Tag Archives: space opera

ARC Review – Diplomatic Immunity by Brodi Ashton

Title:  Diplomatic Immunity
Author: Brodi Ashton
Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Aspiring reporter Piper Baird decides to write a scathing exposé on the overprivileged students at an elite Washington, DC, school, only for her life to change when she begins to fall for the story’s main subject, in this new realistic contemporary romance from Brodi Ashton, the author of the Everneath trilogy.

Raucous parties, privileged attitudes, underage drinking, and diplomatic immunity…it’s all part of student life on Embassy Row.

Piper Baird has always dreamed of becoming a journalist. So when she scores a scholarship to exclusive Chiswick Academy in Washington, DC, she knows it’s her big opportunity. Chiswick offers the country’s most competitive prize for teen journalists—the Bennington scholarship—and winning will ensure her acceptance to one of the best schools in the country.

Piper isn’t at Chiswick for two days before she witnesses the intense competition in the journalism program—and the extreme privilege of the young and wealthy elite who attend her school. And Piper knows access to these untouchable students just might give her the edge she’ll need to blow the lid off life at the school in a scathing and unforgettable exposé worthy of the Bennington.

The key to the whole story lies with Rafael Amador, the son of the Spanish ambassador—and the boy at the center of the most explosive secrets and scandals on Embassy Row. Rafael is big trouble—and when he drops into her bedroom window one night, asking for help, it’s Piper’s chance to get the full scoop. But as they spend time together, Piper discovers that despite his dark streak, Rafael is smart, kind, funny, and gorgeous—and she might have real feelings for him. How can she break the story of a lifetime if it could destroy the boy she just might love? 

Molly’s Review – 

Huge thank you to HarperTeen for an advance copy of this book!

I really loved this book! I went into it with high hopes and they were met! This is my first book by Brodi Ashton and wow, her writing is so fun! I breezed right through this book, and was totally engaged from start to finish.

Our MC, Piper, is a journalist. She’s a big neurotic and will do anything for a story… and college tuition. So she gets it into her head that if she can get into this super competitive Ivy league high school in Washington D.C. that she’ll win a prestigious scholarship that will get her into Columbia. She manages to get into the school and is shocked by the way that the privileged elite that attend the school act, and what they can get away with. Especially those with diplomatic immunity.

On Piper’s first day of school she makes a fool out of herself in front of the son of the Spanish diplomat. Raf is charming and a bit of a bad boy. Piper sees her in with the DI crowd (diplomatic immunity kids) and starts to put together an expose on the shit that they get away with. She knows that this story will get her the scholarship that will get her into Columbia. Only she doesn’t really plan on falling for Raf but… she does. And then lines start to blur…

I really loved the voice of this book. Piper was so relateable because she’s not perfect. She lies and uses and she loves and cares so deeply. Her brother is on the spectrum and the way that she interacts with him is perfect and I just loved her whole family, money troubles and all. I also loved that Raf’s brother was also on the spectrum and that they had something really intimate to bond over. That they could get each other on this different level. And that it made Piper all the more human when she starts to delve away from her path of “getting the story”.

The writing in this book was so effortless. I love it when I fall into a book and just read and don’t feel like I’m putting in any effort. Sure some books I love to really dig into and have to think about, but there are times when I just need something smooth. This was perfect. It had just enough drama, enough heart and humor that it kept me engaged and I flew through it.

Really enjoyed this one! Don’t miss out!

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ARC Review – Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

23395680Title:  Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1)

Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2 /  ★★★★

Synopsis: This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Huge thank you to  Knopf Books for Young Readers & Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

 

Huge thank you to Knopf Books for Young Readers & Netgalley for this ARC!

I feel like Illuminae the book that all the bloggers are raving about, and I’m going to be real here: I merely liked it. When you’ve played enough science fiction video games, or watched or read enough classic science fiction, the plot in this story is far from original. Illuminae at times reads like a love letter to old school science fiction, but it also has the problem of style over substance.

I’m going to be real here, I don’t mind books that use an abstract style to tell its story. There’s books that for me did an amazing job such as Blood & Guts in High School and others where I hated every second of it (see House of Leaves). Since the story is told through dossiers, it’s an interesting concept because the story has all this tension and you start to see the growth of the crisis that exists aboard the ship. I’d even argue that the portrayal of space madness through the use of the dossiers is one the best I’ve seen in a long time, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that the world building in Illuminae is sadly paper thin.

