The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold

Summary:
When a deadly Fly Flu sweeps the globe, it leaves a shell of the world that once was. Among the survivors are eighteen-year-old Nico and her dog, on a voyage devised by Nico’s father to find a mythical portal; a young artist named Kit, raised in an old abandoned cinema; and the enigmatic Deliverer, who lives Life after Life in an attempt to put the world back together. As swarms of infected Flies roam the earth, these few survivors navigate the woods of post-apocalyptic New England, meeting others along the way, each on their own quest to find life and love in a world gone dark. The Electric Kingdom is a sweeping exploration of art, storytelling, eternal life, and above all, a testament to the notion that even in an exterminated world, one person might find beauty in another.

Book Cover

Review:
The Electric Kingdom was the book for my book club in May. This is a post-apocolyptic pandemic story so I thought it was going to be tough to read at times, but thankfully, the story didn’t go too much into detail about the illness that comes from the Flies. Also, it’s a much more vicious story. There are genetically engineered Flies that swarm and devour anything, and we get to see it a few times. But this story was more about survival than the actual Flies and accompanying sickness. It’s a story of loss and grief, survival and found family.
We get to follow a few different points of view. I will say that I was confused for most of this book. There also wasn’t one moment where all of the pieces finally come together. It’s confusing for a number of reasons. One is that there are jumps in time all over the place. Each point of view often spends time remembering things, so there’s little to no warning that we are reading about the past. While these flashbacks did share meaningful information, they were a bit confusing at times. But they did add to the overall story, they just took some getting used to. We are also missing a lot of pieces in the beginning of the story. I spent a lot of time guessing how everything was connected.
I liked the characters and the overall plot, but I was dissatisfied with the ending. There wasn’t any real resolution, more of just hope for the future. But I don’t like that. I can be satisfied with open ended conclusions, but there wasn’t enough for me to be happy with this one. Now, all of this makes it sound like I didn’t like this book. But that’s not the case. I flew through this book. It was compelling and I couldn’t put it down. There were characters I could easily root for and so many questions that I needed answers to.
Overall, nothing I thought was going to happen or connected in the way I thought it would. The Electric Kingdom kept me guessing right up until the final pages. I had fun reading this even though things got pretty dark at times. The story twists and turns, and ends in a way that I never would have guessed. I really enjoyed it and my only big complaint would be the unsatisfying ending.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Miss Meteor by Anna-Marie McLemore & Tehlor Kay Mejia

Summary:
There hasn’t been a winner of the Miss Meteor beauty pageant who looks like Lita Perez or Chicky Quintanilla in all its history. But that’s not the only reason Lita wants to enter the contest, or why her ex-best friend Chicky wants to help her. The road to becoming Miss Meteor isn’t about being perfect; it’s about sharing who you are with the world—and loving the parts of yourself no one else understands. So to pull off the unlikeliest underdog story in pageant history, Lita and Chicky are going to have to forget the past and imagine a future where girls like them are more than enough—they are everything.
Witty and heartfelt with characters that leap off the page, Miss Meteor is acclaimed authors Anna-Marie McLemore and Tehlor Kay Mejia’s first book together.

Book Cover

Review:
After reading and loving books by both Mejia and McLemore, I knew I needed to give Miss Meteor a try. The cover is stunning and the summary makes the book sound so enjoyable. I was not wrong at all. I really loved this book.
We follow Chicky and Lita in alternating points of view. The two used to be best friends, but Chicky doesn’t feel like she can be honest about who she is and Lita was bullied and is ashamed of it. So, the two stopped being friends. But now Lita is being returned to the stars (it’s not mentioned in the synopsis, but Lita and her mother figure are aliens that came here on a meteor. This aspect of the story is a mix of both science fiction and magical realism, which I completely loved). Lita has decided that if she’s being returned to the stars, one of the last things she’d like to do is try to win the Miss Meteor beauty pageant. While this is happening, Chicky is being bullied by a mean girl named Kendra. Chicky decides that she needs to do something that will cause Kendra to lose. The best way for that to happen is for Chicky and Lita (and Chicky’s sisters) to team up and make sure that Lita wins Miss Meteor.
While this story is about an unlikely girl winning a beauty pageant, it’s also about so much more than that. Both Chicky and Lita experience racism and prejudice. Chicky is pansexual. Lita is plus sized. Both are Latinx. There is also a side character, Cole (Kendra’s brother) who is friends with both girls. Cole is trans. There is so much representation in this book and the way that things like racism and fatphobia were talked about was really excellent.
It was so easy to love both Chicky and Lita. Chicky is really struggling. She’s working on accepting herself and being able to proudly claim the label of pansexual. But she’s often bullied at school for being a lesbian, even though she isn’t one. So, she’s pushed away her best friend, but this pageant is a chance for her to mend things with Lita. We also get to see a lot of Chicky’s sisters which I loved. I loved all of them. They’re all so full of personality and different from one another. Seeing them all work together to help Lita was the perfect comedic relief from the more serious parts of this story. Lita is being taken back to the stars. Parts of her body are literally turning into stars. This aspect was magical and whimsical, but also suspenseful because Lita realized she can prevent her changing, but she’s failing to do so. Seeing the whole group together, Chicky, Lita, Chicky’s sisters, and also Cole and Junior, was so much fun. I loved this group of friends so much. I loved seeing their growth and supporting one another.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Yes, it is about two ex-best friends trying to win a beauty pageant, but it’s about so much more than that. It’s about friendship, standing up for those you love, trying to create change, and most of all, loving yourself. There are so many positive things about this book. The characters were my favorite, but I also have to say that the writing was stunning. It was lyrical and beautiful without being overly descriptive. I will continue to pick up and love both McLemore and Mejia’s books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Yesterday is History by Kosoko Jackson

