Book Review – Sky Without Stars

Title: Sky Without Stars (System Divine #1)

Authors: Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: March 26th, 2019

582 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A thief. An officer. A guardian. 

Three strangers. One shared destiny . . .

When the Last Days came, the planet of Laterre promised hope. But five hundred years later, it’s now a place where an extravagant elite class reigns supreme; where the clouds hide the stars and the poor starve in the streets; where a rebel group, long thought dead, is resurfacing.

Whispers of revolution have begun—a revolution that hinges on three unlikely heroes…

Chatine is a street-savvy thief who will do anything to escape the brutal Regime, including spying on Marcellus, the grandson of the most powerful man on the planet.

Marcellus is an officer—and the son of a traitor. Groomed to command by his legendary grandfather, Marcellus begins to doubt the government he’s vowed to serve when he discovers a cryptic message that only one person, a girl named Alouette, can read.

Alouette is living in an underground refuge, where she guards and protects the last surviving library on the planet. But a shocking murder will bring Alouette to the surface for the first time in twelve years…and plunge Laterre into chaos.

All three have roles to play in a dangerous game of revolution—and together they will shape the future of a planet.

Power, romance, and destiny collide in this sweeping reimagining of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece Les Misérables.

Review

This book is a chunker y’all. I picked Sky Without Stars up on a Barnes and Noble sale awhile back because this cover is gorgeous. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of the next book, Between Burning Worlds, through Netgalley so it was time to dive into this world!

First off, I’ve recently become super into classics re-imagined in space. I’ve only read a few, but I’ve really enjoyed the ones I’ve read, even though I always thought the sci-fi genre was low on my list. Sky Without Stars is basically Les Mis in space, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The characters were interesting, while also having fatal flaws, which was a really good balance.

First off, the characters. I am here for them all (with a special shout-out to my girl, Chatine, who just can’t seem to get her shit together). I like how you get the story told in alternating POV’s – it goes back and forth between the three main characters; Chatine, Marcellus, and Alouette. They each have a distinct voice, which I think was very well done. I appreciate the differences between these three characters, and how you just know they will all be interconnected by the end somehow.

The plot was great. I really enjoyed the retelling aspect. There were parts that were a throwback to my high school History classes learning about the French Revolution (hey there guillotine) that really showed the class issues that were happening at the time. Humans are broken into three social classes; First Estate (royalty and nobles), Second Estate (middle class), and Third Estate (lower class and workers). You can really see how terribly the Third Estate is treated, and can totally understand why riots and rebellions are breaking out.

Lastly, I thought the Bastille adaptation was genius. A horrible prison built on an orbiting moon where people are sent to mine in hazardous conditions? LOVE IT (the concept, not the actual thing obvi). I thought it added a level of pressure to the story, because no one wants to be sent there. Also, a nod to the actual Bastille in France. It’s like a combination of Azkaban and the mines in the Ash Princess series.

As you can see, I can go on about this book for awhile. Some criticisms include the length, I don’t feel like it needed to be this long to get the point across, and the weird love triangle. I don’t mind love triangles, but this one was just strange. I don’t actually ship any of the budding relationships at this point, but we’ll see what the next book brings!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Between Burning Worlds

Title: Between Burning Worlds (System Divine #2)

Authors: Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: March 24th, 2020

688 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Les Misérables meets The Lunar Chronicles in the out-of-this-world sequel to Sky Without Stars that’s an “explosion of emotion, intrigue, romance, and revolution” (Stephanie Garber, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Caraval series).

A thief.
An officer.
A guardian. 
All from different backgrounds, but sharing one same destiny…

The planet Laterre is in turmoil. A new militant revolutionary group has emerged calling themselves “The Red Scar” and claiming responsibility for a spate of recent bombings. The infamous rebels known as the Vangarde believe that in order to bring about a peaceful revolution, their charismatic leader, Citizen Rousseau must be freed from prison right away. Otherwise the bloodshed will only escalate.

Soon Marcellus, Chatine, and Alouette all find themselves pulled into battle with extreme consequences.

Marcellus is determined to uncover his corrupt grandfather’s plan to seize Laterre—even if that means joining the Vangarde.