The reader is forced to accept so much at face value because of the style of the story, but there’s all these larger holes that don’t get filled in, leaving the reader to guess how or why aspects of this story are happening. That’s the main issue here: the use of abstractions in the story don’t allow for real world building to be provided. The format also is somewhat problematic if only because you get pulled into the narrative and then immediately sucked out of it when there’s a picture or a random advertisement. Again, I get why it’s being done, but truthfully I didn’t enjoy it nor did I find it successful.

The first 1/3 of this book for me was just very bland and boring. It took me awhile to get into the story and once the space madness started to hit the ships I found myself on board and the book became a page-turner. I think the way in which Kaufman and Kristoff show tension and anxiety in space is so spot on, and I like the way that through the dossiers you get this sense that everything has gone sour. I also appreciate the two classic science fiction plot twists that were thrown into the story, even if they were predictable both times. I still like that specific plot twist, and I do think it works well here.

I also wanted a bit more characterization. Kady in particular gets so much development, and I adored her character. I loved how sassy, strong-willed and reckless she is, but I found Ezra to be lacking in the character department. I didn’t see what was so great about him, nor did I feel the connection of him as the love interest. There was no pull for me at all. I will say, I LOVED Byron, and I thought he was far better developed than Ezra was. But let’s be real here, there’s not a lot of character development and the stylistic choice is a major part of why it’s lacking.

Here’s the deal: I liked and enjoyed my time with Illuminae. Once I got 1/3 of the way through the story, I couldn’t stop turning the pages and I had to see how it ended. I actually adored the ending, but overall Illuminae is a story I’ve read and seen numerous times before and sadly done better. However, I do think this book is worth checking out, especially if you aren’t the biggest science fiction fan, because I think those are the people who will get the most out of the big reveals and surprises within the story. Still, Illuminae is a fun read, and I will be checking out its sequel, but admittedly I wanted more from it.

River’s Review:

I am SO happy that I didn’t have to read this on my iPad. The format of this book is amazing and I loved it. To be honest the story wasn’t really THAT amazing, and I would have liked a lot more background and world building, but the format blew me away. And that is what I loved about this book. Pages with casualty names. Cute children’s posters with horrific graffiti scrawled over it. Swoops of text illustrating missiles or fights in space. I love some of the empty pages or pages with one word on them best. I did get a little tired of reading chats between characters, but thankfully they were broken up with enough other things. And I did appreciate that there WERE sections that were in more traditional novel formats. The whole mix of everything just worked so well for me.

I did see a few… idk if they were allusions or shout-outs or what, to other popular scifi work. I didn’t mind this, but for some reason I kept picturing this taking place in the Battlestar Gallactica world with a dash of Firefly thrown in. Thus I would have liked some more unique world building.

I really liked the ending and I didn’t see it coming and I can’t wait for the next one now (whenever that will be hahahah).

ARC Review – Sound (Salvage #2) by Alexandra Duncan

24202895Title:  Sound

Author: Alexandra Duncan

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: SOUND is the stand-alone companion to Alexandra Duncan’s acclaimed novel Salvage, a debut that internationally bestselling author Stephanie Perkins called “kick-ass, brilliant, feminist science fiction.” For fans of Beth Revis, Firefly, and Battlestar Galactica.

As a child, Ava’s adopted sister Miyole watched her mother take to the stars, piloting her own ship from Earth to space making deliveries. Now a teen herself, Miyole is finally living her dream as a research assistant on her very first space voyage. If she plays her cards right, she could even be given permission to conduct her own research and experiments in her own habitat lab on the flight home. But when her ship saves a rover that has been viciously attacked by looters and kidnappers, Miyole—along with a rescued rover girl named Cassia—embarks on a mission to rescue Cassia’s abducted brother, and that changes the course of Miyole’s life forever.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me an advanced copy of this book!

