Review: Burn Down, Rise Up

Title: Burn Down, Rise Up
Author: Vincent Tirado
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Contemporary
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Raincoast Books
Format: Paperback ARC
Release Date: May 3, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Stranger Things meets Get Out in this Sapphic Horror debut from nonbinary, Afro-Latine author Vincent Tirado.

Mysterious disappearances.

An urban legend rumored to be responsible.

And one group of teens determined to save their city at any cost.

For over a year, the Bronx has been plagued by sudden disappearances that no one can explain. Sixteen-year-old Raquel does her best to ignore it. After all, the police only look for the white kids. But when her crush Charlize’s cousin goes missing, Raquel starts to pay attention—especially when her own mom comes down with a mysterious illness that seems linked to the disappearances.

Raquel and Charlize team up to investigate, but they soon discover that everything is tied to a terrifying urban legend called the Echo Game. The game is rumored to trap people in a sinister world underneath the city, and the rules are based on a particularly dark chapter in New York’s past. And if the friends want to save their home and everyone they love, they will have to play the game and destroy the evil at its heart—or die trying.

Review:

Fifteen-year-old Racquel has been ignoring the recent disappearances in her home of the Bronx for the last year. When Cisco, the cousin of her crush Charlize, goes missing and her mom comes down with a mysterious illness that’s linked to the disappearance, Racquel has to figure out what’s going on. Racquel and Charlize team up to play the Echo Game, which Cisco was playing when he went missing. She starts having visions of a burning version of the Bronx, which is hidden in the underground game. The game starts to blend into their reality, so they have to finish the game and make it out alive before it kills them. 

This story was so intense and hard to put down. The Echo Game was a terrifying ride through the subway, and the rules had to be followed precisely so that they wouldn’t get trapped there. The underground version of the Bronx was burning and full of the walking dead, so that added to the tension. 

The history of the Bronx was an important part of this story. I’ve never been there and I didn’t know the horrific history. The buildings were turned into slums and many were burned down in fires in the 1970s. There was even a bridge built that was too low to allow buses through so people couldn’t travel under the bridge. These were systemic problems that are still affecting them today. I appreciated that this history was woven into the narrative. 

Burn Down, Rise Up is an intense page-turner!

Thank you Raincoast Books and Sourcebooks Fire for providing a copy of this book.

What to read next:

Survive the Dome by Kosoko Jackson

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Have you read Burn Down, Rise Up? What did you think of it?

Review: The Kindred

Title: The Kindred
Author: Alechia Dow
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: January 4, 2022
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

To save a galactic kingdom from revolution, Kindred mind-pairings were created to ensure each and every person would be seen and heard, no matter how rich or poor…

Joy Abara knows her place. A commoner from the lowly planet Hali, she lives a simple life—apart from the notoriety that being Kindred to the nobility’s most infamous playboy brings.

Duke Felix Hamdi has a plan. He will exasperate his noble family to the point that they agree to let him choose his own future and finally meet his Kindred face-to-face.

Then the royal family is assassinated, putting Felix next in line for the throne…and accused of the murders. Someone will stop at nothing until he’s dead, which means they’ll target Joy, too. Meeting in person for the first time as they steal a spacecraft and flee amid chaos might not be ideal…and neither is crash-landing on the strange backward planet called Earth. But hiding might just be the perfect way to discover the true strength of the Kindred bond and expose a scandal—and a love—that may decide the future of a galaxy.

Review:

On the distant planet of Hali, Kindreds are mind-pairings that connect two people throughout their lives, whether they are rich or poor. Joy Abara is an ordinary girl, but she’s known for being the Kindred of Duke Felix Hamdi. They are closer than two people can be. Some people marry their Kindred, but Joy and Felix can’t marry since he’s from a noble family. Despite that, they still want to meet and continue their close relationship. However, when the royal family is assassinated, Felix is next in line for the throne and he is also the prime suspect. Joy is also a target since she is so close to Felix. He finds Joy and they escape to a distant planet called Earth. They have to navigate Earth while also fleeing from the those hunting for them and learning to love each other.

