eARC Review – The Sound of Stars

Title: The Sound of Stars

Author: Alechia Dow

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Publication date: February 25th, 2020

400 pages

3.75/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Don’t miss this spectacular debut novel… Can a girl who risks her life for books and an alien who loves forbidden pop music work together to save humanity? This road trip is truly out of this world! A beautiful and thrilling read for fans of Marie Lu and Veronica Roth.

Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population.

Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. Deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, humanity’s emotional transgressions are now grounds for execution. All art, books and creative expression are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her.

Born in a lab, M0Rr1S (Morris) was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does.

Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while making a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.

Review

**Thank you to Inkyard Press, Netgalley, and Alechia Dow for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

The Sound of Stars reminds me a lot of The Host by Stephanie Meyer, where alien forces invade Earth and take over the humans. There is a fun sci-fi twist where the aliens, Ilori, are labmade to resemble humans in order to survive the atmosphere. Ellie is a human looking to stay alive, M0Rr1S is a special labmade Ilori in command of Ellie’s quadrant in NYC. The universe brings them together in a way that they did not expect – and they become an unlikely pair.

I wasn’t sure how to rate this, because my feelings changed frequently during this book. I had a hard time getting into it, was very interested in the middle, and got lost again in the end. The end made it seem like this will be a duology, which I wasn’t expecting because it doesn’t look like any has been announced. I went in expecting a stand-alone, so the fact that it didn’t end well wrapped up threw me off.

I do love the concept, because I loved The Host. As more information is released you become more sympathetic to the Ilori, which was well thought out and constructed. I just wish for more in the beginning that would have captured my attention, and a less confusing ending.

The Sound of Stars brings a new voice into sci-fi with great LGBTQIA representation (all the aliens introduce themselves by name and gender identity). Many characters are non-binary and our female MC is self-reported as demi-ace… (makes me think this may be an Own Voices work?). There is also a lot of political, racial, and environmental discussions that draws direct lines to today’s climate, which is refreshing to read and an addition that caused me to rate this book higher.

Happy reading, bookish friends 🙂

eARC Review – Ink in the Blood

Title: Ink in the Blood (Ink in the Blood #1)

Author: Kim Smejkal

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Publication date: February 11th, 2020

448 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A lush, dark YA fantasy debut that weaves together tattoo magic, faith, and eccentric theater in a world where lies are currency and ink is a weapon, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake.

Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.

Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.

To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.

Review

**Thank you to HMH Books for Young Readers, Netgalley, and Kim Smejkal for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Ink in the Blood is a dark fantasy with cult/religious involvement, magic, and sacrificing for the greater good. Our MC Celia looks to escape Profeta, the church, in which she was conscripted against her will to be an Inkling. Inklings have the ability to tattoo other people with the church’s instructions on how to change their lives. Celia comes to see the corruption within the church, and with the help of a fellow Inkling, Anya, she escapes with a traveling comedy group.

It took me about 60% percent of this book to really get into it, which was part of why the rating on this is lower. Once I got into it I finished it in one sitting, but it took me awhile to get to that point because it didn’t capture my attention. I want books that will hook me immediately, and this one was not the case. There was a lot of backstory given in the beginning with world-building, but it wasn’t the kind of world-building that drew me in.

The magic in this book fascinated me – I knew I wanted to review it when I saw the tattooing was the magic. I didn’t realize the level of religion involved, which also brought it down a bit for me. Something about this book didn’t sit right with me and I’m having a hard time narrowing down what it was. I almost wish the church had less of a hold on people in the book, because it really portrayed the general population as sheep, incapable of thinking for themselves or making their own decisions.

One thing I loved about this book was the romantic interest for Celia. The Plague Doctor reminded me of Jacks from the Caraval series and I loved it. He is a soft, broken boy who comes across as villainous and detached until she is able to break him down. Swoon. Celia was a good enough MC – she isn’t perfectly moral and she isn’t completely evil, she’s somewhere in the middle like the rest of us.

