Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Star Eater by Kerstin Hall, The Ice Lion by Kathleen O'Neal Gear, & The Coward by Stephen Aryan

Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.
June is, like May, packed with releases, which means we are once again going to be featuring three books each week for Can't-Wait Wednesday because one or two are simply not enough. :)

This week's upcoming book spotlights are: 
Star Eater
Star Eater by Kerstin Hall
Publication: June 22nd, 2021
Hardcover. 448 pages.
Pre-order: AmazonIndieBound

"All martyrdoms are difficult.
Elfreda Raughn will avoid pregnancy if it kills her, and one way or another, it will kill her. Though she’s able to stomach her gruesome day-to-day duties, the reality of preserving the Sisterhood of Aytrium’s magical bloodline horrifies her. She wants out, whatever the cost.
So when a shadowy cabal approaches Elfreda with an offer of escape, she leaps at the opportunity. As their spy, she gains access to the highest reaches of the Sisterhood, and enters a glittering world of opulent parties, subtle deceptions, and unexpected bloodshed.
A phantasmagorical indictment of hereditary power, Star Eater takes readers deep into a perilous and uncanny world where even the most powerful women are forced to choose what sacrifices they will make, so that they might have any choice at all."
I heard some describe this book as being "for people who are intrigued byt he sound of 'cannibalistic nuns,'" and well, that's me! The concept of this book sounds fascinating, so I'm really looking forward to checking it out.

The Ice Lion (Rewilding Reports #1)
The Ice Lion by Kathleen O'Neal Gear
Publication: June 15, 2021
DAW Books
Hardcover. 304 pages.
Pre-order: AmazonIndieBound

"This cli-fi novel from a notable archaeologist and anthropologist explores a frozen future where archaic species struggle to survive an apocalyptic Ice Age
One thousand years in the future, the zyme, a thick blanket of luminous green slime, covers the oceans. Glaciers three-miles-high rise over the continents. The old stories say that when the Jemen, godlike beings from the past, realized their efforts to halt global warming had gone terribly wrong, they made a desperate gamble to save life on earth and recreated species that had survived the worst of the earth's Ice Ages.
Sixteen-summers-old Lynx and his best friend Quiller are members of the Sealion People--archaic humans known as Denisovans. They live in a world growing colder, a world filled with monstrous predators that hunt them for food. When they flee to a new land, they meet a strange old man who impossibly seems to be the last of the Jemen. He tells Lynx the only way he can save his world is by sacrificing himself to the last true god, a quantum computer named Quancee."
This sounds like such a fascinating premise and I really enjoy books of this "cli-fi" nature--despite the fact that they can be a bit terrifying in relation to real life, haha. Hope to check this one out soon!

The Coward (Quest for Heroes, #1)

The Coward by Stephen Aryan
Publication: June 8th, 2021
Angry Robot
Paperback. 400 pages.
Pre-order: AmazonIndieBound

"Kell Kressia is a legend, a celebrity, a hero. Aged just seventeen he set out on an epic quest with a band of grizzled fighters to slay the Ice Lich and save the world, but only he returned victorious. The Lich was dead, the ice receded and the Five Kingdoms were safe.
Ten years have passed Kell lives a quiet farmer's life, while stories about his heroism are told in every tavern across the length and breadth of the land. But now a new terror has arisen in the north. Beyond the frozen circle, north of the Frostrunner clans, something has taken up residence in the Lich's abandoned castle. And the ice is beginning to creep south once more.
For the second time, Kell is called upon to take up his famous sword, Slayer, and battle the forces of darkness. But he has a terrible secret that nobody knows. He's not a hero - he was just lucky. Everyone puts their faith in Kell the Legend, but he's a coward who has no intention of risking his life for anyone..."
I wasn't overly sold on Aryan's Age of Dead Trilogy, but I'm really loving the sound of The Coward and I've seen some pretty great reviews already, so I'm excited to check it out sometime!

What do you think about these upcoming releases? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Recent Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book blog meme now hosted by Jana over at The Artsy Reader Girl!