River’s Review:

Last year I read Salvage by Duncan and I fell in LOVE with it. It was one of my top reads of the year. So I was so excited when I saw that she had a companion novel coming out this year! Sound takes place 20 years after Salvage. You do NOT have to have readSalvage to understand Sound. There are some crossover characters, and Miyole, our MC in this, is an important character in Salvage, but you can read this and understand it on it’s own.

One thing that I can’t help but ask is HOW ARE NOT MORE PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT THIS BOOK!? We have a queer bi-cultural person of color in this incredibly strong feminist sci-fi novel and I’ve hardly heard a thing about it! Come on guys! Miyole is Haitian by blood but she grew up in the Pacific ocean on basically a trash barge until it got blown away and then she moved to India with her adoptive sister Ava. This happened in Sound, but we get to see the results of this in Sound. Being Haitian means nothing to Miyole without her mother there to tell her stories about her native land. Instead Miyole, who is working on a deep sound research ship, struggles with her cultural identity. She doesn’t look ethnically Indian, but she grew up in India. I LOVED when Miyole was dressed in a sari and the Indian crew members commented on her effort to understand their culture. I could relate to her feelings and displacement SO WELL after having spent so much time in Japan, trying to fit in and be accepted and just not.

I also enjoyed how Miyole is unflinching in her sexuality. She doesn’t struggle with it and when she starts to fall for someone she goes for it. This is Miyole’s downfall at times, her heart speaks loudly and her brain doesn’t always catch up. But this is what got the story going, a beautiful girl and her family get their ship blown up, the brother gets captured, and Miyole takes off on a quest to save him.

Another thing I really enjoyed about this was the unique mix of cultures. It does take place in the far future, so it’s not surprising that cultures would blend and mix in such interesting ways once they leave the earth. I really enjoyed the mix of Japanese culture and language into this.

I also really liked how the pacing of this was so much different from Salvage. That takes place over a very long span of time, and it’s almost operatic. This is a much more contained story. I thought it was a nice juxtaposition against it’s predecessor.

Overall I really enjoyed this (maybe not as much as Salvage) and hope that it gets more recognition. It’s a very well done story that weaves important issues into it without coming off as cliche or overkill, and it’s a fun scifi that will keep you up late at night (as it did me!)

Late to the Party ARC Review – The Clouded Sky (Earth & Sky #2) by Megan Crewe

23199305Title: The Clouded Sky (Earth & Sky #2)

Author: Megan Crewe

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: When seventeen-year-old Skylar escapes the time-bending Enforcers who secretly control Earth, her troubles have just begun. She and her friend Win take refuge on Win’s home space station with his fellow rebels, but the fate of Skylar’s planet still spins out of her control.

To avoid detection, Skylar poses as the Earthling “pet” of Win’s rival, an arrogant boy named Jule. Homesick and faced with a cool reception from the other rebels, she throws herself into the group’s mission: assembling a weapon to disable Earth’s restrictive time field. Gradually, Skylar’s skill for detail gains respect—even from Jule, who is more vulnerable than he lets on.

Yet challenges spring from every side. Not only must Sky navigate the muddy waters of romance, but suspicions of betrayal grow among the rebels as their work narrowly misses sabotage.

Huge thank you to Amazon Skyscape and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I really enjoyed Earth & Sky when I had read it last year, and part of me felt I needed that second book right away. Funny enough how things change, because the sequel, The Clouded Sky took me forever to get into — and it begins right where the last book leaves off!

I am struggling to put my finger on why I simply liked this sequel as opposed to loving it the way I did the first book. Part of it was I didn’t find myself instantly connected even though I still enjoyed these characters. I felt there was a bit too much going on, even though most of it was quite interesting. Weirdly this book felt more like a space thriller/mystery novel, and I liked and disliked that aspect. Again, it’s hard to put into words why this sequel didn’t entirely work for me.

I still love these characters, and I think the world building is still great. Being on Kemya the whole book was definitely quite the treat, and it was so fascinating the amount of detail Crewe put into the world. I still appreciate that the characters are in fact aliens and not just aliens looking like humans. Still, the action packed pacing in there, there’s lots of intrigue, and it is a solid sequel. I’m still on board for the last book, but for the life of me I wish I could figure out why I liked and not loved this one!

