarter of the book. All of those twists one after the other bordered on overstuffing, but overall, it had the effect of appropriately amping up the tension.

One other aspect that I’ll always appreciate about the Goddess in the Machine duology is its casual diversity—Andra is mixed-race and plus-sized, and there are consistently lots of queer secondary characters. Kiv, one of the secondary characters, is also Deaf, which I loved to see as well! The fact that he’s shown in a happy relationship makes me even happier—more disabled characters in loving relationships, please! (Plus, Kiv and Lilibet are so cute I CAN’T)

All in all, a sequel that wasn’t quite as strong as its predecessor but excelled in the plot twist department. 4 stars!

Devil in the Device is the second and final book in the Goddess in the Machine duology, preceded by Goddess in the Machine.

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!

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Book Review Tuesday (2/15/22) – Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

As soon as I found out about Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves, I immediately put it on hold at the library. The premise of a sci-fi survival story with racing wolves and vengeful gangsters hooked me in no time. However, what I found inside was a different story: too much exposition, too little story.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves: A Novel: 9781250785060: Long,  Meg: Books

Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves – Meg Long

Sena Korhosen vowed to never involve herself in sled racing after it claimed the lives of both her mothers. But when her pickpocketing habit gets her in trouble with a prominent crime syndicate, she’s forced to flee. Along with the head gangster’s prizefighting wolf, Iska, Sean bands up with a team of scientists who can get her off of the frozen planet of Tundra—but at the cost of her helping them win the sled race that killed her moms. Trapped in the frozen wilderness, Sena faces a choice: brave the woods and the beasts within them, or risk a fate worse than death?

shadow and bone 1x06 | Explore Tumblr Posts and Blogs | Tumgir

TW/CW: violence, gore, blood, past death of parents, animal cruelty, animal death, animal attacks

This is what I get for getting my hopes up for every YA sci-fi book I come across…

It’s such a shame, though; the premise hooked me with no effort, but Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves ended up being a disappointment through and through.

For Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves, its best aspect was simultaneously its worst aspect. That aspect was the worldbuilding. I’ll start out with why most of it worked: with each page, it was clear that there was so much time put into making all of the dominoes fall in the right place. Everything from the social cleavages to Tundar’s fauna to the intricacies of the sled race were so thoughtfully written with a clear intent on making an immersive world—which Meg Long succeeded in.

However, said worldbuilding was lumped into so much of the first half of this novel that it felt more exposition than story. The plot didn’t pick up until about halfway through. I expected more of a through-and-through survival story, but Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves lingered more in civilization than it did out in the frozen wilderness that it promised. What wasn’t exposition was most often just descriptions of animal attacks, and that combination wasn’t ideal.

The other curse from the worldbuilding was the naming of certain things. There was already a degree of suspension of disbelief implied, but naming a frozen planet Tundar (tundra) and giving the animals names like rënedeer (reindeer) made Meg Long’s world all the less plausible. With all of the thought that was clearly put into this book, I feel really bad saying this, but the names just felt…plain lazy. I’m not saying that the names have to be perfect, but they shouldn’t be that derivative of what they’re based on.

With all of that mess piled on, I found it hard to get attached to any of the characters. Sena’s personality got on my nerves from the get-go, and since most of the other characters were introduced around the 1/3-1/2 mark, they came off as having little to no personality. Sena never quite developed, either, and a lot of her actions seemed to have unrealistic motivations, given her past. Add an all-too-easily-defeated villain to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a batch of very halfhearted characters.

All in all, a sci-fi novel with a bold premise that was unfortunately bogged down by too much of a good thing—great worldbuilding, but half a book’s worth of exposition to show it. 2 stars.

Luke skywalker star wars mark hamill GIF - Find on GIFER

Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves is a standalone, and is Meg Long’s debut novel.

Today’s song:

HELP I CAN’T STOP LISTENING TO THIS I LOVE IT SO MUCH

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

YA Reads for Black History Month (2022 Edition)

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

It’s February again, and in the U.S., February is Black History Month! For the past few years, I’ve been making an effort to diversify my reading and read books from a variety of BIPOC authors all year round, but during this month, I like to take the time to uplift Black voices and authors. It’s crucial to open yourself up to new perspectives and insights, and all it takes is picking up a new book. (But as always, read books from BIPOC authors all year round!)

I made a list of YA reads from Black authors last year (you can find it here!), but I wanted to do it again since I’ve read so many amazing books since last year. So let’s begin, shall we?

Black History Month Black Lives Matter GIF - Black History Month Black  Lives Matter Mlk - Discover & Share GIFs

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA READS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH (2022 EDITION)

The Kindred, Alechia Dow

The Kindred by Alechia Dow

GENRES: sci-fi, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’ll start this list off with a recent read from an author who is quickly climbing up the ranks of my favorites! Although this wasn’t quite as good as The Sound of Stars, The Kindred was such a sweet, feel-good sci-fi romance!

The Cost of Knowing, Brittney Morris

Amazon.com: The Cost of Knowing: 9781534445451: Morris, Brittney: Books

GENRES: contemporary, magical realism

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Cost of Knowing is immensely powerful; through the perspective of a teen with the power to see the future of everything that he touches, Morris tackles a multitude of important topics, from mental health to police brutality to grief.

A Phoenix Must First Burn, Patrice Caldwell et. al. (anthology)

Buy A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic,  Resistance, and Hope Book Online at Low Prices in India | A Phoenix First  Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black

GENRES: short stories, fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A Phoenix Must First Burn is a beautiful anthology of short stories of all genres that depict the Black experience—particularly Black women and nonbinary people. There’s only one short story that I didn’t like as much, but all the rest are fascinating in their own right. My favorite was Amerie’s When Life Hands You a Lemon Fruitbomb.

The Good Luck Girls, Charlotte Nicole Davis

Amazon.com: The Good Luck Girls eBook : Davis, Charlotte Nicole: Kindle  Store

GENRES: historical fiction/alternate history, fantasy, paranormal, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t read a lot of alternate history or historical fiction books, but The Good Luck Girls was a fantastic read! If you’re a fan of demons, ghosts, patriarchy-smashing, and sisterhood, this is the book for you.

The Black Flamingo, Dean Atta

Amazon.com: The Black Flamingo: 9780062990297: Atta, Dean: Books

GENRES: contemporary, realistic fiction, novels in verse, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Again—novels in verse aren’t my usual choice for reading, but The Black Flamingo is a must-read! A beautiful coming-of-age story about growing up mixed-race and gay and discovering drag.

A Chorus Rises (A Song Below Water, #2), Bethany C. Morrow

A Chorus Rises eBook by Bethany C. Morrow - 9781250316028 | Rakuten Kobo  United States

GENRES: contemporary, magical realism

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

Set in the same world as A Song Below Water, A Chorus Rises explores Naema’s side of the story. Not a lot of authors write separate books from the point of view of the story’s antagonist, and this book was testament to the fact that not everything is black and white—there are several sides to every story.

Every Body Looking, Candice Iloh

Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh

GENRES: contemporary, realistic fiction, novels in verse

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

Raw and honest, Every Body Looking is a poetic coming-of-age story of growing up as a woman, growing up Black, and growing up as the daughter of an immigrant. It’s a rough ride, but it packs a punch.

When You Were Everything, Ashley Woodfolk

Amazon.com: When You Were Everything: 9781524715915: Woodfolk, Ashley: Books

GENRES: contemporary, realistic fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

When You Were Everything is the perfect book for anyone who has had a close friendship deteriorate. It’s messy, it’s raw, it’s painful, but above all, it felt so real and wonderfully genuine.

Ace of Spades, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Amazon.com: Ace of Spades eBook : Àbíké-Íyímídé, Faridah: Kindle Store

GENRES: mystery, thriller, contemporary, realistic fiction, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t go for mysteries most of the time, but Ace of Spades was the dictionary definition of edge-of-your-seat suspenseful. All at once a nail-biting mystery and a commentary on systemic racism, this is one you can’t let pass you by.

You Should See Me in a Crown, Leah Johnson

You Should See Me in a Crown - Indiana Authors Awards

GENRES: contemporary, realistic fiction, romance, LGBTQ+

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

I guess I’ve bookended this list with feel-good reads…I don’t see a problem with that. You Should See Me in a Crown is a fun and tender LGBTQ+ romance about two candidates for prom queen falling for each other!

