Aether Ones Review (#BlogTour)

Aether Ones Review (#BlogTour)

By Wendi Coffman-Porter

Publisher: Brown Books Publishing Group

Print Length: 349 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Science-Fiction, Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.31

Available on Amazon

Special thanks to Brown Book Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book and TheWriteReads for allowing me to participate in this tour.

Leilani Falconi is a top agent for the Imperial Investigative Service, tasked with policing the veil between two realities. Long ago, the Great Sundering tore the universe into two mirrored halves; aether space, which progressed using magical energy or eldrich, and kuldain, which advanced via electromagnetic technology.

But now a series of suspicious deaths stretching back more than a decade has the agent trapped directly between secretive bureaucracies and their peoples. If she can’t solve the mysterious crimes in time, existence as she knows it could erupt into chaos. (Goodreads)

Every so often I come across a book that I struggle to get through. A big part of that was my own fault as I struggled to focus on what was going on. I’m glad I pushed through though because I ended up really enjoying this read. This book sort of felt like returning home after a long time away. Science fiction holds a special place in my heart but for whatever reason, I haven’t found myself reading much of it as of late. Aether Ones was the perfect return to the genre, as it blends fantasy and science fiction seamlessly. 

At first glance, the protagonist, Leilani Falconi, comes off as a little too powerful and a little too perfect. This doesn’t last long though, as she quickly proves that while she is a formidable opponent she is far from perfect and can find herself in some pretty sticky situations. She manages to both come off like the badass woman many of us wish we could be while also be real and flawed; not always making the best decisions. She’s a protagonist we can expect a lot from in the future with the knowledge that she has the power to follow through.

Aether Ones is fast-paced and well-handled mixed of incredibly researched sci-fi and the perfect touch of fantastical elements. At times it can be a little hard to follow but still manages to be entertaining none the less. This is one of those books you just buckle up for and enjoy the ride. Hell, take the ride more than once!

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Strange Medicine Review

Strange Medicine Review

By Mike Russell

Publisher: StrangeBooks

Print Length: 146 pages

Release Year: 2016

Genre: Fiction, Short Stories

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.04

Available on Amazon

This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

We recommend the following prescription: Strange Medicine – weird and wonderful stories for all that ails you. Strange Medicine is a fantastic collection of extraordinary tales of transformation by UK weird-fiction author Mike Russell. If you love the strange, surreal and unusual or if you are just looking for something different, Strange Medicine is for you. (Goodreads)

Being the second short story collection that I’ve read (third book overall) by writer Mike Russell, Strange Medicine is precisely the sort of book to get me out of a reading slump successfully. This book did an exceptional job of doing so, just the medicine I needed. It was just the thing I needed to throw me back into the surrealist dream-like world of Russell’s mind.

One thing that has continually surprised me about these collections is that every story leaves you thinking. At the end of every story, I couldn’t help but find myself contemplating them days after. I consider this one of the author’s highest achievements: the sheer ability to take over a reader’s mind. 

While otherness is a continual theme in Russell’s work, Strange Medicine takes the time to explore themes as grand as the relationship between man and the universe (“Mr. Dennis and the Universe”) to the concept of existence (“Mime”). It wouldn’t be difficult for Russel to send someone through one hell of an existential crisis. In saying that I’m pretty sure had a couple while reading this collection.

Russell proves to be a talented writer, especially when it comes to short-form fiction. Dali had paint, Hausmann had… glue? And Russell has words.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Bad Habits Review (#BlogTour)

Bad Habits Review (#BlogTour)

By Flynn Meaney

Publisher: Penguin

Print Length: 320

Release Year: 2021

Genre: YA Contemporary 

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.68

Available on Amazon

Special thanks to Penguin UK and TheWriteReads Tours for allowing me to participate in this tour and for providing me with an eARC.

Alex is a rebel from the tip of her purple fauxhawk to the toes of her biker boots. She’s tried everything she can think of to get expelled from her strict Catholic boarding school. Nothing has worked so far – but now, Alex has a new plan.

