book review | the long way to a small, angry planet by becky chambers

the long way to a small, angry planet by becky chambers

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Captain Ashby Santoso leads a misfit crew on his spaceship, the Wayfarer, in this heartwarming sci-fi novel. The crew journeys to a far off land to create a new wormhole, and in the process learn more about each other, create connections, explore new planets, and face challenging trials. They come out of it for the better, and readers will too.

Recommended if you like:

  • diverse space characters
  • character-driven books
  • heartwarming sci-fi reads

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My Spoiler-Free Review

I had seen a lot of hype for this book before I read it, which is why I gave in and bought it. (It is now the most gorgeous book on my shelf so even if I hated it, I still wouldn’t regret the purchase.) And it lived up to the hype!

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just sooooo pretty *heart eyes*

You need to understand what kind of book it is before you go into it, though. It’s slow, not high-action, and definitely character-driven. It’s not boring by any means, but I know that I, perhaps like many others, have to be in the right mood for slower books. If you go into this expecting a really exciting, high-paced space story, that’s not what you’re going to get. You are, however, going to get a heartwarming, funny, touching, sweet, thought-provoking read.

My likes

I’m not one to get worked up over lack of diversity in books (most of the time), but the diversity among characters was the biggest highlight of this book. We not only have diversity in terms of age, gender, sexuality, and identity, but also species. I mean, this is a science fiction book. Weirdly enough, in sci-fi novels we don’t always see diversity in terms of species within the main characters. In this novel, we have three main characters out of seven who aren’t human.

And if you’re like me and a little unsure about those characters of different species, just give them a chance. Becky Chambers writes these characters so excellently. It’s impossible not to connect and empathize with every one of them. They all have unique quirks, backgrounds, motivations, and struggles. And they are a joy to get to know.

That’s what this book really boils down to for me–it is just a joyful, fun, warm and fuzzy read. I dare you to pick this up and not feel warm inside by the end.

My not so likes

As mentioned before, this book is slow-paced. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it did take me some time to get into it. I do much better with fast-paced novels, so working up the motivation to stick with something slower can be hard for me. I set the book down a few times before coming back to it and finishing it within a day or two, once I finally got into it.

On a related note, I wished the climax had been a bit more…climactic, if you will. And I wish the plot had built toward it a little more. It was all a bit sudden, which was weird given the slow pace.

Overall

Everyone could get something out of this book. Even if you don’t usually read sci-fi, give this one a chance! My guess is you won’t regret it.

Wayfarer crew by SebasP
art by SebasP

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Have you read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne

book review | poison study by maria v snyder

poison study by maria v snyder

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Imprisoned for murder (of the self-defense variety), Yelena knows she’s soon to die. However, she receives an offer to become the Commander’s food taster rather than face execution. Though the job is deadly and certainly not easy, she accepts. This alters her path in ways she couldn’t expect, and she finds herself confronted by poisons, politics, magic, and her dark past.

Recommended if you like:

  • Hardworking, realistic heroines
  • Lowish fantasy with magical intrigue
  • Slow-burn romance

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My Spoiler-Free Review

I really really enjoyed this while reading it. It was one I didn’t want to put down, and didn’t get bored of quickly! I find the entire concept of this book interesting–I mean, a murderer getting a second chance at life by becoming a food taster? Sounds super intriguing right off the bat!

However, after finishing the book, I had the “that was it?” kind of feeling. Which is unfortunate. And looking ahead at reviews of the rest of the series, I’m a little bummed that they don’t seem to go quite in the direction I was hoping.

Nonetheless, this book on its own was a solid and enjoyable read.

My likes

As already mentioned: the concept. Very cool.

Yelena. Our main character is not the automatically perfect badass heroine. She trains hard to build up her strength. She does research to learn how to become better at tracking and hiding in the wilderness. She has a natural intelligence and wit, but she doesn’t get everything right. She doesn’t know immediately who is ratting her out to a spy or who’s behind the mystery. This type of protagonist and heroine will make me instantly love a book 1000 times more than others without such realistic, relatable protagonists.

And the romance! It wasn’t quite perfect, but pretty near. I really loved the progression of it; it was a slow burn for sure. And it wasn’t the focal point of the storyline. Plus, they were a wonderful balance for each other.