Tell me what you think! Have you read any of these books, and if so, what did you think of them? What are your favorite YA books by Black authors? Let me know in the comments!

We Are Black History I Am Black History Sticker - We Are Black History I Am  Black History Africanamerican - Discover & Share GIFs

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Books

Sci-Fi Tropes, part 2: Spiders, Telekinesis, and More

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

I made a post a few months back discussing a handful of sci-fi tropes that I’ve seen in books—here it is, if you’d like to have a look! When I wrote it, I knew I’d be writing several more similar posts; the world of sci-fi literature is so diverse in its content, so there’s no shortage of tropes, however specific, that I can discuss. Some of these tropes are broader and others are fairly minute, but I think they’ll be a lot of fun to discuss.

So let’s dive in, shall we?

David welcomes you | Shipping | Know Your Meme

SCI-FI TROPES: PART 2

MYSTERIOUS, TELEKINETIC WOMEN

dark phoenix gif | Tumblr | Dark phoenix, Jean grey phoenix, Marvel gif
had to include her bc she was the blueprint for this trope…probably

Here’s an interesting one to tackle. I see this one almost exclusively in space operas, but the basic premise is usually as follows: a woman, usually younger than the rest of the main cast, is either gifted with or born with unexplainable and unparalleled telekinesis. This power usually means that she’s the main decider in ✨the fate of the universe✨. These powers of hers often result in mind-bending displays of grandeur, including but not limited to: killing enemies in disturbing ways, crumpling spaceships like soda cans, and bending space and time itself.

Often, these powers come along with an intense emotional burden; at the heart of it, there’s a quintessential “why me?” dilemma with respect to her powers. Inner conflict is all part of the package with godly telekinesis, which often results in this character losing her mind and/or lashing out at other members of the cast. And, well…given that it’s either a “puppet of an all-powerful cosmic entity” or “being devoured from the inside by space energy” situation, it’s understandable.

What sometimes rubs me the wrong way about this trope—although I’m all for cosmic women tearing apart the fabric of the universe (who isn’t?)—is the fact that most of these women have a lack of agency. Which, given that a lot of the characters that come to mind are written by men, is more than a little concerning. Even with all of this awe-inspiring power, these women are often portrayed as helpless. Many of their breakdowns about the burden of their power are often reduced to “oh, she’s just a women being overly emotional, typical.”

Which brings me to why I appreciate a particular instance of this trope—Auri from Aurora Rising. She may still be frightened of her own power, but she takes control of the situation—she takes it upon herself to master her powers, break away from the path that the Eshvaren have set for her, and ultimately save the galaxy. She has agency, and, yes, that’s the bare minimum, but she’s written with a significant amount of sway over her abilities as the books go on.

This trope can be poignant and powerful if used right, but if misused, it can lead to a lot of reductive stereotypes.

BOOKS WITH TROPES: Aurora Rising (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff), Forgotten Star (Colin Weldon), The Stars Now Unclaimed (Drew Williams)

IF THE ALIENS AREN’T BASICALLY HUMANS, THEY’RE JUST ANTHROPOMORPHIZED ANIMALS

Bossk Star Wars GIF - Bossk Star Wars Empire Strikes Back - Discover &  Share GIFs
this is far from the most dramatic example, but Bossk is the only one I can find a gif of

I get it. Creature design is hard—how do you create an alien that’s simultaneously familiar enough for a reader to project onto (if that’s the goal) but also weird enough to pass as “alien?”

In my last post, I talked about the trope of aliens that just looked like humans. That’s the ultimate alien design deal-breaker for me, unless there’s a good explanation for it. But in my opinion, the next level down is just making your aliens intelligent versions of animals with no other changes. Like the human-alien trope, it just feels like lazy design. It’s not that basing your alien design off of a certain animal is bad—on some level, most alien design is just that. The lazy part is just making an upright version of an already existing animal and changing nothing beyond that. (Plus, if it’s mammalian, you’re just…making intergalactic furries? Uh…)

One of the worst examples that I can recall is from The Stars Now Unclaimed, which I DNF’d. Not only was their an alien species that were just upright wolves, the species itself was called a Wulf. I KID YOU NOT. At that point, it’s almost…self-aware of how lazy it is? Or it seems that way, at any rate. But you just…don’t do that. Under any circumstances.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: The Stars Now Unclaimed (Drew Williams), Earth Force Rising (Monica Tesler), Columbus Day (Craig Alanson)

AND ON THAT SUBJECT, WHAT’S WITH ALL THE SPIDERS?