Summary:
Weeks ago, Andre Cobb received a much-needed liver transplant.
He’s ready for his life to finally begin, until one night, when he passes out and wakes up somewhere totally unexpected…in 1969, where he connects with a magnetic boy named Michael.
And then, just as suddenly as he arrived, he slips back to present-day Boston, where the family of his donor is waiting to explain that his new liver came with a side effect—the ability to time travel. And they’ve tasked their youngest son, Blake, with teaching Andre how to use his unexpected new gift.
Andre splits his time bouncing between the past and future. Between Michael and Blake. Michael is everything Andre wishes he could be, and Blake, still reeling from the death of his brother, Andre’s donor, keeps him at arm’s length despite their obvious attraction to each other.
Torn between two boys, one in the past and one in the present, Andre has to figure out where he belongs—and more importantly who he wants to be—before the consequences of jumping in time catch up to him and change his future for good.

Yesterday Is History

Review:
Yesterday is History follows Andre Cobb. Andre has survived cancer, but needed a liver transplant to do so. But his new liver comes with a secret, time travel. Obviously, Andre is not expecting to travel back to 1969 when he tries to lay down in his bed. It’s then that he meets Michael. Andre and Michael quickly develop feelings for one another. I think this was the downfall of this book. The concept was a really interesting one, but I just think it fell short. The romance between Andre and Michael felt really under developed. They’re supposed to be super in love, but they’ve only spent a totally of less than a week together. I get that it was more time than that to Michael, but only saw things from Andre’s point of view. We only saw a few days. But I was really invested in Andre’s romance with Blake. Blake was kind of an asshole, but Andre called him on it every time, going as far as explaining how to give an acceptable apology. I liked how their characters both developed both as individuals and as a couple.
I think the time travel love triangle was a really interesting concept. But I think it fell flat for me because it felt under developed. I wanted to see more. It all happened too fast. I think if we had gotten more time to see Michael and Andre together, I could have been invested. The potential was there for me to really love this, but there just wasn’t enough of the story to get me there.
Overall, I think this story was a quick and fun read. I just wanted more from it. I liked Andre a lot. He was quick to call out problematic things that others said to him or around him. But he also made it clear that it wasn’t his responsibility to educate them on their wrong doings. I liked the concept, but the execution fell a bit flat for me. I will be checking out Jackson’s future books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Mirror’s Edge by Scott Westerfeld

Summary:
The danger rises and the deception grows in the heart-stopping third book in the New York Times bestselling Impostors series!
Frey’s return to the city of her birth isn’t going to be an easy one. She and her love Col must surge on new faces and bodies in order to infiltrate Shreve by dropping from the sky and landing undetected.
Frey’s sister Rafi — no longer a twin in features, but still a twin by birth — is the wild card. Are the sisters on the same side . . . or are they playing to their own agendas? If their father is deposed from Shreve, who will take control? And what other forces may be waiting in the wings?
Mirror’s Edge is another brilliant blockbuster from one of the greatest speculative writers YA fiction has ever seen, set within the world of Uglies . . . and about to converge with Uglies in a spectacular way. 

Mirror's Edge (Impostors, #3)

Review:
Mirror’s Edge starts off with a group of characters that we know from the first two books skydiving into Shreve. This group must infiltrate Shreve to depose Frey and Rafi’s father. This book was action packed and full of twists and turns. I really enjoyed seeing more of the world, seeing the other cities coming together to try to help Shreve. I think there are two things that really make this book and series shine. The first is the characters. Frey is such an interesting main character. All she’s ever wanted to be was her own person, outside of her sister’s shadow. She manages to do that in this book in sort of an extreme way. Frey’s appearance is modified so that she can go undetected in Shreve. She’s fierce and determined to make her home a better place. She gets to see more of what it’s like to actually live in the city. Frey’s growth in this book and the series so far has been such a journey to follow. She’s always been a leader, but in this book, we see her be a part of a team. We see her let go of the leadership position that she’s working toward. I am beyond excited to see what’s going to happen in the next book, especially with the way this one ended.
The second thing that makes this book shine is the politics. I think the twists and turns of the plot are included in the politics because most of the twists are of a political nature. The whole book is leading us toward Frey taking leadership in Shreve, but when the conclusion comes, nothing goes as we’ve been led to expect. I loved this. I think the politics involving the other cities in this world were interesting too. They’ve left Shreve alone for such a long time, but they’re finally stepping in. The things we learn about what Frey and Rafi’s father is doing was wild. Westerfeld gives us little bits and pieces to try to put together (which of course I didn’t) before finally revealing everything.
Overall, I think this series, even though it’s not actually a part of the original Uglies series, will always hold a place in my heart because of nostalgia. The Uglies series is one I’ve read dozens of times and the Impsotors series is just more pieces of that world. A world that I spent so much of my formative years escaping to. So, while this may not be a masterpiece of literature, it’s one dear to my heart. I cannot wait for the next book with the surprise that was dropped in the final pages of this book. On a final note, I listened to the audiobook and I really liked the narrator.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Skinjacker Trilogy by Neal Schusterman