The pacing. This book wasn’t high action all the time, but the slow moments came at welcome times and balanced out the plot. Even the “slower” moments I found interesting–anything about Yelena learning about poisons or unraveling the mysteries of the political situation one step at a time were still super intriguing.

My not so likes

I guess the general lack of not quite taking it there? I expected the book to go in a different direction than it did, and while I do like how it went, I don’t think it got quite as epic as I thought it would. And like I said, when I finished, I felt a bit ~hm. And that feeling was emphasized when I read synopses/reviews of the rest of the series and didn’t find them too appealing.

Also, the reveal of Yelena’s magic. When other characters finally find out that she has magic–and a certain someone has been proven to hate magicians–their reactions did not make sense to me. (view spoiler) I found that pretty annoying, because it was built up to be a big thing…but then again, I guess not.

Overall

Read it! This is not hard/high fantasy, so most readers would enjoy Poison Study. Besides, it functions all right as a standalone, so if you’re not interested in continuing the series (like me) you can enjoy this one and call it good.

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Have you read Poison Study? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne

book review | the gentleman’s guide to vice and virtue by mackenzi lee

the gentleman’s guide to vice and virtue by mackenzi lee

My Rating: ★★★★★

Henry “Monty” Montague is eighteen years old and going on his Grand Tour of Europe. Accompanying him is his best friend and unrequited love, Percy, his younger sister Felicity, off to school, and their chaperone aka “bear-leader”, Mr. Lockwood. Monty has hopes for a Grand Tour full of nights out with Percy, drinks and frolicking aplenty. Mr. Lockwood, on behalf of Monty’s father, has a different idea. Little known to them, the Grand Tour will turn out to be nothing like they expected. Instead, they end up on the run, breaking into prisons, getting captured by pirates, and planning a heist to recover something from a sinking island.

Recommended if you like:

  • tons of diversity
  • tropey adventure stories
  • strong characters with fantastic chemistry and realistic relationships

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My Spoiler-Free Review

This book is just ridiculously enjoyable. It was exactly what I hoped it would be, and I loved every bit of it! It’s a perfect tropey adventure story–and so long as you don’t start taking it more serious than it’s meant to be taken, I think everyone would love this book. Strong characters, relevant societal issues, adventures!, coming of age, the sweetest slow burn romance you ever did read…what more could you want?!

My likes

Monty’s narration was entertaining like nothing else. I usually dislike first person point of view because it’s either too hard to get myself in the protagonist’s shoes OR because the narration is so flat and bland. Neither was the case here. Monty is ridiculous and egotistic, but he’s also super relatable. For all his bravado, he does have self-confidence issues, he’s squeamish about blood, and he doesn’t always say and do the right things. It’s so fun to get into the head of a character like this because half the time they’re putting on their entertaining persona for others, and the rest of the time they reveal to the reader who they are underneath it all.

Felicity. Everyone says she’s a bad ass, and she is. Honestly, not much more needs to be said about that! (Also, I am SO EXCITED to hear that Mackenzi Lee is writing a spin-off sequel about Felicity! HOW AWESOME will that be.)

SIBLING DYNAMICS. I’m very close to my siblings, so I’m always all over sibling dynamics in books, and Mackenzi Lee did a fantastic job with Monty and Felicity! How realistic is their relationship! They don’t get along! They tease each other! They butt heads! But at the end of the day, they have each others’ backs. I’m here for that.

The romance. It’s slow burn. It’s secretly in love with your best friend. It’s friends to lovers. It’s communication mishaps. IT’S EVERYTHING. It was so well done, and it wasn’t even the 100% focus of the book. I kept reading partly because we only get teasing little moments of the romance in the midst of the rest of the adventures, and Percy and Monty were just TOO CUTE.

Diversity. Ridiculously amazing job at this without it being too in your face or overdone. It did not feel like the diversity was added just to make the book diverse. It was a book about real people, with diverse backgrounds and issues, and they had the same adventures anyone else could have. Loved it.

Settings! Descriptions! The Adventures! I enjoyed it all so much.

My not so likes

Basically nothing?!

I will say it did take a while for the actual plot to get going. But I didn’t care. I was so into the characters from the first page that I would have kept reading 1,000 pages and not cared if the plot hadn’t begun yet.

Also, the book is a tad long. But again, this worked out in my favor.

Overall

GO READ IT. This is one to buy, if you like buying books. You’ll love it.