This was a fun science fiction story. The idea of Kindreds was exciting and terrifying. The Kindreds had a special and unique bond. They experienced everything together, even if they had never met. They could hear each other’s thoughts and feel each other’s feelings. The downside is that they can feel each other’s pain, and potentially die if their Kindred dies. This made Joy vulnerable when Felix was in trouble and created a lot of conflict and tension.

Music was an important part of this story, just like it was in Alechia Dow’s novel The Sound of Stars. This story also featured some of the same musicians that were in that book, so they were set in the same world. I love it when there are subtle connections between books like that. The ending of this book was also open to a continuation, so I hope there will be more books set in this world.

The Kindred is an exciting new story!

Thank you HarperCollins for providing a copy of this book.

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer

Have you read The Kindred? What did you think of it?

Review: The Annual Migration of Clouds

Title: The Annual Migration of Clouds
Author: Premee Mohamed
Genre: Science Fiction, Novella
Publisher: ECW Press
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 28, 2021
Rating: ★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

In post-climate disaster Alberta, a woman infected with a mysterious parasite must choose whether to pursue a rare opportunity far from home or stay and help rebuild her community.

The world is nothing like it once was: climate disasters have wracked the continent, causing food shortages, ending industry, and leaving little behind. Then came Cad, mysterious mind-altering fungi that invade the bodies of the now scattered citizenry. Reid, a young woman who carries this parasite, has been given a chance to get away – to move to one of the last remnants of pre-disaster society – but she can’t bring herself to abandon her mother and the community that relies on her.

When she’s offered a coveted place on a dangerous and profitable mission, she jumps at the opportunity to set her family up for life, but how can Reid ask people to put their trust in her when she can’t even trust her own mind?

Review:

Many years in the future, the world has faced climate disasters, resulting in food shortages and parasite diseases. Reid lives with her mom, and both of them are infected with Cad, a parasite that tries to control what they do with their bodies. When Reid is accepted to a university in one of the only preserved cities left, she’s eager to leave. Most of the people in their community are proud of Reid, but her mother is suspicious of this too-good-to-be-true offer. Reid has to figure out how to make sure her mom is taken care of while she’s gone, while also contemplating if she should leave her mom and the community.

This story has a disturbing look at what the future could look like. They didn’t have any of the conveniences we take advantage of, including available food and running water. There had been viruses that had killed people, and Reid was currently infected with a parasite. This story had a creepy possible future that could happen if we don’t look after the planet.

I predicted the way this story ended fairly early on. It was a literary style book, and it had an open ending. I didn’t get the closure that I wanted. I would have loved to see this story continue because I want to know what happens next, though I know that’s the style of the story.

The Annual Migration of Clouds is a creepy dystopia story.

Gutter Child by Jael Richardson

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Have you read The Annual Migration of Clouds? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Excerpt: The Kindred

Title: The Kindred
Author: Alechia Dow
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release Date: January 4, 2021

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Goodreads Synopsis:

To save a galactic kingdom from revolution, Kindred mind-pairings were created to ensure each and every person would be seen and heard, no matter how rich or poor…

Joy Abara knows her place. A commoner from the lowly planet Hali, she lives a simple life—apart from the notoriety that being Kindred to the nobility’s most infamous playboy brings.

Duke Felix Hamdi has a plan. He will exasperate his noble family to the point that they agree to let him choose his own future and finally meet his Kindred face-to-face.

Then the royal family is assassinated, putting Felix next in line for the throne…and accused of the murders. Someone will stop at nothing until he’s dead, which means they’ll target Joy, too. Meeting in person for the first time as they steal a spacecraft and flee amid chaos might not be ideal…and neither is crash-landing on the strange backward planet called Earth. But hiding might just be the perfect way to discover the true strength of the Kindred bond and expose a scandal—and a love—that may decide the future of a galaxy.

Excerpt:

Excerpted from The Kindred by Alechia Dow, © 2022 by Alechia Dow. Used with permission by HarperCollins/Inkyard Press.

CHAPTER 1

FELIX

Looking this pretty takes time.

The clothes must be expensive but not gaudy, complex but not as if I put in all my effort. My hair must look styled but like I’ve walked through a gentle, aimless breeze, and I cannot be sweaty, which, on a planet known for having three suns, is rather difficult.

