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!
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.
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.
Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.
The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.
The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.
Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior. (Goodreads)
I had not originally planned on reading this book, but when I came across it a local sale for only one dollar, I couldn’t help myself. I decided to give this series a chance, regardless of the fact I was going into it with low expectations. I don’t know if that fact played a factor in the end, but I was surprised to find myself enjoying this book enough to have interest in the rest of the series.
I have nothing against the YA dystopian subgenre but will admit to generally not being impressed by it. It’s a genre over-saturated with subpar books riding on the back of the success of series such as The Hunger Games and Divergent. I picked up this book, expecting it to be readable, but as enjoyable as it ended up being.
The writing of this book is unique, to the point where when I first opened it, I thought the previous owner had taken it upon themselves to cross-out various lines. It took me a minute to realize that no, this was something entirely intentional. It’s an odd technique, that while I’m not particularly fond of it, it does the job it’s intended to. It helps set the tone of the story, that is further perpetuated by Mafi’s unique and beautiful writing style. It’s almost poetic in how it illustrates the shattered state of mind the protagonist Juliette is in throughout the book. As the book progresses and she feels more comfortable in her reality we see some of these techniques either stop being used entirely or reduced significantly, while others continued to be used just as much if not more. At the end of the day, the writing in this book is really what elevated the reading experience for me, though I understand how it could have done the exact opposite for others.
The only thing that rubbed me the wrong away about this book is the romance. It’s easy to say I didn’t care for it, and the little bit of exposure I’ve had to the fandom had me thoroughly confused (though I understand further reading may clear that up.) I’m not as bothered by love triangles as some are, but I struggled with this one in particular because I either don’t trust or don’t like either of the love interest. And… Warner? Am I supposed to like him? Cause no. And while I realise this negative is entirely subjective, for me, it detracted enough from the story to pull me out of it. I imagine for readers who don’t like love-triangles the effect would have been but quicker and more intense. Coming up with a rating for this book, even with the help of a rubric, was a struggle for me. It’s not quite a four-star read for me, but not as low as a three. That said, a 3.5 doesn’t quite seem right either. I imagine my final subjective rating being somewhere between 3.5 and four.
The company says Otherworld is amazing — like nothing you’ve ever seen before. They say it’s addictive — that you’ll want to stay forever. They promise Otherworld will make all your dreams come true.
Simon thought Otherworld was a game. Turns out he knew nothing. Otherworld is the next phase of reality. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted.
And it’s about to change humanity forever.
Welcome to the Otherworld. No one could have seen it coming. (Goodreads)
Oh goodness, this book.
First of all, I have to give this book credit, it is not what I expected. My first impression of it was that it would be sort of similar to Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, which just so happens to be one of my favourite books. This was enough to make me buy this book because I figured even if it wasn’t as good as Ready Player One I would hopefully find it enjoyable. Let me tell you now: I didn’t.
The one good thing I remember about this book is that I was surprised by the direction it took with the story’s concept. Simply based off my first impression the plot was not what I expected it to be. Sadly, this fact didn’t save the book from being unpleasant to me. Mainly, I did not like the main character. I didn’t like the secondary character. The only character I liked in this book was a background character that would eventually end up dead, and even their death wasn’t impactful to me. Additionally, I found the motivations of both the antagonist and the protagonist to be either dumb, confusing, or some mixture of both. In the end, it was the characters that forced me to give this book a low review.
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and once girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weight survival against humanity and life against love. (Goodreads)
In a post-civil war United States now called Panem, a battle royale is held among 24 children between the ages of 12-18, chosen in pairs at random from twelve districts. The titular Hunger Games is used as a form of propaganda to remind the citizens of Panem what would happen if they revolt against the countries capital. When a young woman named Katniss finds herself in the arena she is forced to make some hard decisions in order to survive.
When I first read the Hunger Games I was starting middle school and preteen me loved it! Me now– who is not only an adult but a writer– found the book mediocre at best. My primary complaint, which seems to be common, is regarding the protagonist Katniss Everdeen. While rereading the book I found it hard to understand her and her overall personality. It seems as though her personality changes for the convenience of the plot. Though acting differently was crucial for her survival, her mental commentary was inconsistent in its representation of her true personality. She seems to constantly change her mind for the sole purpose of progressing the plot when it starts to fall a little short. Additionally, the use of dues ex machina was often obvious, and could leave the reader thinking: Well that was convenient.
