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 – 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!

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 🙂

Book Review – Scythe

Title: Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1)

Author: Neal Shusterman

Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Publication date: November 22nd, 2016

435 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Review

Without the threat of suffering, we can’t experience true joy.

Neal shusterman, scythe

My boyfriend bought me this book on a whim and it sat on my TBR cart for months until he picked it up, shoved it in my face, and told me to read it because he bought it for me. I’M SO GLAD HE DID. I loved Scythe and the take on this utopian/dystopian future world. This is my first Neal Shusterman book, but I also have his Unwind series on my TBR so this has me putting his other works higher on my list!

In the futuristic world of Scythe, there is no war, disease, or dying really. Unless you are chosen by a Scythe for gleaning, the only method of population control as all of the world’s problems are basically solved. Scythe’s are responsible for gleaning humans in order to keep a sustainable amount of people on Earth, and this is determined by the Thunderhead – the big computer that runs the world. In Scythe, you follow Citra and Rowan, two youngsters who are chosen to apprentice in Scythe craft. Through their stories, you see that the world is not as perfect as it seems, and corruption is still rampant in the Scythedom. Citra and Rowan must decide which paths to take and determine right from wrong, something that’s super easy for teenagers… right?

I find it hard to put into words how amazing this reading experience was for me. It evoked such complex emotions and makes you think about how the world would be if this was our reality. It brings up a discussion on death and murder – what is acceptable and what is not. Citra and Rowan as characters are such a healthy combination of unredeemable and morally sound – you’ll just have to trust me! On top of this, you get action, a long-distance chase scene, and some serious violence. This is definitely not a fluffy book that will be an easy read.

I really can’t find any criticisms to give this book. I set it down and could only say wow to my boyfriend when he asked how it was. I was hooked from the beginning and Scythe never let go. The writing is sharp and detailed without being flowery or overly done. The characters have back story and a fantastic arc and development. Even the background characters make themselves known and jump off the page, all for eclectic reasons.

If you love science fiction, futuristic, and books that make you think and question the world around you – pick up Scythe immediately. Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

Book Review – The Kingdom

Title: The Kingdom

Author: Jess Rothenberg

Publisher: Henry Holt & Company

Publication date: May 28th, 2019

352 pages

4.25/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Welcome to the Kingdom… where ‘Happily Ever After’ isn’t just a promise, but a rule.

Glimmering like a jewel behind its gateway, The Kingdom is an immersive fantasy theme park where guests soar on virtual dragons, castles loom like giants, and bioengineered species–formerly extinct–roam free.

Ana is one of seven Fantasists, beautiful “princesses” engineered to make dreams come true. When she meets park employee Owen, Ana begins to experience emotions beyond her programming including, for the first time… love.

But the fairytale becomes a nightmare when Ana is accused of murdering Owen, igniting the trial of the century. Through courtroom testimony, interviews, and Ana’s memories of Owen, emerges a tale of love, lies, and cruelty–and what it truly means to be human.

Review

In the end, it does not matter what a story is about. It only matters who gets to tell it.

Jess rothenberg, the kingdom

The Kingdom is a futuristic Disney World concept where there are robotic “Princesses” that are programmed to be perfect customer service employees, basically. They are forced every day to provide cheer and perfect experiences for their guests in the park, because the outside world is so bleak and the people deserve to have a perfect time at The Kingdom. Ana is a Fantasist that comes to recognize the faults of her pretty, perfect life and starts to fight back slowly, as much as she is capable of.

Owen is a park employee that Ana meets one day. Ana falls in love with him after several interactions where Owen shows her kindness. As the reader you know there is more to his interaction with her than Ana sees in the moment, which lends a deeper level of intrigue to this already interesting human/robot relationship.

Y’all this book is DARK. I put off reading The Kingdom for awhile because the synopsis made it feel somewhat fluffy for my tastes but I was SO WRONG. Immediately you are presented with Ana in the present and the past. The chapters switch between before she is accused of Owen’s murder, and during her trial for Owen’s murder. This provides you with SOME context, but really it doesn’t give anything away as you read the book. It somewhat like the Illuminae Files in how half the chapters are structured.

Also, when I say this book is dark, I mean it is SUPER FREAKING DARK. There are themes of memory tampering, sexual harassment/assault, violence, animal torture, etc. It seems The Kingdom is meant to be a Black Mirror-esque take on Disney World and how far our society could go to create amusement parks. It also brings up an interesting discussion about what rights robots have in society and what their moral compass is.

If you are looking for a light, fun, easy read; The Kingdom may not be for you. If you want a dark, serious, thought provoking take on society and our pitfalls; definitely pick up The Kingdom. And seriously, if you watch Black Mirror, read this.

Happy reading, bookish friends!

Book Review – Merged

Title: Merged

Author: Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl

Publisher: Month9 Books

Publication date: September 17th, 2019

300 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Seven of our country’s most gifted teens will become Nobels, hosts for the implantation of brilliant Mentor minds, in an effort to accelerate human progress. 

But as the line between what’s possible and what’s right, draws ever blurrier, the teens discover everything has a cost. 

Scientists have created an evolved form of living known as Merged Consciousness, and sixteen-year-old Lake finds herself unable to merge with her Mentor. 

Lake, the Nobel for Chemistry and Orfyn, the Nobel for Art, are two from among the inaugural class of Nobels, and with the best intent and motivation. But when Stryker, the Nobel for Peace, makes them question the motivation of the scientists behind the program, their world begins to unravel. 

As the Nobels work to uncover the dark secrets of the program’s origins, everyone’s a suspect and no one can be trusted, not even the other Nobels. 

As the Mentors begin to take over the bodies and minds of the Nobels, Lake and Orfyn must find a way to regain control before they lose all semblance or memory of their former selves.

Review

**Thank you to Month9 Books, Jim Kroepfl, and Stephanie Kroepfl for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

Merged is a new novel by the author duo, who also happen to be husband and wife, Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl. Merged is about a futuristic world where scientists have discovered how to “merge” one consciousness with another. Mostly, they want to put brilliant individuals of various disciplines into 16 year olds (Nobels) with a proclivity for their topics of expertise. The merged consciousness will be able to communicate with their Nobel in their dreams. The Nobel would then continue the work left behind by the deceased genius.

Lake and Orfyn are two Nobels, Chemistry and Art respectively. They begin to notice that not everything is as it seems with the organization that has started this experiment. When other Nobels begin to suffer negative effects from the merged consciousness, they begin to investigate and unravel the plans of adults with far more power than they have.

I really enjoyed reading Merged, and I thought the plot was well conceived and well executed. Chapters are told from 3 different Nobels points of view, and then also from the Darwinians (the organization running the experiment). It was really interesting to be able to have the insider information provided by the Darwinian chapters, especially as it coincided with what the Nobels were experiencing.

My only critique is that I want MORE. No spoilers, but that ending doesn’t seem to wrap up the book well, and I desperately want to know what happens to Lake, Orfyn, and Stryker after the fact. If you are interested in science fiction, definitely go check out Merged!

Happy reading, book friends! 🙂