Parties that start early are the worst anyway. Everyone should be thanking me, not giving me the stink-eye, which they are. For some reason, they expect me to actually show up on time.

“Look who decided to join us,” the drummer from The Monchoos mutters as I step into the dimly lit hallway. We’re from the same planet, Maru-Monchuri, but there’s no comradery between us. Who could be friends with a pompous, spoiled duke like me, right? I could be better, could be the person I’m expected to be, but why waste the effort?

I give him a quick wink as I look around. This coveted, hard-to-get gig’s on Outpost 32: a man-made station between XiGra and Hali-Monchuri—Joy’s homeworld. XiGra’s a rich planet that’s not a part of the Qadin Kingdom (yet), and Hali is a part of the Qadin Kingdom, but also extremely poor. Thankfully, this outpost is the perfect mash-up of the two: international enough to be popular among wealthy travelers, cool and gritty enough to reflect the rock ’n’ roll aesthetic.

The black stone walls are plastered with band posters, grime, and beneath it all, the touch of musicians that would either make it or break it onstage. I wonder which one we’ll be tonight.

Joy humphs in my brain, but doesn’t elaborate.

She said she wouldn’t watch me choke, couldn’t be a part of another concert experience that sets off her anxiety. And yet, she can’t stay out of my head.

Of course, I’d be paired with the most judgmental Kindred in the system.

A coordinator peeks out from the curtain, a detached comm-ball hovering around their blue tentacled head. Dosani. They’re music geniuses, and probably the friendliest species in the universe. They speak Dosan into the comm, and then it flies over to us, translating.

“You’re late. Get onstage.” The voice doesn’t sound all that friendly. Weird.

My bandmates stalk behind the curtain, leaving me there in the deserted hallway for just a second. My nerves begin to spiral in the pit of my stomach, and I reach out to her, because she’s there, she’s always there—well, usually there—and she knows what I need.

Joy, I say through our connection. We’ve been together since birth. I’m exactly three minutes older than her, and I had to wait for our chips to sync for those three minutes. Not that I can remember. Still, that’s the longest I’ve been without her in my life.

The Kindred Program was created decades ago, after The Second Chaos, aka “The Revolution.” Apparently, the poor rose up, feeling like their voices weren’t heard by the rich, powerful rulers, and so the lower classes threatened a reckoning. Maru’s top scientists offered a solution: the citizens of the Monchuri system could be paired, one from the upper class, one from the lower. Establishing this would allow everyone to have a voice that could be heard, blah-blah-blah, and no more revolution. How could anyone ignore a mind pairing?

Given that I’m a duke and cousin to the Qadin royals, I was supposed to be paired with someone a little closer in economic class, because not just anyone should have a voice with the royals. Yet, I got paired with Joy.

Joy, who is dreadfully poor, living on the most impoverished planet in our system. Joy, who is my best friend, my moral compass, my judge, jury, and sometimes executioner. She’s not always my biggest fan, but she supports me in whatever I choose to do. Which isn’t much. I like traveling, adventuring to new worlds as long as my amenities are acceptable, and playing in a band. We both love music. She loves listening in as I practice, hearing new melodies outside of her Halin hymns. She thinks music has the power to transform you and make you feel anything and everything. She believes in it, just like she believes in me.

Which is why I need her right now.

Because as much as I love music—and I do, with all of my small black heart—my stage fright keeps me from making it. Already, the nausea creeps up my throat and my breaths come too fast to let oxygen into my lungs.

Joy, I say again with some urgency.

Yes, Felix…? Her question whispers through our connection. She’s there inside my mind like a perfectly clear radio channel, the only one on my brain’s frequency. She can read my thoughts, converse with me, feel my emotions. She can see what I see. She’s the one consistency in my world, and I can’t live without her. Even if our worlds seem hell-bent on keeping us apart… Nah, I don’t need to be thinking about that now.

Tell me I can do it. I run a hand through my hair and blow air out between my teeth. My feet bounce on the dirty tiles. Tell me it’s not a big deal. Easy.

You’re the most talented person I know. You can do this. And I swear, if you make me sick again, Felix, I will murder you.

I chuckle. It’s not my fault you get sympathy pains.

The stronger we accept the bond in our minds, the stronger the feelings, including negative ones. Pain, illness, anxiety, sadness, anger… It can be so intense in such bonds that if one Kindred were to die, the other might follow shortly after. It occurs in maybe one in a thousand pairings, but it happens. Until recently, I would have thought Joy and I would be one of those pairs. But she’s been pulling away more and more.

Go get onstage! They’ve been waiting hours for you and your beautiful voice. She laughs, shifting her body on the couch in her apartment, nearly toppling her sketch pad off her lap. Get up there, she commands again, and then she’s gone. She’s turned the volume down to a whisper and tuned me out.

I hate when she does that. I also don’t know how she does that. Why can’t we just always stay connected? Who needs space? Not me.

With that thought, I take another deep breath and strut down the hall. I tug on the velvet red curtain and step through onto the sticky levitating stage. We lift a few feet off the ground, but thankfully, unlike in most of the more modern venues, the floor doesn’t spin. Thank the Gods.

My bandmates stare at me, wide-eyed as the crowd goes wild. The excitement in the room is palpable, like a glittery haze that coats my limbs and makes me want to sing and dance and be alive. My chest rises and falls in sync with their cheers and stomps.

I both love it and hate it up here.

The band’s set up and the microphone’s hot. The lights are low, the room’s packed, and I’m going to sing, even if my stomach churns and threatens to upchuck my dinner of steamed hopfal leaves packed with gooey black rice.

I swagger up to that mic, my legs wobbling like jelly. “Hello. I’m—”

“I love you, Felix!” someone in the audience shouts, though who it is, I can’t see. They’re all shadows and faceless bodies from up here. Just the way I like them.

The light beats down on me, and sweat prickles at the edge of my scalp.

“I love you, too.” I laugh into the mic, which earns a few grumbles from my bandmates. “Now I want to…” I trail off as a shadowed body comes into view. Their eyes bore into mine. The face is one I’d know anywhere. A face that shouldn’t be here.

My throat dries up as he stalks through the crowd, waiting for me to finish. I step back, almost stumbling over my own feet. With a fleeting glance at my bandmates, I trip offstage and toward him.

The crowd boos. My brain’s short-circuiting. He’s not supposed to be in this part of my life. He’s part of the Duke’s life, the one I shrug off and leave at home whenever the opportunity arises. His being here can only be bad for me. It can only mean trouble.

My feet are on autopilot as he nods his head over to a private booth reserved just for us. I can feel my bandmates’ glares, but they begin strumming on their guitars as if I was never really a part of their group anyway—which I wasn’t. The drums pick up and the audience forgets all about me and my promises of a good time as they dance.

My visitor wears a long black tunic embroidered with crimson thread and matching pants. His golden hair’s slicked back and his vibrant golden eyes flash as I slide into the booth first. He takes the seat opposite me, flips on the privacy switch in the center of the table, and then folds his hands on the table as a translucent wall falls around the perimeter of the booth.

We sit in silence for only a moment but it feels like a lifetime as my heart hammers unsteadily in my chest.

“Do you know why I’m here, Duke Hamdi?” he asks finally, his head tilting to the side.

I suck my teeth. “My parents think I’m at some interplanetary summit for the children of dignitaries on Kippilu and they found out I was lying?”

“I don’t work for your parents.” Arren huffs, leaning back. “I work for the Qadins. You may remember them as the royals that pay for the pricey state-of-the-art ships you use to jump planets and slum in music halls—” he waves his arm at the room “—your flashy clothes and instruments that you seemingly never play onstage, and the countless opportunities that have been provided to you over the course of your short life.” There’s a bitter edge to his words that has me sitting taller. “You are a disappointment to their name.”

Arren’s a royal advisor—the royal advisor, and he has done enough over the years to earn my fear and respect. But there has to come a time when I crack.

Tonight, I was going to finally get over my stage fright and make a name for myself that had nothing to do with my actual name. All of my hard work, practicing until late at night, and pushing myself to new limits both artistically and mentally would have paid off. Instead, I’m here, missing my chance, being scolded for chasing my dreams by the royal advisor that threatened my Kindred’s life.

I will not forget, and I will not forgive.

“Do you think by doing all the Qadins’ dirty work, it’ll make you one of them? Do you think they consider you their equal?” I try to twist my lips at the corners, even if dread sinks into the bottom of my stomach. “What’ll happen if I go into politics like they so desire and come for your job?” I’m balancing on the tip of a sword, and at any second, I’ll get cut.

“You’re a fool.” Arren chuckles, though there’s no humor in it. “I do not wish to be a Qadin. I am not their equal. And you…” He trails off suddenly to look at the carefree dancers and the band that went on without me. “You have responsibilities that come with your title.”

“There are other dukes, other cousins.” My nostrils flare as I watch him. “Why do they hold me to such high standards when the others are free to do what they want?”

“Because you are meant to be much more than you are. Soon, you’ll need to step in and step up.” He holds my gaze now, and in it, I see a flicker of something that’s not frustration. It’s a thoughtful, plotting look. Arren’s got plans, and he wants me to follow them. “Soon your Kindred will marry and move on with her life. But where will you be? Failing on the stages of dingy bars—because at some point the good ones will stop booking you no matter your title—and burning through your trust fund? Do you know how many people would kill for the opportunities you have?”

Something about that question furthers my unease. Who would kill for opportunities? The Kindred Program makes sure that people are heard and happy. Murder doesn’t happen anymore. Citizens are content with their roles in life.

“Don’t you have other things to do, like I don’t know, figure out the Ilori conflict or something? Aren’t they trying to colonize us? The Qadins should be putting their energy into that, not whatever this is. What could they possibly want with me? I have no power or ambitions in politics.”

“The Qadins didn’t send me, so I don’t rightly know.” He stands, running his hands down his spotless tunic as I digest that news. If they didn’t send him, why is he here? “I came because I am looking out for your best interests. King Qadin would have no issue ignoring your existence, but I know you have a great destiny. One day, you may have power, and you could create change. Stop this music nonsense and join me, join my side. Together, we can pave our own paths in this kingdom. You could find your voice, since you can’t seem to find it onstage, and finally reach your potential. I believe in you—can you say that about anyone else?”

I barely keep the anger from my voice as I shuffle my legs beneath the table. “Is that why you threatened my Kindred?” I remember the way he had guards surround her without her noticing, pointing their weapons at her as he made me promise to never see her. Never allow her into my heart. “Was that your way of believing in me?”

“I was following orders. I work for the Qadins, but I am not one of them, and with Princess LaTanya’s impending nuptials with her Kindred, Johann Kao, I never will be.” He shakes his head, as if he didn’t mean to say that. Admittedly, it was a weird thing to say, but then I do know from the tabloids that he’s enamored with LaTanya… Still, that thought flees my mind as he continues, “They were right to make sure you keep your distance from your Kindred. There is only one person you can rely on, Duke Hamdi, and I believe, in time, you’ll come to see that. Someday soon, you will need my help. And I won’t hesitate to give it.” He slips a card onto the table and with that, he strides off, disappearing into the dancing fray.

My fingers edge the tip of the card. It’s solid black. It’s an upload, something I’d need to stick into a holo-frame monitor to access. It probably has Arren’s private info encrypted for me, so that I can learn to live up to my potential and what—overthrow the Qadins and stage a coup with him? Why would I do that? What makes him think I want any responsibility that big? Despite what he says, I learned early that my name gets me in doors, gets me a seat at the table, but that’s it. I don’t matter. No one cares about my opinions or thoughts, so why should I have them anymore?

I shove it deep in my pocket and punch the button in the center of the table for service.

He chose this night, this moment, on purpose. He probably even had Outpost 32 book this gig for me just so he could ruin it. So I would be miserable and malleable to whatever he’s plotting. But he underestimated my indifference.

At least I’m here where I can get drunk enough to drown my sorrow as the crowd dances and the music thrums through them, and me.

At least his newest power move will keep me from thinking about Joy.

About the author:

Alechia Dow is a former pastry chef, teacher, and librarian. When she’s not writing, you can find her having epic dance parties with her little girl, baking, reading, or traveling.

Where to buy:

Have you read The Kindred? What did you think of it?

