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6/28/2021 • 1 comment • Filed Under: Adult Fiction, Reviews, Science Fiction

Publication date: May 4th 2021
Publisher: Gallery / Saga Press
ISBN: 198214274X
ISBN13: 9781982142742

New Liberty City, 2134.

Two corporations have replaced the US, splitting the country’s remaining forty-five states (five have been submerged under the ocean) between them: Stellaxis Innovations and Greenleaf. There are nine supercities within the continental US, and New Liberty City is the only amalgamated city split between the two megacorps, and thus at a perpetual state of civil war as the feeds broadcast the atrocities committed by each side.

Here, Mallory streams Stellaxis’s wargame SecOps on BestLife, spending more time jacked in than in the world just to eke out a hardscrabble living from tips. When a chance encounter with one of the game’s rare super-soldiers leads to a side job for Mal—looking to link an actual missing girl to one of the SecOps characters. Mal’s sudden burst in online fame rivals her deepening fear of what she is uncovering about BestLife’s developer, and puts her in the kind of danger she’s only experienced through her avatar.

Thank you for Saga Press via NetGalley for the free copy! I’ve since bought my own copy to keep forever.

I finished this book on June 10th, and as I write this review, it’s eleven days later. I’m still living inside this book.

The past few years, it’s been difficult to really get into books. Gone are the days where I could stay up all night and read, and feel completely transported by the experience. The characters rarely jump off the page, the plot is usually good but not enough to suck in me; none of the books have been bad, it’s just how my experience has changed as I’ve passed into my twenties. I still love reading—it’s my favorite form of entertainment—but I have had to adjust to a new normal. Or so I thought.

From the moment I picked up Firebreak, I needed to know what came next.

From the very first page, I felt sucked into the story. It wastes no time in getting straight to the plot, which I really enjoyed. So many sci-fis feel the need to explain a lot up front, instead of weaving it throughout the story, and it ends up being a lot to process right away. Kornher-Stace feeds enough info to you to help you understand what’s going on, but not so much that I found myself overwhelmed. It was the exact pacing I needed to be able to dig myself a home within the story.

I’m a huge fan of Ready Player One but I don’t think the comparison is fair. Sure, it has a gamer as its protagonist, but RPO pretty much entirely takes place in the Oasis (at least, the most important parts do). Firebreak does not take place inside its game nearly as much. In fact, the latter half of the book spends most of its time in the real world, and for good reason. I understand the comparison from a marketing standpoint (that is, in fact, what initially drew me in) but do not go into it expecting something similar. Firebreak is a much more serious, higher stakes read that rocked me in a way that Ready Player One never could. Mal is a more likable character than Wade Watts; where Wade clearly develops a massive ego (especially in Ready Player Two) and spends a whole lot of time doing nothing, that’s not an option for Mal. It’s not filled with nostalgia and there’s no grand inheritance. It’s a story of war, loss, and the effects those things have on the people who survive them. The game is just a catalyst to the overarching plot.

As with any story about war, or any actual war, there are senseless deaths that are unreconcilable throughout the story. There are two, in particular, that devastated me. There are events that go unexplained, as Mal has no way to know the outcome, and that I appreciated. In another book, it might’ve annoyed me but when I considered the perspective from which this is written, I found no way for them to be explained. Mal is just a girl, not a soldier. She was thrown into this path without preparation or real knowledge of what it would mean later on. And goddamn did she fight like hell.

When I first finished the book, mixed emotions settled into my brain. I was pissed off; I was beside myself with grief. I wished there was more to the story… I needed there to be more. In the days that followed, I found my mind drifting back to the story until I suddenly just started crying. Like, in the middle of the work day, full on tears. That was the moment I realized that the book was my new favorite. That is what I really desired from books, I realized: ones that leave me thinking, searching for answers to the unanswerable long after it’s over.

I have yet to shut the fuck up about Firebreak. I’m pretty sure that my friends are a little annoyed with me but I don’t mind. I will scream it from the rooftops because this book is too underrated for how absolutely amazing it is. It is, without a doubt, my favorite book of 2021. I’ve read some really good ones this year but this one is really special.

If you’re looking for a good song to transport yourself into the story, listen to the one below! I definitely maybe might have cried when I first listened to it…

Currently Listening To: Fragile Bones - Palisades

6/08/2021 • comments off • Filed Under: Reviews, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Publication date: June 20th 2020
Publisher: Razorbill
ISBN: 1984835920
ISBN13: 9781984835925

When Andra wakes up, she’s drowning.

Not only that, but she’s in a hot, dirty cave, it’s the year 3102, and everyone keeps calling her Goddess. When Andra went into a cryonic sleep for a trip across the galaxy, she expected to wake up in a hundred years, not a thousand. Worst of all, the rest of the colonists—including her family and friends—are dead. They died centuries ago, and for some reason, their descendants think Andra’s a deity. She knows she’s nothing special, but she’ll play along if it means she can figure out why she was left in stasis and how to get back to Earth.

Zhade, the exiled bastard prince of Eerensed, has other plans. Four years ago, the sleeping Goddess’s glass coffin disappeared from the palace, and Zhade devoted himself to finding it. Now he’s hoping the Goddess will be the key to taking his rightful place on the throne—if he can get her to play her part, that is. Because if his people realize she doesn’t actually have the power to save their dying planet, they’ll kill her.

With a vicious monarch on the throne and a city tearing apart at the seams, Zhade and Andra might never be able to unlock the mystery of her fate, let alone find a way to unseat the king, especially since Zhade hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with Andra. And a thousand years from home, is there any way of knowing that Earth is better than the planet she’s woken to?

I’m starting to write this review on the very same day that I finished this book, and holy shit. My mind is everywhere. I feel exceptionally (exceptionalish?) late to this book, since it came out last summer, and was apart of my July 2020 Owlcrate, but I’ve been slowly working my way through my backlog. When I saw a post on Bookstagram about it, and realized it sounded a bit like Across the Universe by Beth Revis—one of my favorite series of all time—it immediately jumped to the next spot on my reading list.

Let’s talk about the not-so-great part first. When Andra awakes, she finds a barren world, and a boy. That boy speaks English but the words are shortened and changed (for example, any of our words that end in -ly now end with -ish, and “marah” roughly translates to “Am I right?” and “evens” is “okay,” etc). It’s fairly simple to figure out, but it was painstaking in the beginning. I often read before bed and my eyes were crossing in the first 60-70 pages from trying to figure out the words. Thankfully, I found myself eventually able to do it without much thought. Side note, I love the lighthearted insult, “You spoon.” That’s a great one, lol. Once I was past the initial difficulty, I began to really appreciate the effort that it must’ve taken to create the language.

When Andra awakens, she finds herself on a dying world. Much of the book takes place under the bio’dome known as Eerensed, a city that is the last oasis left on the new planet. I can’t say too much about the setting without spoiling a good portion of the book, but I can say that the author did an amazing job of creating not only the barren world surrounding Eerensed but the city itself is no place I’d like to live. It’s crowded, claustrophobic, and unsafe. There’s multiple underground organizations bent on ridding the world of Andra and any other goddesses. And as we find out in the beginning, they already have gotten rid of others like her.

There’s multiple twists in this book that, quite frankly, I never saw coming. Obviously, to keep it spoiler-free, I can’t mention them, however it was these twists that really kept me reading. The plot is interesting on its own, don’t get me wrong. I just love a good twist and this book has at least three of them.

The next book, which is the conclusion (sad face), titled Devil in the Device comes out in August and you can’t bet your booty I’m picking it up. I’m actually quite sad that it won’t be out for another two and a half months because I just need to know what happens now. I highly recommend this book whether or not you’re a sci-fi fan but especially if you’re a fan of futuristic settings, space travel, and tech in books. It’s easily one of my favorite reads so far of 2021.

Currently Listening To: Ways to Disappear - Palisades

6/06/2021 • comments off • Filed Under: Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Retellings, Reviews

Release date: May 4th 2021
Publisher: Flatiron Books
ISBN: 125077358X
ISBN13: 9781250773586

As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.

In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne’s decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?

This was my May Book of the Month pick, after hearing about it from my friend Stacia on Instagram, instantly drawn to it because I had quite recently heard of Ariadne. I wasn’t particularly familiar with Ariadne’s story (honestly, I never went through that Greek mythology phase when I was a teenager) but I knew she was a figure within Greek mythology. Being that these myths favored men heavily and women were subjected to punishment for those men’s crimes (now, I do know the story of Medusa!), I was super excited to learn of a feminist retelling! So often, the stories of mythology just graze the surface, rarely explaining the excitement, the fear, the sadness, the joy the protagonists face on their journeys.

This is Jennifer Saint’s debut novel, and it’s an absolutely stunning one at that. I fell in love almost immediately with her beautiful lyrical writing, which carried through the novel, growing even better as the characters of Ariadne and Phaedra developed. I felt completely transported into the world of Ancient Greece, in all of its danger and beauty.

Can you call a plot unique if it’s a retelling? Again, I’ve never been familiar with Ariadne’s—nor Phaedra’s—story so each new turn, new betrayal, new twist, I felt entirely surprised. I grew quickly to despise Theseus, and to pity Ariadne. But I soon realized she didn’t need my pity at all. Despite all that is thrown at her, she never wavers in her commitment to do what’s right. I could really take a lesson about that from her, I think.

Naxos was an enchanting setting but I admit, at first, I was fearful that it would be Ariadne’s doom. As it grows and she learns its secrets, however, I found myself wanting to live there too, away from the harsh world. In the forest, where it’s lush and green, on the beach where she meets Dionysus, in the palace she lives in on Naxos. I was mesmerized by the rich detail and stunning descriptions.

Given that the story is well-known, I should’ve expected a less than happy ending but the book’s ending left me speechless. I can’t say I saw it coming, and I didn’t want to look up Ariadne’s story before reading, not wanting to be spoiled (can an ancient story be spoiled?) or lose the surprise. I greatly appreciate, however, that it was not changed for the sake of literature. There are few books where a main character dying wouldn’t cause me to immediately throw it out (looking at you, Veronica Roth) and this is one of them.

Knowing more now about Ariadne, I find myself totally in love with this book. I loved every second of it, and can’t wait be read from Jennifer Saint!

I have to say before I wrap this post up, that the very same day that I finished this book, Jennifer announced her next book is going to be Elektra and I know immediately what I’ll be picking up next spring!

Currently Listening To: Graveyard (Acoustic) - Halsey