I have to give the book credit, though, for being a good battle royale. It introduced many to the concept for better or for worse, as well as sparking a mass interest in YA fiction and dystopian settings. Additionally, the world is well developed and even with the relatively minimal introduction, it is easy to understand. Part of this may as well be due to the fact that Panem is a post-civil war United States– this fact may not always be obvious to younger readers. Character-wise, secondary characters were handled very well and were well written as well as consistent. In fact, I can’t help but believe the book would be overall better if it had been written in some interaction of the third person.
In the near-future, people use technology to give the illusion of all kinds of body modifications—but some people have “Egan’s Syndrome,” a highly sensitive immune system that rejects these “mods” and are unable to use them. Those who are affected maintain a “natural” appearance, reliant on cosmetics and hair dye at most to help them play with their looks.
Sunati is attracted toAusten the first time she sees her and is drawn to what she assumes is Austen’s bravery and confidence to live life unmodded. When Sunati learns the truth, she’s still attracted to Austen and asks her on a date. Gradually, their relationship unfolds as they deal with friends, family, and the emotional conflicts that come with every romance. Together, they will learn and grow in a story that reminds us no matter how technology evolves, we will remain . . . always human.
Rendered in beautiful detail and an extraordinary color palette, Always Human is a sweet love story told in a gentle sci-fi setting by a queer woman cartoonist, Ari North.
Always Human is a fun and light-hearted read, but within it is a plethora of deep themes rarely explored in YA Science Fiction, let alone graphic novels. While reading it is an absolute pleasure, you are absorbing concepts that are for many hard to understand. The author, Ari North, does an exceptional job presenting these themes in a way anyone can understand while not losing the overall tone of the story. I’d like to take some time to look deeper into some of the themes I picked up on while reading Always Human and further discuss their representation and lessons.
Self-Expression is the theme that truly at the forefront of this series. After all, this story takes place in a future where people use technology to enhance their bodies in various ways, including aesthetically. These modifications are implied as being endless and allow the society represented to be much better suited for a wide variety of self-expression. Always Human is unique in that it includes a wide variety of characters with differing sexualities, race, and gender identity. It’s implied that such differences no longer hold the weight they do in our current society, as it’s much easier for one to alter their physical self to better reflect their feelings and personal views. It’s interesting to see how society would view people in a world where you can truly look however you want, and “other” is commonplace.
Invisible Illness (disability) is the second most important theme as it closely pertains to the protagonist, Sunati’s, love interest Austen. Austen suffers from the fictional Egan’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that makes her unable to use mods, which in many ways leaves her “disabled” in a world where people use mods to help with things such as memorization and illness prevention. Throughout this volume we see not only how this affects her but how people respond and act towards her. North does an exceptional job illustrating life with an invisible illness and how it can often skew other’s perception of someone, as well as how it can negatively affect the person’s mental health and relationships. It’s refreshing to read such an honest representation that manages to stay away from some potentially harmful tropes that often follow characters with a disability. We view Austen’s struggle in a very honest way from both her perspective and Sunati’s which provides a lot of room for learning to the readers.
Communication is the key to a healthy relationship and is explored at length in this graphic novel. Whether through mistakes and triumph, North presents a realistic representation of communication that is mostly healthy but definitely not perfect. There are things to be learned from the conversations that go well and, of course, lessons to be learned from the ones that don’t. Both are in this book and so well written.
Humanity in the technological era is a theme often explored in science fiction, and North definitely takes a more literal approach to this one. We are given a society that is very different from ours in a way that could be seen for the better. The amount of self-expression allotted to individuals in this world has opened up peoples mind to many things otherwise considered “other.” At the same time, this leaves some people at a great disadvantage (those with Egan’s syndrome). The way disease is handled is different, and the human body becomes, in a way less organic. The book explores what it means to be human is an area of endless possibility.
In addition to my analysis, I was to create fan-art for this comic which was an absolute pleasure. This series is truly worth the read and the publication of it is also for a good cause. I highly recommend looking into it and buying a copy of your own.
Special thanks to Hear Our Voices book tours for allowing me to participate in this tour.
When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.
Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.
When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond withher life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.
When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living. (Goodreads)
Superpowers. Sounds fun right?
Well, when you have to survive an unknown and extremely deadly disease in order to get these powers only to be segregated from society and essentially kept in concentration camps is far from fun.
Bracken’s TheDarkest Minds Series begins with a very X-Men-esque scenario, as described above. After an unknown disease kills off the majority of the State’s children, only a relatively small percentage are left, but there were after effects to this illness. Those who survived would develop one of a five of abilities ranging from telekinesis to powerful telepathy. These abilities are assigned colours, which are later used to segregate its users, separating them into groups based on their potential threat level. Greens (those with enhanced intelligence) are considered the least dangerous, while the most dangerous include the Red (those with pyrokinesis) and the Orange (telepaths). The most dangerous of the group were often killed on the spot.
The follows an Orange, who against all odds, has survived many years in a “rehabilitation” camp under the guise of a Green. Upon rescue from the camp, she not only realizes just how much the outside world has changed, but she realizes for any true change to occur there are hard decisions ahead of her.
I enjoyed this book, for the most part, though I often found it to be a slower than usual read for a YA novel. This book also differs quite a bit from other dystopian YA in that it tends to take a bit more of a political standpoint on the subjects it presents, while still pandering to the action-filled expectations of its intended audience. With many parallels to the ever so popular superhero genre, this book does a good job setting itself apart from other superhero-based stories and succeeds in creating characters who are multi-dimensional. The book spends a lot of time on character development, a lot more than you would expect from a YA novel coming at what some may consider the current fall from grace of Dystopian Sci-Fi.
As I’ve already sort of alluded to I found the book to be a little slow at times with scenes that I did not find entirely necessary (though they did achieve what they were meant to.) My most notable problems with the book are subjective: because when it comes down to it I simply did not find many of the characters likeable. I often found that the protagonist tended to be inconsistent. The inconsistencies are, for the most part, excusable due to the circumstances of the driving plot. Regardless, I often became a little annoyed because the character seemed to have sudden unexplained bursts of a newfound confidence that didn’t quite seem appropriate.
This book was a pretty good book but to be honest I ultimately enjoy it as much as others. I’m glad I read the first book, but as of right now I don’t intend to read the rest of the series.
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the world for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.
The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything. (Goodreads)
Annihilation is an interesting examination of our world evolving into something new, something rarely seen by modern eyes. This series seeks to answer the question of how the world would look and how it would affect us as industrialized beings; introducing us to key characters as well as the surreal version of our very own world. Strange things occur in the pristine landscape dubbed Area X. We follow the protagonist, the unnamed biologist, as she and her team explore the alien terrain.
I knew before I even picked up the book that it wasn’t going to be one of those books you simply just breeze through. Even with a pretty good understanding of many of the concepts explored in this book, I found myself still having to pause to contemplate what I had just read. Whether it be for reasons of reflection or comprehension, I feel this book would require occasional breaks for even the most advanced readers. For me, this is the primary negative of this series thus far.
Nevertheless, VanderMeer creates a vibrant world with characters capable of showcasing its mystery. Oftentimes the book is somewhat poetic in its execution and very thought-provoking as a result. Character development among the voyagers we follow is exceptional, as we watch them become overcome by the power of Area X, and in some instances overcome by nature itself. The objectivity of the author of the world outside her mind is just as interesting as her personal opinions regarding what is going on around her.
Special thanks to Netgalley and Amazon Publishing UK for providing me with an eARC.
A World of Secrets will be available on Amazon July 16, 2020
Taimin and Selena must discover the truth about their world—before it’s too late.
In a world of secrets, Taimin and Selena are desperate for answers. They need to discover the truth about their origins and the firewall that borders the wasteland. If they don’t find the hidden path they seek, the citizens of Zorn will die.
As they make the perilous journey to the distant firewall, Taimin and Selena are joined by three companions: a young healer, a weapons trader, and an old rover. Together the five are in constant danger, unable to rely on Selena’s powers as she has lost the ability to farcast—and she doesn’t know how to get it back.
Now Taimin finds himself hunted by a new enemy—a strange creature on a bloodthirsty quest of his own. Taimin and Selena get ever closer to the answers that are essential to their survival. But will they learn the truth in time to save themselves? (Goodreads)
An exciting sequel to The Girl from Nowhere, A World of Secrets is a follow-up readers dream of. The story is interesting and well-paced and isn’t hard to understand if you’ve read the first book (which, in the case of this series is 100% required reading). The first book was an enjoyable read, but the second is only an improvement. It’s quick read and almost impossible to put down. With much of the world-development layed out in the first book the second takes the time to develop its characters more. With that said there is still more of this world to discover. And though the story at times comes off as predictable, it’s predictable in the sense that the events make sense to the story and the reveals are exciting “I knew it!” moments.
There is always room for improvement, of course, in the realm of writing. There are a large number of redundant descriptions as well as unnecessarily ones. Additionally some developments in character relationships seemed sudden and which added to a disconnect between the reader and the characters. Some revelations could have been handled better, but suffice regardless.
I would recommend this series to any science fiction fan, especially readers who are interested in series that include humans interacting with other species. The first book was good, the second great, and I have high hopes for the conclusion of the series.