Review: Believe Me (Shatter Me #6.5)

Title: Believe Me (Shatter Me #6.5)
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Novella
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Release Date: November 16, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The devastatingly romantic fifth novella in the New York Timesand USA Today bestselling Shatter Me series, chronicling the events after Imagine Me, the explosive sixth novel.

Juliette and Warner fought hard to take down the Reestablishment once and for all. Life in the aftermath isn’t easy, as they and their friends at the Sanctuary work with their limited resources to stabilize the world.

Warner has his sights set on more than just politics. Since he proposed to Juliette two weeks ago, he’s been eager to finally marry her, the person he loves more than anything and has endured so much to be with. But with so much chaos around them, it’s been nearly impossible for them to have a wedding. And even Juliette has been distracted by everything they need to do.

At long last, Warner and Juliette’s future together is within reach, but the world continues to try to pull them apart. Will they finally be able to be happily, officially, together?

Celebrate the tenth anniversary of Tahereh Mafi’s bestselling Shatter Me series with Believe Me!

Review:

Juliette and Warner are ready to begin their new lives at the Sanctuary. Their first task is to get married. However, their clothes are destroyed and they have to suddenly postpone the wedding at the last minute. Warner is devastated, and he’s certain that Juliette is hiding something from him. The world keeps pulling them apart, but they have to figure out how to be together.

This novella follows the events of the final novel in the Shatter Me series. It was a little slow at times, since the main plot has been completed in the series. There were a lot of scenes of just Warner speaking to other characters. However, I loved reuniting with these characters one last time. There was still loads of tension, even though there wasn’t as much of a plot. It was fun to revisit these characters living their new lives.

Believe Me is a great final book in the Shatter Me series!

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

Other books in the series:

Have you read Believe Me? What did you think of it?

Review: ExtraOrdinary (Villains #1.5)

Title: ExtraOrdinary (Villains #1.5)
Author: V.E. Schwab, Enid Balám
Genre: Graphic Novel, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Titan Comics
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: November 16, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Written by #1 New York Times bestselling author V.E. Schwab, Extraordinary expands deeper into the world of Schwab’s critically acclaimed novels Vicious and Vengeful.

Torn from the world of ‘Vicious’, where death is not the end, only the beginning of extraordinary powers… Three new “EO”s must grapple with their new abilities… and with those who would hunt them down! Featuring unseen character design galleries from Andrea Olimpieri and story commentary from V.E. Schwab!

Review:

After a near death experience when her school bus is involved in an accident, teenage Charlotte Tills gains extraordinary powers. When she looks at someone, she can see that person’s death in their reflection. Her own reflection shows her the man who will kill her: Eli Cardale. She has to find other EOs to figure out how to use her new power.

This graphic novel is part of the Villains series. It can be read as a stand-alone, but it does mention characters from the novels in the series, such as Eli and Victor.

Charlotte’s power of being able to see someone’s death was such an interesting power. It made it difficult to look at people, since she could see them dying, but at the same time she knew what to expect. The ending had a great cliffhanger. I didn’t know this was going to be a series of graphic novels but now I’m so excited!

ExtraOrdinary is a great Villains graphic novel!

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Other books in the series:

Have you read ExtraOrdinary? What did you think of it?

Review: Iron Widow (Iron Widow #1)

Title: Iron Widow (Iron Widow #1)
Author: Xiran Jay Zhao
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Teen
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 21, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. 

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​ 

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Review:

Eighteen-year-old Zetian signs herself up as a concubine-pilot to avenge her older sister’s death. Girls are paired with pilots, who use their qi power to power their machines and fight the aliens beyond the Great Wall, and the girls are sacrificed for their power. In Zetian’s first battle, where she is paired up with the boy who killed her sister, she surprises everyone when she survives the battle but the pilot doesn’t. Zetian is more powerful than they expected, so she’s paired up with the dangerous Li Shimin, one of the most powerful pilots they have. Now that Zetian has some power, she wants to figure out the reason behind this misogynistic situation to save girls from being sacrificed.

This book definitely lived up to the hype. It was action packed and exciting. The beginning was a little predictable, when Zetian achieved what she set out to do as a concubine-pilot immediately. Soon after avenging her sister’s death, the story picked up and had some surprising twists.