Tired of the sexism she sees in every corner of St Mary’s, Alex decides to stage the school’s first ever production of The Vagina Monologues. Which is going to be a challenge, as no one else at St Mary’s can even bear to say the word ‘vagina’ out loud . . . (Goodreads)

Meaney delivers exactly what is promised on the back of the book– Bad Habits is an undeniably hilarious and unapologetically feminist book that will, without a doubt, inspire young women to advocate for themselves and their beliefs. There is no hesitation as Bad Habits takes centre stage brazenly show outdated patriarchal ideals who’s boss. 

It’s not often that I pick up a book that manages to have me laughing out loud from page one, making this book absolutely enjoyable from the get-go. Bad Habits starts off in the middle of the action, maintaining a fast but comfortable pace throughout. From the beginning, it slaps you with the unfair realities of women (especially in the overly-patriarchal setting of Catholic school) and fearlessly challenges those ideologies. There is no subtlety in this book’s approach to exploring feminist ideals as it takes an approach equally as vicious as that of the main character Alex as she works to produce St. Mary’s first-ever production of The Vagina Monologues. 

Bad Habits tackles many important and relevant issues regarding female sex. Addressing issue ranging from the dangers of insufficient sex-ed and the demonization of the female anatomy. Why is the word ‘vagina’ such a big deal? That is the question repeated throughout the novel as we follow Alex challenge the limits of her Catholic private school and work as a purple-haired fairy godmother to girls ignorant of their own sexuality. These themes are handled with a tasteful directness that women deserve and need.

This book is a delightful read for every young girl. The protagonist and her best friend are both good influences in different ways, and the book does a good job reminding the reader how important it is to understand your own body as well as your unbridled societal potential. This is a book I only could only have wished for when I was younger, and am so happy for future feminist’s when they are able to get their hands of this fun book!

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Search for Starlight Review

A Search for Starlight Review

By James Maxwell

Publisher: 47North

Print Length: 332 pages

Release Year: 2021

Genre: Science-Fiction, Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.34

Available on Amazon and B&N

Special thanks to 47North for providing me with an ARC.

Beyond the firewall lies a greater threat than Taimin and Selena could have foreseen.

Taimin and Selena have destroyed the firewall that once trapped them in their dangerous wasteland. But with their hard-fought freedom now comes a greater threat.

Outside the wasteland, under the same two scorching suns, live the bonded. This powerful ancient enemy will unleash a destructive war on the wasteland’s inhabitants, and Taimin knows it’s a fight they cannot win.

When Zorn comes under attack, Selena uses all her power as a mystic to protect the white city. Meanwhile Taimin’s path takes him to Agravida, the capital of the advanced bonded civilization—where he must work fast to find a weakness in a seemingly unbeatable enemy.

To save everyone in the wasteland from certain death, Taimin and Selena seek to contact their ancestors in the stars. But will they reach them in time, and will their help be enough to turn the tide? The existence of the world is in their hands…  (Goodreads)

A Search for Starlight is one of those books that I just could not wait to get my hands on. I found the first two books in this series to be incredibly enjoyable, but I could not imagine how the series would come to an end. Maxwell does not disappoint, providing us with a satisfying ending to an overall fantastic series. 

This book, like a number of books I’ve read recently, manages to do a lot in a relatively short amount of pages. Maxwell managers to do everything we readers expected as well as everything we didn’t. As a reader, this book was often unputdownable because with every section came new concerns and potential solutions. The book is undeniably realistic in its ongoing insistence to make the characters fail. Maxwell manages to bring forth an SFF entry almost entirely devoid of dues ex machina. Which is a true testament of storytelling prowess. 

Overall well-paced this book manages to seamlessly alternate between info-heavy scenes, action, and downtime; giving the reader plenty of time to process what is going on and understand the various complexities of the story. Loose ends are tied neatly and the book does a good job communicating its sub-plots in relation to the over-arching one. This led to this being a very satisfying ending to a great series. 

I recommend this book to all SFF fans, but primarily those newer to the genre. While it has a lot of the same elements as other SFF series, The Firewall Trilogy is much easier to follow, making this a great entry-level series for both young adults and adults alike. I fully intend on exploring more of Maxwell’s works as well as anything he may release in the future.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

All the Tides of Fate Review

All the Tides of Fate Review

By Adalyn Grace

Publisher: Imprint

Print Length: 368 pages

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Release Date: February 2, 2021

Available for pre-order on Amazon and B&N

Special thanks to Imprint for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Through blood and sacrifice, Amora Montara has conquered a rebellion and taken her rightful place as queen of Visidia. Now, with the islands in turmoil and the people questioning her authority, Amora cannot allow anyone to see her weaknesses.

No one can know about the curse in her bloodline. No one can know that she’s lost her magic. No one can know the truth about the boy who holds the missing half of her soul.
To save herself and Visidia, Amora embarks on a desperate quest for a mythical artifact that could fix everything―but it comes at a terrible cost. As she tries to balance her loyalty to her people, her crew, and the desires of her heart, Amora will soon discover that the power to rule might destroy her. (Goodreads)

After being pleasantly surprised by All the Stars and Teeth, I went into All the Tides of Fate thoroughly excited to see how the duology would come to a close. While I’ll admit my exact expectations weren’t met I was not let down. All the Tides of Fate is an enjoyable read especially for readers who tend to get a little too emotionally invested in the lives of the characters more so than the actual plot. 

The story of All the Tides of Fate does not differ too much from its predecessor in that they both involve a seafaring island-hopping adventure with high stakes. What sets this book apart from the one before is its deeper focus on the characters. All the Stars and Teeth focused more on developing this unique world and its circumstances. All the Tides of Fate uses those well-developed foundations as an opportunity to focus on the characters. While there is an external plot, the focus deeply revolves around the characters’ thoughts, actions, and reactions to the events that transpire. By the end of the first book, I was invested so invested in the characters that it didn’t take me long to want to delve deeper into their growing selves and relationships.

Ultimately this duology doesn’t end in your typical Young Adult fashion. Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say: idealistic ending who?

I recommend this book, the whole series really, to any who just need to escape reality and go on an adventure and maybe, just maybe, you’ll learn something about yourself or the world around you along the way.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

White Trash Warlock Review (#BlogTour)

White Trash Warlock Review (#BlogTour)

By David R. Slayton

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing

Print Length: 320 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: LGBT Urban-Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.12

Available on Amazon and B&N

Guthrie was a good place to be from, but it wasn’t a great place to live, not when you were like Adam, in all the ways Adam was like Adam.

Adam Binder hasn’t spoken to his brother in years, not since Bobby had him committed to a psych ward for hearing voices. When a murderous spirit possesses Bobby’s wife and disrupts the perfect life he’s built away from Oklahoma, he’s forced to ask for his little brother’s help. Adam is happy to escape the trailer park and get the chance to say I told you so, but he arrives in Denver to find the local magicians dead.

It isn’t long before Adam is the spirit’s next target. To survive the confrontation, he’ll have to risk bargaining with powers he’d rather avoid, including his first love, the elf who broke his heart.

The Binder brothers don’t realize that they’re unwitting pawns in a game played by immortals. Death herself wants the spirit’s head, and she’s willing to destroy their family to reap it. (Goodreads)

Special thanks to theWriteReads for giving me the opportunity to participate in this tour and to the author for providing me with a copy of the book!

White Trash Warlock is an exceptional small book that packs a major punch. While it may not look as large and intimidating as many of its SFF cousins, it’s stuffed with enough charm and character to rival even the thickest of tomes. 

Boasting an alarmingly vast world with a complete magic system and the sociopolitical dynamic between the witches and the unseen world. White Trash Warlock manages to cram so many ideas together in a coherent fashion. The writing is easy to follow and simplistic in its approach to illustrating the story. The author does take some creative liberties, utilizing descriptions unique to himself. The reading experience of this book is exciting, well-paced and fresh, making it one of those hard-to-put-down volumes. 

