Blogtober Book Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

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Summary:
Victor and Eli started out as college roommates–brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.
Vicious (Villains, #1)Review:
I’m down to my final two books for the BookTube SFF Awards and they are Vicious and Vengeful. After finishing Vicious, I’m extremely excited to read the sequel and see where things end up for these characters.
I enjoyed this book so much more than I was expecting to. I’ve heard quite a few vague synopses and I’m glad that it was left vague. I’m glad I didn’t know anything going into the story. The plot was fast paced and exciting. I was dying with the suspense between knowing what was going to happen and finding out what had happened in the past. I really think Schwab did an incredible job with the flashbacks and alternating chapters in this book.
The characters were my favorite part. Victor was fascinating. Dark and mysterious, with a past we waited to learn. His only motivation was revenge. He was darker than I expected. His powers, his motivations, but he also had a kind heart. You could tell by the strays that he acquired. He was compelling and though we learned most of his history I feel like we could have learned more through other interactions, but we learned what was necessary to the story. I would have liked to see what he was like around his parents or something like that.
Mitch was the big lump. He was the one that everyone assumed was the muscle when he was actually the brains. I loved this. He defied the stereotype of being big and dumb, though being smart didn’t seem to keep him out of trouble. He also has a huge heart and I just adored him, especially his interactions with Sydney.
Then there’s Sydney. I wasn’t sure of her role in the story for a while, but it made sense once we learned her history. I wished that she had played a bigger role aside from her ability because I really liked her.
Our Villain, Eli, was so likable at first and then so hateable by the end. That’s really it, I don’t want to say more. I hated him. I also hated Serena, Sydney’s sister.
Overall, I enjoyed this way more than I anticipated and I cannot wait to get into the next book to see where things end up.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence

GoodReads Summary:
Behind its walls, the Convent of Sweet Mercy has trained young girls to hone their skills for centuries. In Mystic Class, Novice Nona Grey has begun to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder. Before she leaves the convent, Nona must choose which order to dedicate herself to—and whether her path will lead to a life of prayer and service or one of the blade and the fist.
All that stands between her and these choices are the pride of a thwarted assassin, the designs of a would-be empress wielding the Inquisition like a knife, and the vengeance of the empire’s richest lord.
As the world narrows around her, and her enemies attack her through the system she is sworn to, Nona must find her own path despite the competing pulls of friendship, revenge, ambition, and loyalty.
And in all this only one thing is certain: there will be blood.
Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor, #2)Review:
I’m realizing that I did not like this second book as much as I did with the first one. There’s quite a bit more action in Grey Sister, but there were some odd time jumps and I just wasn’t sure about a few things.
Nona was still the best. I adore her in all her violence and wildness. I think Zeot was a weird addition and even weirder that it wasn’t mentioned at the end of Red Sister. I think he was an interesting way to give some mysterious history about the world, but it seemed odd how it was just there and then him leaving was pretty anticlimactic. Anyway, Nona was my favorite. She will kick and punch and snarl until she wins or dies. I love her determination and ferocity. I can’t wait to see how her story ends in the final book.
Abbess Glass is a character I really came to appreciate in this book. I liked her in Red Sister. She was always stood up for Nona and the other Novices. But in Grey Sister, we really learn more about her background and her motivations. I loved it. Glass is always up to something. Even when I thought it was all over for her, she managed to change the situation. It was very impressive.
All of the supporting characters were good, but I would have liked to see more. I guess part of me just missed the setting of the Convent. Also Hessa, I miss Hessa. Ara and Zole and Darla were my favorites. They’re loyal and fierce and unafraid to stand up for what they believe in. Also Sister Kettle. I adore her. She’s badass and I loved her perspective.
Overall, I still really enjoyed this book even though I liked the first better. I’m interested to see how this series is going to end in the third and final book. I’m interested to see what politics we will get to learn more about and what other parts of the world we may explore.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

GoodReads Summary:
Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in a new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow.
Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet introduced readers to the incredible world of Rosemary Harper, a young woman with a restless soul and secrets to keep. When she joined the crew of the Wayfarer, an intergalactic ship, she got more than she bargained for – and learned to live with, and love, her rag-tag collection of crewmates.
A Closed and Common Orbit is the stand-alone sequel to Becky Chambers’ beloved debut novel The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and is perfect for fans of Firefly, Joss Whedon, Mass Effect and Star Wars.
A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers, #2)Review:
Who knew that I loved character-based stories so much? Becky Chambers did apparently. This is a story that has minimal plot, but I still found that I just couldn’t put it down. I read more than half of it in one sitting last night because I was so invested in these characters.

“It’s not comfortable realizing you’ve been wrong about something, but I suppose it’s a good thing to do from time to time.”

The world that Chambers has created is so interesting and compelling that I don’t care that nothing is happening. I just want to learn more about the worked and the characters. We get such an interesting view into the minds of these characters that I just come to adore them so much.

“Just because someone goes away doesn’t mean you stop loving them.”