This week's topic is: Most Recent Reads
This week's topic is pretty easy, which I appreciate! 😂 I also like this topic because it gives me a chance to share a few books that I haven't reviewed/might or might not get around to reviewing, as well as upcoming ARCs that I won't be posting a review for until closer to June. Let's check them out!

The Priory of the Orange Tree        The Portrait of a Mirror

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon: This is my most recent audiobook and as of writing this post, I actually have about thirty minutes left, but since I plan to finish those thirty minutes today I'd say I'm just about done! This has been a long audiobook experience since it's a pretty huge book and it does drag a bit in places, but overall I've really enjoyed exploring this world and story! I've especially liked what a woman-dominated world/story it's been. 

The Portrait of a Mirror by A. Natasha Joukovsky: This book's not out until June, and I'm not sure what to think of it. It's described as "A stunning reinvention of the myth of Narcissus as a modern novel of manners." Part of me enjoyed it, part of me was annoyed by it. It's the sort of thing that's meant to be a bit pretentious and mocking of the rich societies, but at the same time it feels more like it's for the wealthy who want to sarcastically explore their society than it is for someone like me. I'll have a review up closer to publication, so stay tuned for that when I hopefully have better formed thoughts. 

Madam        For the Wolf (Wilderwood, #1)

Madam by Phoebe Wynne: My review for this book will be up on Thursday, so I won't say too much about it. I felt very mixed about this book as well--I liked some aspects, but other others. This is a very weird and rather dark book in relation to content and it's not going to be for everyone.

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten: Another one that left me mixed! Loved the atmosphere and setup, but the execution felt a bit muddled and somewhat derivative. Still, I'd recommend it because it was enjoyable and has some great elements--I'll have a review up for this in June, as well, with hopefully better written thoughts. 

The Constant Rabbit        The Binding

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde: This was my before-bed read over the past couple weeks and it was a really fun pick. You can't really go wrong with Jasper Fforde if you're looking for some really on-the-nose satire. 

The Binding by Bridget Collins: I had had this checked out from the library for what seemed like months when I decided to read it quickly before I had to return it. Why did I wait so long to read this? I even have a beautiful UK edition of this book with a beautiful naked cover that I got a couple years ago (I don't have it with me at my apartment right now, hence the library copy) and still took until now to read it. But regardless of all that, this book was beautiful and unexpectedly heartbreaking at times, so be warned! Absolutely worth the read, though, I found it very compelling and hard to put down.

Ariadne        The Jasmine Throne (Burning Kingdoms #1)

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint: I love checking out new Greek myth retellings, and Ariadne is such a great addition to that subgenre! I'll be participating in a blog tour for this one next week where I'll include my review, so be sure to stick around for that if you're interested!

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri: I'll also have a review up for this later in June, but this was a really beautiful story that I know people are going to love! I actually didn't end up loving this as much as I expected to considering how much I loved SUri's previous two books, Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash, but I am definitely still interested in continuing on with the series. 

Into the Jungle        The Children of Húrin

Into the Jungle by Erica Ferencik: I'm so glad I finally got to read a copy of this from my library because it was such an unexpectedly beautiful and moving story. I thought this would sort of be a little thriller-esque journey into the jungle, but instead it was a deeper exploration of culture, love, adapting to new surroundings, finding yourself, and so much more. Highly recommended! I'm not sure when I'll have time for it, but I'd like to post a review for this one as well. 

The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien: I really loved this book! I've read both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings over the years, but I hadn't yet made it through any of the other tales from the Middle Earth universe (other than probably halfway through The Silmarillion), so I was a little nervous about this one, but it was such a great–although extremely tragic!–story that I was fully immersed in. If you enjoy the LOTR books or The Hobbit, you'll probably like this one. It's written in a very entertaining and readable manner, so don't be hesitant like I was!


Have you read any of these books? What are some of your recent reads?