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Have you read The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne

book review | our dark duet by victoria schwab

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

My rating: ★★★★☆

Our Dark Duet is the sequel to This Savage Song, and the conclusion to the Monsters of Verity duology. The story continues with Kate and August, and their efforts to eradicate their world of monsters born from violence. August is at the very center of the task force in Verity, a key player as a Sunai monster and very hard to kill. Kate is drawn back to Verity herself in pursuit of a new kind of monster. Once again, their paths cross and together they question who they are, what they stand for, and how to better the world they live in.

Recommended if you like:

  • Monsters
  • Music
  • Books that make you question your moral and ethical beliefs

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My Spoiler-Free Review

*Note: There are slight spoilers below for This Savage Song, so beware if you haven’t started the duology yet!*

I had a hard time deciding how to rate this book, because I love Victoria Schwab. I love her as a person and a writer. She seems like an awesome person. The way she puts words on a page is beautiful but concise, and I envy her writing skills.

However, her books don’t always have the impact on me that I wish they would. Unfortunately, Our Dark Duet is one example of such a case.

There are so many things I love about this duology and this book in particular. But, there are other things that don’t quite work for me. I didn’t find myself completely engaged in this book once I got to the second half or so. I finished the book feeling a little let down, which feels bad on its own, not to mention how frustrated I felt because I so wanted to finish it and love it.

That said, I’m still not sure I’m happy with giving Our Dark Duet 3.5 stars, but I’m going with it for now. Maybe a re-read in the future will change my mind.

My likes

The concept. I LOVE the concept of this book, that the characters are dealing with monsters created by acts of violence. I love the moral and ethical questions it brings up and makes me ask myself. I love seeing the characters’ internal battles with defining what makes a monster or a sinner and, particularly in Our Dark Duet, if people can change and if they are deserving of a fresh start. All of this is so deep for YA yet also very relevant for anyone and important to think about.

The evolution from book one to book two. Mainly I really like the set up at the beginning of Our Dark Duet; I felt very satisfied with where the characters were in comparison to book one, and also where they had to go and how they had to grow. Their character arcs weren’t complete yet, which brings me to my next like: August’s character arc. I just loved his personal journey. He ended This Savage Song accepting what he is–a monster–and now in Our Dark Duet, he needs to spend some time also accepting WHO he is–a compassionate, thoughtful boy.

Ilsa. And Allegro. Need I say more? (I really wish we had gotten more and more and more Ilsa. She’s so lovely.) Also, Alice. She was creepy and scary but wonderfully done. I really enjoyed reading her, and her interactions with Sloan. (Parallels between Kate and her dad much?!)

August’s violin. As a violist myself, I simply find the notion of August walking around with his violin all the time SO endearing. And also, when it’s used as a weapon, SO awesome. In general, the way Schwab ran with the musical themes and metaphors in this book was really lovely; not overdone at all, but incorporated at just the right moments.

art by @nucleicacid

My not so likes

The pacing. As mentioned before, I didn’t love the second half of the book. I was not engaged. I was SUPER engaged in the first half; interesting, actiony things were happening in both Kate and August’s POVs, and there’s always that sweet anticipation of reunion when the two characters are kept apart. HOWEVER, when we got past that reunion, things got a little messy plot-wise. There was a lot of back and forth, short scenes, not as much action. I was a little confused by the inclusion of some events–(view spoiler)–and the sequence of some events. When reading, this makes me distance myself from the plot, disengage, and as a result I wasn’t hyped up when I reached the climax and ending of the book.

Kate. I didn’t enjoy her in This Savage Song, and while I liked her more in Our Dark Duet, I still didn’t really connect with her. I guess I didn’t understand her motives? Also, her character development was not as clear as Augusts’s; in fact, I’m not sure she had any.

The Sloan POV. Now, there were moments I really liked this. Sloan is so creepy that in a way I perversely enjoyed reading all the icky things he was doing. But there were various chunks of his POV that seemed completely not needed; they didn’t contribute to the plot. Other times, it felt they contributed too much. I personally like to be more surprised about the villain’s next move, being surprised by it just like the main characters. In Our Dark Duet, reading everything from Sloan’s POV, I was surprised by nothing.

