Hunt the Stars follows Octavia, or Tavi, a bounty hunter on her ship, Starlight’s Shadow. When she’s approached by Torran Fletcher–a Valoff, or member of an enemy alien race–for a job that pays extremely well, Tavi can’t say no for the sake of her crew. Together with Torran and his crew, Tavi and her crew hunt for Torran’s missing treasure, only to find herself part of a bigger plot.
There were a lot of things I liked about this book and some things…not so much.
To start off, I appreciated Mihalik’s worldbuilding. The first half of this book was pretty slow, but it allowed me to get to know the world, its technology, and its characters well. The author does a great job of highlighting the differences between humans and Valoffs, and the majority of this book focuses on the two races learning to accept each other.
I also enjoyed learning the backstories of and learning what keeps Tavi and her crew going. There’s a cute alien cat named Luna that appears quite often, too! And I was pleasantly surprised by a plot twist.
As for the rest, well, there’s your classic enemies to lovers storyline. Overall, there were some cute romantic scenes, but I just didn’t feel the tension or attraction that Tavi kept mentioning she felt. I think it had to do with the writing style, which is more tell-y over show-y and feels a little juvenile, despite the fact that all the characters are in their upper twenties and into their thirties.
As I mentioned earlier, the main plot doesn’t really begin until halfway through the story, and part of me didn’t mind and part of me was like “when is the bounty hunting going to happen?”
I ended up enjoying elements of story but I was left feeling like something was missing. Either way, I’m glad that I’m getting more into space operas/sci-fi stories.
Wildbound is a fantastic sequel and ending to the Forestborn duology. A huge thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and Netgalley for providing me an e-ARC!
The Forestborn duology follows Rora, a shifter who lives in Alemara, a land that once had magic but no longer does. When her best friend and the youngest prince, Finley, grows sick with a magical illness called the Fallow Throes, she’s tasked by the king to travel to find stardust to cure Finley, alongside Weslyn, the older prince, and her brother, Helos.
While Forestborn only followed Rora’s POV, Wildbound has dual POVs and follows Helos, her brother, as well. This worked exceptionally well for the story, and I found that the dual storylines upped the tension. I also got to know and understand not only Helos’ character better, but Finley’s, too. I actually ended up loving Helos’ POV just as much as Rora’s.
Wildbound is action packed. We follow a war in Helos’ storyline and a spying adventure in Rora’s. While there are quiet moments to breathe, I didn’t want to put this book down.
Like Forestborn, Becker’s writing is lovely and full of forest and nature imagery. The characters are well-rounded, loveable, and so easy to root for! The worldbuilding and political intrigue are fantastic. Wildbound also delves into some very dark themes–not only prejudice but genocide, torture, and PTSD. Becker explores the themes of love and belonging with just the right amount of romance, including an m/m romance.
I highly recommend picking up this duology if you haven’t already–Wildbound solidified it as one of my favorites.
As I’m sure you all already know, Raybearer was one of my favorite books of 2020. I found the worldbuilding, the prose, the characters, and the plot to be unique, beautifully written, profound, and impressive, especially for a debut novel.
So obviously, I’ve been looking forward to Redemptor; I even reread Raybearer in preparation.
I can’t imagine writing a sequel to such a celebrated first book, especially when under deadline. And I’ll go ahead and say I really did enjoy Redemptor, and it’s a solid four-star read from me. However, it just wasn’t what I expected, and the story didn’t rope me in as tightly as the first book.
Without spoiling anything, I was looking forward to getting to know the cast of characters better. For some background, Tarisai, the main character, is part of a group of twelve people anointed to Dayo, the prince. They’re bonded together forever as a found family of sorts through Dayo’s ray, which also allows them to speak telepathically to each other.
In Raybearer, we obviously don’t get to spend a lot of time with more than a handful of the anointed siblings. Even though I loved all of the characters we did get to know, I knew there was room to learn more about Tarisai’s relationships with the rest of them.
However, instead, we get a whole new cast of characters thrown at us. Even though I half-expected this from the way the plot was set up at the ending of the first book, it was a little disappointing to me. I loved the first cast of characters so much that it was hard for me to care about the new ones. I’m glad we got to know Kirah, one of Tar’s anointed sisters, more. But Sanjeet and Woo In, two of my favorite characters, didn’t appear nearly enough in this sequel, and I really felt their absence (especially since there was this weird sort-of love triangle but not really thing happening for part of the book?).
Despite that, the plot felt a little slow moving in the first half. Thankfully, the second half was awesome and had a great ending!
I love that we got to hear from Dayo more, and his asexual representation was great. I loved Tar’s journey to the Underworld, even if it felt short compared to the rest of the book. I loved, as usual, Ifueko’s worldbuilding.
I think what I’m saying is this: I enjoyed this book. Just don’t go into it with extra lofty expectations.
Last year, my most surprising read was The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez. While I like a good romance every once in a while, I don’t usually read rom-coms. So when I heard that Life’s Too Short was coming out, I knew I had to read it.
What’s cool is that these two books are part of a series, so there are recurring characters that make appearances.