Summary:
Not every child who dies goes on to the afterlife. Some are caught halfway between life and death, in a sort of limbo known as Everlost: a shadow of the living world, filled with all the things and places that no longer exist. It’s a magical, yet dangerous place where bands of lost kids run wild and anyone who stands in the same place too long sinks to the center of the Earth.
Allie and Nick don’t survive the car crash, and end up in Everlost, where coins are more valuable than anyone knows, fortune cookies tell the truth, monsters are real, and the queen of lost souls lives in a once-beloved tower. Nick and Allie have to learn to survive in a world with different rules, and figure out who they can trust – and who they must oppose at all costs. At stake is nothing less than the fate of Everlost and the living world they have left behind.
In this gripping trilogy, Neal Shusterman explores questions of life, death, and what just might lie in between.

Book Cover

Review:
The Skinjacker Trilogy is one of Schusterman’s series that I read years and years ago and remember nothing about. Honestly, I think I only ever read the first book. But I’m glad that I reread it and finished the trilogy. I’m going to review the whole trilogy in this one long post because I read them all back-to-back, so I’d rather just talk about it all overall. I managed to reread this whole trilogy over Mother’s Day weekend because it was super interesting and I just needed to know how everything ended. I made notes for each book, so I’ll briefly mention them before I talk about the series as a whole. The first book, Everlost, was interesting mostly because of the concept of this in-between place for lost souls. I liked the characters well enough, but I thought the plot was lacking. It felt like the first book was just world building and set up for the rest of the series. The second book, Everwild, is where things started to get really interesting plot wise. The story moves slowly, but it’s very clear that Shusterman placed building blocks, little bits and pieces, that would come back into the story later. This goes for the third book, Everfound, too. Some of the things we see and learn about in books one and two come back into play for book three. I loved this aspect where we get to see things come full circle. Everwild is where we really see the characters grow and we see what they’re made of. Oh boy, does Schusterman make his characters suffer in this series. I still loved them all though.
There were a few different romances in this series, I liked all but one of them. I just couldn’t get behind Nick and Mary as romantic interests for one another. I think this was really the only thing I didn’t like about the series. It was there through all three books and I just didn’t find it believable. I did, however, really like Allie and Mikey together, as well as the other couples we see get together. I also want to mention the historical sites that are mentioned and some that play a part in this story. In Everlost, we see the Twin Towers, the Hindenburg airship, In Everwild the characters leave the East Coast and move west across the United States. We get to see the World’s Fair in Chicago and Graceland. The final book we get to see the Alamo and the Trinity Vortex (the site of the first atomic bomb). I think the way that Shusterman included these bits and pieces of history was fascinating and thoughtful. I just overall had a fun time reading this series. It was silly and occasionally ridiculous, but it was also way more serious than I anticipated. There were some really dark plotlines that I was not expecting, but then there were things like Nick being named the ‘chocolate ogre’ so the serious and sometimes dark parts of the story were balanced with a bit of silliness and I liked that.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.  

Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders

Summary:
A thrilling adventure set against an intergalactic war with international bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders at the helm in her YA debut—think Star Wars meets Doctor Who, and buckle your seatbelts.
Tina has always known her destiny is outside the norm—after all, she is the human clone of the most brilliant alien commander in all the galaxies (even if the rest of the world is still deciding whether aliens exist). But she is tired of waiting for her life to begin.
And then it does—and maybe Tina should have been more prepared. At least she has a crew around her that she can trust—and her best friend at her side. Now, they just have to save the world.

