Smoke and Iron

The Great Library #4
Rachel Caine

It’s hard to believe it’s already time for the fourth book of the Great Library series! Last year I freaked out when we realized that the series was going to be five books instead of three, and that cliffhanger… gah! But now the wait is over, and we finally get to know what happens next to our favorite book loving rebels. And unlike the other books, Smoke and Iron introduces multiple perspectives so we can follow everyone as they are split around the world. Spoilers for the first three books from here on out!

Summary36595619

The opening moves of a deadly game have begun. Jess Brightwell has put himself in direct peril, with only his wits and skill to aid him in a game of cat and mouse with the Archivist Magister of the Great Library. With the world catching fire, and words printed on paper the spark that lights rebellion, it falls to smugglers, thieves, and scholars to save a library thousands of years in the making…if they can stay alive long enough to outwit their enemies.

Musings

Right from page one, we’re thrown back into the action. Jess is in Alexandria, under the guise of his brother Brendan; Khalila is on Anit’s ship, waiting for the sword to drop; Wolfe is in the prisons, alone and losing his mind; and Morgan is back in the tower, trapped, but ready to fight. The Archivist will stop at nothing to kill them: already he doesn’t trust Jess/Brendan, who must play the role perfectly or risk meeting a terrible death. But to save his friends, and the world, Jess will do anything. New alliances need to be forged. Weapons built. Friends betrayed.

Smoke and Iron is incredibly exciting. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, worrying about this crew, hoping they can make it out. At the same time, some of their plans were pretty… bad. That’s something I quite like about this series, as Jess is a YA hero who doesn’t have things miraculously work out for him every time. The stakes are real, and they’re high.

The writing is perfect in that it never impedes the plot. The world has been so strongly established and built now that Caine can take us on an adventure without having to stop and introduce us to new elements. Adding this to the already fast-paced story, I feel like I read this book in a blur: it feels shorter than the other books despite being just as long, if not longer. Everything fits together perfectly to bring us to the grand finale, the epic ending that leaves you breathless. How can I wait another year for book five?

While things went by so fast, a few plot points kinda fell to the side. Morgan’s storyline was fascinating, but I felt like there was quite a lot of deus-ex-machina on her end. She’s just so incredibly powerful. That, and her relationship with Jess seemed added a little like an afterthought? Maybe I’m just being nitpicky, or maybe I just missed them working together. But one thing’s for sure, the Iron tower needs to fall.

Thrilling and fast-paced, this book left me breathless. I cannot wait for the next one!

Expected publication: July 3rd 2018 by Berkley Books
I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with this ARC!

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Heroine’s Journey

Heroine Complex #3

by Sarah Kuhn

It’s so hard to believe this is the end of the series. I’m sitting in a puddle of my own, happy tears. What a fantastic finale! If you don’t yet know about this series,  it follows three Asian-American superheroines as they protect San Fransisco from a plague of mysterious demons (who tend to inhabit things such as cupcakes or porcelain unicorns) and has the best character growth you will ever read. If you want strong women in your books, I don’t think I’ve read anyone stronger or more complex than Evie, Adveda, and Bea.

Summary36606133

If there’s one thing Beatrice Tanaka never wanted to be, it’s normal. But somehow, her life has unfolded as a series of “should haves.” Her powers of emotional projection should have made her one of the most formidable superheroes of all time. And she should have been allowed to join her older sister Evie as a full-fledged protector of San Francisco, pulverizing the city’s plethora of demon threats.

But Evie and her superheroing partner, Aveda Jupiter, insist on seeing Bea as the impulsive, tempestuous teenager she used to be–even though she’s now a responsible adult. And that means Bea is currently living a thoroughly normal life. She works as a bookstore lackey, hangs out with best friends Sam Fujikawa and Leah Kim, and calms her workplace’s more difficult customers. Sure, she’s not technically supposed to be playing with people’s mental states. But given the mundanity of her existence, who can blame her?

When a mysterious being starts communicating with Bea, hinting at an evil that’s about to overtake the city, she seizes the opportunity, hoping to turn her “should haves” into the fabulous heroic life she’s always wanted. But gaining that life may mean sacrificing everything–and everyone–she holds dear…

Musings

One of the most remarkable things about Kuhn’s books is that they each have such a unique voice. While we return to San Fransico, to the world of puppy demons and superpowered heroes, we’re now following Bea’s perspective, and it’s completely different from that of her big sister Evie and super-heroine role model Aveda. Bea is spontaneous, stubborn, and rash: her excitement flits from one thing to another like a hummingbird. At only 22, she’s still a child in her sister’s eyes, though she’s trying to build her own life.

It’s been about 4 years since the last book, and Bea now works at It’s Lit, an adorable bookstore I would elect to live in if I ever got the chance. She dropped out of college, worries about her future, struggles with adulting and being taken seriously by her sister. Her dream is to join the superhero team – but Evie will hear nothing of it. When her powers start to change, and she begins to hear a voice in her head, convincing her that her mother might still be alive. Bea must embark on a journey of self-discovery, danger, and demons, in order to save her from the Otherworld.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I don’t think I’ve read stronger female characters than in the Heroine Complex series. The girls are front and center to the action: they’re badass, know how to fight, but they also value their emotions. They have an incredible arc of growth through each novel and the series itself. Finally having the girls confront the loss of their mother tied the series together as well as giving them a strong emotional conflict. On top of all that, they’re Asian-Americans, and that fact is not brushed aside or passed over. They openly discuss what it’s like to be a heroine of color and the standard they’re held to. Bea has vividly dyed hair, and there’s a fantastic discussion surrounding that stereotype. She has more personality traits than just her hair: in fact, she’s full of personality.

Heroine’s Journey might be the best in the series. Granted, it’s a little less chaotic than the first book (no cupcake demons here!) and less laugh out loud, but the focus was on Bea and I loved it. I loved seeing the other beloved characters through her eyes. I loved her relationship with Sam (SAM! Mr. Beaucoup Fromage! My new Book Boyfriend, swoon). I loved seeing her grow.

All in all, I don’t want this series to end. I know the Heroic Trio trilogy is now closed, but I’m hoping to see my favorite girls again sometime soon. An outstanding end to a fantastic series.

UPDATE: I learned via twitter that this is definitely not the end to the heroic trio!!! We’re going to get more books!!!

Expected publication: July 3rd 2018 by DAW 

The Perilous In-Between

The Chuzzlewit Chronicles #1

by Cortney Pearson

I have to admit: for all my love of science and invention, my addiction to Jules Verne and my need to take apart watches and play with the gears, I don’t read all that much Steampunk. So when I saw the blurb for The Perilous In-Between, I thought this might be a great chance to try a new genre. As a result? I had a great time, loved the book, and found a novel that will thrill both people new to the genre and long-time fans.

Summary

37841445

Even the sky has secrets.

Victoria Digby’s life in Chuzzlewit is picturesque. Ideal. Born to a good family, she’s also the star pilot in the Aviatory’s Protection Program, one of five young ladies assigned to protect their town from the Kreak – a deadly mechanical creature residing in the nearby ocean.

Enter Graham Birkley, a peculiar boy claiming to be from a strange place Victoria has never heard of either. The more she gets to know Graham, the more she loses not only her heart, but also all senses of security about the life she thought she loved.

Graham knows secrets about people, things he couldn’t possibly know, including a secret about Victoria that she has yet to uncover. Mostly, Graham knows what the sky is hiding. And when he tells her the truth, getting rid of the Kreak is no longer Victoria’s biggest problem.

Getting out of her town is.

Fans of The Paper Magician and The Infernal Devices won’t want to miss this dazzling romp in a steampunk, fantastical Victorian world.

Musings

Victoria Digby has a problem: she’s having flashbacks to a life that isn’t hers. And at the worst possible time, no less: when she’s flying a plane, with a flamethrower, trying to defend her town from a deadly mechanical monster that rages on her small town every evening.

The premise itself was enough to get me hooked. The small town of Chuzzlewit has been suffering the attacks of the massive ‘Kreak’ for what seems to be forever, and there’s no end in sight. It’s all that they can do to keep it held back with flamethrowers and planes, but it still manages to kill innocent civilians from time to time – a heavy loss for the small town. From the first chapter, the reader is brought right into the heart of the action, wondering how and why this monster keeps attacking (and why people don’t just move a little more inland?)

The plot was fun and had quite a lot of surprises in store. The big twist early on is when a mysterious young man appears in town, and the revelation of where he’s from completely changes the direction you thought this book was going on. It’s fantastic, as at first I was having trouble getting into the author’s style, but a shift of perspective bring on a shift of vocabulary, and I was impressed how unique she made each character’s voice.