Aloutte, trying to unearth the truth about her past, becomes a captive of Marcellus’s grandfather, the general.

Chatine, who is serving time on Bastille, hopes to escape the brutal and horrifying reality of the prison moon.

But the failed attempt to break Citizen Rousseau out of prison launches Aloutte, Chatine, and Marecellus into the middle of a dangerous war for control of Laterre. And in the midst of it all is the legend of a secret and dangerous weapon that could mean complete and absolute power to any that wields it.

Review

**Thank you to Netgalley, Simon Pulse, and Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Sequel to Sky Without Stars, Between Burning Worlds picks up pretty much where Sky left off. Our main characters have themselves in whole heaps of trouble, and their ingenuity is the only thing that could possible save them. Without giving too much away; Chatine, Marcellus, and Alouette are separated and on their own paths to start the book. Each trying to find out more about themselves, in different ways. But what they find won’t always be fulfilling or satisfying…

I found Between Burning Worlds to be a satisfying middle book. I don’t think it fell victim so much to the middle book syndrome. The world and plot was pretty much built in Sky, so Between Burning Worlds just continued the action. I liked the new characters who were added to bring extra suspense and drama. However, Chatine is still my favorite character and always will be.

The writing is very good in this book. I love the twists and turns and how you can never tell what really is true and what is just a smoke screen. I love a book that keeps me guessing until the end. Speaking of the end, the CLIFFHANGER y’all. I must know what happens…

Between Burning Worlds continues the Les Mis adaptation of Sky Without Stars. If you loved Les Mis and enjoy science fiction books set in space, this series will be for you.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – What I Like About Me

Title: What I Like About Me

Author: Jenna Guillame

Publisher: Peachtree Publishing

Publication date: April 1st, 2020 (originally February 26th, 2019 in the UK)

304 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

You know all those movies where teenagers have, like, THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES? This vacation is probably not going to be that.

The last thing sixteen-year-old Maisie Martin thought she’d be doing over vacation is entering a beauty pageant. Not when she’s spent most of her life hiding her body from everyone. Not when her Dad is AWOL and her gorgeous older sister has returned to rock Maisie’s already shaky confidence. And especially not when her best friend starts flirting with the boy she’s always loved. But Maisie’s got something to prove.

As she writes down all the ways this vacation is going from bad to worse in her school-assignment journal, what starts as a homework torture-device might just end up being an account of how Maisie didn’t let anything, or anyone, hold her back.

Jenna Guillame’s American debut features a plus-size protagonist with a compelling, funny, and authentic narrative voice. This relatable and charming novel about friendship, confidence, and self-love will draw readers in as Maisie’s realistic emotional journey unveils the importance of embracing one’s body and celebrating one’s self.

Review

**Thank you to Peachtree Publishing, Netgalley, and Jenna Guillame for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Trigger warning for: body shaming, body image issues, negative self talk

What I Like About Me is a thoughtful and insightful, yet entertaining and fun all in one. Set in Australia, the book follows Maisie, a 16 year old girl on her family trip for the summer. She’s brought Anna, her best friend, and desperately wants to make a move on Sebastian, her long time crush. When Anna and Sebastian hit if off, Maisie is left with Beamer, the irritating boy child who loves to mess with Maisie. You get a look into her romantic life, but the book is so much more than just her relationship status.

The overarching theme of What I Like About Me is body image positivity and learning to love yourself. The author explores how family and friends can impact your self esteem and the struggles of a young girl growing up overweight, or “less than” as society views it. It is heartfelt and was emotional at times. Maisie has low self esteem and the book really explores what it is like to go about a normal day in the life of someone without confidence.

One thing I would have loved to have seen was more on the romance side. I love the secret love trope but I wanted more. You don’t get to hear the backstory of how he fell in love with Maisie or what it is about her that draws him to her. This is a shorter book, so I feel the romance could have been expanded upon without it taking away from the theme of Maisie finding her love for herself, and coming to terms with her family.

I liked that there wasn’t a huge happily ever after. The ending was very realistic and didn’t end in the normal tropes. I appreciate that the author was authentic with the ending, because there was one easy way to make is unrealistic and she didn’t go for that.

Told through journal entrees, What I Like About Me offers a diverse contemporary on the topic of body weight and self confidence. Please read with caution if you struggle with negative self talk, low self confidence, and body image.

Happy reading, folks!

ARC Review – Tigers, Not Daughters

Title: Tigers, Not Daughters

Author: Samantha Mabry

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Publication date: March 24th, 2020

288 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window. A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.
 
In a stunning follow-up to her National Book Award–longlisted novel All the Wind in the World, Samantha Mabry weaves an aching, magical novel that is one part family drama, one part ghost story, and one part love story.

Review

**Thanks to Algonquin Young Readers for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

TW: death, domestic violence, neglect, emotional abuse

Tigers, Not Daughters is a haunting ghost story with themes of sisterhood and perseverance, and also a hyena. No joke, there’s a hyena on the loose during this story. The Torres sisters have been through a lot. Their mom is dead, their dad is neglectful and abusive, and their oldest sister died tragically a year ago. Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa couldn’t be more different, but the one thing they have in common is missing Ana desperately – and wanting to run away forever.

This book is told from each sister’s POV over the course of a several days. Each sister has a lot going on, and are very different. The book tackles some serious issues for each sister, while also being a ghost story – which is just super fun. The ghost story part was probably my favorite, along with the group of boys who live across the street and lightly stalk the sisters.

The writing is phenomenal, where information is provided in tiny morsels over the chapters instead all at once. It created a captivating atmosphere where you needed and wanted to keep reading to get answers to your questions.

I really didn’t like the domestic violence aspect. It’s mostly just due to personal reasons, I’m sure there was a reason for including that plot line, but it was still hard to read. So please, before reading this understand that there are potentially triggering scenes.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Empress of Salt and Fortune

Title: The Empress of Salt and Fortune

Author: Nghi Vo

Publisher: Tor.com

Publication date: March 24th, 2020

112 pages

4.25/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

With the heart of an Atwood tale and the visuals of a classic Asian period drama The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a tightly and lushly written narrative about empire, storytelling, and the anger of women. 

A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage. Alone and sometimes reviled, she has only her servants on her side. This evocative debut chronicles her rise to power through the eyes of her handmaiden, at once feminist high fantasy and a thrilling indictment of monarchy.

Review

**Thank you to Netgalley, Tor.com, and Nghi Vo for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

A delightful short story with Asian influences. The story of a royal from the north brought to wed the emperor in the south. She gives him a son and earns her exile, where she uses her time to plot against the crown. This book is told in true storyteller fashion, bits of information is provided piecemeal by the woman, Rabbit, narrating the tale. The recipient of the tale, Chih, is a cleric whose job is to document history and seek answers.

Rabbit’s story tells a different one than is told currently in the empire, however it is a heartbreaking tale of sacrifice, loss, and loyalty. This is a very quick read, and some bits are left up to the imagination and hinted at, but the ending is clear and not completely surprising. The flow of this book was beautiful and fit the story line perfectly. I normally don’t enjoy Asian influenced storytelling as much, but this was short, sweet, and evocative.

There isn’t much to say about a book that is 112 pages that I haven’t already said, so this review will be shorter than usual!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The Honey Don't List

Title: The Honey Don’t List

Author: Christina Lauren

Publisher: Gallery Books

Publication date: March 24th, 2020

320 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Carey Douglas has worked for home remodeling and design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp for nearly a decade. A country girl at heart, Carey started in their first store at sixteen, and—more than anyone would suspect—has helped them build an empire. With a new show and a book about to launch, the Tripps are on the verge of superstardom. There’s only one problem: America’s favorite couple can’t stand each other.

James McCann, MIT graduate and engineering genius, was originally hired as a structural engineer, but the job isn’t all he thought it’d be. The last straw? Both he and Carey must go on book tour with the Tripps and keep the wheels from falling off the proverbial bus.

Unfortunately, neither of them is in any position to quit. Carey needs health insurance, and James has been promised the role of a lifetime if he can just keep the couple on track for a few more weeks. While road-tripping with the Tripps up the West Coast, Carey and James vow to work together to keep their bosses’ secrets hidden, and their own jobs secure. But if they stop playing along—and start playing for keeps—they may have the chance to build something beautiful together…

Review

**Thank you to Edelweiss, Gallery Books, and Christina Lauren for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Friends! I was SO STOKED to have the chance to read and review this title early and it did not disappoint! Christina Lauren has done it again with an amazing romance novel that will have you swooning well after you’ve closed the book.