I do plan on reading the sequel when it is released, because the ending really surprised me. There were some lovely twists and turns in the last 25% of the book that I wasn’t able to see coming, so it helped the overall experience of this book for me. I’m hoping now that the world is set up, the sequel will be more action packed and attention grabbing.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – The Stars We Steal

Title: The Stars We Steal

Author: Alexa Donne

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Publication date: February 4th, 2020

400 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, only has one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin?

But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love Elliot returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one that got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now, he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself failing for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets.

Review

**Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Netgalley, and Alexa Donne for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

I previously read Alexa Donne’s debut novel, Brightly Burning and wasn’t super thrilled with the book – but I loved the writing and when I see Bachelorette… coupled with SPACE… I know that’s a book I 100% need to read, and it did NOT disappoint. Leo is the Princess of her ship in space – where these titles are still used to create a classist society, even when it’s totally not necessary. The Valg is their way of creating marriages (that aren’t with your cousins…) among the elite, rich, and/or titled young people. Leo is participating in The Valg to find a rich husband, because her family is in dire need of funds, not because she wants to. As the oldest child of a man who spends money faster than it could possibly come in, she needs to be the adult and keep their spaceship afloat. Enter, her ex-fiance Elliot whom her family made her break the engagement to because he didn’t have money. Now? He is the sole heir to a prosperous whiskey ship and has plenty of money. Problem? He’s seriously pissed at her…

Ya’lllllll I loved this book. I read it all in one night because I could not put it down. Alexa Donne weaved so many elements together that you wouldn’t expect to work together, but pulled it off perfectly. I’m a huge sucker for Bachelor style plots, but it’s not JUST that. You have murder, intrigue, theft, Robin Hood-esque schemes, rebel groups, cyber attacks, AND wealthy extravagance from young people who have nothing better to do than be petty and make drama. Like, let’s gooo!

I am obsessed. Her writing worked so well with these elements and I found it SO much more enjoyable than her other classics spin in space. Currently starting a petition to re-write all the classics in a futuristic space society. Needs to happen.

The Stars We Steal, Alexa Donne’s second book, is a stand-alone space adaption of Persuasion by Jane Austen and will have you hooked from the first few pages. Leo is a strong character who is put in an untenable situation and trying to make the most of it. Pick it up if you enjoyed her first book, Brightly Burning, or are a fan of retellings and/or space!

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – Break in Case of Emergency

Title: Break in Case of Emergency

Author: Brian Francis

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication date: February 4th, 2020

368 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Dads can be such a drag

Life has been a struggle for Toby Goodman. Her mother died by suicide five years ago, and her father left their small town before Toby was born. Now a teenager living on her grandparents’ dairy farm, Toby has trouble letting people in. She keeps even her closest friend, the brash but endearing Trisha, at arms’ length, and recently ended her first relationship, with Trisha’s burnout brother, Mike. Convinced that she is destined to follow her mother’s path, Toby creates a plan to escape her pain.

But with the news that her father is coming home and finally wants to meet her, Toby must face the truth of her family’s story. Not only is her father gay, but he’s also a world-famous female impersonator—and a self-absorbed, temperamental man-child who is ill-prepared to be a real parent.

When Toby’s careful plans go awry, she is forced to rebuild the life she thought she knew from the ground up. While she may not follow an expected path, through the support of a quirky but lovable circle of friends and family, Toby may finally put together the many different pieces that make up her past, her present, and her future.

Review

**Thank you to Netgalley, Harper Collins, and Brian Francis for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review **

Break in Case of Emergency is a contemporary tale of 15 year old Toby who is dealing with her mother’s suicide 5 years ago. She is struggling, especially when her father comes into the picture for the first time since her conception. Her father is… interesting… and isn’t what she was expecting – or wanting.