Victories Greater Than Death (Universal Expansion #1)

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. Anders’ books have been hit or miss for me, so when I heard she was coming out with a YA science fiction novel, I was very excited. Let me tell you, I was not at all disappointed.
This story follows Tina, who is raised on Earth. She is a clone of a famous space captain that died facing an enemy to the galaxy. Tina has known her whole life that she’s an alien disguised to look like a human. She also knows that one day she will be called back to space to help save the galaxy. When that day comes, she realizes that she isn’t as prepared as she thought she was. Her best friend gets sucked up in the spaceship alongside her and they managed to add a few more humans to their crew.
This is a wonderful and diverse story about found family and all the different ways to be a hero. It’s a story about right versus wrong. I really enjoyed it. It’s filled with great themes and important conversations. One of my favorite things about this book was how it normalized people’s pronouns. Anytime anyone new was introduced they shared their name followed by their pronoun (Hi, I’m Amanda and my pronoun is she). There were the common pronouns, but the more alien species we met the more unique pronouns we learned. I really liked this aspect of the story. There’s also diversity within the main characters. They humans that join Tina and Rachel in space are from all over the world. One of the humans that has been brought up from Earth, Elza, is trans. So, when I say this book is diverse as heck. I mean it and in all the best ways.
Overall, I cannot wait for this series to continue. I didn’t realize it was a series until I was getting close to the ending. I think the ending was good. It gave a solid conclusion for all of the things that were happening during the book, but also left little bits for what to expect in future books. I think this story was well written and filled with characters that you just can’t help but love. I think this book will be a huge hit with many science fiction lovers.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Summary:
Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years. The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.
When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.
As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.
From award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes an incisive, action-packed tale that explores big questions about technology, grief, love, and humanity.
Westworld meets Warcross in this high-stakes, dizzyingly smart sci-fi about a teen girl navigating an afterlife in which she must defeat an AI entity intent on destroying humanity, from award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman.

The Infinity Courts (The Infinity Courts, #1)

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. The Inifinity Courts is one of my most anticipated 2021 releases. The cover is what drew me in at first, but the summary also sounded like something I would really enjoy. After finishing the aARC, I can confirm that I was absolutely correct.
The story follows Nami during the last hours of her life and then continues after her death once she’s arrived in the afterlife. She learns that instead of Heaven or Hell, souls are sent to a play called Infinity. But all in Infinity is not as it should be. The AI that is commonly known and used on Earth, Ophelia, has found her way into Infinity and taken it over. Humans are treated as servants, their free will wiped away upon their arrival in Infinity with a pill. The Residents, all created by Ophelia, are the ruling class. But some of the humans have an instinct that something isn’t right when they arrive in Infinity, these are the Heroes. Nami is a Hero.
I really liked Nami. I liked her when she was alive and I liked her after she’d died. Even though she’s died, her character continues to grow. She gave her life to save a little girl, so she’s dubbed a Hero. But once she’s among the resistance, she’s not sure that she’s in agreement with their plan to wipe out Ophelia, which would mean wiping out all of the Residents as well. I liked that Nami played a sort of devils advocate. But she didn’t do it to cause trouble. She genuinely believes that there should be a way for the humans and the Residents to live together, to coexist. This brings a lot of really relevant conversations to the table about humanities ability to be peaceful and kind. In the eyes of the Residents, humans bring nothing but hate and war all in the name of love, or religion, or gender. I really appreciate how Bowman thoughtfully addressed the many issues that humans are dealing with today in a fantastical setting. I think she did a really good job with this aspect. The question of right and wrong or good versus evil is a theme in the story and I think that too was done really well. It’s shown that there may be redemption for those who do evil, but it’s not the job of the victims to redeem the villains. The gray area that exists in the question of good versus evil was where Nami stood. She didn’t think it was us versus them. She thought there could be a middle ground. I think this personal conflict of hers was a really compelling aspect of the story.
The world was absolutely fascinating. This afterlife, Infinity, is supposed to be paradise. But it’s been taken over by Ophelia and her four sons. Each of her sons have their own kingdom with Ophelia ruling in the capitol. Each kingdom serves a different purpose. I really would have loved to explore the other kingdoms more (even though they sound absolutely terrifying and awful) but I have a feeling we will be doing that in the next book.
Overall, this book was an incredible ride. It made smart and thoughtful statements about the hatred and prejudice that people deal with everyday. But it also asked the interesting question of whether or not people deserve the chance to learn and do better after making mistakes. I think the writing was excellent. There are so many quotable lines that will be sticking with me after finishing this story. I highly recommend this book and I will be doing so for the foreseeable future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Inheritance by Malinda Lo

GoodReads Summary:
Reese and David are different now. Surrounded by a web of conspiracies, Reece feels that she must choose between two worlds.
Her choices: David – or Amber? This world – or another? Should they tell the truth, and risk everything?
Inheritance (Adaptation #2)Review:
Inheritance is the conclusion to Adaptation. I loved both of these books. I’m going to keep this review short because most of my thoughts are in my review for the first book and not many of them changed thro ugh this book.
I liked Reese. I liked Amber. I liked David. I didn’t always like Reese’s choices, especially the ones that led to the weird love triangle because she got involved with David before she was over Amber. But I did like how the love triangle turned out. I liked that Amber’s culture showed David and Reese that there was more than one way to live. I really liked that this story ended in a different way than the usual ones, in regards to the love triangle. Other than Reese jumping way too quickly into a relationship with David after her and Amber ended things, I really liked this book.
Overall, I think this was a really fun YA science fiction story. I loved all the twists and turns. I loved seeing Lo’s twist on the ‘aliens have come to Earth’ trope. I will definitely be picking up more books by this author in the future. She did a great job of developing the characters and creating an exciting story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Adaptation by Malinda Lo