Ron Weasley is my spirit animal - GIF on Imgur

While we’re on the topic of creature design, here’s another trope that I’ve found several times. Lots of alien species in literature—most intended to be menacing, but not all—have been based on spiders, or described as spiders or spider-like.

One aspect of basing an alien design off of an animal is to still try and make it as alien as possible, and one way to do that is to base it off of an animal that many already consider “alien” or “scary.” These are often invertebrates—cephalopods, jellyfish, insects, and arachnids—spiders. By creating a creature with elements that are already unnerving to a lot of people, you’ve achieved the effect of making it alien without making it totally unfamiliar.

But why spiders in particular? Most of the spider-aliens that I’ve seen at the forefront of sci-fi stories are meant to be menacing. I suppose there’s already a latent metaphor of spiders catching unsuspecting prey in their webs, if menacing is the route the author intends to go on. If these characters are meant to be antagonistic, spiders are the perfect combination—not only do they look alien to us, but they’re also a commonly feared animal. They’re also involved in a lot of insidious metaphors, creatures known for ensnaring their prey in webs. I can speak to the “commonly feared” part myself—I’m fine with really small ones (jumping spiders and such—they’re cute), but big spiders? No way. I blame the wolf spider that I found in my room when I was five. (WHY DO THEY RUN SO FAST AAAAAA)

As far as aliens with animal basis, I think spider-aliens are effective. Even if they do fall into the “animals with no changes other than intelligence” trope, at least they’re not completely bipedal and upright—eight legs! But already, they’re so wildly different from us—the perfect starting point for an interesting alien.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: The Doom Machine (Mark Teague), Project Hail Mary (Andy Weir), One Giant Leap (Dare Mighty Things, #2) (Heather Kaczynski), The Outside (Ada Hoffmann)

THE FATE OF COMIC RELIEF RESTS ON THE MACHINES

C-3PO and R2-D2 discovered by Lux on We Heart It

Are none of your characters particularly funny? Have they not gotten the chance to banter properly? Are they all on a spaceship? I’ve got a trope for you, then…

This is the exact flip side of one of the tropes I mentioned in my first post—unhinged AI. Often times in space opera books with large cast, there is a character that’s some sort of machine: a droid, a ship’s AI, et cetera. But their main role, apart from providing convenient solutions to hacking-relation problems, is to lighten the mood.

So why machines? I’m not entirely sure myself, but I have a theory. Part of it may be to avoid risk—sometimes it’s too dangerous to have a character whose only personality trait is to be “sassy” or “the funny one,” so putting this personality onto an AI of some kind reduces the possibility of a one-dimensional flesh-and-blood character. AI are often reduced to minimal personality traits, as often, they’re designed for a particular task. Unless they have a short character arc where they have an epiphany of some kind about breaking free of their programming, they’re usually helpful vessels of humor in an otherwise hardened and dry-humored crew.

What’s more about this trope is how often it shows up—pick up any space-opera in the bookstore or the library, and there’s a good 75% chance that there’s a minor Sassy AI™️ character. I hesitate to say that it’s tried and true, but it’s certainly difficult to screw up. The problem is that most of them have the same sense of humor—sass, “oh, you humans are so stupid haha” condescension, and making jokes at inopportune times. (There’s also the inevitable running joke of the flesh-and-blood characters telling said AI character to shut up.) I appreciate good AI comic relief, but it’s become a formula, almost to the point where what I once thought was hilarious now makes me feel almost nothing.

So give your AI something unique—glitches, specific quirks, something, anything that will set it apart from 50% of other machines on the shelf.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: Aurora Rising (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff), Columbus Day (Craig Alanson), To Sleep in a Sea of Stars (Christopher Paolini), Crownchasers (Rebecca Coffindaffer), Honor Among Thieves (Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine)

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are your opinions on these tropes? What are some other tropes that you’d like me to discuss? Tell me in the comments!

Blade Runner 2049 - Album on Imgur

Today’s song:

listened to this whole album the other day. it was hit or miss for me overall, but when it got good, it got good

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 (1/25/22) – Railhead

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

As of last week, it had been ages since I’ve read anything by Philip Reeve. I’d gotten through the whole Larklight trilogy in middle school and loved it, and I read Fever Crumb as well and wasn’t as much of a fan. I forgot about him for a while, until I got a recommendation from Sabrina (thank you!) about another series of his—the Railhead series. I decided to pick it up, and I ended up liking it—after reading this, I definitely want to see how the rest of the story goes!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Railhead: 9781630790486: Reeve, Philip: Books

Railhead (Railhead, #1) – Philip Reeve

In the distant future, it isn’t spaceships that transport humanity across the stars—it’s a massive network of trains. The Great Network spans across the entire galaxy, and one line can take you anywhere that you so choose. It’s the perfect place for Zen Starling, a young thief who makes a living from the goods he steals from passenger cars. But when he attracts the attention of the mysterious Raven, Zen finds himself entrenched in a royal conspiracy. Soon, his own identity as a nobody from the streets is called into question, and his success on Raven’s mission may determine the rest of his career.

Star Wars Prequel - Planet Coruscant | Star wars, Film inspiration, Gif

TW/CW: violence (fairly mild), descriptions of killing animals/dead animals, fire, fear

It’s been about 5 years since I’ve read anything by Philip Reeve; I loved the Larklight trilogy but didn’t have the same luck with Fever Crumb, so he was generally hit-or-miss for me. But ultimately, I’m glad I picked Railhead up! It was the perfect antidote after reading something as heavy as Anthem; fun, light-hearted, and fast-paced. (Thanks again for the rec, Sabrina!)

The worldbuilding of Railhead made the whole book. It’s the kind of intricate worldbuilding that I aspire to have in my own writing; no stone is left unturned in terms of the little details that make the Great Network so genuine-feeling and fleshed out. Best of all, none of it is delivered in info-dumps; pieces of information are spaced out and don’t distract from the overall story. There was so much love put into every little nook and cranny of Reeve’s world, from the trains to the android history to the graffiti on the walls. I especially loved the Hive Monks—the concept behind them was so inventive! I wished we’d seen more of Uncle Bugs and the others.

As far as characters go, I didn’t get attached to many of them, but they were at least decently flushed out. Zen himself didn’t have many traits that would distinguish him from the average middle grade/YA protagonist, and having him get saddled with this trilogy’s equivalent of the chosen one trope didn’t exactly help his case. He was simply…alright for me. I felt the same way towards most of the other characters; they were distinct enough to not be trope-y, but not distinct enough to be rememberable. I did like Nova, though. She was my favorite out of the main cast—I liked her backstory a lot, and her being an android (or a “moto,” as is the lingo in Zen Starling’s world) added a unique layer to her story.

The plot itself was a little lacking for me, but its fast pace saved it. At its worst, the plot seemed to [Robert Plant voice] ramble on without any clear direction, but at its best, it was loads of fun. You do get the sense that you’re clinging to the top of a speeding train, the way the events move—it’s very fast-paced, and given both the setting and the premise, it’s perfect!

I wasn’t as invested in the main plot, but I tended to gravitate more towards the side plots, the short anecdotes that fleshed out Railhead’s world even more. The fact that I got more excited about seeing giant manta ray creatures and looking at the insides of futuristic trains than the actual should probably say something about the book itself, but those parts gave me joy, and that’s that. Again—it’s the tiny details that made Railhead as entertaining as it was.

All in all, a romp through a futuristic world at breakneck speed that shone in its detailed worldbuilding. I’m on board with continuing the rest of the series! 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

Padawanlost — ✩ star wars gif meme ✩ [¾] planets: Coruscant...

Railhead is the first book in the Railhead trilogy, and it is followed by Black Light Express (#2) and Station Zero (#3). Philip Reeve is also the author of the Larklight trilogy (Larklight, Starcross, and Mothstorm), the Mortal Engines quartet (Mortal Engines, Predator’s Gold, Infernal Devices, and A Darkling Plain), the Fever Crumb series (Fever Crumb, A Web of Air, and Scrivener’s Moon), and several other series for young adults and children.

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 (1/11/22) – 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.

Download this awesome wallpaper - Wallpaper Cave

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!