The Honey Don’t List follows Carey, the assistant to Melly Tripp a home design wizard with her husband Rusty, who does the remodeling and renovations. She has worked for them for 10 years and is very devoted to the couple, even though they are not as perfect as social media would have it seem. James McCann is running from a bad experience at his last job, and took this gig with the Tripp’s as an opportunity to be an engineer, but instead got stuck being Rusty’s assistant. He is not happy with this development to say the least. Carey and James must keep their bosses’ marriage together while doing press for their new book and Netflix TV show, which turns out to be harder than anticipated…

As usual Christina Lauren creates a book with many layers, which they are so adept at revealing at the perfect time. Carey and James start off as enemies but soon become teammates on the journey of keeping their bosses’ image intact, as it benefits both of them. During this time, they get closer and their bond gets deeper – they learn each other’s secrets. James helps Carey with the pieces of her life she isn’t ready to face yet. They are so sweet together and I just can’t get over it.

The Tripp’s are crazy town and it makes this book so very entertaining. Their marriage is a complete disaster and I love the irony of them releasing a marriage advice book while theirs is in shambles. I really disliked both of the characters honestly, they both are tragically messed up and even worse together.

I loved everything about this book, and it had all the elements of a perfect adult contemporary romance book. I also love the nod to mental health and work, because work really can have a negative effect on your wellbeing and it’s nice to see that story told in a book. If you love Christina Lauren books, go preorder your copy because it is worth the hype!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC – Girls with Razor Hearts

Title: Girls with Razor Hearts (Girls with Sharp Sticks #2)

Author: Suzanne Young

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: March 17th, 2020

400 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

It’s time to fight back in this second novel in a thrilling, subversive near future series from New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Young about a girls-only private high school that is far more than it appears to be.

Make me a girl with a razor heart…

It’s been weeks since Mena and the other girls of Innovations Academy escaped their elite boarding school. Although traumatized by the violence and experimentations that occurred there, Mena quickly discovers that the outside world can be just as unwelcoming and cruel. With no one else to turn to, the girls only have each other—and the revenge-fueled desire to shut down the corporation that imprisoned them.

The girls enroll in Stoneridge Prep, a private school with suspect connections to Innovations, to identify the son of an investor and take down the corporation from the inside. But with pressure from Leandra, who revealed herself to be a double-agent, and Winston Weeks, an academy investor gone rogue, Mena wonders if she and her friends are simply trading one form of control for another. Not to mention the woman who is quite literally invading Mena’s thoughts—a woman with extreme ideas that both frighten and intrigue Mena.

And as the girls fight for freedom from their past—and freedom for the girls still at Innovations—they must also face new questions about their existence…and what it means to be girls with razor hearts.

Review

**Thank you to Netgalley, Simon Pulse, and Suzanne Young for providing a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

The sequel to Girls with Sharp Sticks, Girls with Razor Hearts picks up right where GWSS leaves off. I enjoy this in sequels because you don’t miss some possibly pertinent information that authors have to catch you up on later. GWRH continues the dark exaggeration of our current society (and it’s really not THAT much of an exaggeration) in regards to women’s rights. The content can be disturbing and triggering, but so powerful and well written.

Suzanne Young has fantastic flow with her writing and continuing to keep the story on track. Attention is given to the right parts and I didn’t feel like there were parts that deserved to be expanded on further. There were some plot twists, but seeing as it’s a middle book in a trilogy, there weren’t as many as the first and what I imagine the third will have in store. There was some info dumping and predictable parts, but I mostly still feel like I have no idea who the “bad guys” are or what the endgame is – which makes it worth reading the third book and will keep me invested in the story.

I have to say that I hope those who pick up this series are ready for the disturbing and violent writing and events in these books. I can’t give the book more stars because the topic does have a negative effect on me. I think it’s so important, but hard to read at times due to the content. So please know your triggers before diving into this series.

Happy reading folks!