GoodReads Summary:
Reese can’t remember anything from the time between the accident and the day she woke up almost a month later. She only knows one thing: She’s different now.
Across North America, flocks of birds hurl themselves into airplanes, causing at least a dozen to crash. Thousands of people die. Fearing terrorism, the United States government grounds all flights, and millions of travelers are stranded.
Reese and her debate team partner and longtime crush David are in Arizona when it happens. Everyone knows the world will never be the same. On their drive home to San Francisco, along a stretch of empty highway at night in the middle of Nevada, a bird flies into their headlights. The car flips over. When they wake up in a military hospital, the doctor won’t tell them what happened, where they are—or how they’ve been miraculously healed.
Things become even stranger when Reese returns home. San Francisco feels like a different place with police enforcing curfew, hazmat teams collecting dead birds, and a strange presence that seems to be following her. When Reese unexpectedly collides with the beautiful Amber Gray, her search for the truth is forced in an entirely new direction—and threatens to expose a vast global conspiracy that the government has worked for decades to keep secret.
Adaptation by Malinda LoReview:
I got Adaptation and its sequel as a kindle daily deal and I’m so glad I did. This book was right up my alley. I love science fiction and this book did not disappoint.
The story follows Reese. She finds herself in an airport on her way home after the debate finals. She’s with her debate partner, David, and their teacher. While they’re waiting for their flight the news breaks that several planes have been crashed via flocks of birds flying into them. So, all flights have been landed until further investigation is done and it’s determined safe to fly again. The trio decide to rent a car and just drive home rather than waiting around in the airport. Everything goes wrong on their drive home. A bird flies into their headlights and Reese crashes. She wakes up in an unfamiliar place with little to know memory of the last month. This is when the story slows down. From the beginning to the car accident was a whirlwind and I was immediately invested in the characters and the things they were dealing with. After Reese wakes up in the hospital, the story slows. She finds David, gets minimal information from the doctors that treated them and then they get sent home. Things are not the same when she gets home, and she needs time to adjust. But instead of adjusting, things continue to get weirder.
I really liked Reese. She meets a girl after she goes back home and starts to explore her sexuality. She’s had a crush on David forever, but at the debate finals she embarrassed herself. So, when she meets Amber, she’s unsure about how she’s feeling as she’s never even thought about liking girls before. I really liked this aspect of the story. It was great to read about Reese exploring a part of herself that she has just discovered. I also totally loved Reese’s best friend. He’s gay and super into the conspiracy news websites and I absolutely loved him.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story. The plot was interesting. I didn’t always know what was going to happen next, but I was invested in finding out. I really liked Reese and her friends and family. I don’t usually like love triangles, but apparently I’m here for a bisexual love triangle. This book just left me wanting more. I devoured it and couldn’t help but immediately pick up the next book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh

GoodReads Summary:
When an Earth-like planet is discovered, a team of six teens, along with three veteran astronauts, embark on a twenty-year trip to set up a planet for human colonization—but find that space is more deadly than they ever could have imagined.
Have you ever hoped you could leave everything behind?
Have you ever dreamt of a better world?
Can a dream sustain a lifetime?
A century ago, an astronomer discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting a nearby star. She predicted that one day humans would travel there to build a utopia. Today, ten astronauts are leaving everything behind to find it. Four are veterans of the twentieth century’s space-race.
And six are teenagers who’ve trained for this mission most of their lives.
It will take the team twenty-three years to reach Terra-Two. Twenty-three years locked in close quarters. Twenty-three years with no one to rely on but each other. Twenty-three years with no rescue possible, should something go wrong.
And something always goes wrong.
Do You Dream of Terra-Two?Review:
There’s just something I love about teenage astronauts. Do You Dream of Terra-Two? is a story of six teenagers getting ready and setting off on a mission to Terra-Two. I listened to the audiobook and I think it was really well done. I think the narrators did a great job of reading this story. I do have to mention that this is a character focused story. The plot of the story is to successfully get to Terra-Two and honestly it was unclear whether or not they did which was disappointing. But the characters were really well done and the audiobook kept me engaged and interesting in their stories.
These six teens were all so interesting in different ways. They have been studying at Dalton (basically an astronaut academy) for several years and the time has finally come for the six (and there three adult mentors. Yes! There are adults with them in space!) Except the day before the launch, one of the six dies. It’s unclear if she kills herself or if it was an accident. The program decides that the launch must go on as planned, so they call in one of the backup crew members, Jesse. I really liked Jesse. He was sort of an oddball, but he wanted to be an astronaut and go into space so badly. But the way he came to be on the mission made it so that the rest of the crew treat him as ‘other.’ This was obviously hard for him. His part of the story was a tough one. There’s also Henry, who is in training to be the team’s commander. He’s actually kind of a dick and plays some pretty cruel pranks on Jesse. But as the story goes on it’s clear that being pilot and commander is really all he has in life. I wouldn’t say that I liked Henry, but I understood him better by the time the story was over. Poppy is the face of the crew. She’s a language expert with an affinity for learning new languages. She’s also the media person. She does video updates and interviews the crew for the public. I liked Poppy. She grew up with her mother and they never had much. She was ecstatic to be chosen to travel to Terra-Two, but life in space turned out to be harder than she anticipated. She struggles with depression, sometimes spending days in her bunk without getting up. I really liked this inclusion in the story. I’m sure this is something that many real-life astronauts struggle with (not that many of them are traveling for twenty-three years to a new planet, but you know what I mean). Poppy gets help from one of the adults, the medic, traveling with them, and the two figure out a treatment plan involving medication. Next we have Eliot, who also struggles with mental health issues. The original crew member, that Jesse replaced, was Eliot’s girlfriend. He struggles because he’s sure that she killed herself. He hallucinates seeing her floating alongside the ship out in space. Eliot’s chapters were almost hard to listen to because he was struggling so much and I just wanted to give him a hug. Finally, the sisters, Astrid and Juno. These two were fascinating, but also sometimes I had a hard time remembering which sister’s chapter I was listening to. I honestly don’t remember what Astrid’s job was while in space because her story focused on how she got sucked into a sort of religion that’s appeared in the days leading up to the launch. Astrid becomes obsessed with Tessa Dalton (yes, their academy was named after her) who is the woman that discovered Terra-Two. Astrid had vivid dreams about being on Terra-Two. It all honestly gets a little weird, but it was fascinating in the way that watching a car crash is. It was an interesting comment on religion (though that’s just how I took it and I don’t know if that was the intention). Juno is training to become the next medic for the crew. She’s trains alongside the adult medic on board. I really liked this aspect of the story because we got to know one of the adults a bit more. Juno has an eating disorder; she also struggles with feeling like she doesn’t belong because of a secret that I won’t reveal. I liked Juno. She seemed sweet and kind, though I was disappointed that she took so long to befriend Jesse.
Overall, this book definitely had problems. Like, three of these characters have serious issues and I don’t understand how were these not addressed or realized with the intense and comprehensive mental and physical tests that the crew had to go through before the launch. Though there is something that’s revealed that suggests there was reasons for this. I also think it was odd that though there were three adults on board with the crew (an engineer, a commander, and a medic), three adults that trained these kids every day, but they didn’t seem to have a very big presence in the story. I also didn’t like the ending. It was left very open ended and we never got to find out whether or not the crew even made it to Terra-Two. I will say that there was drama and action while the crew was traveling even though there was minimal plot. I did like this book, but the ending damped that enjoyment a bit. I think those that like teenagers in space will like this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud

GoodReads Summary:
Two identical girls, one a princess, the other a rebel. Who will rule the empire?
After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.
Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris?
Court of Lions (Mirage, #2)Review:
Court of Lions was a 2020 anticipated release I didn’t even know about until August (when I finally read Mirage). Book two starts right where the first left off. I don’t want to spoil the first book because if you haven’t read it you need to stop what you’re doing and go read it now. I listened to audiobooks for the whole series and they were incredible. There were lots of names and worldbuilding things that I would have had trouble pronouncing correctly and the narrator did a wonderful job. She really put emotions into each character and the story. I highly recommend them.
The story starts with Amani being called to Maram for the first time after Maram found some information about Amani’s activities in the first book, and she was not happy about it. This break of trust between the two was so sad for me. They had finally gotten to such a good place. They trusted and confided in one another. I was sad to see that be lost. But on a more positive note, they gained this closeness back. The relationship between Maram and Amani was my favorite thing about this book. The two figured out how to get past Amani’s breaking Maram’s trust and they become as close as sisters. Seeing these two finally work together toward the same goals made me so happy. Seeing them work together to gain allies (and get Nadia out of the way) and work toward a better future for their planet.
Maram had incredible growth. She spends time really learning about her heritage that comes from her mother. I loved seeing her get away from her cold and cruel persona that she wears to prove she is Vathek enough. She’s embracing her mother’s side and it was so great. I loved learning about it as Maram did. I also really loved Maram’s love interest. We really get to know her on a deeper level once the love interest is introduced. Maram shows a completely different side from anything we’ve seen before and I loved it.
Amani’s story focuses on bettering her relationship with Maram. But she also gets a very complicated romance that’s continued from the first book. She battles with her feelings for Idris who is actually Maram’s fiancé (and eventually husband). Pretending to be Maram and Idris’ wife was a difficult task for her because she cared so much for him. It was interesting to see her battle her feelings for him versus what she thought was the right thing to do. I also adored Amani because she has an incredible mind for the politics of the world. We get to follow Maram and Amani as they tour the world after the wedding and I loved getting to see more of this culture. It was beautiful and fascinating. Amani is the mastermind behind all of Maram’s moves, but once the two and Idris start planning together my heart was singing.
This story started with many very unhappy people, but by the end of this book, they are all (mostly) put back together. This is a story of exploring your roots and your history. It’s a story of figuring out who you are and what you want and getting those things that you wanted, that you dreamed of having. I loved every page of these characters finding their way together, to friendship, and to love. I cannot say enough how much these characters and this story weaved its way into my heart. The writing was beautiful and took me right there, into this world, the drama, the politics, and the emotions. This series will definitely be making my 2020 favorites list.

Quotes:

“All of us have suffered one loss of another. All of us live in the shadow of that. And those losses do not absolve us of the choices we make.”

“Sometimes,” she said contemplatively, “all the paths lead where we would rather not go. Sometimes you can’t outrun home or destiny.”

“It’s not about the teller,” I said. “But the fortune. Good or ill, true or false, it haunts the listener.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The First 7 by Laura Pohl

GoodReads Summary:
Clover Martinez and The Last Teenagers on Earth are busy exploring the galaxy after leaving earth behind…even if they can’t help but be a little homesick.
So when their ship receives a distress signal from their former planet, they hope against hope that it means other survivors. But as soon as they arrive, they realize something’s deeply wrong: strange crystal formations have popped up everywhere and there’s some sort of barrier keeping them from leaving.
Seeking the origin of the formations and the reason for the barrier, the group discovers a colony of survivors hidden in the mountains. But the survivors aren’t who they seem…
The First 7 (The Last 8, #2)Review:
I enjoyed The Last 8 so much that I immediately had to start the audiobook for book two, The First 7. I loved The First 7 so much that I listened to the entire audiobook in one afternoon.
I loved this book for the characters. I enjoyed the plot and the whole storyline, but I was so invested in the characters and oh boy, was there drama with this found family. I’ll mention the storyline first and then I can get into what I actually want to talk about today. I was interested in the storyline. At the end of book one, our characters travel into space. At the start of this book, we get to see the characters in space after exploring for several months. There is an altercation toward one of the Last Teenagers and they leave the planet they’re on. When they return to their ship, they receive a distress signal. A distress signal that was coming from Earth. They argue about whether or not to return and see what or who sent this signal.
After returning to Earth, they realize that they weren’t the last humans on Earth. Other people survived. They arrive near the community called Unity. But they soon have more problems to solve than they bargained for. Something happens to one of their friends that they need to figure out and there is this barrier preventing them from going back into space. I will say that I completely saw through one of the smaller twists, but I was stumped about most of what was actually going on. The mystery and suspense of waiting for this found family to find all the answers was really well done.
Now, the characters. Sadly, this friend group has some issues during this book. They’re at odds because some of them aren’t acting like they’re worried about the problems anymore and they just want to stay and live in normal lives in Unity. But the problems that are in this book are ones that really need to be solved. So, the half of the group that’s working on it is mad at the other half for not making any effort. There’s all sorts of issues and hurtful things are said. It was really hard to see this found family that I loved be so at odds with one another. But I was really happy with the resolution and how they all worked the issues out. There were moments of putting their fights aside for bigger issues, but they also talked about what their fights were really about and I liked that a lot.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I think the narrator did a really great job with both of these books. I will definitely listen to more books that have this narrator. I really enjoyed getting to see these characters return to Earth and I thought the plot was interesting. I will absolutely be reading more books by Pohl in the future. This was a diverse story that followed characters that weren’t always easy to love, but had wonderful growth and development.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Last 8 by Laura Pohl

GoodReads Summary:
Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.
When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.
Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.
The Last 8 (The Last 8, #1)Review:
The Last 8 follows Clover as the world is ending because aliens have come to Earth, and they’re not friendly. Everyone Clover has ever known is dead. She travels aimlessly around the United States for many months until she hears a radio broadcast made by another survivor. She travels to what used to be Area 51. This is where she meets seven other survivors. But they’re happily hiding in their military base and aren’t interested in doing anything to fight back against the aliens, until Clover convinces them anyway.
This story was incredible. I wasn’t sure what to expect while I was listening. The plot twists were interesting and kept the story going at a steady pace. I think one of my favorite things about this story was that it’s realistic. The world ends and all of Clover’s loved ones are gone, she really struggles with suicidal thoughts and considers killing herself several times while she’s traveling alone. Most of the ‘end of the world’ stories have these hopeful teenagers that think they’re invincible, but this book has a diverse cast of characters that just want the aliens to go away. They want to hide and not have to be responsible for saving the world.
Clover was a complicated girl. She was raised by her grandparents, grew up as the only Latinx girl in a small town. I really liked that this was addressed even though that small town was soon unrecognizable. I also liked that Clover was sort of a jerk. She pushed people to do things they don’t really want to do. She pushes her new friends to ask questions, to do something, anything. She isn’t the hero they wanted, but she is the one they needed.
Overall, this might be one of my new favorite science fiction stories. There was action and drama. There were interesting relationships that I was easily invested in. There was a diverse cast of characters that each brought something to the story. I loved the twists and turns that the characters went through. They learned things about themselves that they never wanted to know. They learn things about each other too. I think this story was so well done and I’m confused why this book hasn’t been talked about more. I will now go to my rooftop and scream about this book so that others will read it.

Quotes:

“I don’t belong to the sky anymore. Hope is the thing that kills me in the end. Because it doesn’t take my body, but it takes my soul.”

