Review: The Stellar Snow Job by Marie Howalt

A Starbucks cup with a London Fog latte rests on a black bookshelf next to a Kindle with The Stellar Snow Job on its screen.

Alexis: 

Happy National Book Lovers Day, everyone!

It’s no secret that I love books and that I’ve been getting more into sci-fi and space stories.

If you’re looking for a sci-fi novella set in space, I’ve got you covered.

The Stellar Snow Job follows Eddie, a pilot of her spaceship called the Colibri, and Richard, a private investigator, as they start a new job. It also follows Alannah, a travel writer. ⁣

⁣I loved the characters, and though the story had its darker moments, this is a fun, adventurous, and humorous story.

In between the POVs of Eddie, Richard, and Alannah, we also have snippets from Alannah’s travel writing. I loved these sections; I felt like they solidified the world even more and added commentary on humanity, a theme that was woven throughout the story. 

I was so impressed by the worldbuilding. In 158 pages, I felt like I knew the world better than some full-fledged novels I’ve read. I enjoyed getting to know the characters, especially Eddie, and there’s also queer rep and rep of an auditory processing disorder. ⁣

⁣Thank you so much to Marie Howalt for sending me an e-ARC in exchange for a review.

Look out for The Stellar Snow Job, out on August 27th 2022!

VERDICT: 5 ⭐s

Review: Hunt the Stars by Jessie Mihalik

Alexis, wearing a checkered yellow shirt, holds up a Kindle with Hunt the Stars in front of a black bookshelf.

Alexis:

Yes, it’s true; I was in the mood for sci-fi!

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.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐/5 

Review: The Genesis Wars by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Alexis holds The Genesis Wars in front of an abstract painting and yellow pillows.

Alexis:

The Genesis Wars is the sequel to The Infinity Courts, a YA sci-fi fantasy. The Infinity Courts was one of my favorite books of 2021, so I’ve been waiting to read the second one!

For context, the series follows a girl named Nami who was murdered. After she dies, she finds herself in the afterlife, which is called Infinity. There, she finds out that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife, made herself queen, and is enslaving humans. But when Nami finds a group of rebels, she works to take down Ophelia.

The Genesis Wars starts off a little slow. That being said, I’ve always loved Bowman’s writing style, and the beginning sets up even more worldbuilding that’s full of vivid imagery while building up Nami’s character.

The second half of the book is all action, and it contrasts with the first half well! I loved getting to know the world of Infinity even more. I loved the character arcs, and I loved the two plot twists near the end. I especially loved the jaguar named Nix.

The only problem is…now I have to wait for the next book in the series! 

Review: This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Anna: What would you do for love?

This is How You Lose the Time War is the most imaginative book I’ve read in a long time. It reminded me why sci-fi  is such an amazing genre that I need to explore more. It also has LGBTQ+ rep!

Summary: Red and Blue are change agents who work for rival time traveling agencies–Blue for the Garden, a vast organic consciousness. Red works for the Agency, a Technotopia. While traveling to different “strands” of history and time to change history, they start to write each other letters and slowly fall in love.

The actual rules and word building in This is How You Lose the Time War is super confusing at first and very slowly revealed to the reader. I didn’t know what was going on for a while, but that’s okay. This book is more about the lyrical writing and the vivid, visceral images of time traveling and Red and Blue’s romance that literally stands the test of time. This is ultimately a “star-crossed” lovers narrative, but it’s not tropey at all. This book takes work to get through, but it’s rewarding and worth it.

I also think it’s so cool that this book was co-written! As a writer, I can’t imagine creating such a complex world and story in the first place, but also doing it so seamlessly with another writer.

Verdict: 4 stars

Review: The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He

A hardcover copy of The Ones We're Meant to Find rests on a wooden table in a coffee shop. An iced green tea and a coffee sit behind it. A laptop rests on the book's right.

Alexis:

I’ve been trying to read more sci-fi and dystopian, so I was excited when I won this book and got it in the mail!

The Ones We’re Meant to Find follows sisters Kasey and Cee. Cee is stuck on an abandoned island with nothing but a robot for company. She has amnesia, but she does remember her sister, Kasey, is out there somewhere. And she needs to find her.

Kasey is a 16-year-old STEM prodigy living in an eco-city, which is basically a city hovering in mid-air that’s an oasis from the rest of the polluted planet. She has always felt like a loner, and she can’t stop thinking about when Cee went missing.

I really liked how Kasey and Cee have opposite personalities. Cee is a caring, social butterfly, and Kasey the quiet loner; their characters are foils of each other, and it works well. 

I read He’s debut novel, The Descendant of the Crane, and I feel like both her writing style and her characterization have improved! The pacing was great, and I enjoyed seeing the plot unfurl, along with a massive plot twist.

That being said, if I’m being honest, I sometimes wasn’t sure what was going on in Kasey’s chapters. Because she’s a scientist, her chapters contain a lot of science, and I had to re-read certain paragraphs, especially since He created the future science herself. I honestly feel like I need to just re-read the entire book to get a better picture, as I sometimes had a hard time picturing what the world looked like. I almost wanted more info dumps, because scientific and futuristic technology was thrown at the reader rather than explained.

I also had a bit of a hard time connecting with Kasey, as she often felt a little too unfeeling; however, I know that was intentional, so I didn’t let it affect my overall rating. 

I was especially invested in Cee’s story and the mystery of her past. I loved the themes of humanity, sisterhood, and the environment. And not to mention, I love the cover!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Review: The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Iced green tea Starbucks drink sits next to a library hardcover copy of The Infinity Courts, in front of a herb garden

Alexis:

Time for a 5 ⭐ review!

I’ve been busy finishing up my thesis, and now I have to start studying for my comprehensive exam. But I managed to read The Infinity Courts during my work breaks!

The Infinity Courts follows Nami, an eighteen-year-old who is murdered on her way to her graduation party. But when she ends up in the afterlife, she finds that it’s run by an AI named Ophelia, who has crowned herself queen of Infinity. She manages to escape and find a group of rebels who are working to take down the AI known as Residents or Rezzies.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I’ve been meaning to delve more into sci-fi, and this was definitely a good segway from my usual fantasy. The POV is first person present tense, and this worked really well for the story. I liked Nami’s perspective, and I really enjoyed reading from her point-of-view. She felt very well-rounded; I knew her thoughts, emotions, fears, and hopes and dreams. 

I found the world and worldbuilding to be fascinating. The different courts were interesting, as were the Residents and the Princes of the courts. The book focuses a lot on heavy-handed themes like humanity/what it means to be human, emotions, the greater good, and the meaning of life. I thought Bowman handled these themes with care, and I liked reading about the characters’ attempting to reconcile with the world that they’re thrown into. 

As for the plot, it’s definitely your classic group of rebels trying to take down the enemy plotline, which I enjoyed! There were some interesting side quests and stories, and despite being nearly 500 pages, I never felt like the story got bogged down. And, to my shock, there was a plot twist that floored me, and that doesn’t happen often to me anymore.

I’m looking forward to the sequel! (Even if this book made me never want to use Alexa again).

What I read in July

Anna: July was a crazy month for me! Work was super busy, but I also took a mini-vacation to the beach! My wedding is only three months away now and it’s starting to feel so real!

Reading always helps me stay calm when there’s so much going on in my life. I also read a wonderful mix of genres this month!

5 stars:

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

4 stars:

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

Hunger by Roxanne Gay

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Severance by Ling Ma

3 stars:

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (not pictured)

The Dry by Jane Harper

What were your July highlights, reading wise or otherwise?

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Review: Borne by Jeff VandeerMeer

Anna: New favorite book alert! Dystopian is one of my favorite genres, and I’m trying to read more sci-fi. Borne had the perfect amount of both! Verdict: 5 stars

In an apocalyptic city, a corporation called the The Company that has poisoned and polluted the world. Strange creatures roam the remaining landscape: Mutant humans, Company proxies, and most noticeably, the Company’s biotech experiment gone wrong, a giant flying bear called Mord that terrorizes the City and its survivors. 

Rachel and Wick live in a dilapidated apartment building, spending hours every day fortifying their home to stay alive. One day while she’s out scavenging, Rachel finds a sea-anemone like creature that she takes home. She names it Borne.

Sounds crazy, right? It is. Borne is adorable, but at the start of the book his nature and purpose is unknown. Wick is suspicious that Borne may be more deadly than he appears. Rachel begins to care for Borne like a mother would a child, except he grows in size and intelligence faster than any human. Rachel and Borne’s relationship is sincere, heartbreaking, and unable to define. This book had me thinking a lot about what it means to be good. There’s also an overall question of if we can control or nature or not, or if we’re predestined to be what we’re made to be.

Borne is the most creative and quirky book I’ve read in a long time! It was so original and I loved the three central characters, especially Borne. What I found most impressive is its ability to be light and laugh-out loud funny despite its dark setting.

Click below to learn more about Borne!

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Review: We are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

“What if I don’t give a shit about the world?”

“I’d say that’s pretty fucking sad.”

“Why?”

“Because the world is so beautiful.”  

We are the Ants is a difficult book to explain and to “place”. This is technically “science fiction”, and I say technically because it blends reality and fantasy. I love that it defies genres! The reader is left to wonder what is real and what is not. I’d warn potential readers not to the read the book jacket copy, because I want them to enjoy the mystery and surprise.

Trigger warnings for self harm, sexual assault, and suicide. This is a BIG part of the book so please don’t read this if that’s something too close to home.

I felt such a connection to the characters, particularly the narrator and protagonist, Henry, a teenage boy who is faced with a big decision: should he save the world or allow it to be destroyed? When we meet him, he’s overcome with grief over losing his boyfriend.  I was so invested in his story as he comes to terms with his grief and mental instability and battles many forms of bullying and harassment. Henry’s grief and mental health manifests itself in a totally original way that I thought worked so well.

This is also just “angsty” enough to be believable but not shallow or stereotypical in any way, a problem I sometimes have “drama” in YA. We are the Ants depicts horrific reality of mental health. This book doesn’t shy away from critically examining the demands our society has on teenagers. The amazing part is that Hutchinson explores all these themes through the unique lens of alien abduction and the impending apocalypse.

We are the Ants is one of the best YA novels I’ve read in awhile! I highly recommend it!

VERDICT: 5 books!

 

Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Anna: I love apocalyptic fiction, but I heard so many conflicting opinions about this author’s recent release, The Dreamers, that I decided to start with her previous novel.

The Age of Miracles has a lot of potential. At surface level, this book sounds like something I should love. It’s a character drive coming-of-age apocalyptic novel with a young and likable female protagonist, Julia. When earth’s days begin to slow and lengthen, society is split into people who follow the new system of “clock time” and people who abide by the sun and follow “real time”. Those who chose to follow real time are alienated, and the mainstream clock timers begin to exhibit symptoms of a gravity-driven disease.

This book scratches at the surface of something, and then fails to focus on the right things. When something interesting involving the end of the world happened I kept thinking, “we’ll get to that soon” but over and over again, we don’t. The societal division between clock time and real time is such an interesting idea, for example, but it is hardly explored. So much of this book feels like it’s on the surface of something but instead of diving deeper turns away and continues to explore the mundane and expected.

Another big problem I had is that many of the characters just don’t feel believable, besides Julia, who is about only thing about this book that feels real. Julia’s parents are poor stereotypes of a heterosexual marriage. Julia’s mom is always worried, anxious, and nagging her father, while her father is factual and completely robotic. I found it absolutely ridiculous and unbelievable that Julia’s father is completely unworried by the end of the world. HELLO, who wouldn’t be freaking out if Earth’s gravity shifted, people began to get sick, and the days unexplainably lengthened. The fact that he isn’t concerned at all about any of these things drove me insane. The author continually makes Julia’s mom out to be crazy for her anxieties, but since she’s the only character who seems scared by the impending doom, she’s one of the only characters I feel I can trust.

Don’t get me started on Seth. Walker just couldn’t decide what kind of character she wanted him to be. For such a character-driven novel, I expected more dynamic and complicated characters, and this isn’t the case. Both the plot and the characterization fall short.

VERDICT: 3 out of 5 books