And then…a certain moment occurred that really bothered me. I think my enthusiasm for the book went downhill from there and just kept going down. But it’s a spoiler, so  check out my review on Goodreads if you’re interested in reading more about that (and a few other spoilers).

In the end

I think the fact that I have so much to say and pick apart from this book is an indication that I did enjoy it, at least to some extent. And I did! Certain things just turned me off, and it didn’t quite live up to my expectation towards the end.

Do I still love Victoria Schwab? YES. Will I still read her books? YES. Will I reread this duology someday? PROBABLY.

Should you read this book? YES.

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Have you read Our Dark Duet? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne

book review | an ember in the ashes by sabaa tahir

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

My rating: ★★★☆☆

In this book, two worlds collide. On one side, we have Laia–newly made a slave and a secret spy for the resistance movement. On the other side, we have Elias–the golden boy of his academy, competing to become the next emperor. These two cross paths and, together and individually, start to uncover their true selves, what they’re willing to fight for, and just what freedom is.

Recommended if you like:

  • YA romance–and inevitable love triangles/squares
  • Plot lines that keep you guessing
  • Troubled, angsty boy characters or determined, hardworking girl characters

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My Spoiler-Free Review

When I first started reading An Ember in the Ashes, there were a few elements I was intrigued by. I hoped they would mold the book into something really interesting. Alas–not so much.

In the end, I liked this, but I didn’t really love it.

My likes

Laia’s character development! She grows a lot throughout the story, and I enjoyed her journey. I can certainly relate to not quite feeling like you can compare to others around you or in your family, so I did feel a connection with her. Her growth was realistic and gradual, too. She wasn’t suddenly some bad ass female protagonist like in other YA books.

The writing. Clear, concise. Not overly flowery, which I prefer. Also, the POV shifts were so nicely done! The chapters were short, so you flip back and forth often, which I find preferable to those long chapters where you’re aching to get back to the other POV. Both Laia and Elias’s POVs were enjoyable to read.

Elias and Helene’s friendship. I adore deep friendships such as theirs. They really have each others’ backs and their friendship is founded on years of trust and shared experiences. I liked the way their friendship played out through the Trials and how it also added a unique tension.

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art by @banana-books

My not so likes

The love square. I could SO do without this. I hate love triangles, and I hate love squares even more. Sometimes they can be written really well, but in this case it just did not work for me. The characters were too flighty, able to switch back and forth between their love interests so easily. So annoying to me! By the end of the book, I didn’t want anyone together because I was so fed up.

The pacing/plot. The book just felt so dragged out. Nothing much really happened until the very end! I did want to continue reading and find out what happened next, but I found myself getting bored. It was easy to put the book down.

The world-building. I mean–it was nonexistent. I could not picture the world at all, and the culture was only described in bits. This created a huge disconnect for me as I tried to immerse myself into the book.

Overall

It was certainly more enjoyable than other YA books I’ve picked up this year. But will I continue the series? Eh. I’m not in a rush at all. Though I’m slightly more motivated now that I’ve learned Helene gets some POV chapters in book two.

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Have you read An Ember in the Ashes? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne

book review | red rising by pierce brown

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆

This is the story of Darrow, who lives on Mars, which has society structured by color. Darrow is a Red, the group of people at the very bottom of society, who work in the mines to prepare the planet for habitation by the other, higher colors. Darrow’s wife, Eo, has dreams for a better life, and she begins a series of events that draws Darrow into a group of rebels to fight for a world in which color doesn’t define who you are or your quality of life.

Recommended if you like:

  • Dystopias or space or any combination of the two
  • Ruthless, morally gray characters
  • Bloody and stabby stories

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My Spoiler-Free Review

I’m a little late in reading Red Rising, I know; this book was published over three years ago. However, it’s been on my radar for a while and I *finally* managed to get my hands on it. Oh boy, am I glad I did! I really enjoyed this.

There’s something really edgy about this series that made it unputdownable and different than anything else I’ve read–even though there are many familiar tropes in this book. Darrow begins his story as a teenager, but this is not a YA book. It felt like a cross between Captain America and Percy Jackson at Camp Half Blood and the Hunger Games–but an adult version, with more violence and swearing. (If you’ve read Red Rising, do you agree with this?!) However, these tropes and ideas all felt fresh in this setting and with these characters. And besides, they’re all tropes I like to read, so I wasn’t bothered in the least.

The setting and characters really made this story. The setting is awesome–MARS. This is a full-fledged sci-fi world, where they have technology and animals and food unrecognizable to us. Not to mention they use terminology that went right over my head sometimes. You get thrust into this space world, and it’s super awesome and only a little confusing. Pierce Brown’s world-building really is great. I just wish I understood it more. (Maybe a re-read would help me.)

And the characters! Man. Pierce Brown knows how to do side characters! They are all so well-developed with their own quirks and weird personalities. Seriously–there are so many weirdo characters, but those are the ones you love the most! *Ahem* Sevro, anyone? Aptly nicknamed the Goblin. Or Pax au Telemanus, a friendly(-ish) giant.

There’s also excellent friendship–I do love me some bromances. And even the romance I thought was really well done. I liked the love interest, and I liked her and Darrow together.

The only real complaint I have with this book is Darrow himself. The main character. I know–this seems like it’d be a big problem, to not like the protagonist. But let me explain.

I like Darrow well enough. I just didn’t really connect with him. He starts off in this series as an arrogant boy, who goes about collecting “worshippers” even though in the grand scheme of things, he’s a little lost. He’s following this dream of his wife’s and I’m not sure I understand *his* motivations for all the things he does. Throughout the book, I was still pulling for him–he is the protagonist after all–but I just didn’t quite click with him. He experienced a lot of growth throughout the book, but he still didn’t make it to the leader I expected him to be. (But with two books left in the trilogy, there’s time for that yet!)

I’d definitely recommend this to anyone looking for an edgy, bloody, spacey read.

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Let’s just say I was pretty smart when I snagged all three books from the library at once.

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Have you read Red Rising? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne

book review | a court of wings and ruin by sarah j maas

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas

My Rating: ☆☆☆

A Court of Wings and Ruin is the third book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series and concludes the story arc for Feyre and Rhysand (as far as we know, anyway). Feyre finds herself back in the Spring Court and immediately begins her work that continues throughout the rest of the book: stopping the King of Hybern from destroying the world she knows and loves. Along with the help of the Night Court, her sisters, and other allies, Feyre concludes her epic journey, though not without some mishaps and romance on the way.

Recommended if you like:

  • Fantasy of the fae and fantastical creatures variety
  • Steamy romance
  • Fun, dramatic characters with great chemistry

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My Spoiler-Free Review

Just like many other readers I know, I eagerly anticipated the release of this book for months. I enjoyed book 1 in this series, and book 2 was even better–possibly one of my favorite new books. I couldn’t wait to see how Feyre’s story would wrap up.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

After loving the first two books so much, I certainly had high expectations, but the book fell short on so many levels that I can’t figure a way I’m being unfair. It just missed the mark. I didn’t love the writing, I didn’t love the plot, and I finished the book feeling unsatisfied.

The few things I enjoyed about the book were enough to keep me reading; most of all, I love Feyre and Rhysand. Their relationship was what I loved most about book 2, and Rhys continues to support and love Feyre just as hard in ACOWAR. He makes me swoon for days. *heart eyes*

I also love many of the side characters in this series, and it was fun to see how newer characters meshed with those I grew to love in book 2. There was interesting and entertaining chemistry between some character that I didn’t expect.

It was clear that Maas took to heart some criticisms regarding diversity in her books, because ACOWAR included many diverse characters! That was great to read.

However, for all the things I enjoyed, they still weren’t quite what I’d hoped for.

In book 2, it was great to see Feyre and Rhysand’s growth, individually and together. ACOWAR really lacked any sort of growth between them or in each individually. Not to mention that Rhysand is basically perfect–he has no flaws. While I still adore him, looking back on it, his character was a little flat in this novel.

There were SO MANY side characters, and I often found them overly dramatic. They’re supposed to be immortal fae, but they act and talk like immature teenagers in this novel. This didn’t sit right with me, and neither did some of the romantic pairings.

And as for the diversity, the representation was great but it didn’t feel genuine. Many of the LGBT+ characters seemed to be thrown in just for the sake of being there. I liked the diversity, but I think it could have been done in a better way.

I could probably go on and on–I have a lot of thoughts about this book. If you’re interested in reading more, check out my Goodreads review, which includes more spoiler-free thoughts and also a spoilery gushy/ranty section.

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Have you read ACOWAR? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne