Skyward (Skyward #1) by Brandon Sanderson

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“You get to choose who you are. Legacy, memories of the past, can serve us well. But we cannot let them define us. When heritage becomes a box instead of an inspiration, it has gone too far.”

Skyward is the start of a brand-new YA Sci-Fi series by Brandon Sanderson. You all know that I love Brandon Sanderson’s work, especially The Stormlight Archive and Mistborn, and I knew I couldn’t let this new release pass me by without immediately reading. And, friends, this was nothing short of a treat.

This book follows a young girl named Spensa, who wants nothing more than to follow in her father’s footsteps of being a space pilot and defending her home planet from an alien race called the Krell, who are relentless in their attacking. Unfortunately, her father did something unforgivable and the rest of her community truly will never forget.

“People need stories, child. They bring us hope, and that hope is real.”

Spensa lives in future version of our galaxy, on a planet named Detritus. But most of the inhabitants live underground, while only a few cities are above. And in this society people’s job positions are supposed to be based off their test scores that will influence them into learning their strengths, but we soon find out that pilots are mostly found based on their family lineage.

Brandon Sanderson really talks about privilege and how outside forces can really impact a person’s life, while a last name can completely make someone’s future. Spensa learns this very quickly, but she is still determined to not only go to flight school, but to graduate at the top of her class, regardless of the people who are willing to do anything to stop her.

And Spensa has to go through some really horrible stuff. No spoilers, but even her family is forced to live off of rats, while never being able to see the sky, but living in fear of a lifetime war that never ceases. But Spensa’s determination is awe-inspiring, but she soon realizes that flight school is completely ruthless and very deadly.

“It turns out that strange little girls grow up to be strange young women.”

Yet, one of the best characters I’ve read all year is easily Spensa. She not only makes you feel immense empathy because of her situation, but just because she’s a little girl that has only known war. She’s passionate, she’s caring, she’s so very dedicated. And she’s hilariously funny. This book made me laugh out loud so many times. But mostly, I was rooting for her from the first to the last page. And she really showcases that everyone has a choice, regardless of the things that life has forced upon them, and regardless of the mistakes of their parents. She was such a wonderful character, and a shining light in 2018’s protagonists.

And I loved the constant discussion of what makes a coward and what makes a hero. And about all those grey areas in between those things. And how a different view can really turn those two titles upside down completely. Spensa also meets many new colleagues, some of which who are also chasing the same dream as her, and some who have had it forced upon them. And dare I say, there is a start of an enemies to lovers relationship in this book? Lord, help me. I am already invested!

But my heart truly belongs to M-Bot, the AI-driven ship that Spensa finds. A lot of people have compared this book to How To Train Your Dragon and that is so damn accurate, but I actually think I loved M-Bot even more than Toothless. (And that is quite the recommendation, friends!) I also think I just have a soft spot in my heart for sentient ships, if I’m being completely honest. But I have no doubts that if you pick up this book that you will fall in love with M-Bot, too.

Okay, so even though I loved this reading experience so much, and I truly think Brandon Sanderson comes up with the best worlds in SFF, two things bothered me about this book. One is a character death, and I won’t go into spoilers, but if you know me at all, you’ll know why this upset me. And Brandon should have done better. Secondly, the ending was a masterpiece. Yeah, you read that right. The ending was magnificent, but it truly overshadowed the rest of the book and made it feel like the 500 pages I just read were some precursor to the actual story that will begin in book two.

“Claim the stars, Spensa.”

Overall, I did adore this book. It was just what I needed. I actually was feeling really slumpy before I picked this up, and not only did it rectify that, but it reminded me why I love books and stories and fictional worlds so much. I know Brandon Sanderson isn’t for everyone, but he truly is a master at his craft and every book and series he touches turns to gold. And his world-building is honestly on a tier above all else in the genre. And, again, I cannot wait for book two. And I cannot wait to learn everything about a certain blue and orange slug.

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Content and trigger warnings for bullying, loss of a loved one, battle scenes, and war themes.

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

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“I don’t just raise monsters. I am one.”