I will say, I related to Toby in a lot of ways. I remember being 15 and having some of the thoughts and feelings Toby was having – and it’s certainly not fun. Trigger Warning: I would say proceed with caution before jumping into this book, especially if you are triggered by depression or suicidality. It’s the main theme of the novel and jumps in on page one so please heed this warning and get help if needed.

I did not love the LGBTQIA representation or mental health representation. I understand it was done with an explicit purpose, but I don’t feel like they were represented properly. I feel it was meant to bring attention to depression and suicidality along with a country town’s aversions to the LGBTQIA population (it’s also set in 1992), but I feel that it misses the mark on both cases. Toby’s mental health journey is a main plot point, but it’s like it’s set up so well and then just falls flat 2/3 of the way through and is finished too quickly.

I felt confused by this book a lot of the time, and I feel it just wasn’t my style. I didn’t connect with the characters, but I did like the use of flashbacks to present information. I felt that was done very well and provided needed context to what Toby was going through at any given point.

Happy reading, folks! 🙂

February TBR!

Happy February! I’m very excited for my upcoming reads this months because I got some Netgalley books that I’m really anticipating for 2020. Netgalley has been very good to me, and I started an account with Edelweiss as well! I already have one approval for a 2020 release that I’m so stoked for, but will likely be reading in March.

I’m continuing to try to have a good balance of physical and ebooks, because I can feel the strain on my eyes when I read too much on my phone or iPad. I’m starting my binge of Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series, which will likely continue on to March unless I read a whole lot more than I’m expecting to (which likely won’t happen because we are very busy with wedding planning!)

PHYSICAL BOOKS

Some of these may look familiar from my January TBR, but I didn’t get to them last month so they just were bumped to February. Two of these books are library books to read before I read the sequel in the form of a Netgalley eARC.

  1. The Women’s War (Women’s War #1), Jenna Glass
  2. The Wicked Fox (Gumiho #1), Kat Cho
  3. The Beckoning Shadow (The Beckoning Shadow #1), Katharyn Blair
  4. Serious Moonlight, Jenn Bennett
  5. The Assassin’s Blade (Throne of Glass #0.5), Sarah J. Maas
  6. Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2), Sarah J. Maas
  7. Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3), Sarah J. Maas
  8. Girls with Sharp Sticks (Girls with Sharp Sticks #1), Suzanne Young

NETGALLEY EARC’S

Highlights of this month will be Havenfall and The Electric Heir. Sara Holland is one of my favorite authors and I loved The Fever King.

  1. Havenfall (Havenfall #1), Sara Holland
  2. Bad Bachelor, Stephanie London
  3. We Are Blood and Thunder (We Are Blood and Thunder #1), Kesia Lupo
  4. The New Guy, Kathryn Freeman
  5. The Electric Heir (Feverwake #2), Victoria Lee
  6. Girls with Razor Hearts (Girls with Sharp Sticks #2), Suzanne Young
  7. Queen of the Unwanted (Women’s War #2), Jenna Glass
  8. The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo

I hope you all have a lovely February, and read everything you want to! Let me know if any of these are on your list as well!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Don’t Read the Comments

Title: Don’t Read the Comments

Author: Eric Smith

Publisher: Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press

Publication date: January 28th, 2020

320 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.

Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.

At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…

And she isn’t going down without a fight. 

Review

**Thank you to Inkyard Press, Eric Smith, and Netgalley for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Divya is a high school student who spends her time on Glitch, a gaming website where she is an influencer. She has thousands of followers and plays the game, Reclaim the Sun, a space exploration gaming program. This is her income as she attempts to support her mom financially through grad school after her father leaves them to start a new life. Divya is known online as D1V, and is always super careful about how much personal information she gives out. Unfortunately, she is attacked in the game by some racist, sexist dudes who send her a photo of her house to scare her. Don’t Read the Comments follows Divya as she deals with online trolls who take the trolling off the internet and into her life, while she is also trying to learn how to trust people. It’s a hard task for her, let me tell you.

Divya meets Aaron, the other POV in this book, within the game and over the book she learns to trust him even which the attacks happening to her and her family. Aaron is a gamer whose dream is to write the scripts for games, not be a doctor like his mom wants. He works for his friend who owns a gaming company, even though the money for his work hasn’t come around yet. His story follows him helping Divya and dealing with his career and life within the gaming community.

I enjoyed this book, even though gaming is not my style. It was a great story about online trolling, the rampant racism and sexism in the gaming community, and find friendship among the fray. There is assault, harassment, and hurtful comments thrown at Divya because “she deserves it” for being well known on the internet and being a brown girl in gaming. It’s super annoying, but unfortunately accurate to how people are treated in male dominated areas.

I enjoyed the dual POV’s a lot, it was nice to see the story from both Divya and Aaron’s perspectives. Their stories intertwine but are still very separate. The love story is nice and simply, not much because they are high schoolers. The focus is more on the friendship and trust between two people who met online rather than the romantic nature that could happen between them.

For fans of video games and contemporary novels, Don’t Read the Comments will be the nerdy book you’ve been waiting for.

happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – How to Build a Heart

Title: How to Build a Heart

Author: Maria Padian

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Publication date: January 28th, 2020

352 pages

4.25/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

One young woman’s journey to find her place in the world as the carefully separated strands of her life — family, money, school, and love — begin to overlap and tangle.  

All sixteen-year-old Izzy Crawford wants is to feel like she really belongs somewhere. Her father, a marine, died in Iraq six years ago, and Izzy’s moved to a new town nearly every year since, far from the help of her extended family in North Carolina and Puerto Rico. When Izzy’s hardworking mom moves their small family to Virginia, all her dreams start clicking into place. She likes her new school—even if Izzy is careful to keep her scholarship-student status hidden from her well-to-do classmates and her new athletic and popular boyfriend. And best of all: Izzy’s family has been selected by Habitat for Humanity to build and move into a brand-new house. Izzy is this close to the community and permanence she’s been searching for, until all the secret pieces of her life begin to collide.

How to Build a Heart is the story of Izzy’s journey to find her place in the world and her discovery that the choices we make and the people we love ultimately define us and bring us home.

Review

**Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers, Netgalley, and Maria Padian for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

How to Build a Heart follows 16 year old Izzy Crawford as she handles high school, prejudice, and being part of a low income family. Her Mami is super strict and won’t let her hang out with her best friend, she pretends to everyone she doesn’t live in a trailer park, and she secretly wishes her life was different – and she’s also ALOT jaded. In comes Aubrey, a new freshman at her school that she takes under her wing (also her older brother is the hottest boy alive, Sam). Izzy starts down the path of a double life, hiding who she is from her new rich friends. When her family is nominated to receive a Habitat for Humanity home, her double life comes back to haunt her and she has to escape to some long lost family.

I had a hard time getting into this book in the very beginning, but once it hooked me I was HOOKED. I stayed up late to finish it and I have #NoRagrets. It’s not exactly a rags to riches story, but it has some similar features. I think the prejudice situations were handled well and I loved all the characters (except Roz, and I don’t apologize). I feel bad for Roz of course, but her personality was really grating, and it felt like all Izzy did for awhile was seek her approval because she was “cool”. I loved Sam and Aubrey’s character and I was really happy the “rich” family wasn’t prejudiced against the trailer park girl.

I loved the addition of the Habitat for Humanity plot line. I haven’t read a book where Habitat was mentioned, but it was so beautiful that this family was able to be built a Habitat house and I darn near cried when a lot of the town started pitching in – including long lost family.

I adored the little romance between Izzy and Sam – they had such a glorious connection and chemistry on paper. I think they brought out the best in each other and Same helped Izzy heal a bit. It was a really heartwarming and real feeling story, it just grabs hold and won’t let go.

Please go check this one out!