The characters are what drive this novel, even if the premise is fantastic in its own right. We don’t have a cheesy romance, we get multiple friendships that grow and twist and evolve in very natural ways (even in an unnatural world). I really enjoyed how every character interacted with the others, which made each of them more relatable and more human.

The worldbuilding, too, was rather brilliant. I loved the world of Chuzzlewit, the design of the Kreak, the fantastic planes and hovercars. It was a trip for my imagination, being in this semi-victorian setting, experiencing aviary battles and a great mystery.

The author kept bringing the twists, leaving you guessing and surprised. The climax was fantastic, a great adventure, that had my heart pounding through my chest.

All in all, a fun read. Really enjoyable, and I’m curious to see how the author continues the series!

Read it now!

Veznek + An Interview with Andrew Gates

The Color of Water and Sky #3
by Andrew Gates

Get ready, science fiction fans: The third book in the Color of Water and Sky series is out, and it’s more epic than ever! After the outstanding ending of Kholvaria, I didn’t think I could last this long not knowing what happens next. And yet, Veznek somehow manages to blast any expectation I had out of the water.  Now, fair warning: Veznek is a lot more violent (a LOT more violent) than the first two books. Quite a few scenes are unsettling, to say the least, so it’s not for everyone. But those who love hardcore sci-fi are are going to be blown away.

Summary51eccqhdeil

Kholvaria has been attacked. Its greatest city destroyed. A cloud of debris now covers the void once filled by Vigilant Behemoth. In the wake of this unexpected assault, the Chiefdom’s leadership is promptly evacuated to a fallback shelter beneath the surface. But the horrors of the Behemoth’s destruction cannot be forgotten. Here in the grimy confines beneath the Earth, Kho Veznek, second-in-command of the Chiefdom, will stop at nothing to claim vengeance on those responsible for his city’s destruction… even if that means going through his own people to do it. As tensions mount between the ranks of humans and Kholvari alike, the fate of the world comes to its ultimate tipping point. 

Musings

Definite spoilers from here on out if you haven’t read the first two books. Spoiler free for Veznek itself. 

It’s so exciting to finally be getting answers to the world Gates has created. Veznek answers everything you’ve been wondering since book one, introducing hints of new, formidable villains for the books to come. The revelations are incredible! From the very first page of the prologue, we discover new details on the zombie-like humans Iris and the team discovered in book 2, and it throws everything we thought we knew out the window.

About half the book is told from the perspective of Kholvari characters, one of them the titular Veznek himself. The current Under-Chieftain, second in the entire Kholvari empire, he won’t stop at anything to get what he wants – and thinks he deserves. The author once again proves his writing skill as he expertly weaves the perspectives, showing a fundamentally different mentality when it comes to these insect-like creatures’ way of life. It’s fascinating being so engrossed in such an alien culture, I almost wanted more of their perspective.

It feels so odd not following the original survivors as much as we used to! After losing Iris in the last book, every relationship has changed. Dan leads the team of teenagers through the wilderness, discovering the truth about the zombies as he struggles with the loss of his love and unborn child. Grey tries to survive in the ruins of the Pentagon with his family, living through the aftermath of the missile strike. The last humans – divided.

Meanwhile, below the surface, Sanja is suffering the consequences of her nuclear launch. Basically going mad, alone in her cell. Plotting, planning, remembering. We get to see the steps that made her into the ruthless psycho she is today, leading to ‘scenes of graphic sexual trauma and physical torture’ (to put it lightly). She’s a villain I love to hate, one of my favorites in literature.

And the ending – that ending! Gates has always left us with powerful finales, but this one takes the cake. It’s possibly the strongest and most terrifying one in the series so far. I just can’t wait to know what happens next!


Interview with Andrew Gates, Author of The Color of Water and Sky series

33992926_1765995060113642_4107841158665732096_nR: Veznek takes everything from the previous books and raises the stakes higher than ever before. Did you find it more difficult writing Veznek?

AG: Great question! The stakes are certainly higher in Veznek, but along with that comes the fact that all our characters are split up. Rather than a group of characters going on one adventure together, like we had in the last two books, each POV character is on their own and doing their separate thing. Because of these separate storylines, it heavily influenced the way I went about writing the story. Instead of writing all of the chapters in order, this time I wrote each character story in it’s entirety and then went back and put the chapters in their proper chronological positions. So instead of writing character A, B, C, B, A, D, A… I wrote it A, A, A, A, then B, B, B, B and reordered them later.