“I’ve learned that there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely.”

“My instinct is not to speak, but I’m tired of silence. I’m tired of not knowing how to bridge the gaps between me and the others.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

GoodReads Summary:
In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.
But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.
As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.
Mirage (Mirage, #1)Review:
Mirage is a book that I let sit on my bookshelf for entirely too long. I absolutely loved this story. The book follows Amani as she is taken from her home and brought to the royal palace because she looks just like the Princess. Maram is not a very popular princess, so Amani is trained to behave exactly like Maram would and to know everything that Maram knows. It was hard not to feel bad for Amani. She’s been taken from the only life she’s known and thrown into the vicious world of the Vathek. The longer she’s with Princess Maram though, the better she gets to know her. I ended up feeling bad for Maram too. She’s only half-Vathek, so her struggle is that her mother’s people hate her because she’s Vathek and the Vathek people think less of her for her other half. I love Maram because we got to see growth. Though the ending sort of messed that up, but I’m very excited to see what will happen with her in the next book. Amani is thrown into a world where she’s mostly over her head. But she manages to make friends with some of the people in Maram’s life that Amani’s supposed to be fooling. I really liked when Amani visited Maram’s grandmother. That’s really when the story started to get really good. I mean, it was enjoyable the whole time, but the pace of the story really sped up around here.
Overall, I adored this book. It was a diverse story and the only thing that would make it better would be for Maram and Amani to fall in love. I loved the world, but I’m hoping we get to see more of it. There was also a romance and I totally wasn’t as invested in it as I thought I’d be. They were alright together, but I knew it wouldn’t end well as soon as it started. Anyway, definitely go read this book it was great.

Quotes:

“You are lucky”, she said. “Me?” “You know where you belong. You have your family and your traditions, no one is…is screaming at you to be something else.”

“When night falls, come and visit me, For I have seen night keeps secrets best.”

“A cage is a cage even if gilded.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor

GoodReads Summary:
A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher’s chest: an illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog — donning the moniker Technician — to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner’s tyrannical laws.
Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner’s son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father’s respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father’s elusive affection is worth chasing at all.
Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner’s secrets at any cost — even if it means betraying her own heart.
When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic — before the Commissioner ends them first.
Tarnished Are the StarsReview:
Tarnished Are the Stars is a story that follows Anna (also known as ‘The Technician’). She is a mechanic that secretly helps people with illegal medical technology. At the beginning of the story, the Commissioner has put out a new law in hopes of finding the Technician. Anna knows what she does is dangerous, but she thinks the risk is worth it because she gets to help people. But when Nathaniel, the Commissioner’s son, finds her booth and gets one of her riddles, her life changes. There’s entirely too much about this world for me to explain. This book takes place on a planet named Earth Adjacent. Earth is no longer habitable due to technology. So, the people that live on Earth Adjacent have technology very heavily controlled. There’s also a sickness on this planet. Anna lives outside of the Settlement and many people in her town are sick for unknown reasons.
When Nathaniel figures out Anna’s riddle and they meet, she realizes that he has the same lifesaving technology that she does. She was told she’s the only one that has this specific tech, as it has evolved since it was put in her. She needs to see him again so she can get to the bottom of it, but she’s realized that he’s the commissioner’s son and that it will be very dangerous for her. When she finds him again, someone very dear to her dies. (I literally sobbed.) This is when the story really gets exciting. There is a third character I need to mention before I get into my thoughts. Eliza, she is the Queen’s Eye (aka her spy). She is engaged to Nathaniel and is sent down to Earth Adjacent on a mission from the Queen.
Okay, my thoughts. I really liked Anna. She’s a smart girl that really cares. She struggles with failing at training to be a surgeon, but she excels at being a mechanic. This is a point of tension between her and her grandfather, Thatcher. I really enjoyed how their relationship developed and improved before the story’s conclusion. Once Anna, Eliza, and Nathaniel finally agree to work together the story gets even more interesting. I liked that they were unlikely allies. They were all working toward the same goal for their own reasons. Eliza and Anna have feelings for one another that they’re trying to deny. I loved this part of the story. I loved Eliza’s struggle between completing her mission for the Queen and helping Anna. Nathaniel is struggling between overthrowing his father and being the child his father has tried to make him.
Overall, I loved this book. If you liked the Lunar Chronicles, you’ll probably love this one. The relationships were complex and interesting. The secrets were surprising and suspenseful. We learn that things are not what we thought they were. I think the world was fascinating. I just loved everything about this story. There are mystery and suspense, romance and betrayal, great worldbuilding, and loveable characters. What else do you need?

Quotes:

“We are made or unmade by our choices.”

“We do not have to use the same words or share the same definitions to be similar, to understand one another.”

“Some secrets are like a blade, their vengeance swift and concentrated. Others are like a pestilence, spreading without prejudice, and I fear not everyone it touches will deserve the affliction.”

“But that was the thing about loss: Death could rip love from life, but those memories stayed behind, burning a hole through the heart.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.