The story explores a wealth of themes ranging from otherness to loss. With well fleshed out characters, the themes are thoroughly examined from multiple angles as well as through the characters realistic thoughts, actions and reactions. For me, as a witchy homosexual with questionable family relations, I was pleasantly surprised with how deeply I related to the protagonist Adam. All the characters are quite exceptional though, even outside their role in the story. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and fully intend on continuing with the series. For fans of SFF who want a lighter read that still packs a punch, this book is for you.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Steelheart Review

Steelheart Review

By Brandon Sanderson

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Print Length: 386 pages

Release Year: 2003

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.13

Available on Amazon and B&N

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will.

Nobody fights the Epics…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart — the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning — and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.
He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge. (Goodreads)

It only took one book for Brandon Sanderson to make it on my favourite authors list. Now, it is my goal to read every book he’s ever written. While I’m very excited to start reading the Mistborn series, I decided to start with The Reckoner’s trilogy, due to my being able to require the first book, Steelheart, for only a dollar. I had high expectations going into this book, and gods bless Brandon Sanderson for delivering! 

Steelheart presents an interesting view of the superhero genre playing on the idea that “absolute power absolutely corrupts.” Sanderson takes this idea and just goes for it full force, introducing us to a unique world where those with powers are exclusively villainous. For modern-day readers, this series is a lot The Boys in its depiction of a corrupt superpowered society and the anti-hero vigilantes that seek to change it. This unexpected take, along with the plethora of twist woven throughout, makes this one of the best YA superpower stories I’ve ever read. 

I’ve grown to expect Sanderson to do the unexpected and this book didn’t fail me. Sanderson is great at making everything go wrong for our characters, forcing them to rely on their own abilities to get them out of certain situations. This often leads to near-death experiences because no person is capable of succeeding at everything. These catastrophic character failures are what made me fall in love with Sanderson’s writing. He does the unexpected, and he always manages to catch me off guard. You won’t find much– if any– dues ex machina here.
This being only the second book I’ve read by Sanderson, I don’t really have the best frame of reference to compare it to. The other book I read, Skyward, is his most recent foray into the Young Adult category. Skyward is absolutely exceptional, one of the best YA science-fiction books I’ve ever read. Steelheart, having been written almost 20 years ago is only proof to me that Sanderson is one of the best writers of our time. I have a feeling this wasn’t his best work, and if I’m right I don’t know how I’m going to handle the greatness that I’ve yet to discover.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Court of Frost and Starlight Review

A Court of Frost and Starlight Review

By Sarah J. Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Print Length: 272 pages

Release Year: 2018

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.88

Available on Amazon and B&N

Hope warms the coldest night.

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve.

Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court. (Goodreads)

As you already know from my reviews on the previous instalments of this series, I am a big fan of A Court of Thorns and Roses. It goes without saying how happy I was to finally get a chance to pick up this book… too bad it did not live up to its predecessors. 

A Court of Frost and Starlight is effectively an ACOTAR Christmas special that just so happens to also happens to give us a glimpse of the war’s aftermath. Now, I have to give Maas, some credit for some of the themes she included regarding that subplot, but not much more. While she included very real aspects of post-war life, the way they were handled was… not that realistic. Yes, this is a fantasy series, but that doesn’t necessarily excuse the sort of detached feeling I got from this book. Of course, I am taking into consideration the disassociation that often follows those who have fought in a war, but this just wasn’t it. 

The only aspect of this book that truly shines is the deeper look into the found-family relationship between the inner circle. If you take out the post-war aspect of this story, its a mostly heart-warming tale of a family during holidays. The sections that focused solely on this is what made the book bearable for me, as it managed to cheer me up during our not-so-typical holiday season. And while the character has always been just as important as the plot in these stories, this one, in particular, took a lot of time to look at each character individually and give us insight on who they are and how they think without the shroud of intense hardship. We get a glimpse into seemingly everyday life, which in these times we sort of need. 
I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had hoped to, but it did manage to make my holiday season a little better. And I might as well admit it is what I needed to hold me over until the much-awaited release of A Court of Silver Flames. This is not a necessary read, and I won’t judge anyone who decides to skip it. But, in saying that, it’s not worthless either.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Forest of Souls Review

Forest of Souls Review

By Lori M. Lee

Publisher: Page Street Kids

Print Length: 400 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.69

Available on Amazon and B&N

Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training to become the queen’s next royal spy, her plans are derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.