The first character is Lovelace. She’s an AI that has found herself in an illegal body kit. I thought she was so interesting. Her struggle of not fitting into her body and finding her purpose. I really liked seeing the world through her eyes because she was new and learning and had this insatiable curiosity. She brings a new perspective into the conversation about AI rights and how they qualify at “people.”

“All the things made better for some people. Nobody has ever figured out how to make things better for everybody.

Then there’s Pepper who was honestly fascinating. I feel like I didn’t get to learn enough about her though we followed most of her life. I would have liked to have gotten more insight into the planet she came from and why that planet was the way it was. I didn’t quite understand what was going on with ‘The Enhanced.’ I think maybe it was explained in the previous book, but this was marketed as a stand-alone sequel so I think it should have been better explained. Aside from that, I really was fascinated by Pepper’s childhood and her relationship with Owl. I loved her chapters.

“Life is terrifying. None of us have a rule book. None of us know what we’re doing here. So, the easiest way to stare reality inn the face and not utterly lose your shit is to belive that you have control over it.”

Overall, I will definitively be reading the next book in this series. I cannot wait to get back to the Wayfarer Crew. This is not a book for plot-driven​ readers. This book has little to no plot and I loved every page of it. Get ready for a deep dive into these characters brains. I loved the diversity and acceptance in these books. There is all kinds ofgender-neutral​l pronouns and an emphasis on making sure to use the correct pronoun. There’s such a diverse cast of characters (gender, sexuality, and species) I think this series is doing great things and having all the right conversations.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Summary:
On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.
Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.
Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.
The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1)Review:
Lady Astronauts was all I needed to know to be interested in this story. As I was reading, I kept getting Hidden Figures (the movie) vibes. Come to find out that she wrote this before that and was totally stoked when it came out.

“What I’d come to realize is that, with  kids like these, it was less about me and more  about elevating them-not becasuse it was me, but  becasue I was something  out of the ordinary.”

I thought this book was so interesting. I just couldn’t put it down. I wanted to be reading it all of the time. I thought Elma was such a sassy and interesting main character. She’s got the southern charm that had me cackling in those moments that she translated things (if you’ve read this you know what I mean). I loved that she acknowledged her privilege and that despite being a white Jewish woman, that she still lived a pretty good life compared to some others during the time period. I also loved that she fought to change those sorts of things. She fought to allow women of all races to be able to train and become astronauts because they were qualified. I also totally loved her relationship with her husband. I thought there were going to be a few moments where she keeps things to herself (the miscommunication / lack of communication trope). But it doesn’t happen! She tells him! And communicates! And I loved it! They were honestly the cutest freaking couple. He was so supportive and did whatever he could to help Elma. I adored them together. Plus, who doesn’t love sexy rocket talk?

“Funny how seeing your goal made manifest can change things.”

I think this book did a really good job of bringing up conversations that are hard, but necessary. It acknowledges that Elma is privileged compared to others and that she may not have even noticed that privilege until she becomes friends that aren’t treated the same as she is. There are a lot of discrimination that is fought and I thought it was handled well.

“You’d think that at some point the grief would stop. I put my hand over my mouth and leaned forward, as if I could somehow fold over the pain and keep it from escaping into the world again.”

The space and science talk were honestly so interesting. It wasn’t too complicated but it was all legitimate and mostly historically true. There’s also extensive conversation about anxiety and I thought the representation there was so good and might have even made me a little anxious while reading it. I thought this was handled so well even going as far as a doctor telling Elma that this is an illness and it’s not just ‘nerves’ or whatever they would have said in the fifties.

“Wanting something isn’t enough by itself.”

Overall, I just adored this story. The characters were compelling and had me invested in the story. There was great representation and conversations. I cannot wait to read the sequel. I might have to go out and buy it since there’s at least a six month wait from my library.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Summary:
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy, young girls are raised to be killers. In some few children, the old blood shows, gifting rare talents that can be honed to deadly or mystic effect. But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls.
A bloodstained child of nine falsely accused of murder, guilty of worse, Nona is stolen from the shadow of the noose. It takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist, but under Abbess Glass’s care, there is much more to learn than the arts and death. Among her class, Nona finds a new family—and new enemies.
Despite the security and isolation of the convent, Nona’s secret and violent past finds her out, drawing with it the tangled politics of a crumbling empire. Her arrival sparks old feuds to life, igniting vicious struggles within the church and even attracting the eye or the emperor himself.
Beneath a dying sun, Nona Grey must master her inner demons, then loose them on those who stand in her way.
Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor, #1)Review:
I had never heard of Mark Lawrence until making my TBR list for the BookTube SFF Awards. That is the reason that I read this book, but I will be reading the second book, Grey Sister because I enjoyed this first book so much. I’m trying to get more into adult fantasy. I’ve always read and enjoyed it but I’m trying to discover more authors and make more of an effort to read a wider variety of books. I’m glad I found this book because I will certainly be looking into his other books and series.

“Words are steps along a path: the important thing is to get where you’re going.”

This was a very character driven story which I didn’t expect. Because of this, it took me quite a bit of time to get into the story. The first fifty or so pages were tough for me to get through which I think is why it took me so long to actually get around to reading this. I had a few stop/starts with it before really committing to reading it for my O.W.L. Exams. But after I got into the story, I couldn’t put it down. I was sucked into the story.

“Anger had its place, it was a weapon not to be neglected, but so did patience, and Nona decided that control lay in deciding which to use and when.”

I needed to know more about Nona and her journey. There was a hint of an unreliable narrator which was interesting. She told a few lies about herself and made us wait to find out the truth, but I totally believed her until she was proven wrong or told us that she was lying. It kept me on my toes but frustrated me a little because I just wanted to know Nona’s story. Nevertheless, I liked her. She was determined and eager to learn.
I really liked the concept of the convent. The schooling, the levels, the girls all training together. There were such interesting dynamics and relationships. I thought it was really interesting that there were a few occurrences of girl on girl hate like there usually is with girls that age but it never lasted long and I appreciated that.

“Those that burn short burn bright. The shortest lives can cast the longest shadows.”

Part of me doesn’t really even know what to say about this book and what to even talk about. I loved the story. The characters were incredible and annoying and compelling. My only complaints would be that there was a scene of animal cruelty that I couldn’t read and had to skip a few pages to get past it and also ending was confusing and a bit complicated. It seemed almost rushed. Then there were the two bits that were in the future, but it wasn’t specified how far into the future or what really was going on. So, I don’t know that I’d say I was wholly satisfied with the ending. But overall, I was sucked into the story, the world, and I will certainly be continuing onto the next book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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

GoodReads Summary:
Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.
Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.
Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1)Review:
I borrowed this book from my library because I’m trying to read all of the books nominated for the BookTube SFF Awards hosted by a handful of people (check it out here). I love science fiction but have realized that I don’t read enough of it. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers was not what I expected at all. I thought I was going to get an action-packed space adventure, but really, I got a story about a found family. This story tells of a group of people that are so completely different from one another, but somehow still manage to be all the right pieces. I was not expecting such a character-driven story, but it was a pleasant surprise.

“It was hard  to feel weird in a place where everybody was weird.”

The plot took a back seat to the characters and world-building of this book. It was there, it just wasn’t the highlight. It was interesting and political and I’m excited to see if/what part it plays in the next book. I thought it was incredibly interesting how Chambers brought the world building and plot together. We’re reading about all of the different alien species and the worlds they come from all while working toward the climax of the story with an alien species that is mostly unknown to the rest of the universe.

“We cannot blame ourselves for the wars our parents start. Sometimes the very best thing we can do is walk away.”

The bread and butter of the story were the characters. They really were the best part of the story. We first meet Rosemary who is the most relatable, she’s a human from Mars. Running from her past, she joins a tunneling crew that travels all over space. We see the story mostly through her eyes which was a great choice because she’s so new to space travel, so the other characters were constantly explaining and teaching her about the cultures of the other crew members. Rosemary was naive but learned quickly and was good at her job. Then there’s Sissex, the navigator. She was the more interesting of the aliens. Learning about her species and culture was my favorite. She was just full of love and friendship. She made my heart warm. Kizzy and Jenks were the techs. They kept the ship running. Kizzy was interesting and entertaining. She was full of nonsense and silliness. She made me smile and laugh. Her relationship with Jenks was the best. They are a great example of found families. He’s the brother she always wanted and that was so clear. Ashby is our fearless captain. He’s smart and a great leader. He was complex and a little mysterious. I wish we learned a bit more about him. It was clear he was loyal and really cared about his crew. Dr. Chef was probably the most interesting to me. The most difficult to picture, but also the one I want to meet the most. He’s so full of wisdom and love and all the good things. He looks out for everyone and just wants to enjoy life. That brings us to Corbin, the opposite of Dr. Chef. The crew member that’s mean and grumpy and is just there to do his job and not make any friends. I think he had the best character development. I didn’t hate him by the end of the book. Finally, Ohan. He was intrigued but also strange. I thought his whole culture was fascinating. I hope he gets his own book later on.

“Feelings are relative. And at the root, they’re all the same, even if they grow from different experiences and exist on different scales.”

I also have to mention the things this book discusses. I’m not sure if it was intentional or if I’m seeing it because of the amount that diversity is talked about and brought to the forefront. But this book has so many metaphors for diversity. With the alien races, relationships and all of that I think it really brings good conversations to the table. There are some interspecies relationships, some female/female relationships, characters with gender-neutral pronouns. I think this story talks about relationships and racism and how everyone should just love one another in all the right ways.

“I never thought of fear as something that can go away. It just is. It reminds me that I want to stay alive. That doesn’t strike me as a bad thing.”

I really cannot explain why or how much I enjoyed this story. The found-family, the world building, the politics, in space. It’s everything I could have ever wanted and didn’t even know it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.