ARC Review – This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman, Meagan Spooner

22082300Title: This Shattered World

Author: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis:  Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met. Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the rebels. Rebellion is in Flynn’s blood. His sister died in the original uprising against the powerful corporations that terraformed Avon. These corporations make their fortune by terraforming uninhabitable planets across the universe and recruiting colonists to make the planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion. Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war. As Flynn and Lee attempt to uncover the truth about Avon, they realize that there is a conspiracy on the planet that runs deeper than either of them could imagine, one that Lee’s former commander Tarver Merendsen only scratched scratcehd the surface of two years ago. The stunning second novel in the Starbound series is an unforgettable story of love and forgiveness in a world torn apart by war.

Huge thank you to Disney Hyperion and Netgalley for an advance copy of this book!

Sam’s Review: 

This book. So much better than the first one, in my opinion. That’s not to say I didn’t love the politics and Lilac and Tarver’s struggles, it’s just Jubilee and Flynn really can steal a show. In fact, this book doesn’t have the pacing issues I felt in the first book, as this one starts fast and keeps its rapid pace throughout. The book also ties in smartly to the previous one, no hole or stone unturned. Having Tarver and Lilac appear was pretty fantastic and I’m glad to see their growth since book one.

But yeah, this book and I got along SO WELL. I really cared about the conflict and the surrounding politics, and the story never felt bloated. Every piece of the story felt like it needed to be there. Plus, Jubilee. She may be the best of the four protagonists so far — she’s easy to fall in love with and you want to cheer for her throughout the story. When things get hard for her, you want to tell her to pull up her pants and fight through it. I love having a character to cheer for, especially a main character who is as flawed as she is. I loved Jubilee, even in her impulses and struggles. I loved her and I could go on and on about why I think she’s wonderful. Flynn, however, took some warming up to. I loved his attitude, but he is NO JUBILEE!

I think what I love about this series is that the dual points of view work so well and the voices are very distinctive. Each plot line has its own players who have a role to accomplish and each person has their own vision of what Avon should be like. It makes for good conflict, and I liked how Kaufman and Spooner really took the time to ensure that both sides of the story were woven well together.

I feel like I’m having a hard time describing this book, but it’s really because I adored it. These characters and this world were something I felt intimidate connection with, and I was so happy to just enjoy the ride.

ARC Review – These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

18296615Title:  These Broken Stars
Author: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone. 

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help. 

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Sam’s Review – 

Huge thank you to Disney Hyperion and Netgalley for an advance copy of this book!

I was a bit skeptical of These Broken Stars when I started it. Something about it didn’t draw me in right away, the characters felt a bit off putting at first. Considering how fast crap starts to hit the fan, I felt like I should have immediately been engaged, but this one took me a good while to sink into and appreciate.

Let’s throw it out there — this book is a space opera, borrowing from all the fun space shows and fandoms out there. The dramatics are fun, a touch on the ridiculous side, but you don’t seem to mind it because there is such a desperation and franticness within the narrative that you want to keep reading. I wasn’t 100% sold on the characters right away, and I definitely found myself gravitating towards Lilac’s narrative over Tarver’s, but I found her to be the more quirky and enjoyable character of the two. Tarver is quite darling, but I think I would have adored him more if he had been a bit more Malcom Reynolds instead of Simon Tam ala Firefly.

The alternating perspectives works very well in this novel, especially considering how closely liked the narratives between characters are. I never felt confused as to how was speaking, as each voice had the perfect amount of distinction in it. The world-building definitely drew me in as I read on. There’s a lot of beautiful description in this novel and I think that alone will appeal to a lot of readers.

The one aspect I was a bit iffy on, but grew to like was the romance. I do love that Lilac played a bit hard to get, but I almost wish the novel had gone a bit further, making it a lot less obvious that they were getting together. I wish it had been more about the adventure, but I am glad it wasn’t a love at first sight, but rather a gradual connection due to the circumstances.

These Broken Stars is easily going to be a hit with YA fans, especially those who love a good space opera and are willing to overlook a few of the basic YA tropes. I loved the writing in both perspectives, and the characters really grow with you, which is definitely something I’ve come to appreciate more. This is an easy recommendation for those looking for a good survival story, as well as romance that doesn’t feel insta-lovey. I look forward to reading the next installment!