Friday, April 30, 2021

Month in Review: April 2021

April seems to have been an exceptionally busy month--does anyone else feel that way? It's also the longest any month has felt this entire year, so perhaps that played into it a bit. I keep looking at books I read at the beginning of April and being completely shocked that I read that this past month because it feels like I read it ages ago. Am I alone in this, too, or is similar for all of you as well?
In reading news, it appears April was a pretty strong month! I read far more five-star books than I realized, and I'm starting to wonder if I'm becoming too easy please, haha. Either way, it's great for me because that just means I'm enjoying what I read. A few standouts from the month were The Shadow of the Gods, Into the Jungle, Malice, The Binding (which was a long overdue read!), and Firebreak! I guess that's a lot of standouts. Ariadne was also a beautiful Greek myth retelling that I would highly recommend!

In personal news, April was my last full month of my Master's program! I have one more paper due next week and a final next week, and then I'm completely done. It's a bit surreal, to be honest, to be finished once again with school after everything that's happened over the years. It also feels a bit anticlimactic since I don't have any immediate plans post-graduation other than to find a better job (not one related to my degree, probably), haha. I have a massive weight lifted off my shoulders, though, but I also have a bit of sadness to be leaving my professors and classmates behind. But my god--freedom feels good. And hopefully I can find a halfway decent job, but I haven't had much luck thus far so I'm keeping my expectations low.

Anyway, enough about me--how was your month? Have you read any new favorites books, or anything that just didn't work for you? Do let me know in the comments how things are, I love hearing from you all!

# books read: 13

The Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga, #1)The Widow Queen (The Bold, #1)Into the JungleThe Children of Húrin
The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne 
Source: Publisher (Orbit) | Format: Physical ARC

The Widow Queen by Elzbieta Cherezinska 
Source: NetGalley | Format: eARC

Into the Jungle by Erica Ferencik 
Source: Library | Format: Hardcover

The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien 
Source: Owned | Format: Hardcover

The Jasmine Throne (Burning Kingdoms #1)Malice (Malice Duology #1)Near the BoneFirebreak
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri .75
Source: Publisher (Orbit) | Format: Physical ARC

Malice by Heather Walter 
Source: NetGalley | Format: eARC

Near the Bone by Christine Henry 
Source: NetGalley | Format: eARC

Firebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace 
Source: Publisher (Saga/Gallery Press) | Format: Physical ARC

AriadneFor the Wolf (Wilderwood, #1)The Binding
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint 
Source: NetGalley | Format: eARC

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten .75
Source: Publisher (Orbit) | Format: Physical ARC

The Binding by Bridget Collins 
Source: Library | Format: Hardcover

The Constant RabbitThe Effort
The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde 
Source: Library | Format: Hardcover

The Effort by Claire Holroyde ★.75
Source: Publisher (GCP) | Format: Hardcover



PiranesiThe Widow Queen (The Bold, #1)The Light of the Midnight StarsThe Last Watch (The Divide, #1)Near the BoneMalice (Malice Duology #1)Blood and Treasure: Daniel Boone and the Fight for America's First FrontierIn Deeper WatersThe Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga, #1)Firebreak

(other than reviews)

Top Five/Ten Tuesday:

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Review: Firebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace

Firebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace
Gallery/Saga Press
Publication Date: May 4th, 2021
Hardcover. 412 pages.

About Firebreak:

"Like everyone else she knows, Mallory is an orphan of the corporate war. As a child, she lost her parents, her home, and her entire building in an airstrike. As an adult, she lives in a cramped hotel room with eight other people, all of them working multiple jobs to try to afford water and make ends meet. And the job she’s best at is streaming a popular VR war game. The best part of the game isn’t killing enemy combatants, though—it’s catching in-game glimpses of SpecOps operatives, celebrity supersoldiers grown and owned by Stellaxis, the corporation that runs the America she lives in. 

Until a chance encounter with a SpecOps operative in the game leads Mal to a horrifying discovery: the real-life operatives weren’t created by Stellaxis. They were kids, just like her, who lost everything in the war, and were stolen and augmented and tortured into becoming supersoldiers. The world worships them, but the world believes a lie. 

The company controls every part of their lives, and defying them puts everything at risk—her water ration, her livelihood, her connectivity, her friends, her life—but she can’t just sit on the knowledge. She has to do something—even if doing something will bring the wrath of the most powerful company in the world down upon her."