And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.

Unveiled as the first soulguide in living memory, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King. For centuries, he has used his influence over the Dead Wood—an ancient forest possessed by souls—to enforce peace between the kingdoms. Now, with the trees growing wild and untamed, only a soulguide can restrain them. As war looms, Sirscha must master her newly awakened abilities before the trees shatter the brittle peace, or worse, claim Saengo, the friend she would die for. (Goodreads)

Forest of Souls was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020. I was so excited when I finally got my hands on it that I had to force myself to slow down a bit. I’m trying to spend a longer time in books like this because I want to really take my time to contemplate and savour the story. While the story was fast-paced, throwing you into the action immediately, I managed to slow my reading pace comfortably. Lee does an amazing job of showing rather than telling, so whenever I set the book down I had plenty to think about. Regardless of the fact that I came to the same conclusions as our protagonist as quickly as she did, it allowed me to explore aspects of the story that the author set aside. This only adds to my excitement for the upcoming sequel Spider’s Web, because I want to see how these concepts are brought into fruition. 

The magic system definitely gave me similar vibes to Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, and the aesthetic of this world definitely felt influenced series like The Untamed. The lore of this world felt well-developed and even though we only view the world through a single character’s eyes, I definitely felt like we were provided with more than sufficient world-building. 

My favourite part of this book was the characters. Forest of Souls includes a beautiful sisterly-friendship between the protagonist Sirscha and her familiar Saengo. Lee does an amazing job portraying the platonic love between the two girls, and how their situation affects them not only as individuals but as partners. The lack of romance in this book is refreshing, but not entirely not existent, as there is definitely foundation laid down for it. Whatever the author ultimately decides, I can only imagine it being executed well, as her ability to set up characters and their relationships are definitely above average.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Review

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Review

By Stephen Chbosky

Publisher: Pocket Books/MTV Books

Print Length: 213 pages

Release Year: 1999

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary 

Avg. Goodreads Rating:  4.2

Available on Amazon and B&N

standing on the fringes of life…

offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see

what it looks like from the dance floor.

This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being A WALLFLOWER

This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that the perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up. (Goodreads)

Originally posted on my personal website crystinaluna.com.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, at this point, is a long-time favourite of mine. At this point, it can probably be considered an older book, but– at least to me– it doesn’t read like that. The many reasons it reads that way is probably the same reason this book is considered banned in many places. 

A realistic examination of what it’s like to be a teenager, this book follows Charlie as he begins his first year of high school. Charlie immediately struggles with the transition and it’s not until he befriends two seniors, Sam and Patrick, that his year begins to make a turn for the better. Chbosky leads us through a graphically realistic teen experience that includes concepts regarding LGBT struggles, drug experimentation, mental health, and much more. 

I feel like there really is something for everyone in this book. Though I personally did not have the “traditional” teenage experience (far from it, actually) I still find myself relating heavily with the characters in this book. You may not have direct experience with certain things, such as drugs and certain mental health struggles, but it’s hard to be a teenager nowadays without being exposed to these concepts one way or another. I feel it’s even that indirect connection that fosters understanding and compassion for the book’s characters in the readers. Having read many books in my few years on this earth, with is one of those rare books that truly captures what it’s like growing up.

Regardless of all these great things, I am aware that this book is banned in many schools and to some extent, I understand why. I would probably recommend this book for a more mature audience, but not in the sense that maturity equates age. With hard subjects including molestation and suicide, this books is not for everyone. Though I think this should be read by all high schoolers, I admit that the individual should be taken into consideration. I wouldn’t go so far as to right out ban the book, rather, I’d explicitly warn younger readers what is to come and open it up for conversation if there is something they need help understanding. 

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.