One of the best book recommendations I’ve received to date is Elise recommending me The Abyss Surrounds Us. Friends, I fell totally in love with this story and it surpassed every high expectation I had for it. The writing is addicting, the story is so unique, and this book holds my now favorite enemies to lovers, angst-filled relationship of all time. Oh, and it’s between two girl pirates. Sold yet? You should be. This book was a gift.

First off, this book is set in a future version of United States where most of the country is underwater. And the few that can afford to live on land are very wealthy and very privileged. All over the world there are floating cities, and children being born that have never stepped foot on solid land. And with all of this being said, ships, boats, and other water vessels are the main mode of transportation.

Cassandra Leung is a seventeen-year-old, Chinese girl who has grown up outside of LA, where her family raises Reckoners! Reckoners are lab-created, monster-like, animals that can be a terrapoid (turtle-like), cephalopoid (octopus-like), serpentoid (snake-like), and probably even more! And they are very needed by the ships on the open seas, whether it be cruise ships, cargo ships, or any and all in-between, because they need protection from pirates that dangerously sail in the same waters. Cas and her family ensure that these different types of Reckoners bond with their buyer’s vessels to protect them at all costs. And on each vessel, a Reckoner trainer must also go to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Cas has never went on a mission by herself before, but her parents are finally allowing her to prove herself alongside her terrapoid, Durga, who she has bonded with since she was a young girl. But Cas quickly finds out that maybe Durga isn’t healthy enough for the journey, but it’s a little too late once pirates are sighted.

“So not only have I been captured by pirates—I’ve had the misfortune of being taken in by theatrical ones.”

Pirate Queen, Santa Elena, and her crew quickly board and just as quickly take Cas prisoner once they see that she was in charge of the Reckoner for the ship. And that’s because they are currently hiding their own little secret that needs someone with the experience and training that only Cas has. (Also, I am so in love with Bao, my little vicious bun!)

“Bao is, without a doubt, the most dangerous thing in the NeoPacific. And he answers to me.”

This book actually got pretty dark in parts, so please use caution! Trigger and content warnings for violence against animals, animal death, animal cruelty (behind the scenes), kidnapping, captivity, thoughts of suicide, attempted suicide, talk of slavery, physical abuse, and violence.

And while Cas is forced to live on this new ship, she learns that maybe she isn’t so different than the people she’s been protected from her whole entire life. And, like I said above, this little book has one of the best w/w stories I’ve read in a long while. The angst, friends, the damn angst. It’s actual perfection! I was screaming, I was crying, I was living for it. And I totally get that this is a book about people doing stuff on ships, but like, I ship these two girls so much that it hurts. I need book two immediately. And obviously from what I said above, there is an uneven power dynamic, but that’s the beautiful thing about this relationship because it is always addressed, constantly.

“We’re two trapped girls with nothing but each other on a ship of people who’d be better off with us dead, and somehow on top of that we’ve managed to do the one thing we shouldn’t be able to do.”

And we get to see this beautiful journey, not only across the water, but inside of Cassandra’s heart and mind. She didn’t know the world before she finally got to see it. And now she’s seeing things that she is unsure that she can ignore. Cas becomes the very definition of a morally grey character, but seeing her walk the line, while also trying to do what is right, while also trying to balance her new feelings, it’s so good. So damn good! This is such a powerful little book that I loved reading from the very first to the very last page.

Emily Skrutskie has woven such an amazing story here. This was a complete joy to read. And I truly believe with my whole heart that this is one of the most underhyped books of all time. And I also believe that this is going to be the best book I’ll read all of 2018’s Pride! Friends, buy this, read this, love this, and come gush with me. Please, I’m begging you.

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Buddy read with May at Forever and Everly! ❤

Bruja Born (Brooklyn Brujas #2) by Zoraida Córdova

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ARC provided by Sourcebooks in exchange for an honest review.

1.) Labyrinth Lost ★★★★

🔮 My favorite review for Bruja Born: Lilly’s!

“This is a love story. At least, it was, before my sister sent me to hell.”

Friends, Bruja Born was such a treat. It’s the ownvoices, Latinx, magical story you’ve been looking for. And I liked it even more than Labyrinth Lost, which I loved! When I first requested an ARC of this, I was completely surprised when I found out it wouldn’t be following Alex, the main character of Labyrinth Lost, but her sister, Lula, who I quickly and easily fell in love with, too.

“Magic transforms you. Magic changes you. Magic saves you. I want to still believe in all those things.”

But Lula’s story also quickly and easily breaks my heart. I want to write so much here to give you guys a synopsis, but I’m going to be very vague. The book’s actual synopsis feels really spoilery, in my opinion. I went into the book without reading the synopsis, and I truly think I had a better reading experience because of it. But Lula finds herself in a very heartbreaking situation, and when this tragedy strikes, the goddess of death herself is there to pick up the pieces. Lula finds herself unable to give someone up and uses her magic to desperately try to keep them close to her, but she quickly discovers that not all things are meant to stay.

Trigger and content warnings (please do not read if you want to go into this book completely unaware of the events) for car crash, blood, gore, loss of a loved one, grief, trauma, a lot of talk of death, talk of dead bodies, and scenes with physically harming oneself.

One of the best elements of Bruja Born is the strong emphasis on familial bonds, and how unconditional love will always be the most powerful kind of magic any of us will ever possess. Lula, Alex, and Rose are such sister goals, but their entire family and their willingness to sacrifice is something so beautiful that I don’t even have words for it.

“You really think I’m going to betray my sister for you? Boy, bye.”

And Lula’s personal journey, to loving herself, outside and inside, is so powerful that I wish I could put this book in the hands of every teenage girl in the world. Being able to sacrifice for the ones you love, but to ultimately put yourself and your life first is a combination I hardly ever read in books, but it is so very needed. This truly is the most beautiful love story of all time: the love story of loving yourself, unapologetically.

“My mother told me beauty was a gift. If they’re right, then what am I now? All I know is I left fragments of myself in Los Lagos and I don’t know how to get them back.”

And this book also heavily deals with the effects of grief. Everyone in this family is grieving from what they’ve lost or what they’ve found. PTSD, trauma, and grief are all touched upon in this book, and everyone is coping and dealing with it differently. Lula is the star of this book, and everything she is dealing with breaks my heart, but seeing her deal with it is so important and so inspiring.

Overall, I loved this and I think the world will love it, too. And I feel like I could never get enough stories about these Brooklyn Brujas! I’m guessing the next installment will be about Rose, and I’ll be honest with you all: she’s my favorite sister. So, I’m extra hyped. Also, Nova totally won me over in this book as well. So, hopefully we get both of them and more paranormal beings, because this book had vampires, shifters, zombies, and more! Please, Zoraida, give me all the fae! I loved Bruja Born and I hope you all fall in love with it too, this June 5th!


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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Lilly at Lair of Books, Alexis at The Sloth Reader, Amy at A Court of Crowns and Quills, & Lori at Reading with Lori! ❤

Nyxia Unleashed (The Nyxia Triad #2) by Scott Reintgen

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1.) Nyxia ★★★★★

“As the descent begins, I hold on to one truth: I am more than what they would make of me.”

This is such an amazing YA Sci-Fi series that is so beautifully inclusive with some very important themes and discussions. The writing is amazing, I pulled around thirty quotes for this review alone. The characters have completely stolen my heart and soul, and they are a tier above most in all of literature. This series is amazing, and this second installment was everything that I wanted and more.

Nyxia Unleashed follows a crew of kids from all over the world that have been tested extensively during their journey to another planet. A company named Babel gave contracts to kids from needy homes, whether that be love, money, or even health care. Babel picked kids that they believed they could mold and shape into whatever they wanted, but Nyxia Unleashed shows that Babel might have completely underestimated the power of teens. And this book picks right back up after the final events in Nyxia, where they have landed on a brand new planet, Magnia.

“They made us into weapons. It will be their downfall.”

This series also has the best main protagonist in YA, I swear it. Emmett is a black boy from Detroit, who joined this space program because it was the only way his mother could get the medical treatment she needed. He constantly is filing stuff away mentally with a system his grandma taught him, and he is never embarrassed or shamed for showing emotion. Music also plays a big role in Emmett’s life, and it’s displayed so very beautifully. Emmett is just an amazing main character, and one that I’ve been searching for

Morning is my new favorite character of all-time, I swear. She is so strong, so powerful, so amazing of a leader. She’s a Latinx girl from Cali who has completely stolen my heart. She (and her doors) blew me away. Like, the fight scenes with Morning are legit some of the best fight scenes I’ve ever read in YA. And seeing her be so hard, and so soft, and so everything in between, is something I don’t even have words for.