In Life’s Too Short, we follow Adrian, a lonely lawyer, and Vanessa, a travel YouTuber who unexpectedly becomes the caretaker of her half sister’s baby. I really enjoyed the dual POVs, and as with The Happy Ever After Playlist, Jimenez’s writing sparks on the page, especially her funny and snappy dialogue.
I also appreciate that Jimenez tackles big themes and problems. Rom-coms often only focus on romance and comedy, but Adrian struggles with his estranged dad and a phobia, and Vanessa struggles with a dysfunctional family and ALS, which runs in her family and killed her sister. They feel like real people with real problems.
As much as I enjoyed this one, as well as the slow-burn romance, it’s very structurally similar to The Happy Ever After Playlist. However, unlike the previous book, I found myself guessing the ending of Life’s Too Short, and I also found it cheesy. On top of that, the book seemed to focus a lot on Vanessa and her relationship with her dad and her family, which is great and all, except that I found myself not really caring about her family members as characters. Instead, I kept finding myself wanting Jimenez to focus more on Adrian and Vanessa. It also felt like Grace, the baby, only made an appearance in the beginning of the book.
And finally, I guess because Vanessa is a YouTuber, some of the language in this book feels very internet-culturey. It tended to take me out of the story, especially because Jimenez kept repeating “Aaaand” and drawing out words unnecessarily.
Overall, this was still a fun read. But The Happy Ever After Playlist is my favorite so far!
I reached my goal of reading 50 books in 2020, and then I actually surpassed it by reading 51.
My top 10 books won’t be a surprise; I’ve reviewed most of them here already. However, I will include a short blurb about each one as a refresher.
Without further ado, here are my top 10 books of 2020, in no particular order!
Crescent City by Sarah J. Maas
Maas is a guilty pleasure of mine. Her books have a way of wholly drawing you into her worlds, and this one was no different. Crescent City is a new adult, brash urban fantasy that follows Bryce, a half-fae. She teams together with Hunt, a fallen angel, to solve the mystery of her best friend’s murder. Craziness and romance ensue.
Deeplight by Frances Hardinge
Hardinge is one of my favorite writers; she always kills it! Deeplight is a slowburn YA fantasy with deaf representation that centers around toxic friendships. It has a large dose of monstrous sea gods. It’s an imaginative, dark, and wonderfully written book.
Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
While categorized as YA, I found that this West-African inspired fantasy book leaned more towards adult. I loved the writing, the intricate worldbuilding, and the plot. The plot itself is hard to explain; you’ll have to pick it up!
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
While this historical fantasy starts out slow and a bit confusing, it morphs into a lyrical story about family and belonging. It’s full of other dimensions, and, you guessed it, doors.
House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
This retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” is dark and gothic. The story focuses on sisterhood and death/murder, with a fun dose of dancing at balls to balance it all out.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
This is a coming-of-age story and a retelling of the Greek myth of Achilles and Patroclus. It follows the romantic relationship of the two characters up until the Trojan War. Miller’s writing is fantastic, and she’s a Greek mythology genius.
Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst
Race the Sands follows two women in the desert world of Becar, where you can ride monstrous creatures called kehoks, who are reincarnated from the worst of the worst people in a past life. The story focuses on reincarnation, determination, and carving your own path in the world, and I found it to be a refreshing fantasy read.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
This is whimsical and heartwarming, a great change of pace for adult fantasy. It follows Linus, a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, who is given an assignment to inspect an island full of magical children classified as dangerous.
The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones
This YA, Welsh inspired historical fantasy follows Ryn, a gravedigger who begins to notice that the dead are rising, and teams together with a boy named Ellis. It’s a classic journey story with great characters and an enjoyable plot. I loved the fresh take on zombies, or “bone houses.”
The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez
Finally, a contemporary romance book somehow made it onto my list! I enjoyed this book far more than I anticipated. I loved the funny, snappy dialogue, the characters, and the romance. The focus on music, and the inclusion of the playlist, only added to the story.
Honorary re-read favorites: The Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo
I read Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom in 2018, and though I immediately classified them as some of my favorite books, I had forgotten a lot of the plot. I absolutely loved re-reading them in 2020! They’re Bardugo’s best works, in my opinion, with an intricate world and plot, and very well-drawn characters that you’ll be rooting for from the beginning (even the morally grey ones).
My 2021 reading goal is to branch out a little more outside of YA fantasy. My classes will help with this, of course (I can’t believe I’ll finish my last semester in 2021!) I also currently have Kindle Unlimited, and I’m excited to dive into some thrillers and historical fiction!
Happy New Year’s Eve! And what a year it’s been! Anna’s highlights were starting work full time, getting married, and adopting her dog! Alexis started her MFA program, got a short story accepted for publication, and adopted her cat!
Here are some of our favorite books of 2019:
The Glass Castleby Jeanette Walls
Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs
Normal People by Sally Rooney
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden
The Witch Elm by Tana French
In the Woods by Tana French
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
The Goldfinch by Donna Tart
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
The Wildlands by Abby Geni
Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
The Book of Dreams by Nina George
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister
Grim Lovelies by Meghan Shepherd
Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper