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6/28/2021 • 0 comments • 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

6/06/2021 • 0 comments • 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

5/25/2021 • 0 comments • Filed Under: Adult Fiction, Historical, Reviews

Publication date: March 2nd 2021
Publisher: Park Row
ISBN: 0778311015 (US hardcover)
ISBN13: 9780778311010 (US hardcover)

Summary: Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.

Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

When this book came up as a selection for Book of the Month in March, it was an instant pick for me. Apothecaries, murders, and London? Sign me right the hell up. Not to mention that cover; absolutely gorgeous.

For me, this book was a quick read, both because of its length and the immediate investment I had in the fate of the characters, particularly Nella and Eliza. One thing I noticed quite glaringly is I cared little for Caroline or her involvement, while at the time understanding her purpose in the story. Something about her simply just… needled me. It seemed she loved to blame her bitterness on others rather than coming to terms with her responsibility in the matter. That, however, is my largest complaint about the story.

The London setting was richly atmospheric, especially Past London. I almost felt as though I was the one walking the cobbled streets. Even as Caroline’s present-day London vacation began with her stumbling around the Thames at low tide, I found myself planted firmly within the story. Nella’s shop, tucked away in a back alley, is illicit in her times but an incredible mystery in present day that I wish would’ve been explored more thoroughly in a way we could’ve seen.

The plot itself is fascinating and though I don’t know if this was the author’s intent, sounds strikingly similar to the murders carried out by Giulia Tofana in 1600s Italy. If you don’t know that tale, look it up immediately. I loved the way the story wove its way between the past and present, unraveling pieces of the mystery for the reader that Caroline would never get to know. There is a moment that connects the present and past together so perfectly, and it’s a moment I wish I could touch on without being spoilery, but it was the moment that cemented this book as one of my favorites (so far) of 2021.

Though I found the ending to be missing something very small—SPOILER which is that Nella’s fate should’ve been clearer—I absolutely loved this book. I would love to learn more of Nella’s past, whether in another book or short story, but one could only wish, right? This was Sarah Penner’s debut and it made me so eager to get to read more from her!

Currently Listening To: Euphoria - Angels & Airwaves Currently Reading: Ariadne by Jennifer Saint