Gender was a major theme in this story. Zetian lived in a misogynistic society where the lives of girls weren’t valued. Girls were sent to the battlefield to be sacrificed during alien battles. However, when Zetian gained some power, with having a high qi rating and having avenged her sister’s death, she was prepared to prevent girls from being sacrificed in the future.

Iron Widow is an amazing fantasy debut!

Thank you Penguin Random House Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan

The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker

Have you read Iron Widow? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review: Lies My Memory Told Me

Title: Lies My Memory Told Me
Author: Sacha Wunsch
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Science Fiction
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: October 19, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

From the thrilling voice of Sacha Wunsch comes a heart-stopping psychological mystery in a world where memories can be shared—and one girl can’t trust any of them. 

Enhanced Memory changed everything. By sharing someone else’s memory, you can experience anything and everything with no risk at all: learn any skill instantly, travel the world from home, and safeguard all your most treasured secrets forever. Nova’s parents invented this technology, and it’s slowly taking over their lives. Nova doesn’t mind—mostly. She knows Enhanced Memory is a gift.

But Kade says Nova doesn’t know the costs of this technology that’s taken the world by storm. Kade runs a secret vlog cataloging real experiences, is always on the move, and is strangely afraid of Nova—even though she feels more comfortable with him than she ever has with anyone. Suddenly there are things Nova can’t stop noticing: the way her parents don’t meet her eyes anymore, the questions no one wants her to ask, and the relentless feeling that there’s something she’s forgotten…

Review:

Nova’s parents invented Enhanced Memories, which is technology that allows you to instantly gain a memory, including learning a skill, traveling the world, or doing a dangerous activity. Now, people can live through risky activities, such as skydiving or doing drugs, without any dangerous consequences. Though Nova’s parents created Enhanced Memories, she doesn’t know the real impact of this technology on the world. Then, she meets Kade. Kade has an anonymous YouTube account where he does risky activities that are now obsolete since people don’t have to do them to have the experience. Nova and Kade have different opinions on the effects of Enhanced Memory, but she is still drawn to him. When people start treating Nova differently, she starts her own research into what Enhanced Memories, and her parents, are really hiding from her.

This story hooked me right from the start. Immediately, there were things in Nova’s life that didn’t make sense. When she was out with friends, there were people who would approach her, thinking she was someone else. Nova worked part-time in a nursing home with a memory care unit. There were some great practical uses of Enhanced Memory with those patients, since their memories could be saved before they were lost. However, as with all inventions that seem helpful at first, Enhanced Memory was used in harmful ways as well.

Nova was a senior in high school, but the storyline about her school got lost throughout the book. The story focused more on her part time job and her social life. It would have made more sense to have that school storyline continue, since she was still a teenager. I also would have loved to see a longer ending where there was more closure. I really enjoyed this story, and I would love to see what happens next.

Lies My Memory Told Me was a great new YA contemporary novel!

Thank you Inkyard Press for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

This Is Why We Lie by Gabriella Lepore

This Town Is Not All Right by M.K. Krys

About the author:

Sacha Wunsch grew up dividing her time between the family farm in Canada and traveling to numerous fictional worlds. She was a bookseller before discovering her love of writing mind-twisty novels – which has proved an excellent job since she gets to blame all the TV she watches on her love of storytelling. She now splits her time between the city and the lake, and still travels to made-up worlds as often as she can.

Have you read Lies My Memory Told Me? What did you think of it?

Review: Doctor Who: The Wonderful Doctor of Oz

Title: Doctor Who: The Wonderful Doctor of Oz
Author: Jacqueline Rayner
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: BBC Children’s Books
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Release Date: June 10, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Embark on a strange and enchanting adventure with old foes and monsters in this glorious crossover of Doctor Who and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

When a sudden tornado engulfs the TARDIS, the Thirteenth Doctor and her fam find themselves transported to the magical land of Oz. With a damaged TARDIS and an unexpected stowaway from the 1930s, their only hope of getting home is to follow the yellow brick road.

But when an army of scarecrows ambushes them, they quickly realise that everything is not as it should be, and they’re thrown into a fight for survival against a mysterious enemy. As each of her companions becomes a shadow of their former selves, only the Doctor is left standing.

Desperate to save her friends, she must embark on a perilous journey to seek help from the mysterious Wizard of Oz – and stop whatever forces are at work before she and her friends are trapped in the fictional world forever.

Review:

The Thirteenth Doctor and her fam, Ryan, Graham, and Yaz, travelled back to the 1930s to see the premiere of The Wizard of Oz. However, when they land, they discover that no one has ever heard of L. Frank Baum or The Wizard of Oz. Then, the Tardis is pulled into a tornado, landing them in the land of Oz. The Doctor and her friends, along with a young man named Theodore who stowed away in the 1930s, have to follow the yellow brick road to see the Wizard and save Oz.

This story was a clever combination of The Wizard of Oz and Doctor Who. The Oz that they visited was mostly based on the book, which is slightly different from the movie. In place of some of the characters from Oz, were Doctor Who characters, such as the Cyberman who stood in for the Tin Man. Each of the Doctor’s companions also faced the same problems that Dorothy’s companions faced in the original after some accidents: needing a brain, a heart, and courage.

Gender was an important part of the story. The Thirteenth Doctor is the first female Doctor. In this story, she meets the Doctor’s longtime enemy the Master, in her female form, called Missy. This was an interesting meeting since these two female characters never met on the TV show. Though Missy is on the cover, she wasn’t in the story for very long. I would have loved to see more of her on the page because she’s an interesting character. There was also a clever ending that you’ll have to read to find out!

The Wonderful Doctor of Oz is a fun Doctor Who story.

What to read next:

Doctor Who: Combat Magicks by Steve Cole

Doctor Who: Legends of Camelot by Jacqueline Rayner

Have you read Doctor Who: The Wonderful Doctor of Oz? What did you think of it?

Review: Doctor Who: The Runaway Tardis

Title: Doctor Who: The Runaway Tardis
Author: Rebecca Gyllenhaal, Kim Smith (illustrator)
Genre: Children’s, Picture Book, Science Fiction
Publisher: Quirk Books
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: June 23, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Join the Doctor and her smallest companion on a madcap adventure through time and space! The beloved sci-fi TV series is now a charming picture book, perfect for Doctor Who fans of all ages.

Unable to make friends at her new school, Lizzie packs a bag and runs away. After accidentally stowing away in the TARDIS, she meets the Doctor, a mysterious woman who claims to be a time-traveling space alien. When the TARDIS malfunctions, Lizzie and the Doctor are sent catapulting through time and space, visiting the pyramids, the dinosaurs, an alien planet, and more. Along the way, Lizzie learns that making new friends isn’t so hard after all . . . but will she ever be able to get back home? Featuring Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor and an adorable new alien species, this sweet storybook is a must-have for Whovians everywhere, young and old alike. 

Review:

Lizzie is having trouble making friends at her new school, so she packs some peanut butter sandwiches and runs away. As she’s running through the park, she finds a blue police box and goes inside. Lizzie hides in the box, which is bigger on the inside, until a woman comes in and causes the box to move. The woman is the Doctor, and her box, the Tardis, begins to malfunction. The Doctor and Lizzie visit many places throughout time and space such as the dinosaurs and the pyramids in Egypt. They eventually have to get a special species of engineers to fix the Tardis so that Lizzie can return to her home.

This was such a fun book for young fans of Doctor Who. There are classic Doctor Who moments, such as when the Doctor can’t figure out what’s wrong with the Tardis, and the classic phrases “wibbly wobbly” and “bigger on the inside.” This short story captured the atmosphere of an episode of the show.

Lizzie’s story perfectly mirrored the Doctor’s life. Lizzie didn’t have friends, so she wanted to run away from home. The Doctor has struggled with loneliness and the loss of companions throughout the series, so she had this in common with Lizzie. The Doctor is constantly running away from something or someone, so she could also be considered a runaway, like Lizzie. I liked this comparison to teach children about loneliness.

Doctor Who: The Runaway Tardis is a great children’s book!

What to read next:

The X Files: Earth Children Are Weird by Jason Rekulak, Kim Smith (illustrator)

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial by Jim Thomas, Kim Smith (illustrator)

Have you read Doctor Who: The Runaway Tardis? What did you think of it?