Book Review: Skyward

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.

April Wrap Up/May TBR

Well, April was certainly a month. All I can think about is Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame. But, in between my love affairs with those pop culture behemoths, I read a few books. And I liked…most of them.

The Good
  • DEV1AT3 (LIFEL1K3 #2) by Jay Kristoff 5 stars – This is my one true 5 star of the month. I’ll have a review posted soon, but for now, y’all need to go pre-order this book.
  • Scythe by Neal Shusterman – 4.5 stars – Holy heck, I loved this book so much! It had been sitting on my shelves for aaaaaaaages until one of my #booksta besties convinced me to buddy read it with her (it was a reread for her). The world in this one is super interesting to me because I am fascinated with immortality/extended life. Full review is here.
  • Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff4.5 stars – Look, I’m just as surprised as everyone else that I didn’t give AR a 5 star. It really boils down to GIVE ME MORE ZILA! You can read my full review here.
  • Skyward by Brandon Sanderson4.5 stars – I’m writing my review for this on Thursday and I hope I can articulate my thoughts on it by then. For now, I’ll just say that M-Bot is a blessing to my reading life.
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien (reread)4 stars – I’m just taking the rating from when I originally read this one. I didn’t enjoy it as much this time around, though that may be because I was on a reading schedule and had to read it quickly. You don’t read Tolkien quickly. Though, listening to the audiobook narrator sing the song a 2x speed was particularly amusing.
The Not So Good
  • Fire and Heist by Sarah Beth Durst3 stars – So, 3 stars isn’t necessarily bad, but I just felt weird putting this one up in “The Good”. I’m writing my review for this one later this week, so I can explain myself then. But this is basically a contemporary book that happens to have were-dragons (or wyverns. I forget the explanation about the difference or lack thereof…).
  • The Crown’s Fate (The Crown’s Game #2) by Evelyn Skye2.75 stars – This was such a disappointment for me. It lacked the spark that I loved so much in The Crown’s Game. You can read my full review of both books here.
  • Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy2.5 stars – *sigh* I wanted to like this one so much more than I did. It’s hard for me to summarize my feelings on this book here so I recommend checking out my review because it explains it so much better. You can read my full review here.
  • The Fever King by Victoria LeeDNF – This one wasn’t a DNF because it was bad. It’s a DNF because I simply identified that I was in the wrong mood for it and if I forced myself to keep reading I’d hate it. I am giving this book another shot later in the year because it just sounds way too cool to not read eventually.

The Future

So, I’m terrible at sticking to planned TBRs but I have a few books that are definites because I’m reading them with reading groups.

  • Legendary (Caraval #2) by Stephanie Garber – This is the one book that is carrying over from April into May. I’m in the middle of a buddy read for it right now and I plan to have it done before May 7th. I am lucky enough to live in the same city as Stephanie Garber, so I’ll be going to the Launch Party.
  • The Alloy of Law (Mistborn Era 2) by Brandon Sanderson – My Sanderson reading group has been suffering through me chanting “ERA 2 ERA 2 ERA 2” every time the topic comes up in our chat since we formed last year. To say I am excited to jump back into Era 2 would be a VAST understatement. This’ll be the 3 time I’ve read them. I can’t wait to be back with Wax and Wayne and Steris and Marasi!
  • Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson – This is a Sanderson that I’m reading outside of my Sanderson group, but with someone from my Sanderson group…that’s too much Sanderson in one sentence.
  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyer – STOP JUDGING ME! A group of my booksta peoples decided to reread this, and I couldn’t say no. I need the cheesy vampire romance.
The Potentials

I’m also really, really hoping to get to the following books in May:

  • Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa
  • The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman
  • Beyond the Black Door by A. M. Strickland
  • The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

How was your reading this month? What books are you hoping to read in May?

April Book Haul

Yes, hi, how is it the end of April already? As much as I am flabbergasted at the general velocity of time (not sure if that makes sense but I’m running with it), I am very excited about the last day of April because I got a promotion at work and tomorrow is the first paycheck with the new promotion pay! THINK OF ALL THE BOOKS I’LL BE ABLE TO BUY!

Wait, no! Don’t think of all the books. Because as we are about to find out…I acquired far too many books this month.

The Graphic Novels

So, I’m not much of a graphic novel reader. I think the last one I read was the Firefly graphic novel about Shepard Book’s past (SO GOOD to finally get that knowledge) and that was yearssssss ago. But this month I watched The Umbrella Academy on Netflix and I just had to get my hands on the source material. I also grabbed the Steel Prince bind up from VE Schwab because apparently, I cannot stop giving that author my money.

The ARCs
  • DEV1AT3 by Jay Kristoff – I’ve already read this eARC and hot damn I loved it! I’ll have a full review up one month before publication, but if you want to read a fast, little ramble-y review (no spoilers!) check out my Instagram feed.
  • Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa – I may have audibly gasped when I got the approval for this eARC. It will be one of the first books I read in May because I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS!
  • The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones – I actually just got the approval for this eARC this morning and I am DYING to read it! They invoked the name of Buffy in the synopsis, so I was sold on this one. I’m hoping to squeeze it into May somehow.
  • Beyond the Black Door by A. M. Strickland – This one I got a physical ARC of which makes me happy because it is so damn pretty I want to take pictures from like 99 different angles. Strickland co-wrote on of my favorite underrated sci fi novels, so I am very excited to jump into this one.
The purchases that prove I have no self-control…
  • A Question of Holmes by Brittany Cavallaro
  • A Gathering of Shadows Collector’s Edition by VE Schwab (see earlier comment about Schwab and my money)
  • An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim
  • Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
  • The Pioneer by Bridget Tyler
  • The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
  • Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen
  • The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare
  • Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan
  • The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman
  • Jade City by Fonda Lee
  • Seven Blades in Black by Sam Sykes

I was also lucky enough to get some book through Storygram Tours:

  • The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala
  • The Rule of Many by Ashley and Leslie Saunders
  • Venators: Magic Unleashed and Venators: Promises Forged by Devri Walls

And here is the big confession:

I re-bought the entire Twilight Series.

Some of my #bookstagram friends are doing a reread of the series and I just couldn’t say no. I sold my copies ages ago (*shakes fist at past Kibby*) so I had to grab some cheap copies through Thrift Books. Not gonna lie, I am excited to revisit these books! There will always be a soft spot in my heart for cheesy high school vampire romance stories.

So…twenty-six books. Yikes! That makes my ratio for the month 9 read books to 26 acquired books. These are NOT the numbers I was hoping for. I’m going to try and make a big push for reading in May, so maybe I’ll final have a month where I read more than I acquire. Hopefully.

How was your month on the book buying front?

Top Ten Tuesday: (First Ten) Books I Reviewed

The theme of this week’s Top Ten Tuesday is the first ten book I’ve reviewed. Considering my one year anniversary of book blogging is this week (the 24th, if my terrible memory isn’t lying to me), this topic is an awesome one. I never knew that consumer reviews were so important to authors before I found #bookstagram and the book blogging community. And now that I’m here, I live for reviewing. Even though I may scream about how hard it can be sometimes…but that’s a whole different post for later. So, without further ado, my first ten reviews on this blog:

  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber – I’m actually about to start read Legendary tomorrow! I’m hoping for more sumptuous writing from Garber.
  • Kingdom of Ruins by D.C. Marino – I’m actually due for a reread of this one! The author is re-releasing the book soon, so I’ll probably pick it up again then.
  • Rule by Ellen Goodlett – This was my first ever ARC! I still remember losing my damn mind when I got the package with this book.
  • The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell – I just reread this book and damn do I LOVE IT! I need to read the sequel, The Devil’s Thief soon.
  • Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young – This book was good…but not that good. But I might have a slight bias against this one so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • The Wicked King by Holly Black – To this day, this is still my most popular review. For a few months, I was getting 2-5 views of it a day. I loved being able to review this one!
  • The Confectioner’s Guild by Claire Luana – This was my most favorite review to write! Not only did I love this book, but the review has Great British Bake Off gifs sprinkled through the whole thing and it MAKES ME HAPPY!
  • Secrets of the Tally by Halie Feweks – This is one of the first books I ever reviewed for an indie author! It was such an interesting concept!
  • Sea Witch by Shelley Henning – Oh boy, this book is infamous in my #bookstagram book club. #teamkingwhale forever!!
  • The Backlist: Jay Kristoff – So, with my new knowledge of the importance of book reviews, I started a thing where I do short reviews of books I’ve read in the past but never reviewed. I kinda love that Jay Kristoff books were my first Backlist reviews.

Cheers to a year of book reviews and book blogging and buying more books than I’ll ever be able to read!

Aurora Rising: ARC Review

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
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.

Once & Future: ARC Review

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.

Oh, and Morgana deserved better.

Book Review: Scythe

Author: Neal Shusterman
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: November 22, 2016
Synopsis: Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Rating: OMG this book is so good, why did I wait so long to read it???
Stars: 4.5

Scythe is the kind of book that sinks it’s claws into you and drags you through a world you’ve never seen before and will likely never see again. This YA novel is a hugely underrated utopian thriller that devours its reader with break neck plot twists and intriguing insights into what our world could become if we defeated death.

Neal Shusterman draws us into a future where all the world’s problems have been solved and humanity can live forever under the care of the mysterious Thunderhead. Resources are limitless, and death has been conquered. However, over population is the one thing the Thunderhead could not stop. Enter the Scythes. Tasked with keeping the population in check, Scythes “glean” people for a permanent death. There is definitely no way that system could be corrupted and go horribly, horribly wrong…

I cannot begin to describe how much I enjoyed the world in this book. It is a frightening yet hopeful look at how our world could be if such things were possible. The idea of living forever has always been intriguing for me, but it is usually kept in the fantasy realm of a few vampires and eternal mages. I loved reading a story of immortality for the whole world that was framed through the perspective of two youths training to end the immortality of their fellow humans.

The writing was stellar. Shusterman writes in a way that makes this story flow effortlessly from the page. I truly loved the journal entries at the beginning of each chapter. Those little insights were gems. I was never bored and always wanted to keep reading. While I loved all the characters, I will concede to the fact that when I stepped back I thought the two main characters lacked a little bit of depth. However, in the grand scheme of the whole story, they had enough for the plot and I still enjoyed their journeys.

I went into Scythe expecting to like this book, but never did I imagine I’d end up loving it as much as I did. This novel has found its place among my favorite books of all time. Do not be like me and let this book languish, unread, on your book shelves for months or years. Pick it up immediately and start reading.