And the romance in this book? Lord, I can’t. So perfect, so pure, so everything. It makes me want to scream “OTP forever” at the top of my lungs, off the rooftops. And the moments that these two share, whether its fighting back to back, comforting each other over past pain, or just cuddling and being there for one another. I love it all, and I ship Emmett and Morning so hard, it’s unreal.

Magnia is a planet that has two moons and, depending on the years, the planet changes not only names (Magnia and Glacius) but natural disasters and weather. The kids that landed are supposed to be mining Nyxia, a new super resource and is a substance that can create anything, and Babel has created a treaty with the indigenous people on Magnia, the Imago. Basically, their planet is slowly dying from lack of females, so they promise to allow these kids to mine so that they can instill hope back to a planet that no longer has children. Well, at least that’s what Babel is saying, and Magnia is agreeing to.

“It doesn’t surprise me that Babel’s out here playing the role of colonizer, slapping labels on the originals and pretending they created it all in the first place. It’s pretty standard procedure for folks like them.”

This book heavily talks about colonization, and how disgusting people can be, while also taking everything from natives of the land they are about to steal. Babel even made up a name to call the Imago people, which the crew doesn’t even realize until they get to know the indigenous people. And these kids all see, first hand, what this new planet and its inhabitants are like, and it’s not so much different than any of them. And the crew also see how Babel has something much larger than anyone else expect in store.

This story also puts a heavy emphasis on social hierarchy and systemic oppression and what that means for the individuals that the world will deem as lesser. How some people are just born into the right last name, with the right money, with the right looks, and with all the privileges that these things give.

“Is this how people talked about me when I lived in Detroit? Am I like the beggars? Don’t give me too much of a handout or I’ll be encouraged, I think darkly.”

But Nyxia is just such a gift of a series to the literary world. That crew I kept talking about above? I already said that Emmett is black, and Morning is Latinx, but the rest of the crew? So much beautiful diversity. This crew has queer (gay and/or bi) side characters, side characters wearing hijabs, a pregnant teen crew member, Asian crew members, and so much of the characters talking about their experiences outside of The United States. So many of these characters are all dealing with grief, trauma, PTSD, and abandonment. This book is on another level, I’m telling you all.

Trigger and content warnings for murder, death, gore, blood, violence, depiction of PTSD, abandonment, kidnapping, torture, animal death, talk of past outing, talk of past homophobia, genocide, colonization, loss of a loved one, loss of a friend, and war themes.

My favorite aspect of this book was the constant spotlight on found family and unconditional love, trust, and support. These kids, from all different backgrounds, upbringings, ethnicities, religions, come together and create this bond that is so believable and so amazing to read. Like, this book just feels so real, that I’m wondering if there is an organization like Babel out there and if these kids came together and (hopefully) really saved a world!

“I sit there long after she falls asleep, thinking about the family we’ve forged, not through blood, but through steel and chaos. I never asked for any of this. At the beginning, I fought hard against it. But now that they’re mine, now that I’m theirs, I’d do anything to keep them from being taken.”

Overall, I loved this. The wait for the third book is going to be so hard, but this second installment was everything I wanted and more. I mean, Scott Reintgen still ripped out my heart, but in the best way possible. This is easily my favorite YA Sci-Fi out there, and I hope you all give this series a try, because it’s so worth it.

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Buddy read with Lilly, Cierra, Scrill, Solly, & Lori! ❤

You guys, I never win anything, but I actually won an ARC of this on a Twitter giveaway from Scott Reintgen himself!

Mirage (Mirage #1) by Somaiya Daud

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ARC provided by Flatiron in exchange for an honest review.

“On a small moon orbiting a large planet, in a small farmhouse in a small village, there was a box, and in this box was a feather.”

Mirage is a magical, wonderful, important, gift to the YA SFF world. From characters I fell in love with, to the messages about the importance of your culture and your family, to the most lyrical and beautiful writing. I loved this story with my whole heart, and I can’t wait for the rest of the world to fall in love with it.