R: What would say has been your biggest challenge and achievement in writing Veznek? What have you learned about yourself as a writer through writing?

AG: There’s a chapter in this book – Chapter 14. It gets pretty dark. It’s definitely the darkest content I’ve ever written and I really wanted to make sure I handled that serious content appropriately. I consulted several people for help on it. In the end, I think that chapter turned out very well, but it took a lot of work to get right.

R: The ending left us on the edge of our seats. How long do we have to wait until book 4? And is there any hint you can give us about what we can expect?

AG: Hard to say when Book 4 will be out. I know some authors are great at setting hard dates, but I’m not one of those guys, at least not yet. There were a few months between the release of books 1 and 2 but nearly a year between 2 and 3, so who knows? Hopefully it won’t be too long. Over 1/4 is already written. As for what to expect, I’ll say the story is heavily influenced from sources like Star Trek Beyond and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series. You can form your own conclusions from there.

R: Any plans to write outside the Color of Water and Sky series? What’s new from author Andrew Gates?

AG: Yes! I’ve been playing with an idea in my head for a gladiator-style series that I’m tentatively calling Battle Planet. Think gladiators in space. Right now I’m just toying with the concept. I’m not sure if anything will ever come of it. But if you’re looking for non-Water and Sky content that’s already out, I have two stories in the Pew! Pew! Science fiction collections already released.

R: Now that you’ve gotten ‘settled’ into the author life, do you have a writing routine or process that you adhere to?

AG: The routine comes on and off. I hit a nice groove for awhile where I had a certain number of hours I devoted to writing, but lately I’ve fallen out of practice. For me, my other hobby is running so I usually have to choose which thing I want to do that day before work. Either I fully commit to running that morning, or fully commit to writing. There are some days when I half-commit to each, which I suppose is better than nothing, but I’m still figuring it out.

R: Do you have a favourite amongst all your characters, old or new?

AG: If we’re talking old characters, I still think one of my favourites is still Tracey Saljov. I’m also a big fan of Sanja Parnel and Kho Ikharus. Those are the most fun to write for me. 

R: Are there any authors or specific books you aspire to? Who inspires you?

AG: When it comes to writing, the popular thing to do is “Write to Market”. You hear about it all the time. Basically the philosophy is to take themes and genres and storytelling devices that are popular and that prove to sell well and write that. For example, if you follow Chris Fox’s writing blog at all, he’s big on writing to market. And I think for people who write to market, it’s easier for them to have authors or specific books to pull from. But for me, I have a different philosophy. Instead of looking at what sells in the genre and adhering to those themes and tropes, I try to write things that I want to read. That’s my only criteria. I say, “Do I want to read this?” and I go from there. So the result is, I pull a lot from tons of different genres and sub-genres and authors and concepts. My stuff doesn’t necessarily fit into clean boxes. There’s no established audience for Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian Zombie Survival Giant-Crab-People Sea Stories, so there’s really no specific author or person to pull from in my case.

R: And finally, do you have any advice for other aspiring authors?

AG: My advice for new authors would be to play around with stuff and try new things. There’s no right or wrong answer to anything. The first book you write will take the longest, but once you get one out of the way, you’ll hit your groove. Everyone finds success differently.

Andrew Gates’s last book, Veznek, was just released on Amazon. The first book in the Color of Water and Skies series is Iris, which you can read here. And don’t forget to check out his website for exclusive content!

Are you a fan of Gates’s work? Let us know in the comments below!

The Navigator’s Touch

The Seafarer’s Kiss #2

Julia Ember 

Followers of this blog might remember me waxing poetic about the dazzling Seafarer’s Kiss (Review) last year when I first discovered it.  Exciting and brilliantly written, it somehow managed to combine The Littler Mermaid with Norse Mythology to create something completely new. So when the opportunity came from the author for me to read the latest installment, The Navigator’s Touch, I dropped everything to see what happens next!

Summary39078738

After invaders destroyed her village, murdered her family, and took her prisoner, shield-maiden Ragna is hungry for revenge. A trained warrior, she is ready to fight for her home, but with only a mermaid and a crew of disloyal mercenaries to aid her, Ragna knows she needs new allies. Guided by the magical maps on her skin, battling storms and mutiny, Ragna sets sail across the Northern Sea.