Firebreak is a book that completely took me by surprise by how much intensity, heart, and hope it had wrapped up in an action-packed, highly engaging story. At the outset, Firebreak appears to be a story about a VR gamer stuck working multiple jobs just to get by in a world where water is scarce to come by and essentially owned by an enormous corporate company. Once you dive deeper in, however, it starts to become more apparent that there is a lot more going on here (not that what was mentioned previously wasn't enough!). Within the game are 'SpecOps' operatives who are in-game versions of real-life 'superhero'-like figures that exist in the real world and battle some of the pretty crazy tech monsters that threaten different places. 

I was slightly hesitant going into Firebreak because I felt like this was a setup I've read more than once before and one that can be pretty hit or miss–'gaming stories' aren't always a hit for me, no matter how much I wish they were–and I'm glad to say I was entirely misled with my hesitance because this book grabbed me from the first page and didn't let go until I put the book down. The VR game and water scarcity situation may be the starting point for everything that happens in this book, but they are at the same time not even close to being what this book is about.

Firebreak has an incredible protagonist and supporting cast of characters. Mallory (aka Mal) was such a well-crafted character who felt undeniably real and full of life. She struggles with a lot of conflicts that are both internal and external and that made it easy to connect with. I absolutely loved Mal's initially quiet bravery that turned into so much larger than herself; I found her gradual shift from a gamer just trying to make it into someone fighting for what is right extremely well-executed and done in a way that felt authentic. There was no overnight shift, but rather a gradual realization that shifted into an unavoidable need to stop living according to the way they were used to. 
Although we only follow a single perspective from Mal, the supporting characters in this book still held their own in the scenes they held. 22 is arguably the most prominent character outside of Mal's incredibly loyal and amazing best friend, Jessa, and I appreciated how Kornher-Stace slowly introduced us to him without overdoing it. The other characters all seemed to have distinct personalities that helped them to stand out and have interactions with Mal and one another that felt realistic. (Also, if you are someone who enjoys reading about backstories, Kornher-Stace has a short story in Uncanny Magazine featuring some background on the SpecOps figures from Firebreak.)

There are a lot of books out there that deal with a single person or group attempting to buck the system and essentially change the world. Although all the messages in those books are great, I often find the way that they are conveyed a bit cheesy and over-done, and I didn't get that feeling at all while reading Firebreak. I really felt inspired by this book and by seeing the characters take a stand. I think I especially appreciated how things felt a bit more realistic in the sense that when the corporation attempted to invalidate Mal and the things she said, there were still people out there who supported her and/or had 'receipts' to prove she wasn't bad. It felt like a sharp contrast to other books where the person rebelling is immediately branded an outcast and left to fend for their own--in this book, there were people there to back our protagonist up and band together with her to stay strong, and that was really important to me. I also really appreciated how Kornher-Stace highlighted the fact that being a 'martyr' for a cause or standing up for something has grave consequences and is not at all as glorious as it may often appear, because that is a cost  that I think a lot of people don't think about or consider all the time. It takes a lot to not back down, and I loved watching how Mal navigated this terrifying journey.

One other notable aspect of this book that I think worth mentioning is how well-written it was in general. There is a lot of information to be learned in this book, including gameplay, world-building, and a general understanding of the culture that exists in a world dominated by water-hoarding mega corporations. Somehow, though, Kornher-Stace managed to convey all of the information in a way that felt mostly natural and easy to follow. There's a decent bit of info-dumping, but it was the good sort of info-dumping that I could follow along with. I also found the gameplay itself surprisingly entertaining; it's easy for me to get a bit bored or bogged down in gameplay sequences, but it was written in a way that allowed me to actually understand what was going on and be able to picture everything in my head in a way that I don't always get in other books. The pacing was also spot on, which only helped with all the aforementioned elements. There was plenty of action in this book, but it's balanced out with some great character development and scenes focused on internal struggles and of Mal and relationships with those around her.

