Rating: A ghost bopping good time! My Plain Jane is filled with hilarious pop culture references, tongue and check commentary on the Victorian Era, and a fun reimagining of the writing of Jane Eyre. HIGHLY recommend reading via audiobook! 4 Stars
Skyward Author: Brandon Sanderson Release Date: November 6, 2018 Publisher: Delacorte Press Synopsis:Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.
Rating: Sanderson strikes again, but this time with a fantastically over the top female MC, a mysterious sci-fi setting, and a snarky, mushroom obsessed AI. Stars: 5 stars
I had no idea what to expect from a YA science fiction story from Brandon Sanderson, who is best known for wildly epic adult fantasy (go read Mistborn and Stormlight Archive RIGHT NOW!). I should have known that I would end up loving this book as much as I have with every other Sanderson book I’ve read. With a strong female lead, a wildly mysterious world, and epic dogfighting scences, Skyward stands up to the epic fantasy tomes that we’ve come to expect from Sanderson.
Sanderson’s strengths lie in world and character building. His prose is very straight forward and almost dry at times, but he manages to draw you in with exquisitely realized worlds and characters, that no matter how well or little they are developed, you can’t help but love or loathe. I’ve never known another author who could build such an in depth world without dragging down the pace of the story. I honestly think Sanderson is a wizard.
The main character, Spensa Nightshade (call sign: Spin), is filled with a righteous determination to prove herself and become the greatest pilot in the Defiant Defense Force. She has the world’s biggest chip on her shoulder from the mysterious defection of her father from the DDF and her society labeling her a daughter of a coward. Her grandmother has filled her head with heroic stories from Earth and it leads to some of the most fantastically ferocious battle speech from Spensa. As ridiculous as Spensa can be at times, she is a wonderfully human main character and even though I don’t share many of her qualities, I found myself relating to her in many ways.
The rest of the characters are developed to varying degrees, but as I said earlier, you still can’t help but feel emotions towards them. My favorite character is the one I won’t talk about because it’s mildly spoiler-y. But you’ll know who it is when you read the book. I was convinced there would be a romance in this story, but I was happy things didn’t go fully that way. I like romance in books, but it doesn’t always have to be there. The friendships that grows between Spensa and her flight mates is the heart of the book.
What I really loved was the mystery in the story. It is clear from the get-go that something is off about the DDF and the story of how the humans came to be trapped on their world. There are many twists and turns, and the final one is something I never saw coming. It sets up for what I’m sure will be a very interesting sequel. I cannot wait for Starsight, which is sure to be another stellar Sanderson story.
This ARC was provided to me by the publisher at my request. The following review reflects my unbiased opinion of the story and is no way influenced. Thank you to the publisher, Knopf Books for Young Readers.
FYI: This review is spoiler free.
Aurora Rising Authors: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers Release Date: May 7, 2019 Synopsis:The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…
A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunk mates A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder An alien warrior with anger management issues A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering
And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from inter-dimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.
They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.
Rating: Kaufman and Kristoff have once again struck me deep in my Sci-Fi loving soul with their new high stakes space adventure featuring found families and healthy doses of snark. Stars: 4.5
Aurora Rising is the newest YA Sci-Fi offering from my favorite killers of feelings, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. They have once again created an in depth SF world, given us a group of misfits to love, and then put them through many ghastly situations. It’s the kinda of emotional trauma we’ve come to know and love from these two.
While each character is unique, all were well fleshed out with the exception of Zila, which is a damn crime. The few, very brief POV chapters she had were perfection, but I wanted more of her straight-forward observations of the wild situations Squad 312 found themselves in. I almost feel like the authors didn’t know how to flesh her out and just left her characterization to be built through the other character’s POVs. I am certainly hoping for more Zila in the next book. That being said, all the other characters had their own voices and each were extremely lovable in their own right. Squad 312 will easily shoot their way into your heart.
The plot was well paced, and the slower bits were filled with intriguing back story or world building, so they never felt boring. I got some Firefly vibes, which I loved, but this story is entirely it’s own. If Kaufman and Kristoff know one thing, it’s how to write a gripping, hilarious, mysterious, and emotional space adventure.
Did I mention it has super hot space elves?
If you haven’t pre-ordered this book already, I highly urge you to do so. Don’t let your squad down. Pre-order links can be found at the publisher’s website.
This ARC was provided to me by the publisher at my request. The following review reflects my unbiased opinion of the story and is no way influenced. Thank you to the publisher, Little Brown/JIMMY PATTERSON Books.
Once & Future Author: Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy Publisher: Little Brown/JIMMY PATTERSON Books Release Date: March 26, 2019 Synopsis:I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur. Now I’m done hiding. My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.
When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.
Rating: Built on solid bones, filled with inclusivity, but suffers from poor marketing of the humorous nature of the story. Stars: 2.5
I have to start by saying that this book is directly responsible for my decision to completely revamp my review style (a process I’ll be rolling out once I work out the specifics). Never have I been more conflicted over a book. Because I desperately wanted to love Once & Future, but I was so turned off by the never ending attempts at humor. Not to say that I didn’t find some of the bits funny, but in what I thought would be a mostly dramatic book, the constant lighthearted silliness grated on my nerves.
Let’s start with the good: diversity and inclusivity. This book has it in spades. There is representation of pansexuality, bisexuality, disabilities, gender fluidity, asexuality, characters of African descent, homosexuality, and characters of Arab descent. The sexuality of each character isn’t always explicitly stated and if I over or under represented something from the book I apologize. This is the kind of representation that books need. And O&F doesn’t shy away from calling out the sexism and homophobia in our current time.
Once & Future tackles a lot of serious issues: capitalism, genocide, classism, immigration, oppression, and more. The problem is the execution. The book is riddled with fluffy romance and glib humor that kept me from ever getting emotionally involved in anything that was happening. When something serious happened, there was always someone there with a ridiculous remark or a couple making out in the background. Or both. And that didn’t sit well with me because I wasn’t expecting a romcom story. Yes, from the synopsis I thought there’d be funny moments interspersed in a mostly dramatic story. It was the exact opposite and that really effected my reading.
The other issue is one that is hard to address: plotting/execution of the story as a whole. When I was halfway through the book and I started reading some reviews to see if other people were having similar issues as I was getting through the story. I noticed a few people stating that they had seen the authors mention that A LOT of changes were happening before the final book was released. I’m hoping the changes addressed the flow of the book, because that was another big issue for me. The pace was either break neck action or dragging me down with boredom. I could never find a good rhythm in the story and this also kept me from forming any kind of emotions for the story. I just hate to judge this book by something that was most likely fixed in the final version.
But here’s the deal, I’ll read the next book in a heartbeat. The story is set up to go to a whole different level, and since I’ll KNOW that there is going to be a lot of humor, I’ll be able to read it when I’m in the mood for that style. I won’t say where the next book is going, but I am definitely intrigued.
At the end of the day, Once & Future has some solid bones that I think were mostly likely better used in the final version of this book. If you are looking for an inclusive, humorous space adventure, Once & Future is for you.