She petitions the Jarl in Skjordal for aid, but despite Ragna’s rank and fighting ability, the Jarl sees only a young girl, too inexperienced to lead, unworthy of help. To prove herself to the Jarl and win her crew’s respect, Ragna undertakes a dangerous expedition. But when forced to decide between her own freedom and the fate of her crew, what will she sacrifice to save what’s left of her home?

Inspired by Norse mythology and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, this companion novel to The Seafarer’s Kiss is a tale of vengeance, valor, honor, and redemption.

Musings

Unlike in the first book, The Navigator’s Touch follows Ragna’s perspective, as she vows revenge upon the men who raided her village and killed her family. It can be read either as a sequel or a companion novel, and you don’t need to read the first book to understand it, but I highly recommend you do, since The Seafarer’s Kiss is such an outstanding read. Not to mention you’ll understand Ersel’s background in much more detail.

Ragna is a Shield-Maiden, fierce and fiery, with vengeance on her mind. She lost her hand and gained a hook since we first met her, and her relationship with Ersel (the shapeshifting mermaid) has deepened. She has also got a ship and a reluctant crew: is that going to be enough to retake her village and save what’s left of her family?

I was instantly drawn into the world of Vikings and Norse myths. Ragna’s ever-shifting tattoos (the navigator’s touch which gives the book its name) and Loki’s manipulations remain a great mystical element that brings this world to life. We also learn more about Ragna’s mother, a horse breeder, and warrior training, which is so absolutely fascinating. The reader is fully immersed in the world, and the subtle imagery keeps you sucked in.

The Navigator’s Touch has a completely different tone from the first book. Ragna’s perspective is different from Ersel’s, as their two personalities are so different. It’s also a vengeance-driven story, so it’s violent. There’s a torture scene near the end of the book that is particularly vicious.  However, a great touch from the author and her publisher is the official “content warnings” in the book that lists, chapter by chapter, what the trigger warnings are for the book. Most of these are for violence, as this is a vengeance narrative. So if you need to look away, you can.

I found the pacing to lag at times, but it wasn’t an issue. I was so caught up in the characters I didn’t want to put the book down. However, I wish we could have seen more of Ersel! At times I felt like she was just an afterthought to Ragna, though I have a feeling that’s what the author wanted us to see. Ragna’s relationship(s) suffer under the weight of her plans for revenge. So although I want to complain (give us more mermaid awesomeness!) it’s part of a bigger arc which I can’t wait to see. And I hope we get more Ersel in book 3!

Speaking of book 3, The Navigator’s Touch isn’t even out until September, and I already NEED to know what happens next. The author sets up the ending so fantastically that I’m dying to read it. Holy cow, it can’t end like this!

All in all, if you liked Sky in the Deep (but wanted more action), and if you devoured The Seafarer’s Kiss, then this is the book for you! Action packed, with a fierce heroine and sublime myths, The Navigator’s Touch is a masterpiece of Viking fiction. Bring on book 3!

Expected publication: September 13th 2018
Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press

Preorder now!

 

 

 

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe

by Preston Norton

This might just be the most hopeful YA I’d read in a long, long time. What started as a ‘stereotypical’ high school story became everything but, when the school ‘jock’ has a near-death experience and claims God needs him and the school ‘loser’ Neanderthal to turn everything around. Every character started jumping from the page, so complex and fully realized that I couldn’t help but fall in love with them all. A beautiful book to rekindle your hope in humanity!

Summary

36105772Cliff Hubbard is a huge loser. Literally. His nickname at Happy Valley High School is Neanderthal because he’s so enormous-6’6″ and 250 pounds to be exact. He has no one at school and life in his trailer park home has gone from bad to worse ever since his older brother’s suicide.

There’s no one Cliff hates more than the nauseatingly cool quarterback, Aaron Zimmerman. Then Aaron returns to school after a near-death experience with a bizarre claim: while he was unconscious he saw God, who gave him a list of things to do to make Happy Valley High suck less. And God said there’s only one person who can help: Neanderthal.

To his own surprise, Cliff says he’s in. As he and Aaron make their way through the List, which involves a vindictive English teacher, a mysterious computer hacker, a decidedly unchristian cult of Jesus Teens, the local drug dealers, and the meanest bully at HVHS–Cliff feels like he’s part of something for the first time since losing his brother. But fixing a broken school isn’t as simple as it seems, and just when Cliff thinks they’ve completed the List, he realizes their mission hits closer to home than he ever imagined.

Musings

As I mentioned above, my first reaction when starting this read was to roll my eyes at all the High School clichés. You have the outcast who lives in a trailer park (with an abusive father), the popular jocks, the bullies, weird nerds, drug dealing teens…but then everything changes when Quarterback Aaron wakes up from his coma. He has seen the face of God – who looks remarkably like Morgan Freeman – and God has given him a list to change all this. And he specifically asked for Cliff’s help.

The author takes all these familiar YA elements and turns them upside down, making Cliff one of the most stand out characters I have ever read in contemporary YA. Still reeling from the suicide of his brother, with many questions he will never get the answer to, he joins Aaron in their mission to change the school. At times, the writing feels a lot like John Green’s, and can really pack an emotional punch; the characters are complex and have so much dimension you feel like you can really know them. It allows for the author to surprise you in so many ways.

It’s surprising in its (un)predictability.  As a reader of a LOT of YAs, it’s evident an author cannot escape the formulaic nature of high school contemporaries. The way the author deftly manages to pull twists out of this is astounding. At many times I found myself wowed by the depth of the characters: how Cliff remains so hopefully through everything, how Aaron canbe such a good person and friend, how Teagan… no spoilers, I’m just still in awe!

It’s honest, irreverent, sweet, funny, incredibly sad, and still hopeful. Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe is an absolute must for fans of  YA Contemporary. It’s at times brutally honest, yet so hopeful and relatable that you can’t put it down. Give yourself a mental hug and read this book.

“You know what the most dystopian idea in the world is to me?” I asked. “The idea that our feelings don’t matter. We might as well be robots.”

Neanderthal

Ranger’s Oath

by Blake Arthur Peel
Arc of Radiance Book 1

I’ve been a slow reader of late, as exams are drawing to a close and revisions have stolen all my time. But I recently had the opportunity to pick up a new fantasy novel, so I thought, what the heck, let’s dive right into it. Ranger’s Oath is the first of a five-book series of a YA fantasy epic, and let me just start by saying, it’s a total blast.

Summary39892219

Owyn is a ranger’s apprentice. Zara is a mage’s ward. Both hold the fate of the world in their hands. 

The Arc of Radiance has stood for a thousand years, protecting what’s left of the world from an ancient evil. But when demons begin to break through the magical barrier, Owyn and Zara become involved in a war that has lasted millennia.

If they can convince their people that the threat is real, then perhaps they can survive. If not, then the Eleven Hells will be unleashed upon the world of men…

Musings

In the realm of Tarsynium, man lives beneath a massive dome of magic, which keeps demons and evil at bay. It has stood for thousands of years, stoked by the mages at the capital, unwavering. So when Owyn, an apprentice ranger out training with his master, Elias, stumbles upon what he thinks might be a demon, it throws everything he knows into chaos.

Zara is training to one day become a mage, and so far has shown prodigious talent. When the Arch-Magnus herself wishes for Zara to accompany her to visit the edge of the realm, she leaps at the opportunity to learn from the best and show her talent to the world’s most powerful mage.

Owyn and Zara are thrown together as their elders try to dissect the mysterious occurrences which have been plaguing the realm. But when two apprentices have a theory, who’s going to listen to them? They have to take matters into their own hands before it’s too late.

While the plot was a little slow to get into at first, it quickly picks up the pace as we explore this world through the eyes of Owyn and Zara. The two make quite a pair: forced to trust each other in order to uncover the truth, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to like it. Zara is strong-willed and a perfectionist, think Hermione born in the middle ages, while Owyn is searching to define himself and carve an identity outside of the shadow of his father. Both must learn to bend the rules in order to do what is right.

Though the story is mildly predictable, it’s nevertheless a fun and engaging read, mainly for the brilliant characters. They’re incredibly relatable and draw you right into the world. One thing the author writes particularly well is the threatening demonic hordes, which are incredibly creepy, and lead to some fantastic fight scenes. I’m excited to see where the series intends on going next!

Expected publication: June 1st 2018
Add it to your Goodreads shelf! 

The Final Six

By Alexandra Mornir

Last month I received the coolest book box ever from Beacon Book Box, and with it, their book of the month: THE FINAL SIX. Immediately I could tell it was right up my alley: it’s YA/SF, my favorite genre, and involved a trip to Europa, one of my favorite moons (I even have a poster of it on my wall!). It took me a while to sit down and read it, but when I did, I couldn’t put it down.

Summary

 

36491465When Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, and Naomi, a science genius from California, are two of the twenty-four teens drafted into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever altered. After erratic climate change has made Earth a dangerous place to live, the fate of the population rests on the shoulders of the final six who will be scouting a new planet. Intense training, global scrutiny, and cutthroat opponents are only a few of the hurdles the contestants must endure in this competition.

For Leo, the prospect of traveling to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—to help resettle humankind is just the sense of purpose he’s been yearning for since losing his entire family in the flooding of Rome. Naomi, after learning of a similar space mission that mysteriously failed, suspects the ISTC isn’t being upfront with them about what’s at risk.

As the race to the final six advances, the tests get more challenging—even deadly. With pressure mounting, Naomi finds an unexpected friend in Leo, and the two grow closer with each mind-boggling experience they encounter. But it’s only when the finalists become fewer and their destinies grow nearer that the two can fathom the full weight of everything at stake: the world, the stars, and their lives.

Musings

The world is at war with the environment. Every day, new reports of devastating Tsunamis and destructive earthquakes fill the news. Earth is no longer a loving world: it’s turned against us, and wants us gone.

When Leo and Naomi are drafted by the new International space committee, they are given a once in a lifetime shot of leaving our world and forging a new home for mankind. Leo is a swimmer, strong and athletic, who dives the flooded streets of Rome in search of treasures to scavenge just to stay alive. Naomi is an Iranian-American science prodigy, smart as a whip and stubborn to match. She’d rather stay on earth to protect her brother, who cannot get the medical care he needs as the world is focused on other things, but knows this is her only chance to see what is really going on with this mysterious trip to Europa.

I loved the characters here. They were instantly engaging, though sometimes annoyingly flawless. Then again, these are the best teenagers on the planet, they’re allowed to be geniuses. While being run through over the top simulations in order to test and train the candidates, Leo and Naomi form a strong bond and fight to find the answers to secrets being kept by them: what is this vaccine they’re being given? And why is the mission being pushed forward so rapidly?

The fantastic scientific realism, proof of the author’s formidable research, was a bit of a double-edged sword. Because of her attention to detail, it was hard for me to suspend my disbelief when things appeared unlikely. For example, how quickly events are moving forward, or the ‘training’ the teens are receiving. I suppose we’re not seeing everything they’re being put through, but I felt like they weren’t being properly prepared for their mission: however, the details about Europa really brings some awesome planetary science to the reader, even if they don’t think they’re into it before the read. The book manages to highlight science without being bogged down by it.

All in all, it’s a fantastically fun read. The last three chapters really had me hanging on the edge of my seat, and I can’t wait for the next book to come out. I really loved Leo and Naomi’s relationship, and I find myself hoping things work out between them. Let me know when I can get book 2!

Atlas Fallen

By Jessica Pierce
Cybercrown series #1

Readers of this blog know how much I love Scifi novels. It seems to be the only genre I talk about lately! So you can trust me when I say I know what good science fiction books look like. Atlas Fallen was not one of them: it shoots to the top of any list and fits comfortably in what I would consider GREAT science fiction. Beyond amazing: it’s destined to become a classic.

Summary37976320

One space station.

One throne.

And the girl who holds the key.

Tesla Petrov, daughter of an infamous traitor, no longer lives a life of promise in the Atlas space station’s elite flight training program. Stripped of her military rank and banished to the slums, she now scrapes out a brutal existence competing in illegal robot fights for Minko, ruthless leader of the Red Ashes crime syndicate. But when a wrong move costs her a fight—and a fortune—for the crime lord, Tesla knows her days aboard the Atlas are numbered.

Daxton LaRose isn’t just visiting the station to celebrate the Centennial of the Crown—he’s hunting a terrorist threatening to end a century of peace on Earth. To do so, he’ll need someone who knows the station. Someone willing to strike a deal at any cost.

Someone like Tesla. 

But as the hunt for the terrorist uncovers dangerous secrets from both their pasts, Tesla and Daxton realize that nothing, and no one, is what it seems.

Musings

A hundred years after the nations of the world were united under one crown, that crown is in jeopardy. A mysterious plot threatens to destroy the monarchy, and it all seems to be going down on the ATLAS, a space station in orbit around Earth, strictly divided between the elite and the working class. Tesla, once an up-and-coming flight cadet before she was stripped of her rank, is trying to prove her father’s innocence from treason, an act which has cost him in life. When she meets Daxon, he offers her a way off the station, at a cost – helping him save the ATLAS from whatever plot is about to go down.

Tesla is one of the best YA heroines I’ve ever read. And I’m not even sure why exactly! Maybe it was how much I could relate to her, as she was a character with depth and complexity that a reader can really get to know. Maybe it was her brilliance, as she’s a savvy engineer with a good head on her shoulders. Maybe it was her courage and her drive, the kind of strength that drives her to design and fight in robot matches, or, say, sign up for a terrifying mission which would throw her life out the airlock. There was something about Tesla that just seemed so real that I’m still dying to know more about her.

Daxon is equally fascinating. Though we spend less time in his POV, it’s hard to miss the complexity of his own life. I loved how the author took the trope surrounding his character (trying to avoid spoilers here) and flipped it on its head. His friends, the supporting cast of the book, are fascinating and I really can’t wait to learn more about them in the future books. That, and explore the growing relationship between Tesla and Daxon… Daxla? Texon? Do we have a ship name yet?

None of the plot felt predictable: when you saw it go one way, it would quickly throw you a curveball. I loved the dichotomy of Tesla’s life, able to infiltrate a gala and fight in robot death matches one after the other. The ending was exciting and left me breathless for more. I think we have a new hit on our hands!

All in all, it is an out of this world debut. Skillfully crafted, with brilliant heroes and thrilling adventure, Atlas Fallen is un-putdownable. A masterpiece of Young Adult Space fiction!

 

Heart of Iron

By Ashley Poston

My expectations were insanely high for this book: I mean, Anastasia in Space! Robots! Rebels! Rogues! I’m a sucker for space stories and I need some good pirates in my life, so I was stoked beyond belief when I heard about this book. Instant preorder. So I would take this review with a grain of salt since I might be a little overly critical – even though I loved it to bits!

Summary

35181314Seventeen-year-old Ana is a scoundrel by nurture and an outlaw by nature. Found as a child drifting through space with a sentient android called D09, Ana was saved by a fearsome space captain and the grizzled crew she now calls family. But D09—one of the last remaining illegal Metals—has been glitching, and Ana will stop at nothing to find a way to fix him.

Ana’s desperate effort to save D09 leads her on a quest to steal the coordinates to a lost ship that could offer all the answers. But at the last moment, a spoiled Ironblood boy beats Ana to her prize. He has his own reasons for taking the coordinates, and he doesn’t care what he’ll sacrifice to keep them.

When everything goes wrong, she and the Ironblood end up as fugitives on the run. Now their entire kingdom is after them—and the coordinates—and not everyone wants them captured alive.

What they find in a lost corner of the universe will change all their lives—and unearth dangerous secrets. But when a darkness from Ana’s past returns, she must face an impossible choice: does she protect a kingdom that wants her dead or save the Metal boy she loves?

Musings

The worldbuilding in the book was phenomenal. I loved the solar system where the adventure takes place, the religion the author created, the political tension. I loved how the author took the familiar narrative of Anastasia’s story and wove it into the fabric of space. However, this worked also against the author, because some of the twists were seen miles, and I mean miles, ahead. Even in the blurb you can work some details out. It also means if you can figure out who the supporting characters represent, you can figure out the villains ahead of time, too.

Which is not to say that the author didn’t have any tricks up her sleeves! She still manages to surprise the reader throughout the book. The true strength was in the characters themselves: into Ana, the brilliant rebel, who I want more than anything to know IRL. Or Jax, my absolute favorite character, who I need to read more of right now. Everything about his race, the Solani, made my heart soar.

And the imagery used is stunning! Though perhaps a little overused – so much swearing on Iron and Stars, y’all – but it’s so gosh darn gorgeous. There are lines upon lines I want to highlight and remember forever, or even paint on my wall.

All in all, while the plot is mildly predictable, the characters are loveable and the ending will leave you gutted. I can’t wait to learn more about the metals and to see Ana fight for a cause. This is only the beginning of what’s going to be a formidable series!

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