This book ended up being a lot more emotional and inspiring than I expected it to be. Kornher-Stace hit all the right notes in conveying just how momentous some of the steps the characters took were. If you like sci-fi, well-written characters with great personality, uprisings, or just a compelling story in general, then be sure to pick up a copy of Firebreak! Overall, it was a five-star read for me.
 *I received a copy of Firebreak courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.* 

Buy the book: Amazon | IndieBound

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng by K.S. Villoso, The Ones We're Meant to Find by Joan He, & We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker

Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.
May is packed with releases, which means we are once again going to be featuring three books each week for Can't-Wait Wednesday because one or two are simply not enough. :)

This week's upcoming book spotlights are: 
The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng (Chronicles of the Bitch Queen, #3)
The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng (Chronicles of the Bitch Quuen #3) by K.S. Villoso
Publication: May 4th, 2021
Paperback. 448 pages.
Pre-order: AmazonIndieBound

"The stunning finale to the Chronicles of the Bitch Queen trilogy where the queen of a divided land must unite her people against the enemies who threaten to tear her country apart. K. S. Villoso is a "powerful new voice in fantasy." (Kameron Hurley)
Queen Talyien is finally home, but dangers she never imagined await her in the shadowed halls of her father's castle.
War is on the horizon. Her son has been stolen from her, her warlords despise her, and across the sea, a cursed prince threatens her nation with invasion in order to win her hand.
Worse yet, her father's ancient secrets are dangerous enough to bring Jin Sayeng to ruin. Dark magic tears rifts in the sky, preparing to rain down madness, chaos, and the possibility of setting her nation aflame.
Bearing the brunt of the past and uncertain about her future, Talyien will need to decide between fleeing her shadows or embracing them before the whole world becomes an inferno."
I'm not sure what to say about this other than: I'm so excited to find out how Villoso is going to wrap up this incredible and unpredictable trilogy! I've really been enjoying this series and I'm glad I'll get a chance to pick up the finale soon. :)

The Ones We're Meant to Find
The Ones We're Meant to Find by Joan He
Publication: May 4th, 2021
Roaring Brook Press
Hardcover. 384 pages.
Pre-order: AmazonIndieBound

"Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay. Determined to find her, Cee devotes her days to building a boat from junk parts scavenged inland, doing everything in her power to survive until the day she gets off the island and reunites with her sister.
In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara is also living a life of isolation. The eco-city she calls home is one of eight levitating around the world, built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. With natural disasters on the rise due to climate change, eco-cities provide clean air, water, and shelter. Their residents, in exchange, must spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods, conducting business virtually whenever possible to reduce their environmental footprint. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn’t mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia much preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return.
Now it’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But as the public decries her stance, she starts to second guess herself and decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own."
I'm not usually a big fan of people on covers, but since the moment I saw this cover I was absolutely enraptured by it and it's pretty much what made me have to know what it was about--and I think it sounds like an amazing story, also!


We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker
Publication: May 11th, 2021
Berkley Books
Paperback. 368 pages.
Pre-order: AmazonIndieBound

"Everybody's getting one. 

Val and Julie just want what's best for their kids, David and Sophie. So when teenage son David comes home one day asking for a Pilot, a new brain implant to help with school, they reluctantly agree. This is the future, after all. 

Soon, Julie feels mounting pressure at work to get a Pilot to keep pace with her colleagues, leaving Val and Sophie part of the shrinking minority of people without the device. 

Before long, the implications are clear, for the family and society: get a Pilot or get left behind. With government subsidies and no downside, why would anyone refuse? And how do you stop a technology once it's everywhere? Those are the questions Sophie and her anti-Pilot movement rise up to answer, even if it puts them up against the Pilot's powerful manufacturer and pits Sophie against the people she loves most."
I'm honestly ever-so-slightly hesitant about this one simply because this feels very similar in premise to other books I've read, but I did  enjoy Pinsker's A Song for a New Day and I have high hopes that she can do something cool with this one! It's definitely a premise I'm drawn to and I can't wait to have a chance to check it out!

What do you think about these upcoming releases? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?