This story is an ownvoices Moroccan inspired story about a young girl named Amani, who has known nothing but oppression on the moon that she and her family live on. She and her family are farmers, trying to live the best life possible, even with the constant heartbreak surrounding them.

“You learned a different sort of fear when you grew up in a village like mine. Fear of hunger. Fear of Imperial droids. Fear of the low hum that came with Imperial probes. But that fear taught you endurance—you could let its unwavering presence wear you down, or you could learn to stand up despite it.”

In this galaxy, the Vathek rule, and are slowly trying to erase other cultures, religions, and beliefs around them. While also trying to do any and everything to ensure there is no uprising or rebellion. But the rebels have been planning, and calculating, and waiting, and will do anything to make sure that the Vath do not continue to oppress and rise.

Amani has finally turned eighteen, which means she gets to finally celebrate her coming of age with others in her village. She has been looking forward to this day, and the blessing that will be bestowed upon her, for her entire life. And Amani is able to get her daan, a tattoo that means everything to her; her family, her faith, her inheritance. But the celebration gets crashed and quickly comes to a terrible end.

“I’d dreamed forever of leaving Cadiz, of visiting other star systems in our galaxy. But I’d never thought I would be taken against my will. I was dragged through the building, pulled onto a ship, silent and numb, then finally deposited in a holding cell.”

Amani gets kidnapped by imperial droids and flown to the royal empire. Upon arrival, she soon realized the reason she was taken; she is nearly identical to the Princess Maram, the heir to the throne, a girl who is cruel, and is wicked, and is disliked by both sides of her people, because she is half of the other. Maram’s father conquered Andala, and violated galactic law, so the only way he could keep the planet was to marry and have a child, so Maram was born. And Maram has a half-sister that very much does not think that Maram should rule, and she might be willing to do anything to make sure of it.

Maram is in fear for her life, so she rationalizes abducting Amani and forcing her to make her public appearances, while promising her death if she fails to be convincing. Amani is thrown into a world that she has never known, while being constantly reminded of the family, culture, and traditions she had to leave behind.

Maram’s father also murdered most of the families that lead the resistance against him conquering their planet, even though they did surrender. A boy named Idris, was spared from the Purge, as a reminder what would happen if people tried to oppose this new ruler. But he was also promised to be married to Maram once she comes of age, so she will forever be tied to the planet her father bloodily conquered.

Trigger warnings and content warnings for kidnapping, physical abuse quite frequently and heartbreakingly, war themes, death, murder, forced body alterations, talk and depiction of sever grief and trauma.

“He a prince and I a slave in all but name. There was no happy ending to this story, no way for the two of us to make one.”

And Amani is forced to play so many roles, while she convincingly has to pretend to be a princess whose father has taken so much from so many. And Amani is therefore thrown into a world of politics, betrayals, secrets, and even love.

This book beautifully illustrates that we are not the actions of our parents and the terrible things that humans are capable of doing. We are only our actions, and we are only held accountable for our actions, and for the actions we choose to repent for.

“We are not responsible for what cruel masters enact in our name.”

This book perfectly talks about family, culture, religion, traditions, and the things we are willing to do for them and in the name of them. Honor and believing in something are one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, forces in any galaxy. And standing up for your convictions is sometimes the only thing we have in this world. Never, ever, stop believing.

“When Dihya wanted to give you a sign He slipped the feather into your hand. When He wanted to command you to a calling, to take action, He sent the bird itself.”

The book amazingly showcases how important friendships can be, and how loneliness can take many forms. Everyone deals with depression, grief, and trauma differently. And sometimes an unexpected friendship can be the thing that makes you feel even a little bit better. Kindness truly is sometimes the best thing that we can give to another living soul.

Overall, Somaiya Daud’s debut SFF novel blew me away. I loved this with my entire heart and soul. This book is beautiful, this book is powerful, and this book is completely captivating. I never wanted to put this down, and I can’t wait to see what comes next. Don’t sleep on this book, friends. Preorder this before it’s August 28th release!

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication

Buddy read with Julie from Pages and Pens, Lilly at Lair of Books, Jules at JA Ironside, Amy at A Court of Crowns and Quills, & Chelsea at Chelsea Palmer! ❤.